Friday, July 24, 2015

Wolcott History – Congregational Church Pastors

When Samuel Orcutt started writing what became the “History of Wolcott” in 1872, it was because of the upcoming centennial of the Congregational Church in Wolcott in 1873. As he got more and more into the history of this church, he found it to be so intertwined with the history of the town that he got quite enamored with history and thus spent the next two decades of his life pursuing that passion. However, in his book on Wolcott he did devote the first 150 pages to the history of the Congregational Church in Wolcott.

As the pastor of the church, he had access to all the church records, correspondence, etc. Thus he was able to write a very detailed account. The below is his list of the ministers of the church. The ones in brackets were written up in the book, but not put in the list as they were “pulpit supply” pastors, primarily from Waterbury, who only came to town on Sunday to deliver the sermon. The term “stated supply” indicates that these men came from another town and they had previously been ordained. The term “ordained” indicates that this was their first assignment and the ordination took place in the Wolcott church.

·         Rev. Alexander Gillet, ordained Dec. 29, 1773, dismissed Nov. 10, 1791
·         Rev. Israel B. Woodward, ordained June 1792. Died Nov. 17, 1810
·         [Rev. Parmalee, pulpit supply]
·         Rev. Lucas Hart, ordained Dec. 4, 1811. Died Oct. 16, 1813
·         [Rev. Stebbins, pulpit supply two months]
·         Rev. John Keys, installed Sept. 21, 1814, dismissed Dec. 1822
·         Dea. Isaac Bronson, read sermons most of the time five years, 1822-1827
·         Rev. Erastus Scranton, stated supply from June 1, 1827 to August 1829
·         Rev. Mr. Wheelock, stated supply from Sept 7, 1829 to Sept 7, 1830
·         Rev. Nathan Shaw, stated supply from July 4, 1831, nine months
·         [Rev. David Smith, pulpit supply 1832-1833]
·         Rev. Seth Sackett, stated supply, a short time [1834]
·         Rev. Wm. F. Vail, stated supply one year. [1835-1836]
·         Rev. James D. Chapman, ordained Oct. 25, 1837, dismissed Nov. 1840
·         Rev. Zephaniah Swift, stated supply, probably one year [1840-1841]
·         Rev. Aaron C. Beach, ordained June 22, 1842, dismissed June 22, 1857
·         Rev. Z. B. Burr, stated supply a short time
·         Rev. Joseph Smith, stated supply, one year [1858]
·         Rev. Stephen Rogers, installed March 25, 1859, dismissed April 18, 1863
·         Rev. Lent S. Hough, stated supply from May 1863 to May 1869
·         Rev. Warren C. Fiske, stated supply from May 1869 to June 1872
·         Rev. Samuel Orcutt, stated supply from July 1, 1872 to May 17, 1874

Some notes which will help explain the above:

·         Rev. Gillet was dismissed because several church members were unsatisfied with his teaching style. Since he was the pastor for 18 years, one wonders whether it was he that changed, or that he became out of touch with the younger generation.
·         Rev. Woodward and Rev. Hart both died in office.
·         Rev. Keys left because the church could no longer afford to pay him. The population of the town was decreasing and there were not enough church members to properly support him. They then went without a paid pastor for five years with Deacon Bronson (who was in his 60’s) reading the sermon.
·         The next 15 years were ones of constant turnover, as the church members still did not have the adequate support to give to the pastor.
·         Rev. Chapman preached very strongly against slavery and caused a split within the church – so strong that someone set fire to the meeting house when an anti-slavery notice was posted on the front door. The church then voted to dismiss him to eliminate the divisiveness.
·         Rev. Beach came from Yale, then a theological college, and began the task of healing the wounds from Rev. Chapman. Church membership increased and he stayed for more years than the previous eight pastors combined. This also began a period where the pastors stayed for more than a year or two.

Since nearly all of these men came from out of town, their only connection to Wolcott was their service as the pastor of the Congregational Church. There are two exceptions. Rev. Gillet married Adah Rogers and his sister married Josiah Atkins. This is detailed in my blog The other exception is Rev. Rogers who is the second cousin of Judah Frisbie. This is detailed in my blog

The above are only the first 100 years of the Congregational Church. If someone has access to church records since then and can add to this list, please do so.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Wolcott History – Indians

The following is a composite from several sources:
-          The History of Wolcott by Samuel Orcutt (1874)
-          The Indians of the Housatonic and Naugatuck Valleys by Samuel Orcutt (1882)
-          The Wolcott History website (

While the current politically correct term is “Native Americans”, I’m going to refer to them here as Indians as that is how all the sources above referred to them.

