I’ve written a great number of my ancestral blogs about my hometown of Wolcott, CT. My roots there go back to the founding of the town in 1731 and with such a long history, most of the important folks in Wolcott history are connected to me in some fashion. But these connections are nearly all on my mother’s side of the family (Pierpont). The town in Connecticut that is in second place in my ancestral history is the town of New Milford, and this is nearly all on my father’s side of the family.
I’ve touched on several aspects of this connection in past blogs, but I’d like to summarize it here by noting the various families in the town who are connected to me.
History of New Milford (*1)
New Milford is a town in the far western edge of Connecticut. It sits on the Housatonic River, an important waterway in that area and a key method of transportation, and something which has greatly influenced its development.
There were Native Americans living in the New Milford area before and during colonial times. They were primarily a farming and fishing culture. The first European settlers came in 1707 and by 1711 twelve families (numbering about 70 persons) petitioned the General Assembly to create the town. That approval was obtained the following year and they soon acquired Daniel Boardman to preach in 1716.
By 1756 the population had grown to over 1,100 and by the start of the Revolutionary War the population was approaching 3000. (This means that the town had 3000 people before my hometown of Wolcott was even incorporated in 1796.) It remained between 3000 and 4500 until the year 1900, then slowly grew to 6000 by 1950. In the decades since it has grown to nearly 30,000. But all my connections were in those earlier years.
Canfield – One of the first families living in New Milford were the Canfields. When the Mahican Native Americans were having difficulty in 1742, the residents of New Milford appointed Daniel Boardman (the town’s preacher) and Samuel Canfield to work with this tribe. Samuel Canfield is my great*7 grandfather (*2). There are still Canfields living in New Milford.
Hartwell – When I was growing up, my great-uncle Joseph Hartwell lived in Roxbury. But he had met and married my great-aunt in New Milford which is where his family lived from around 1750 until sometime the family moved to Roxbury when Uncle Joe was in his teens (sometime in the 1910s) (*3, *4).
Northrop – The Northrop family have lived in New Milford since before the Revolutionary War when Joel Northrop (1742-1824), my great*5 grandfather moved there and married. Like the Canfields whose family they married into, there are still Northrop families living there (*4).
Levy – My great-grandfather, Maurice Levy, was born in Brooklyn NY, but his family moved to New Milford when he was only 2 years old (*5, *4). While growing up there one of his schoolmates was Caroline Northrop. The two married in 1893 when they were 23 and 21 respectively. They moved back to Brooklyn, but when Maurice died in 1910, Caroline moved back to New Milford with her two daughters. She buried her husband in the protestant cemetery in New Milford, much to the dislike of her Jewish in-laws.
Rogers – My father’s step-father, Charles Rogers, was from Danbury, just a few miles to the south of New Milford. But when Charles married my grandmother in 1930 they moved to New Milford the following year which is where my father grew up until he moved to Waterbury in 11th grade (*4, *6). My father used to tell me a story of when he was growing up and he was working on a farm just south of New Milford and how one Halloween night as a prank he and some friends took apart the farmer’s wagon and reassembled it on the roof of the farmer’s barn. The next day the farmer didn’t say much but simply told my father that his job for that day was to bring the wagon back down. My father said that it wasn’t nearly as much fun as putting it up had been and it was a lot more work to do it on his own. On one of our trips to New Milford when I was young he drove past the farm as he related this story to me.
Russell – My Russell ancestors had lived for several generations in Dutchess County, NY, but in the mid-1870s moved just across the border to Kent, CT, which is where my great-grandfather, Louis Russell was born (*7). When my great-great-grandfather’s first wife passed away in 1883 he remarried and he and his second wife moved to New Milford (*8). My great-grandfather met his first wife there and they moved to the small village of Sherman just outside of New Milford which is where my grandfather was born in 1895 (*9). Shortly thereafter my great-grandfather moved to New Milford where he resided until WWI (*10) when he moved to Waterbury. When his first wife died in 1903, the younger children were “farmed out” to relatives in New Milford. His son William remained in New Milford even when Louis and his second wife moved to Waterbury (*11). The daughters of his second wife also continued to reside in New Milford (*12). There are still Russell family members in New Milford.
Sherman – Roger Sherman (1721-1793) is the only person to have signed all four great state papers of the US – the Continental Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. When Roger’s father passed away the family moved to New Milford, CT. It was there that his younger sister, Rebecca, married Joseph Hartwell, Jr. Rebecca and Joseph are the great*3 grandparents of my great-uncle, Joseph Hartwell, who married my grandmother’s sister (also in New Milford). So that makes Roger the great*4 uncle of my great-uncle (*13). But Roger’s first wife was also a Hartwell, so he is related to me through the Hartwell family in multiple ways. (Roger later moved to New Haven where my Pierpont ancestors lived, so also of interest is that one of Roger’s daughters married Sturges Burr, a 2nd cousin of Aaron Burr who is related to me on my mother’s side.)
Others – The Sherman (above), Boardman, and Bostwick families were all intermarried at various times. These families figured prominently in New Milford history, but trying to unravel the relationships is not something I am prepared to do at this time. The above families are also mentioned prominently in Orcutt’s book in the history of New Milford (*17). There are other family names in my ancestry (such as Welles, Mygatt, Judson, Marsh, and others) who were living in New Milford at the time, but the above are the primary ones. The New Milford Historical Society also has documentation on many of them (*18).
Visits to New Milford
Despite all my family connections there, I never visited New Milford much when growing up. We occasionally visited my Aunt Irene and Uncle Joe Hartwell in Roxbury, but because my father’s growing up years were so dysfunctional, he didn’t want to revisit that area very often (*14). We did visit my Nana Rogers once or twice while she was still living there in the early 1950s. We also once visited my father’s cousin, the William Russell family (*15). When I was in high school and was part of the “Mineralogical Society” (i.e. the Rock Collectors Club), our club advisor took us to New Milford and we climbed the cliffs alongside the Housatonic River where I was able to chisel some tourmaline crystals out of the rocks. And later in the early years of my marriage I took my wife to visit Tory’s Cave which is just above New Milford in Gaylordsville (*16).
*17 – History of the Towns of New Milford and Bridgewater Connecticut, Samuel Orcutt, 1882