History of Salisbury
Litchfield County, Connecticut

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.

The principal part of the township of Salisbury was sold by the governor and company of the colony of Connecticut, in 1737, at Hartford. It had been surveyed and divided into 25 rights in 1732, being at that time known by the government only as wild, unlocated land. Three of the rights were appropriated to public purposes; one for the support of schools, one for the first settled minister, and one for the support of the ministry. The charter of the town was given in 1745. "After it was located, and before the charter was given, it was known to the government by town M. Before this, it was known by no other than the Indian names Weatog and Ousatonic. It took its name from a Mr. Salisbury, who lived not far from the center of the town."

Rev. J.W. Crossman’s New Year’s discourse, 1803. The facts representing the first settlement of this town were derived from this source. "It is currently reported, and by good authority, (says Mr. Crossman), that this Mr. Salisbury, after moving from here, had an unruly servant girl who had run away from him; that he went after her, bound her with a rope, and tied here to his horse, then rode so as to pull her down, and drawed her in such a cruel manner that she died in consequence of the abuse. The matter was taken up in the state of New York, and he, then in old age, was sentenced by the court to be hung when he should be a hundred years old. About four years ago, he arrived to this age. A reprieve was granted him for a certain time; and if he has not died lately, he is living to this day."

It appears that about the year 1720, three families came and settled in that part of the town called Weatog. These were, one family of Dutchers, one of Whites, and one of Van Dozens. White was an Englishman but had lived with and become connected in marriage with the Dutch. The other two were wholly of Dutch origin. About the year 1740, there were eleven English and five Dutch families, which were settled in different parts of the town. There were four families of Whites in Weatog; Bebees, not far from the falls; Lambs, at the forge in the hollow; Herveys, in the hollow; Newcombs on the side of the mountain, east of the road that now leads from the hollow to Town hill; Woodworths, at the ore bed; Allens, on the road from the hollow to the meeting house; and Baylies, at the meeting house. These were the English families. The Dutch were, two Dutchers, and one Van Dozen, at Weatog; Knickerbackers, at the stone house, on the Cornwall road; Cornelius Knickerbacker, at the furnace; and Jacob Van Dozen, between the ponds, in the north part of the town.

The face of the township, at the period of its first settlement, wore rather an unpleasant aspect. In every fall of the year, it was burnt over, to destroy the old grass and other vegetation, and that there might be a fresh and tender crop the ensuing year. Fires also were often made to ring deer. These fires were made in a circular form, and all the deer included were driven by the fire to one place, where the huntsmen could easily kill them. A ring, for this purpose, was made in the northeast part of the town, and the fire ran with such rapidity, that an Indian lad was shut within the ring, overtaken by the fire, and burnt to death. These burnings, with the ponds, mountains and clefts of rocks, made the face of nature forbidding to those who were not apprised of the excellence of the soil.

Salisbury is situated in the northwest corner of the state; bounded N. by the towns of Mount Washington and Sheffield in Massachusetts, E. by the Housatonic, separating it from Canaan, S. by Sharon, and W. by the state of New York. Its average length is 9 miles, and its breadth about 6-1/2, comprising an area of about 58 square miles. The face of the township is broken, consisting of elevated hills, and deep and extensive valleys. The valleys are generally limestone, and hills granite. It is one of the best towns for grain in the state. It is also excellent land for grazing.

Salisbury, in addition to its being one of the best agricultural towns in the state, is also much celebrated for its very rich and productive iron mines. Of these, the one known as the "Old Ore Hill," located two miles west of the Wanscopommuc Lake, has been worked since the year 1732. At that time, and for years afterwards, the ore was found lying near the surface of the earth, and was carried off in considerable quantities by those who desired to make use of it. The site of the "Old Ore Hill" was owned by one Bissell, who obtained the grant several years before the town was incorporated. About the year 1732, one Thomas Lamb obtained a grant of fifty acres of land, and erected the first forge built in Salisbury. His grant was situated in the southeast part of the town, on Salmon River, now called Lime Rock. From that period until the present time, the demands upon the "Old Ore Hill" have been constant. Within the last ten or twelve years, from five to six thousand tons of ore have been dug annually. The ore is sold at the mine for $3 a ton. One dollar and twenty five cents of this money is paid to the proprietors of the ore bed as a duty. The other dollar and seventy five cents belongs to the digger, from whose pit the ore is taken. The first furnace erected at Salisbury was built about the year 1762, upon the outlet of the Wanscopommuc Lake, two miles east of the "Old Ore Hill." It is one of the oldest establishments in the county, and was erected by Messrs. Samuel and Elisha Forbes, Ethan Allen (the hero of Ticonderoga), and a Mr. Hazeltine. (The articles of agreement entered into by these gentlemen are still extant upon the records of the town). During the Revolutionary war, cannon were manufactured at this furnace, for government; also cannon balls and bomb shells.

