AN ABRIDGED ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF DEEP RIVER
Home town to Mount Saint John for 104 years.
“Annually, the muster is attended by almost forty corps from many states and Canada. Watching the marcher’s parade to Devitt field, one cannot help but feel that Deep River, although it has its eye on the future, has not forgotten the past.”
“So it goes through the centuries. Man, continually satisfying his needs, produces a chain reaction on the forces in society that help fulfill his needs and desires. The history of Deep River is one of change, yet, man, the moving force in this change, has differed little from his counterpart of the early years. The strong, independent spirit of the colonial days is evident today in the men and women of Deep River who move about their daily tasks with an air that they are as free and as equal as any in God's world.”
Among the very first settler to the banks of Deep River were the Nehantic Indians, who ranged from Rhode Island to the Connecticut River. However, shortly before the first European settlers arrived, the Pequots had invaded Nehantic territory and annexed about half of the land claimed by the tribe.
Today, although most Pequots, Mohegans, Narragansett’s and Shinnecocks have some Nehantic ancestry, the Nehantic people, once one of the most numerous and historically significant Indian groups encountered by European settlers in Connecticut, were declared extinct by 1870 by the state. Their 300-acre reservation, which encompassed the entire Black Point peninsula in East Lyme, was sold.
In 1614, the Dutch under Adrian Block navigated the Connecticut River and laid claim to the territory.
In England the early seventeenth century, Lord Say and Seal, Lord Brook and others obtained a patent, or a land grant, from Robert Rich, the Earl of Warwick and later the Lord High Admiral of the Royal Navy. The land, a part of which would become Deep River, was described as “lies west from the Narragansett River, a hundred and twenty- miles on the sea coast, and then in latitude and breadth aforesaid to the South Sea." The land had been conveyed given to Robert Rich by the Council of Plymouth, while Rich was President of the Plymouth Company .
In July of 1635, Lord Say and Seal, Lord Brook and others convinced John Winthrop, Jr., the son of the Governor of Massachusetts, who was in England, to become their agent in the land and appointed him Governor of the Connecticut River and the area around its mouth for one year, starting from the first day of his arrival there.
Winthrop arrived in Boston on October 8, 1635, shortly after residents of Massachusetts had moved in to the Connecticut River region and were claiming land that belonged to his employers as their own and that the Dutch, who claimed the area as their own as a result of the Block expeditions of 1614, were planning to land at the mouth of the Connecticut River, in the area that would become Old Saybrook.
Winthrop dispatched a company of twenty men to the mouth of the river who placed two pieces of cannon on shore which discouraged the Dutch from landing. For safety sake and to protect his employers land, Winthrop decided to build a settlement on the extreme southeastern part on the western side of the Connecticut's mouth.
Winthrop took great care to lay out the settlement that would be called Saybrook, named after Lord’s Say and Lord Brook, since it was assumed that the town would soon grow into a major port for North American-English trade.
The erection of the fortifications and other buildings was charged to the very capable Lieutenant Lion Gardiner, an engineer, who had been brought drafted from England due to his skills as a builder. Gardiner was later hired directly by the company to promote the interests of the settlement, well after Winthrop's commission had expired. Gardiner’s son, David, born April 29, 1635, was the first child of European heritage born in Connecticut.
On October 8, 1935, a wandering trader of dry goods from Watertown Connecticut, named Oldham, was killed by a group of renegade Narragansett Indians who fled into the Pequot territory.
The leaders of the Massachusetts colony sent an expeditionary force into Connecticut to track down the Indians hiding in the Pequot and kill them. The Pequot’s resented the intrusion and attacked the Saybrook settlement with one group of warriors ambushing a group of settlers outside the Saybrook fort, killing four and wounding Lieutenant Gardiner.
Another victim of the dispute was Joseph Tilly, master of a bark, who was returning from a business trip to Hartford and, almost home, landed a few miles below what is now Deep River, to shot and shot a wild fowl. The shot alerted a very large band of Indians who were hunting in the area. They captured Tilly and marched him to within eyesight of the fort at Saybrooke, tied him to a stake and flayed him, cut off his hands and feet and tortured with hot coals "But as nothing which they inflicted upon him excited a groan, they pronounced him a stout man." He died after three days of torture, his body left on the stake.
A short while after the Tilly incident, a group of six men was dispatched by Lieutenant Gardiner to protect a house about two miles from the fort. Three of these men, leaving the house in order to find food, were attacked by nearly one hundred Pequots. Two of the men were taken captive, but one would not give up. Wounded by two arrows, he cut his way through the mass of Pequots and escaped.
Incidents such as these continued to harass the settlers who had taken refuge in the fort.
Finally the settlers of Connecticut organized. Forces, under Captains John Mason and John Underhill with the aid of Roger Williams, defeated the Pequots with such decisiveness that peace reigned for nearly forty years.
Our debt of gratitude to Roger Williams for holding the Narragansett chiefs to their neutral and even half friendly attitude toward the colonists is deep and should be lasting.
The area was named Saybrook in 1639, named after it two original English patentees, Lord Say and Seal and Lord Brook. (Lord Say and Seal, an English nobleman was one person) Fenwick, (He arrived that year) residing in Saybrook as Governor, realized that the Englishmen for whom Saybrook was built would not be arriving, due to the start of the Long Parliament. This meant that the House of Commons, and not the King, possessed supreme authority in England.
Consequently, Fenwick sold Saybrook to the Connecticut Colony in 1644. The high hopes of Saybrook faded as the news of the Puritan Revolt (1642-1649) in England spread. It was for the leaders of this revolt, Oliver Cromwell, John Hampden, John Pym and others, that Saybrook had been destined. Lady Fenwick entertained high hopes of a flourishing city at the mouth of the river and her disappointment in this new rugged land must have been great when she thought of the life she had previously known.
Others moved from Hartford and Windsor in 1646
Lady Fenwick was buried near Saybrook Fort in 1648, and, with the building of the Valley Railroad more than two centuries later, a tomb of hewn blocks of sandstone, believed to have been hers but without inscription, was moved to the cemetery nearby.
The population of Saybrook in 1648 is hard now to determine, but it is known that forty-three individuals owned land. Some of the people had come from England with Winthrop in 1635, others with Colonel Fenwick in 1639, and still others moved from Hartford and Windsor in 1646. Most of these people settled around the Point or in the surrounding area, even though some were disappointed at the slow growth of Saybrook, it became apparent, by 1648, that too many people were crowding into a small area near the fort.
A group of men, John Clark, William Hyde, William Pratt, Thomas Tracey and Matthew Griswold were chosen to divide the outlands for the purpose of settlement. This they did, dividing the land into three "quarters";
first, Black Hall Quarter on the eastern side of the Connecticut;
second, the Oyster River Quarter;
third, the Potapaug Quarter or Eight Mile River Quarter. The eastern part of the present town of Deep River was included in the Potapaug Quarter, and the western part in the Oyster River Quarter. Eight men bought rights in Potapaug Quarter. Three of the property owners, William Pratt, William Hyde and John Lay, Sr., commenced building in that part of Potapaug which is now Essex.
Tension was in the air. The settlers, in 1664, were discussing the incident at the Point when Edmond Andros, the Governor of New York, read the document that gave him pretended authority over all of the Colony west of the Connecticut River. How well the commander of the Fort had been named, for he, Captain Bull, had sent Andros back to his ship fuming and fussing against Connecticut authority.
Later "King Philip's War" caused another kind of alarm. Although the settlers at Saybrook took the necessary precautions of repairing the fort and palisades about the settlement, they considered themselves fortunate to have escaped the savage attacks for which this war is known. The town awarded each man who had fought in the Indian War with five acres of land. With their weapons not too distant from them, the first settlers of Potapaug began building substantial frame houses. Standing in the middle of the house was a huge chimney built of stone. The floors were of thick oak boards fastened with wooden pins, and the sides of the rooms were plastered. The houses and their furnishings were of various sizes, shapes and quality, according to the resources of the owner. "Scarcely an article of luxury was used in Connecticut for a century after English settlements began, and very few articles were introduced for a considerable period afterward.
In 1666, Robert Lay of Potapaug, of the town of Saybrook, and others, purchased the ketch Diligence which made regular trips to the West Indies, exporting local produce and importing rum and sugar. A sideboard of rum could be found in most of the settlers' homes in Saybrook.
When the settlers wished to go to Hartford or to the eastern part of Saybrook, which was incorporated as Lyme in 1667, most of them went by boat.
These early trails leading to Saybrook were used in 1688 because the General Court desired that four clergymen, one from each county, meet at Saybrook in order to draw up plans for a union of Connecticut churches.
