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



THIS township was incorporated in May, 1843, at which time its boundary-lines were defined substantially as follows: Begining at the Connecticut River; thence extending due west to a button-ball tree in the fence on the east side of the highway about two rods north of Goffe's Bridge; thence to the Four Corners, so called (where the road from Griswoldville to Rocky Hill crosses the old road from Berlin to Hartford), intersecting the northeast angle; thence along the east side of said old road to the hang-dog road, so called, on which [Amos] Benson resides; thence, westerly, parallel with two-rod highway, to twenty-rod highway, to a point three degrees north of east of the monument, in the northeast corner of Berlin; thence, westerly, to said monument; all the Wethersfield territory south and east of this line. As thus laid out, the new township was bounded north by Wethersfield (now partly by Newington), east by the river, south by Middletown (now Cromwell), west by Berlin and Wethersfield (now partly by Newington). Its greatest length, cast and west, is about four and a half miles, and its greatest breadth, north and south, about three and a quarter miles. It embraced the old parish of Stepucy, and its subsequent enlargements.

The first representative sent by this town to the legislature, in 1844, was Roderick Grimes. In 1852 it contributed one of the senators to that body, Ä General James T. Pratt. The same gentleman was a representative to Congress, 1853 - 1855.

The topographical and physical features of this section have been mentioned under the title of "Wethersfield." To these we may add, that good specimens of slate are found here, associated with anthracite in small quantities. A fine red earth, known and sold to burnishers as "polishing-grit," is found here in large deposits. Fossil fishes are imbedded in the strata of slate rock. The latter is described in Dr. Percival's Report, in 1842, as "a large bed of bituminous shale, containing fish impressions, and recently excavated for coal."

Down to the date of the existence of Rocky Hill as a separate township it has been treated as a part of Wethersfield, excepting as to its ecclesiastical history. It remains, however, to narrate briefly the story of the rise and progress of the parish, out of which grew time township. In December, 1720, certain people at Rocky Hill, namely, Thomas Williams, Sr., Joseph Butler, Jonathan Smith, John Goodrich, Samuel Belden, John, Stephen, and Joseph Riley, William Nott, Stephen Williams, Joseph Cole, John Taylor, Richard Butler,
Elihu Dickinson, Jonathan Curtis, Samuel Collins, Thomas Goodrich, Jonathan and. Jacob Riley, Joscph Crowfoot, Gideon Goodrich, Samuel Smith, and Abraham Morris, set in motion a project for separate worship there. In the following year they petitioned the town for its sanction of the movement. In March, 1722, the town voted favorably. At its May session, 1722, the General Assembly incorporated the parish, and fixed its bounds substantially as follows:
Connecticut River and Beaver Brook on the east; a line due east and west from Samuel Dix's (now Russell Adams's) corner to the rear of Peter Blinn's home-lot, north; the rear of the lots on the west side of the main road to Middletown, west, in part; and partly by the west ends of the three southernmost east-and-west tiers of lots; south by Middletown. Upon the application of Joseph Grimes, Jonathan Curtis, and Benjamin Wright, a committee to select a site for a meetinghouse was chosen at the same session. In May, 1723, the new parish was christened Lexington, in honor, as the writer believes, of Joseph Grimes, who was probably a native of Lexington, Mass. However, this name was, at the very same session, dropped (Grimes himself being one of those who requested the change), and that of Stepney substituted therefor. The reason assigned was, that another Lexington existed in Massachusetts.

Why Stepney, the name of a borough now in the Tower Hamlets in the cast suburb of London, was the name finally chosen, the writer has never heard suggested. It was anciently written Stibenhede, or Steben-hythe, and meant, as is conjectured, a stowage-haven.

Stepney parish was enlarged in 1759 by the extension of its east line to the river and its north line to time New Haven road. On the west it was made to include a part of Kensington parish. In 1794 Stepuey contributed some of its territory to Worthington parish, which had been created in 1772. Minor changes were effected in 1823, 1829, and 1847, which we cannot detail here. In 1826 the legislature substituted the name Rocky Hill for Stepney.

In 1720 Thomas Williams, Sr., Jonathan Curtis, and others, "inhabitants of Rocky Hill," desiring ecclesiastical autonomy, asked the town for sixty acres of land for "church use." The town gave the land; it being northerly from the "stone-pit" and south of Cold Spring. Eight acres, for a parsonage, was granted a.t the same time. These tracts were on the south side of the road leading from Griswoidville to Rocky Hill. The meeting-house was probably built, or begun, the same year. It was completed, excepting its pulpit, prior to 1726. It was a two-story structure, of wood; and it stood in the highway, in front of the present site of Wait Warner's barn. Pews were put in, from time to time, until 1730. In 1782 galleries were built, its ceiling was plastered for the first time in 1769 or 1770. The meetings, for many years, were convoked by beat of drum. In 1808 the old building was sold at auction and demolished.

In July, 1726, occurred the installation of Stepney's first settled minister. He was the Rev. Daniel Russell, a son of the Rev. Noadiah Russell, of Middletown, who was one of the founders of Yale College and one of the authors of the Saybrook Platform. Mr. Russell continued in the pastoral charge until his death, Sept. 6, 1764.

