WATERBURY, CONNECTICUT





Memorial to “The Pilgrim Fathers”



As early as 1657 people were on the move again, to the greener pastures of the peaceful and picturesque valley of Naugatuck. The tract, watered by the Naugatuck River on the west and the Mad River on the east, was situated between ranges of hills commanding superb views.

The Algonquin name for the area was "Matetacoke" meaning "place without trees." It appeared as "Mattatock" in 1673, and "Mattatuck" in the General Court record of May 18, 1674. The name changed to Waterbury on May 15, 1686, when the settlement was admitted as the 28th town in the Connecticut colony.

Two of Farmington’s inhabitants, William Lewis and Samuel Steel, had become acquainted with the country, and secured a deed from certain of the Tunxis or Farmington tribe of Indians, a deed of land which later became a portion of the Mattatuck grant. The deed was recorded in Farmington, as follows:

This Wittnesseth that Wee Kapaquam and Querrimus and Mataueage have sould to William Lewis and Samuel Steel of ffarmington A psell or trackt of Land called matetacoke, that is to Say the hill from whence John Standley and John Andrews brought the black lead and all the Land within eight mylle of that hill: on yt for ye Vse of them that Labor there: and not otherwise to improve ye Land. In witness whereof wee have hereunto set, our hands, and those, Indians above mentioned must free the purchasers from all claymes: by any other Indyans:
Witness: John Steele, William Lewis, Samuel Steele
Febrary ye 8th, 1657.
The Marke of Kepaquamp
The Marke of Querrimus
The Marke of Mataneage

The Indian marks on the deed were complicated twists and turns, probably made with a pen or sharp instrument rather than by a finger dipped in the juice of the wild cherry or other fruit as was their custom. Another deed was made in August of 1717 by Petthuzso and Toxcrunuck (successors of the earlier grantors).


Planning the Settlement

A committee was named by the Assembly, who determined Mattatuck could probably support thirty families. On 19 May 1673, the Assembly appointed another committee “to regulate and order the seteling of a plantation at Mattatuck in the most suitable way that may be.” The committee consisted of Major Tallcott, Lt. Robert Webster, Lt. Nicho Olmstead, Ens. Small, Steele and Ens: John Wadsworth.

Twenty-nine proposed settlers signed the Articles of Agreement, but some soon withdrew. The requirements were:

  • each man to have eight acres for a home lot;
  • no man to have more than an allotment of £100;
  • every person taking an allotment was required to build within four years “a good and fashionable dwelling house eighteen by sixteen and nine feet between joints and a good chimney”;
  • failure to build accordingly would result in forfeit of the entire allotment at Mattatuck;
  • all owning an allotment were required personally to dwell at Mattatuck for four years from the time he entered there as an inhabitant, suffer forfeiture.
  • two £150 allotments were reserved for the ministry and for schools.


Those who remained were:
Thomas Judd; John Judd; Edmunt Scott; John Stanley Sr.; John Stanley; Isaac Bronson; Thomas Handcocx; John Warner; John Warner Jr.; Daniel Porter; Samuel Hickox; Joseph Hickox; John Welton; John Scovil; Abraham Andross; Benjamin Barnes; Obadiah Richards; John Stanley Jr.; John Bronson Jr.; Edmund Scott Jr.; Thomas Richason; Joseph Gaylord; John Carrington; John Hopkins; Daniel Warner; Timothy Stanley; Thomas Newell; Thomas Warner.


The Town Layout

The town was laid out on the west side of the Naugatuck on a prominent spot with a great view of the valley and the hills. By May 1677, “difficulties that had beset them concerning the location of the town plot” caused another meeting of the town proprietors. At harvest time, it became too difficult to continually cart everything uphill. When a flood occurred, the village was cut off from the road to Farmington for going to meeting or to market. If Indians were to attack, they would be cut off from Farmington friends. So yet another committee met and agreed to move the town plot to the valley. They selected what is now the Waterbury Green and planned their homes around it. The new location was on the east side of Naugatuck with plenty of water from the Mad River. This river was also called the Roaring River, and later Mill River, as seen in the map of the village. (Click on the map for a larger view.)


The Village of Mattatuck


Now the home lots were not so large – only two acres for each proprietor. They could now get down to the business of prospering and growing.


The Early Records

The very early records of Mattatuck and Waterbury were saved by the Hon. Frederick J. Kingsbury, who found them among the papers of his father’s effects. These papers had been handed down from one town clerk to another, and in 1793, came to John Kingsbury who held the office of town clerk and presiding judge of the New Haven County court.