Education received a great deal of attention by the early settlers, for they believed that religion and education went hand in hand. Seeing that children and servants in every home were taught to read and were studying their religion was the job of the selectmen. This was considered so important that Bibles and books were furnished to those who could not afford them. As people became more and better educated, the demand for higher education grew. In 1701, a seminary, later to be called Yale University, was founded in Saybrook. Land was donated by Nathaniel Lynde, and the Reverend Abraham Pierson of Killingworth was elected Rector.
The final result of these meetings, concluded in 1708, was the "Saybrook Platform," which primarily brought together the Puritans and Presbyterians.
On October 17, 1716, the trustees of the (Yale) seminary voted "that considering the difficulties of continuing the collegiate school at Saybrook, and that New Haven is a convenient place for it, for which the most liberal donations are given, the trustees agree to remove the said school from Saybrook to New Haven and it is now settled at New Haven accordingly." The Saybrook settlers were determined to resist this effort to steal their college. They "destroyed the carts furnished for the transportation of the books, the bridges between the town and New Haven were broken down, and many valuable papers and books were lost."
This demonstration, however, had little effect on the trustees, for New Haven witnessed the commencement of September 2, 1718.
In 1723, the first homes in the Deep River section of Potapaug were erected by John, Nathaniel and Philip Kirtland. The three brothers had received this land as a gift from their father, John Kirtland, Sr. of Saybrook, who had had part of it deeded to him in 1711 by Joseph and Nathaniel Backus, sons of Lieutenant William Backus of Norwich. John Kirtland had also owned land in Deep River, as did William Backus, both inheriting this land from the estate of their father-in-law, Lieutenant William Pratt.
The deed from Pratt was given to William Backus and John Kirtland on September 8, 1682. The deed states, "The lands of William Backus and John Kirtland being part of their wives' portions, distributed unto them by the administrators of the estate of Lieutenant William Pratt, deceased, to be equally divided between them in quality and quantity.
Being a certain point of land called Deep River Plaine, lying and being in Potapaug Quarter beginning at the head of Twelve Mile Island Cove, and taking in all the Plaine as far as the Deep River. Bounded northward with the Deep River, eastward with the Great River, southward with the Twelve Mile Island Cove and Southwestward with the hills, leaving a highway between the said land and the hills."
After the erection of the Kirtland houses in the Potapaug area of the town of Saybrook, other settlers began to buy land in this section. The earliest families who settled in the eastern part of Deep River were the Kirtlands, Lords, Pratts, Shipmans and later the Southworths and Denisons, The Platts, Buckleys, Bushnells, Denisons, were the earliest settlers of the western part.
The "Act of Toleration" in 1708, for Congregationalism had been the one and only religion.
Mobility seemed to have an effect on these early western settlers of Deep River, for, in 1727, Baptist ministers from the eastern part of the state and Rhode Island were seen preaching to the people. This would have been unheard of in any established settlement prior to the passing of the "Act of Toleration" in 1708, for Congregationalism had been the one and only religion. A spirit of independence was beginning to prevail.
The early settlers worked hard, clearing the land and erecting houses. Being Englishmen, they were sympathetic toward England during her wars with Spain and France in the first half of the eighteenth century. Regiments from Connecticut were often sent to assist the British, serving wherever they were needed. For the most part, the colonists, enjoying a great deal of freedom, worked harmoniously with their mother country.
A lack of tolerance in the 1740's led the General Court to repeal the Act of Toleration which it had passed in 1708. Being a minority in the town of Saybrook, the Baptists of western Deep River suffered. In February, 1744, fourteen Baptists were arrested on the charge of, "holding a meeting contrary to law on God's Holy Sabbath Day." Found guilty, they were fined and forced to walk to New London, the county seat, where they were imprisoned for several weeks. "The group was released in the spring and several months later, unbowed by their travail, the stalwart fourteen, joined by three other individuals, founded the First Baptist Church of Saybrook on July 15,1744."
With the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the last of the French wars came to an end. The people of Connecticut had helped to assure British control of almost all of North America. Now the attitude of many of the people of Connecticut began to change. George III ascended the throne of England and his government insisted that America should be taxed to pay a portion of the enormous debt that had been partly incurred in the defense of the colonies. As a result, the hated Stamp Act was passed, to which the people objected violently.
Sons of Liberty groups were organized, and, in many towns, zealous Whigs compelled Tories to suffer for such political crimes as not attending Liberty Pole celebrations and speaking against the American cause.
In the fall of 1774, Captain Hezekiah Whittlesay, one of Saybrook's deputies, denounced the citizens of Boston for their rebellious attitude and even praised Parliament. For this audacity, some of the Liberty Boys, on visiting him, "convinced him of the serious errors he had committed.'
Many of these radical Yankees put more terror into the hearts of their townspeople than the English, and the more levelheaded men of Saybrook's Sons of Liberty finally had to censure some of their hotheaded members. For some, the strong ties with England were difficult to break. Even after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, as one can note in the Old Land Records at the Deep River Town Hall, they signed their deeds with the reminder that it was so many years in the Reign of their Sovereign, George the Third of Great Britain.
The shot heard round the world did not take long to reach Saybrook. The town voted that a fort or battery be built to defend the town, the river and harbor. Many men of Saybrook marched off with the Continental battalions that were raised by the state, with six pounds and forty shillings in silver paid to them as an inducement for enlistment, and the knowledge that the town would aid their families if they were in need. By 1778, probably because of the news of the difficulties at Valley Forge, the town voted to furnish each soldier, who had enlisted or might enlist a good pair of shoes and stockings.
The town's greatest contribution to the war was on the high seas and inland waters. The Oliver Cromwell, a state warship measuring eighty feet and carrying twenty-four guns, was built by Captain Uriah Hayden in Potapaug. Captain Seth Warner commanded the galley Trumbull on Lake Champlain. David Bushnell invented "The American Turtle," a crude submarine. His experiments with underwater explosives caused much dismay to British sea captains. On one occasion, an explosive meant for the British frigate, Cerberus, "fell in with a schooner at astern of the frigate, and becoming fixed, it exploded, and demolished the vessel."
Captain Nathan Post, commander of the brig Martial with its sixteen guns and crew of eighty-five, helped cut the supply route of the British from the West Indies to New York. Captain Post was not the only commander from Saybrook who struck terror into the operators of the British supply route, for the records are full of the names of Saybrook men and their prizes. One of the most loyal and patriotic men was Jedediah Pratt, who resided in the eastern part of Deep River of the town of Saybrook. "No military corps of Americans," it has been written, "no matter how great the number, were ever allowed to pass his house without his stopping them, and, upon hastily constructed tables, of barrels and boards, he would empty his dairy of its pans of milk, his larder of provisions, and baking huge Johnny-cakes of Indian corn, would spread before the hungry soldiers an ample welcome; and his cocked hat would be seen in all directions, hurrying his servants, seeing that all had not only enough, but carried away a ration in his knapsack; and as the refreshed soldiers wound away through his extensive orchard, he would sing out a hearty wish that they would, when they met those British, give them a genuine whaling, and that he and his Queen Anne were ready to be with them at the first alarm."
" Not all the residents of the town of Saybrook were as loyal to and as enthusiastic about the American cause as was Jedediah Pratt. There is a record of one man, Nehemiah Hayden, who "joined the British enemies of the United States."
When the news reached Saybrook in 1781 of the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, the people were jubilant. Connecticut was now free and it was up to the statesmen to determine what kind of union should exist between the states.
Other changes were likewise bound to be made, as indeed they were, for 1785 found the people of Saybrook going north to the county seat in Middletown instead of to New London.
More homes began to be built in Deep River. In 1790, the house on South Main Street known as The 1790 House was built, supposedly by Doty Lord. This house was originally where the Congregational Church now stands, but was moved about 1807 when the Middlesex Turnpike was opened to travel.
In 1797, Bani Denison started keep ing a country store in Winthrop, and, in 1799, R. Kirtland built a house overlooking the Connecticut River on what is now Kirtland Street. Ten years later a house was built on Union Street by Captain William Southworth and his brother, Nathan. Since Connecticut was no longer a colony of England, Britain could not dump manufactured goods on her markets, and small factories sprang up to fill the needs of the people.
The Wahginnicut House, which had been built in 1854 on the site of the Kirtland house of 1799,
In 1802, Williams' Comb Factory near the mouth of Falls River, in the vicinity of Centerbrook, in Potapaug, was established;
1809, another ivory comb factory was erected by Phineas Pratt on the Deep River. It was claimed that his father, Deacon Phineas Pratt "was the inventor and maker of any machinery that would enable the manufacturer to compete with the British.'?"
A factory was also erected in the northern part of Potapaug, now Chester, in 1811, for the purpose of making double-podded gimlets.