Prior to the arrival of European settlers in Farmingbury, this part of Connecticut was inhabited by Indian tribes. These tribes were all part of the larger Indian nation called the Algonquin Indians whose lands ran from the Mid-Atlantic region all the way up into Canada. The Delaware tribe was the largest of these tribes in the Algonquin nation.

The Tunxis tribe were the ones who “claimed” the area in what is now Wolcott, although the word “claim” may be misleading. These tribes were essential communists in that all lands were held in common. It was because of this that the concept of buying and selling land was a difficult one for them to understand.

Nonetheless, in the late 1600’s (1674-1684) a series of deeds were executed between some men who were living in Waterbury (then called Mattatuckoke which was the Indian name) and the Tunxis Indians. The sachem of the Tunxis, who primarily lived in the Farmington area, was Neashegon. The land was actually purchased multiple times over that period in order to satisfy the tribes. Even after this “sale”, the Indians retained their original rights to hunt on these lands.

One of the men who signed several of these deeds was Patucko. Those from Wolcott will probably be familiar with Potucco’s Ring Road which got its name from Patucko and the story of how he met his death during this period. I’m not going to recount the whole story here – an excellent narration can be found at A brief mention of this story can also be found in The History of Wolcott.

Other names among the signatures included John Compound (a somewhat English name) and Warm Compound who was the son of the sachem, Nesaheag. Lake Compounce was originally called Compound’s Pond after John Compound who was the first proprietor of that body of water.

The families of the Tunxis tribe did not live in Farmingbury/Wolcott, but it was a hunting ground for them. Also, the Indian “trail” or path by which the people of Farmington reached Mattatuck, now Waterbury, lay across the northwest corner of what is now Wolcott, and became, probably, the first “traveled” road in this town. Tradition says this road passed Mr. Levi Atkins’ dwelling which was on Spindle Hill, and that the Indian trail at that point passed a little further north, near a large shelving rock called “Jack’s Cave.” The Indians encamped under this rock nights in passing between Farmington and Woodbury. It was near this cave that a large chestnut tree stood from which Mr. Timothy Bradley said he cut two hundred bullets, which were shot into the tree by the Indians while shooting at a mark.

Jack’s Cave is also one of the few dwelling places for these Indians. As the book on the Indians by Orcutt above recounts:

“Another like place is found in the northwest corner of the town of Wolcott, near the boundary between it and Bristol [actually Plymouth], where implements have been found, and which tradition as well claims to have been a resort of the Red man. The place is called Jack’s Cave, because an Indian by that name was the last, or among the last, to make it his home. In the forepart of the present century [the early 1800’s] it was occupied by four or five adult Indians and two or three children, for which purpose the shelving rock formed quite a secure and comfortable retreat.”

It was several decades after the Indians “sold” their land to the men of Mattatuck/Waterbury before anyone began to live in Farmingbury/Wolcott. However, once the European settlers began to move into the area (John Alcox being one of the first in 1731) and began to clear land to grow crops, it was more difficult for the Indians to continue to hunt on these lands. While the European settlers and the Indians lived peacefully side-by-side, the Indians eventually began to migrate westward to better (and less populated) areas. The Tunxis tribe was never very large, numbering perhaps only several hundred at its peak. But by the time of the incorporation of Wolcott in 1796, to encounter an Indian in town was quite rare.

Cultural Adaptation

Compared to most people I know, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to various countries around the world a lot. Most of my travel has been by myself, i.e. not part of a group travelling together. And nearly all of it has not been to “tourist” destinations – e.g. when I was in France I did not go to Paris, when I was in Israel I did not go to Jerusalem, etc. So I’ve had the opportunity to meet with the people of that country and been in many situations where I needed to culturally adapt.

Cultural adaptation is a complicated subject and I cannot cover very many aspects of it in this short posting. But I’d like to cover a few areas and give examples of what I have done.


Food is one of the more visible aspects of culture – both in the types of food and how you go about eating it. When I have been presented with things to eat that I was unfamiliar with, I have learned to respond by at least trying some of it – after all you may find that you like it. I also do not generally ask the name of what I am eating – until after I have eaten it. Otherwise you may find that the name of the food generates a reaction. That’s less often the case with fruits or vegetables than it is with meat/fish products. If you were to find that the item in front of you is “eel” or “baby goat” or a particular body part, then you might refuse it or have an adverse reaction to it. But if you eat it first you will not have that reaction and might actually enjoy it.

