From the Connecticut Historical Collection
BY John Warner Barbour
Published 1836


LEDYARD, formerly North Groton, the north part of Groton, was incorporated as a town in 1836. it is about six miles square, bounded N. by Preston, E. by North Stonington and Stonington, S. by Groton and W. by Thames river, separating it from Montville. The central part of the town is 7 1/2 miles from New London, and 7 1/2 from Norwich. It is estimated that the population is about 2,000. The inhabitants are principally farmers. The principal village in the town, is at Gale's ferry, which may consist of about thirty dwelling houses, and is about 7 miles from New London. A remnant of tile Pequot tribe consisting of about twenty persons, still, remain in the north eastern section of the town.

This town derived its name from Col. Ledyard, and his brother John Ledyard, the celebrated traveler, who was a native of Groton, which at that time, included this town within its limits. At the following account of his life, is from Allen's American Biographical Dictionary.

"John Ledyard, a distinguished traveler, was a native of Groton in Connecticut. His father died while he was yet a child, and he was left under the care of a relative in Hartford. Here he enjoyed the advantages of a grammar school. After the death of his patron;' when he was eighteen years of age, he was left to follow his own inclinations. With a view to the study of divinity he now passed a short time in Dartmouth college in New Hampshire, where he had an opportunity of learning the manners of the indians, as there was a number of Indian pupils in the seminary. His acquaintance with the savage character gained in this place, was of no little advantage to him in the future periods of his life. His poverty obliging him to withdraw from the college before he had completed his education, and not having a shilling in his pocket to defray the expense of a journey to Hartford, he built him a canoe, fifty feet in length and three in breadth, and being generously -supplied with some dried venison for his sea stores, he embarked upon the Connecticut, and going down that river, which is in many places rapid, and with which he was totally unacquainted, he arrived safely at Hartford at the distance of one hundred and forty miles. He soon went to New York, and sailed for London in 1771, as a common sailor. When Captain Cook sailed on his third voyage of discovery, Ledyard, who felt an irresistible desire to explore those regions of the globe, which were yet undiscovered or imperfectly known, accepted the humble station of corporal of-marines, rather than forego an opportunity so inviting to his inquisitive and adventurous spirit He was a favorite of the illustrious navigator, and was one of the witnesses of his tragical end in 1778. He surprised his friends in America, who had heard nothing of him for ten years, by a visit in 1781. Having offered his services to several merchants to conduct a trading voyage to the north west coast, and meeting with no encouragement, he again embarked for England in 1782. He now resolved to traverse the continent of America from the north west coast, which Cook had partly explored, to the eastern coast, with which he was already perfectly familiar. Disappointed in his intention of sailing on a voyage of commercial adventure to Nootka sound, he passed the British channel to Ostend with only ten guineas in hk purse; determined to travel over land to Karnschatha, whence the passage is short to the western coast of America. When he came to the gulf of Bothnia, he attempted to cross the ice, that he might reach Kamschaika by the shortest way; but tinding that the water was not frozen in the middle, he returned to Stockholm. He then traveled northward into the arctic circle, and passing round the bead of the gulf, descended on its eastern side to Petersburgh. There his extraordinary appearance attracted general notice. Without stockings or shoes, and too poor to provide himself with either, he was invited to dine with the Portuguese ambassador, who supplied him with twenty guinea on the credit of Sir Joseph Banks. Through his interest, he also obtained permission to accompany a detachment of stores, which was to be sent Yakutz for the use of Mr. Billings, an Englishman, who was intrusted with the schemes of northern discovery, in which the empress was then engaged. From Yakutz, winch is situated in Siberia, six thousand miles east of Petersburgh, he proceeded to Oczakow, or Ochotsk, on the Kamschatkan sea; but as the navigation was completely obstructed by ice, he returned to Yakutz, intending to wait for the conclusion of the winter. Flere in consequence of some unaccountable suspicion, he was seized in tile name of the empress by two Russian soldiers, who conveyed him in the depth of winter, through the north of Tartary to the frontier of the Polish dominions; assuring him at their departure, that if lie returned to Russia, he should certainly be hanged, but if lie chose to return to England, they wished him a pleasant journey. Poor, forlorn, and friendless, covered with rags, and exhausted by fatigue, disease and misery, he proceeded to Konigsberg, where the interest of Sir Joseph Banks enabled him to procure the sum of five guineas, by means of which he arrived in England.

