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Glover's home land, and yet another touches on "Thomas Skidmore's 6 acre divition by ye end of ye pond” and the closing survey takes in "Samuel Turners, his house," For the consideration of "fivety pounds” Jonathan Hubbell sells "unto Mr. Beach
the land which was formerly David Jenkins, his home lott
. 4 acres be it more or less with a certain dwelling house now upon ye same, this 16th Day of February, Anno Dominni, 1729/30.” On the same page follows a deed from John Gillet "for ye love & goodwill I have to John Beach of Newtown, etc.,' so that by purchase and gift his acres swelled to a goodly share of earthly possessions, and it is evident that he had no great doubt of his ability to hold them in any event. But the storm was brewing and he announced to his beloved parishioners that he "had grave doubts of the validity of his ordination and felt called to express them.”
In Isaac Beers' note-book is found among other particulars this signed agreement:
“Newtown, Feb 7, 1731/2: We whose names are hereunto subscribed do herebye declare that we are desirous that Mr. John Beach may be our minister, notwithstanding his declaration for the Church of England, and we are jointly willing to await until he shall get a regular ordination by which authority he may administer in faith the holy sacraments, & further do hereby declare our protest against the settling or maintaining of another minister, and we will pay our rates to him the aforesd Mr John Beach Salary as he shall continue to be our minister, according to the Law entituled An Act providing how the taxes levied on the professors of the Church of England for the support of the people shall be disposed of,
I may be pardoned the mention, as indicative of his large following, that in 1771 his parishioners numbered twenty-four hundred. No wonder there are so many homeless chimneys and full graveyards !
"His field was a very different country then and now. Much the larger proportion was still covered with forest, the roads mere bridle-paths or cart tracks; streams were oftener crossed by fords than by bridges. In one instance, at least, the missionary was near losing his life in crossing an unbridged river.” The tradition in respect to that incident is that every other plank in the bridge had been removed, presumably to prevent him from crossing, and that not coming that way until evening his old horse had carried him safely over without his perceiving anything wrong.
To quote from Bishop Williams (who at the request of the late Dr. Beardsley wrote out the following anecdote, which he related to the clergy assembled in Dr. Marble's study after the service at the opening of the present Trinity church, Newtown):
“In the early summer of 1848, I was travelling with the Rev. Dr. Rankine, who was at that time studying with me, in what we then called northern New York. Returning from Lake George, we passed down the banks of the Hudson river to visit the scenes of Burgoyne's surrender in 1777. Stopping for the night at an inn in the neighborhood of Schuylerville, perhaps in the place itself, I met an aged man, the father, I think, of the innkeeper, who told me that he was born and passed his early life in Newtown, Connecticut. He also told me he perfectly remembered being in the church at Newtown when soldiers entered, service being then in progress, and threatened to shoot the officiating minister, the Rev. John Beach, if he read the prayer for the King and the royal family. Mr Beach, he said, went on as usual, with no change or even tremor in his voice and read the obnoxious prayers. My informant added that he believed (his recollection on this point was not quite positive) that they, struck with the quiet courage of Mr Beach, stacked their muskets and remained through the service."
This would imply a similar interference in the church at Newtown. Another anecdote may not be out of place. It is said that he was taken out of his house by either the military or some unauthorized enemies and escorted to the foot of the hill, where he was commanded to kneel down and make his last prayer, for they were about to shoot him. He knelt and prayed, not for himself, but for them, to such good effect that whether it was actually meant or not, they were ashamed to continue the scene, and left him, as usual, master of the situation.
“The time has come when we can afford to deal fairly by the actors on both sides of the strife which severed these colonies from Great Britain, that they might in God's Providence become greater than Britain. In the veins of many, if not most of us, flows commingled the blood of loyalist and patriot, and we may proudly claim that the true men on both sides were loyal to principle and lovers of their country. He was not the less so who looked upon severance from Great Britain as the sure ruin of the colonies, and revolt as grievous sin, than he who was ready to die for principles of free government, which were not universally admitted as correct till established and settled as the rich outcome of that fiery trial.”
THE HENRY WHITFIELD HOUSE AND THE
STATE HISTORICAL MUSEUM.
By Rev. WILLIAM G. ANDREWS, D.D.
(Read December 19, 1904.)
Rather more than a year ago a mass of blackened stonework was brought to light in Guilford which I suppose nobody had seen for more, perhaps much more, than a hundred years. It is, in the opinion of the architect and archæologist who superintended what we may call the excavation, "the oldest fireplace in New England," and opens into the north chimney of the Henry Whitfield house. In front of it and effectually concealing it were two other fireplaces; one had been in existence for a generation, and one, or its ruins, for no one knows how long, certainly since the latter part of the eighteenth century. Now excavations commonly mean a search for facts, an effort to know something and, therefore, are tasks performed in the service of science. But in a case like the one before us science is obviously employed in the service of sentiment, of love of, delight in, reverence for, the past. And this is only dutiful on the part of science, which, as the late President Porter pointed out, “is the offspring of sentiment,”* of a passionate desire for knowledge and truth. Indeed pure science, having no interest in the utilities, or "bread and butter," seems to be nothing whatever but pure sentiment. So when, just at this point, sentiment calls for a brief hearing, science must yield it—briefly.
If, as Wordsworth believed, the wise man's course is
“True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home";
if the war-cry with which our Guilford Halleck caused the hero of modern Greece to make the "haunted air" of "old
* Science and Sentiment, p. 22.
Plataea" vibrate, and which thrilled the hearts of Roman warriors for unknown centuries, “Strike for your altars and your fires, expressed an unerring intuition, then the rude blows of stone hammers and crowbars at the base of that ancient chimney unveiled a shrine, the holiest place in a temple. The erection of any dwelling is, at least ideally, the erection of a sanctuary, and the hearthstone where the mother sits and the children gather is the crown and seal of its sanctity. Now the Whitfield house was at first literally a church and moreover is a monument of the close of the great Puritan migration (which ceased the year after Guilford was settled), and therefore, in a sense, of the beginning of our separate New England history. And, before the Long Parliament met, the master of the house himself may have kindled the first fire on that lately uncovered hearth and with it the fire on an altar which will never go out as long as conscience guards freedom on this soil. And we are perhaps ready to say that whatever scientific investigation may prove about the age of the structure as a whole, if it spares the antiquity of this fireplace we shall be content.
But sentiment has detained us long enough and we must listen to another and harsher voice. How do we know that what we call the Whitfield house is really that which Henry Whitfield lived in? How do we know that his house, whether this one or another, was built in 1640, or before? How do we know that some other settler, somewhere else, did not, as he easily might, build a house, part or even the whole of which still stands, years before this can have been built, so that our priceless fireplace is not the oldest in New England ?
As to the question of identity, that is soon disposed of. There are, in the first place, deeds and wills running back from 1900 to 1659, when Whitfield's son, Nathaniel, sold what had been his father's New England residence, and alone proving the identity of that with the "old stone house” of Guilford. But we have also the testimony of Rev. Thomas Ruggles, junior, a native of Guilford, and an industrious questioner of children and grandchildren of the settlers, given while the property still
* Pro aris et focis.