City of Derby
New Haven County

History of the Old Town of Derby, Connecticut

The History of the Old Town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642 -- 188O.
by Samuel Orcutt and Ambrose Beardsley

Published: Press of Springfield Printing Company, Springfield, Mass., 1880.

Part 9

Introduction    Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5    Part 6    Part 7    Part 8   
Part 9    Part 10    Part 11    Part 12    Part 13    Part 14    Part 15    Part 16    Part 17   




"HISTORY repeats itself" is a maxim often spoken, but the instruction of it is little heeded. Great calamities might be avoided if little experiences or historical transpirations were regarded so as to make one wise to know the inevitable of the laws of forces. Nothing is new under the sun, while all is new to the actors on the drama of life.

A great change has come upon the town of Derby, beginning at Birmingham Point, and moving with steady and sure prophecy of increasing and ennobling renaissance unto great honor and fame. But this transforming of a little town, bounded on one side by a river, and sleeping in an Indian's lap two hundred years on both shores of another, as in an infant's cradle, was prefigured on a vastly larger scale, in the Old World, when England emerged suddenly from feudal life into the manufacturing age; the age of money for the common people as well as the courtier and ruler. A description of that change is thus given:

"With the two-handed swords, heavy coats of mail, feudal keeps, private warfare, permanent disorder, all the scourges of the middle age retired and faded into the past. The English had done with the Wars of the Roses. They no longer ran the risk of being pillaged to-morrow for being rich, and hung the next day for being traitors; they had no further need to furbish up their armor, make alliances with powerful nations, lay in stores for the winter, gather together men of arms, scour the country to plunder and hang others. The monarchy, in England as throughout Europe, established peace in the community, and with peace appeared the useful arts. Domestic comfort follows civil security; and man better furnished in his home, better protected in his hamlet, takes pleasure in his life on earth, which he has changed and means to change.

"Toward the close of the fifteenth century the impetus was given; [1488, Act of Parliament on inclosures,] commerce and the woolen trade made a sudden advance, and such an


enormous one that corn fields were changed into pasture lands, 'whereby the inhabitants of said town (Manchester) have gotten and come into riches and wealthy livings,' so that in 1553, 40,000 pieces of cloth were exported in English ships. It was already the England which we see to-day, a land of green meadows, intersected by hedgerows, crowded with cattle and abounding in ships; a manufacturing, opulent land, with a people of beef-eating toilers, who enrich it while they enrich themselves. They improved agriculture to such an extent that in half a century the produce of an acre was doubled. [Between 1537 and 1588 the increase was from two and a half to five millions.] They grew so rich that at the beginning of the reign of Charles I. the Commons represented three times the wealth of the Upper House The ruin of Antwerp by the Duke of Parma sent to England 'the third part of the merchants and manufacturers who made silk, damask, stockings, taffetas and serges.' The defeat of the Armada and the decadence of Spain, opened the seas to English merchants.* The toiling hive, who would dare, attempt, explore, act in unison and always with profit, was about to reap its advantages and set out on its voyages buzzing over the universe.

"At the base and on the summit of society, in all ranks of life, in all grades of human condition, this new welfare became visible. In 1534, considering that the streets of London were 'very noxious and foul, and in many places thereof very jeopardous to all people passing and repassing, as well on horseback as on foot,' Henry VIII. began the paving of the city. New streets covered the open spaces where the young men used to run races and to wrestle. Every year the number of taverns, theatres, gambling rooms, beer-gardens, increased. Before the time of Elizabeth, the country houses of gentlemen were little more than straw-thatched cottages, plastered with the coarsest clay, lighted only with trellises. ' Howbeit.' says Harrison (1580) 'such as he latelie builded are commonlie either of bricke or hard-stone, or both: their rooms large and comelie, and houses of office further distant from their lodgings' The old wooden houses were covered with plaster, 'which beside the delectable whiteness of the stuffe itselfe, is laied on so even and smoothlie, as nothing in my judgment can be done with more exactness.' [Nathan Drake, "Shakespeare and his Times," 1817, 1. 72.] This open admiration shows from what hovels they had escaped. Glass was at last employed for windows, and the bare walls

* Henry VIII, at the beginning of his reign (1509), had but one ship of war. Elizabeth, his daughter, sent out one hundred and fifty against the Armada. In 1553 was founded a company to trade with Russia. In 1578 Drake circumnavigated the globe. In 1600 the East India company was founded.


were covered with hangings, on which visitors might see with delight and astonishment, plants, animals and figures. They began to use stoves, and experienced the unwonted pleasure of being warm. Harrison notes three important changes which had taken place in the farm houses of his lime:

"'One is the multitude of chimnies lately erected, whereas in their young daies there were not above two or three, if so manie, in most uplandishe towns of the realme. . . . . The second is the great (although not generall) amendment of lodging, for our fathers (yea and we ourselves also) have lien full oft upon straw pallets, on rough mats covered onlie with a sheet, under coverlets made of dagswain, or hopharlots, and a good round log under their heads instead of a bolster or a pillow. If it were so that the good man of the house had within seven years after his marriage purchased a matteres or flocke bed, and thereto a sacke of chafFe to rest his head upon, he thought himself to be as well lodged as the lord of the town. . . . . Pillowes (said they) were thought meet onlie for women in childbed. . . . . The third thing is the exchange of vessel!, as of treene platters in pewter, and wooden spoones into silver or tin; for so common was all sorts of treene stuff in old time, that a man should hardlie find four peeces of pewter (of which one was peradventure a salt) in a good farmer's house.' [Nathan Drake, "Shakespeare and his Times," 1. 102.]

"Now that the ax and sword of the civil wars had beaten down the independent nobility, and the abolition of the law of maintenance had destroyed the petty royalty of each great feudal baron, the lords quitted their sombre castles, battlemented fortresses, surrounded by stagnant water, pierced with narrow windows, a sort of stone breastplates of no use but to preserve the life of their master. They flock into new palaces with vaulted roofs and turrets covered with fantastic and manifold ornaments, adorned with terraces and vast staircases, with gardens, fountains, statues, such as were the palaces of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, half Gothic and half Italian, whose convenience, splendor and symmetry announced already habits of society and the taste for pleasure. They came to court and abandoned their old manners; the four meals which scarcely sufficed their former voracity were reduced to two; gentlemen soon became refined, placing their glory in the elegance and singularity of their amusements and their clothes. They dressed magnificently in splendid materials, with the luxury of men who rustle silk and make gold sparkle for the first time; doublets of scarlet satin, cloaks of sable costing a thousand ducats, velvet shoes embroidered with gold and sil-


ver, covered with rosettes and ribbons; boots with falling tops, from whence hung a cloud of lace embroidered with figures of birds, animals, constellations, flowers in silver, gold, or precious stones; ornamented shirts costing ten pounds apiece. 'It is a common thing to put a thousand goats and a hundred oxen on a coat, and to carry a whole manor on one's back.' The costumes of the time were like shrines. When Elizabeth died, they found three thousand dresses in her wardrobe. Need we speak of the monstrous ruffs of the ladies, their puffed out dresses, their stomachers stiff with diamonds? As a singular sign of the times, the men were more changeable and more bedecked than they. Harrison says:

"'Such is our mutabilitie, that to daie there is none to the Spanish guise, to morrow the French toies are most fine and delectable, yer long no such apparell as that which is after the high Alman fashion; by and by the Turkish manner is generalie best liked of, otherwise the Morisee gowns, the Barbarian sleeves . . . . and the short breeches . . . . And as these fashions are diverse, so likewise it is a world to see the costliness and the curiositie, the excesse and the vanitie, the pompe and the braverie, the change and the varietie, and finallie the ficklenesse and the follie that is in all degrees.'

"Folly, it may have been, but poetry likewise. There was something more than puppyism in this masquerade of splendid costume. The overflow of inner sentiment found this issue, as also in drama and poetry. It was an artistic spirit which induced it. There was an incredible outgrowth of living forms from their brains. They acted like their engravers, who give us in their frontispieces a prodigality of fruits, flowers, active figures, animals, gods, and pour out and confuse the whole treasure of nature in every corner of their paper. They must enjoy the beautiful, they would be happy through their eyes; they perceive in consequence, naturally, the relief and energy of forms."

Such was the change in England, instituted, caused or created by the introduction into that country of manufacturing enterprises for the production of staple commodities. The effect of the change was to lead many at first into extravagance of personal show and splendor, but the secondary result was learning, science, literature and the study of the Bible and religion; and out of it grew the revival of practical piety, called Puritanism, which held fast to many errors and superstitions, but with sublime devotion pushed forward for "further light" in the way to the future life.


Such was the change in many respects; the renaissance which came suddenly, mysteriously and marvelously upon the town of Derby, as the coming of the birds in the spring; waking in the morning, lo! they are here, with all their beauty, their joyous flight and their songs. Quietly the magic power of art in its preparatory steps began its march of new life on Birmingham Point, the very spot where, just two hundred years before (lacking only six) the first stroke of the ax of Wakeman's men, broke the long, long night of silence in the wilderness. It was fitting that, upon this landscape of enchanting beauty, the genius and skill which were to put in motion ten thousand times ten thousand wheels of mechanic art should first plant the standard, lay the corner stone,, and display the ensign prophetic of the future comfort and joyful life which should cover the entire region with beautiful homes, spreading lawns and the magnificence of money.

It was in the following simple record that the first foot-prints were made of that power which should transform the entire region from the old to the new, from the plain farmer life to the conveniences, comforts, polish and grandeur of city life. And as if the magic of that power was to reach every living form it seemed to have reached the pen, so that the record of that first transforming act is written in the very best style of the town clerk.

"April. 1836. We, the selectmen of the town of Derby, upon the application of Sheldon Smith and Anson G. Phelps, both of the city, county and state of New York, and on due enquiry into the reasons of said application have laid out a highway through the land of said Smith and Phelps, lying at a place called the Point, now Smithville, in said Derby, having found that the public convenience and necessity required the same; which is laid sixty feet wide .and will form one of the north and south parallel streets of said Smithville."

In the next June, 1836, the selectmen lay out a street in Birmingham "at the request of Sheldon Smith and Anson G. Phelps, both of the city of New York, at a place lately called The Point, now Smithsville, beginning at the west end of the wall inclosing said Sheldon Smith's lot on which his new house is built, on the Ousatonic turnpike road." That road was called Second street.


This was the beginning of changes in the physical appearances, which foretold the coming of a city to adorn that locality.

"The engraving below, shows the appearance of Birmingham from the shore at Derby Landing. This village was commenced in 1834. There are at present (July 1, 1836) about twenty dwelling houses and three mercantile stores; there is in and about to be put in operation, one factory for making sheet copper and copper wire; one for making augers; one for making carriage springs and axles; one for making nails or tacks; one for flannels and satinets, 'with some other minor manufacturing establishments. The water by which the mills and factories are put in operation is taken from the Naugatuck

Birmingham in 1836.

by a canal which extends upwards of a mile and a half northward of the village. A steam-boat is about to commence running between this place and New York. Part of the Leavenworth bridge over the Ousatonic is seen on the extreme left. The dwelling of Sheldon Smith, Esq., is seen a little eastward of this, on the elevated ground above the copper factory. This edifice is elegantly situated, and commands a most beautiful and interesting prospect to the southward, particularly of the village at the Landing, and the passage of the Ousatonic through what is called the Narrows. A small, round structure is seen on the right; this is the reservoir from which water is


supplied to the inhabitants of the village. It is raised fifty feet from a well under the grist-mill on the canal below." [Barber's Historical Collections, 198, 199.]

The further story of the rise and progress of Birmingham and Ansonia is told by Dr. A. Beardsley:

The palmy days of agriculture and commerce in Derby had not long disappeared when the enterprising founder of Birmingham, Sheldon Smith, by his adventure gave a new impulse to the town. Perplexed and discouraged at first, success finally followed experiment, and it now requires no stretch of imagination to foresee that' Derby and its environs are sure to fill a conspicuous place on the map of Connecticut. Almost every day develops some new project, some unthought of enterprise of importance among our business men. Extensive factory seats are being located and built upon; superb mansions to adorn this or that street, overlooking our dashing rivers, are in process of erection, while neat little cottages or cozy dwellings are constantly springing up to dot our hillsides and accommodate our growing population. The oldest inhabitant, with pride and satisfaction, may contrast the present with the almost forgotten past of his native town. Things have changed. Derby took its first and most successful start in Birmingham. The first shovelfull of dirt, moved September 1, 1833, in the construction of the Birmingham reservoir, has proved to be the motive power to nearly all the enterprise that now surrounds us. Stimulated by Birmingham old Derby Narrows has, so to speak, emerged from her fossil remains, and to-day is a vigorous and populous locality. Stimulated by Birmingham Ansonia sprang into existence, and we are proud to say is now one of the most flourishing spots that adorn the Naugatuck valley. Stimulated by Birmingham the little city over the river, christened after its self-sacrificing and energetic pioneer, Edward N. Shelton, is rapidly building up her solid factories, and now the noisy hum of their ponderous machinery blends in grateful sympathy with the roaring music of the Ousatonic dam. With all these flourishing suburbs around us, so charming in their scenery, filled with enterprising men and women, and centrally located, who believes that Birmingham that first set the ball in motion will retrograde or remain in statu quo? The residents of Bir-


mingham who can look back more than forty years may call to mind many pleasing and useful, as well as painful, recollections. At that period there were only twenty-one dwellings, two or three finished factories, as many stores, and neither a schoolhouse nor a church. The beautiful park that now is, was then a rough, rocky, barren slope, and the very grounds whereon so many fine residences now stand were dotted and grassed over with little corn hills or potato mounds, just as they were left by the rude plough-man, seemingly as evidence of his lazy or unhandy work, with here and there a native tree remaining. Even the venerable rocks, relics of centuries, have rapidly disappeared before the march of improvement. Little now remains as reminders of the famous "Smith farm." The old "Hawkins Point House" (the birthplace of a father in Israel named Smith, connected with this farm, and who died a few years ago at the Neck), with its red coat of forty years old paint, has long ago yielded to the mansion now owned and occupied by Mr. Amos H. Ailing. For years it was scarcely tenanted, but the advent of Birmingham, first called Smithville, made it a good home for many, for no less than thirteen sons and daughters of Erin were born in one year within its dingy walls. Just below, around Alling's factory, was a storehouse built sometime in the eighteenth century. This place, Hawkins Point, was the original landing of traders with the Indians at Derby, when the now main road at the Narrows was only a foot-path through the woods. Along the broken shore, in front of this ancient storehouse, small and many sloops

Did roughly ride on foaming tide,
Where weary, faint and slow,
The Indians drew their light canoes
Two hundred years ago.

