HISTORY
OF THE TOWNS OF
NEW MILFORD

AND
BRIDGEWATER
,
CONNECTICUT
,
1703 – 1882,
BY
SAMUEL ORCUTT.

  Transcribed by Richard M. Clarke
of
New Milford .

 

THE PLANTATION .

 

                A GIRL of only eight years of age, coming into the deep wilderness with her father, was the queen of

the first household of white persons established in the territory, which, for one hundred and seventy- eight years, has been known by the name of New Milford . John Noble, Sen. was that father, who, being a       resident of Westfield, Massachusetts, on the 22d day of June, 1706, purchased of Richard Bryan, of Milford, fifteen on the list of proprietors, his original hundred and fourth part of the undivided territory then recently bought of the Indians and named as above,

lying in the dense, sublime, primitive forests, nearly on the western border of Connecticut , where, unto that clay, none but the wild Indian had made a habitation for the rest and security of man. On the same day his son John Noble, Jr., bought a “Right” of John Woodruff, it having been the right originally of James Fenn, who stood number seventy on the list of the original proprietors of the plantation.

                In the next spring or summer, 1707, John Noble, Sen., called in his deed “planter,” made his way through the wilderness in company with his little daughter Sarah, and took up his habitation among the Indians, in one of the most picturesque localities in the valley of the Housatonic River, known then for more than forty years, in the Indian language, as Weantinock. He at first built a “ hut “ at the foot of Fort Hill, a little to the north of the Indian burying-place, where the cellar or excavation is still to be seen, and where he dwelt with his daughter while  he built a commodious house at the south end of the “Town plat.”

                Concerning this first inhabitant, the Rev. Stanley Griswold, pastor of the first Congregational Church at this place, in a century sermon delivered in i8oi, makes the following statement:

                “The first white settler who came to this town was John Noble, from Westfield , Mass. , who came here in the year 1707. He brought with him at first one of his daughters, then about eight years old. He first built a hut under what is called Fort Hill, but afterwards moved, and pitched here in the centre of the town. His house here was for some time the last house on this side of Albany , and General Nicholson once lodged in it during the reign of Queen Anne. It deserves to be mentioned to the credit of the natives, that Mr. Noble once left his little daughter, then eight years old, with them for the space of three or four weeks, while he was necessarily absent from the town, and on his return found she had been well treated and taken exceeding good care of. Another daughter of his, the late Mrs. Margaret Hine, who died here in the 93d year of her age, was then three years old, and the fact was fresh in her memory, as she had heard

it while young, though she herself was not yet brought hither.”

                In the following February a record was made: “The second lot on the Plain, at the South end of the hill, on the east side of the street at New Milford is Thomas Smiths, seven acres and a half, bounded south with John Noble’s, the town street west, undivided land east, and with the next lot north, being sixty rods in length and twenty in breadth. Feb. 21, 1707 —8.” Mr. Noble did not settle on this lot for he had already built a house on the opposite side of the street further south.

                Tradition speaks of the hut where the daughter was cared for while her father was absent a short time, as an

 “ Indian’s hut” but inasmuch as Indians seldom, if ever, build their huts in the side of a hill, certainly no others in New Milford, and since John Noble did this site now visible must be that of Mr. Noble’s first house in the wilderness. It is a very gratifying fact that a copy of a letter written in 1796 by Sherman Boardman, son of the Rev. Daniel Boardman, is still preserved, for by it some dates and items of history are preserved which are nowhere else to be found. Some of this letter may he found in the Indian history part of this work and that which relates to the first settler here is as follows

                “An anecdote is related of John Noble the settler, who, when he first came to labor here, brought his little daughter Hannah, about eight or nine years old, to cook his victuals. He built a palisade’ house at the foot of the hill where the Indian fort stood, where he lived with his little daughter some time, until some gentlemen came to him and requested him to pilot them through the woods to Albany, one hundred miles distant, when he left his little daughter in care of a squaw, fourteen miles from any white people, and was absent two or three weeks; when he returned he

found her kept very neat and clean. Such was his confidence in the care and friendship of the Indians. This I have often

heard her relate, as she was my School Dame. After this Mr. Noble removed to this Side of the river and built a log-house, secured as a fort a great many years for the white people; as the Indians had a stockade fort on the west side. To either of these forts the People came for shelter in an alarm during Queen Anne’s war. General Nicholson lodged in this house (which was the last house on this side of Albany ) on his expedition to Wood Creek where he built Fort Ann .”