A glance at a few of the entries follow:

  • March 11, 1671 – The order which is the adition of the hous Loots in Mattok as it is too be tackan up.

  • thos that desire too tack up their adition in the rere of theere house Loots we shall doe all that we can too acomidat ach man in that partuckuller too be suted.

  • Adwards Scott too reseive his loot at the east side of the roaring river, if he like it.

  • danill Porter

  • John Standly to reseive achur more.

  • John Scovill (location not mentioned.)

They wanted their their swine handsomely taken care of, having an eye doubtless, to the dependable pork barrel. Below are two of many grants aimed at the keeping of swine:

“Att a meetting of the propriators of Waterbury, Jan. 21, 1689, the propritors granted Stephen Upson seven acrs and Samuel Scoote seven acrs, that is to say, fourteen acrs between them, of land upon the hill Eastward of the path from longe wigwam upon the hill: to be layd out in hansom forme: for the hog feld, provided itt doo not predyedes former grants.”

Isaac Bronson and Benjamin Barnes were given fourteen acres of land on the hill on the east side of “hoog pound brooke and on the north side of the rood that led to farmington for a hoog feld.”

At a meeting of proprietors, “Genwary 21, 1689, there was granted to John Scovell Ju. a pese of land buting on John warners three acer lot on the est on a hy waye, on the west and south, and on thomas Judd Ju. on the north, provided he bild a hous acording to originall artyculs and inhabit four years after.”

Many of the proprietors didn’t keep up their obligations to complete their houses and in 1682, “Complants of severall men not building according to ‘artyculs’” appear on the records. Among others were:

  • “Samuel Judd, not building according to time prefixed. He built and went into his House in November. 81. and not fit before. Test: Danll Porter. Test, Isaac Bronson. Daniel Porter noe chimney to his House according to Articles. Test: Stephen upson, it was shingled about Michaelmuss.
  • John Scovl, noe chimney.

  • Tho: Richison no House, lives in a ciller, only hires a Ciller to live in.

  • Jno. Carrington House not large enough: according to Articles.”

A meeting of the committee for Matatuck met at Farmington:

“Febry the sixt in the yeare 1682 haveing heard the Complaynts...it is agreed and determined by us that whosoever shall hereafter have grants from ourselves...shall be engaged and firmly Bound by this Act to reside and dwell in sd. Mattatuck the full terme and time of four yeares in a steddy way and maner with their Familyes after subscription to this Act and order; and in case those mancion Housen on those Lands all ready errected, cannot be bought at a reasonable rate of the present owners, by such shall be seized of their Allotments.”

Even before their grants were confirmed, some originals had moved back to Farmington or had died, so that of the thirty original families, only fifteen families remained. Even in 1713 Mattatuck had no more than 33 families, about 200 people. Young boys were becoming men, becoming restless and wanting land of their own. To attempt to keep them in Mattatuck, “bachelor allotments” valued at £40 each were made, and in 1722, Mattatuck had 57 of these. It was not easy to wrest a living for oneself and a family under difficulties of which we know nothng.


Indian Tribulations

Mattatuck was a frontier town. The Indians were not altogether peaceful or friendly and certainly not to be trusted. Joseph Scott, who had land in the Reynolds Bridge section, was tortured and murdered while at work in the field, and Jonathan Scott was taken captive, carried to Canada and held two years for a ransom during Queen Ann’s War.

The Colonial Government, by act, required two men be kept as scouts to warn the people in case of danger. Sentinels were posted on elevations overlooking the village and the fields in which men were working during the day. On 9 April 1700, the town voted to fortify Ensign Stanley’s house, “to build a fort around it and begin tomorrow.” Each town was required to keep a barrell of good powder, 200 weight of bulletts and 300 flints for every sixty listed soldiers and in proprotion. Lt. Stanley was given charge of the Miltary stores.

In 1704 the town agreed to fortify Mr. Southmayed’s house. The general court of that year ordered that ten men should be put in garrison in each of the frontier towns of Danbury, Woodbury, Waterbury, and Simsbury.

In February 1706/7, a new fort was ordered built. When danger lurked, the people all slept in the fortified houses. They were in constant apprehension. Alarms were frequent. After 1713, they enjoyed what ultimately was only temporary security, for in 1724 Waterbury was authorized to employ six men “to guard ye men in their out-fields at the discression of ye commission officers of sd Town.” Six days a year were devoted to Military exercises. And prior to 1714, a guard of eight soldiers in every town was required to be maintained on the Sabath and other days of public worhship.