Warner's Tavern, the first hotel, has long since been rolled from its foundation walls of half a century. It was built in connection with the Ousatonic bridge by Donald Judson and Philo Bassett. It was once the centre of attractions in Birmingham, and many a rude dance and rustic gathering conspired to make it celebrated.

The bridge gate, with its huge padlock, stood upon this side, and some may well remember when scarcely a traveling mendi-


cant could exchange counties without paying specie tribute to the toll gatherer. A favorite resort for huckleberry trainings and state elections for "a colored governor," Warner's Tavern sometimes drew crowds of people, when sport and fun were the order of the day. These elections were always simple, unique and satisfactory, without ballot-box stuffing. Their purity was maintained on the viva voce principle. On one of these occasions the election and parade were very imposing. The governor elect delivered his message, written by a Birmingham democrat, setting forth briefly the virtue of "rosin the fiddle and the bow." The chief marshal of the day, a tall and stately figure, the father of our Ex-Haytian minister, E. D. Bassett, was mounted, with his corps of assistants armed with pistols, with no lack of "fuss and feathers," and horses gay ly caparisoned. No victorious general on the field of battle was more proud of his situation than Grand Marshal Bassett on that day. To show off, and as evidence of his military tactics, he drew up in regular line his men and stated that he was about to issue an important order as a test of their saltpetre grit. "Now do as I do and show yourselves brave darkies -- brave officers!" All assented to obey the word of command, which was given in a stentorian voice: "Attention! All ready! Advance! Wheel! Fire and fall off! The chief marshal put spurs to his horse, wheeled, fired and fell to the ground, but his mounted comrades sat dumfoundecl in their saddles and saved their powder. This election ended as did many others in the mastery of rum, street fights and bloody noses, in which the colored gentlemen and the Irish were badly mixed.

How different now the elective franchise of the black man! For him in these days there is no need of a mock for he has a real election for his governor, as he walks up to the ballot box and deposits his vote like a man in support of a government which owes him a true instead of a false protection. The sixth Birmingham school district was organized and officered in a little room at "Warner's Tavern." Only six composed the meeting, and those who survive little thought then they should live to see their early efforts result in building one of the finest public school-houses in the state.

Only eight men are in business here to-day who were in


business in Birmingham forty-three years ago, viz.: S. N. Summers, E. N. Shelton, T. G. Birdseye, Edward Lewis, L. L. Louver, Lewis Hotchkiss, David Nathan and Dr. A. Beardsley. These in one sense are now the old men, the fathers of the village, while a younger and faster generation are crowding to fill their places. Birmingham in its infancy was poor, capital being confined to a few of its pioneers.

SHELDON SMITH was a man of energy, foresight and perseverance, and his name should be held in grateful remembrance by the people of Derby, his native town. Born March 16, 1791, his only education was in the district school-house which stood near the little brook at the Narrows. At the early age of fourteen, he was apprenticed to learn saddle and harness making with Edward Peet, of Bridgeport. After serving his time seven years, he had deposited to his credit, from over work and good habits, five hundred dollars; he believing with Dr. Johnson that "without frugality none can become rich, and with it few would be poor." Having the confidence of Mr. Peet he was taken in as a partner, and with him as manager the business was carried on successfully for some years. He sold out his interest with a pledge not again to engage in the same business within the state. Turning his attention to his native town, with a snug little fortune for those days, he had a lingering desire to galvanize, if possible, the dead body of the old Derby bank, but he met with opposition, and unfortunately for Derby people the charter fell into the hands of Wall street brokers in New York. Mr. Smith then with Mr. Wright in the spring of 1822 commenced the saddle and harness making business in Newark_ New Jersey, where the co-partnership was highly prosperous, and accumulated wealth. While in Newark, Mr. Smith showed himself a public benefactor to the city. He introduced, and supplied at his own expense the inhabitants of the place with good water, a sanitary want much needed. This enterprise at first was looked upon as visionary, and Mr. Smith was laughed at for the undertaking by capitalists, but when the blessings of pure water, by the citizens, were realized, he was importuned to sell out to an envious corporation, giving it control of so valuable a public improvement, which he did without profit or loss to himself, satisfied to confer a lasting benefit on a place


in which he had been so much prospered. The citizens of Newark to-day owe the introduction of water into their city to the enterprise of Sheldon Smith. Disposing of his interests in Newark, he once more contemplated a return to his native town. From its commercial downfall, its active capital wasted, Derby had then been dormant for nearly a quarter of a century. His first project was to dam the Ousatonic and thus lay the foundation of a manufacturing city in Derby, but meeting with John Lewis, he was persuaded to buy the old oil mills, rebuild the Naugatuck dam and construct the present Birmingham reservoir down to the old Point House property, thus utilizing the entire waters of the Naugatuck with a head and fall of fourteen feet. Whatever may be thought of the enterprise now, it was the common remark then, that it would involve the loss of more capital than would be expended to complete it. The first mill that Mr. Smith built in Birmingham was the grist-mill, long afterward occupied by his brother, Fitch Smith, but now owned and occupied by the Shelton Tack Company. Edward N. Shelton and his brother-in-law, Nathan C. Sanford from Woodbury, in the spring of 1836, built the tack factory, and thus were among the first manufacturers in the village. These men were possessed of considerable means and proved valuable acquisitions to the place. Mr. Sanford, father of our ex-minister to Belgium, was a man of sterling integrity, highly influential and commanded universal respect. Among his last acts was a donation to the Episcopal church of St. James's parish at Birmingham, of $500, which he never lived to see erected. He died deeply lamented, in June, 1841, and as a token of the esteem in which he was held by the village people, stores and workshops were closed on the day of his funeral. About the same time D. W. Plumb and Benjamin Beach built their woolen factory on Main street, and David Bassett his auger factory, now occupied by his son, Robert N. Bassett, for manufacturing purposes. Anson G. Phelps, a saddler by trade, but then an importer of tin, brass and copper in New York, was induced by Mr. Smith to start a mill for rolling copper in Birmingham, and he at once entered into arrangements to carry out this project. "The Big Copper Mill," as it was then called, was commenced early in 1836, AlmonFarrell being the mill-wright and Peter Phelps the


agent. The mill was in full operation in the fall of 1836, and about simultaneously the mill of Plumb & Beach, and David Bassett's auger shop were put in motion. Mr. Anson G. Phelps, a wealthy and most enterprising man, now became deeply interested in Birmingham, and formed a joint partnership with Mr. Smith to push forward the manufacturing enterprises of the place. The latter had built and completed the reservoir in 1834, the dyke afterwards, and influenced parties to locate in Birmingham at an outlay that could not be reimbursed, and the firm of Smith & Phelps then gave permanency to the interests of Birmingham. In the fall of 1838 the Birmingham copper mills were burned and rebuilt the sameautumn. Prior to this Mr. Smith, who had expended so much money in the early enterprises of Birmingham, became disheartened from reasons which had no foundation in justice. Mr. John Lewis, who had no capital, influenced Mr. Smith to purchase the old oil mills, and he (Lewis) was deputized by Mr. Smith to buy the Hawkins' Point and the Smith farm which formed the nucleus of such varied manufacturing interests as now abound in this vicinity. Mr. Smith took peculiar pride in starting the village of Birmingham, laying out and naming its streets, and was very generous to those who turned grateful attention to his self-sacrificing interests. He helped many who were poor to start in life. He expended money with great loss in the experiment of steam-boating to Birmingham wharf, and the building of the long dyke. Mr. Lewis in the first purchase claimed a prospective interest (one-third) in Mr. Smith's operations, but ignored the fact that expenditure for steam-boats and dykes was a part of the original bargain. This involved Mr. Smith, without just cause, in vexatious litigation with Lewis, and led him (Smith) to dissolve partnership with Anson G. Phelps. The firm of Smith and Phelps dividing their interests in real estate, the former sold his portion to his brother, Fitch Smith, and then returned to New York much to the regret of the citizens of Derby. He died at the former place, September 9, 1863, aged 72 years.

The copper mills were then carried on very prosperously by Anson G. Phelps, under the general management and superintendence of his nephew, Peter Phelps, employing about one


hundred hands until their removal to Ansonia in 1854. Among the first operatives in these mills who are still living, were David and Isaac Nathan, (brothers,) Patrick Quinn, Thomas Mills, David Cole, Lewis, son of Major Powe and Thomas James of Seymour. For several years these mills greatly increased the wealth and population of the place. The old Jackson saw and plaster mill at the foot of Main street was early supplanted by the planing shop of Lewis and Willis Hotchkiss, the first house builders of the village. Added to the above, may be mentioned as pioneers, merchants and manufacturers, Stephen N. Summers, Edward Lewis, Sheldon Canfield, Charles Atwood, Sheldon Bassett. Donald Judson, Julius Hotchkiss, Lyman Smith, Lyman Osborne, Abram and William Hawkins ( brothers), Sidney A. and his brother, Nelson H. Downs, Sullivan and Sylvester M. Colburn, T. G. Birdseye and his brother Ephraim. These with others, not now in recollection, imparted a healthy and substantial business tone to Birmingham.

CHARLES ATWOOD was one of the few who ventured to establish manufacturing in Birmingham, and a short account of his life will be interesting. Born in Hardwick, Mass., in 1801, his father, Zaccheus, moved to Salem, N. Y., in 1804. Charles remained with his father until he was nineteen, learning of him the trade of manufacturing woolen cloths, embracing all its different processes. Under the pressure of necessity his education was very limited. He took most readily to Arithmetic, which in later years enabled him to carry out many plans in machinery with accuracy. With him there was no "cut and try " in his modes. So skillful was he in Arithmetic that he could solve many problems which are usually solved by Algebra, of which study he knew nothing.

At the age of nineteen Mr. Atwood went into the employ of Giles Tincker of North Adams, Mass., and during the two years he was there devised a most valuable invention, which distinguished his career, but from w!uch he never realized a dollar. This was an invention in wool carding with all its details, which was called the double doffer, saving immense labor.

Realizing no money from this grand invention, Mr. Atwood with chagrin saw others grow rich from its use, under patents of trifling improvement, besides claiming unjustly the original


invention, he being embarrassed for want of the money to establish his claims, and thus failed. After working at the Alba cotton mills in Troy, N. Y., he married Lydia Crosby. By nature an artist in mechanics, whose judgment about his inventions had great weight, he went to Walden, N. Y., where he remained two years as superintendent of the woolen mills; thence to Middletown, Conn., introducing his double doffers into a woolen mill of that place, but he only obtained employment from the proprietors, who used to great profit his invention. Leaving the woolen mill he discovered a way of making steel pens, not knowing any modes in use at that time in Europe. In a little shop at Middletown, his machinery was driven by one horse, and continuing the manufacture of pens a few years, he came to Birmingham, and carried on the same business in the large building now owned and occupied by Summers & Lewis. This building he erected and it was long known as "Atwood's Factory." To the manufacture of pens he added his discovery of making German silverware, confining himself mostly to making spoons. In the manufacture of this article competition ran high, and was carried on largely by the adulteration of German silver, but in this shoddy cheating Mr. Atwood would not join, and he only succeeded for a while against his competitors, by reducing th8 amount of labor by improvements in machinery.

His next invention was the hook and eye machine, which made hooks and eyes more rapidly and beautifully than was ever done before from hard wire, being stronger; and soon this invention took the lead in market, giving him great credit for its simplicity and ingenuity. To cheapen the price of sewing the hooks and eyes upon cards, after a long and almost hopeless struggle, in which his step-son, George Kellogg (father of the world renowned "prima-donna," Clara Louise Kellogg) was engaged, the discovery of a method was made almost simultaneously by Atwood and Kellogg, but the invention was awarded to the former, who took out a patent and afterwards sold it to a Waterbury company for $20,000.

His next invention was a simple machine for making jack chains or scale chains, which he soon enlarged to the manufacture of the well chain. Considerable business was done by


this chain making, but the vital principle of the machine had been too much utilized before securing a patent, which, if obtained in due time would have been worth at least $200,000.

Among other inventions, he set himself about making a pin machine when a great many plans had been devised and most of which were in use, but the distinctive principle of what has been called the "Atwood machine" fully perfected by others, is still recognized and used among most of the pin manufacturing establishments of the country.

With a very limited education, a broad, massive, methodical brain, Mr. Atwood was a natural inventor, and his many devices were looked upon by mechanics with great admiration. Of genial, social qualities, free hearted, honest in all his transactions he died at Birmingham, deeply regretted, of congestive fever in the fifty-third year of his age. Such a character deserves to live in history.