Quarry begun in Deep River in 1812
Peace did not last long, for soon the residents of Saybrook were involved in the War of 1812. The inhabitants retired on the night of April 7 with the comforting thought that this war was being fought on the high seas many miles away. They, with other settlers of Connecticut, considered this a senseless war, and the fort at Saybrook Point had not been garrisoned. Between four and five o'clock on the morning of April 8, the people were rudely awakened. The British were within the town. About one hundred and sixty British sailors and marines from the squadron blockading New London had been sent from their vessels anchored off Saybrook Point to Potapaug Point, now Essex. Before the people realized what was happening, the British searched houses and stores for ammunition, while others set fire to the ships lying in the river. By ten o'clock, twenty- two vessels were destroyed.
Afterwards, the British, realizing that a resistance was being organized, headed down the river with a prize schooner, a brig and two sloops. The aroused residents quickly planned to oppose the British on their way down the river. Stations were set up at various points, and luck was with the Americans. A shift of wind forced the British to set fire to the brig and two sloops. They then anchored the schooner a short distance down the river. This gave the Americans time to bring up a field piece, which compelled the enemy to leave the schooner. The English continued down the river in their launches and barges and arrived at their vessels, minus a few of their men. The invaders inflicted much damage, with $60,000 of the loss of $160,000 falling on the settlers of Potapaug. This and other such incidents, caused by the defenseless condition of her seacoast, alarmed Connecticut and resulted in the famous Hartford Convention of 1814. The Hartford Convention often has led some to question the loyalty of the New England states that took part. "This charge of disloyalty," however, "is frequently met by the frequent assertion on their part that they desired to recommend only such measures for the safety and welfare of the States they represented as were 'consistent with their obligations as members of the National Union' ."
At the end of the War of 1812, the town of Saybrook was almost one hundred and eighty years old, but it was just beginning to experience the growing pains of a town within a young country.
AFTER the war, the town returned to its agricultural pursuits, but the status quo was beginning to be questioned. Many people had supported the Federalist party, in the belief that a strong party was needed for national security. But now the peril was over, and residents, such as Col. William Worthington and others, began to expound the views of the
The Royal Charter of 1662, under which Connecticut conducted its affairs, came under attack. Many objected to the strong union of the Congregational Church and the state, for this church was directly favored by the government and the Federalist party. Indeed, every voter was taxed for its support.
In Saybrook, the Congregational Church had been firmly entrenched since the earliest days; in the records, church business was town business. With the increase of membership in other denominations, however, the conviction grew that all sects should be considered equal under the law. Therefore, by 1815, many people began to agitate for a change in the Royal Charter.
The landscape was also starting to change. Pratt's Ivory Comb Factory on the Deep River was enlarged when Williams' Comb Factory was united with it in 1816. This company employed more than twenty men and annually manufactured about 600,000 combs. The process used was very slow; the worker had to saw the plates by hand. If a workman could saw two hundred and fifty plates a day, it was assumed that he was quite competent. More houses now began to dot the landscape, and the area around the Deep River began to take on the appearance of a town.
By 1818, a new constitution was approved. To many, the severance of the Congregational Church and the state, along with the guarantee of religious liberty, added to the spirit of independence. Not all Connecticut Yankees agreed; they believed their way of life was being chipped away.
Quarry begun in Deep River in 1812, expanded its operation in 1821. In a short time eight quarries employed about one hundred men. The stone was shipped to New York, Philadelphia, and some as far as New Orleans. The business was carried on for about twenty years and stopped when the buyers found a new supply of stone nearer to them. Some immigrants worked in the quarries, but they were. Given a cool reception by the townspeople. Permission for them to buy land had to be received from the General Assembly.
In 1822, Michael McDermott, wishing to purchase land, appealed to the Assembly and swore that he would be a good citizen. This law was liberalized in 1824 with the provision that a foreigner could obtain permission from the Superior Court to purchase land.
The year 1824 saw the beginning of the end of sailing ships that plied up and down the Connecticut River. The controversy with New York State over the Fulton- Livingston monopoly was settled and steamships soon became the chief means of transportation on the river. The Oliver Ellsworth, a steamship of two hundred and twenty-seven tons, made regular trips between Hartford and Saybrook. Lafayette was a passenger on this ship during his visit to the state in 1824. He stopped in Saybrook and spent the night at the Humphrey Pratt Tavern, where he was greeted by many who were still appreciative of the part he had played in gaining the independence of the United States. Some remembered that he had been in Saybrook in 1778, while on his way to Newport to join Rochambeau.
The Yankee peddler was a familiar sight for a time. He wandered through the towns carrying his goods, such as mirrors, needles, scissors, knives, pins, pots and pans to out-of-the-way places. Many of these peddlers arrived in Deep River with their wares and news from neighboring towns.
With the erection of Mather, Read and Company's Green Store in 1827, on the northeastern corner of Main and River Streets in Deep River, the Yankee peddler became a figure of the past. The owners of the Green Store traveled to New York by sloop to purchase goods for their store, and it was estimated that a trip such as this, "took about a week to get to New York and as long to return." Space for a post office was also included in the Green Store when it was built, and Joseph H. Mather became the first postmaster.
The post office, opened in 1827, was the first post office within the limits of the present town of Deep River. Before this time, post offices had been established in the extreme southern part of the town, now Old Say- brook, and in Pattaconk, now Chester. Religious equality under the law now gave impetus to other denominations to spread their beliefs.
In 1829 and 1830, the Reverend Russell Jennings, pastor of the Baptist Church in Winthrop, and the Reverend N. E. Shailer added a number of converts to the Baptist Church by a series of revival meetings and discussed the advisability of erecting a Baptist Church in Deep River. These discussions materialized and, on April 22, 1830, it was voted to constitute the church, consisting of twenty-seven members. Its construction was begun in 1831 and completed in 1832, with the Reverend Orson Spencer as its first pastor. Such events precipitated a revival of Congregationalism. The old-style ministers had looked with disfavor on the popular mode of preaching by the Baptists and Methodists. Now, with many changes taking place, the Congregational ministers themselves were encouraged to preach the type of sermon that would be easily understood by their congregations. This religious revival, plus the erection of the Baptist Church and the long trek by Congregationalists to Centerbrook for services, induced Congregationalists in Deep River to contemplate a church here. "Unlike the Baptists who organized a church and built their meeting house later, several public spirited residents of the village and devout members of the Second Society Church at Centerbrook, decided to build a meeting house, get everything in order, and then establish a church organization. After Captain John Platt donated land, their desires were realized; on December 22, 1833, the first service was held in their newly erected church. The church was not formally established until April 13, 1834, and the first pastor, The Reverend Darius Mead, was not chosen until a year after the church had been built.
In 1830, the Eli and Thomas Denison Shipyard opened near the wharf at the end of Kirtland Street, on the Connecticut River. Presently the yard completed the eighty-four ton sloop Deep River. This ship, sixty-five feet long, was owned and operated by Deep River men, including Samuel Shailer, her first master. Many Deep River men turned to the sea. Two well-known shipmasters were Captains Joseph H. Arnold and Joseph Post. It is believed by Thomas Stevens of Deep River, former director of the Mystic Marine Museum, that money from shipping made by Captain Calvin Williams who had been master of the brig Pocohontas in the early 1800's, was instrumental in having the ivory business operated by Ezra Williams get off to a firm beginning.
Religion also had a part in the separation of Chester, in 1836, from the town of Saybrook. Almost one hundred years before, proprietors of Pattaconk, now Chester, appealed to the General Assembly, which passed an act making Pattaconk Quarter a separate and distinct society of the Congregational Church. It was known as the Fourth Ecclesiastical Society of Saybrook and was called Chester. Because of this Ecclesiastical Society which was the center of religious, social and political life, Chester developed an independence which was further increased by the establishment of industry, commerce and a post office. In 1836 she was ready to become an independent town.
The Panic of 1837, during Martin Van Buren's administration, hit Deep River and, in particular, the factory of Stephen Jennings which made augers and auger bits. He had started the factory a few years before and had continued manufacturing during the Panic. Though his manufacturing stock increased, everything was lost when his factory was destroyed by fire. This meant financial ruin, for due to an oversight by his insurance agent, his policy had terminated the day before the fire and had not been renewed.
George Read and Company manufactured ivory combs until 1839, when it began the cutting of piano keys.
In 1840, Stephen Jennings brother Russell Jennings became the new pastor of the Deep River Baptist Church, and also furnished the money which enabled Stephen to rebuild. This helped insure the prosperity of the town and made possible the continuance of the bit industry.
The incorporation of the town of Chester may have encouraged West Saybrook, now Westbrook, to break away from Saybrook in 1840. Once again, religion appeared to have played a strong part in the organization of the town. Westbrook had been incorporated as a separate and distinct Ecclesiastical Society by an act of the General Assembly in 1724. For one hundred and sixteen years, the Society built and repaired the church, employed the minister, taxed every inhabitant for his support, divided the town into school districts, built school- houses, employed teachers and even provided the burying grounds.
