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There was a rich and testy old gentleman from Cork who lived in a large substantial house on the "ridge." He was a tory by choice, but sometimes the other thing by profession, and when it suited his own convenience. There used to be, before the advent of so many patriotic societies, quite an interesting collection of letters, some of them originals and some copies, that had passed between the various heads of the two parties and this disinterested gentleman, for he was not averse to the office of intermediary (which General Putnam would have called by another name). Letters from and to General Tryon or General Silliman, as the exigencies of the case demanded, and the wind blew ---these were at one time treasured as valuable heirlooms, with their flowery signatures.
Where are they now? But one picture remains between the pages of history, and that is of Tryon’s redcoats waiting outside the house for the reappearance of their general and his staff, who were breakfasting with their tory friend, Squire Heron. And on that reappearance, guided by brave old Stephen Betts, the march to Danbury was taken up with renewed vigor.
That army could not have lost its way, for if history and tradition may be trusted at all, there were plenty of guides. Beside Stephen Betts we find among the party, Eli Benedict of Danbury, who was ensign in the Pioneers, and one Jarvis, also of Danbury, who afterward went to Nova Scotia. After many years he returned, hoping he had been forgiven and forgottenbut he was warned this was not so, and went away again “for good.”
Mr. Todd tells us that it was at this time that the British soldiery amused themselves, during the entertainment of their leader, by firing their muskets at the weathercock on the Episcopal church and bringing down that bird. I hardly think this entirely true, for the English have always had a great reverence for their own, and the minister was himself a pronounced tory. Then, too, the aged rooster could not have been seen to-day, perched on the barn of one of that minister's descendants. They certainly would have carried him off, as spoils. He has but one leg to perch with, and it is true the other one was shot away, but not by the army of General Tryon.
I understand there is no direct descendant of the squire in the Heron name. His only son, William, lies near him in the old graveyard, having died unmarried at the age of 86.
The old Heron house has almost gone; its remaining timbers are ghostly even by day, and the last time that I drove along that literally high road, a large Angora goat glared at me, as from his own haughtily assumed threshold.
The young boy Sanford, who was carried off by the British soldiery at the time of this raid, died, as his epitaph in the old Congregational burying-ground records, “a prisoner in New York, June 28th, in the 10th year of his age.” This, however, was the only act of cruelty or molestation reported after the passage of that army through Redding, and gives color to the supposition that the neighborhood was generally known and recognized as favorable to the king's cause. This is still further justified by the later encampment of General Putnam's forces being established at or near Bethel, which is within a few miles of Redding, and the name of "Gallows Hill,” still attached to an eminence in that neighborhood.
The branch of the Sanford family, to which the boy belonged, comprehended both whig and tory. The old Sanford house was built in the time when bricks were brought from England, and walls were three feet thick. The chimneys began in the cellar under the two extremes of the house, and up in the attic, in order to come out evenly on the roof, they curled themselves round a wonderful manner, and drew in a way to which no modern chimney can ever aspire.
By the kindness of the late Dr. Charles J. Hoadly, so many years State Librarian, I was allowed to take some notes from an old manuscript book in his care at the Capitol in Hartford. In the back of a huge yellow-brown volume marked "Rev. War, Pay Table, Vol. XXXIV. Confiscated Estates 1780-88," on page 456, begins this account:
“Names and places of abode of such persons as forfeited their estates by joining the enemy, said estates lying within New Haven County: Nathal. Cook, Stephen Mix, John Miles of Derby, Wm. Nichols of Waterbury, Jos. Pynchon of New Haven, Joshua Chandler, Abiathar Camp, Amos Botsford of Newtown, Benjamin Arnold and Philo Sanford of New Haven.”
These names are of course familiar, with the exception possibly of Amos Botsford of Newton. He was a Yale graduate in the class of 1763. He was not at first a self-confessed loyalist, and tried to save his large property and interests by hedging. At length, however, he was forced into an open selection and went to New Brunswick, where he became a life member of the house of assembly, in 1784. He was speaker of the house for a short time, and was the senior barrister of the colony. His wife was a daughter of Joshua Chandler, and he left a son and two daughters. The girls married brothers, the Rev. John and Stephen Milledge of Westmoreland County; and the son, William, became judge of vice admiralty of New Brunswick in 1803. He was judge in the supreme court and member of the council for many years, resigning in 1847, at an advanced age.