ABRAM HAWKINS, a native of Derby, started the business of blacksmithing in 1836, in the old red shop which stood where the office of the Birmingham iron and steel works now stands. Young, and full of enterprise, the next year in connection with his brother, William Hawkins, he commenced the manufacture of carriage axles and springs, in one corner of Plumb & Beach's stone factory, which stood where the Shelton Company's brick block is now located, on Main street. Without capital, these brothers built in 1839 one little factory now owned by Sharon Bassett on Main street, which is still standing, a relic of the early days of the village. This factory proved to be the starting point of the iron and steel works, which have in the past contributed very much to the wealth and prosperity of the place. The Hawkins Brothers took into partnership Mr. Henry Atwater of New Haven, in 1845, and in 1847 built the Birmingham iron and steel works, under the firm of Atwater & Hawkins, forming a joint stock company, and then commenced making iron and steel in connection with springs and axles. In 1850, William Hawkins retired from the concern, and the next year bought the stone factory built by Plumb and Beach, and under the name of the Hawkins Manufacturing Company carried on the same business until 1859. Business increasing, they then purchased the old copper mills property, and

Abram Hawkins


fitted it up with the addition of an iron foundry for making axle boxes and other castings. It is said this firm made more carriage axles than any other in the whole country, up to 1865.

After the company dissolved partnership, the real estate was sold to A. H. and C. B. Alling, and William Hawkins bought of Downs and Bassett his present factory, and began to make the patent Hawkins skate, patent wrench, and other hardware implements.

The Methodist Episcopal church.

The first house of worship for the M. E. Church in Birming-


ham was erected in 1836, on the most beautiful and commanding site on the public green. It has since been much enlarged and beautified, and is well represented by the accompanying picture. The parsonage, also seen in the picture, occupied and equally attractive and beautiful location.

As early at 1787 the Rev. Cornelius Cook, a Methodist minister, preached in Ridgefield, Conn., and Ambrose Olmstead, jun,, received a paper dated Nov. 16, 1787, certifying that he was "a constant attendant at public worship (as opportunity offers) with the people called Methodists."

At the first Methodist conference, held in New York city June 1789, the Rev. Jesse Lee, from Virginia, was sent to the "Stamford Circuit" in New England. His first sermon was preached in Norwalk, an the highway, June 17, 1789. He formed a two weeks' circuit, embracing Stamford, Norwalk, Fairfield, Stratford, Milford, Redding, Danbury, Ridgefield, and other intermediate places, and the name was changed the next year to "Fairfield Circuit. [Teller's History of Ridgefield,132. Stevens's History of the M. E. Church, II, 417.]" Two classes were formed by him this year: one in Stratfield, a parish of Stratford, and the other at Redding, and on the 28th of the next January (1790) the first class in Ridgefield was formed, it being the third in New England.

In February, 1790, Revs. Jacob Brush, George Roberts and Daniel Smith came from Maryland to labor under the direction of Mr. Lee in Connecticut. It is said that in the year 1791 Mr. Lee, while passing from Ridgefield to Milford, on reaching Derby "hired a bell-man to ring the people out;" a number gathered, and he preached the first sermon ever preached by a Methodist in the town. This was at Up Town, and among the auditors on that occasion were Mr. John Coe and his wife, who after service invited Mr. Lee to come again and to hold the meeting at their home. This invitation he accepted, and one month from that time preached there, and thereafter Derby was one of the regular preaching places of the circuit, and in 1793 a society was organized.

In the autumn of this year the venerable Bishop Asbury, although ill in health, visited and held services in Derby, and


the place was connected with the "Middletown Circuit," and among the ministers appointed to this circuit from this time to 1800, were Daniel Ostrander, Evan Rogers, Joel Ketcham, Peter Choate and James Coleman. During the year 1800 considerable religious interest was manifested, and thirty persons united with the society. It was in this year that one of the preachers visited Derby Neck, and preached in the house of Mrs. Pope, which was crowded to its utmost capacity, the people being anxious "to hear these strange Methodists." The preacher, in the usual pioneer style, read a hymn, then led the singing, as was the custom, and preached a sermon, which was so well received that he was invited to preach in the schoolhouse when he should come again. In two weeks from that time the preacher appeared and commenced "Methodist meetings" in the little red school-house on Derby Neck, which became the rendezvous of Derby Methodism for more than twenty years. There are persons still living who remember the pleasant scenes enjoyed there while listening to the eloquent words of such men as Nathan Bangs, Laban Clark, E. Washburn and Heman Bangs.

From 1820 to 1827 the work progressed steadily, although sometimes special religious interest was manifested, resulting in considerable additions to the membership. The preachers successively appointed to the circuit were Belden Smith, James Coleman, Laban Clark, J. Nixon, F. W. Sizer, Julius Field, S. D. Furgerson, W. Beach and E. Barnes.

In 1830 several families belonging to the society were residing at the Narrows, among them I. J. Gilbert, and it was decided to hold Sabbath services in that neighborhood. Accordingly the old Masonic Hall was engaged for that purpose, and the services on the Neck discontinued.

In the spring of 1835 the Revs. Josiah Bowen and Oliver Sykes were appointed to the Derby circuit, and measures were immediately set in motion to build a church in Birmingham. Mr. Sheldon Smith donated the Site (where the church now stands), the stone required for the foundation, and two hundred dollars towards the erection of the building. The following persons constituted the first board of trustees: Sheldon Smith, David Durand, Stephen Booth, Samuel Durand, Albert Hotch-


kiss, John E. Brush and I. J. Gilbert. On the I7th of August, 1837, the newly erected house was dedicated to the service of Almighty God, by the Rev. Professor Holdich of the Wesleyan University at Middletown; which was the first house of worship erected in Birmingham. The whole cost was $3,000, about half of the sum remaining as a debt.

After the opening of the church provision was made for services every Sunday; the Rev. Thomas Ellis, a local preacher residing in Seymour, being engaged to fill the pulpit in the absence of the circuit preacher. The first preacher stationed in Birmingham, giving his whole time to this society, was the Rev. Orlando Starr, and the second, the Rev. J. B. Beach; at which time the society numbered about seventy. A Sunday-school was organized before the dedication of the church.

In 1841 the Rev. N. Mead was appointed pastor, during whose labors about one hundred members were added to the society; the debt was nearly paid; a class was organized in Orange, and Methodism stood strong in the community.

In 1843 the Rev. J. B. Wakeley became the pastor, and is well remembered by the older citizens on account of a public discussion on Episcopacy with the Rev. Mr. Ashley of the Episcopal church.

Then followed in the pastorate of this society the Rev. C. C. Keys in 1844, and after him the Revs. J. D. Marshall, F. W. Smith, W. Gothard, and in 1849 Rev. J. M. Reid. The labors of Mr. Reid were particularly successful; it being during his labors that a Methodist church was built in Ansonia. In 1851 and 2 the Rev. T. G. Osborn was the pastor, and during his labors the church was enlarged and beautified; more than one hundred were added to the membership, and the church was generally prosperous. The Rev. Charles Fletcher followed Mr. Osborn, and was noted for his pulpit ability. He was succeeded by the Rev. G. A. Hubbell, also successful; and he in 1857 and 8 by the Rev. F. Bottome, a man considerably celebrated for pulpit ministrations. During his labors he gathered material and preached a historical sermon, from which many of the facts herein contained have been taken. The membership at this time numbered about two hundred and forty; the trustees being S. N. Summers, E. D. Beebe, Levi C. Lewis, Agur


Curtiss, I. J. Gilbert, Nelson M. Beach and Gould Curtiss. The stewards were W. L. Boardman, G. Wheeler, E. D. Beebe, S. N. Summers, I. J. Gilbert, C. S. Jackson and Amos H. Ailing. The class leaders were C. Curtiss, J. W. Osborne, George W. Cheeseman, J. Beecher and Amos H. Ailing.

There was also at this time a flourishing Sunday-school under the superintendency of J. W. Osborne.

The pastors from 1859 to the present have been successively, Revs. R. H. Loomis, 1859 and 60; W. T. Hill, 1861 and 62; J. S. Inskip, 1863; J. W. Home, 1864 and 65; I. Simmons, 1866, 67 and 68; J. S. Breckenridge, 1869, 70 and 71; C. S. Williams, 1872 and 73; J. Pullman, 1874 and 75; Wm. McAlister, 1876, 77 and 78; J. L. Peck, 1879. During the pastorate of Mr. Simmons the present parsonage was built.


It should have been mentioned that the house now owned by Henry Whipple, and two others just above on Caroline street, were the first houses erected in Birmingham. This was in 1835, and Lewis Hotchkiss, his brother Willis and James Standish were the builders. These houses were built in an open field, the street then being only staked out by John Cloues, an Englishman who was employed by Sheldon Smith as an engineer and land agent. Cloues laid out the principal streets, adorned them with young trees, gave the grades for locating houses, and had a general supervision over the interests of the place.

The first store was built by Lewis and Willis Hotchkiss in 1835, which still stands on the corner opposite the bank in Main street. It was called the Boston Store, and Sheldon Canfield who owned it carried on for some time a prosperous business in the line of dry goods, groceries, boots and shoes. The same year Donald Judson built the long stone store, now supplanted by the National Bank building and George C. Allis's book and jewelry store. A farmer passing through the place at that time remarked that "the people of Derby must be fools to build stores in a sand-bank."

JOHN CLOUES is well and favorably remembered by many of our citizens. He was a most exemplary, dictatorial, and even ambitious man, but always exercised a moral influence in the


right direction. With his men his word was law. In the absence of courts he often acted as prosecuting attorney, judge, jury and witness. On one occasion he summoned a laborer to appear at his office at a certain hour. "Now, Pat," said he, "you are to be tried for your life. You were drunk at Warner's tavern last Sunday?" "In faith, you say so, my lord," said the trembling Irishman. "And drunk many times during the week?" "Very likely, but I don't remember." "I also hear you abuse your wife?" "I guess I do sometimes, but she always gets the better of me." After a severe reprimand the judge said: "The sentence of this court is that you at once mend your ways, stop drinking and abusing your wife, or get back to Ireland." "A devil of a court is this," said the prisoner, but the verdict had a most salutary effect.

Mr. Cloues was identified with the early interests of Birmingham and Ansonia, and was instrumental in planning and carrying forward many public improvements. During his general agency of six or eight years the village was in a most flourishing condition, notwithstanding the great revulsion in business interests which swept over the country in 1837. Building lots on the principal streets at that time were sold for four and five dollars a foot, and house building was encouraged by an admirable feature in Smith and Phelps's decree, that whosoever bought a lot should within a year's time erect a building thereon, which was a measure to avoid undue land speculations. At this early period the place had its minister, doctor and lawyer; the lyceum was established, the cemetery laid out, and labor, capital and manufacturing interests were drifting towards the infant village.


In the spring of 1836 the Messrs. S. and S. M. Colburn (twin brothers) from Westville were induced to locate in Birmingham. Their business in the former place had been that of casting clock weights, and at that time no castings of the kind could be obtained but of them. When they came to this place they had only five thousand dollars capital, but being sturdy and full of native energy, they laid the solid foundations for the Birmingham Iron Foundry. They soon took into partnership their brother, Dr. Josiah M. Colburn, and still later Sheldon

Sullivan Colburn

Sylvester Colburn


Bassett. In 1850 the concern was incorporated under the above name, and the Colburns then removed to Ansonia. Henry Whipple (now sheriff) made the first castings in Birmingham, and continued in this department about forty years, when failing health forced him to leave the shop. This foundry was started on a capital of $32,000, which has been increased to $100,000. On the death of Sheldon Bassett in 1865, who had for some years managed the concern, his son Royal M. Bassett was chosen president, and his brother Theodore S. Bassett secretary and treasurer. The company has been very prosperous

Birmingham Iron Foundry

under their administration. The average number of hands employed from year to year being about one hundred and twenty-five; the monthly pay-roll amounting to $6,000; goods produced yearly, $200,000. The sale of goods during the war amounted to $35,000 per month. F. M. Clemons is the general superintendent, and H. F. Wanning book-keeper.


The Howe Manufacturing Company was organized in New York, Dec., 1835, to manufacture pins by means of Doct. John I. Howe's machines and he was appointed its general agent. In


John I. Howe

the winter of 1836, a shop was fitted up and the company in New York commenced making their own machinery, and after a year and a half five machines had been constructed and put into operation for making what was then called the "spunhead pin." Previous to this, however, one machine had been changed to make the solid-headed pin. In April, 1838, the company, encouraged by Smith and Phelps, removed their manufactory to Birmingham for the advantages of water power. The machines then in use were all altered to "solid-headers." These were successful for a time, but were superseded by others invented by Doct. Howe. This man, whose reputation is world wide in the pin business, met with many discouragements in the outset with his inventions. Even after he came to Birmingham, the stock of his company went begging on the streets at fifty cents on the dollar, and many capitalists predicted its failure. But Doct. Howe was patient, indomitable and persevering, and, as general manager of his company for thirty-five years or more he made it one of the most lucrative and successful enterprises ever established in the town. (See Biog.)

The officers of this company are:

W. Howe, president; Charles E. Atwater, secretary; Wm. E. Downes, treasurer; Truman Piper, general superintendent of the factory.

The company on an average employ about thirty hands, and turn out annually over one hundred tons of pins.


The Birmingham Iron and Steel Works were prosperously carried on for many years under Abraham Hawkins and Henry Atwater, and afterwards by Thomas Elmes, employing on an average nearly two hundred hands, but recently the works have passed into the hands of Royal M. Bassett, E. N. Shelton, Wm. E. Downes, D. W. Plumb, N. H. Downes and Roswell A. Neal, and the old business is now being prosecuted with promise of good success, by Mr. E. S. Wheeler of New Haven, as agent, and Mr. Marvin Warner, superintendent; employing about sixty hands. These works have in the past added greatly to the industries and prosperity of Birmingham.



This firm was organized in 1854, with a capital of $80,000. The tack business was started successfully in the place in 1836 by Sanford and Shelton, and after the death of Mr. Sanford in 1841 was continued by E. N. Shelton until the formation of the present company, which has now a capital of $100,000. It is one of the best and most substantial establishments in the place, having a branch factory in Shelton, just across the Ousatonic river, and the two employ on an average 125 hands. The company manufacture into tacks, small nails and bolts about a thousand tons of iron yearly, producing $200,000 worth of goods. E. DeForest Shelton, president; George Blakeman, secretary and treasurer; Edward N. Shelton, George Blakeman and E. De Forest Shelton, directors; Almon P. Glover, general superintendent.


