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Redding Parish History- 1729 - 1767
From Charles Burr Todd's "History of Redding"

The 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 for material.

During 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.

Things 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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."

May 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.

A 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.

December 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 lots.

January 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.

December 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.

At 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 coming."

It 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."

When 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."

This 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.

In 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."

No 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).

In 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 pound.

January 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:

"Redding 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."

In 1754 the parish again applied for town privileges without success, and again in 1757 with a like result.

The next attempt in 1766 was successful, and the Assembly of 1767 passed the long-desired act of incorporation.


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