The guns on board the U.S. frigate Constitution, used by Com. Truxton, in the capture of the French frigate, L’Insurgente, were manufactured at the old furnace in Salisbury. The Salisbury iron had been, and is still used extensively in the United States’ and private armories.

The large and inexhaustible quantities of iron ore found in Salisbury, and the abundant supply of wood for charcoal, and other materials necessary for smelting the ore, together with the superior quality of iron, introduced other manufactures; and iron has continued from that time the staple commodity of the town. There are at present in Salisbury:

4 blast furnaces 2 sythe manufactories
5 forges with 20 fires 1 hoe manufactory
2 puddling establishments 2 trip hammers
1 screw shop 2 cupola or pocket furnaces, for small castings
1 anchor shop  

From 5 to 600,000 bushels of charcoal are annually consumed at the different establishments. The puddling furnaces require from 2 to 3,000 cords of wood annually. The number of workmen employed in the different processes of preparing the material and manufacturing the iron, amount in all to about 500 men. The furnaces produce annually from 2,000 to 2,500 tons of pig iron. The forges and puddling establishments annually produce from 1,200 to 1,500 tons of wrought iron, which is used for anchors, car axletrees, musket barrels, and various other kinds of drafts. The Salisbury iron ore is the brown hematite, and yields about 40 per cent of pig iron. It is well known to manufacturers, and stands as fair in the market as any other iron in the country.

Southwest view of the Churches in Salisbury Center

The above is a representation of the churches and some other buildings, in that part of Salisbury called "Salisbury Center." The Congregational church is seen on the right; the next building eastward, with a small cupola, is the academy; and still farther to the east is seen the Episcopal church. The public house seen opposite was constructed upon the frame of the old meeting house. This place is 50 miles from Hartford, 58 from New Haven, 8 from Sharon, and 34 from Hudson. The principal part of the iron ore obtained in this town, is about 2-1/2 miles S.W. of this place. There are four churches, viz., 2 Methodist, 1 Congregational, and 1 Episcopal; and five post offices, Salisbury Center, Lime Rock, Furnace Village, Falls Village, and Chapinville.

The people first met for public worship in a house near where the furnace now is, in Furnace Village, consisting of one room, only 20 feet by 15. This contained all the worshiping congregation in the town. After this, they met in the house of Mr. Lee, the first settled minister in the town; here they continued to worship till a meeting house was erected, about the year 1748. The place on which it stood was given by Col. Robert Walker for a meeting house, burying ground and green, upon the condition that the burying yard be enclosed with a decent fence. In the house where they worshiped, there were two watchtowers made, and sentries placed in them on the Sabbath, to guard from the Indians. So late in the settlement of the town as this, an alarm was made of an Indian invasion. On this alarm, this preparation of defense was made. On the same occasion, a fort was built on the west side of the Furnace Pond, and another in the southeast part of the town. There were two other forts in Weatog, built, however, before this: these two were built in the form of block-house. One was the dwelling house of Mr. Dutcher, one of the first settlers, built in 1726, and was the first framed house in town. The first white person born in the town was Hartman Van Dozen. The first buried, by the Congregational meeting house, was Jehiel Moore. The first buried on Town Hill was a Mr. Cory, who was killed at the raising of a house, as nearly as can be known, at the same instant the town established that as a public burying ground.

