parish history of Redding covers a space of thirty-eight years
and for this period the only materials we have for our history-except
a few entries in the records of the colony-are found in the
record book of the First Church and Society. These records
seem to have been kept with the most pitiless brevity; only
the barest details were set down, and if one desires more
than the dry facts of this era, he must draw on his imagination
this period events happened of the greatest moment to the
colony. Three of the terrible French and Indian wars occurred,
to which Redding contributed her full share of men and money,
although Fairfield received the credit. Then there were constant
alarms of Indians on the border-there were hunting and exploring
parties into the wilderness, under the guidance of the friendly
Indians, and the usual incidents of pioneer life; all of which
would have been vastly entertaining to the men of today, and
which a hundred years ago might have been taken down from
the lips of the actors themselves, but which has passed away
with them forever.
spoken vanish, while the things written remain, and the unfriendliness
to the pen, of the early settlers, has entailed a sad loss
upon their descendants. It is evident, however, that this
was the busiest period in the history of the town. The men
were abroad in the clearings from morn till night, felling
the trees, burning, ploughing, sowing, and reaping, or building
churches, school-houses, mills, highways and bridges. The
women remained in the rude cottages preparing the simple food,
carding and spinning wool, weaving it into cloth, fashioning
the homely garments of linsey-woolsey and homespun, and rearing
their large families of rosy, healthful children. This is
the picture in the barest outline; the imagination of the
reader will fill it out at pleasure: but, as before said,
for our details-acknowledged facts-we must turn to the quaint
and musty records of the Society.
first Society meeting was held June 5th, 1729-less than a
month after the parish was organized. A fuller account of
this meeting will be found in the history of the First Church
and Society. The three first committee men of the parish,
elected at this meeting, were John Read, George Hull, and
Samuel Sanford. At this time, too, the "places for setting
up warnings for Society meetings" were determined on
as follows: "In the lane by Ebenezer Hull, and a Chestnut
tree by Mr. John Read's, and a post set up by Moses Knaps:"
These were the first sign posts in the town.
next February a parish rate or tax of 2d. 2 far. on the pound
was laid, and John Hull was appointed the first tax collector;
he received for gathering the rate of fourteen shillings.
The next year February 23d, 1730-1, the rate had risen to
9d. on the pound, and John Read appears as collector.
next year, 1732, the first "pound" was built by
Mr. John Read, near his house, and at a Society meeting held
January 25th, 1732, he was appointed "key-keeper."
8th, 1732, they petitioned the General Court to have their
north-west corner bounds settled, Captain Couch bearing the
charges. The same meeting they voted "that there shall
be but one sign-post in the Society," and voted that
this sign-post should be by the meeting house, which had been
built the preceding year on the common. Mr. Hunn, the first
minister, was settled early in 1733, and the rates that year
rose to the high figure of one shilling on the pound.
very important entry appears on the records of a meeting held
October 17th, 1734, wherein Stephen Burr and Thomas Williams
were appointed a committee to lay out the county road from
Chestnut Ridge to Fairfield town. This road was probably the
first ever laid out through the town, and passed through Lonetown,
the Centre, and Sanfordtown, and thence nearly direct to Fairfield.
10th, 1735-Stephen Burr was appointed a committee to go to
the County Court, and desire them to send a committee to lay
out necessary highways in that part of the parish above long
26th, 1737-Joseph Sanford and Samuel Sanford were appointed
a committee to take charge of the parsonage money belonging
to said parish, giving a receipt to said parish, and let the
same at their discretion, and to the best advantage, taking
double security in land, and not to let less than fifty pounds
to one man, for no longer time than five years, and said committee
shall be accountable to the parish committee for the interest
of said money, and also at the period of abovesaid term of
five years, for the principal.
26th, 1737- It was "voted to have a parish schole, voted
to maintain s'd schole by a parish rate voted that John Read,
Joseph Lees, Joseph Sanford, John Hull, Matthew Lion, Stephen
Morehouse, and Daniel Lion, shall be a com'tee for s'd schole,
also that s'd schole shall be divided into three parts, that
is to say, five months in that quarter called the Ridge, and
five months in the west side of the parish near the mill,
and two months at Lonetown, understanding that the centre
of division is the meeting hous, and likewise that Stephen
Burr belongs to the west side." Thus was established
the first school. Subsequent action of the parish in this
direction will be found in the chapter of schools.