How you go about eating it is another aspect of culture. One part of this is the eating utensils (or lack of them). In China you use chopsticks (and I suspect most of you are aware of this). But in Thailand the utensils on the table are a fork and what we might term a soup spoon, i.e. one that is larger than a teaspoon. But the fork is not used for eating – its only purpose it to push food onto the spoon. In Europe they have the same utensils as the US, but the utensils are used with the hand on the side where they are placed. In the US a right-handed person would cut up a steak with the knife in your right hand and the fork in the left (to hold the meat in place), then we would put down the knife, transfer the fork to our right hand for eating, then put our left hand on our lap. But in Europe you would cut the meat the same way, then keep the fork in your left hand and eat with the left, keeping both hands on the table and not in your lap. It’s a whole lot more efficient when you think about it. In some cultures you eat without utensils – so in Ghana when eating fufu you eat only with your right hand, tearing off a piece of the pounded cassava, dipping it in the chili soup (and getting your fingertips stained orange), and then eating it. Finally, especially with fruits and vegetables, but also with some meats, there is the question of how/what parts do I eat. If you encounter a strange fruit with a bumpy skin, do you eat the skin (like an apple), do you peel it off, or do you split it open? What about the inside, do you eat around the large pit/seed, or do you pop the whole thing in your mouth and spit the pit out? If in doubt, ask!

A good rule that I follow is to read about the eating practices and the common foods before travelling so that you are not surprised.


In the US the common practice when greeting is a firm handshake. We also generally start with the senior person (for business), or the host (for a party). But while most people in other cultures will accept a handshake, if you use their form of greeting you will be more accepted.

Many cultures use a kiss as a greeting (even with strangers). This kiss is not the lip-to-lip variety that you think of in the US, but generally involves touching cheeks and “kissing the air”. Some countries use a single kiss and some use two or even three (first one cheek then the other). I was in Brazil on business and as it was in December was invited to the office Christmas party that would be after work that day. It was at a local bar and the office had rented out the space for their use. All the conversation was in Portuguese, except for anyone who was speaking with me since I do not know Portuguese. I was standing at the side talking to the executive secretary of the managing director. A woman from the office who I did not know entered the room and came down the side we were on getting greeted. When she arrived at me, rather than sticking out my hand, I greeted her with the appropriate kiss. Turning back to the executive secretary I found that she had a large grin on her face and she commented, “You know our customs!” That simple act of greeting had more impact on her than all that I’d said previously and changed the whole tone of our subsequent conversation.

In Thailand, the common greeting is also not a handshake but a “wai” (placing your hands together (like you are praying) and bowing). On my first trip there I was staying with the family of my exchange student daughter, Noon. She had told me that many of her relatives would want to meet me. We were sitting in her living room and I heard someone just outside. Noon commented, “That is my uncle.” An older gentleman came into the room and I rose so that I could greet him with a wai. But to my surprise, he stuck out his hand to shake mine instead and I thought, “He’s crossing the cultural divide first.” But as he shook my hand he said, “How old are you?” In US terms, this is a pretty personal question and certainly not the first question you ask someone when you meet. But I had done my research (more below) and so I answered him. His next statement was “Ah, young man, young man” as it turned out that he was two years older than I.

From my research, what I also understood about the wai is that the younger person owes respect to the older person so the younger person is supposed to bow deeper to keep your head lower than your elder’s. Since we were close in age he did not know how to properly wai, so instead he shook my hand and asked my age so that he knew how we were supposed to relate. So many aspects of culture in a simple greeting!

A final example – in Ghana, instead of greeting the senior person first, the custom is to start on the right and then move down the line. The purpose of this is that as both of you have your hands extended to shake, you are each approaching the other with your palm first. Otherwise if you are moving to your right, the back of your right hand is aligned with the back of the other person’s hand and one of you needs to move their hand out of the way before you can touch palms. So even a “simple” handshake may have other cultural aspects to it.

Common phrases

Even if you do not speak the language, knowing just few phrases can be very helpful and will show that you care about the other person’s culture. The phrases can vary a little from place to place, but often they include the equivalent of “good morning” and “thank you” that we use so often in the US. Here are a few that I learned over the years.

Brazil – “Bom dia” is the Portuguese equivalent of “good morning” (literally it means “good day”) and is used even with perfect strangers. “Obrigado” is Portuguese for “thank you”, although in Sao Paulo, it is almost always abbreviated as “Brigat”.

