History of Norfolk, Litchfield County, Connecticut


Some years ago, in searching out family genealogy, the want of a history of my native town became to me apparent. As bits of Norfolk history were from time to time discovered, in books and elsewhere, such items were preserved, and the accumulation began. A desire to learn many things from those whose memories and traditions go back to the early part of this century took hold upon me, and knowing full well that upon those around whom the shades of evening have gathered, soon the sun will set, and their remembrances be forever beyond our reach, an effort to obtain these things through correspondence was made, with results not altogether satisfactory.

In June, 1899, I came 'home' and soon took up in earnest the work of preparing a history of Norfolk. The encouragement and kindly assistance of a large number of the present residents of the town, and former residents as well, has made the difficult, perplexing task a pleasure. Mention by name cannot well be made of the large number who have put me under lasting obligation for their kind assistance. Some of them have done for others and for me what they could do, and have 'entered into their rest.' Mention should be made of the kindness and assistance, great and manifold, rendered by the family of Dr. Joseph Eldridge, which has made possible the publication of this volume. Access has been given to the many rare, valuable manuscripts which were prepared and left by Dr. Eldridge, which have been indispensable in compiling this history. So, in a measure, my purpose has been accomplished, of preserving in permanent form some record of the lives and work of the past generations, upon whom the curtain has fallen and shut them from our sight.

It has been a pleasure to recall and mention, if nothing more, the names of some of those who have walked these streets in former times; have dwelt in these homes; have heard the same Sabbath bell, and gathered for worship in these temples; have sat in the same seats in church which we now occupy; their eyes have looked upon these same beautiful landscapes of valley and mountain; their feet have climbed these everlasting hills where they, too, have looked out and up, and adored the great Creator and Euler of all. And they are gone.

Such as it is, suggestive, — not exhaustive, — with some errors which should not have been, — it is sent forth on its mission, in the hope that it may be of interest and help to all of its readers some of the time.


Table of Contents

I. By Rev. Joseph Eldridge, D.D. 2
A Glance at the History of Connecticut Prior to the Settlement of Norfolk.

II. By De. Eldridge 11
Sale and Settlement of the Town — Building the Meeting-House.

III. By Dr. Eldridge 20
Events of Interest in the Town up to the Time of the Revolutionary War.

IV. 33
Connecticut's Early Town System — Settlement of Towns in Litchfield County — Grant of the "Western Lands" to Hartford and Windsor — Controversy Between the Colony and Those Towns — Organization of Litchfield County — Sale, Settlement and Incorporation of the Town.

V. 49
How the Original Title to Land was Obtained — Proprietors' Meetings — Dividing and Drawing Land — Eighty Acres of Land Voted for an Iron Works.

VI. 61
First Town Meeting — Locating, Building, Dignifying and Seating the Meeting-House — Raising Money and Material.

VII. 72
Early Customs and Habits — Organization of the First Church — Settlement of Rev. Ammi R. Robbins.

VIII. 78
The Revolutionary War — Names and Service of Norfolk Men in the Army — Chaplain Robbins' Journal.

IX. 122
Rev. Mr. Robbins' Half-Century Sermon.

X. 141
Centennial Anniversary in 1844 — Address by Rev. Thomas Bobbins, D.D.

XI. 155
Formation of Norfolk Ecclesiastical Society in 1813 — Establishment of the Ecclesiastical Society Fund in 1817 — Purchase of the First Organ in 1822.

XII. 177
Sketch of Rev. Ralph Emerson, D.D., Ordained and Installed as Pastor, June, 1816 — Dismissed, October, 1829. (See Appendix.)

XIII. 177
Sketch of Mrs. Z.P. Grant-Banister — Her Early Life in Norfolk — Record as a Teacher. "She Originated Holyoke Seminary."