Stephen N. Summers commenced the manufacture of furniture in 1836 in a little shop, and the firm of Summers & Lewis was established prior to the purchase of the Atwood factory in 1858, since which time they have done a large business in the wholesale and retail departments. The firm employs about thirty hands, and the establishment has been very successful from the beginning. The firm is known as Summers & Lewis.


These well-known mills constitute one of the busiest industries of the borough. The senior members established their reputation in Orange in 1845, and, after thirteen years, their business demanding a change to a more convenient locality, they purchased the property of the Globe Company and removed their machinery into Birmingham in 1858. In January, 1864, their mills were entirely destroyed by fire. In 1865 the old Copper Mills property was purchased and their present extensive factory buildings were erected. The firm consists of Amos H. and C. B. Ailing, and the son of the latter, Charles H. Ailing.


[transcriber note: image of Sterling Organ Company moved to pg 369]


They employ about 250 hands; their monthly pay roll amounting to $7,000. They produce about 7,500 pairs of hose per day, and the valuation of their products amounts to about $400,000 annually.


The manufacture of reed instruments had been carried on in a limited way for a number of years in Derby, by various parties, but the business did not assume extensive nor profitable dimensions until the establishment of the Sterling Organ Company in 1871. Their works were destroyed by fire in 1875, but promptly rebuilt, and in 1879 were enlarged to nearly double their former dimensions, making a very spacious building, 265 by 40 feet, four stories high, affording ample room for the construction of many thousands of organs a year.

Mr. Rufus W. Blake, now the secretary and general manager, being the founder of a leading manufactory of a similar character in Massachusetts, accepted the direction of the business of this company in 1873, since which time the enterprise has been very successful, with the exception that in 1875 it sustained a loss of $25,000 by fire, but was put upon a firm basis by Charles A. Sterling and the enterprising manager, R. W. Blake, and its reputation is now widely extended, its mercantile standing number one, and the various styles of organs produced are unsurpassed by any establishment in the country. Their instruments are shipped to every state and territory in the Union and to various foreign ports. They employ about 125 hands, and produce 4,000 organs per year. Charles A. Sterling, president; R. W. Blake, secretary and general manager, and Oliver E. Hawkins, cashier.


The illustration represents the store of George C. Allis, the oldest continuous firm with one exception in Birmingham. Mr. Allis started his business when he was only fifteen years of age, in the stone building on Main street, in a room eight by sixteen feet, his original capital being fifty dollars of borrowed money.

In 1857 Edward Lewis, to encourage Mr. Allis, built him a small store on the south side of Main street, which he occupied


until 1866 when he purchased the store he now occupies, which he has rearranged and very much improved by extensive alterations and additions.

George C. Allis's book store.

In 1859 he founded his circulating library of the current popular literature, which now numbers more than 3,000 volumes. He has been successful and is a standard representative in his line of business.



Thomas M. Newson and John B. Hotchkiss of New Haven started the first newspaper in Derby December, 1846, which was called the Derby journal. Mr. Newson was the editor, and was young, talented and energetic. For a time he published in Birmingham a lively daily paper, but it failed for want of support, the community being too limited for such an enterprise; and Mr. Newson disposed of his paper and pushed into a larger field. He is now the editor and proprietor of a large monthly illustrated magazine in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Journal passed into other hands and for many years it was published by various editors, under the names of Valley Messenger and Derby Transcript. In 1868 William I. Bacon bought the paper and established the Derby Printing Company, from the office of which he, in connection with his son Daniel Bacon, issues the Transcript weekly; a stirring, enterprising and valuable newspaper. The department of job printing is commensurate with the wants of the locality, and is conducted with promptness, accuracy and enterprise. But what is of decided value in the paper is the fact that its moral influence is carefully guarded by its editors so as not only not to be offensive to a Christian community, but also to sustain the Christian sentiment of such a community.


John Whitlock, a mechanical genius, came to Birmingham in 1844, and is particularly noted for the variety of styles in his collection of old clocks. These time-keepers he has collected from various parties, in various stages of dilapidation, and with great ingenuity repaired the worn or broken parts and put them in good spirits, and set them at their old and almost forgotten work of measuring the revolutions of the earth. The variety consists of ninety or more different clocks, most of them the production of different makers. The oldest clock bears the date of 1656 (one year before the first deed of Birmingham Point was given by the Indians), having iron wheels, made in Germany, and was brought to this country by a Hungarian. Another is one hundred and fifty years old, and was once the


property of the grandfather of Commodore Isaac Hull of Derby, and of Revolutionary fame. Another, made in the black forests of Germany, is a tall pipe-organ clock and plays eight tunes. Two others, of "Crane's patent," run each 385 days with one winding. Mr. Whitlock is believed to be good authority on clocks, but if he is not his clocks are.

The clock dated 1656 was an artistic and costly article, being constructed of iron and brass; about six inches square, and was intended to lay on the table or mantel. The face is ornamented with allegorical figures; those on the corners representing the four angels blowing the four winds of heaven; those outside of the dial are Adam and Eve, between 7 and 8 o'clock in the morning, the latter holding out the apple; between 10 and 11, a group of young people; at 12 m., the Savior loosing the tongue of the dumb; at 3 p. m., the good Samaritan pouring oil on the wounds of the bruised man by the wayside; at 5 p. m., a monk going to the church in the Gothic age. Different styles of architecture representing different ages of the world are on the face. The case, constructed of brass and originally gilded, is ornamented with allegorical figures and Latin inscriptions under them. Beneath the figure of "Minerva" is (the Latin rendered), "No one knows all things at all times;" beneath "Tempus," "Time flies never to return;" beneath "Hora," "Honor time as a god;" beneath "Mors," "We are dying every moment."

A partial classification of this collection may be stated: Of eight-day, brass hall clocks there is one by Osborn of Birmingham, Eng.; one by Williams of Birmingham, Eng.; one by Richardson Miner of Stratford-on-Tyne, Eng.; one by Joseph Clark of Danbury, Conn.; one by Isaac Doolittle of New Haven, Conn., and two by Macock Ward.

Of the tall wooden clocks there are two made by Silas Hoadley of Plymouth, Conn.; one by J. and L. Harrison of Waterbury; one by Asa Hopkins of Litchfield; one by Eli Terry of Plymouth, and one by Hoadley & Thomas of Plymouth, Conn.

Of the wooden shelf clocks there are three each by Mark Leavenworth of Waterbury and Silas Hoadley of Plymouth, and one each by the following: Eli Terry, Henry C. Smith, Robert Seymour, Bishop & Bradley, James Bishop, Sedgwick


& Bishop, all of Waterbury; one each by Ephraim Downs, Oliver Weldon, Boardman & Wells, Jerome & Darrow, Eldridge G. Atkins, Mitchell & Atkins, and Chauncey Boardman, all of Bristol; one each by M. & E. Blakeslee and Seth Thomas of Plymouth, and one each by the following: Riley Whitney of Winchester, Hotchkiss & Field of Burlington, Eli Terry, jun., of Terryville, William Orton & Preston of Farmington, Ortpn, Preston & Co. of Farmington, Samuel R. Hitchcock of Humphreysville, R. E. Northrop of New Haven, Charles Stratton of Worcester, Mass., Wadsworth, Lounsbury & Turner of Litchfield, Julius Peck & Co. of Litchfield, B. H. Twiss of Meriden, B. & A. Richards, made for Lawson & Ives of Bristol, and L. & F. Andrews, John Bacon, Barnes & Bacon, Terry & Andrews, Samuel Terry, E. & G. W. Bartholomew, all of Bristol, Conn.; George C. Marsh of Torrington, and Norris North of Wolcottville. Conn.

Mr. Whitlock's object has been to obtain a wooden clock by every maker of clocks who has conducted his work in Connec' ticut, and thinks he has made a good beginning, but is still far from the end. He has many brass clocks with peculiarities in their mechanical construction, in various stages of wear and tear, and a variety of cases, faces and ornamental parts, sufficient to meet the wants of repairing for many years to come.


L. L. Loonier & Sons are manufacturers of corsets, and produce about $175,000 worth of goods annually, employing 130 hands.

Tomlinson & Brewster are manufacturers of corsets) employing 60 hands at an expense of $1,500 a month, producing yearly about $75,000 worth of goods.

In addition to the enumeration thus far given should be mentioned the following enterprises now in active operation, contributing to the industries of the place: Robert May, corset maker, and the first importer of kid gloves into Birmingham 5 Robert N. Bassett, maker of corset steels; Wm, Hawkins, mam ufacturer of skates and wrenches; Henry G. Bassett, box maker; Sturges Whitlock, machinist and builder of printing presses; John Whitlock, machinist; H. S. Sawyer & Sons, grist-mill;


S. L. Otis, machinist; George G. Shelton & Brothers, baby carriages; Cornell & Shelton, folding boxes; R. M. & T. S, Bassett, corsets, successors to Downes & Bassett, and Downes & Krous, corsets, just established.

In closing this brief account of business companies it is proper to say that Birmingham has been the starting point from which have sprung many of the now prosperous enterprises in the town of Derby and its vicinity. The Derby Building and

Lumber Company at the Narrows; Wallace & Sons, Slade Woolen Company, formerly owned by D. W. Plumb, Colburn's Foundry, now owned by F. Farrell, Osborn & Cheeseman Company, W. & L. Hotchkiss Lumber Company, and the Copper Mills, of Ansonia; and Sharon Bassett's bolt factory, Star Pin Company, Wilcox & Howe Company, Shelton Factory, Derby Silver Company, and Derby Gas Company, of Shelton, are all outgrowths of men and capital once largely identified with the interests of Birmingham.

St. James's Church

April 30, 1841, the members of the Episcopal parish of St. James's church held their first meeting to change the location of


their church edifice, by a warning duly given, and it was voted to change it to Birmingham. The accompanying cut represents the present structure, which is in striking contrast with the first church built in this ancient parish in 1738. The lot was donated by Smith and Phelps, and the money ($6,000) raised by subscription for a stone church. Since its erection it has been enlarged, a stone tower erected in place of a wooden one, and a chime of bells furnished. The stone work was built by Harvey Johnson, and the wood work by Nelson Hinmon; the building committee being A. Beardsley, E. N. Shelton and Joseph P. Canfield. This edifice was erected under many discouragements, but was completed in the spring of 1843, and consecrated by Bishop Brownell, April 11, the same year, the following clergymen being present: Rev. William B. Ashley, rector. Rev. Drs. Daniel Burhans and William C. Mead, and Rev. Messrs. Stephen Jewett, E. E. Beardsley, G. H. Stocking, Rodney Rossiter, D. G. Tomlinson, G. S. Coit, J. Pures, G. S. White, C. Hopson, Joseph Scott, J. D. Smith, S. S. Stocking and J. L. Clark.

The earlier and more complete history of this church is given in chapter fifth of this book.

Three of the churches in Birmingham are beautifully located on the Green, St. James's on the east, the Methodist on the north or upper end, and the Congregational on the west side. Two of these, with the old public school-house, are represented in the accompanying illustration.


The Derby Savings Bank was chartered in May, 1846, the original corporators being John I. Howe, Donald Judson, Thomas Burlock, David W. Plumb, George W. Shelton, Fitch Smith, David Bassett, George Kellogg, Thomas Wallace, Samuel French, George Blakeman, S. M. Colburn, Henry Atwater, S. N. Summers, Isaac J. Gilbert, Edward Lewis, Sheldon Bassett, Henry Hubbard, Sheldon Smith, jun., John W. Davis and Sidney A. Downes. The officers were, John I. Howe, president; Edward N. Shelton, vice-president; Joseph P. Canfield, secretary.

Mr. Canfield held his office sixteen years. At the end of the


first year the deposits in the bank amounted to $2,391.50. In the sixteen years following they increased to $187,103.50, with a surplus of $5,337. In 1862 Mr. Canfield resigned and Thaddeus G. Birdseye was elected to fill the place as secretary and treasurer, which office he has ever since held. The deposits have increased to $1,226,085.95, with an increased surplus of $55,381.63, without the loss of a dollar.

During the past two years the directors have limited the deposits, thereby reducing the total deposits nearly $200,000.

Public Square, Birmingham

Of the original incorporators, twenty in number, only ten are living, four of whom remain its officers.

It is believed that few if any savings banks in the state have been better, more judiciously or honestly managed than this. Both officers and institution have the entire confidence of the community. The present officers are, president, Joseph Arnold; vice-president, D. W. Plumb; directors, David Torrance, Sidney A. Downes, Stephen N. Summers, Wm. E. Downes, Henry A. Nettleton, Clark N. Rogers, Truman Piper.



This bank was chartered in 1848, with a capital of $100,000, with authority to increase the same to $300,000. It was oro-anized and commenced business the same year, $100,000 being subscribed. The first board was composed of the following gentlemen: president, Edward N. Shelton; directors, J. I. Howe, Lewis Downs, Fitch Smith, William Guthrie, Thomas Burlock, Edward Lewis, Sidney A. Downes, H. S. Nichols; cashier, James M. Lewis.

The granting of the charter was violently opposed in the Legislature on account of the prejudices against the old Derby Bank, but soon after its organization it was found that the $100,000 capital was insufficient for the business of the town and vicinity.

In 1851 the stockholders voted to increase the capital to $300,000, which amount was subscribed and paid during the next two years.

In 1853 Mr. Lewis resigned his position as cashier to accept the position of president of the Union National Bank of New York city, and Mr. Joseph Arnold of the Meriden Bank was elected to and accepted the vacated position, which he has retained to the present time.

With the exception of a few months in 1865, Edward N. Shelton has remained president of this Bank, from the time of his first appointment in 1848 until the present.

In 1865 the institution was reorganized under the National Bank Act wdth the title of the Birmingham National Bank; the same officers being retained.

