Page images
PDF
EPUB

and Lady Fenwick had also a herd-it must have been a small herd of red Devon cattle. She gave them, we are told, to Mr. Whitfield, perhaps because she thought that there could be no pasturage near to the fort in which she was to live; and from them have come the sturdy breed of red cattle which are still so serviceable to the farmers of southern Connecticut. About this time also there came the first chaplain of the fort, Mr. John Higginson, who going to Guilford to act as Indian interpreter presently married Mr. Whitfield's daughter and became his assistant in the ministry.

It must be largely left to imagination to fill out the history of Lady Fenwick's six or seven years in Saybrook. A daughter, Elizabeth, was born to her soon after her arrival here; and to secure baptism for the infant, because there was no church organized in the fort, and probably none could be gathered until the permanency of the settlement was assured, she went to Hartford, was admitted a member of the church there, and presented her little one for the sacrament. We read of no other journey; but in the same letter which tells of this we are told that "Master Fenwick with the Lady Boteler" and one Master Higginson, their chaplain, were living in a fair house and well fortified. And we get pleasing glimpses of their life in some letters of Mr. Fenwick to Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts: "We both desire and delight much in that primitive employment of dressing a garden; and the taste of good fruits in these parts gives us good encouragement." Again: "I have received the trees you sent me, for which I heartily thank you. I am pretty well stored with cherry and apple trees, and I did hope I had a good nursery of apples, of the apples you sent me last year, but the worms have in a manner destroyed them as they came up." And we learn from another source that the lady had pet rabbits, and a "shooting gun," "which," says a sober historian, "must have been for sport, as the Pequot war was over." Thus quietly she lived, not (we may believe) without a longing now and then for the ancestral home of the Apsleys in England, past the time when (in December, 1644) the autonomy of the settlement, such as it was, was lost by a cession of its jurisdiction to Connecticut, past the time when

Master Higginson had removed to Guilford and the Rev. Thomas Peters had taken his place as chaplain, but probably not long enough to witness the assembly in the great hall of the fort when the professors of religion were "embodyed into Church Estate." On the 4th of November, 1645, her second daughter, Dorothy, was born; and soon after this, possibly before the opening of the new year, certainly before the year had far advanced, the mother died. Her husband soon went to England on public business, though it is believed that his departure was hastened by his domestic affliction; and it is a comfort to know that the children were left in the care of women who were their father's kinsfolk, one being his sister, and one probably the widow of his brother or cousin. The good lady was buried within the enclosure of the fort; this was destroyed by fire about a year later, and in the following year the new fort was built, not on the bluff a little back from the water, but on the river's edge. The grave was thus left standing in the open field, though, we may hope, not without protection. Some years must have elapsed before the tombstone, elaborate in its construction for those days, but without inscription, was put in place; for it was not till 1679 that Matthew Griswold of Lyme received for it seven pounds sterling from Mr. Fenwick's nephew by marriage. Doubtless some of you remember, as I do, the earthworks of the old fort, as they had been restored from time to time, and the tomb on "tomb-hill" as it was called, with stone posts and iron chains about it, in a strange and almost dignified loneliness.

“And ever this wave-washed shore

Shall be linked with her tomb and fame,
And blend with the wind and the billowy roar
The music of her name."

There her body rested until the year 1870, when the supposed exigencies of public convenience led to the razing of the fortthe oldest earthwork in this part of the country, if not in the original limits of the United States-and to the removal of the tomb; careful search was made beneath it, and the skeleton which was found was reverently re-interred near the entrance to the old burying-ground, and the ancient tombstone was again

placed over it to be its guard, let us hope, until the resurrection of the just.

The second fort had not stood thirty years when, on a July day in 1675, Major Andros came to demand its surrender to himself as representative of the Duke of York. He was in command of a small fleet, flying the king's colors. The fort was manned by Saybrook men in charge of Captain Robert Chapman and a company of soldiers from Hartford commanded by Captain Thomas Bull. It too flew the king's colors, and Andros did not dare to fire upon it. He decided therefore to ask that he might land, intending to read the Duke of York's patent and his own commission from him. You know the story of his interview; how Andros ordered one of his officers to read, and Bull commanded him, in his majesty's name, to forbear reading; and how, when the officer did not at once cease, Captain Bull repeated his command with such energy that he did not dare to disobey; whereupon the Captain read the protest of the General Assembly against Andros's proceedings and offered him an escort to the shore. "What's your name?" said Governor Andros. He replied, "My name is Bull, sir." "Bull," said the Governor, "it is a pity that your horns are not tipped with silver." The brave captain lies buried in Hartford, and it is recorded on his tombstone that he was in command of the fort in Saybrook when its surrender was demanded by Major Andros.