Thailand – “Suwadee” is their way of saying “hello”, although it is followed by either “khrap” or “kha” depending on whether you are male or female (note that it changes based on the gender of the speaker, not of the listener). “Kop kun” is “thank you”. [Since this is not a Thai lesson, I’m not going to worry about the tonal system here, but that is another cultural issue is how to use/understand tones.]

China – Chinese is another tonal language, but again I’m not going to get into that here. “Ni hao” is “hello”. “Xia xia” is “thank you”.


The key in all these areas (and many more) is to show the people in that culture that you care enough about them to want to do things in a way that is appropriate to them. Because culture is so complicated, you will certainly make mistakes – I know that I’ve made many, some that I am aware of and others that I’m unaware of. But by showing that you care in a few simple ways, people will accept you in spite of your mistakes.

A final comment from my good friend, Jon Hackett, who has lived in a number of countries (Germany, South Korea, Georgia, Vanuatu) -- Bingo! The only thing I would add is to watch what local people do, if they're not doing it, you probably shouldn't be either. This isn't just a cultural tip either. If local people aren't drinking the water, there's probably a good reason. (Price of bottled water is also a great indicator. The cheaper it is, the more likely you shouldn't be drinking from the tap....)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Wolcott History – Samuel Orcutt

Much of the historical information about Farmingbury and Wolcott comes from the History of Wolcott, by Rev. Samuel Orcutt. However, it occurred to me that no one has written about the historian himself and I thought I’d do so. Much of the below is from a newspaper article in the Bridgeport Post from 16 Feb 1969, but it draws much of its material from a memorial address to the Fairfield County Historical Society which was given by his fellow historian, R. B. Lacey about a year after Rev. Orcutt’s death.

Samuel Orcutt was born on April 12, 1824, of an old Connecticut family which had moved from Tolland county to Berne, Albany county, NY. Brought up on a farm, he performed the usual chores for a farm boy, but at age 16, his interest in religion caused him to pursue classical studies at Cazenovia academy and while teaching school continued his theological studies under private tutors. He became a licensed Methodist preacher at 21 and served several churches in New York City and Long Island. About 1803, he transferred to the Congregational denomination and after further intensive study and private tutoring was ordained to the ministry.

He became affiliated with the New Haven West Ministerial association with which he was connected for the remainder of his life. His first assignment was as acting pastor at the church in Wolcott, and there his talent for local history and genealogy began to manifest itself. His first historical work was a history of the town of Wolcott in 1874. Transferred to Torrington, he wrote a history of that town in 1875.

His “History of the Old Town of Derby, 1642-1880” was published in the latter year with the collaboration of St. Ambrose Beardsley, an eminent physician and leading citizen of Derby. It is a voluminous work of nearly 900 pages containing the histories of what are now the City of Derby, City of Ansonia, City of Shelton and town of Seymour and Oxford.

After his work in Derby, the Rev. Mr. Orcutt turned his attention to New Milford and published his history of that town in 1882. His history of the Indians of the Housatonic Valley and Western Connecticut was published in the same year.

He settled in Bridgeport in 1884, followed his clerical duties and published his history of Bridgeport and Stratford in 1886. After this, he spent a year in California with his son, then returned to Bridgeport and was engaged mostly in genealogical work.

On the afternoon of Jan. 14, 1893 he was engaged in the transfer of the headquarters of the Fairfield County Historical Society to the “New Barnum Museum” and had gone to the pier to claim a valuable box. While rushing across the tracks he was struck and almost instantly killed by a special train. At the time he was writing the genealogies of the Tomlinson and several other families in the area.

He is buried in the old Revolutionary cemetery, formerly the Pequonnock or Old Stratfield cemetery, in Bridgeport. Although his gravesite was later desecrated and the headstone missing, Mr. Lacey noted in his memorial address of 1894 that “the enduring monument to the Rev. Mr. Orcutt is in his series of Connecticut town histories.”

The following books may be found online:

·         History of the town of Wolcott (Connecticut) from 1731 to 1874, with an account of the centenary meeting, September 10th and 11th, 1873; and with the genealogies of the families of the town. 1874
·         History of Torrington, Connecticut, from its first settlement in 1737, with biographies and genealogies. 1878
·         The history of the old town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642-1880: with biographies and genealogies. 1880
·         History of the towns of New Milford and Bridgewater, Connecticut, 1703-1882. 1882
·         The Indians of the Housatonic and Naugatuck Valleys. 1882
·         A history of the old town of Stratford and the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut. 1886
·         A history of the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut. 1887
·         Henry Tomlinson, and his descendants in America: with a few additional branches of Tomlinsons, later from England.

