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History of Trumbull, Connecticut facts for kids

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Trumbull Historical Marker
A state historic marker in Trumbull, Connecticut

Trumbull, a town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, in the New England region of the United States, was originally home to the Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Nation, and was colonized by the English during the Great Migration of the 1630s as a part of the coastal settlement of Stratford.

In May 1725, the northwest farmers of Stratford petitioned the Colony of Connecticut to establish their own separate village. They proposed calling their new village Nickol's Farms, after the family that owned a large farm in its center, but in October 1725 the new parish was named Unity.

In 1744, Unity merged with the Long Hill parish (organized in 1740) of the Stratfield section of Stratford to form the Society of North Stratford. North Stratford controlled its own religious and educational affairs. However, to have a voice in governmental functions such as adopting laws and establishing taxes, the inhabitants were required to attend town meetings in Stratford, an overnight journey for some.

After ten years of unsuccessful petitions, the Connecticut General Assembly granted complete town rights in October 1797. The new town was named for George Washington's staunch supporter, Revolutionary War governor, patriot, statesman and merchant, Jonathan Trumbull (1710–1785).

Historical overview

1867 Map of Trumbull Connecticut
Beers 1867 map of Trumbull, Connecticut

Native Americans

The Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Nation occupied the territory of Trumbull as a self-sustaining community for thousands of years before the arrival of the English in the late 1630s. The Indian Nation lived along the banks of the Pequonnock River in the Pequonnock River Valley and also around the natural lake first called Mischa Lake, after the Indian chief who resided there, and now known as Pinewood Lake.

After twelve to fifteen years had passed, the Stratford settlement had grown so much in size that the displaced Indian Nation began to ask for compensation for land north of an east-to-west line 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Long Island Sound. This line was located within the present-day village of Nichols, Mischa Hill, Pinewood Lake and White Plains areas. The original Stratford proprietors agreed and began to make several purchases from the Indians in the 1650s. However, relations between the English and the Indians became strained throughout the Colony of Connecticut as settlements continued to grow and displace the Native Americans.

In 1652, the Court at the Colony of Connecticut ordered that no Indian could walk near an Englishman's house either in town or at his farm on the Sabbath without being fined or imprisoned. In 1656, it was ordered that no one in the Colony of Connecticut could sell an Indian a horse or mare or any boat or boat rigging without suffering a penalty of 5 to 1. The tribe maintains a small reservation in the Nichols section of Trumbull that is considered to be the oldest continuing reservation in Connecticut and the smallest in the US.

Colonial era

Founding and Puritan era

Trumbull was originally settled as a part of Cupheag, the Pequonnock Indian word for "harbor", a coastal settlement established in 1639 by Puritan leader Reverend Adam Blakeman (pronounced Blackman), William Beardsley and either 16 families—according to legend—or approximately 35 families—suggested by later research—who had recently arrived in Connecticut from England seeking religious freedom. The main village and stockade was built where the Housatonic River flows into Long Island Sound. In 1643, the settlement changed its name to Stratford either in honor of William Beardsley who came from Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare, or for Stratford-le-Bow, England.

Stratford is one of many towns in the northeastern American colonies founded as part of the Great Migration in the 1630s when Puritan families fled an increasingly polarized England in the decade before the civil war between Charles I and Parliament (led by Oliver Cromwell). Some of the Stratford settlers were from families who had first moved from England to the Netherlands to seek religious freedom, like their predecessors on the Mayflower, and decided to come to the New World when their children began to adopt the Dutch culture and language.

Like other Puritan towns founded during this time, early Stratford was a place where church leadership and town leadership were both united under the pastor of the church, in this case Reverend Blakeman. The goal of these communities was to create perfect outposts of religious idealism where the wilderness would separate them from the interference of kings, parliaments, or any other secular authority.

By the mid-1650s, the Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Nation began to petition the Court of the Colony of Connecticut for compensation for lost territory taken by the encroaching English settlement. This legal action led the court to set the town boundary on May 15, 1656, to include all of the territory 12 miles (19 km) inland from Long Island Sound between the Housatonic River and the Fairfield town line, including all of Trumbull.

The English continued to purchase territory from the Native Americans, entering the deeds of transfer into the land records. However, the first volume of such records has been lost. It took Lt. Joseph Judson, Joseph Hawley and John Minor until April 1662 to secure the last written deed of transfer from the Paugussett Indian Nation for the western part of the town of Trumbull, referred to as the Long Hill purchase. This deed references that it was lying west of the land they had already purchased.

