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History Corner: A Story Continued…

History Corner: A Story Continued…

So, I was asked recently if I was running my stories over again, since one of them was indeed a rewrite of one of my more successful ones.  I immediately answered no, not at all because I have written 16 years’ worth of stories, all original BUT there is a subject that crosses decades, in fact over 100 years old that is an ongoing tale of lives we know nothing about.

Now, with this in mind, I am going to tell you some of the stories for those folks “living” in this town that you might not have heard about before…are you ready?  History is a very precious commodity in our lives.  Something we can learn from for help in our future but more than likely, as in my life, something to understand and embrace as lives that built us up and lives we need to cherish.

One such person was Ansantawae, the sachem of the Paugussett Native Americans.  His circumstances led him to accept the help of the white men, Peter Prudden, Richard Bryan and others, because they had a mutual need…survival.  Without his acceptance of the Milford Colony for protection against the marauding Mohawks, their quiet village of hunters and gatherers could have been destroyed.  Without this mutual friendship, the land we know as Bryan’s Farms, now Orange might not exist.

So, we put him on our list of souls to appreciate.  Moving on.  Within four years, the Milford Colony thrived, with the help of?????  Yup, Ansantawae.  The settlers were able to build dwellings, mostly lean-to type, organize a church and the grist mill, built by William Fowler which was busily engaged in converting the harvests into useable commodities.  When a storm destroyed the mill, the town realized its worth and voted to repair it.  Since the gristmill in New Haven had burned to the ground in 1662, the farmers brought their grain to Fowler’s.  Stand up Mr. Fowler.

Richard Bryan comes into our “play” when he was granted a plot of land for a warehouse where Factory Lane is located in 1650.  Believe it or not, it was once named Bryan’s Lane but…progress you know…change the name, who cares about the history.  Here the Bryan families conducted business on the high seas, launching ship after ship to faraway ports, bringing back needed and not so needed items to add to the community so far from their homeland.  I know you are wondering what was not needed…to some, it would have been the rum, don’t ya know.

Speaking of names, some of these vessels had cute names such as the Seaflower, the Sarah Ann as well as the 20-ton schooner, Nancy.  Oh, let’s not forget Betsey.  All of these ships were built in Milford numbering more than forty.  We almost had the name North Milford in 1822, but you know that story already.  We can’t forget the story of Mistress Merwin, who on that fateful day in 1777, upon seeing a foraging group of British soldiers head up the hill off Pond Point, ran from her kitchen, with her baby under her arm and a copper pot in her hand, beating the kettle to sound the alarm, that? yes…The British are coming.  For her “trouble” the sailors helped themselves to whatever they could find in her home plus they destroyed her furniture, broke what glass windows she had and poured molasses on her bed linens.  This was in retaliation for the fact that all the livestock had been driven into hiding on previous days, today known as Calf Pen Meadow school.

Now, all of these fine folk are thought to be buried in one of the Milford cemeteries and there is some thought that behind the home, where Peter Prudden lived there was a burial ground and Milford is fighting not to have it demolished…history destroyed again?  I don’t think they will stop fighting that fight.  Milford has a wonderful collection of homes in one of its three Historic Districts.  Alas, some of the old are still with us.

We now jump into our North Milford history where Richard Bryan, with his connection to Ansantawae, buys a considerable amount of acreage with his family name, of course.  About 1665, the sachem and most of his tribe moved to the ridge at Turkey Hill overlooking the Housatonic River.  He died soon after but some of the tribe remained for over 100 years.  One such family was named Hatchett with Molly being the one folks remembered being very tall, powerful with piercing, black eyes and long black hair over her shoulders.

Molly always wore a white blanket shawl, a man’s hat and she carried a cane or a hatchet.  She, like most of the natives, in our area, was a basket maker and with most of her tribe gone moved to Kent where she joined the Scatacook Federation of which Aunty Icy, our Orange Native was a member…her story is in our archives too.  Molly was often called Magawiska and her fondness for uncupe as she called it, was rum.  She died almost 100 years old.

By 1720, Bryan’s Farms was bustling and the colony of Milford were bursting at the seams so out they came…Clark, Treat. Nettleton, Hine, Alling, Pardee, Stone, Andrew, Lambert, Woodruff, Fowler, Grant and more…north they came to settle here in what became Orange in 1822.  Although, these families and more had moved to the north, they still had to attend church in Milford.  On a sunny day, a trip to their old home was nice but in the cold, wet and dreary days, nadda.  In 1792 they erected a modest meeting house and were granted 6 Sundays, but by 1804 with many denials, they succeeded in having their own parish, complete with a burial ground.

Whereas these names are printed in Mary Woodruff’s History of Orange-North Milford, they can be found on the headstones in the cemetery, headstones that tell the history of North Milford, the history of its people and what did I say about history?  A precious commodity?  Isaac Treat was an interesting and shrewd gentleman who in Yankee fashion answered the request for his 100-foot tree, a tree to be used as the ridge pole of the church.  This Mr. Isaac Treat, and there were two or three at the time, was not a church member so he held the tree hostage with the request that Colonel Potter, who lived north of the property, cut off his queue, a form of hair style often seen in photos of Revolutionary men.

Since he was not enthusiastic about the church, he thought it a safe bet to make this request but it is just possible that the Colonel needed an excuse to cut off the reminder of the war and so he went and did it.  The tree came down.  Isaac was not the only name associated with the church history.  Samuel Prudden left us a message about the bell, a bell that not only rang for church on Sunday but for those who died, nine strokes for a man, seven for a woman, five for a baby boy and three for a girl.  Mr. Prudden’s headstone reads:  “Oft as the bell with solemn toll, speaks the departure of a soul, let each one ask himself, am I prepared should I be called to die?”

There is a small, headstone bearing the name of the first person to be buried in the cemetery, a 4-month-old boy.  There are Treats aplenty surrounded by all of the names I have mentioned above and many more from our history…names we should not forget and to that end, the staff of the Orange Historical Society is cleaning the headstones with care and guidance from professionals and will lead a tour of 15 or more of them in mid-October.  There are tales to tell, mysteries to solve and history aplenty.  It appears that the only history modern society does not change are the cemeteries but maybe someday, they will go too.

We will make sure that the date will be given ample advertising so you can join us as we walk among our historical neighbors…Treat, Clark, Andrew, Grant, Stone, Prudden, Woodruff, and more.

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