At first the Bank was located in a small room over the Shelton tack factory. In 1850 a banking house was built on the low grounds opposite the Iron and Steel Works, but in consequence of injuries done by freshets, another location was selected and the present bank building was erected on the corner of Main and Caroline streets, which is still occupied by this Bank and the Derby Savings Bank.

The institution has proved a successful and most accomodating enterprise to the citizens of Derby and its vicinity. The present board of officers and employes are: president, Edward


N. Shelton; vice-president, D. W. Plumb; directors, George Blakeman, Edward Lewis, Merritt Clark, Wm. E. Downes, Charles H. Pinney, Joseph Arnold; cashier, Joseph Arnold; book-keeper, Wm. S. Browne; teller, Charles E. Clark; clerk. Charles C. Blair.


The Birmingham Congregational Society was organized July 30, 1845. The first meeting was held at the house of Ephraim Birdseye, the present residence of Sharon Bassett, in Birmingham. There were present, David Bassett, Asa Bassett, G. Smith, Ephraim Birdseye, David Nathans, George W. Shelton, F. T. Frost, Edward Kirby and Samuel P. Tomlinson; four of whom are still living. David Bassett, Josiah Smith, 2d, and George W. Shelton were the first society's committee, and Ephraim Birdseye, clerk and treasurer. The name adopted was the "Birmingham Congregational Society." The church edifice was erected the same year by Hotchkiss, Clark & Company, at an expense of about $6,000. The lot was donated by Anson G. Phelps, for church purposes only, and the new edifice was dedicated January 28, 1846; the sermon on the occasion being preached by the Rev. Joel Parker, D. D., of Philadelphia.

In the summer of 1859 the edifice was enlarged by adding seventeen feet to its rear, at an expense of $2,500. In 1866 the present parsonage was erected at a cost of about $6,000. On January 4, 1846, sixty persons, in good standing, were dismissed from the First Church of Derby, and on February 13, 1846, organized themselves as a church by the adoption of articles of faith and a covenant. Feb. 25, 1846, a council of neighboring churches was held and the church formally recognized, the Rev. George Thatcher, pastor of the Derby Congregational church preaching the sermon. On March 9, 1846, the society voted to hire the Rev. E. W. Cook for six months and to pay him three hundred and twenty-five dollars.

Rev. Charles Dickinson was installed as the first settled pastor, Sept. 16, 1846, and continued as such until his death in 1854. Rev. Zachary Eddy of Warsaw, N. Y., was installed Dec. 19, 1855, and dismissed at his own request Feb. 11, 1858.


Congregational Church and Parsonage

The Rev. C. C. Carpenter was ordained pastor of this church Feb. 13, 1861, and continued thus until June 27, 1865, when he voluntarily resigned. May 1, 1866, the Rev. Stephen S. Mershon was installed, and by his own request was relieved of the

duties of pastor March 17, 1869. The Rev. Charles F. Bradley was installed over this church Dec. 30, 1873, and remains at the present time its pastor.

At a church meeting, April 10, 1846, Josiah Smith, 2d, and David Bassett were chosen deacons. The following have since


been chosen: Truman Gilbert, E. G. Atwood, Henry Somers, J. R. Hawley, G. W. Shelton, S. M. Gardner, and Joseph Tomlinson. The last three are acting at the present time.

At a church meeting held Feb. 13, 1846, George W. Shelton was appointed superintendent of the Sabbath school and was re-appointed yearly until 1854, in which year William B. Lewis was elected. In 1855 George W. Shelton was again chosen and held the office until April, 1858, when Truman Piper was elected. In April, 1859, Joseph Tomlinson was appointed and has held the office with the exception of one year up to the

During vacancies in the pastorate the Rev. J. Wiley, D. D., Rev. Robert G. Williams and Rev. John Willard have occupied the pulpit as stated supplies.

In the early history of the church the music was vocal and instrumental. At one time the latter consisted of a bass-viol, two violins and a flute. In 1856 an organ displaced these instruments. In 1871 the pulpit was removed from the recess at the west end of the church and the organ transferred from the gallery to it, and a movable platform with a neat plain desk substituted for a pulpit, occupying a few feet in front of the former. With this change the gallery choir was abandoned and singing was congregational, led by a precentor, the organ being accompanied by a flute. In 1874 an orchestra was added and has continued to the present time, mostly without a precentor.

This church has been harmonious and prosperous, and now numbers 221 members.


The King Hiram Lodge, No. 12, was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts to Brothers Charles Whittlesey and twenty-six others, Jan. 3, A. L., 5783, in the year of our Lord, 1783. The first communication was held at Derby Narrows, and the first lodge building was erected in 1791, of which the lodge was only part owner, the lower story being used for a school-room; the upper one for the lodge. The corner stone of this building is all that remains (a sacred relic), on which is inscribed the following:


By Samuel B. Marshall in the year of light, 5797."

"Breast to Breast
Let Brotherly love continue."

This lodge received its present charter from the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, May 12, 1792. Its ancient records with many Masonic valuables were destroyed in the great fire at Birmingham Jan. 12, 1879, and like many other institutions has had its seasons of growth and depression, and received its full share of odium in the days when bitter invectives were hurled against all who dared to profess the name of Freemasonry, but in spite of all this the light of the order was kept burning upon its altar. Lodge meetings were held at the Narrows until 1828, when it was voted to hold them at Humphreysville.

In 1812 the lodge was called upon, and assisted in laying the corner stone of St. Paul's church, Huntington, an edifice still standing. Communications at that time were often held during the day, and sometimes a whole day was occupied in Masonic work. "The refreshments furnished at the lodge rooms were such as would shock our sense of propriety at the present day, for we read from the records that the steward be instructed to procure one gallon of rum or half a gallon of French brandy for the use of the craft. But if we consider that in those days it many times took large quantities of the ardent to celebrate a fashionable wedding or raise a meeting-house, it would not be unreasonable to suppose that a little would be required on the occasion of raising a brother to the sublime degree of Master Mason.

"That custom however has long since been prohibited; ardent spirits of no kind being now permitted within the walls of the lodge room, and the practice of temperance is among the first duties taught in the lodge." [John H. Barlow's Historical Sketch King Hiram.]

In 1850 the furniture of the lodge was removed from Humphreysville to Birmingham where its communications have ever since been held. About this time the indiscriminate use of the


blackball created internal dissensions and proved a dark day for King Hiram, for because of this its charter was arrested in September, 1854, by the Grand Master of the state, but afterwards, in May, 1857, it was restored, and the lodge since that has increased in energy and vigor; numbering at present, 216 members, and attends to all regular Masonic work. It has nearly reached its centennial, and few lodges in the state are in a more flourishing condition. The present officers are: Clarke N. Rogers, W. M., Leonard Jacobs, S. W., Wm. T. Gilbert, J. W, Wm. H. Hull, treasurer, John H. Barlow, secretary, H. Stacy Whipple, S. D., George C. Moore, J. D.


This is a benefit and benevolent association, organized March 4, 1870 and called the Knights of Pythias. It has a fund of of about $1,000, and a membership of seventy-five, and the order is in a prosperous condition. Present officers: D. A. Beeman, C. C, George Munson, V. C., A. Gould, P., H. Hertz, M. of E., W. S. Thomas, M. of F., George Johnson, K. of R. and S.


On the 13th day of October, 1841, five brothers of the order resided in Derby, a territory in which there are now three flourishing lodges and two encampments. Their names were Sheldon Bassett, Robert Gates, Peter Phelps, Richard Evans and Robert R. Wood. These having received a dispensation from M. W. James B. Gilman, then Grand Master, met in a small, dingy room at Derby Narrows and were organized into the present lodge by P. G. M. Rev. Charles W. Bradley assisted by brothers from lodges Nos. 1, 4 and 5, located at New Haven and Bridgeport, the only lodges then existing in the western part of the state. At this time eight were initiated into the order, and thus, with an empty treasury, a little apartment without furniture for meetings, and a membership of thirteen, Ousatonic Lodge commenced its work. It was very prosperous up to 1853, when its members numbered 168 with a fund of 52,000. At this time there were sixty-nine lodges in the state, with a membership of 5,000. From apathy and other causes the


number of lodges in the state in 1860 had dwindled to twenty, with only 1,600 members, but the Ousatonic Lodge with only sixty-eight of the faithful persevered in well doing against the disrepute into which Odd Fellowship had then fallen, and as a result of their labors, No. 6, I. O. O. F. has been resuscitated and now has a membership of 180 with a fund of over $5,000.

In the great fire of Jan. 12, 1879, everything in the lodge room appertaining to the order was destroyed, including a select library of 600 volumes. Within the past year a spacious and most magnificent hall has been erected, richly furnished for the use of the order, and its free library is fast accumulating. It is not too much to say that this hall is one of the finest and and most tasty in the state.

The disbursements from the treasury since its organization for relief purposes have been a little short of $15,000. The lodge has never been in a more flourishing condition than at present, numbering in its enrollment of members our enterprising and substantial citizens. Its present officers are: Charles E. Clark, N. G., Charles E. Bradley, V. G., Gould A. Shelton, M. D., S, P. G., John H. Barlow, secretary, Charles H. Coe, treasurer, W. V. Bowman, librarian, A. B. Ruggles, chaplain.


This institution has been established some time but the fire of Jan. 12, 1879, destroyed all its effects. The present officers are: A. E. Burke, C. P., G. M. Wakelee, S. warden, Franklin Burton, high priest, Frank D. Jackson, treasurer, J. H. Barlow, scribe. The misfortunes which have overtaken the order have been overcome and it is now in a flourishing state.


Many, many moons ago, on a beautiful summer day in August at Cold Spring on the banks of the Ousatonic this social, friendly, and harmonious organization had its birth. A great medicine man, Thomas A. Button, M. D., who had studied the history of the wild though friendly Pequots of Derby, found that many of their social qualities and harmless amusements were worthy of imitation by the white man, and acting upon this principle, imbibing the Indian's Cold Spring water,


and devouring some game of which he was so fond in olden time, and while around the festive board this medicine man called a council, addressing them in the native language of the tribe. Credentials were at once issued for membership and from that day to this, the Pequots have been known as a well oro-anized and select council, which has a limited number of twenty- five active members and twelve honoraries.

The Pequots during the Indian summer of every year, rain or shine, visit their hunting grounds in quest of wild game, and the Great Spirit in the past has crowned their pastimes with abundant success. From their conquered game a royal feast or annual supper is prepared and enjoyed with invited guests, speeches, poems, songs, and the merry dance. They also have a masquerade ball at which the members appear in Indian costume; also their clam-bakes at the sea side in imitation of their tribe.

Nor is this all; the Pequots are a benevolent organization. They never quarrel among themselves, but help one another in sickness and in distress from accumulated funds, and do other acts of Christian kindness which entitle them to the name of the good brotherhood. The first grand sachem of the tribe was William C. Beecher; the present grand sachem is Henry Whipple; R. C. Gates, 2d sachem and scribe; A. Beardsley, medicine man.


This is an institution in the borough composed of a limited number of literary gentlemen who meet at least once a week for readings, discussions, the presentation of essays, poems and other exercises for mental elevation. It has been in existence about ten years, and enrolls among its members those of our best citizens An agreeable and interesting feature of the club is that the birthday of Robert Burns is yearly commemorated with invited guests, and supper, speeches, poems and other intellectual entertainments.


There are several Irish societies in Birmingham; the oldest being the Hibernian, established a quarter of a century ago,


and is benevolent in its object. Its officers are John Dockery, president, Timothy Gorman, vice president, Edward Mansfield, secretary, Thomas Sawyer, treasurer.

The St. Mary's Roman Catholic Total Abstinence society has been in existence about twelve years and numbers seventy . members. Its officers are: George Beeman, president, John E. Dockery, vice president, John Corcoran, secretary, Thomas I. Reynolds, treasurer.

St. Vincent De Paul organization has been in existence some years and has disbursed many charities to the poor. It has sixty-four members, and during the past year has paid $150 to the destitute in the town and $100 to suffering Ireland. The officers are: John Dockery, president, Patrick Doghan, vice president, William Rowan, secretary, Thomas Cordon, treasurer.

The Young Men's Temperance Roman Catholic association has seventy-eight members and holds monthly meetings for mental improvement, and having a fund in its treasury. Its officers are: Joseph McDonald, president, Dennis Reiley, vice president, Thomas Malloy, secretary, James Sweeney, treasurer.


St. Mary's church was erected in 1845; the spacious lot being donated by Anson G. Phelps for the Catholic people of Birmingham. It was consecrated by Bishop O'Reilley, and since the first edifice was erected, large additions have been made, a tower built and furnished with the heaviest and finest toned bell in town. The priests connected with this church have been Fathers McDermont, Smith, O'Neal, James Lynch, Sheridan, P. J. O'Dwyer, John Lynch, Peter Kennedy; the curates; C. Duggett, Michael McCauley, James Gleason, P. McKenna, Wm. O'Brien and Thomas F. Shelley.

Of the priests only one is now living, Peter Kennedy, and of the curates only two, Gleason, and Shelley the present incumbent.

With this parish, in and out of town, are connected about two thousand and two hundred persons. Looking through the past history of this people we call to mind the Irish pioneers of Birmingham, John Phalan, Wm. Foley, John O'Conners and Matthew Kellady, who, on the loth of September, 1833, were


landed at Derby dock from on board that old sloop The Guide. A son of Erin at that time was rather a curiosity to the denizens of the town.

Phalan and Conners in the quietude of old age, with honest and well- spent lives, still linger among us as Irish landmarks. Michael Stokes, Patrick Ouinn, John Regan, Farrel Reilley and others soon followed the first, until their number was legion. Along the canal banks, through the workshops, at the dam, and around the private residences may be seen the handiwork of this foreign element. As the Irishman looks back and contrasts the rustic mud shanties of his fatherland with his present cosy dwelling or neat little cottage that he here enjoys, through temperate and industrious habits, he may love the shamrock, but he ought no less to love the country of his adoption. He may here say with the Irish poet:

"Tho' poor the peasant's hut, his feast tho' small,
He sees his little lot, the lot of all;
Sees no contiguous palace rear its head
To shame the meanness of his humble shed."


