We left you with a cliffhanger in the suspicious death of George Gunn. The census record for 1860 lists a George Gunn, his wife Ann and 3 children. As the report states, George was poisoned in May of 1865 and by September both his mother-in-law and her daughter were arrested for his demise, with the news having been picked up by many newspapers including the Springfield Republican and the Boston Herald. The title “Arrested for Murder” names Elmira Gunn and her daughter Mary E. Smith, living in West Haven having been arrested for poisoning George T. Gunn whose body was “dug up” and arsenic found in the stomach. Sounds like a “Murder She Wrote” episode. Without any evidence of the police investigation, we only know that in the Saturday, September 23, 1865 edition of the Columbian Register in New Haven, the pair was arrested and in the same paper, they were acquitted with the conclusion that “Gunn made way with himself”. By the 1870 census, none of the family members can be found in the Connecticut area so it might appear that the family “hit the road”.
What makes research intriguing is following census records, finding what appears to match with the truth, hanging on a small detail such as two names with the correct initials making the connection and then failing to follow through with the next record. A case in point would be looking for Elmira Gunn to only find Eliza Gunn in Milford in 1860 with a coincidental daughter Mary E. Gunn age 31. This would appear to be the pair “who dunnit” but we need to remember that Mrs. Gunn was the mother-in-law and we need to find another daughter, Ann somewhere so onto the previous census year. And? Nothing, well, nothing obvious that is.
Although today’s television is riddled with arrests, death and destruction, the “good ole days” seem rather calm in comparison although I imagine an indiscretion was met with distain as life had its set of values, strengthened by the family structure and anything other than the norm was not tolerated. Take the 1849 arrest of George H. Allis, alias Freeman who, with force and arms did steal “one piece of full cloth or Sattinet being about twenty five yards of a value of seventeen dollars of the goods & chattels of Charles W. Alling of said Orange”. The Alling family owned mills on the Wepawaug River along Mapledale Road and the full cloth that is referred to is wool that has been processed for use and no doubt actually belonged to one of Mr. Alling’s customers.
It must have been a warm evening on the 22nd of August in 1855 and possibly a tiring day for John Bebb, William Johnson, William Brown and William Gordon as they were found intoxicated and upon a complaint by Lyman Treat, Grand Juror were dealt with according to law and Alfred Green and August Crofutt were ordered to appear as witnesses before Willian Grant, Justice of the Peace. What a cast of characters for intoxication. “Found intoxicated and thereby bereft of their reason which is contrary to the 17th section of the Act for the suppression of Intemperance, they were to be arrested.”
Not to be left out of these harrowing events, one Jane Campbell “with force and arms willfully and maliciously did throw down a certain fence on the land of one Philip Cronin whose residence was near the New Haven and Derby RR line on Dogman Road. In the early days of Orange, more than one Justice of the Peace would be cited on the warrants with the accused eventually appearing before yet another Justice of the Peace or Grand Juror. We find Benjamin Clark, Isaac Treat, Dennis Stone, Allen Northrup, Sidney Oviatt and Jonathan Stoddard to be among those whose title were Justice of the Peace and/or Grand Juror in different years. Elbee Treat was the Grand Juror who signed her arrest warrant in 1867.
By 1866 a warrant was issued by Sidney Oviatt, for the arrest of William McQuinn, who “with force and arms the dwelling house of Quincey Brown feloniously and burglariously did break and enter” and steal one black over coat, two dress coats, one white felt hat, one blue cloth cap and one black traveling bag with a value of $50.00”. Now I imagine some of you are laughing at these arrest warrants as they seem rather trivial as compared to today but it was serious in the 19th century to be arrested and a small, farming town like Orange took these indiscretions very seriously. Oh, by the way burglariously is written in the warrant.
In 1860 a Constitution of the Orange Temperance Society was drawn up “believing that the use of intoxicating drink as a beverage is not only unnecessary but positively ruinous to health, happiness and morals and believing that nothing less than the concentrated efforts of the friends of temperance can remove the evils caused by the sale and use of ardent spirits”. There were 31 members with familiar town names of Belden Rogers, Merwin Andrew, Delia Alling, Martha Treat, Julia Treat, Mary Oviatt, Emily Prudden, Sidney Oviatt, Charles Crofutt, and Elbee Treat with an overwhelming number of women.
None of us can complain about the repaving of the town roads, as each and every one of them is an example of highly qualified efforts on the part of our highway department. Orange, in its history, has always been concerned with its roads and documents at our Mary Woodruff Research Center attests to that with a variety of expense accounts. Take an October 1857 invoice for example. To C. W. Hine 264 feet of bridge plank $5.28, 13 lbs. of powder $2.60, Sperry for blacksmithing $.25 and Baldwin for blasting $1.00.
At the annual town meeting, held in October, 1854, it was voted that the roads or highways be sold, at auction, to the lowest bidder to be kept in repair for the term of three years, commencing in March, 1855. The roads were to be examined by two commissioners from an adjoining town in June and November and payment was made at the end of each year. A letter, sent to the selectmen in June of 1855, states that upon their inspection, the roads “were not in a general sense in repair”. But in November with their inspection, the roads were “all in good repair except the road from Woodbridge by Asa Alling to Albert Alling”. To my knowledge, this area was called Dogman Road which is now Dogburn Road north of the Derby Turnpike and Dogwood Road, south of the turnpike.
In another document Alvin Clark was paid $5.00 in 1858 for work on the highway using 5 men and two yoke of oxen which amounted to twelve cents an hour. Many of the documents researched were for bridges with an 1859 payment to A. Merwin of $10.41 which included repairs to three of them using bridge planks. In 1856, William Andrew built a bridge using 603 feet chestnut timber $9.04, 286 feet oak planks $5.72 and 5 days work $5.00. A very familiar name of Stone shows up with Dennis Stone’s nephews, each of them farmers, living on the top of Grassy Hill Road being paid $3.50 for two days work and 1 day work with oxen.
If you find these tales interesting why not spend a few hours at the research center reading the rest of our collection. In fact a few days might do it if you include the diaries and photos we have archived. Don’t worry, they are all encased in Mylar and you won’t do any damage to these old and dear “friends” of the history of Orange.