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Town of Ellington

Tolland County, CT

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ELLINGTON was originally a part of the township of East Windsor, called the Great Marsh. It was incorporated as a town in 1786. It is bounded N. by Somers and Stafford, W. by East Windsor, E. by Tolland and Stafford, and S. by Vernon and Tolland. It is irregular in its form, its greatest length being nine miles, and its greatest breadth about six, comprising upwards of 21,760 acres. The township in the western part is generally level, a considerable portion of it being a plain, the soil of which is light and dry, but considerably fertile. The eastern part is broken, hilly and mountainous.

It was not until seventy five years after the settlement began on the east side of Connecticut river, that any inhabitants located themselves in the part now called Ellington. Why this tract of land was thus neglected, cannot now be easily told. It might have been the opinion which early prevailed that the mountain land was better, the timber and water better, which influenced settlers to pass from Windsor to Tolland, Willington, and other mountanous tracts, rather than occupy these plains. The opinion was long prevalent, that the soil on the plain, near the present center of the town, and all the western section of it, was far inferior to the elevated tracts in the adjoining towns east. And even the fathers of some who are now living in the towns east, might have purchased more than double the number of acres on the plain near the center of the town, with the same amount of capital that they invested in their farms on the mountains. Roger Wolcott interested himself in the settling of Willington, some years before there was any survey of this region. Tolland had a minister settled while this town was an unbroken wilderness. Bolton and Stafford were earlier surveyed than any part of this town. Coventry had a minister fifteen or twenty years before any one was located here. The land formerly occupied by the Ellsworths in this town, where Capt. Samuel Chapman now resides, was surveyed in the year 1720, as this was the earliest date in which any person made a beginning in this place. The following is from the original record:

"Land surveyed to Daniel and John Ellsworth, sons of Lieutenant John Ellsworth, of Windsor, by Thomas Kimberly, surveyor of land in the county of Hartford, 16th of March, 1720, five hundred and forty acres of land between the mountains east of Windsor and Connecticut river, at a place called by the English 'The Great Marsh,' and by the Indians 'Weaxkashuck' --- 340 acres bought of Capt. Joseph Wadsworth, and 200 acres bought of the Bissells, by said Lieut. John Ellsworth, began at a pine tree marked and having two mere-stones by it, standing on the plain near the northwest corner of the said marsh --- (then all the bounds are described). Samuel Pinney and Daniel Grant, being under oath, assisted in carrying the chain."

This was in March, 1720. On a stone a little distance northwest from said Samuel Chapman's is the following inscription. "Lieut. John Ellsworth was killed here by the fall of a tree, Oct. 26th, 1720, aged 49 years and 15 days." So far as can be learned from the records, it does not appear that there was any family within the limits of Ellington, previous to the aforesaid date. It is supposed that the Capt. Wadsworth of whom the Ellsworths purchased had a grant of land for services in the Pequot war. Whether the Bissells, of whom the 200 acres were bought, claimed under the Indian title, or in some other way, is not known. The Rev. John McKinstry was the first minister who was settled in Ellington. He purchased a small place of Andrew McKee, a little east of the place where Judge Hall's high school-house is now located, by deed dated April 27th, 1730. Three years afterwards he bought about thirty acres of land adjoining his first purchase, of Simon Parsons, his deed, witnessed by Daniel Ellsworth, John Fairfield and Samuel Thompson, as appears from Windsor records. The ancient town of Windsor extended east to the road as it now runs from the widow Moulton's, by Wyllys Russels's. South of Lucius Chapman's, it passed on the side hill east of the road as it now runs to Bolton line, now Vernon. The land east of this, within the limits of Ellington, and called the Equivalent, was granted to the town of Windsor, and the grant making the conveyance is on the records in the following words:

"A patent of the Equivalent lands on the east side of Windsor. Whereas the Governor and Company of the English colony of Connecticut, in General Court assembled at Hartford, May the 10th, 1716, did give and grant unto the inhabitants of Windsor, in the County of Hartford, an Equivalent in the Colony lands, in consideration of 7,250 acres of land on the north side of the said town, which by the last settlement of the line of said Colony with the Province of Massachusetts Bay, in New England, was taken off from said township..........................................G. Saltonstall, Gov.

"Hez. Wyllys, Secretary."

These lands were surveyed, and their limits ascertained, on the 16th, 17th and 18th days of April, 1723, by James Wadsworth and John Hall. Twenty years passed away before a division of the tract was made among the proprietors. Proprietorship had become an exceedingly complex concern, and for almost twenty years there were yearly meetings held in which the division of these and other common lands was one of the objects before the meeting, while the difference of opinion among the proprietors was such, that all their doings were embarrassed to a degree that prevented them from proceeding. In 1743, the report of a committee appointed many years before was accepted, and according to their survey and division allotments were made. They began east where Selden McKinney resides, at the north line of Bolton, now Vernon, and laid out lots in half mile ranges to Somers, and then back again. Beyond the second tier, the lots were laid north and south in two tiers, all the south range bounded south by Tolland, and all the north on the north by Stafford. Beyond this a number of lots were laid out the whole breadth from Tolland to Stafford, and thus till the last lot was bounded by the Willimantic. In all these surveys and allotments, the pond between Ellington and Tolland was uniformly written Messhanips ---for the north pond bordering upon Stafford no other name is known than Square Pond. The Rev. John McKinstry was in middle life when he was settled here. He was educated in Scotland, but married his wife in Wenham, beyond Boston. She was the daughter of Deacon Fairfield, of that place. When he came to this place, he had five children, and two afterwards. Their names were John, Alexander, William, Paul, Mary, Betsey and Abigail. One of his sons was a physician, and lived in Taunton or that vicinity. Mary married Esq. Ellsworth, the son of Capt. Daniel Ellsworth. Betsey, while on a visit to her brothers at the East, was murdered by a slave who lived in the family. She was making preparation to attend an ordination in a neighboring town, arose early, and having occasion to use a flat iron, was heating it by the fire; as she was leaning over the table, the slave took the flat iron, and by a blow upon her head deprived her of life; he concealed her body under the stairs and fled; he was however arrested and executed, and his confession of the deed published with the sermon preached at his execution; he had been told that if he should kill some one and run away he should be free. Mr. McKinstry continued his connection with the people in this place but 16 years. He was succeeded in the ministry by the Rev. Nathaniel Huntington; he continued here but six years and six months, and died of a consumption. His successor was the Rev. Seth Norton; his ministry was of short continuation; he died in 1762, aged 31 years. His successor was the Rev. John Bliss; he died February 13th, 1790, aged 54. His successor was Mr. Leonard, who continued in the relation of a minister but a few years, and was succeeded by the Rev. Diodate Brockway.

"Ellington is situated partly on the plain and partly on the hills. A few years since no township in county of Hartford, in which it was then included, was in lower estimation; its soil was considered lean --- its agriculture was wretched, and the circumstances of its inhabitants were generally very humble. The circumstances of the community have changed, the agriculture and the buildings have improved, and the inhabitants have risen not a little in their general character." Few tracts of country possess advantages for further improvement equal to this, to render it a delightful garden, a most beautiful heritage, and a place of moral and intellectual worth. The scenery in this town embraces considerable variety and is uncommonly interesting and beautiful.

Reference: Connecticut Historical Collections......History and Antiquities of Every Town in Connecticut......2D Ed.; John Warner Barber, 1798-1885; Publisher: Durrie and Peck and JW, 1837.

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