XIV. 190
Building the Present Meeting-House — Ascertaining the Centre of the Town by Survey — Names of Contributors.

XV. 196
"The Two Villages," by Mrs. Rose Terry-Cook — The Cemeteries of the Town — Remarkable Longevity.

XVI. 202
Litchfield County Centennial in 1851 — Oration by Judge Samuel Church — Address by Dr. Horace Bushnell.

XVII. 211
Severe Winters and Great Snows — The Blizzard of 1888 — The Ice-Storm of 1898.

XVIII. 219
Killing a Panther — Treed by a Bear — A Wolf-Hunt — Fires near and in the Meeting-House.

XIX. 223
Manufactures and Manufacturers — A Large Number of Enterprises.

XX. 262
Norfolk Merchants — Schools — The Park.

XXI. 294
Period Prior to the Civil War — Anti-Slavery Society — Norfolk Men in the War of the Rebellion — Sketch of Adjutant Samuel C. Barnum — Sketch of Colonel George Ryan.

XXII. 329
Highways — A Railroad Through Norfolk — Struggle as to its Location — Dr. Eldridge Before the Commissioners.

XXIII. 354
The Whipping-post — First Post-office — Temperance Organizations — Culture of Silk — Indian Story — Norfolk Banks — Prices Current, 1778 — Colored People — Elevations — Singing Schools — Anecdotes — Old Pastorates — Census Reports — Norfolk Brick — The French War — War of 1812 — Strong Fund — Probate District — Whitefield in Norfolk — Reminiscences of Dr. Eldridge, by Ex-Governor Cooke — Masonic Centennial — Sketch of Norfolk, by S.H.D.

XXIV. 392
Sketch of Rev. Ammi R. Robbins, by His Son — Madame Elizabeth Robbins — Rev. Thomas Robbins, D.D. — Reminiscences by Mrs. Mary Robbins-Kasson.

XXV. 404
The Rev. Joseph Eldridge, D.D. — Sketches, by President Porter, of Yale College ; by Rev. Joseph F. Gaylord ; by Dr. W. L. Gale — Farewell Services — Obituary Notices — Sketch of Mrs. Sarah Battell Eldridge — Miss Cynthia L. Fosket — Presentation of Communion Service.

XXVI. 445
Sketch of Joseph Battell, Esq. — Mrs. Sarah Robbins - Battell — Joseph Battell, Jun. — Mrs. Irene Battell Larned — Robbins Battell — Mrs. Urania Battell-Humphrey — Miss Anna Battell — Philip Battell — Mrs. Ellen Battell - Eldridge.

XXVII. 466
Hopestill Welch and Family — Benjamin Welch, Sen., M.D., and Family — Asa G. Welch, M.D. — Benjamin Welch, Jun., M.D. — James Welch, M.D. — William W. Welch, M.D. — John H. Welch, M.D. —Samuel Cowles — Henry Cowles, D.D. — Louisa Welch Pettibone — Professor William H. Welch, M.D. LLC — Ephraim Guiteau, M.D. — Frederick M. Shepard — Mrs. Laura Hawley - Thurston — Rev. Reuben Gaylord.

Physiography and Geology of the Town; by Professor William H. Hobbs — The Flora of Norfolk; by Professor J. H. Barbour and others.

XXIX. 503
Brief Sketches of Early Settlers of the Town and Their Descendants — Mention of a Large Number of Families and Individuals, as learned in a great number of ways. (See Index of names.)

XXX. 579
First and Other Church Organs — Memorial Windows and Tablets — The Methodist Episcopal Church— The Catholic ' Church of the Immaculate Conception ' — The Episcopal ' Church of the Transfiguration ' — The Baptist Church.

XXXI. 591
Concluding Chapter — Modem Norfolk — The Robbins School — The Norfolk Library — The Eldridge Gymnasium — Battell Memorial Fountain — The Village Hall — Norfolk Downs — Norfolk Water Company — Newspapers — Photography — Summer Residents.

Norfolk's Necrology 603

Appendix 621


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"A History of Norfolk, from 1738 to 1844, by Auren Roys," containing eighty-nine pages, was published in 1847. Dr. Eldridge had been pastor of the church here since April, 1832. In 1856 he announced his purpose of writing a fuller history of the town, and of delivering chapters of it to his people as a discourse upon Thanksgiving days, from year to year. The following introductory chapter was given as a discourse by Dr. Eldridge, Thanksgiving Day, November, 1856, and by the great kindness and courtesy of his family, is given here, from the original manuscript.