Granby
From the Memorial History of Hartford County, CT
Edited by: J Hammond Trumbull LL.D.
Published by Edward L. Osgood, 1886

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BY William Scoville Case


-----ALTHOUGH Granby has existed as an independent township only since 1786, the history proper of the tract enclosed in its present limits antedates that period by considerably more than a century. A hasty résumé of the history prior to the final separation from Simsbury is necessary for a complete and satisfactory understanding of the later chronicles. The town, as incorporated in October, 1786, comprised an area of about fifty-nine miles, with an average length of nine and one half miles, and a breadth of about six miles. Still later, in 1858, this territory was in turn divided, Ä about one third of the eastern part of the town going to form the present township of East Granby, which includes the famous Newgate Prison. The location of Granby cannot perhaps be better described than by saying that it lies adjacent to and directly south of the irregular notch in the Massachusetts and Connecticut boundary line. It consists of a hilly and irregular district, like most of the towns which make up the northern and northwestern portions of the State. Its lowlands are traversed by the waters of two large brooks, with their several tributaries, which, coming from nearly opposite directions, meet near the southeastern boundary of the town, and together flow on to the crooked Farrnington River about three miles distant. The soil is generally sandy, although the well-watered lowlands are as fertile as those of the adjacent towns. Farming is the prevailing occupation of the people, the distance from good water-power, as well as from railroad conveniences, rendering the place undesirable for manufacturing purposes. Copper in quantities too small to warrant the expense of mining is an indigenous product, and traces of iron have likewise been found in sufficient quantities to arouse the enthusiasm of enterprising people; but Granby mining ventures, of whatever description, have so far proved most dismal failures to all who have embarked in them. Although nothing definite is known concerning the earliest period of the town's history, yet there is good reason for supposing that the first house in the town stood at the Falls, - now in East Granby, and a little less than a mile north of the village of Tariffville. This was occupied by John Griffin as early as 1664, and he may with reasonable certainty be called the first settler. He held the first Indian deed, given by Manahanoose on account of the Indians having set fire to some of his tar, which he manufactured in considerable quantities. (See History of Simsbury) The next settlers in the town located at Salmon Brook, Granby proper, and the first house there stood near the present residence of Mr. Dennison Case. Daniel Hays, of Indian fame, lived, about 1720, in a house which stood "below the hill," and near the present home of Mr. Joseph Sanford. it is also generally supposed that a block-house was erected still farther south, immediately in the rear of the house lately occupied by Mr. Charles Pettibone, where the settlers flocked in times of danger, and when in fear of any outbreak from the savage proprietors of the country.

-----Little by little the wildness of the country took on a more civilized air. First of all it was necessary that there should be roads. Means of communication must be had with neighbors, and with the adjoining towns. As in all early settlements in new countries, these roads were at first simply footpaths. One of the first public highways was a road from Barn-door Hills, in the western part of the town, to Wilcox's mill, which was located near the present site of the New Haven and Northampton Railroad depot. Another road ran from near the residence of Mr. Dennison Case to the same mill, and still another lay between Barn-door Hills and the house now occupied by Mr. Orlando Smith. These highways were of the most primitive sort, and were constructed only as the strict necessities of the occasion required. Fear of the Indians, which is the one omnipresent and unquestioned factor in all our colonial history, seems to have been present at this period among the settlers, and, unfortunately, with excellent reason. Frequent attacks and murderous outbreaks kept these unfortunate pioneers in a perpetual state of alarm; and their energies at this time seem rather to have been devoted to measures of personal safety than to matters of public interest and improvement.