The Rev. Burrage Merriam (a native of Meriden?) was installed in February, 1765. He occupied the house now Mrs. Webster Warner's. His ministry closed with his death, Nov. 80, 1776. He was succeeded, Jan. 30, 1781, by the Rev. John Lewis, of Southington, a tutor at Yale College. His wife was Mary, a daughter of Colonel Leverett Hubbard, of New Haven. He built the house afterward occupied by Dr. Chapin. He died April 28, 1792.

The next minister was the Rev. Calvin Chapin, D.D. He was a native of Springfield, Mass.; was graduated at Yale College in 1788; studied theology with time Rev. Nathan Perkins, D.D., of West Hartford; was licensed to preach in 1791; a tutor at Yale College until 1794, and had the educational charge of Jeremiah Day, afterward its president. Ho was installed at Stepney, April 30, 1794. He weached there until Thanksgiving Day, 1847. His office closed with his death, in March, 1851.

The late Rev. Noah Porter, D.D., of Farmington, said of Dr. Chapin: " He was distinguished for exactness, enterprise, and humor, and a eonstaiit interest in all Christian and benevolent enterprises." From its organization, in 1810, until his death, he was Secretary of the A. B. C. F. M. In 1826, as " Missionary," lie made time tour of time Western Reserve, Ohio; publishing a pamphlet giving the results of his observation. When the Connecticut State Temperance Society was organized, in 1829, he was made chairman of its executive committee. As a humorist he was keen, kind, and incisive.

It was during Dr. Chapin's ministry, in 1808, that the present Congregational meeting-house was built. It was sixty by fifty feet in size, and modelled like that at Middletown. It was dedicated on the 22d of September. Originally its seats were pews; these were removed in 1830 and 1842, and slips substituted. The bell and clock were provided in 1885. In 1843 tIme spire was taken clown, leaving the present tower. Some of the timber of the firs.t meeting-house was incorporated in the present dwelling-house of Mr. Samuel Dirnock.

The Rev. J. Burton Rockwell succeeded to Dr. Chapin in July, 1850, and preached about nine years. He was succeeded by the Rev. George Muir Smith, a native of Scotland, from April, 1859, until June, 1863. TIme Rev. Henry Ford, of Binghamton, was acting pastor for about three years next succeeding, when, Nov. 6, 1867, the Rev. Merrick Knight was installed, and continued in office until March, 1872. The Rev. WIlliam P. Fisher, a native of Canada, was settled as Mr. Knight's successor. He continued until 1878, when he accepted a call to Brunswick, Maine. Since his dismissal the pulpit has been occupied successively by time Rev's Samuel Y. Lum, William Miller, and Charles L. Ayer, the present incumbent. In 1843 the membership of this church was as high as two hundred and twenty-four in number; and in 1870 as low as one hundred and fourteen.

Services by Methodists were first held at the Centre in 1843. The meetings were in the old "store" once Archibald Robbins's (one of the crew of time famous brig "Commerce"), which had been removed to a point a few feet north of the present Methodist church. The Rev. H. T. Gerald was the preacher. In 1859 the "store" meeting-house was sold to James Warner, upon whose homestead it now stands; and a house of worship, the one now in use, was built. The Rev. John Lovejoy began preaching in 1844, amid continued several years. Since his time the pulpit has been supplied mainly by preachers assi ned by the Conference, or hired temporarily, or by students from Wesleyan University.

In 1843 tIme Methodists at West Rocky Hill built a modest little temple for that section; time Rev. B. Redford preached therein in 1844. Since his term the pulpit has been supplied, with some intermissions, in the same way as that at the Centre.

Services according to time form of the Roman Church were first held, about ten years ago, at the hail in time Centre school-house, mass being said by the Rev. John Ryan, of Cromwell parish. In 1879 a church edifice was begun, and in 1881 it was, for the first time, occupied.

Some effort was made, about 1815, to organize a Baptist Society;ù but the project failed. A little later, John Marsh, of' Hartford, used to conduct services for a few Universalists. He ceased after 1822. In 1876 efforts were made to revive this latter organization, but without success.

There are four school-houses in the township. The history of these has been given in our account of such buildings in Wethersfield.

The shipping, commerce, public works, societies, and institutions of Rocky Hill have been alluded to in our sketch of Wethersfield; so have its mills, mantifactories, and industries, so far as they antedate its incorporation as a town. Subsequent to that date the manufacture of "champagne cider" was carried on for some years in the buildings earlier the carriage-works of Neff & Merriam and the foundry of Robert Sugclen & Co. In 1879 Amos Whitney and Charles E. Billings, both of Hartford, purchased the old edge-tool works, at Dividend, from General Leonard R.. Welles, and the works are now owned by said Billings. In these anti a new' building constructed the present year the Billings & Edwards Co. arc manufacturing machinery. Close by the steamboat landing a manufactory was built, in 1881, for Hart & Co., who began to make shelf hardware. The Pierce Hardware Company, with a capital stock of $40,000, is now in the same establishment, making hollow hardware. But the leading occupation of Rocky Hill people is agricultural, and their productions arc much the same as those of the parent township.

In the War of the Rebellion, Rocky Hill, as it appears from the rolls of the Adjutant-General's office, contributed one hundred and ten soldiers to the Union army. Of these, six were blacks. The number reported to have died in the service was twelve.

In conclusion, it may be truly said that a view of this place, looking westward from the river, will satisfy the observer that here is one of the most agreeably picturesque villages in New England, and one that naturally affords opportunity for development to a much larger community. It is also, at times, the head of sloop navigation of the river upon which it is situated.

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