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Early Settlers of Saybrook, Middlesex County Connecticut

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Early Settlers of the Saybrook Connecticut

It is somewhat difficult to ascertain with certainty the names of all the earliest settlers, or to fix the date of the earliest settlement. It is believed, however, that the earliest families who resided in the eastern part of the town were the Kirtlands, Lords, Pratts, Shipmans, and a little later, the Southworths and Denisons. In the western part of the town the earliest settlers were the Platts, Bulkeleys, Bushnells, and Denisons, and somewhat later, the Posts. From the town records, it appears that John, Nathaniel, and Philip Kirtland were joint proprietors, in 1723, of nearly the entire plain on which the village of Deep River is located, and that their land extended to the Connecticut River. John Kirtland, in 1725, inherited from his father-in-law. Rev. Thomas Buckingham (who was pastor from 1670 till his death in 1709, of the first parish in Old Saybrook), 75 acres or more of land, about two miles west of the village of Deep River, near what was then known as the New Iron Mines District. His mother was Lydia, daughter of Lieut. William Pratt, one of the original settlers of Hartford and Old Saybrook. His paternal grandfather was Nathaniel Kirtland, of Sherrington, in Buckinghamshire, England, who immigrated to America in 1635, when 19 years of age, and was a resident, in 1672, of Lyme.

Of the descendants of John Kirtland and his brothers, Nathaniel and Philip, none are now residents of this town, and their property long since passed into other hands.

Elijah Lord, the first of the name who settled in this town, about 1750, owned a farm in the southeastern part of the town. He was a son of Deacon Andrus and Hester (Buckingham) Lord, of Old Saybrook, and was married to Sarah Doty, of the same place. The old homestead, which he built, probably in 1771, is now owned and occupied by one of his descendants, William N. Lord. The Lords of this, and adjoining towns, are descendants of Thomas Lord, of the ancient family of Laward, in England, who in 1635 came with his wife, Dorothy, to Cambridge, Mass., and soon afterward settled in Hartford, where he was a merchant and mill owner, and where he and his wife died.

The Lords of this town are descendants, also, by a maternal line, of the first Pratt settler, Lieut. William Pratt, through his eldest son, Ensign John Pratt.

The Pratts, who were among the earliest settlers of the eastern part of the town, were the descendants of Jedediah, in the fifth generation, of Lieut. William Pratt.*

Jedediah, the son of Benjamin and Sarah (Meigs) Pratt was married to Anna Wolcott, about 1768, by whom he had ten children. He died in 1814 aged nearly 74 years. A pleasing exhibition of his patriotism is given in the following notice of him by one of his descendants:

"During the Revolutionary war, in the years 1779 — 1783, no military corps of Americans, no matter how great the number, were ever allowed to pass his house, without his stopping them, and, upon hastily constructed tables, of barrels and boards, he would empty his dairy of its pans of milk, his larder of provisions, and baking huge Johnny-cakes of Indian corn, would spread before the hungry soldiers an ample meal, while his high-sounding voice would bid all a hearty welcome; and his cocked hat would be seen in all directions, hurrying his servants, seeing that all had not only enough, but carried away a ration in his knapsack; and as the refreshed soldiers wound away through his extensive orchard, he would sing out a hearty wish that they would, when they met those British, give them a genuine whaling, and that he and his Queen Anne were ready to be with them at the first alarm."*

Mr. Lester Pratt, one of Jedediah's sons, was taken prisoner in the war of 1812, and confined in Dartmoor prison, until its close, when he was released, and permitted to return to his native land.

Dr. Ambrose Pratt, now of Chester, extensively known in Middlesex county as a skillful physician, is a grandson of Jedediah.

Other descendants of the original colonist, Lieut. William Pratt, through the line of his son John, who have been identified with the history of this town, are Deacon Phineas Pratt 2d, who died over 91 years of age, in 1875. Deacon Pratt was one of the earliest manufacturers of ivory combs in Deep River. His son, Ulysses Pratt, who died in 1881, aged 68, was for many years extensively engaged in the manufacture of ivory veneers for piano fortes, and was the senior partner in the firm of Pratt Brothers & Co., in Deep River. Mention may also deservedly be made of Mr. Obadiah P. Pratt, a farmer, and universally esteemed for his moral worth and public spirit, who died in 1882, aged 66 years. Much of the land in the southeastern part of the town was occupied by the Pratts.

The Shipmans, descendants of Edward Shipman, one of the original colonists in the old parish of Saybrook, have been prominently connected with the earlier and later history of this and the adjacent towns as landowners and otherwise. Mr. Samuel M. Shipman, the present postmaster of the Deep River office, has discharged efficiently the duties of that position almost continuously since 1861.

The very numerous family of Southworths belongs to the early history of the town. Its pedigree may be traced back to the earliest settlement of New England.