"He immediately waited on Sir Joseph who recommended him to an adventure as perilous as that from which he had just returned. He now was informed of the views of the association, which had been lately formed for promoting the discovery of the interior parts of Africa, which were then little known. Sparrman, Paterson, and Vaillant had traveled into Caifraria, and Norderrand Bruce had enlarged the acquaintance of Europeans with Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia. In regard to other parts of this quarter of the globe, its geography, excepting in relation to its coasts, was involved in darkness. Ledyard engaged with enthusiasm in an enterprise which lie had afready projected for himself; and receiving from Sir Joseph a letter of introduction to one of the members of the committtee appointed to direct the business, and promote the object of the association, he went to him without delay. The description which that gentleman has given of his first interview, strongly marks the character of this hardy traveler. `Before I had learned,' says he, `from the note the name and business of my visitor. 1 was struck with the manliness of his person, the breadth of his chest, the openness of his countenance, and the inquietude of his eye. I spread the map of Africa before him, and tracing a line from Cairo to Sennaar, and from thence westward in the latitude and supposed direction of the Niger,I told him that was the route, by which I was anxious, that Africa might if possible, be explored. He said, he should think himself singularly fortunate to be entrusted with the adventure. I asked him when he would set out? Tomorrow morning was his answer.'

"From such zeal, decision and intrepidity the society naturally formed the most sanguine expectations. He sailed from London, June 30, 1788, and in thirty six days, seven of which were spent in Paris, and two at Marseilles, arrived in tile city of Alexandria; and having there assumed the dress of an Egyptian traveler proceeded to Cairo, which he reached on the nineteenth of August. He traveled with peculiar advantages. Endowed with an original and comprehensive genius, he beheld with interest, and described with energy the scenes and objects around him; and by comparing them with what lie had seen in other regions of the globe, he was enabled to give his narrative all the varIed effect of contrast and resemblance. His remarks on Lower Egypt, had that country been less generally known, might have ranked with the most valuable of geographical records. They greatly heightened the opinion which his employers already entertained, of his singular qualificationa for the task which be had undertaken. Nor was his residence at Cairo altogether useless to the association. By visiting the slave markets. and by conversing with the Jelabs, or traveling merchants of the caravans, he obtained without any expense, a better idea of the people of Africa, of its trade, of the position of places, the nature of the country, and the manner of traveling, than he could by any other means have acquired; and the communications on these subjects, which he transmitted to England, interesting and instructive as they were, afforded the society the most gratifyin.g proofs of the ardent spirit of enquiry, the unwearied attention, the persevering research, and the laborious, indefatigable, anxious zeal, with which their author pursued the object of his mission.

"He had announced to his employers, that he had received letters of earnest recommendation from the Aga; that the day of his departure was appointed; that his next dispatch would be dated from Sennaar; and the committee expected with impatience the result of his journey. But that journey was never to be performed. The vexation occasioned by repeated delays in the departure of the caravan, brought on a bilious complaint, which being increased at first by incautious treatment, baffled the shill of the most approved physicians of Cairo, and terminated his earthly existence, January 17, 1789.

"The society heard with deep concern ofthe death of a man, whose high sense of honor, magnanimous contempt of danger, and earnest zeal for the extension of knowledge, had been so conspicuously displayed in their service; whose ardor, tempered by calm deliberation, whose daring spirit, seconded by the most prudent caution, and whose impatience of control, united with the power of supporting any fatigue, seemed to have qualified him above all other men, for the very arduous task of traversing the wildest and most dangerous part of the continent of Africa. Despising the accidental distinctions of society, he seemed to regard no man as his superior; but his manners though unpolished, were not disagreeable. His uncultivated genius was peculiar and capacious. The hardships to which lie submitted in the prosecution of his enterprises and in the indulgence of his curiosity, are almost incredible. He was sometimes glad to receive food as in charity to a madman, for that character he had been obliged to assume in order to avoid a heavier calamity. His judgment of the female character is very honorable to the sex. 'I have always remarked,' said be, `that women in all countries are civil and obliging, tender and humane; that they are ever inclined to be gay and cheerful, timorous and modest; and that they do not hesitate like men, to perform a generous action. Not haughty, not arrogant, not supercilious, they are full of courtesy, and fond of society; more liable in general to err than man. but in general also more virtuous, and performing more good actions, than he. To a woman, whether civilized or savage,. I never addressed myself in the language of decency and friendship, without receiving a decent and friendly answer. With man it has often been otherwise. In wandering over the barren plains of inhospitable Denmark, through honest Sweden and frozen Lapland, rude and churlish Finland, unprincipled Russia, and the wide spread regions of the wandering Tartar; if hungry, dry, cold, wet, or sick, the women have ever been friendly to me, and uniformly so. And add to this virtue, so worthy the appellation of benevolence, their actions have been performed in so free and kind a manner, that if 1 was dry, I drank the sweetest draught, and if hungry, I eat the coarsest morsel with a double relish.'"

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