The strong Puritan conscience of the Congregationalists could be seen in the social life of the town. There were no theaters, for they were regarded as immoral institutions. No young citizen of Saybrook could watch, unless he left the state, the antics of clowns and tricks of artists and animals, for even the circus was banned in Connecticut. Frank J. Mather, who was a young boy about this time, and whose father was one of the owners of the Green Store, remarked, "Dancing in those days was regarded as an invention of the Evil One. Cards were never permitted, checkers were discouraged. Novels of any kind were strictly forbidden."
Times, however, were not as dull as they appeared. There was much merrymaking at births, marriages and political gatherings. Music, swimming, skating and sleighing were enjoyed by all. The health of the people in Deep River was fairly good, according to Mather. "Up to the time I was twenty-one," he writes, "I never heard of a case of malaria in town. There was some tendency to consumption, and in the fall an occasional case of typhoid fever. After a time Dr. Rufus Baker settled here. When I was about eighteen years old I had some fever and the doctor bled me till I nearly fainted. Then to recover from the effect of the treatment he sent me on a sea voyage with my brother, Samuel, to Australia and China, on the clipper ship Nightingale. I think the doc- tor began with a charge of twenty-five cents for a visit. For a long time his charge was not over fifty cents.'?"
Doctor Rufus Baker, the first physician in Deep River, was a native of Maine who received his M.D. from Columbia College, District of Columbia, in 1844. He practiced in Deep River until 1860, when he moved to Middletown. He was succeeded by Dr. Edwin Bidwell from South Manchester, Connecticut, who had graduated from the Yale Medical College in 1847. The New Era remarked of him in 1899, "He has held the unbroken respect and esteem of all the people during his long residence here, and no man is more beloved by all classes than he.":" Due to the unsettled financial condition of the country prior to the Panic of 1837, the General Assembly had granted no new bank charters from 1834 to 1847.
In 1848, incorporation was granted to the Saybrook Bank at Essex, and, in 1849, to the Deep River Bank in the town of Saybrook.
In August of 1849, directors were elected for the Deep River Bank, with Joshua L'Homrnedieu as president. This bank, with a capital of $75,000, was first located in the house of George Read, but in November, 1849, moved to its new building. Some of the most prominent men in the town were the directors of this first bank in Deep River, and since the village had been growing at a rapid rate for twenty years
One of the most important men in this group, and referred to as the "Chief Founder of the Town," by Frank J. Mather, was George Read. Read was born in Deep River on March 22, 1787, the son of Cornelius Read who came to Saybrook in 1769 from the north of Ireland.
George Read was far and away the chief factor in promoting the general prosperity of the village. He, with Deacon Spencer, John Rogers, Alpheus Starkey, Julius Post and a few others, began the manufacture of ivory combs in the little red factory right by the dam.
Deacon Read, however, had the largest interest, and was decidedly the ruling genius of the enterprise. Most of the other owners worked as manual laborers in the factory, on the same terms as all the others, but Deacon Read was the business man in charge of markets, finances, and the policies of the company generally. How intimately I knew, and how well I remember, Deacon Read He was a man about six feet in height, clean, shaven, blue-eyed; a quiet silent man." His public spirit was alive on all fronts; the First National Bank was opened at his home and the Baptist Church of Deep River was nurtured in his parlor. He was the president of the Deep River Savings Bank and was instrumental in choosing the forty-acre site of the Fountain Hill Cemetery.
In 1850, the population of the town had been 2,904, with the greatest numbers living in Potapaug (Essex) and Deep River.
The General Assembly incorporated the Deep River Savings Bank, which was at first located in the store of Sedley Snow
Industry was still the chief occupation of the town in 1851, and George Read and Company erected a new factory on the Deep River where they continued the cutting of piano keys.
George Read and Company manufactured ivory combs until 1839, when it began the cutting of piano keys. Pratt Brothers and Company was also in the ivory business. It made ivory combs, but also manufactured ivory veneers for pianos. In 1851, the Reverend Russell Jennings took over the auger bit business, formerly conducted by his brother. Nehemiah B. Pratt also opened a wood-turning factory some distance up the Deep River stream to the west of the village and manufactured velocipedes and carpet sweepers.
The purchase of the forty-acre Fountain Hill Cemetery in 1851, from Harry Southworth, was necessary because the enclosures used by the local churches for the interment of the dead were entirely insufficient.
The area of Saybrook was reduced in 1852; the towns now called Old Saybrook and Essex withdrew from the original town. The drive for separation was spearheaded by the Honorable Samuel Ingham of Essex who wanted greater political autonomy for Potapaug (Essex). He managed to pull the present town of Old Saybrook, along with Potapaug, from Saybrook, although the separation was opposed by the Saybrook representative, Ozeas H. Kirtland. This was possible because the Legislature was "in sympathy with the political views of the petitioners." Many Old Saybrook residents felt slighted thereafter; they no longer had possession of the old town records or the old name. All the town records since the earliest times went to Deep River, which was still called Saybrook. Since there was little advantage for Old Saybrook in its union with Potapaug (Essex), it petitioned the Legislature to be- come a separate town; it achieved its new status in 1854.
Liberal feelings, fostered by many changes, both religious and political, encouraged the Catholics living in Deep River and Chester to persuade the Reverend Father John Brady, then the resident pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Hartford, to offer Mass in a private home in Chester. This was a big step for Catholics in the area. In colonial times, a law was passed forbidding a Catholic priest to live in Connecticut, and if one were found he was to be exiled and suffer death on his return. Catholics were now encouraged, for the owners of the Rechabite Hall in Chester granted them permission to hold services in their establishment.
The Wahginnicut House, which had been built in 1854 on the site of the Kirtland house of 1799, That year, the Wahginnicut House, named after a friendly sagamore of a local tribe, was erected by Stillman Tily. This hotel was built on the elevation known as "Kirtland's Rock," for R. Kirtland had built a house on this location overlooking the Connecticut River in 1799.
The Catholics were very appreciative, and continued using the hall for services until 1856, when St. Joseph's Church was completed, with the Reverend John Lynch as pastor.
The last divisional changes to take place in the town of what was Saybrooke occurred in 1856, when a school district in the southern part of Chester was returned,
In that year, 1856, the Methodists in Deep River, numbering twenty-three, were organized under The Reverend Joseph Vinton. They held their first meetings in the North District Schoolhouse;
In 1856 the Congregational Church in Deep River, which had become very liberal in its outlook, found itself in difficulty. Mr. Connitt, the pastor, was too much of a Calvinist for many of the members. His eventual dismissal caused a split in the church with twenty-one influential members leaving with him. They organized themselves into a Presbyterian Church, with Mr. Connitt as their pastor. These Presbyterians worshipped in the town hall for some years. Eventually, with the departure of Mr. Connitt, the church dis banded, most of the members returning to the Congregational Church.
the only part", of the town that ", kept the name of the original colony were the villages of Deep River and Winthrop. The last divisional changes to take place in the town occurred in 18'), when a school district in the southern part of Chester was returned, and, in 1859, when the town of Centerbrook left to join Essex.
The Methodists in Deep River, number ing twenty-three, were organized under The Reverend Joseph Vinton. They held their first meetings in the North District Schoolhouse; then in 1858, a meeting house was erected in the northern part of the town. The church was never strong in membership and means, however, and after twelve years, it was forced to dis- band. The building was sold to the Baptist Church of Winthrop and was moved there in 1868.
the only parts of the town that still kept the name of the original colony were the villages of Deep River and Winthrop.
The town of Centerbrook left to join Essex.
The early settlers in the village had seen Deep River grow from a few scattered houses numbering less than two hundred people, to a thriving industrial village with a population of over 1,200.
THE CIVIL WAR
By 1859 the Continental limits of the United States spread from ocean to ocean, and with the acquisition of new territory, new problems arose. The extension of slavery into the new territories became the paramount question. The Supreme Court's decision in the Dred Scott case, namely, that slaves were property and could be taken into any territory, split the country so badly that even compromises became useless. Slavery had been abolished in Connecticut many years before. Early in the eighteenth century, the Murdocks of the western part of Saybrook, now Westbrook, had slaves, and the results of their labor can be seen in many of the stone walls in the area. Others in the western part of Saybrook who had Negro servants were the Lays, Chapmans, Spencers and Posts.
The first slave that most of the townspeople of Deep River knew was Billy Winters. Billy was a runaway slave who moved North by way of the "underground railroad," settling for a short time in Westbrook, Winthrop, and finally Deep River.