Joshua Chandler's property in New Haven was held to be worth $30,000,-in those days a handsome valuation. His class at Yale was that of 1747. In 1786 he went to England to try to reclaim his losses, and in March of the next year he crossed the Bay of Fundy to meet the commissioners on loyalist claims at St. John's, N. B. A violent snow storm coming on, the ship was wrecked at a dangerous point near the city. His daughter, then the widow of Major Alexander Grant, died of cold and exhaustion. The sons, Samuel and Charles, both died in Nova Scotia, at advanced years. Sabine says the Hon. Charles W. Upham of Salem, Massachusetts, was his grandson.
The volume in the State archives which I have described contains many names of those whose estates were advertised to be leased out for the use and benefit of the State, in Fairfield County, and the names of those appointed to lease out "said estates." In many instances the informant and lessee were one, so that the properties were really held for the actual owners. This was so in several instances in Newtown and Redding.
John Lyon of Redding, for instance, transferred his .estate to his uncle, Ephraim Stebbins; and in Newtown there were eight absentees, or suspects, represented by two holders. The estates of Samuel Camp, the two Turners-Jeremiah Turner, Jr., and Miller Turner, Joseph Ferris and Elias Bristol, were held by Richard Fairman. He was, I am sorry to have to say, such an efficient town treasurer of Newtown, that in 1784, according to the old record book, he "has left without settleing his affairs with the town," and the usual “Committee” is promptly appointed to deal with the question. Mr. Daniel Baldwin, Henry Glover and Mr. Nehemiah Strong attempt it and evidently fail, for in December the selectmen are authorized to make a complete and final settlement with like result! Finally in 1788 they got around it in truly rural fashion-by voting to "make use of the money due the town from R F on execution in ye settlement of Accts with Capt" David Baldwin, and to settle with him at their discretion !"
Ebenezer Hawley, John, Daniel and Abel Crofoot, and Nathaniel Turner, chose, or had chosen for them, Jabez Botsford. There were in Redding, besides John Lyon, Peter Lyon, Ephraim DeForest, Daniel Read, Preserved Taylor, Joseph Burr, James Gray, and Isaac Drew, who were represented by Thomas (or Thaddeus, the record is hardly legible) Benedict.
That these estates in so many instances were restored to their original owners, proves that they had learned even then “to work the machine." On a further list of confiscated estates, only two appear, one in each town, "Wheeler of Newtown," and “Ephraim Sanford of Redding."
I suppose there were many, in company with my own old tory ancestor, the Rev. John Beach, whose names have not appeared on any list, and there are doubtless many stories handed down concerning such.
The episode of the weathercock is, in Hollister's History of Connecticut, with the author's customary flow of language, enlarged to include broken windows, grape and canister, frightened women and children, and a vivid picture of Zion on the hilltop. I despair of doing equal justice to the few other occasions when that church edifice became the center of action. There is in that renewed building to-day, imbedded in a corner of one of the tablets to Rev. Mr. Beach's memory, a bullet; and the tale of it is this: A company of soldiers—the train band, probably-being ordered to go to the church and see that he did not pray for the king, and in such case to fire at him, went, heard him pray for the king, and as in duty bound fired, but aimed so ill as to wound only the sounding-board over his head. The old gentleman paused but a moment, exclaimed “My brethren, fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell," and then proceeded with the service. The bullet was taken out of the old sounding-board when the church was made over, and for years lay in the work-basket of the wife of his great-grandson, Squire James Sanford of Redding.
The Rev. John Beach was graduated at Yale College with the class of 1721, and was first called to the ministry of the Congregational church at Newtown in 1724. In the town records we read:
“Att a lawful Town meeting of. ye Inhabitants of Newtown Held Oct ye gth 1724 Orderd & Appointd for ye making Choyce of a Gospel Minister in order to Settlement, The Voters wear ordered to bring in there votes for ye Man whom they Desired should be there Settled Ministr with ye Man's name fairly written on a pece of paper with thr owne names to itt also and Mr John Beach of Stratford, was made Choyc off, for to be ye Gospel Minister in Newtown.
Joseph Peck, Clark.
Joseph Peck, Clerk.”
The land records give him a number of acres, variously contributed and transferred, and in 1729 430 we find them laying out to John Beach of Newtown a part of that land that was given him by certain proprietors
"at ye mile from ye meeting house
north of Benjamin Dunning’s” and another lott, next to Ephraim Peck’s land "& make a drawing of it,” This looks like the side of a barn toppled over, and pointing eastward. Another portion abuts northery on John