the above meeting, John Read, esq., was chosen to represent
the society, "to pray for to be relest from paying county
rates." The action of the General Court on this petition
is given in Colonial Records, vol. viii., page 176, as follows:
"Upon the memorial of the Presbyterian society in the
parish of Reading in Fairfield County setting forth to this
Assembly their low circumstances, and praying a remission
of their country tax: this Assembly do grant unto the said
society their country tax for the space of four years next
will be remembered that the bill organizing the parish in
1729 exempted it from country rates for four years. In 1733
the Assembly granted them a further release of four years,
and also imposed a "tax of three shilling per one hundred
acres, on all unimproved lands laid out in said society for
the space of four years, to be exclusive of those lands belonging
to persons of the Episcopal persuasion (who) by our law are
discharged from paying taxes for the support of the ministry
allowed by the laws of this Colony."
the next quadrennium began in 1741, the parish seems to have
been on a better financial footing, and no further taxes were
remitted. Apropos to the above, it may be remarked that in
1737 the parish rates had risen to 1s. 1d. on the pound. Continuing
our extracts from the parish records, we find at a meeting
held August 22d., 1738, that "it was voted to try for
town privileges in s'd Society." and Stephen Burr was
chosen agent "to see if the town (i.e. Fairfield) will
consent that s'd Society shall have town privileges."
entry gives a hint of the rapid growth of the settlement,
and of the energy and enterprise of its inhabitants. There
were many reasons why they desired a separation: Fairfield
was fourteen miles distant, and the interests of the town
were distinct; then they must go to Fairfield to vote, to
pay taxes, and to record deeds and conveyances. They could
not even have their necessary highways laid out without the
consent of that town; hence we find them making early and
persistent efforts for town privileges, so effectually opposed,
however, by the mother town, that it was not until twenty-nine
years after that the town was organized.
this year, 1739, the place for putting up warnings for the
society's meetings was changed from Umpawaug to the mill door.
In the vote establishing a school in 1737, reference is made
to the mill, and it is evident that it was erected at a very
early date. The miller and the blacksmith were very necessary
artisans in a new settlement, and grants of the land were
in many cases made to induce them to settle: if such was the
fact in Redding no record of it remains. According to tradition,
the first miller was Jabez Burr, and the first mill stood
on the Saugatuck River, a short distance above where the Nobbs
Crook Road crosses the stream.
October 1st, 1740, it was voted to try and get liberty to
have the north of Redding set off for a town, and in December
"to have a pound erected on the highway southwest of
Ebenezer Ferry's barn provided he will build it on his own
charge," also voted that "Ebenezer Ferry be the
key keeper of the pound and have the profits of it."
This was the second pound erected in the parish, the first
being at Mr. John Read's. In 1741 they again voted to ask
the consent of the town, that "we may have town privileges."
further entries of importance appear until 1746, when Joseph
Sanford was appointed agent for the parish to "petition
the Superior Court now sitting in Fairfield to appoint a committee
to lay out highways through the lands granted to Cpt. Couch
and company in s'd parish" (these lands were in Umpawaug).
1747 a list of the parish officers is given. They are as follows:
Lemuel Sanford, selectman; Adam Clark, constable; Daniel Meeker,
David Knapp, grand-juryman; Thomas Taylor, James Gray, James
Morgain, Joseph Hawley, Joseph Bradley, Jabez Burr, surveyors
of highway; Ebenezer Couch, Thomas Taylor, listers; William
Burritt, John Mallory, tithing men; Lieutenant Stephen Burr,
Joseph Hawley, fence viewers; Allen Lee, key keeper for the
23d, 1749, it was voted that "Ephraim Jackson shall procure
a copy of the doings of the General Assembly concerning highways
in the country in this parish," and at the same time
complaint was made against Daniel Deane, the Society's collector
for the year previous, for his "mismanagement" in
collecting the rate, and it was voted "that the committee
shall persecute him in case he shall not satisfy them."
This action seems to have been carried to Mr. Deane at once,
for he the next day makes this humble apology:
January 24, 1749. To Mr. Jehu Burr, Mr. Stephen Betts, and
Mr. Samuel Sanford, Committee men for said Redding: "Gentleman,
I understand you have declared that there is some mismanagement
in the rate that I have to gather in the year 1748, and that
you seem to think that I have done the same, and if you insist
upon it, I desire your forgiveness: in so doing you will much
oblige your humble servant. "Daniel Deane."
1754 the parish again applied for town privileges without
success, and again in 1757 with a like result.
next attempt in 1766 was successful, and the Assembly of 1767
passed the long-desired act of incorporation.
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