At the time of the first settlement in the town, there was then an Indian settlement at Weatog, consisting of seventy wigwams, all in a cluster. They were friendly and hospitable, especially to the whites, and encouraged their settlement. It is unknown how long they had made a stand at that place. Doubtless, in their most savage state, they had encamped in different places on the river, where they could hunt and fish. Long before there was any settlement of white people in the town, a Col. Whiting, with his regiment, pursued a band of Indians as far as the northeast part of the town, and there, on the banks of the Housatonic, defeated them with a dreadful slaughter. They lay at their ease, sporting and fishing, on both sides of the river. He, becoming acquainted with their situation, came upon them unawares, killed some, and put the rest to flight. About seventy Indian graves are visible there to this day. In the battle, but one of the whites was killed. When Col. Whiting drew near the place of battle, he commanded every man to throw away the priming of his gun, and to prime anew. All, except one, obeyed. He boldly declared himself willing to venture his life with the priming he then had. When they came upon the Indians, he leveled at one, snapped, and his gun failed to go off. The Indian instantly clapped up his piece, and shot him dead.**

(**Dr. Trumbull thinks there must have been some mistake about the name of the commanding officer in this expedition. He thinks it must have been Major Talcott who pursued and defeated the Indians in this region in 1676. This however is uncertain. The account given by Mr. Crossman is the one which is followed above.)

The following singular occurrences are said to have taken place in this town, near the boundary between Connecticut and Massachusetts. The relation of these circumstances was obtained from Mr. S. Sage and his family, who are still living on the spot, (June, 1836), and could be corroborated by great numbers of people now living.

"These occurrences commenced Nov. 8th, 1802, at a clothier’s shop: A man and two boys were in the shop; the boys had retired to rest, it being between 10 and 11 o’clock at night. A block of wood was thrown through the window; after that, pieces of hard mortar, till the man and boys became alarmed, and went to the house to call Mr. Sage, who arose from bed and went to the shop, and could hear the glass break often, but could not discover from whence it came, notwithstanding the night was very light. He exerted himself to discover the cause without success. It continued constantly till day light, and then ceased till the next evening at 8 o’clock, when it commenced again, and continued till midnight; then ceased till the next evening at dusk, and continued till some time in the evening, and them ceased. The next day it commenced about an hour before sun-down, and continued about an hour, and then it left the shop and began at the dwelling house of Mr. Ezekiel Landon, 100 rods north, in the town of Sheffield. It continued several hours, and ceased till the next morning; when the family were at breakfast it began again, and continued two or three hours, and ceased till evening, when it began again and continued several hours, and ceased till the next morning, when it began again and continued all the forenoon, and then ceased altogether. The articles thrown into the shop were pieces of wood, charcoal, stone, but principally pieces of hard mortar, such as could not be found in the neighborhood. Nothing but stones were thrown into the house of Mr. Landon, the first of which were thrown into the door. There were 38 panes of glass broke out of the shop, and 18 out of the dwelling houses; in two or three instances persons were hit by the things that were thrown. What was remarkable, nothing could be seen coming till the glass broke, and whatever passed through, fell directly down on the window sill, as if it had been put through with a person’s fingers, and many pieces of mortar and coal were thrown through the same hole in the glass in succession. Many hundreds of people assembled to witness the scene, among whom were clergymen and other gentlemen, but none were able to detect the source of the mischief. The more credulous readily believed it to be witchcraft, but it was generally thought to be some slight of hand, effected by a combination of individuals, as the windows were broken on different sides of the buildings nearly at the same time."

The following inscriptions were copied from monuments in the yard in Salisbury center.

In memory of the Rev. JONATHAN LEE, this stone, the fruit of conjugal affection and filial gratitude, is erected. He was born July 4th, A.D. 1718; graduated at Yale College, 1742; was a settled minister in this town 45 years; and died Oct. 8th, 1788, in the 71st year of his age. To the faithful discharge of the pastoral office he united the private virtues of the husband, the parent and the friend, and expired in the blessed hope of that Gospel to which he had freely devoted his life.

My flesh shall slumber in the ground
Till the last Trumpet’s joyful sound,
Then burst the chains in sweet surprise,
And in my Savior’s image rise.

The man is gone!

Mr. SAMUEL MOORE, the eminent Mathematician, died Feb. 20th, 1810, 75. His LIFE and SERVICES!!! These the Monument, this marble but the Tablet. Say then, He liv’d to benefit Mankind. Sway’d not by Trifles, But by Science led, as Land-Surveyor. So like in all things, Like correct, This the best image of the man.

Our Fathers rest from their Toils. (center this line on the page)

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