Uncle Billy was a shrewd and clever Negro, according to John Mitchell of Deep River. Mitchell's father, a former slave, was brought North from Virginia by Dr. Ambrose Pratt of Deep River, just after the Civil War. For years, because of the Fugitive Slave Law, Billy wore a wig to dis- guise himself. Mitchell remembers that Billy helped many Negroes escape to the North and found jobs for them. Billy saved his money and purchased property around the center of Deep River. Later he purchased the entire hill in the northern part of town, now Winter Avenue, where he experimented in raising cotton and tobacco. Years afterward, Billy was tempting the appetites of many who frequented the Oyster River House, in Old Saybrook, with his fried clams. Uncle Billy Winters died in 1900 at the age of ninety-two, a much respected man in the community. When the Southern states withdrew from the Union after the election of Abraham Lincoln, it became evident that only force would keep the Union together.
With the news of the Confederate firing on Fort Sumter, the North made preparations for war. The town of Deep River, still called Saybrook, held war meetings where many young men volunteered their services. One of the first men to enlist from Deep River was Herbert Redfield. He joined the Fifth Infantry, Company B, on July 22, 1861, and left the state with his regiment, which had orders to report to Harper's Ferry, Virginia. On March 1, 1862, the regiment crossed the Potomac and captured Winchester. In August, of that same year, the regiment was involved in the Battle of Cedar Mountain and, in May, 1863, had to retreat before the superior leadership of Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville. The regiment later had its day, however, when it took part in the Battle of Gettysburg which saw Lee turn North for the last time. After this, it was transferred to Sherman's command, which helped force the Confederate General Johnson to surrender. Herbert Redfield, having re-enlisted, was with the regiment The Tenth Infantry left Hartford in October, 1861, with four Deep River men in the regiment. They were: Henry C. Bradley, who was to be wounded twice, James Erwin, Joseph Gladwin and Henry Lyman. Lyman enlisted on October 14, eleven days after the other three men. After reaching Annapolis, Maryland, they were assigned to General Burnside's command and took part in the Battles of Roanoke Island and New Bern. Shortly after these battles, Henry C. Bradley was discharged, having served a little over a year. On March 28, 1863, the regiment was in the Battle of Seabrook Island, South Carolina, and after moving to Florida, it suffered many losses at St. Augustine. In the spring of 1864, it took an active part in the final movements of the war, participating in the Battles of Walthall, Dru- On September 7, 1861, three Deep River men, Edmund E. Doane, Halcomb Jones and Horace Jones joined the Seventh Infantry, Company G. Later, Austin Jones was attached to this regiment, which garrisoned Fort Pulaski after it surrendered, and captured Morris Island. The regiment was recalled to Virginia in 1864, and assigned to the Army of the James. On February 19, 1864, they fought the enemy at Chester Station, and, on May 31, 1864, Edmund E. Doane was killed in battle. The remaining Deep River men still fought on at Petersburg, Chapin's Farm, Darby town Road, Charles City Road and New Market. After these battles, Horace Jones returned home. The election of 1864 had special significance for the Seventh, for it was sent, as part of a picked brigade, to New York to keep order during the Presidential campaign. In January, 1865, Austin and Halcomb Jones participated in the capture of Fort Fisher and were finally mustered out on July 20, 1865.
The Tenth Infantry left Hartford in October, 1861, with four Deep River men in the regiment. They were: Henry C. Bradley, who was to be wounded twice, James Erwin, Joseph Gladwin and Henry Lyman. Lyman en- listed on October 14, eleven days after the other three men. After reaching Annapolis, Maryland, they were assigned to General Burnside's command and took part in the Battles of Roanoke Island and New Bern. Shortly after these battles, Henry C. Bradley was discharged, having served a little over a year. On March 28, 1863, the regiment was in the Battle of Seabrook Island, South Carolina, and after moving to Florida, it suffered many losses at St. Augustine. In the spring of 1864, it took an active part in the final movements of the war, participating in the Battles of Walthall, Drury's Bluff, Bermuda Hundred, Strawberry Plains, Deep Bottom, Deep Run, Petersburg, Laurel Hill Church, New Market Road, Darby town Road and Hatcher's Run. It was also at Appomattox Court House in 1865 when General Lee surrendered to General Grant. The men from Deep River who served in this regiment were involved in some of the bitterest -fighting in the Civil War- James Erwin, who had been twice wounded, was discharged on July 14, 1864. Henry Lyman, "one of the most tried and reliable soldiers, was shot and died on the skirmish-line" at Petersburg. Charles Gordon, from this town, joined the regiment in 1864, but evidently found the going too rough, for he subsequently deserted.
The people of Deep River were solidly behind the war effort. Cognizant of the wishes of President Lincoln, they supplied every incentive for young men to enlist. The town first paid ten dollars to each man who enlisted in the service; later, in reference to the military draft ordered by the president, it was voted to pay one hundred and fifty dollars to each individual who was drafted. The town's industries were busily supplying goods for the army and many food packages were sent to the boys in service.
The townspeople were especially interested in the Eleventh Infantry. Twenty-six men in that regiment at Camp Lincoln in Hartford, was delighted to sign seventeen Deep River men into the Eleventh. These men were: Edwin Andrews, Archus E. Bailey, George E. Bailey, Charles Beman, Charles Bushness, Levi Curtiss, Amos Dickinson, Ebenezer Foote, Smith S. Gilbert, Al- fred Hubbard, John Hull, William Lane, Handel! Par- ker, George Southworth, Henry Southworth, Roscoe Watrous and Abel Webber. A short time later, Henry Rand, Nathaniel Barlow, Oscar Daniels, Charles Denison, Henry Scheider and Jonathan Shipman joined the regiment. The Eleventh left Hartford for Annapolis on October 16, 1861; it included 200 men from Middle- sex County, Connecticut. It left Annapolis by ship in early November, and one of the vessels carrying it was beached near Cape Hatteras. After twenty-three days of attempted rescue operations, the men finally reached shore before the ship went to pieces. On March 14, 1862, the Eleventh engaged in the Battle of New Barn, North Carolina. After this encounter, Archus Bailey wrote, "I am tired most to death now the excitement is over. The Deep River boy’s generally behaved first rate in battle, they say! Thanks be to God so many are spared to tell the fate of this battle.'?" In July, 1862, the regiment was attached to the Army of the Potomac, and on September 12, it saw bitter action at the Battle of South Mountain. Three days later, still tired from the previous battle, the men participated in the severe action at Antietam. It was here, "in the fatal charge on the bridge,"27 that George E. Bailey, aged thirty-eight, and William Lane, aged fifty-two, gave their lives for their country. In November of that year, the Eleventh was assigned picket line duty at the Battle of Fredericksburg. The regiment spent the next year in Virginia, engaging in several actions. In December of 1863, Cornelius Donahue and Samuel Rice of Deep River joined the regiment. The Eleventh continued very active during the great campaigns of 1864- 1865. Although in the early spring of 1864 many Deep River men received furloughs, they were back on duty in May for the Battle of Swift's Creek. They fought also at the Battle of Drury's Bluff and were detailed to build earthworks at Bermuda Hundred. In June, the Eleventh met the enemy in the Battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia, and later that month saw active service before Peters- burg, just twenty miles south of the Confederate cap- ital. Deep River can be proud of the faithful service given by her ~~n of the Eleventh. Sergeant George E. Bailey and William Lane had been killed at Antietam. Oscar Daniels, Henry Southworth, Samuel Rice and "Uncle Charlie" Beman died during enlistment from disease which to some was more deadly than enemy bullets. Be: man was loved ~y all and when he died on April 14, 1862, Archus Bailey wrote, "He certainly died a faithful Patriotic devoted soldier to his country.'!" Levi Curtiss and Second Lieutenant Smith S. Gilbert, were to carry their scars of battle with them, for both had been wounded. A day-by-day account of the Deep River men III the event was recorded by Archus E. Bailey of Deep River. It is a picture of army life-waiting, longing for loved ones, drilling, foraging, fighting, letters from home, disease and death . . Another unit which held particular interest for Deep River was the Twelfth or Charter Oak Regiment. Five men signed on with this regiment, three of them never to return. Joseph Jones and George Waterman were mustered out on August 18, 1862, after serving about a year. Frederick Ingham and Corporal Frederick Stillman died from disease. Gilbert Hamon, while with General Sheridan's army in the Shenandoah Valley was killed at the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864.