Attendance at meeting was the law of the land for men, women and children. The Indians knew this and figured that was a great time to attack. So they surrounded the settlement by a fence and each proprietor was responsible for his portion according to his holdings. By 1709 more than ten miles had been built. There were four main gates or bars, each bearing a name. An official position of the town was “fence viewer”, a very important and honorable office in those days.


Mills in the Town

Mills were crucial to a settlement. Stephen Hopkins owned a grist mill in Hartford, and in response to a proposal of the inhabitants of Mattatuck, he erected a mill there. After his mill was built, at a meeting on 5 February 1680, it was concluded that Mr. Hopkins should have 30 acres. It had been decreed in the former order “to such person as should errect a mill there,” and that so much more land should be added to the thirty acres as would amount in value to four hundred pounds allotment. Stephen, however, did not remove from Hartford, but sent his son John to operate this mill which, with its allotment of land, became his property.

Before 1686 they had a working sawmill and a little later a fulling-mill. These two were meeting most of their needs, supplying flour and meal, lumber and shingles. Imagine the relief they felt in not having to hand hew the materials to building their houses and barns. Last came the fulling mill which enabled them to make their clothing from the wool of their sheep.


The Church

In May 1691 they organized the Church of England there. In August they built a chapel and placed Rev. Jeremiah Peck as their preacher. This church and later an Episcopal Church were both built on the village green. The first cemetery in Waterbury was on Grand Street. “Burying Yard Hill” was the resting place of the first pioneers, of which nothing remains today, but the Indians have a graveyard on Johnson Street.

In Connecticut, unlike Massachusetts, a man was not required to be a church member to be a voter, but the Sabbath was strictly observed. It was a day of rest for man and beast. One did not transgress. The drum summoned everyone to meeting on Sunday and on fast days and “dayes of thanksgiving.” A fine of 5sh. was imposed for any “servile labor” on the Lord’s day. Going anywhere but to “meeting” was a “servile labor.”

The Bronson history gives an account of a 1739 trial of Isaac Bronson, a leading citizen of Waterbury, for a breach of law regarding keeping the Sabbath.

The offence for which he was fined, he explained, was that his sister had lived some time at his house, about four miles out of town, but by reason of severe illness went home to her mother and stayed with her, but she amended and on the Sabbath day night, after meeting was ended, asked her brother if he would let her ride behind him, home to his house, which he did. “This is the whole that he is charged with and it was no harm as he thought, however, he stands recorded as above, and hath already been put off from receiving the sacrament on that account.”

An old statute required each householder to have at least one Bible; families of several members were to keep “a considerable number of Bibles, besides orthodox catechisms and other Godly books.” The “selectmen” were to make diligent inquiry concerning whether these requirements were fulfilled; i.e., they were to be spies.

The General Court ordered that no person under twenty should use tobacco and no other person (not accustomed to it) could use it without a certificate from a physician and a license from the court. The use of it in company or publicly on the streets, or at work, or on a journey (unless ten miles from home) was forbidden, and then only once a day. The penalty for each offense was six pence and this must be paid unquestioned.

The law makers were relatively unconcerned with the use of intoxicating beverages. For instance, when they built their churches, this could take two days to put up the frame. Every able-bodied man was expected to help, and part of the community expense was lunch and refreshment that included both whiskey or rum and wine by the keg.

In the early 1700s, people were trying to discard the forms of the English church but they were unable to get rid of everything. They tenaciously clung to some of their traditions and rules. One such was the observance of the sabbath, and this observance was enforced by pains and penalties. They were required by statute to “carefully apply themselves to the duties of religion and piety, publicaly and privatly,” on the Lord’s day. They were required, on that day and also on “fast dayes and dayes of thanksgiving,” to go to meeting, and they were not permitted to go anywhere else, the fine for transgressing the law being, in each case, 5 sh. “single persons being boarders and sojourners,” and young persons “under the government of parents or masters,” were not allowed to “meet together in company or companies,” in the street or elsewhere, on the evening of the sabbath, or of fast day or lecture day, the fine being five shillings. It was made the duty of constables and grand jurors “to walk the streets and duly search all suspected places,” and to bring the violators of this law to justice. These are the statutes our fathers lived under, till after the Revolution, and which assisted to mould their characters and opinions.