Wolcott is fortunate to have had the Rev. Samuel Orcutt assigned as the interim pastor. I would like to close this blog by including the preface from his book on Wolcott.

My acquaintance with the Town of Wolcott began in May, 1872. After preaching there a few Sabbaths, with no expectation of continuing in the place, I became interested in the history of the church by discovering that its Centenary would occur in 1873. I soon after accepted an invitation to supply the pulpit for one year. After a few months' labor in the parish, the idea of writing a brief history of the Congregational Church and Society was entertained, and the work was commenced with the expectation that it would not exceed two hundred pages. From that beginning the present volume has grown, and is, therefore, a little different in plan and style from what it would have been if the original design had included so large a field.

The work necessary to the making of this book has been performed with the greatest pleasure, though prosecuted, much of the time, under circumstances of disadvantage and discouragement. Now that it is done, I have no apologies to offer; nor have I any regrets to express, save that the people who form the subject of this volume have not received from my pen as high commendation as they deserve.

The labor has been performed within the space of two years, and has rather aided than hindered parish duties. In the commencement, it was as the Spring-time, full of buds and blossoms of hope; but in the closing it has seemed as Autumn. A shade of sadness has touched my mind as I have taken leave of one and another, individuals and families, when they passed from study and research; for, after so much thought expended upon them, it seemed as if they were friends and neighbors among whom I had spent my days, and I was at last attending their funeral services. The summing up of life, for each one of them, has seemed written in great characters before the mind in the proverbial expression: "Born, lived, and died." And wherever the mind looks in review of the past, the epitome of history seems recorded in the repetition of this form. Yet in remembering the good of the past (and in fulfilling the responsive feelings of the heart), it is a comfort, if nothing more can be said, to repeat this form, and in it cherish the memory of those who have completed the routine of its unchangeable decrees: -- "Born, lived, and died."

The style of the work is without ornament, because the times and the character of the persons forming the subject-matter of the history are better represented thus than otherwise. Of the times and circumstances through which the early settlers passed, there can be but one opinion: they were rigorously hard. Although the number who lived to be over three score and ten is large, yet to most of them, life meant hard work with many privations, plain food with scanty allowance at times, little clothing, and that of the plainest kind, restricted to the fashion of two seasons. Of the character of these ancestors, a good summary, in a few words, is given by Dr. Henry Bronson in his History of Waterbury: "Individually, our Puritan ancestors were very much such men as we are; little better, no worse. They were bred in a rigorous age, and were exposed to peculiar hardships, dangers, and temptations. Yet, on the whole, they, like us, were average men" (page 323). In one thing, however, it seems to me they have the pre-eminence, namely, in faithfulness to moral and religious convictions. Modesty, honesty, and integrity in the profession of the Christian religion, might have been written over nearly every man's door, to be read by all the world.

It will be observed that the genealogy of a few families is wanting. The cause of this, in every case, is the want of sufficient information to make a respectable represention [sic] of the family. The Blakeslee family was among the first in the parish, but no records could be obtained until it was too late to introduce them in their proper order. I have hope of including them in the history of another town where their number is larger than in Wolcott. The Ponds and the Baileys were influential and leading families for some years. They are all now gone from the town, and no records have been obtained of them. A few families early in the parish, disappeared so soon that no connected account of them could be obtained. Also, a few came in about 1800, tarried a few years, then joined the grand army which for two or three generations has been steadily marching Westward.

[Note that the above refers  to the fact that many Wolcott residents went west to what was known as the “Western Reserve” of Connecticut to populate that area and keep it part of Connecticut. This took place beginning after the Revolutionary War until Connecticut finally ceded its claims in 1800. The area around Cleveland Ohio even today contains many former Wolcott families and Case Western Reserve University owes its name to that period of time in US history.]

The limited number of subscribers, and hence of copies printed, has compelled the laying aside of all illustrations, after considerable preparation had been made for their publication. This has been to myself and others a source of great regret.