Others served their country on the high seas. One, Samuel Mather, was remembered because the Grand Army of the Republic Post in Deep River was named after him. Mather, a sea captain, had made new records for speed in the famous clipper ship Nightingale. In 1854, the Nightingale, captained by Mather, "took the mails from New York to Melbourne in the then record time of 75 days from pilot to pilot-a splendid passage.'?" His competence was recognized by the Union Defense Committee, which had been organized to aid the navy. As a result, he was appointed by Secretary Welles to command the U. S. S. Henry Andrews. On March 22, 1862, Captain Mather, then thirty-eight years old, was shot while in command of his ship at Mosquito Inlet, Florida. His body was brought North on a government steamer, and Secretary Welles, Commodore Dupont and Commodore Forbes had high praise for this able captain. He was buried on a high hill in Fountain Hill Cemetery, overlooking the Connecticut River.
Of all the Deep River men in the war, one stood out above all the rest. He was General Alpheus S. Williams. Alpheus was born on September 20, 1810, the son of Ezra and Hepsebah Starkey Williams. His father's company had merged with Pratt's Comb Factory on the Deep River in 1816. Alpheus grew up in Deep River and attended Yale University, from which he graduated in 1831. The comb factory was doing well at this time, and young Alpheus spent the next two years in Europe. After arriving home, he toured the country, settling in Detroit, where he began the practice of law in 1836. From 1840 to 1844, he was judge of probate for Wayne County and the recorder for the city of Detroit. He entered the newspaper business in 1843, when he became the owner of the Detroit Daily Advertizer. The newspaper, however, could not hold him down and, in 1847, while the country was at war with Mexico, he joined the army and served as a lieutenant colonel. In 1849, he was recognized by his superior officer, then President Zachary Taylor, and appointed postmaster of Detroit. When the Civil War broke out, Alpheus was made president of the State Military Board of Michigan and major-general of militia. Subsequently, as a brigadier-general in the army, he was in command of a division at Winchester, Cedar Mountain and Manassas. After the Battle of South Mountain, he became a temporary corps commander, succeeding General Banks. At Antietam, General Williams likewise took temporary command of the Twelfth Corps when Connecticut's General Mansfield fell, mortally wounded. Williams' opponent in this battle was the famous Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. At Chancellorsville, Williams' division was in the thick of the fighting. While at Gettysburg, the seasoned Williams, now affectionately called "Pap" by his men, was one of the ten corps commanders who met with General Meade. Meade was a little irritated because Major Henry Slocum had brought along Williams as the commander of the Twelfth Corps. "Meade seemed to look on Williams as an uninvited guest at a wedding, and the men of 'Pap' Williams' Division learned of this and described it as 'droll,' apparently believing Williams capable of advising God himself in a pinch.'?" It was the end of the second day of fighting and the tide seemed in favor of the Confederates. Williams and all the other corps commanders voted, by secret ballot, to remain and fight. It was this decision that helped bring victory to the North. Gettysburg was the turning point of the war and Alpheus S. Williams had played a major part in it. Later he helped divide the Confederacy, commanding a division in the Twentieth Corps in Sherman's Atlanta campaign. During the campaign he was appointed to command the Twentieth and led it in the "March to the Sea," and in the campaign in the Carolinas. Upon the capture of Savannah, he was brevetted major-general for gallant and meritorious service. He afterwards was on duty in Arkansas and was mustered out in January, 1866, having the distinction of being "the only Union General to lead the same division through the whole of the War, although at various times he temporarily headed the corps in which he was placed. " Following the war, he continued in a moderately active way. At first he was appointed a commissioner to settle the military claims for Missouri. From 1866 to 1869, he was minister resident to San Salvador and subsequently, a member of the forty-fourth and forty-fifth Congresses from Michigan, serving in the House of Representatives. While in Congress he was chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia, which was instrumental in making our Capital City one of the most beautiful. In Washington, on December 21, 1878, former Brevet Major General Alpheus Starkey Williams died. War expenditures of the town for bounties, premiums, commutation and the support of families amounted to $8,670.00. The estimated amount paid by individuals for bounties to volunteers and substitutes was $4,500.00, and by individuals for commutation, $2,100.00. But, one cannot calculate in dollars and cents the heartaches, sorrow and loneliness which many felt as a result of the war.
FOLLOWING the war, Deep River turned its attention to domestic affairs. Some developments during and immediately after the war are worth noting. Town meetings were still being held in Read's Hall. The Hall and the post office building, with the land adjoining on the southwest corner of Main and Elm Streets, were town property, having been purchased in 186o. George F. Hefflon had begun a shop for carriage and wagon-making on Village Street.
The Wahginnicut House, which had been built in 1854 on the site of the Kirtland house of 1799, was an impressive hotel kept by William D. Worthington.
On October 6, 1863, George Read and Company, and Pratt Brothers and Company of Deep River and Julius Pratt and Company of Meridan merged into Pratt, Read and Company. In 1866, Pratt, Read and Company built an enlarged factory in Deep River and attached as an ell the building it had completed in 1851.
At a town meeting on October 7, 1867, the town, through its War Committee, ex pressed its sentiments to the men who had served. It re solved "that while we recall with gratitude and veneration the many struggles and sacrifices made by our ancestors of the Revolution in gaining our independence, we accord to those who fought and bled to maintain it, equal honor and equal gratitude.":"2 Town Acts, October 7, 1867.
The Deep River Lumber Company was organized in 1867, locating on the Deep River stream. It was near the site of the first sawmill in Deep River, which had been owned about 1758 by Lieutenant Andrew Southworth.
From the earliest days, education had been of prime importance to the people. Except for a Young Ladies Institute, which was located for a short time in Winthrop, under the Reverend William Denison, and a boarding school in Deep River, conducted by Giles Clark all of the children who were instructed, attended one of the common district schools. The oldest school districts in Deep River were the West District in Winthrop and the South District in Deep River.
As the town grew, other school districts were added; by 1865, there were six school districts, one in Winthrop and five in Deep River. One of these in the Central District of Deep River would now have been called a secondary school. Each district was completely independent, con- trolling its own budget and appointing teachers. School visitors were appointed by the town to inspect and ex- amine annually the type of education being offered in each school district. Because these visitors often reported that educational opportunities differed in the districts, consolidation was given serious consideration. This consideration materialized when the Connecticut
General Assembly, in 1866-1867, passed a law giving towns authority to consolidate school districts. In November, 1867, the town of Deep River voted to unite in one Union School District, and assumed the responsibility of complete school supervision, with a Board of Education consisting of twelve members. Certain standards were then introduced and students could be assured of a continuity of subject matter when they at- tended the secondary school. Few students, however, passed through high school in those days; even as late as the 1890's the average number of high school graduates was around eight to ten.
The Valley Railroad, built in 1871, helped to transport the ivory to Deep River.
In 1870, the Eli and Thomas Denison Shipyard, feel ing the effects of steam, was forced to close. Many sail ing ships had been built at the Deep River yard, the bark Atlanta, launched in 1864, being the largest. Perhaps the fastest was the bark T. H. Armstrong, which set a record in 1875, for a trip from Galveston, Texas, to Providence, Rhode Island. Two of the last ships to be completed were the schooners Alice Bell in 1864, and the Ida Bella in 1866.
The ingenuity of the people of Connecticut and of Deep River could be seen at the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia in 1876. It was the one hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and former Connecticut General Joseph R. Hawley had been selected as President of the United States Centennial Commission. Connecticut played a large part in this Centennial. Milton Pratt of Deep River was one of the representatives appointed by the Connecticut House to the Joint Select Committee on the Centennial Exhibition. Over one hundred and eighty residents of the town traveled to Philadelphia to see the exhibits.
They were among the first Americans to gaze upon the arm and torch of Miss Liberty, which was to be given as a gift from the French. Exhibits from Deep River, housed in the main building, included ivory combs, piano and organ keys and ivory veneers from Pratt, Read and Company, and button hooks, crochet needles and hair crimpers from J. A. Smith's. Connecticut's part in the exhibition was published by George D. Curtis of Hartford in a book entitled Souvenir of the Centennial Exhibition. It included a list of over forty thousand Connecticut visitors, and a piece of the original Charter Oak, certified as genuine by John H. Most of Old Say- brook, who received pieces of the historic tree from its owner.
THE NEW ERA NEWSPAPER
A book devoted to physiological temperance was used as a textbook in the schools at this time. These textbooks were supplied by the local auxiliary of the State Women's Temperance Union of Connecticut, which was organized in Deep River on May 13, 1875. Beginning with sixteen devoted women who signed its pledge, its membership soon increased to one hundred and thirty-four women who began the difficult task of informing the people of the evils of alcohol. "Such was
the modest beginning of an organized and united effort by the women of Deep River for the promotion of temperance upon Christian principles and by the use of Christian methods; an effort which has proven to be of incalculable benefit to the moral interests of the town.":" By frequent meetings, discussions and prayers, they induced many to pledge themselves to total abstinence. Working with feverish zeal and constant agitation, the women kept the cause of temperance before the community. They were so successful that, by 1880, there were no licensed drinking saloons in town, and the sale of intoxicating liquor was made illegal. It is assumed that a bill, passed in 1880, giving women of legal age the right to vote on all questions of prohibition, had much to do with this. Politically, prohibition was a very important issue in Deep River following the Civil W at. One who attempted to present both sides in this dispute was Francis Sheldon, editor of The New Era, His editorials always seemed to fall short of objectivity, for it was known that he was an ardent prohibitionist. Actually, for three months in 1879, The New Era was published as an organ of the Prohibitionist Party.
