It won’t be long before we will be celebrating the town’s Bicentennial, 200 years after the May 28th meeting where a “true copy” of the original document outlining the resolve by the Assembly that the part of Milford known as North Milford was examined as a true copy. The first town meeting was held on the 2nd Monday of June, 1822 with Charles Pond Esq. high sheriff for the county of New Haven, as Moderator.
The following gentlemen were chosen officers:
- Town Clerk: Benjamin L. Lambert;
- Selectmen: John Bryan, Jr. Thomas Painter, Ichabod A. Woodruff, Aaron Thomas, Jr. Lyman Law;
- Treasurer: Nathan Clark;
- Constables: Nathan Merwin, Lyman Prindle, Gerry Treat, James Reynolds;
- Grand Jurors: Nathan Clark, Jonathan Judd, John Hubbard, Nehemiah Kimberly;
- Tythingmen: Garry Treat, Aaron Clark, Jr. Simeon Smith, Bradford Smith, Lyman Prindle, Samuel L. Pardee;
- Sealers of Weights & Measures: Jesse Hodge, Filemon Smith;
- Pound Keepers: Nathan Platt, Nathan Clark, James Reynolds (stray animals kept in a pound);
- Fence Viewers: Benjamin Clark, Jesse Allen, Jonas F Merwin, Robert Treat, Eliakim Kimberly, Aaron Thomas, Jr. (property owners supposed to keep their fences in good condition).
It’s easy enough for me to copy the list from Mary Woodruff’s “History of Orange,” but where I come in is to mention that you might recognize some of these names from outside of Orange, West Haven perhaps? Milford? And wonder why were they part of Orange? Well, prior to June of 1822, the area was part of Milford, known as North Milford and a part of New Haven beginning at the sound, following a path to Woodbridge and the Housatonic River etc. etc. and etc.
This new town was to receive all of the powers and privileges as well as immunities that other towns in the State enjoyed. It was also deemed that the new town would “assume the care of the poor.” We have several documents in our research center mentioning this part of the agreement. Have you ever noticed a small structure in front of the Town Hall? It may not be used for announcements now but a public signpost was required at the time to post the meetings at least six days before it was to take place. A committee was appointed to select a name for the town and I have written about it in previous stories but will relate it to you here. Since the area was already North Milford with the southern part Bryan’s Farms, the name of North Milford was mentioned but there was a difference of opinion, what else? Some favored Milford Haven, not my favorite, others Westford, again not my choice. Finally, in commemoration of the benefits received by the colonists of the Connecticut Colony some 135 years earlier, Orange was chosen to honor Prince William of Orange.
Now talk about a reach. Ok, so it’s like this. King Philip’s War, ca 1676, was a costly one, not only in deaths of the colonists but in foodstuffs and munitions expended as well as what had been marauded. He wasn’t really a king but the leader of the Wampanoag’s from Rhode Island. This, however, was not the only threat to the Connecticut colony and New England as well was about to experience the wrath of London and its authoritarian direction.
The northern colonies were not producing marketable goods in England but Connecticut was, so England felt strongly that all of the colonies needed to be united in one strong “royal” government. Yipes, Connecticut was doing so well as a colony, left alone by King Charles II. However, King James II, his brother and successor cited Massachusetts and Connecticut for “disregard of the English acts of trade.” Writ upon writ were leveled at the little colony so that an agent was dispatched to plead the case for Connecticut.
Finally, in 1686, a 3rd writ was served on Connecticut, informing Governor Treat that he was to surrender its charter and by 1687 Edmund Andros was commissioned, by James II, as governor of the Dominion of New England. So, on October 22, 1687 Andros announced his plans to visit Hartford and take the Connecticut charter and assume control of the government, English style. Andros and a retinue of 75 men set off for Hartford and the public meeting house, where he was met by Governor Treat and others, giving Andros the governor’s chair.
He, Andros, read his commission as governor and demanded the charter and Governor Treat followed with a lengthy, dramatic speech which brought the meeting into the late afternoon requiring that candles be lit. Now what might appear to us as a fairytale is not, but a turn of fate that kept Connecticut strong and Andros furious. Why the charter itself was on the table for Andros to grab is beyond me, but as the October winds blew past the meeting house, the candles were extinguished and darkness fell upon the assembly.
And, and? The charter was whisked away and hidden in an old oak tree*….an obvious home of a colonial squirrel. Little did that critter know what he was sleeping on. Although the assembly bowed to Andros and allowed him to assume control, he later became autocratic in levying fees for a number of business transactions and marriages as well as freedom of the press. What was most upsetting was his declaration that land titles of the colonists were invalid.
Luckily for Connecticut, James was feeling the pinch of revolt in England in his uneven handling of government offices being given to Catholics as well as ordering the Anglican bishops to sign a Declaration of Indulgence. Seven of them were tried for libel, but were overwhelmingly acquitted and when a son was born to James, a Catholic would ascend the throne. In comes William to save the day. Both the Whigs and Tories appealed to James’ daughter Mary and her husband Prince William of Orange who was the ruler of the Netherlands to become the new sovereigns, both Protestants.
James fled to France and news of the revolution quickly spread to New England and the “arms” of James II were seized, but Andros fled soon to be arrested. No, I don’t know what happened to him. All became normal once again, reestablishing the original charter. I note here that Prince William appears to have sojourned to the colonies thus giving rise to the honor given in 1822, but to tell you the truth, I don’t really see it that way. I do know that he also went down to the Carolinas as we, at the Academy have a sheriff’s arm patch with William’s Coat of Arms, just as we had on our town flag given to Orange during the Sesquicentennial by the First Federal Bank of New Haven. One of those flags can be seen hanging on the wall in the Academy with the story and pictures of William and Mary.
End of story, folks.
*The Bridge across the Connecticut River is the Charter Oak Bridge….now you know that bit of history.