Birmingham, in territorial limits is small and the settlement and population very compact. In 1851 it was chartered as a borough and the following gentlemen have since then held and discharged the duties of the office of warden:

Thomas Wallace,    2 years.
Abraham Hawkins,   3  "
John I. Howe,      1 year.
Henry Atwater,     3 years.
R. M. Bassett,     3  "
L. L. Loomer,      1 year.
Thomas Elmes,      1  "
William Hawkins,   1  "
Sharon Bassett,    1  "
Henry Whipple,     5 years.
Ambrose Beardsley, 8  "

The borough has three well organized fire companies: The Hotchkiss hose company, No. 1; Storm company, No. 2; and the R. M. Bassett hook and ladder company.

In 1859 William B. Wooster and William E. Downes with laborious efforts obtained a charter for constructing the Birmingham water works, which being completed is proving to be a great blessing to the borough. The supply .of water is abundant, with a fall of about two hundred feet; which not only accommodates the entire community, but is of incalculable value to the property owners in case of fire. The


reservoir is located on Sentinel Hill, near the old Col. Daniel Holbrook place, now the property of Mr. U. H. Swift, but at first the home of Capt. Abel Holbrook, one of the early settlers. These works were constructed late in the summer of 1859 at a cost of $26,000, and the outlay since has increased the sum to $60,000. Prior to this public desideratum, the people were poorly supplied with water thrown into a small reservoir, from a force pump in the old grist-mill of Fitch Smith, one of the earliest enterprises of the place. This reservoir stood near the residence of Stephen N. Summers on Caroline street. The present officers of this company are: S. N. Summers, president, Col. David Torrance, secretary and treasurer, Chas. H. Nettleton, superintendent.

The principal streets of the borough are lighted with gas from the Derby gas company located in Shelton.

Within the limits of the borough there are 365 houses, twenty factories and forty-four stores, great and small; the population being over 3,200. Many of the houses accommodate two or more families; in some instances from eight to fifteen in a block, and many live over stores which are not included in the above estimate.

The municipal authorities have within the present year taken measures to carry into effect a thorough system of drainage by sewers, and when this is accomplished the village will stand, especially in a sanitary point of view, second to no city in New England.

The borough has four churches, Methodist, Episcopal, Congregational and Roman Catholic; five clergymen, four lawyers, five resident physicians, three dentists, two banks, a post-office, two hotels, and a district school-house which is an ornament to the place. It was built in 1869, at a cost of about $40,000, under the superintendency of Joseph Arnold, Royal M. Bassett and Father O'Dwyer. It is a noble structure; of large dimensions, three stories high above the basement, built of brick, and ought to stand a thousand years.

Public school, Birmingham.

The building has twelve separate divisions or apartments; fourteen teachers; the highest room being classical. The annual expense of running the institution, including interest on the debt, is about twelve thousand dollars.


The location of Birmingham is picturesque in every point of view; even the rocky, wooded hill to the north-west being pleasant to the sight, and a beacon defense from the wind. The street opened but a few years since from a little above Edward N. Shelton's residence, along the brow of the hill to the Ansonia lower bridge, is surpassed for beauty of location by very

little inland scenery in New England. This street, called Atwater avenue, is being rapidly adorned with beautiful, palatial residences, surrounded by spacious, ornamented lawns; beginning with that of Mr. Shelton, built of gray stone, and continu-


ing nearly to the bridge just mentioned, a distance of over a mile.

Residence of George S. Arnold

The accompanying illustration is but a sample of fifty or more residences, in the upper part of Birmingham and on this avenue, that indicate the newness and prosperity of the place. The eastern and southern view from all the residences on this avenue is very agreeable in the day-time or during the evening. The Naugatuck valley lies on the east, and above it rises old Sentinel Hill, covered on its brow with picturesque green fields a large portion of the year, and along its base extends one continuous village from the point of rocks at the Narrows, on the south, to the extremity of the old North End on Beaver brook, and joining this, extending northward and westward, in full view, is the new and flourishing borough of Ansonia. In the evening this whole region presents the enchanting scene of one grand amphitheatre more than three miles in length and nearly two in breadth, illuminated by hundreds of street lamps and lights from the windows of the dwellings, to such an extent that, in the darkest evening, the whole panorama in its various parts is visible to the beholder. Such a sight as this, probably, the early fathers did not dream of when they stood on Sentinel Hill and saw only one dozen lights in all this region. Passing to the west side of Birmingham, on the high point in the cemetery, the view overlooking the village of Shelton, on the Ousatonic, although not as extensive, is like unto that on the east side, augmented by the beautiful Ousatonic Lake, and the sound of the water rolling over the great dam.


[transcriber note: image of Ousatonic Dam moved to pg 391]




THE Ousatonic Water Company at Birmingham was organized in December, 1866, with a cash capital of $322,500, having as its object the building of a dam across the Ousatonic river.

Ousatonic Dam

On the 10th of October, 1870, the completion of the work was honored by a grand celebration, consisting of an imposing procession, music by the Birmingham brass band, speeches by distinguished personages, and the gathering of a vast concourse of people.

The day opened cloudy, and seemed unfavorable for the fulfillment of the expectations of the occasion, but before noon the clouds were all dispersed, and, with the exception of high winds, the weather was every way delightful.

A little after noon the Russell Rifles, Capt. Naramore commanding, together with members of Kellogg Post, No. 26, Grand Army of the Republic, began to gather in the streets and soon after assembled in the public park with a section of battery, preparatory to marching over to Derby to receive Governor English and staff, Mayor Lewis of New Haven, and other distinguished guests.

Between one and two o'clock, these gentlemen were met, and escorted to the Perkins hotel, Birmingham, where they dined; the battery on the park thundering its jubilee and welcome; after which a procession was formed in the following order: Capt. A. E. Beardsley, grand marshal of the day, with Messrs. Abijah Gilbert, Henry Blackman, William Beecher, Dr. Pinney and Son, S. H. Brush and George T. Bushnell, mounted as assistants; Birmingham brass band; Russell Rifles, with battery; Governor English and staff: Mayor Lewis of New Haven; General Kellogg, Paymaster Charnley of New Haven and others; president and directors of the Ousatonic Water Company; children of the public schools, followed by an immense train of carriages and a multitude of people, closing up with


the faithful working oxen of the company with trucks and carts; the whole cavalcade and procession exceeding a mile in length.

Reaching the vicinity of the dam, the great multitude gathered on. the eastern shore around a large platform, on which were seated the speakers and invited guests of the day; and the great multitude listened with much interest for two hours or more to the speeches, interspersed with music by the Birmingham band, manifesting, thereby, their high appreciation of the triumph of the great undertaking, the making of an immense water power by damming the Ousatonic river.

The president of the day, after a few introductory remarks, introduced the speakers, and directed the services of the occasion.


Fellow Citizens: Those of us who have watched from day to day, from week to week, and from year to year, the progress of this great work until its final completion, have thought it fitting to turn aside from our usual occupations and close our places of business, and show by this appropriate demonstration that we consider this the completion of a work of no ordinary character. The committee having the matter in charge have to submit to you the following order of exercises:


Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: We have met to celebrate a great event. I am glad to see so large an assemblage on an occasion so interesting and important to this whole community. In common with a sentiment which I hope prevails in the breast of every one here, and in behalf of the citizens of Derby and Huntington, I heartily congratulate the pioneers, projectors, stockholders and builders of this dam, on the completion, thus far, of this grand and most magnificent enterprise. Thirty years ago the project of making the waters of the Ousatonic available for manufacturing purposes was discussed in this community, by capitalists of that day; a survey up and down this river was made, a charter obtained and other preliminaries arranged; but for want of sufficient encouragement that project failed, and it has remained for the zeal, the energy, and the indomitable perseverance of aShelton and his companions, to carry forward and consummate a work, which now guarantees to this locality a water power scarcely equaled in the whole


country. Where can you find another structure of such magnitude, pushing back such a stream, forming a lake so beautiful, environed with such charming scenery, and built as this has been, in tide water, and near the head of navigation? Certainly not in Connecticut, and scarcely in all New England.

We ought to be more than thankful that we have had men in our midst of sufficient nerve, pluck and financial ability to prosecute this herculean task to a successful termination. This structure, now more than three years in the Potter's hands, has been built under great discouragements, but you see we have at last an earthen vessel "made to honor,"capable of holding more water than that which turns the factory wheels of the famous "Spindle City" of the old Bay State.

I said this dam had been built under great embarrassments. No one can know the anxious days and sleepless nights of the men who have had the matter in charge, except those who have passed through the experience. It is easier to croak and find fault than to go forward, take the responsibility, and make things come out all right. Great enterprises always have their difficulties. Diversities of opinion will prevail, mistakes happen, but final success will eventually silence all doubt and harmonize discordant feelings. Many have predicted this undertaking a failure from the start. Why, I remember, about the time the books were opened for subscriptions, a worthy gentleman, and one whose opinions I have generally received as law and gospel on most subjects, said to me: "Why Doctor, the boy isn't born who will live long enough to see the Ousatonic dammed." I can tell my friend if he is here to-day, that a good many boys have been born in Derby since that prediction, and some of them, I am glad to say, have already opened their eyes upon this structure. The granite, timber and cement have been fashioned and consolidated into graceful form, and we hope to see this solid wall of masonry standing for years to come in grateful memory of Shelton, Potter, Wooster, Plumb, Howe, Smith, and many others, even to every toiling Irishman who has been instrumental in completing the work which has called us together to-day.

Let us then rejoice on this occasion, and not only wish the stockholders abundant success, but a rich reward for their investment. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their untiring efforts, paralyzed as they have been, from time to time, by perils in the water as well as perils among the people. For the success of this work, thus far, we are under greater and more lasting obligations to the president of the company, Mr. Edward N. Shelton, I was about to say, than all others combined. He has not only largely invested his fortune here, but for more than three years, day and night, this "dam of dams" has hung like an in-


cubus on his mind, but with an iron will and devotedness of purpose, with an eye single to success he has braved every obstacle in in his way, and without his exertions this water power might have remained idle for ages and we not have been here to-day rejoicing. The building of this dam will form a new era in the history of old Derby and Huntington. I do not expect to live to see the results expected, but there are those within the sound of my voice, who may yet see in reality what I see in imagination, the rising glory of the city which is to line these shores and cover these hill-sides as the "waters cover the sea."

Factories, mansions and temples of worship, neat little cottages, beautiful parks, verdant lawns and spacious avenues, teeming with a population of life and activity, will rise up here and in the glow of prosperity, and through the dignity of all the varied occupations of industry make this place take her stand among the first manufacturing cities of New England. Already the signs of the times are working in our favor. Why, you see we have here to-day, for encouragement, our worthy governor and staff, his Honor Mayor Lewis, General Kellogg and other distinguished gentlemen, and we expect railroads from every point of the compass aided by liberal state legislation will centre here, and when our congressmen shall have removed the clogs of navigation, and this dam shall have proved immovable against the fury of ice and water floods, then who shall doubt, who shall deny that in this vicinity and to this spot in the future,

"The Star of Empire shall take its way!"

Standing near this monument of Yankee enterprise and looking back through the past, how striking is the contrast to day in comparison with two hundred years ago! Then Derby contained a population of only eleven small families of British stock; Huntington "beautifully less," while these surroundings were a mere howling wilderness, lined with winding footways, along which the savage man and more savage beast traveled alike in single file; birds here built their nests in the forests, unmolested by roguish boys, while the cunning fox dug his hole in yonder hill unscared. Sturdy oaks and taller pines hung in deep shadows over the margins of this ancient Pootatuck, which for centuries had rolled its waters unchecked in silent majesty down to their ocean bed. "Here lived and loved another race of beings." Yonder mound of mother earth, which now links the savage with the civilized was once an Indian fort, in front of which no white man dared show his face. The "Poor Indian," monarch of all he surveyed, brought to his wigwams here and there the fruits of his daily hunt, smoked his pipe in peace, and sailed up and down this river, not in the Monitor nor


the Dunderburg, but in his little bark canoe. Such was this spot in its primitive loveliness, stamped as it were from the first dawn of creation, but wild and uncultivated as it was, still it was the paradise of Indians:

"Over whose graves the reckless ploughshare driven,
Has scattered their ashes to the winds of heaven."

Tradition tells us that in later times just below where we stand, our good forefathers once erected a vast store-house, where cargoes of sugar and not a little good rum were brought from the West Indies, dumped and stowed away to cheat the colonial government, just as some of our pious rascals nowadays cheat the federal government out of its lawful revenue. Hence this place was given the savory name of "Sugar street." It is well that they did not call it "Rum street." But how changed! It has lost its historical significance in the slow but sure march of civilization. The same river rolls at our feet, but changed in its course as it now is, may its waters in the noisy hum of factory wheels, yet roll down streams of plenty to this people, and to generations that shall come. Once more, let us rejoice in the completion of an undertaking which unfolds to our view a brighter, more hopeful, more prosperous future. May the blessings of heaven rest upon the enterprise; and when the dwellers upon the east and upon the west in after years shall from day to day, go to their evening repose lulled by the roaring music of this little Niagara, may they, in gratitude, never forget the authors and finishers of the Ousatonic dam.


I must make my grateful acknowledgments for the manner in which the doctor has alluded to the directors of the Water Company. They have labored incessantly for more than four years, and the result is before you and will speak in more impressive language than anything that I can say. As to the eulogy pronounced on myself it does not become me to speak, but I will leave it to the citizens to say how well it is merited. Few persons that have not been engaged in a similar enterprise can appreciate the amount of labor necessary to bring a work of this magnitude to completion, to say nothing of the annoyances and interruptions always attending it. And perhaps a brief statement of the origin and progress of the enterprise may not be out of place at this time.