Town formation and settlement patterns

In 1661, the town voted to allow each inhabitant to take up a whole division of common land anywhere in the woods where they could find fit planting ground as long as it was not within 2 miles (3.2 km) of the town meeting house, and they were prohibited from making it their dwelling place without the consent of a committee or the town selectmen. Elder Phillip Groves, Captain William Curtiss and Lt. Joseph Judson, early farmers in Trumbull, were named to a committee to lay out the land as they saw fit.

In 1668, according to the town records, there were only five families recorded as "outlivers", or living beyond two miles from the Stratford meetinghouse. However, by the 1670s, after numerous individuals were encouraged to and had received permission to dwell outside of the two-mile limit, the Stratford selectmen stopped recording outlivers altogether.

In 1670, the "three mile" or "woods division" was made. This divided common land located 3 miles (4.8 km) from the Stratford meeting house and included land up to 6 miles (9.7 km) away from it. The common land grants were laid out in a fashion so that each tract had a share of a run of water, woods, natural meadow, plains, swamp and ledge. The grants were often a quarter of a mile north to south and one mile in length east to west, about 170 acres (69 ha) of land. Each freeman received division land according to his right or rank in the township, and many exchanged or sold their grant after receiving it.

In spring of 1680, the town decided to lay out all undivided common land within 6 miles (9.7 km) of the meeting house. This area would have included the southern third of Trumbull. In 1685, some families filed complaints at the court at the Colony of Connecticut at Hartford saying they were not receiving their land grants from the woods division in a timely manner. Therefore, the court ordered the town to apportion all common land located between two and six miles from the Stratford meeting house, which included all the territory in the lower third of Trumbull. The division of the common land in Trumbull took until 1800 to complete entirely.

Subsections

Woodbury

In the 1660s, Lt. Joseph Judson had a disagreement with the majority of elders in Stratford as he tried to introduce the Half-Way Covenant, and this led to a major rift which lasted for many years and split the town. In 1671, Judson received permission from then-Governor John Winthrop, Jr. to create a new town called Woodbury 25 miles (40 km) inland. Judson and Reverend Walker left Stratford with a dozen other families and moved to the newly created town, abandoning their farms in the Trumbull area of Stratford. Judson and Walker died in Woodbury in 1690 and 1699 respectively.

Joseph Judson and many others had established their farms in Trumbull decades before leaving for Woodbury in 1671. These farms were not sold initially, but were just physically abandoned and were referred to in the land records as Old Farms. Some of the other families to remove to Woodbury, abandoning their farms in Trumbull, were Caleb Nichols, Abraham's father, who removed to Woodbury and died there in 1690, and John Curtiss, who gifted his entire farm in the woods on "Misha [sic] Hill" (Trumbull) to his son Benjamin in 1688 and removed to Woodbury. In a deed recorded at Stratford in 1710, Sgt. John Curtiss, "of Woodbury", sold 4 acres (0.016 km2) to Abraham Nichols that was located "near the place called and known by the name of Lt. Joseph Judson's Farm."

Nichols

It is not known exactly when the first settlers began to clear land and establish farms in the area, due to the fact that the first volume of Stratford's land records was destroyed around 1650. The first settlements were doubtless made soon after the settlement of the mother-town of Stratford in 1639. By 1658, Lt. Joseph Judson, Jeremiah Judson and Joseph Curtiss became freemen by the court of the Colony of Connecticut and established farms there. A freeman had to own real property in their own name before they could be elected as freemen.

The area now called Nichols, located in southeastern Trumbull, was first called Mischa Hill in the land records for the Native American who lived there. In the late 1660s, it was commonly called Lt. Joseph Judson's Farm, or Judson's Farm, after the owner of the largest farm on its hilltop. After Judson and others removed to establish the town of Woodbury in 1672 and abandoned their farms on Mischa Hill, it was called Old Farms. In the early 1700s, it was called Nickol's Farms, then in 1725 it became a part of Unity and in 1744, North Stratford. During the mid-1800s, the area was called Amblersville after the principal manufacturer in the center of the village.

It has been said that Abraham Nichols made the first permanent settlement within Trumbull around 1690 or 1700, depending on the source, and then other families subsequently ventured into the wilderness to establish mills, churches, and schools. Nichols' landholdings were said to total 3,000 acres (12 km2). However, there is no documentation to support these claims.