-----In the early days of the settlement the Indians were never slow to take advantage of its weak state, and many acts of depredation and malicious deviltry took place. The most noteworthy of these was probably the capture of Daniel Hays, an early settler, alluded to before. Hays, as has been stated, lived at Salmon Brook. At that time a young man of twenty-two or twenty-three years, he was captured on his way to the pasture in search of his horse. The three Indians who had thus lain in wait for him immediately bound their captive and started for the north. A general alarm was soon spread among the settlers, and a party made up of men from his own town and the neighboring town of Windsor was soon scouring the woods in search of the savages. All their efforts were vain, however, and in the mean time the captive was hurried on to Canada, treated with all manner of insults and indignities. After a journey of nearly thirty days he was brought to a great Indian encampment on the Canada border. Here he was compelled to "run the gauntlet," which terrible ordeal he was fortunate enough to pass through alive, and. was at length by unusual good fortune adopted into an Indian family. After a lapse of several years he was sold to a Frenchman at Montreal, who took pity on him and allowed him the privilage of purchasing his own freedom after a service of some years. He returned to his family after an absence of about seven years, and lived from that time in an uninterrupted course of peace and happiness. He died in 1756, and was buried in the cemetery at Salmon Brook, where his grave may yet be seen, marked by one of the curious little red freestone slabs of that period.

-----The work of settlement and population was very slow and discouraging. Records show that as late as 1709 there were only eleven families settled within the present boundaries of the town. It has been affirmed that frequent Indian outbreaks kept the place entirely deserted for considerable periods of time. As the town grew in numbers and strength, however, apprehension of dangers from these sources gradually disappeared, and the population seems to have increased with considerable rapidity, as in 1736 two ecclesiastical societies were established, called respectively the Northeast and Northwest societies. It must be remembered that all public measures prior to 1786 were carried out only with the approval of the town of Simsbury, of which the settlements at the Falls and at Salmon Brook and Turkey Hills were a part. The "meetings" of the Noitlnvcst or Salmon Brook Society were held for a time in the house of Daniel Hays, which was also used as a tavern;. but in 1739 a meeting of this society was convened to adopt measures for building a meeting-house. Local feeling was strong, and the General Assembly was at length referred to, in order to settle disputes and decide upon a location for the new building. This august body appointed a committee, in accordance with whose report the site finally adopted was upon Seminary Hill, at Salmon Brook. This result of outside arbitration seems to have by no means put an end to internal disseiisions, however; for in 1775 the building was taken down and rebuilt on a spot designated by another committee of arbitration, some two miles north of its first location. This in turn was taken down, and another building erected in 1834, which is still standing, and is occupied by the First Society.

-----In these earliest years of the Northwest Society the congregation did not feel able to support a minister, aiid the "meetings" were conducted by the "brethren" alternately, with an occasional sermon from some ordained minister whenever it was practicable to secure such a rara avis for one or more Sundays. This state of affairs lasted for fifteen or sixteen years, until the little parish had so grown in numerical and financial strength that the church-goers felt warranted in keeping a shepherd of their own.

-----The first settled minister of the original Northwest Society was the Rev. Joseph Strong, ordained 1752 and dismissed 1779. Mr. Strong probably organized the church. He "used Watts' Psalms, and catechized the children," receiving as compensation for his ministerial labors a salary of £50, his fire-wood, and the use of the parsonage, which stood on the site of the old Jewett place, now owned by the Hon. T. M. Maltbie. The magnificent elms which are now standing at this place were probably set out by Mr. Strong. Before his dismissal some trouble arose in regard to his salary, owing to the depreciation of currency during the war. He removed to Williamsburg, Mass., and remained there engaged in his labors until his death.

-----The Rev. Israel Holly succeeded him in the parish, in October, 1784, remaining until 1793, when he in turn gave way to the Rev. Isaac Porter, who was ordained in June, 1794, and remained in the pastorate for more than thirty-eight years. Mr. Porter experienced many difficulties during his long ministry. It would seem, from appearances, that he was a strict disciplinarian, and ruled his congregation with a rod of iron. Members were disciplined for absenting themselves from church services, and much dissatisfaction followed. At last Simeon Holcomb brought specific charges against the church, criticising the manner in which the sacrament was administered, complaining that the pastor had not been ordained and was not supported "in the Gospel way," and avowing that the church was impure and corrupt in many of its members. After Mr. Porter's dismissal he lost his property, and became dependent for his support upon the generosity of individuals; the church, be it said to her shame, withholding her aid, in spite of his long and faithful pastorate. His successor, the Rev. Charles Bentley, was pastor from 1883 to 1889. Mr. Bentley consented to settle in Granby only on condition that a new church be erected; and the present edifice was completed early in his pastorate.