The question of damming the Ousatonic river for manufacturing purposes was first agitated in 1838; and in 1839 application was made to the Legislature of this state for a charter, or rather the revival of a charter that was granted in 1822, for a canal from Derby or Huntington to New Milford, for purposes of navigation, and which had expired


by its own limitation. The requisite legislation was obtained, but as the shad interest was so important, and science had not then discovered that fish like individuals could climb ladders and go over dams, the company were not permitted to build a high dam like the one completed, but a low dam, with a tumbling rapid over it for the shad. This required the location of the dam near Zoar bridge and the water to be brought down in a canal to the present location or below. The surveys made at that time made the expense so great that it was abandoned, and most of the men who were engaged in the enterprise at that time have gone and but few remain to be with us to-day.

The enterprise was then allowed to sleep more than twenty years, and many supposed it would rest forever. But in 1863 a few individuals, looking .upon it as of much importance to this vicinity, concluded to make another effort. To make it an object to enlist the necessary capital, the real estate must be secured, which was obtained after much labor and many embarrassments. Application was made to the Legislature in I864 for permission to dam the river. Here we were met by parties from New Milford and other places by a strong opposition on account of the shad fisheries. A delegation was sent to Maine to investigate the fish weirs in operation in that state. So satisfied were they of the success of the weirs that they engaged a gentleman who had had considerable experience, to come with them to New Haven and bring a model of a weir, and they were successful in convincing the committee of the Legislature of the practicability of passing the shad over the dam, and thereby obtained a report in their favor, and thus secured the legislative enactment, and we trust we shall be equally successful in demonstrating to our New Milford friends the coming spring that shad will go over dams on properly constructed weirs. The weir now being built will be the first in the state.

An effort was made in 1864 to raise the necessary capital and failed. After the close of the war, in 1865, the revival of manufacturing by the great demand for all classes of goods revived the hopes of the friends of the enterprise. Another effort was made in 1866 with better results and the company was organized in the autumn of that year, since which time the work has been progressing, embarrassed and retarded by frequent freshets. In 1869 the dam was nearly completed, when by the great freshet of October 4, owing to the manner in which the work was left, a portion of the dam was swept away, being near one quarter of the work. We were disheartened but not discouraged, and now presume the work to be completed and able to resist the roaring torrents of the Ousalonic, as we put perfect confidence in its stability. It is also proper to mention in this connection, that most of the capital for this


great work was raised in our vicinity, an instance of the great public enterprise of its citizens.

But, gentlemen, although the dam is completed our task is but half finished. That sheet of water, as beautiful as it is, is of no particular value to this community until it is made to turn the wheels and drive the machinery, guided by skillful hands, to be made productive, and every citizen should feel that he has an interest in the enterprise, for if it prospers the whole community will prosper, and if it is allowed to languish the community will be affected by it. As the dam has become a fixed thing, all discussion whether it is located in the right place, or built in the best manner, or of the best and most approved materials, should cease, and everything should be done to give confidence and thereby secure success by attracting capital and labor to it, and we shall then soon see these hills covered with residences and the whole valley teeming with prosperity.


O fair and smiling stream that flows
So sweetly, grandly on,
Beneath the slanting, genial rays
Of mild October's sun;
We come to-day a festal throng,
To give thee joyous hail,
And crown thee in our speech and song
The monarch of the vale.

To-day the bow of promise spans
The crystal waters o'er.
While Hope with radiant visage stands
Upon thy shining shore;
And with her prescient finger points
To history's glowing page.
Where foremost stands thy name among
The blessings of the age.

Fair Ousatonic! Round thy banks
Full many a mem'ry clings,
Of tree and crag and eddying nook --
Those old familiar things.
There's not a rock upon thy banks,
No pebble on thy shore,
That has not some sweet tale to tell
Of good old days of yore.

Lo! yonder cliff with frowning front
Reveals a granite page.
Whereon is writ in mystic lines
Of that primeval age.


When, from earth's groaning centre came --
By fierce volcanic shock --
'Mid sulph'rous fumes and burning flame,
The boiling, bubbling rock.

On old Fort Hill, athwart the stream,
Methinks an hundred braves
Awake to anger as the spade
Of progress strikes their graves;
And forth they come upon the trail --
The war whoop sounds again,
And burning cabins tell the tale
Of vengeance on the plain.

Nay, 'twas a dream! Through fairer fields
To-day thy waters flow.
Nor molten rock, nor forest child
The present age can know;
Forever hence 'mong peaceful scenes
Thy onward waters press,
While busy progress bendeth down
Thy white lipped waves to kiss.

Upon thy fair and sunny slopes.
Luxurious homes of ease
Raise their proud forms, while wealth and art
Join hand in hand to please.
Around your rustic cottage door
The laborer tills the soil,
And finds in love -- 'tis all he asks --
Sweet recompense for toil.

Behold the future bringeth now
A vision to the eye!
A city, lofty spired and domed.
Looms up against the sky;
Its serried walls of brick and stone
Wind upward from the shore.
Where men may come, whence men may go,
Till time shall be no more,
With restless hearts, to chafe and beat
Against life's prison walls,
Or sport the hour of pleasure sweet
Among its palace halls.

And hark! Along the winding shore
An hundred giant mills,
With hammer clack, and screaming gong.
Re-echo to the hills.
While forge and wheel and glowing steel
Take up the glad refrain.
And sing the song of toil redeemed
From manacle and chain.


Oh, glorious thought that breaks upon
The spirit of the age,
Which lights and cheers the present and
Illumes the future page:
That tells of those millennial days
Which e'en may now begin,
When common aims and common ends,
Make all mankind akin.

When generous wealth, forgetting self.
Shall come with lavish hand
To spread broadcast for public good
Its influence through the land,
To build its giant walls of rock
The mountain streams to span,
To stay their rushing tides and tame
Their energies for man;
Who dies that other men may live
The world hath crowned with bays.
Who sows that other men may reap
Shall surely wear the praise.

O generous men! heroes of peace
Whose courage never failed.
When timid hearts beat faint and low
And croaking tongues assailed;
This lesson let us learn from thee.
That not life's sunny side
Shall give us strength; that greatness comes
From battling with the tide.


Fellow Citizens of Birmingham: While it was not my fortune to have been born in the Naugatuck valley, it was my good fortune to be born in the good old state of Connecticut, and to have spent my life within her borders. As a citizen of Connecticut, I have always felt a deep interest in every thing that was calculated to promote the best interests of both the people and the state.

Geographically speaking we are confined within very srnall limits. Our ancient fathers were for the most part farmers, and at best obtained but scanty reward for their labor. We have a hard and unyielding soil, which submits reluctantly to the hand of toil and gives but grudgingly of its rewards to industry.

The agricultural production of the state is but a small portion of our consumption; in fact there are not four months' food in Connecticut to-day. Stop the importation of food and our people would have to leave the state or die of starvation within that period. Hence the


necessity for a diversity of pursuits. Early in the eighteenth century there was but a single fulling mill in the state; this manufactured what is called fulled, but undressed cloth.

Col. Humphreys commenced the manufacture of fine cloth in this valley early in the present century. So celebrated had become his cloth, that in November, 1808, Thomas Jefferson, then president of the United States, desirous of appearing at the White House on New Year's day, with a suit of clothes of American manufacture, sent the collector of customs at New Haven the following order: "Homespun is become the spirit of the times. I think it an useful one, and therefore that it is a duty to encourage it by example. The best fine cloth made in the United States, I am told is at the manufactory of Col. Humphreys. Send enough for a suit." From that early beginning to the present time manufacturing in your valley has been increasing, until to-day it ranks as one of the most extensive manufacturing districts in the state.

In this whole dam, with its gates and canals, you have a work of which you may well be proud. It is a monument to your foresight, skill and liberality. We celebrate its completion to-day, and all rejoice that we are permitted to be here and witness the water as it flows over this grand structure. It is a beautiful sight. You that have erected, at so much cost, this power, need not be told by me how to utilize it. A liberal man deviseth liberal things. This work is but an evidence of your great liberality. I doubt not you will extend to those who may seek to use your power the same liberality you have expended in erecting your privilege.

When this power comes to be used, as it will, to its full capacity, then your village will reap all the benefit which must come from a work of so great a magnitude. Nor will the benefit be confined to your town, as every town and county in the state will be benefited by it.


It is no ordinary event that has brought this vast assembly together. It is the happy consummation of an enterprise, rare in its magnitude and rare in the difficulties that have been surmounted, which has called out every household in this community, has closed their shops and factories, and poured forth their whole industrious population on this auspicious occasion, as if it were a day of jubilee. It is right, eminently right, to celebrate such an event. It is right for the whole people to come together, to do honor to the energy and the enterprise of the men who planted and carried forward this great work, in spite of disaster and unexpected obstacles, to its glorious completion. I well


remember the history of the legislation of 1864 by which the charter of this company was obtained, which has been so well related by Mr. Shelton in his speech; and it is to his individual energy and perseverance that you are so much indebted for this great work. Mr. Shelton and other leading citizens of your place came to the Legislature that year with a petition for a charter; and I was associated with John S. Beach, Esq., as counsel in the matter, and the case was heard before the committee. The petitioners came before the committee with their evidence; and the case was so strong, that it seemed as if there could be no objection to the granting of a charter for so beneficent an enterprise, but all at once we heard the shrill cry of "Shad! shad!" echoing dov.'n the river from the lips of some representatives of towns above you, interested in their up-river shad fisheries. They thought they could defeat the petition with this cry, too; for you know it is the popular impression, that, with a Connecticut Legislature, there is not in the whole field of logic or in the wide range of legislative debate, so potent and controlling an argument as "shad!" But the men who had charge of the petition; Messrs. Shelton, Downs and others, were not to be defeated in that way, and one of them, Mr. William E. Downes.wentatonce to Maine and brought back with him an expert in the building of dams on the rivers in that state. They then produced before the committee a model of a fish weir, such as had been used in the construction of their dams in Maine, and it was made so plain that the fish could go above the dam by means of this weir, that the committee were satisfied they could grant the charter and preserve their respect for the right of the shad and the shad-eaters at the same time. I am not very certain what the shad will do about it now. And although opposition did not cease, the charter was granted, and we knew then that the fulfillment of this great enterprise would come.

The war was then being prosecuted to its final grand struggle; it was the last year of the war, and the whole resources of the country, money as well as men, were demanded to sustain the government in its efforts to preserve its existence. It was impossible at such a time to raise the necessary capital for so great a work. When the war was at an end, we watched with interest the progress of the enterprise and were glad when its success was assured. And when one year ago this month, the floods had broken up our railroad and interrupted our communication with each other, and we learned that the same destructive storm had swept away the work of years of anxiety and toil, I did not meet with a single man among all the business men of Waterbury, who did not speak of it with sadness and with sympathy for you in your great calamity. But though the work of weary years was gone, disas-


ter and loss could not stay the enterprise in such hands as yours; its fulfillment has come and before us is the grand result which you are here to-day to celebrate.

Our good state of Connecticut must depend upon manufactures, more than any one interest, for its increase in wealth and prosperity. Our worthy governor has just told you, in his speech, that Connecticut was very early a manufacturing state, and was among the first to establish certain branches of manufacturing industry. While we are proud of the history of our state for this and many other reasons, we must admit, I think, that the manufactures of the state were comparatively a small interest, until within the last thirty years. I think my friend Plumb and some others I see before me remember well that in the Naugatuck valley thirty years ago, the manufacturing establishments were upon a very small scale compared with those of the present day. The increase in this time has been wonderful -- thanks to the energy of men like him and others here.

Some have claimed that the day of increase in the manufacturing interests and prosperity of New England has gone by, and that other sections of the country are fast supplanting her in this respect. I know that the manufacturing interest has largely increased in the West the last few years. But while some branches of industry may seem to have declined, let us see if the manufactures of New England, as a whole, have not rapidly increased during these years. By statistics taken during the last year, it was found that in 1869 there were, in New England alone, four thousand and one hundred factories, whose annual production of goods would average one hundred and fifty thousand dollars for each factory. One-half of these had been established since the beginning of 1863, and one-fourth since the beginning of 1866. And the whole annual production of these establishments is more than six hundred millions of dollars, more than enough in four years to pay our whole national debt, and this in New England alone. Tell me not, then, that the manufacturing interest of New England is declining, and that the day of its rapid increase is gone. At the same time, many branches of manufactures have been established in the Western states and in other sections of the country; and there are to-day over six hundred woolen mills west of the Alleghanies, more than half of which have been established within the last five years. Thank God, there is room enough in this broad land for them all; and there is room enough in the rapid development of the resources of the country for new and more extensive establishments of the manufacturing interest of the country.

The great work in whose presence we staud is the combined result


of capital and labor. Capital employed as this has been is devoted to the interests of labor. Upon labor it bestows its blessings and benefits. Their interests are the same and they go hand in hand. How many families have had their daily wants supplied, and the rewards of toil freely bestowed upon them, in the progress of this work; and how many more there will be, we trust will be seen in the near future, when the mills shall line both banks of the river below! Give labor its full reward; but the men who have planned and carried forward this great work, through discouragement and disaster, have had the hardest of the labor. Unto each be their full share of the merit of its completion, and how soon in this land the energetic and industrious laborer may become the capitalist. There are to-day, upon the banks of a single branch of the Naugatuck, in Waterbury -- the Mad river -- five large manufacturing establishments, that employ daily from 1,200 to 1,400 hands, and furnish the means of support and the comforts of life to more than three times that number of population. And yet the generation has not entirely passed away since the men who built these establishments might be found, from morning until night, in their little one-story shops where their rolling mills and four-story factories now stand, with their coats off and their shirt sleeves rolled up, and with their own sturdy toil laying the foundations of their own future wealth and prosperity. So has it been here, and so has it been with others who have won the success they deserved. We trust you will gather a full reward for the energy and toil that have brought this great work to a successful completion. May the results of the increase and prosperity of your community far outrun your most sanguine expectation. May the year soon come when both sides of your river shall be lined with factories, and the ringing of hammers and the rattle of machinery shall resound from bank to bank, and these beautiful hillsides and summits shall be covered with houses, the houses and homes of the people. And may the good God in his mercy, who gathereth the waters and bindeth the floods from overflowing, preserve you from any disaster or destructive freshet to sweep away the work of your hands.