In acknowledging my obligations to the very kind friends who have rendered special aid in this work, it is pleasant to say that all have cheerfully contributed information and encouragement as they were able, and have urged that the book be made as perfect as possible, even though the price of it should be increased. In fulfilling this last desire its publication has been delayed nearly six months. I am specially indebted to Rev. Joseph Anderson, pastor of the First Congregational Church of Waterbury, who has taken much interest in the work from the first, and has rendered very valuable assistance. Also, to Frederick B. Dakin, Esq., of the Waterbury American, a practical book-maker, under whose supervision the volume was printed. The following persons have also rendered special service to the work: Messrs. A. Bronson Alcott, Frank B. Sanborn, and William Ellery Channing, of Concord, Mass.; Judge William E. Curtiss, of New York; Hon. Leman W. Cutler, of Watertown; Hon. Birdsey G. Northrop, of New Haven; E. Bronson Cook, Esq., Editor of the Waterbury American; Hon. Elihu Burritt, of New Britain; Rev. William H. Moore, of Berlin; Rev. Heman R. Timlow, and Messrs. Gad Andrews, Simeon H. Norton, and Isaac Burritt, of Southington; Rev. William R. Eastman, of Plantsville; the late Ralph L. Smith, Esq., of Guilford; Mr. Aaron G. Atkins, of Chenango County, N. Y.; Mr. Lucas C. Hotchkiss, of Meriden; Mrs. Lucina Holmes and Mrs. Lucina Lindsley, of Waterbury.

WATERBURY, November 10th, 1874.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wolcott History – Addin Lewis

In my blog about the stories behind the names of the schools in Wolcott I gave a brief bio of Addin Lewis. While Lewis School was torn down nearly 50 years ago, I’d like to give some further details about him, especially since there is no write-up in the Wolcott History website like there is for the other four people for whom schools are named.

Addin was born in 1780 in the southeast corner of Farmingbury (as it was then known) as the fourth child of Captain Nathaniel and Sarah (Gridley) Lewis. He married Fanny Lewis (the daughter of his second cousin and the widow of Anson Judd) and had three daughters, but all of them died young.

His early education was at the South School (when he graduated from there it was still called Farmingbury). (His father, Nathaniel, was one of the members of the School Committee of Farmingbury and was the representative of the South School.) The support for the schools was “by the poll”, i.e. parents paid for their children in proportion to the number of pupils and the number of days in attendance. Under this system it was often quite difficult for some parents to pay their school bills and thus many children were educated very little. At the time, wages for the average man were six to ten dollars a month and for a woman one dollar week, so a school bill of eighty-eight dollars for the year was a very substantial burden.

After finishing his education at the South School, Addin then went to Yale College in New Haven. In 1804, at the age of 24, he accepted a position as Instructor/Tutor at the University of George in Athens, GA and remained there for four years. During this time he gained such a reputation and esteem that he was appointed the first Collector of the District of Mobile, without even applying for the position. The importance of this position induced him to accept it and he became the chief representative of the general government. At the same time he filled the office of Postmaster and later became Mayor of the city and President of the local bank. He served as mayor from 1822 to 1823 and 1824 to 1827.

As the years passed he became identified with all the public interests of the city and amassed quite a fortune. But having suffered for several years of consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis), and being weary of the long hours needed for public service, he retired from all those duties after his final year as mayor. For several years prior he had spent summers in Connecticut and the winters in the South. But having become quite deaf as well, he returned to New Haven permanently in 1827. His wife died in 1832 and he also died there in 1842 at the age of 63.

When he died, he left, by bequest, $8500 to the town of Wolcott, the interest to be used for the support of public schools. He also left nearly $15,000 to the School Society of Southington and $5,000 to the President and Fellows of Yale College. I detailed in the prior blog how there were also conditions attached to the funds left to the School Society of Southington regarding allowing up to ten men each year to attend that school (subsequently named the Lewis Academy) tuition-free.

The $8500 left by Addin can best be put into perspective by its proportion to the total costs of the schools of Wolcott at the time. It generated about $500 a year and was to be distributed to each of the school districts “in proportion to the number of children” in that school, providing that the school district raised an equal sum. In the history of Wolcott, by Samuel Orcutt in 1874, it was noted that in the prior year in addition to the $500 from the Addin Lewis fund, the schools received $220 from State appropriation, and $130 from the Town of Wolcott. The actual expenses of all the schools combined was about $1200 that year. That meant that parents only had to pay a total of $350 instead of $1200, so 70% of the cost of educating their children was provided from these other sources. That had a tremendous impact on the number of families who could afford to educate their children.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Wolcott History – How the schools were named

Historical Context

Note that much of the material in the first part of this article comes from the Wolcott History website ( and a series of excellent articles written by Florence Goodman.