-----The next pastor was the Rev. Chauncey D. Rice, who served in that capacity from 1839 to 1841. A new parsonage was built for Mr. Rice, adjoining the present church building. The Rev. Israel P. Warren was his successor. He was ordained in 1842. Mr. Warren was considered rather "liberal" in his theology, and, after the manner of his kind, his pastorate was marked by contests between himself and the more conservative element. He afterward removed to Boston, and rose to considerable eminence in his profession. After his dismissal the pulpit was filled for some time by "supplies," and not until 1855 was thc next regular minister ordained. This was the Rev. William Gilbert, who remained in charge until 1863. The Rev. Thomas D. Murphy (Yale, 1863) was ordained in 1866, the Rev. Dr. Leonard Bacon, of New Haven, preaching the ordination sermon. Mr. Murphy was pastor of the church until 1871. Shortly after the organization of the South Church at Salmon Brook in 1872 Mr. Murphy became its pastor, and remained as such until 1880. The Rev. William Hammond succeeded him in the pastorate of the First Church, and remained two years. Mr. Hammond was followed by the Rev. James B. Cleaveland, the present pastor. At the South Church the pulpit was filled, after Mr. Murphy's dismissal, by the Rev. George W. Griffith, at that time a student in the Yale Theological Seminary. Upon his graduation (1881) Mr. Griffith became the pastor of the church, remaining in that position one year. He was succeeded by the Rev. W. P. McFarland, who left at the expiration of a year's service to accept a position upon the staff of "The Gospel in All Lands," a religious paper published at Baltimore. From the time of Mr. McFarland's dismissal the church has had no settled pastor.

-----The Northeast, or, as it came to be called, the Turkey Hills Society is described in the history of East Granby.

-----An Episcopal church was begun in 1792, although not finished until 1800, and stood many years on the site of the present building of the Library Association. From the small number of Episcopalians, the parish was always weak in its finances, and never able to support a minister of its own. The pulpit was usually supplied by combining with the people of St. Andrew's Parish in Bloomfield, all together hiring a rector who should do the duties incumbent upon him for both parishes. The. church was closed about forty years ago, but to this day traces of its influence are occasionally observed. A movement has been started quite recently to reorganize the Episcopalians of the town, with a view to testing the advisability of again holding services in the place.

-----The Methodists erected their present church building in West Granby in 1845, and the society is now in a comfortably flourishing condition. There is also a society of Universalists possessing a substantial little church located in North Granby, some few hundred rods above the old North Church of the Congregationalists. They are prosperous and independent enough to employ their own minister, and their numerical strength, although confined almost exclusively to the northern section of the town, is considerable.

-----The organization of the South Church, alluded to before, took place in 1872, when a division occurred, and the people of Salmon Brook and immediate vicinity, who formed a considerable portion of the congreation, dissatisfied at having to ride two miles over a poor road to get the benefits of public worship, seceded from the mother church and organized themselves into the South Congregational Society. They have never built a church, but have held services in the building of the Granby Library Association, a commodious two-storied structure, which was erected about the time of the formation of the new society, and admirably answers the purposes of a church.

-----We have spoken of the early ecclesiastical history of the town, and it is proper in this connection to add a few words regarding the early educational history. But little is known definitely concerning the first schools, and we must pass rapidly from the time when the early settlers built their first school-house near Salmon Brook, to the period, a century or more later, when something more systematic was undertaken. In 1874 the entire public-school system of the town was improved and remodelled. The number of scholars in each district was as follows: In district No. 1, 111; No. 2, 34; No. 3, 18; No. 4, 64; No. 5, 17; No. 6, 45; No. 8, 16; No. 9, 80; No. 10, 27; No. 11, 10. Total, 372. It was at this time that the modern high-school methods were adopted by the board for the examination of teachers. The standard then set has been rigidly adhered to, and has resulted most satisfactorily. A better qualified and more competent body of teachers has been the result sought for and attained. For the year 1884 the cost of maintaining the schools of the town amounted to $2,554.94, of which $625.50 came from the school fund and $296.12 from the town deposit fund, leaving $1,452.89 to be assessed by taxation. At present the town ranks fifty-second among the towns of the State, in school attendance according to enumeration, which for the eleven districts is now 264, a decrease of 108 in eleven years.