The Ousatonic is one of the largest rivers in New England, having a much greater volume of water than the Blackstone, Quinebaug, Chicopee, Shetucket or Willimantic, all bordered by flourishing manufacturing towns, and but little less than the Merrimac, which drives the countless spindles of Lowell. The Ousatonic takes its rise among the hills of Berkshire county,


Massachusetts, more than one hundred miles above the head of tide water at Birmingham, and empties into Long Island Sound near Bridgeport. It drains about two thousand square miles of territory and receives numerous tributaries, some of which are rivers of considerable magnitude, such as Still river, Pomperaug and Shepaug. These affluents usually commence their course at the outlet of large lakes which serve as natural reservoirs, equalizing the flow of water, and insuring an unfailing supply at all seasons of the year. The minimum average flow of water during the lowest stages is estimated at not less than five hundred cubic feet per second, which is equivalent to twenty-five hundred horse power for twelve hours per day.

Aside from the abundance of water which the Ousatonic affords, the fact that it was the last available large water power in close proximity to navigable tide water along the whole New England coast would seem to have been sufficient inducement for its speedy utilization, but it was only recently that its incomparable advantages appear to have been fully recognized.

The dam is located at the head of navigation on the Ousatonic river, only seventy miles by rail from the city of New York. It consists of solid masonry twenty-two feet in height, constructed in the most approved and substantial manner across the Ousatonic, a distance of six hundred and thirty-seven feet. The great extent of country drained by this river, together with the immense reservoir above the dam five miles in length, ensures a permanent supply of water equal to twenty-five hundred horse power twelve hours a day. Mr. Henry T. Potter was the engineer and superintendent of this great work, which occupied nearly three years in its construction and in rebuilding a portion which was torn away by a flood when the enterprise was near its completion. The work began on the eastern side late in the spring of 1867. The first year a considerable portion of the eastern abutment was built, and a portion of the dam proper was run across to an island near the middle of the river. The next year this portion was completed, a bed and apron were put in place for about one hundred feet in the middle of the river, and another section of the dam was pushed westward about half-way across the remaining portion of the river. Here began a contest between human skill and the powers of nature,


and after a struggle of no small magnitude, nature conquered and the work rested during the winter. In the spring of 1869 it was talcen up vigorously again, the dam was constructed to the western shore; then the workmen returned to the middle gap in the river, and had very nearly brought it to perfection when a heavy flood came, drove the workmen away, tore out about two hundred feet of the structure to its foundations, and rolled it down the stream.

In the spring of 1870 the work was again taken up, when the whole central gap was closed up by a solid wall and the whole dam stood in its place, a magnificent work of art. On Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 5, at three o'clock and ten seconds, the final cap stone was lifted to its position.

The engineer, Mr. H. T. Potter, received most hearty commendation and praise. He was a man of no specious pretense, yet very able; patient as most men, often more so; seeing at a glance what he could do, and always did what he promised; many times under censure, and yet he went on his way steadily, pushing to the end, beating back one and another difficulty, until finally the work under his hands grew to its final completion, a monument to his engineering skill.

The length of the construction, compassing the curve of fifty feet in crossing the river, is six hundred and thirty-seven feet, to which must be added one hundred and seventy-five feet in length in both abutments, making eight hundred feet of solid masonry. The abutments are twenty feet at the base, eight feet at the top and from twenty-five to thirty-two feet in height; the whole length of the masonry being capped with granite blocks from Maine. At the base of the dam juts an apron twenty-four feet in width of southern pine logs one foot square, resting upon and fastened to some two feet more of timber and masonry. The abutments at each end are thirty-seven feet high, each pierced by three eight feet square gate-ways, through which the water passes into the canals constructed on each side of the river. There is a lock constructed on the western canal; also a weir or fish race through which an occasional June shad with a sprinkling of youthful lamprey eels are allowed to go up for the special benefit of the up country people.

The whole structure consists of blocks of rock laid in water


cement, all done by first-class labor under rigid directions; and so perfect is the masonry over which the water pours, that the surface of the sheet of water the entire length of the dam is as unbroken and smooth as if it were but a foot in length. The effect of the fall of such a body of water is as if the earth were trembling, rather than a great sound in the air, although science tells us it is in the air. This trembling has been observed many times in the upper or western part of the city of New Haven, a distance in a direct line of over eight miles.

While the whole community have cheered on this work and rendered its aid in many ways, it is nevertheless due. to mention in a distinctive form the men who have been prominent in securing the construction and completion of this enterprise.

Edward N. Sheltou,
Edwin Wooster,
John I. Howe,
A. H. Ailing,
C. B. Ailing,
David W. Plumb,
William E. Downes,
Thomas Elmes,
Royal M. Bassett,
Robert May,
Thomas Burlock.


This new and growing village, named after one of its pioneers, Edward N. Shelton, is located directly opposite Birmingham, across the Ousatonic in the town of Huntington. Its landscape rises gradually westward from the river over half a mile, reaching an elevation of two hundred and fifty feet facing the Orient sun, overlooking the Ousatonic and commanding a fine view of the charming and diversified scenery of Derby. The stranger is delighted with its natural and picturesque surroundings, and probably few localities in New England afford a more desirable site for a healthy and beautiful city. Since the completion of the Ousatonic dam in 1870 Shelton has grown rapidly and now numbers one hundred and seventy-five dwelling houses, many of which are spacious single residences, illustrating the present day architecture as finely as any village in the country. "Adam's block" on Howe street is a good illustration of that style of combination of less expensive residences.

Shelton has now in operation twelve manufacturing establishments, all built of brick except the stone factory, and which afford opportunity for the employment in the aggregate of about


one thousand hands. Nelson H. Downs built the first factory, which is now occupied by J. W. Birdseye & Company, under the name of the Birmingham Corset Company, where they conduct an extensive business, employing about 225 operatives.

Sharon Bassett's extensive carriage bolt factory was completed in 1872; employs at present about sixty hands; the monthly pay roll amounting to $2,000, and the yearly products to one hundred thousand dollars.

Norway Iron Bolt Works

The stone factory, now occupied by E. C. Maltby & Son, manufacturers of spoons, forks and Maltby's dessicated cocoa-nut,

was one of the early buildings of the village. This firm employs about 80 hands. The factory was built by Edwin Wooster in 1872, he being one of the directors in the Ousatonic Water Company, and labored industriously and was highly instrumental in obtaining subscriptions to the stock, overcoming prejudices against the undertaking, and was very efficient in forwarding the dam to completion, but the enterprise proved to be a sad misfortune to him. In 1873, while at work about the dam, he suffered the calamity of fracturing his thigh, which made him a cripple for life. On the 20th of April, 1876, he, in company with Frank Hayes and Patrick Cronan on board the Dunderburg laden with


wood, was engineering the boat down the river about eight o'clock in a dark night, the water in the river being above its usual height, when, being deceived by an unusual light below, instead of entering the canal lock as he intended the boat went on the dam and all went over it. Wooster's last expression while going over was, "God save us all!" Cronan either floated or swam to the western shore near Wilkinson's paper mill, while Hayes was rescued from the artificial island just below the dam, both men being nearly exhausted. Wooster was a good swimmer, but he was lost. His relative, Col. Wm. B. Wooster, spared neither pains nor expense to find the body; experienced divers being employed with others for several days but without success. On the 5th of May following, Bradley Crofut and others, while fishing, discovered his body standing nearly erect in the river opposite the old Thompson plape just below the point of rocks.

Mr. Wooster was a native of Oxford and was connected in mercantile and manufacturing enterprises more than ten years. He was also for a long time deputy sheriff, and was a busy and enterprising man in his relations to society. He was sixty years of age, and his accidental death was deeply lamented and spread universal gloom over the community.

Wilkinson Brothers & Company put up their extensive mills in 1871 and 1872. In 1878 these mills were entirely destroyed by fire, sustaining a loss of $150,000. After the removal of the debris, through the remarkable energy and perseverance of William Wilkinson, they were rebuilt in four months and eighteen days, and the manufacture of paper again commenced.

The products of the mill are manilla colored envelope and hardware papers. They employ seventy hands and turn out over a million dollars worth of paper annually. The firm consists of William Wilkinson, sen., Thomas P. Wilkinson, William H. Leach, Charles A. Wheedon and George S. Arnold. This extensive concern is surpassed by no paper mill in the country, and that the quality of their goods is superior to all others in their line is manifest from the extent of the annual sales.

Derby Silver Company has been organized since 1872. Their present large factory was built in 1877. Mr. Edwin L. Britton inaugurated in Shelton the manufacture of Britannia or silver


plated goods of various descriptions, and the business is now in a most prosperous condition and constantly increasing. The capital stock of the company is $140,000. They employ one hundred and thirty hands and produce annually $200,000 worth of goods: their monthly pay roll being $8,000. E. De Forest Shelton, president; William J. Miller, secretary; William E. Downs, treasurer.

The Tack and Bolt factory, a branch of the Tack Company of Birmingham, was built in 1871; employs about fifty hands. and is among the substantial firms of the village.

The Derby Gas works, which supply Derby and vicinity with gas, were constructed in 1871; the charter having been obtained in 1859 by William B. Wooster. Present officers: William B. Wooster, president; Charles H. Nettleton, secretary and treasurer, and general manager. The board of directors are: Charles B. Hotchkiss of Bridgeport, Charles Nettleton of New York, Charles Hill, Sidney A. Downes, Wm. B. Wooster and Wm. E. Downs of Derby,

Wilcox and Howe, carriage hardware

Wilcox & Howe erected their present factory in 1875; the company consists of a copartnership, employing about forty hands, and is engaged in the manufacture of carriage hardware


of a superior quality of over $100,000 worth annually. Darius Wilcox, one of the partners, started the business in Ansonia on a capital of $39. Their monthly pay roll exceeds $2,000, and the business is constantly increasing.

The Star Pin Company was organized in 1867 with a capital of $40,000; George H. Peck was then president, and Joseph Tomlinson, secretary and treasurer. At first the company manufactured pins at Wells Hollow in Huntington, Conn., but finding their business increasing, in 1875 they erected their present brick factory in Shelton. At that time Mr. Tomlinson sold largely of his stock to Mr. Peck, who has succeeded to the management of the business. Present officers: D. W. Plumb, president; G. H. Peck, secretary and treasurer. To the making of pins has been added the manufacture of hooks and eyes and hair pins. The company is prosperous, employing fifty hands and turning out one hundred tons of goods yearly, at a value of $125,000.

Radcliffe Brothers, manufacturers of hosiery goods, built their factory in 1874. They employ about one hundred and ten hands, and produce $140,000 worth of goods annually, the monthly pay roll being $3,000.

The Beardsley Building Company is located in Shelton and is among the foremost in house and factory building. They employ on an average forty hands.

The Derby Cotton mills, for the manufacturing of linings, mosquito nettings, buckram and crinoline, have just been established and promise to be a regular bee-hive to Shelton. Their extensive works, as lately enlarged, are now nearly in full operation. Robert Adams, sole proprietor of the concern, is a live man, enterprising, and understands thoroughly his business; and will employ at least three hundred and twenty-five hands, with three hundred power looms, 17,000 spindles, turning out 4,500 pieces of goods per day. Monthly pay roll $7,000, and the annual products amounting to $350,000.

There are several smaller enterprises in the village.

Zachariah Spencer, machinist, turns out fine goods and workmanship in his line as a specialty.

Church Brothers, manufacturers of brackets and fancy woodware.


The village is supplied with four grocery stores, two meat markets, one large carriage and blacksmith shop, conducted by John Donavan; two extensive coal yards, one by Horace Wheeler, the other by Perry Brothers, and two livery stables.

The place is blest with only one physician, Doctor Gould A. Shelton, a graduate of Yale Medical school, who is now in active and successful practice.

The Shelton Water Company, at an outlay of $20,000, have supplied the village with good water, having a fall of two hun-


dred and fifty feet, and preparations are in progress for ample protection against fire. D. W. Plumb, president; C. H. Nettleton, general agent.

The Indian Well

The accompanying illustration represents the Indian Well on the west of the Ousatonic about a mile above the dam; it being one of the attractions of the Shelton side of the river and is a quiet spot in the gorge of the mountain where the sun seldom penetrates its rays. Silence reigns here supreme, broken only by the soft murmur of the stream falling a distance of twenty-five feet. Tradition says the Indians fathomed the well to the depth of a hundred feet and found no bottom and that they held some superstition of awe and veneration for the place. It is an enchanting spot and thousands of pleasure seekers visit it in the summer to enjoy its romantic scenery and seek recreation from the busy routine of daily avocations.

In the midst of all this money and enterprise there is one institution not professedly engaged in the acquisition of wealth, "The Scattergood Mission," the beginning of a church, supported by all denominations, which is prosperous under the energy and perseverance of Rev. Friend Hoyt, who inaugurated the movement. A bill is now before the Legislature to legalize it into a Union Church society.

Thus within the last decade Shelton has put on the garb of a miniature city. The place is so intimately connected with Birmingham and Derby in business enterprises and social life that although located in another town it properly belongs to the history of Derby.

History of the Old Town of Derby - End of Part 9

Introduction    Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5    Part 6    Part 7    Part 8   
Part 9    Part 10    Part 11    Part 12    Part 13    Part 14    Part 15    Part 16    Part 17   

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