In 1878, Hubbard conceived the idea of a newspaper dictionary which later became internationally famous as Hubbard's Newspaper and Bank Directory of the World. This was a major undertaking. In three volumes he described over 33,000 newspapers and 15,000 banks. His work was a financial success and "brought him into prominence throughout the civilized world.' President Arthur commended him on his work, as did the British government. Oliver Wendell Holmes called it "A General Index of Peaceful Civilization"36 and the New York Tribune said it was "fit to stand beside the great encyclopedia and the dictionary."
On July 4, 1879, The New Era, which had been founded May, 1874, in Chester, moved to the Union Block in Deep River. The reason for this, according to Editor Sheldon was, "the paper being run in part on capital, and capital not being obtainable in Chester, we have been compelled to accept an offer of requisite amount from friends in Deep River. As a matter of course, these friends desire that the office should be located in their town, hence the change."" Capturing the attention of the townspeople was an- other editor and former native, Harlow Page Hubbard. Hubbard was born in Deep River on December 29, 1845. His family had moved to western New York when he was eight and returned to New Haven when he was twelve.
The Pratt, Read and Company factory fire
With the dissemination of knowledge, the world, even in 1880, was getting smaller. Being aware of this, the townspeople knew that Africa was more than a "Dark Continent." From Africa, mostly Zanzibar, was imported the ivory which enabled many of them to make a living. The imported ivory came to Deep River in the form of elephant tusks, the average weight being about one hundred and seventy pounds. The Valley Railroad, built in 1871, helped to transport the ivory to Deep River.
Disaster hit the ivory business in Deep River on July 31, 1881. The Pratt, Read and Company factory caught fire and was entirely destroyed, except for a safe containing records. Nearly one hundred and sixty men lost their jobs and the economy of the town was depressed. Many of these men found temporary work in the west factory of Pratt, Read and Company and in the factories of nearby Ivoryton. Some doubted that the factory would be rebuilt. Fearing that the company might move elsewhere, a special town meeting was held on August 6, 1881. It was voted unanimously "to abate for five years thereafter all taxes on the property of the company that shall be in excess of $25,000 assessment, providing the factory should be rebuilt and the business retained in Deep River.":" Subsequently, a new and larger factory, employing between three and four hundred, was completed.
THE DEEP RIVER FRUIT FARM
In 1884, the Deep River Fruit Farm was established on the northeast side of Kelsey Hill. The one hundred- and-thirty acre farm was under the direction of John B. Clark, who had been associated with the Massachusetts State Agricultural College. In a short time, thirty thousand fruit trees were under cultivation, including apple, plum, peach, cherry and quince. Prosperity could be seen in the town's ability to fill its social and religious needs.
SWEDISH CHURCH 1891
A Swedish Congregational Church completed on Union Street
NEW SCHOOL 1885
The desirability of having all the students under one roof, and the "growing dissatisfaction chiefly in the eastern part of the town, with the extent and quality of our educational facilities prompted the town to vote an appropriation of $9,000 on June 14, 1884, for a building that suited the needs of this part of Deep River. When completed, the two-story building, with Gothic roof and belfry, measured fifty-four feet by sixty-eight feet. The school population numbered two hundred and fifty-nine, and school visitors still played an important part, seeing that the best education possible was given to the youth of the town. The Board of Education paid an annual salary of $380 to instructors and set forth policies for the school and its teachers. Two such rules were: "Rule 6, Teachers shall make monthly reports, to the Chairman of the School Board, of all cases of corporal punishment, and reason for its infliction.": "Rule 9, Teachers may detain pupils not more than twenty minutes after the close of the afternoon session, and at no other time, for discipline, or to make up neglected lessons."
NEW TOWN HALL 1893
When fire destroyed the post office in 1891, most townspeople realized how inadequate Read's Hall and the adjoining post office building had been. William H. Jennings offered to build a new town hall and give it to the town, if the town agreed. Although the town was at first inclined to accept, a petition, asking that the town build the hall as a town project, was circulated by S. H. Jennings and others. A town meeting accepted this latter proposal and had to ask William Jennings to surrender his lease. This he did, but it is notable that he was not one of the major contributors in response to the proposal. Included in the new town hall was a fireproof vault. The vault was to hold the valuable records of the town of Saybrook. The old building had had such a vault, because the General Assembly had persuaded the town to provide for the safe keeping of these records in 1875. While Deep River did not accept the gift of a town hall, it did accept the beautiful granite fountain which can be seen in front of the hall today It was donated by Samuel F. Snow. Perhaps the fire at the old town hall also warned the townspeople that their fire protection was woefully in- adequate.
VOLUNTEER FORE DEPARTMENT WAS FORMED 1896
In 1895, the town voted to purchase a chemical engine for $2,000, and, in 1896, a volunteer fire department was formed.
The Niland Cut Glass Company 1896
The Niland Cut Glass Company was established in 1896, by James A. Jones and his son Ansel. It manufactured cut-glass goods of the highest quality; some of its products can be seen at the Deep River Historical Society.
Swedish Lutheran Church 1898
A Swedish Lutheran Church dedicated on Kirtland Street, in 1898.
Spanish American War 1898
War clouds settled again over Deep River with the news of the blowing up of the Maine and the war declaration on April 25, 1898. When the first regiment of the Connecticut National Guard was ordered to report, two Deep River men, Harry E. Joy and T. H. O'Brien, left the state with it. The war had hardly begun when news reached Deep River of the success of Commodore George Dewey. On May 1, in the Philippines, he boldly attacked and destroyed a Spanish squadron in Manila Bay. At the news, a celebration was held, and the people, led by the Deep River Drum Corps, paraded and set off fire crackers. On August 12, 1898, after the two nations had been fighting less than four months, the war ended.
Turn of the century 1900
The turn of the century witnessed many changes in the town. Bicycles could be seen everywhere and riding them in Deep River was smoother, due to interested citizens like the Black Birds. The Black Birds was a local women's organization devoted to raising funds to macadamize the roads and to install sidewalks. About this time a macadamized road was laid through Deep River to the Chester line, and the Essex Light and Power Company received a charter.
In 1901, William LaPlace opened his new furniture store, still a land- mark in Deep River
In 1902, the Deep River Golf Club opened its new clubhouse on the Fernleigh links.
In 1904, the Saybrook Library Association was formed, and, in 1905, it purchased the land on the corner of Essex and Main Streets for $900. Andrew Carnegie was willing to give the town $5000 toward the erection of a free public library if the town agreed to spend $500 a year toward its upkeep, but his offer was never given the consideration it deserved.
The first Rural Free D livery mail began, and the machine age was having its impact on the town; The representative from Deep River, C. R. Marvin, represented the motorists in the state legislature, and a Fairbanks gasoline engine was purchased to run The New Era's press.
In 1905, The Southern New England Telephone Company made a separate exchange for Deep River, Chester and Hadlyme.
In 1907 “a miracle was performed” when Deep River went Democratic for the first time in over fifty years. This was the same year that the name "Deep River, Connecticut" appear above the post office window.
In 1911, the new Deep River Savings Bank opened for business and the Deep River Alumni Association and a Deep River Business- men's Association were formed. When Pratt, Read and Company contemplated moving to the Bronx, New York, because it considered its tax levy unjust, the Businessmen's Association intervened on the part of the town to examine the situation. Eventually all turned out well, and in a few years Pratt, Read and Company showed its faith in the town by erecting a new concrete factory.
Transportation was improving and many residents now had automobiles. People wishing to cross the river could use the new highway bridge connecting Old Saybrook and Old Lyme.
By 1912, trolleys were running between Deep River and New Haven. People were elated over this innovation, but in a few years were complaining that the service was very bad and the cars "were for the most part, unheated and dirty."
Moving pictures were the newest form of entertainment. George Desmond and Hugh Campbell showed movies every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evening at the Star Theater in Deep River.
New High School 1914
More students were attending high school, and, with fewer drop-outs, the top floor of the Union School was inadequate for the high school population. At a special town meeting an appropriation of $40,000 was voted for a new high school. Dr. A. M. Pratt, Robert Rankin, C. A. Parmelee, Dr. F. W. Devitt and F. A. Hefflon were appointed as a building committee; land on River Street belonging to Felix Starkey was purchased for $4000. By April, 1914, the Deep River High School was completed at a cost of $30,500. Once again, Deep River residents had demonstrated their concern for education. Deep River residents have always felt free to criticize their schools, yet, when the schools are in need, they have been willing to do what was necessary to insure the best possible education for their youth. AR or the fear of war has played a large part in the modern era.