In illustration of what was considered “servile labour” on the sabbath, no longer ago than 1737, I would refer to a justice trial in which Isaac Bronson, a leading man of Waterbury, was arraigned before Timothy Hopkins, a justice of the peace. A conviction followed, and a fine of five shillings with the costs of court was imposed. The criminal party, not being satisfied with the decision, petitoned (ineffectually) the General Court for relief, and at the same time explained the nature and extent of his “crime,” as follows:

To the Honouirable generall Court [*c.] siting att Newhaven second Thursday of october 1737 – the memorial of Isaac Brounson of waterbury humbly showeth that one mr justice Timothy Hopkins of sd waterbury, [&c.] by his speisall writ caused your memorialist to apear before him on the 24th day of august Last to answer for being gilty of doing servil Labour on the sabbath or Lords day, in the site of said justice, and gaue judgment against yur memoruialest in the following words viz [Here follows a copy of the execution and sentence of the court, from which it appears that the crime ws committed on the 7th day of August, and that the culprit was sentenced to pay 5s. fine,a nd 5s. 6d. costs, “and stand ommitted till he comply,” &c.] so that your memoriallest was forced to pay the money or go to prison, which money was paid down to the justice and your memorialest stands Recorded gilty of the breach of the sabbath but thinks himself wholy innocent of any such crime: and can not help himself so without Remedy except this Honourable assembly giue Releafe, and he is under great disadvantage to Lay the whole matter before your Honours, mr justice utterly Refusing to giue him a coy pof the writ by which he was brought before him: therefore is obliged to Declare the facts, by sd justice judged to be creminall, wh ich was his sister had lived sometime att his Hous about four miles out of Town but by reason of seuere ilness went Home to her mother and stayed with her, but she amended, and on the sabbath day night after meeting was ended asked your memorialist if he would Let her Ride behind him home to his house which he did: this is the whole that he is charged with and uit was no harme as he thought; how euer he stands Recorded as aboue and hath been already put of from Recieuing the sacrament on that account, and there upon prays this Honourable assembly to make void the sd judgment if they in their wisdom can think it just, or grant him Liberty of a hearing of the whole amtter begore the County Court to be holden att Newhaven in November nextr, and order the sd justice to furnish him with a co of his proceedings in the acse in order to his hauing afair Tryall at the sd Court, or any other way grant Releaf [&c.]
Isaac Brounson

If any man convicted of prophaning the sabbath refused to pay his fine, he might be publicly whip[ped. This was the law in 1784 and afterwards. An old statute, in existence even after the Revolution, required each householder to have at least one Bible. In numerous families, they were to have “a considerable number of bibles,” besides suitable orthodox catechisms and other books of practical godliness. It was the duty of the Selectmen to “make diligent inquiry” after these things, and constables, jurymen and tything men were to make diligent search after and presentment make of all breaches, &c.

The legislation of our ancestors was harsh, sometimes vindictive. It attempted too much. Its ends were often unjustifiable, frequently trivial. It interfered unwarrantably with personal rights. It took it for granted that a desirable object, in every case, was to be secured by some special law. That an evil existed was a sufficient reason why a statute should be enacted. The truth was not recognized and is not yet fully understood, that there are many irregularities in the moral ...


Patriotism

Waterbury furnished 697 soldiers for our defense in the Revolutionary War. In December the town lacked one soldier of completing its quota for “horse Neck tower,” and he was to be provided by Stephen Bronson and others. February 22, 1782, another tax of three and a half pence on the pound was laid for procuring seven men for Horse Neck and the western frontier, to be paid in cattle, sheep, swine or grain, “the men to be able bodied and effective.” Thus our independence was won.


Branching Out

Before 1700, everyone in Waterbury lived in the town center or right around it. Shortly thereafter, planters were looking at more distant parts of town. The first permanent settlement beyond the old village appears to have been made at Judd’s Meadow. This name was first used in the Indian deed of 1684-85; Lt. Thomas Judd who owned lands there at a very early date. It first applied to the meadows upon the river, but afterwards, the whole southern section of the town was thus designated.

The first settlers were Samuel Hickox, Daniel Warner and Joseph Lewis. Hickox “located” himself on Fulling Mill Brook, where he had already built a house on 21 Dec 1702. Here about 1709 he erected a fulling mill, which gave its name to the stream. His sons settled in the same neighborhood. Warner moved to Judd’s Meadow a little later than Hickox, say about 1705. In that year he sold his house east of the village. He took up his residence near Hickox, on the brook, which was sometimes called Daniel Warner’s Brook. His house is alluded to August 1708. Around 1714, more than a dozen moved to the area, including Stephen Hopkins [could be John Hopkins’s son].