-----Private schools of more or less importance have at various poriods had a brief existence within the town. A school of considerable note once stood near the present site of the soldiers' monument, at Salmon Brook Street. This was discontinued more than half a century ago. The library building at Salmon Brook was occupied for a number of years by the Rev. Mr. Murphy, who, with an assistant, taught the various branches of the classics, for collegiate preparation, and kept a school of the first order. At Mr. Murphy's departure this school was closed.

-----We have alluded before to a "block-house" which stood, at the earliest period of the history of the settlement, in Salmon Brook Street. An elaborate map of Simsbury, made about 1730, located another and more important fortification about a mile north of the "street," and near the Southwick road. This was known as Shaw's Fort. It is supposed to have been erected in 1708, and was probably of the most primitive style of architecture, Ä a rough block-house, protected by the conventional ditches and palisades. In these early days of the settlement no military organization was attempted; and it is probable that this fort was used only on occasions of unusual Indian outbreaks, when the settlers flocked to it en masse. At this time there were but fiftyeight houses in the entire tract which afterward became Granby, and they were scattered over several miles of territory. Nevertheless, we must date the military history of the town from this period; and it is not surprising, when we consider the rough training which these people had in their early struggles with savage foes, to find them in after years playing so important a part in the most serious wars which afflicted the country. In the French war of 1756 Simsbury furnished a company in which several Granby men served, and in 1762 a company of forty-seven men, under the command of Captain Noah Humphrey, formed part of the disastrous expedition to Havana under General Lyman. Fourteen members of this company came from the Granby part of Simsbury. Only two of them returned from Havana. Their names were Andrew Hfflyer and Dudley Hays. The sufferings of the men who took part in this foolhardy expedition were extreme. Sickness and shipwreck, Ä every form of disaster, in fact, seemed to be present.

-----In the War of the Revolution the record of the town was one in which we may well take pride. Volunteers to the cause of freedom came forward from every section, and in the attack on Fort Ticonderoga, in 1775, Granby men were present as members of Captain Phelps's company. It was during this war that the usefulness of Newgate was made apparent, and the place was fitted up and transformed into a prison for Tories and English prisoners. It proved its admirable fitness for the purpose, as a letter from General Washington still bears evidence,' and did much good service in the cause of the patriots. After Burgoyne's surrender, detachments of his captured army, were sent through to Hartford, and a peaceful little meadow, only a few hundred yards from the spot where the original block-house stood, is still pointed out as the camping-ground of a company of Hessians who passed through the place as prisoners of war. Men from this town participated in nearly every battle of importance during the entire Revolutionary War; and the writer treasures a curious old razor, with its wooden case, which passed through the untold hardships of Valley Forge as the property of Sergeant Seth Hares.

-----The part which Granby played in the second war with Great Britain and the Mexican War is lost to us, although there were doubtless natives of the town who enlisted in each of these struggles. No companies were formed from this place exclusively. After the latter war, and during the period of "militia" excitement, there was much interest manifested in military matters, and many of the older citizens remember, with a thrill of the same old patriotic ardor that fired them then, the "general training day." This was an occasion of extraordinary interest to the dwellers in the rural districts, who flocked in great numbers to the village which had been previously selected as the gatheringground of the volunteer companies for miles around. Granby was often selected for this honor, and the broad "street" seems to have been especially adapted for the warlike manoeuvres which characterized such gala-days. In the War of the Rebellion the town furnished her full quota of men.