                This second house of John Noble, Sen., stood on the site of the present dwelling of Col. Charles D. Blinn, and apparently must have been erected in the autumn of 1707 or spring of 1708, for, in the petition of the inhabitants to the General Assembly in October, 1711, it is said, “since the time of our first settlement, which is about three years;‘ and if this was true, then several of these twelve families took up their residence here in the spring or summer of 1708, and some of them erected their houses further north, or towards Albany, than was that of John Noble, Sen. In February, 1708, John Noble, Jr., was here and made a selection of his home lot. He did not come with his father at first, and hence, probably, did come with his mother and the family in the autumn of 1707; and if these conclusions are the truth, as they appear to be, then, also, the log-house of John Noble, Sen., was built in the autumn of 1707 or in the spring of 1708.

                How Mr. Noble made his way through the wilderness with his little daughter, at first, is unknown, but it is quite certain that it was with difficulty and persevering exertion. For sixty years there had been a path from Hartford to Farmington , and for twenty or more, from Farmington to Waterbury and Woodbury, and from the last place to New Milford there could have been only the uncertain and probably untraceable path of the Indian. There is something charming, however, in his bringing his little daughter with him into the deep wilderness. He left at home a family of nine children, if they were all still living, and one only a year old but since, to a father in his absence from home, a daughter is a far better representative of home, although requiring more attention and care than a son, he brought with

him his little daughter Sarah. What could she do, an eight-year-old child, in the great wilderness? Ah! She could make

the wilderness seem like home to him, so that his heart would not fail him, while he should toil to build a habitation for those he had left behind. But it is said the little girl came “to cook his victuals. What, a woman at eight years of age! No wonder that she became the “School Dame” of Sherman Boardman, twenty years later;—and very probably, the first school dame, or teacher, in the township.

                Romance has never painted a picture more perfectly true to the heart of a father, or to the charming bravery of a young daughter of only eight years, than is found in the history of the settlement of the first family in the beautiful township of New Milford .

                The second family that settled here was that of John Bostwick, according to the papers of the late Judge David S. Boardman.

                To secure the right of permanent homes, the early settlers of New England found two things important to be obtained, the authority of the state (in whatever form it might be) and the purchase of the right of the soil from the natives. These they generally attended to with great carefulness, and by repeated payments for the same territory, and these two items were completed for New Milford by a company of one hundred and nine persons from l\Milford. Situated on the shore of Long Island Sound, Milford (sometimes called “Old Milford” by way of distinction) had sent out several colonies to form plantations, or civil organizations, into the wilderness parts of the country. First, a number of her families removed to Stratford; next, ten men, as a company, purchased a tract of land at Paugassett, afterwards named Derby, and made a settlement there; then another company established the plantation of Woodbury. Several families joined with a company from near Boston in the settlement of Setauket, Long Island ; others became interested

in and removed to a settlement in the state of Delaware in connection with the New Haven company, and finally the New Milford Company was organized, and the deed from the natives obtained.

                Several efforts had been made, previous to 1700, to establish a plantation in this part of the colony. In May, 1670, the General Court granted liberty to “Capt. Nathan Gould, Mr. Jehu and John Burr, to purchase Weantenock and the lands adjacent, of the Indians, to make a plantation if it be capable for such a thing,” and a committee was appointed by the same authority. Soon after this a purchase was made of the Indians under this grant, of over 26,000 acres of land lying on both sides of the river, here at Weantinock, but nothing further was accomplished. This was the purchase wherein Col. John Read became interested.

                In 1675 the General Court sent a committee to see if the country here was large enough for two plantations, but no report of that committee has been seen.

                In 1677, “Scantamaug of Wyantenuck having made complaint of Henry Tomlinson buying land of theirs in a private way to their prejudice &c.,’ the General Court sent the case for a hearing to the Fairfield Court , which case was decided in favor of Mr. Tomlinson.

                Again, in 1678, the Court granted to “the Hon. Dept. Gov. Major Robert Treat with Mr. Bryan, Sen. or Junior, Capt. John Bird, Lt. Samuel Eells, liberty to view and buy convenient land for a plantation in those adjacent places about Potatuck, Weantenuck or thereabouts”; but this company made no purchase here.


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