The first schools in Wolcott (then called Farmingbury) were established by a meeting of the Ecclesiastical Society in 1770. Their school committee voted to divide the town into nine districts, each with its own school. They used the geographic names of North, Northeast, Center, Southwest, South, West, Mill Place, East and Southeast. At first the schools in these districts were kept in private homes, but once school houses were built, the Southeast district and the one at Mill Place were discontinued. (If you want further information on these schools, see the Wolcott History article at

As I noted in an earlier blog (, the population of Wolcott did not exceed 1000 until the 1930’s. The completion of a paved road through town (Route 69) in 1935 was key to the growth in population. By 1940 the population then swelled to 1800 and it doubled again to 3500 by 1950 and then more than tripled to 12,500 by 1970. The school system also had to grow to keep up with the expanding population and the collection of one-room schools would no longer be adequate. The early population growth was in the southern part of town (the closest to Waterbury), but after WWII, the population in the northern part of town also increased.

In the Southwest district the stone school (now the home of the Wolcott Historical Society) was replaced with a two-room brick building called Woodtick School (in keeping with somewhat geographic school names). The old South School was replaced with a two-room school on Shelton Avenue in 1922 and two more rooms were added in 1930. It was renovated in 1949 and renamed the Addin Lewis School.

In 1945, the residents voted to build a new six-room elementary school in the northern part of town – Alcott School, named after Amos Bronson Alcott – this replaced the one-room schools in the North and Northeast districts (two more rooms were added a few years later and more in 1969). This was followed by the building of Frisbie School in 1950. (The old Woodtick School was later demolished and replaced by the current Police Department building.) In 1959/1960 a new school was built in the western section of town – Wakelee School. And finally in 1964/1965 Tyrrell School was built to replace the Addin Lewis School. (Because it is not named after anyone, I am omitting the development of the high school which was originally built in 1958/1959 and later had several additions.)

Note that the schools are still quite aligned with the original districts from 1770. Alcott serves the North and Northeast districts, Tyrrell is in the South district, Frisbie is in the Southwest district, and Wakelee in the West district. The old East district is now the location of the Southington reservoirs and thus does not need a school. While there is no elementary school in the old Center district, that is now the home of Wolcott High School.

School Names

I noted in another earlier blog ( how I am related to all the individuals for whom these schools are named. But the question here is why these individuals. Let’s look at each of them (in chronological order):

Addin Lewis – Addin (1780-1842) was born in the part of Southington [South Farmington] that is now part of Wolcott (Southington was created as a separate town in 1779, but Wolcott not until 1796). He was educated at Yale College, taught at the University of Georgia and served as the mayor of Mobile, AL. In his later life he returned to Connecticut and he died in Wolcott in 1842. In his will he left $8500 to the Town of Wolcott to be used for school purposes. (The income from this, about $500/year, may not seem like much these days, but the total cost of school support from the town at the time was only $1200/year, so it was a very significant gift.) He also left $15,000 to Lewis Academy in Southington. In the latter bequest was the provision, “And all pupils from the town of Wolcott, not exceeding ten at any one time, who may wish to receive instruction in said institution, shall receive the same without any charge for tuition.” Many members of the Lewis family are buried in the Southeast Burying Ground near the Southington Reservoir. With his support of education in Wolcott, it was only fitting that the first school in Wolcott to bear the name of an individual should be named for him.

Amos Bronson Alcott – The Alcox/Alcott family were among the first settlers of Farmingbury in 1731. John Alcox (see had 12 children and 67 grandchildren, most of whom continued to live in the area. He also at one time owned 1200 acres of land in Wolcott, nearly 10% of the land in the town. Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888) is the great-grandson of John Alcox. His early education was at the Center School in Wolcott ( He moved from Wolcott as a young man (going first to the South, then Cheshire, back to Wolcott, Bristol, Boston, then Germantown, PA).  He was thus not only a representative of this founding family, but was one of Wolcott’s most famous sons and a well-known educator. It made perfect sense to name a school after him, even though the majority of his life was not spent in Wolcott.

