From the Connecticut Historical Collection
BY John Warner Barbour
Published 1836


WASHINGTON was incorporated by the General Assembly in 1779. Judea, the first society in this town, was incorporated by the General Assembly in 1741; before this period it was included in the ecclesiastical society of Woodbury. The first settlement in the limits of Judea was made by Joseph Huriburt, about the year 1734. "The first sermon preached in this society was by Mr. Isaac Baldwin, of Litchfield, who afterwards relinquished the ministry, and became the first clerk of the Court of Common Pleas in the county of Litchfield. All the inhabitants attended on this occasion, aud were accommodated in a small room in Mr. Hurlburt's dwelling house.

The Rev. Reuben Judd, the first minister settled in this society, was ordained Sept. 1st, 1742 The ordination was attended in a grove, and the first church was formed, consisting of 12 male members, on the same day. The same year, the first church was built, by eight proprietors. The second church was raised in 1751. In July, 1800, this church was set on fire by an insane man, named David Titus; but by a seasonable discovery and the exertions of the people, the flames were extinguished within an.bour. In April, 1801, the same building was again set on fire by the same man, it being unknown till this time that he did the mischief before. The fire was put in the steeple about midnght, and had made such progress before it was discovered, that no exertions were made to extinguish it. The people were scarcely able to preserve the neighboring buildings from destruction. As no alarm could be given by the bell, many of the inhabitants, and some within half a mile, were ignorant of the disaster till the next morning.

Washington is about 10 miles from Litchtield, and is 40 miles S. W. from Hartford, bounded N. by Warren, w. by New Milford and Kent, E. by Litchfield and Bethiem, and s. by Woodbury and Roxbury. Its average length from north to south is about 7 miles, and its breadth more than 5. A large part of this town is elevated and mountainous. Limestone abounds in many of the valleys. Several quarries of marble have been worked, from which considerable quantities have been raised. Iron ore has been found in various places. Ochre, fuller's earth, and white clay, have also been found. The town is watered by the Shepaug river, a branch of the Housatonic, which passes through the whole length of the town, dividing it into two nearly equal parts. The town is divided into two societies, Judea and New Preston. There is in Judea, or Washington, as it is called, about two miles southeast of the center, a place called "Steep Rock." From the top of this eminence, which is easy of access, the beholder has one of the most interesting and beautiful prospects in the state. The scene presents an area, in the form of an amphitheater, the sides of which are covered with a dense forest. The Shepaug river is seen flowing in a beautiful circle at the base of the bluff. Within the circle of the river, there are several cultivated fields, affording a beautiful landscape to the beholder.

This town has been the theater of one of the most atrocious murders ever committed in New England. The murderer was a man, or rather fiend, by the name of Barnett Davenport. From his own confession, it appears that his parentage and early education were exactly fitted to produce his wicked life and his tragical end. Untutored and unrestrained by parental government, he was left to grow up at random. In the morning of life,no morality was inculcated upon him, and nosense of religion, either by precept or example. On the contrary, he was, from early years unprincipled, profane, and impious. Before he was nine years old, he was expert in cursing and swearing, and an adept in mischief. At 11 years he began to pilfer. At 13 he stole money. At 15 he entertained thoughts of murder, and rapidly waxed harder and bolder in wickedness. At 19, he actually murdered a family in cold blood. As a friendless wandering stranger, he was taken into the house of Mr. Caleb Mallory, and treated with the utmost kindness, in December, 1779. Scarcely two months had elapsed, before the murder was determined on. The night of Feb. 3d, 1780, was fixed on to execute the horrid purpose.. With a heart hard as adamant, he lighted a candle, went into the lodging room of his benefactors, and beat them to death with a club. A little grandchild being with its grand parents shared the same fate, and two others were left in a sound sleep to perish in the flames. Having kindled a lire in three of the rooms, he fled, after robbing the house of its most valuable articles. But from an accusing conscience, and from the hand of justice, which followed hard upon his steps, he was unable to flee. He was taken and executed at Litchfield in the May ensuing.

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