We pass on to the opening year of the eighteenth century, and we find Saybrook selected as the site for the newly-founded Collegiate School of the Colony. The trustees-they called them 'undertakers' then-met there on the 11th day of November, 1701, probably at the house of the pastor, Mr. Thomas Buckingham, on the middle street of the north point, and voted that Saybrook should be the home of the infant institution. Major John Clark is reckoned its first benefactor, giving (as is believed) a right to two thousand acres of land which had been bequeathed him by Joshua, sachem of the Mohegans; and before a year had expired, Mr. Nathaniel Lynde offered for the

use of the school, so long as it should continue in Saybrook, a lot of land with a house upon it; but this property, though doubtless used immediately, was not formally passed to the corporation for six years. The site of the building is sufficiently well known; it stood near the road about midway in the recent addition to the old burying-ground; and there we have placed, in the bi-centenary year of the school which soon was called a college and now bears the name of university, a boulder with a tablet appropriately inscribed. Fifteen commencements were held in Saybrook, from 1702 to 1716 inclusive; the first, we are told, was held in Mr. Buckingham's house, and the others must have been held either there or in the meeting-house. Fifty-five young men took their bachelor's degrees there (or fifty-six if we include Mr. Chauncey of 1702); of these, nine were sons of residents of Saybrook, and one was a grandson; one became pastor of the church, and five others became tutors in the college, before the year of its removal; that is to say, nearly a fifth of the graduates were Saybrook boys, and more than a quarter of them had Saybrook at some time for their residence.

If the romance of Saybrook passed away with the burial of Lady Fenwick, her hope of becoming a great seat of learning ceased when the Collegiate School was removed to New Haven; though we may be permitted perhaps to hope that the forcible detention of a part of the library witnessed to a desire to keep at least some of the concomitants of sound learning. Probably our ancestors had not a sufficiently clear idea of the need of what President Stiles called a "Domicilium or Coenibium Academicum" which might be more easily secured in a larger place, and were not aware of all that a college required in order to have, as Dr. Cotton Mather phrased it, "a collegious way of living." But at least we may claim that Saybrook bore no unimportant part in the early history of our great institution of learning, which has now entered upon the third century of its career of honor and usefulness.

We are approaching the bicentennial of another event which has contributed to the world-wide reputaton of the ancient town of which I am speaking. While the Collegiate School

was still in Saybrook, a Synod or Council-though I think that it was not formally called by either name was convened there by the General Assembly of the Colony to prepare methods and rules for the maintenance of ecclesiastical union and the management of ecclesiastical discipline. The synod was held in 1708; and it assembled, we may presune, in Mr. Buckingham's house, where so much else of general importance had taken place, and was in part under his moderatorship. It framed the Saybrook Platform, which was not a creed or confession of faith, but a plan of organization intended to combine the Congregationalism of the major part of the people of the colony with the Presbyterianism to which some were inclined. Approved and enforced by the civil authority, the Platform, although not accepted by some of the strongest churches, notably the First Church in New Haven and the Church in Norwich, gave a special stamp of soundness and conservatism to the religion of Connecticut, and profoundly influenced its history.

If we look back to the life of Lady Fenwick as illuminating our history with a bright light of romance, and find in the establishment of the College a proof that our forefathers set a right value on sound learning and desired to extend its blessings to all who could profit by them, we may also see how from the home of that gracious lady and the first seat of that school of learning there went forth an influence to strengthen the ecclesiastical organization of the day, in the confident belief that the cause of religion would thus be strengthened in the community. The three facts and events tell something of the power for good which was shown over and over again in our early history, and which went forth to guide the life of the commonwealth and the nation. There were many places indeed where the influence of home-life, of education, and of religion was exerted and made itself felt; but we of Saybrook find a laudable pleasure in the thought that conspicuous among the many examples that may be found are those which belong to our ancient town. And from this and other like communities may still proceed some influence which shall strengthen the homes, the colleges, the churches of Connecticut, as in the days that are past, for the service of God and man.

« PreviousContinue »