Friday, June 24, 2011


The West had to be discovered by European descendants sometime or other, but before they reached the West they had to discover and settle other places along the way. The Reverend Joseph Eldridge said something similar in 1856 in a Thanksgiving address: 

".....The history of the United States has one special advantage and attraction; it is authentic. The origin of most of the states and nations of Europe is involved in much obscurity. Our own can be traced back, clearly and distinctly to its earliest beginnings. .....

"Then the events of our history are of the most striking character. Highly interesting in themselves, they are becoming more so by the promise which they hold in regard to the future.

".....Local histories are important as furnishing the elements of general history, and they have peculiar attractions for those born and reared in the places themselves. It is a duty of filial piety, as well as gratitude to the supreme disposer of events, to gather up, and preserve, and transmit all the memorials we can, of the labors, trials, and achievements of those who have preceded us on the spot where we dwell. We have entered into their labors. We reap the results of their enterprise, forecast, and efforts. We sit under the shadow, and eat the fruits of the tree which they planted."

Which leads me to say that the history of the West must start somewhere, but not in the West. The above was extracted from the introductory chapter to the "History of Norfolk, Connecticut, 1744-1900," which book is in the public domain and was reprinted by the Higginson Book Company of Boston, Mass., and is for sale by them, one of many that company has reprinted in connection with the genealogy of early Americans.

Rev. Eldridge goes on to say more about the history of Connecticut:

    "The title to the land and right of Robert, earl of Warwick, was the first proprietary of the soil under a grant from the Council for New England. March 19, 1631, he ceded it by patent to Lor Say and Seal, Lord Brook, John Hampden and others. Before any colony could be established under their authority, individuals, headed by William Holmes of Plymouth had, September 1633, erected a trading house at Windsor. The June previous to the arrival of Holmes, the Dutch from Manhattan, had established themselves at Hartford, having purchased twenty acres of land of a Pequot chief,---built a for, and mounted a couple of cannon.  They claimed Connecticut, and never wholly relinquished their claims until 1664. The fur trade with the Indians was then very lucrative. The Dutch purchased of the Indians annually ten thousand beaver skins. In 1634, a few men from Watertown, Mass., came and erected huts at Wethersfield, which is the oldest town in the state. In 1635 a number of men came from Dorchester to Windsor, and erected log houses. Other men from Watertown did the same at Wethersfield. In the autumn, having comp;leted these preparation, these men returned to Mass. for their families, and on the 15th of October there set out about sixty men, women and children with horses, cattle, and swine. More than a hundred miles of wilderness through which no roads existed, whose streams were without bridges, and whose sole inhabitants were Indians and wild beast, had to be traversed. ........"

This attempt met with failure due to the fact that winter set in and they had sent their provisions by boat and the boat couldn't sail because of the ice in the Connecticut River. Most of the families returned to Boston and waited for the spring of the next year (1636) when they set out under the guidance of the Rev. Thomas Hooker.
When those sixty individuals set out in October they should have known that winter would set in, but live and learn.
It had been only a few years since the Mayflower landed, and I assume they thought winter would be mild, most probably just arrived themselves and knew no history of the area. (My ancestor on my mother's side, Nathaniel Foote, arriving in the new land in 1630, was among these, being one of the first settlers of Wethersfield.) If I'd been there, I would've directed them to Miami Beach.

And so starts the discovery of the West from MY perspective and we will reach Norfolk, Connecticut, before too long. Maybe some of the readers' ancestors will show up along the way.


  1. Never really thought about the fact that US history is really an open book compared to that of most European countries. Interesting observation for sure.

  2. No one can keep a secret anymore.

  3. I've had reason to ponder the origins you mention, having lived for much of a decade in Connecticut. After living through countless winter storms, I have to wonder at the tenacity of folks who attempted to thrive there in the 1600s. Nothing like a nor-easter to make you start "California Dreamin'". I didn't just dream; I left.

  4. And so did a bunch of others, Ron. They were a hardy breed, those first settlers.