According to Walter Nicholls, who wrote the History of the Nichols family in 1909, Abraham did not accompany his father to Woodbury in 1673, but remained in Trumbull to oversee the plantation. However, since Abraham was only eleven at the time (born 1662), it is likely that he did remove to Woodbury with his family and returned to Trumbull between 1696 and 1700. Walter Nicholls' imaginative description of the Nichols homestead was:

About 1700 Abraham Nicholls erected for himself a homestead upon his lordly domain, and which, according to the description vouchsafed by persons now living, who chanced to view it while yet standing in the early part of the nineteenth century, was an immense gambrel-roofed structure of a rambling style of architecture, situated upon an eminence, affording an unobstructed vista of the surrounding landscape and at the southward, about four miles distant, the shimmering bosom of Long Island Sound. There it stood for decades, without a neighboring habitation within a circuit of several miles; while the sepulchral quietude of its surroundings was rarely broken, even by the echo of a sound adequate to dispel the day dreams, or waken the nocturnal slumbers of its peaceful inhabitants, save that of the casual lowing of kine, the appealing cadence of the whop-poor-will at nightfall, or the grewsome howling of wolves.... It is a subject of profound regret on the part of many of the descendents of Abraham Nicholls that neither his will nor the inventory of his estate can be found of record.

The land records show that Abraham Nichols' holdings were actually around 285 acres (1.15 km2) of land, of which around 55 acres (0.22 km2) remains as open space today. Nichols bought or exchanged land to acquire several farms and large parcels of land beginning in 1696. He exchanged land with the son of, then deceased, Lt. Joseph Judson for 22 acres (0.089 km2) of his old farm which had a barn on it. He purchased 54 acres (0.22 km2), or half the land owned by Jeremiah Judson, and 19 acres (0.077 km2) of land from Benjamin Curtiss. He also purchased Reverend Zachariah Walker's entire farm in 1704, which was 36 acres (0.15 km2) in size. Furthermore, in a deed recorded in 1699, Lt. Ebenezer Curtiss received 15 acres (0.061 km2) of land from the three-mile division that was said to be bounded west with Lt. Joseph Judson's farm, now belonging to Abraham Nichols. All of these transactions are described in the land records as being located at or near the "Old farm", "Judson's farms" or "Lt. Joseph Judson farm". Joseph Judson had removed from Trumbull in the 1670s to settle at Woodbury, where he died in 1690.

Some of Abraham Nichols' farm remained in the Nichols family through four centuries. Florence Nichols, the last of the Nichols line, married George Woods in 1903 and the property was known as the Woods Estate. Soon after their deaths in 1973 and 1972 respectively, the property was deeded from the Woods to the Nichols Methodist Church from whom the town of Trumbull purchased it in 1974. The 13-acre (0.053 km2) Woods homestead was renamed Abraham Nichols Park and is now the home of the Trumbull Historical Society.

Agricultural era

The first farmers of Stratford resided in the village and went out to their farms, located one to three miles away, to do the work of the farm. The Nichols and White Plains areas were the first to be cultivated and settled within the present-day bounds of Trumbull, due to the fertile soil, spring-fed ponds and natural meadows found there and their proximity to the main village located less than three miles away. In the mid-seventeenth century in the Colony of Connecticut, it was very common for freemen to establish a farm or several farms in the fertile upland or countryside while maintaining a substantial townhouse in the village or even back in England.

Early farmers

The first individuals to own land in Trumbull were among the original founders of the Stratford settlement, namely Benjamin Beach, Zachariah Bostick (Bostwick), Richard Booth, Ephraim Booth, Paul Brinsmaid, John Curtiss, Benjamin Curtiss, Mr. Joseph Curtiss, Captain William Curtiss (Curtice), Ebenezer Curtiss, Israel Curtiss, Zachariah Curtiss, Joseph Fairchild, Elder Philip Groves (Graves, Grouse), Joseph Hawley, Ephraim Hawley, Captain John Hawley, Samuel Hawley, Edward Hinman, Lt. Joseph Judson, Sgt. Jeremiah Judson, Isaac Judson, John Judson, Thomas Lake, Isaac Nichols, Caleb Nichols, Abraham Nichols, Samuel Ufford (Uffoot) and Reverend Zechariah Walker. The first families to reside permanently in Trumbull were the Beach, Beardsley, Blakeman, Booth, Bostick, Brinsmade, Clarke, Curtiss, Edwards, Fairchild, Hawley, Hinman, Hubbell, Judson, Lake, Lewis, Middlebrook, Nichols, Peet, Plumb, Seeley, Sherwood, Thompson, Uffoot, Walker and Wildman families.