-----Everett Griswold joined the service April 19, 1861, and was probably the first Granby man to enlist, although his example was quickly followed by seventeen more enlistments in May. Twenty more men were enrolled in the service before the end of the year. The number of enlistments during the following year was thirty-eight, and in 1863 and 1864, nineteen. Of these men, the greater part enlisted as privates, and never rose above the positions of minor officers, though there was at least one brilliant exception in the person of Colonel Richard E. Holcomb, who rose rapidly by promotion and was finally put in command of the 1st Louisiana, the first white Union regiment from that State. He was killed at the battle of Port Hudson, June 14th, 1863, while at the head of his men and urging them on. Colonel Holcomb was a man of great bravery and determination, and his brilliant record as a soldier gave promise of a bright future.

-----Since the exciting events of the Civil War little has occurred to disturb the tranquil sleepiness of the staid old town. With the memory of their dead heroes fresh in their minds, the people of the town immediately after the war voted to erect a soldiers' monument. Voluntary contributions were forthcoming, and in a short period the amount requisite for a handsome memorial was pledged. Then came the inevitable wrangle over the location of the proposed monument. Every section of the town came forward with its own particular claims to recognition. There were apparently insurmountable objections to its erection in one place, and unanswerable reasons for its being located in another place, and vice versa. The upshot of the whole affair was the dedication, July 4, 1868, of the handsome brown stone monument which stands at the northern end of Salmon Brook Street.

-----In 1786 the town was incorporated, with Jttdah Holcomb, Jr., as the first town `clerk. Colonel Ozias Pettibone and Colonel Pliny Hollyer were the first representatives to the State legislature. Until 1794 the town was allowed but one representative in the legislature. In that year, and thereafter, two were sent, and the two gentlemen who first went together were the men who had up to that time alternated in representing the town, - Messrs. Pettibone and Hillyer.

-----In 1858 the town was subdivided, East Granhy forming itself into an independent town, as Granby had done before. During the campaign of 1840 political excitement in Granby ran very high, and a spot near Stony Hill is still recollected by many people as the site of the log cabin of the Harrison and Tyler men.


-----The Granby Water Company was incorporated in 1868, with Dr. Jairus Case as president. Water is brought from Bissell's Brook, and is supplied at present to almost every house-owner in the vicinity. A visionary scheme to construct a railroad from Granby to Tariffville, distant some four miles, also upset the minds of the villagers a few years ago. After going to the trouble of securing a charter from the legislature, the upholders of the scheme decided it to be impracticable, and it was abandoned.

-----In December, 1876, the place was visited by a disastrous fire which destroyed the principal hotel, the store of Loomis Brothers, together with the post-office, and the adjoining buildings. A. high wind was blowing at the time, and a general conflagration was apprehended. This, however, was happily averted. The burned buildings have not been rebuilt.

-----In 1882 disputes arose between Granby and Suffield regarding the town boundaries upon Manatic Mountain. The trouble was referred to a committee of three persons appointed by the Superior Court, who decided the matter in favor of this town, after a Personal examination of the disputed territory and a full review of the evidence.

-----In manufacturing, the town has never held a prominent place. West Granby has acquired some note as a centre for cider-brandy distilleries, and there was, at one time, a brass foundry, on the present site of Forsyth's grist-mill.

-----Pegville, one of the small villages of the town, derived its name from quite an extensive shoe industry once located there; and a building was erected at Salmon Brook a few years ago for the purpose of manufacturing toy pistols and other "notions" of like character. The place was subsequently occupied by another company for the manufacture of knife-handles; but it has been unoccupied for a considerable period. In politics, Granby has been variable. At present the town is very strongly Republican, giving a Republican majority of between forty and fifty on a total vote of about three hundred. The town is in the Third Senatorial District, and has been represented in the State Senate by Edmund Holcomb, Republican, in 1866, Dr. Jairus Case, Democrat, in 1868, and Theodore M. Maltbie, Republican, in 1884. William C. Case, Republican member from the town, was Speaker of time Connecticut House in 1881.

-----The population of the town is decreasing. Every census shows a loss of some scores, and the "Ricardian acre" is only too common a sight on the hillsides and among the mountains in the northern and least settled portions of the town. The census of 1870 gave Granby a population of 1,517, and that of 1880 reduced the number to 1,340.

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