Breakneck Hill is spoken of on the town records as early as 1688. Isaac Bronson Sr. owned land there at an early period and had built a house there before April 1702. John Bronson may have lived there temporarily; but the first permanent settler was Isaac Bronson, eldest son of Isaac. He became a resident at Breakneck Hill prob as early as 1704 or 1705, certainly before March 27, 1707, when his oldest son Isaac was born.


Waterbury’s Dark Days

The dark ages of the town’s history are those 40 years before 1713. During those years these seekers for cheap land endured sufferings and hardships which, had they come to Mattatuck as refugees from political or religious bigotry, would have caused their praises to have been loudly sounded. In 1691, the year in which they were building their first church, their rich meadowlands were inundated by the Naugatuck river and a great portion of the soil carried away or rendered valueless for cultivation by deep deposits of sand and gravel. To the struggling farmers this loss was well nigh irreparable, and some of them left the settlement. This inundation was known as the “Great Flood.” Another devastating flood occurred in 1709.

Then fell a deadly visitation on the village which was spoken of ever afterward as the “Great Sickness.” It began in October, 1712, and lasted nearly a year. During its continuance one-tenth of the population died; and at one time the well were not able to care for the sick and bury the dead. Of the 21 victims of the disease ten were heads of families.

Throughout all these trials the dread of the Indians, who had begun again to vex the land soon after the temporary truce of 1677, hung over the village. This fear was well founded, for in 1708-09, one of the villagers was killed while he was at work in the meadows, and a little later a father and his two sons were carried away captive . To the severe labors of clearing and cultivating the land was added the burden of watching for the hostiles. Several of the village houses were fortified – among others, that of the Rev. John Southmayd – and at night the settlers resorted to these for safety. In the day, while the farmer worked in the fields, scouts scoured the neighborhood and sentinels on the high hilltops guarded against the approach of the Indians.

The Connecticut colony sent a small garrison to aid in the protection of the town. It was not until the peace of 1712, which followed the French and Indian War, that the settlers could work and rest in quiet without fear of disturbance. Up to that year more people had removed from the town than had moved into it, and the population in 1713 was but 180 people, the same number that the town had in 1688.

In the years that followed the peace of 1713, the village prospered. It gradually outgrew its narrow, local conditions and through better connections with the outside world soon became a part of it. Its days of isolation had passed.


Our Waterbury Ancestors

John Brownson/Bronson

Serg. Samuel Hickox

Our Stephen Hopkins
was granted, and built, the first grist mill
but sent his son John to operate it

Nicholas Olmstead

Hannah Upson






ABOUT THE PIONEER MEMORIAL

The Harrub Pilgrim Memorial was carved out of French granite by Herman Atkins MacNeil of New York. Charles Harrub, an engineer for the American Brass Company, donated the $100,000 needed for the project to honor his wife and the Pilgrims. Dedicated October 11, 1930. It is now located at the corner of Highland Avenue and Chase Parkway. (Photo by Daniel M. Lynch, Mattatuck Consulting, LLC.


REFERENCES

Anderson, Joseph, ed. The town and city of Waterbury, Connecticut, from the aboriginal period to the year 1895 (New Haven, CT: Price & Lee Company, 1896). Vol. 1: ed. Sarah J. Prichard et al.; Vols. 2-3: ed. Joseph Anderson). SLC FHL 974.67/W1 H2a v. 1-3. Microfilm #1697783 Items 1-3.

Boden, Sarah Bronson, comp. “Mattatuck of Yore” in Ancestors and Descendants of Leman Bronson 1640-1963 (1963). In Salt Lake City, Utah, at the LDS FHL 929.273 B789b; also on film #896913 item 1 (1972).
Ms. Boden’s work is published in a binder and draws on noted works, e.g., Anderson’s History of Waterbury.

Bronson, Henry. History of Waterbury, Connecticut (Waterbury: Bronson Brothers, 1858).

Church, U. G. “Sketch of Early Waterbury.” Pp. 119-32 in Miller, Francis T., and H. Phelps Arms, eds. The Connecticut Magazine Vol. 7/1 (Hartford CT: The Connecticut Magazine Co., Mar-Apr 1901).







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