Zachariah Curtiss House ca. 1686
Zachariah Curtiss House
Ephraim Hawley house circa 1880
Ephraim Hawley House image before 1881

Before becoming a freeman in 1686, Zachariah Curtiss built a 1+12-story center-chimney farmhouse and small one-story barn on the south side of Mischa Hill. His farm was located on land granted to him as a part of the "three-mile division" and part on land gifted to him by his father, Captain William Curtiss, which was described as "lying at Old Farm".

Ephraim Hawley built his farmhouse immediately south of Zachariah Curtiss, on the south side of Mischa Hill, on the eastern portion of the Hawley land grant, commonly called "ye springs and white plains". To be elected a freeman in the Connecticut Colony at this time, one had to own real property, a dwelling house, in his name. It is presumed that Hawley built his house before becoming a freeman in 1687.

The path or road connecting the Curtiss and Hawley farms on the south side of Mischa Hill to Stratford Village, located 2+12-miles to the south, became known as the Farm Highway, present-day Connecticut Route 108. The highway was completed and surveyed to the south side of Mischa Hill, at "Zachariah Curtiss, his land" and at Captain's Farm, in 1696, making it one of the oldest documented English highways in Connecticut.

American Revolution

In 1773, Robert Hawley was named Captain of the North Stratford or Second Train Band established in 1706. His grandfather, Captain John Hawley, was its first captain. At a special meeting held at the North Stratford meeting house on November 10, 1777, Hawley was also appointed to a committee to provide immediately all those necessaries for the Continental soldiers.

On March 12, 1778, the parish of North Stratford raised money and over 200 pounds (91 kg) of cheese and gammon for those residents, including two slaves, Nero Hawley and Caesar Edwards, and thirteen other residents serving in the southern army in Captain Beebe's Company, Huntington's Brigade, 2nd Connecticut Regiment, stationed at Valley Forge under the command of General George Washington.

Huldah Hawley was born in 1755 and died in 1856 at the age of 101. The widow of Tory Chauncey Beardsley, Huldah took pleasure in talking of the exciting times of the Revolution and related during her lifetime about the time that two companies of French soldiers, under the command of French General Rochambeau, encamped a whole winter during the war on what is now known as Mountain Hill, a high rocky bluff in the central part of the village of Nichol's Farms. This high rocky bluff, at the time, commanded a view of Long Island Sound for 70 miles (110 km), and was used to spy on British ships. Hawley said the soldiers ordered her to cook for them, and she furnished them with provisions for fear that they would kill her. French coins have since been found near the site of their camp in Abraham Nichols Park.

In December 1780, two dozen Hussar horsemen deserted and discharged themselves from their winter quarters in Lebanon and fled into the Connecticut woods.

From June 28 until June 30, 1781, during the American Revolutionary War, units of the French army, called Lauzun's Legion or Hussars, encamped in North Stratford, now Trumbull. The Legion was commanded by Colonel Armand Louis de Gontaut-Biron, duc de Lauzun, and marched 15 miles (24 km) to the south to protect the flank of the main French army encamped in Newtown. The army was marching in the Washington–Rochambeau Revolutionary Route south to reinforce American troops under the command of General George Washington at the Siege of Yorktown.

Benjamin Silliman
Benjamin Silliman

Benjamin Silliman was born in the Eliakim Beach tavern, built by mill owner Ebenezer Hawley in 1765, a few months after his mother Mary (Fish) Silliman (widow of John Noyes) fled from their Fairfield home to escape 2,000 invading British troops ordered to burn Fairfield. The British forces had taken Silliman's father, General Gold Selleck Silliman, prisoner in May 1779.

A Great Jubilee Day to commemorate the end of major fighting in the Revolutionary War was held on May 26, 1783, at the grounds of the North Stratford meeting house. This celebration included feasting, prayer, speeches, toasts, and two companies of militia performing maneuvers with cannon discharges.

American Civil War

During the American Civil War, Company C of the 8th Connecticut Infantry Regiment of the Connecticut National Guard was formed in Trumbull under the command of Capt. Charles E. Plumb and was disbanded in 1871 after the war ended.

Municipal development

Gideon and Ephraim Hawley gristmill
Trumbull National Guard Unit Co. C 8th Regt. CNG, Capt. Charles E. Plumb Commanding, c. 1867. Gristmill in background built by Gideon and Ephraim Hawley c. 1722 White Plains, Trumbull
Jonathan Trumbull engraving circa 1855
Jonathan Trumbull

In May 1725, the farmers of northwest Stratford at Nickol's Farms, desiring to have their own meeting house, asked for permission to form their own parish or village. The legislature approved their application in October 1725 and named the new village "Unity". The Unity Congregational Church was established in 1730. The Reverend James Beebe was the parish leader from 1747 to 1785. The Unity Burial Ground still exists, its last burial being in 1935.