Judah Frisbie – Judah (1744-1817) was born in Branford. When he was a young boy his parents moved to the Waterbury area and then in 1759 to Farmingbury – in the area known as Woodtick. Judah moved to this area around 1773. He served in the Revolutionary War, then married in 1779 and built a home. It was later replaced with a larger home built by David Frisbie, his great-grandson. He operated a saw mill below the dam on Nichols Road and a turning mill on Lily Brook. Legend says that he was the one who named the Woodtick area when he put his coat on a stump while chopping trees and found it covered with wood ticks at the end of the day. Frisbie School was named in honor of him and his family since they were some of the first settlers in that part of town. (See

Robert Wakelee – Wakelee School was the first to be named not after a figure from Wolcott’s history, but in honor of a living individual. The Wakelee family moved to Farmingbury some time during the late 1730’s, so they were a “founding family” much like the Alcox/Alcott family. Robert was born in Wolcott in 1885, but he was involved in the governance of Wolcott for many years. In those days the town was governed by three selectmen, not the current mayor/council system of government. Bob (that’s how I knew him when I was growing up), was one of the three selectmen from 1943 to 1973, which is when he passed on at the age of 88. He not only managed all the office duties involved in running the town, but the selectmen also were involved in the road maintenance of the town and he could often be found with one of the trucks filling potholes. When Wakelee School was built in 1959 they were honoring a man who had already served the town in that capacity for 16 years, but then he went on to serve for 14 more years. (See

Eva Tyrrell – Tyrrell School (originally an elementary school) was named for Eva Tyrrell (1884-1968). Like Bob Wakelee, she served the town for many years and was known as “Mrs. Wolcott” because of her extensive knowledge of the town. Her roots in the town went back to 1750. She was the town correspondent for the Waterbury paper for over 50 years. She was also the first woman elected to serve on the school board in 1918 (quite an accomplishment since women had not yet earned the right to vote). Honoring both her town roots and her service to the town made this a logical choice for the name of the school. (See

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Wolcott History – South East Burying Ground

This is the third in a series about the cemeteries of Wolcott.  This is a relatively small cemetery off County Road near the Southington Reservoir. There are fewer than 60 graves here, many of them now unreadable. There are six graves erroneously listed here in (2 Alcox, 3 Blakeslee, 1 Brackitt). These are duplicate entries of the six graves still located in the Pike’s Hill Cemetery.

There are two other cemeteries in Wolcott, the Woodtick Cemetery off of Woodtick Road and the Edgewood Cemetery near the center. However, since these cemeteries have some 900+ and 1500+ gravesites respectively, they would require too much time to investigate all the persons buried there.


Luther (1718-1788)


Stephen (1728-1784)
m Sarah [Barnes] (1701-1798)
    Sarah (1754-1784)
    Philemon (1757-1795)
    m Annah [Scott] (-1798)


Charles P


Moses (1763-1830)
m Ruth [Cowles] (1774-1825)
    Jarod (1793-1801)
    Leva (1799-1801)


Maj Preserve (1773-1825)


David (1767-1850)
Mary Ann [Hitchcock] (1770-1832)
    Martha (1802-1803)

Jane L (1820-1826) d of Rachel B Hall


Samuel (1735-1822)


Frank W (1898-1939)


Capt Nathaniel (1747-1839)
m Sarah [Gridley] (1741-1809)
    Reuben (1769-1836)
    m Mary [Hall] (1775-1843)
        Nathaniel C (1797-1849)
        m Lucy N (1795-1855)
        Addin (1805-1826)
        Anna L (1827-1828)
    Appleton (1774-1820)
    m Lois [Hall] (1777-1860)
        Rufus (1799-1828)
        Lois M (1815-1831)
        Jared A (1818-1825)
    Nathaniel G (1786-1855)
    m Achsah (1750-1817)


Racheal B [Hall] (1796-1839) [1st cousin, 7 times removed]


m Mary [Burritt] (1764-1824)
    William D (1805-1825)
    Abel (1808-1810)


Charles (1896-1937)


Abraham (1778-1867) [3rd cousin, 6 times removed]
m Mary [Barnes] (1773-1840)


Capt Joseph (1732-1823)


Roxana [Lewis] (1780-1820) d of Capt Nathaniel Lewis [wife of 3rd cousin, 5 times removed]

Capt Samuel (1737-1816) [1st cousin, 7 times removed]
m Ruth [Cowles] (1737-1807)
    Archibald (1761-1782)
    Jerusha (1775-1775)
    Manly (1777-1836)
    m Laura [Harrison] (1779-1853)

Selah (1776-1854) [2nd cousin, 6 times removed]
m Martha [Hitchcock] (1789-1863)
    Emily (1814-1815)
    Emily M (1817-1865)