In 1914, a chapter of the American Red Cross was organized in Deep River as the Deep River-Chester branch, and movies of the war, raging in Europe, were shown at the Deep River Town Hall.
Early in 1917, preparedness dances were held.
On April 6, 1917, Congress declared war on Germany and Deep River made ready by starting to organize a home guard company and all able bodied men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty were ordered to register for a military draft by June 5,1917. The first man drafted from Deep River was a young man named Silvana Agostinelli Of one hundred and sixty-six men registering for the draft, seventy claimed dependents and five claimed occupational exemptions. Private Louis Ziegra, having been wounded, was captured by the Germans and became a prisoner of war.
The Americans pushed on and finally Germany signed the Armistice on November 11, 1918. On that day, Corporal Harry W. Houghtaling was killed in action. Later, Lieutenant Thomas Eagan, on the battleship Texas, was a witness to the surrender of the German fleet at Scapa Flow. Closing of the factories, parades and celebrations met the news of the Armistice. When the doughboys arrived home, they were enthusiastically welcomed. An American Legion Post, named after Lieutenant Richard Ibell, who had been killed in France, was formed, with Harry B. Marvin, as commander.
The period between the wars saw other changes taking place in the life of the town. In 1920, many residents traveled to the newly opened Hammonasset beach. Citizens who had an income of $16,000 or more were required to pay an income tax. Buses now ran through Deep River from New Haven to Chester.
Post-master Daniel Kelley applied to Washington, D. c., for regular mail delivery in Deep River, which was granted in 1921.
In 1927, a new Baptist Church was erected through the generosity of the late Elder Jennings. Like- wise the war memorial sculptured by C. Percival Dietsh, was completed and placed in front of the old Deep River High School.
St. Joseph Church was enlarged in 1929, doubling its seating capacity. This was necessary to accommodate the increase of parishioners of Polish and Italian descent.
The Catholic Church in Connecticut was growing at a rapid rate and Monsignor Thomas S. Duggan, D.D., a Deep River native, played an important part in its development. For many years he was the Rector of St. Joseph's Cathedral in Hartford and editor of The Catholic Transcript. In 1930, he published his book, The Catholic Church in Connecticut, and later was honored by Pope Pius XI. III 1930, two significant local developments occurred.
The Deep River Garden Club was formed at the home of Mary L'Hornrnedieu, and Deep River was finally to have a library.
At a special town meeting held on December 16, 1932, it was recommended that the Spencer home on Main Street be purchased for a sum not to exceed $10,000 as a library
In 1932, the town had voted for Hoover
Deep River was now in the midst of The Great Depression. There were many unemployed in 1931, and the Legion Post canvassed the town to locate work for some. In 1933, in an attempt to increase prosperity, Pratt, Read and Company raised the pay of its employees, and the Federal Government announced that Route 80 would be built as a federal-aid project. The state works program employed ninety-six men in Deep River.
Conditions looked a little better in 1934. Arthur Smith, Inc., planned to transfer its lace manufacturing plant to Deep River, and Pratt, Read and Company was employing a larger number than it had in years.
With the depression pointing up the need for a public health service, one was organized with Mrs. Simon R. LaPlace as president. There was one thing certain about Deep River; it would take more than a depression to change its vote.
In 1936, the town voted for Landon and Knox, with 93% of the voters going to the polls.
The depression caused the stockholders of Pratt, Read and Company to hold a special meeting and approve a merger with Comstock, Cheney and Company of Ivoryton. Pratt, Read and Company's association with Deep River would soon be a memory, for, in 1938, it started to move part of its operation to the Comstock, Cheney plant for economic reasons.
During this year, dial phones went into operation, the equipment being housed in the Southern New England Telephone Company building on High Street. War clouds again gathered over Europe with the rise of the totalitarian dictators, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
In 938 C. D. Batchelor of Kelsey Hill road, Deep River, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for a cartoon appealing for peace which appeared in The New York Daily News. A woman portrayed as death was saying to an American youth, "Come on in, I'll treat you right. I used to know your daddy."
In October, 1940, the first registration for the draft was announced, with Deep River registering two hundred and twenty-three men.
In the spring of 1941, a unit of the Connecticut State Guard was organized.
Early in 1945, Pratt, Read and Company resumed the manufacture of pianos The gliders built at Pratt, Read and Company had been used to carry cargo and troops.
1946 A veteran's Housing Project was built on Essex Street while the construction of a regional school for the towns in lower Middlesex County was discussed.
The Deep River Historical Society moved into its new home, The Stone House. It had been given to the society by Ada G. Munson
The New Era moved into its modern newspaper plant on Main Street. Uarco, Inc., maker of business forms, purchased the concrete factory of Pratt, Read and Company on Bridge Street as its eastern headquarters, and Ripley Company, which had purchased the red brick factory from Pratt, Read and Company, sold it to Levett Metal Products Company. An era was coming to an end. Although many residents still worked for Pratt, Read and Company, the factory was no longer part of Deep River.
The confusing issue of Deep River and Saybrook was finally resolved in 1947. Until then, the official name of the town was Saybrook. That year, the town representatives, Ossian Ray and Joseph Waz, introduced a bill to change the official name from Saybrook to Deep River. This act was passed by the General Assembly, and a group of students traveled to Hartford to see Governor James L. McConaughy sign it into law.
The only roads were the old Indian trails, and it is believed that Deep River got its name from a deep river that had to be forded on the way to Hartford. This area, around the river, soon became known as Deep River Plain or just Deep River.
Today, the deep river is the small stream that originates in Cedar Swamp and runs from Rogers Pond, winds its way north across Union, Village, Bridge, and Spring Streets and finally under Middlesex Avenue near the Chester line, and out into the Connecticut.
At this time, many thought that it might be beneficial if the towns, once united under Saybrook, could again unite for better educational opportunities for their youth. The citizens of Deep River, Chester and Essex voted to approve the consolidation of their junior and senior high schools into a regional high school. A three-town, regional high school board was organized in July, 1948, with Dr. Russell Lobb and Mrs. Agnes Smith representing Deep River.
Approximately fifty acres of land on Kelsey Hill Road, which had been once part of the Deep River Fruit Farm, were purchased from Joseph Pytko of Deep River for $16,000.
In 1951-1952, a regional high school, designed by Ernest Sibley, was erected by the Associated Construction Company of Hartford at a cost of $1,522,000. The architect's plea for the school was, "Let good use justify what good will has erected." The president of the construction company, Andrew Giardini, was a native of Deep River and had graduated from the Deep River High School. Dr. A. Kurtz King was the first superintendent and Harold S. Ferguson, the first principal. Two former principals, W . Harold Muggleston from Deep River High School and Frank Desmond from Chester High School, became teachers in the new school. The present superintendent is Dr. Gilbert DeMar and the principal, Dr. Arnaud Michaud.
In 1954, the old Union School burned down
Plax, located in Deep River, establishing the fast growing plastic industry here.
In 1957, the building of a modern shopping plaza moved Deep River into the era of supermarkets.
Theodore Haxton began his job of law enforcement as the first resident state policeman.
Its original 82,000 square feet of floor space at the high school became inadequate, and, early in 1958, a sixteen-room addition was completed.
In 1960, a new addition to the Deep River Elementary School and a modern post office on
South Main Street were completed.
The Deep River National Bank was renovated in 1960,
The Savings Bank is now housed in a new and larger building.
A new $75,000 firehouse stands on the southwestern corner of Union and Elm Streets.
Henry Josten, John Colbert and Duncan Fraser are publishing The New Era, Middlesex County's oldest newspaper.
The 1960 census reported the population of Deep River at 2,936, with a population density of one hundred and ninety- eight per square mile.
In the election of 1960, the town gave Richard M. Nixon a majority of nine votes and sent Republican George Whelen to the Connecticut General Assembly. Deep River's other seat in the Assembly was retained by the incumbent Democrat, Ernest Nucci.
In 1961, the town was shocked at the premature death of Nucci from a heart attack. Nucci's widow, Ella Mae, was elected to the vacant post in a special election in 1961
Ella Mae re-elected to a full term in 1962, along with Republican Talcott Scovill.
Some of their surnames from the earliest Saybrooke records are:
Members of "Town Fathers" of Deep River business society, 1848
Samuel P. Russell,
Calvin B. Rodgers,
Reynold S. Marvin
John C. Rogers,
Henry W. Gilbert,
Joseph H. Mather
Ezra S. Williams.