In May 1740, upon the petition of Jonathan Edwards, the farmers gathered at Stratfield's winter parish on Long Hill and were granted their own individual parish and funding for education by the legislature.

In 1744, Unity parish and the Long Hill parish of the Stratfield section of Stratford asked permission to combine and become the Society of North Stratford. The General Assembly referred to the eastern boundaries of Unity, at the time, as "ancient" when they approved the new town called North Stratford in 1744. North Stratford remained as a village under the control of the town of Stratford for a period of 53 years until it became a part of the town of Trumbull in 1797.

After the Revolutionary War, citing their well-established population and the inconvenient distance to attend town meetings in Stratford, they petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly for status as an incorporated town. After several denials, the legislature granted their petition in October 1797. On November 20, 1797, the first town meeting was held. The new town was named for Jonathan Trumbull, Connecticut governor during the Revolutionary War and a valued adviser to George Washington, who respectfully referred to him as "Brother Jonathan".

Society and religion

Religious burial grounds

Unity Burial Ground

Unity Burial Ground 1730
Unity Burial Ground established 1730

The Unity Burial Ground is a historic graveyard located on the southeast end of White Plain a few rods north of the site of the first meeting house that was built in the parish of Unity. The cemetery was laid out in 1730, and the first burial was that of 7-year-old Samuel Bennitt on June 21, 1731. There are over 110 gravestones and 90 unmarked field stones.

Christ Episcopal Church and Tashua Burial Ground

Tashua Burial Ground
Tashua Burial Ground established 1766
Christ Episcopal Church Side
Christ Episcopal Church today

Christ Episcopal Church and Tashua Burial Ground is a historic site including an Episcopal Church building and cemetery at 5170 Madison Avenue in the Tashua section of Trumbull. The site was founded in 1760 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Two prior churches had been on the site before the cornerstone of the existing church was laid in 1826. This building is believed to have been designed by Alexander Jackson Davis and was consecrated in 1847. The original church was a 36-by-26-foot (11.0 by 7.9 m) structure and stood at the north end of the graveyard. The second, larger church was built across from the first and consecrated in 1795 after the first church was abandoned five years earlier.

The current church is an example of Carpenter Gothic, a variant of Neo-Gothic architecture. Christ Church displays the original Bible and Book of Common Prayer that was received by the church in 1762 from England. The church is still active, with two services held on Sunday mornings. The graveyard on the site dates to 1766, and includes 241 plots.

Gregory's Four Corners Burial Ground

Hannahcranna01
Gregory's Four Corners Burial Ground established 1761

Gregory's Four Corners Burial Ground is a historic cemetery just over the Monroe town line. It was established in 1761. It is most famous for being the final resting place of Hannah Cranna, often called the "Wicked Witch of Monroe".

Pine Brook Country Club

Pinebrook Cabins
Original Pine Brook Country Club cabins c. 1931

Benjamin Plotkin purchased Pinewood Lake and the surrounding acreage and built forty cabins and an auditorium with a revolving stage and incorporated as the Pine Brook Country Club in 1930. Plotkin's dream was to market the club as a summer resort for people to stay and enjoy theatrical productions. Pine Brook is best known for becoming the summer rehearsal headquarters of the most important experiment in the history of American theatre. The Group Theatre was formed in New York City by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg in 1931. The group was made up of actors, directors, playwrights and producers and produced works by the most important American playwrights of the time on real-life subject matter, changing stage and film forever. In 1944, Pine Brook Country Club was sold, reorganized and chartered as the Pinewood Lake Association.

On the National Register of Historic Places

  • Christ Episcopal Church and Tashua Burial Ground – 5170 Madison Ave. (added May 25, 2001)
  • David Mallett Jr. House – 420 Tashua Road (added March 20, 1986)
  • Kaatz Icehouse – 255 Whitney Ave. (added October 19, 1977)
  • Nichols Farms Historic District – Center Road, 1681–1944 Huntington Turnpike, 5–34 Priscilla Place, and 30–172 Shelton Road (added September 20, 1987)
  • Old Mine Park Archeological Site (added 1990)

Demographics

Population change in Trumbull during the 19th century
Year 1800 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890
Population 1,291 1,241 1,232 1,242 1,204 1,309 1,474 1,335 1,323 1,453
Source:
Population change in Trumbull since 1900
Year 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010
Population 1,587 1,642 2,597 3,624 5,294 8,641 20,379 31,394 32,989 32,016 34,243 36,018
Source:

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