Constant Southworth, born in 1615,came to Plymouth, Mass., in 1628, became a freeman of the colony, and was married in 1637, to Elizabeth Collier, daughter of William Collier, of Duxbury, Mass. His widowed mother, Alice, who preceded him, 1623, became the wife of Governor Bradford. His youngest son, Capt. William Southworth, settled at first at Little Compton, R. I., where probably he married his first wife, Elizabeth, by whom he had nine children. The name is not now seen in Little Compton. After this wife's death, in 1703, he was married, in 1705, to Mrs. Martha, widow of Joseph Blague, of the old parish of Saybrook, where it is presumed, he settled. By the second marriage he had two sons: Gideon, born in 1707, who was an early graduate of Yale College, while it was located at Saybrook Point; and Andrew, born December 12th 1709. This younger son was the Lieut. Andrew Southworth, who settled in the parish of Pattaconk (now the town of Chester) and by his marriage, 1732, with Temperance, daughter of John and Temperance Kirtland, became the near ancestor, through his second son, Nathan, of all the numerous Southworths, who now live in this town.

Contemporary, or nearly so, with the above mentioned earliest settlers of the eastern part of the town were the earliest settlers of the western part, or what is now Winthrop. Their names were Bulkeley, Bushnell, Denison, Jones, Platts, and Post. The Platts family of this town is ascertained to be, not of English, as commonly supposed, but of German origin, the ancestor, Frederick Platts (or Platz), having come, with two brothers, from the Upper Rhine in Germany, and settled in Westbrook. He married a Miss Fox, of New London, formerly from England, and [settled about 1670 in Old Killingworth, now Clinton. He had six children. Obadiah, his third son, born in 1709, was married in 1737 to Hannah Lane, of Clinton, and settled in Winthrop. He built a house not far from the residence of Mr. Alfred Platts, which has disappeared. The town records give the fact that fifteen acres of land were deeded to him by a Chapman as early as 1735. His eldest son, Daniel, is supposed to have been the first child born in that part of the town.

His third son, Noah (born in 1742 and died in 1811), built a house, either before or during the Revolutionary war, which is still in habitable condition, though more than a hundred years old.

In 1786, he built another house, which was occupied by his son, Col. Obadiah Platts, a commissioned officer in the war of 1812, and is now the residence of his grandson, Mr. J. Lozel Plaits, who is one of the largest farmers and landholders in the town.

The Bulkeleys are descended from Rev. Peter Bulkeley, who was born in 1583, at Odell, Bedfordshire, England, where his father. Rev. Edward Bulkeley, was minister. He received a thorough education at St. John's College at Cambridge, and succeeded to the benefice of his father in his native town. Here for about 20 years he was known as an eminent and very successful non-conforming clergyman of the English Church. Silenced at length for non-conformity, by Archbishop Laud, he sold his large estate, and sought religious liberty in New England. Arriving in 1634 at Cambridge, Mass., he became, in 1637, the first pastor of the church of Concord, which was then but a wilderness. "Here he expended most of his estate for the benefit of his people; and after laborious and useful life died, March 9th 1659, in his 77th year." John Bulkeley, a great-grandson of Rev. Peter Bulkeley, and of the fourth generation, born about 1687, was married to Deborah Shipman, of Saybrook, in the then parish of Chester, and became, through his son Job (who married Dorcas Conkling) the near ancestor of the present Bulkeleys in this town. The records of Saybrook notice a deed of 50 acres of land given in 1742 to Job Bulkeley from one John Loveland.

The Denisons of this, as of neighboring towns, trace their ancestry to the original colonists, who came from England to Massachusetts about 1632, and whose descendants subsequently settled at Stonir.gton in 1649, and at Potapaug Point (Essex) about 1690. The first of the name in Winthrop is supposed to have been John Denison, who came March 1769, and whose first wife, Lydia Pratt, was the mother of all his children, five sons and one daughter. William Denison, his second son, was the father of Rev. William Denison and Rev. Albert Denison, well known thoughout the town and other parts of the State as estimable and successful Baptist ministers. Both have acceptably served in the pastorate of tht Baptist church in Winthrop.

Rev. William Denison, the elder brother, now deceased was identified with his native place, not only as a pastor, but as the conductor for ten yeais, from 1854 to 1864, of a boarding school, called the " Winthrop Institute for Young Ladies." This modest institution, though for lack of means limited in its equipment and influence, provided, nevertheless, educational advantages which its pupils could not so easily have otherwise enjoyed.

Samuel Jones, the first of the name in Winthrop, came from Westbrook, about 1778. His posterity have been prominently identified with the western, and more recently with other parts of the town. His son, Josiah, who died in 1878, aged 91, kept a tavern for a number of years in the old centenarian house, which was built, as already said, by Mr. Noah Platts.

Later came to Winthrop from Westbrook, about 1765, Isaac Post, the forefather of the Posts who reside in the eastern part of Winthrop. In this vicinity stands a timeworn and very antiquated farm house, one-half of which is believed to be 120 years old or more. It was built by Jeremiah Kelsey, who gave it to Jeremiah K. Post, a son of the above-mentioned Isaac. It has been occupied by the Posts nearly 79 years.

Passing reference may be here made to another old house in Winthrop, now occupied by Miss Clarissa Rice which was built by Mr. Daniel G. Bailey, an early land owner, in 1764, and which is just 120 years old.

*NOTE.— Lieut. William Pratt was a native of the parish of Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England, and is supposed to have come with Rev. Thomas Hooker, to Newton (now Cambridge) Mass., in 1633, from thence to Hartford, Conn., in June 1636. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Clark, of the old parish of Saybrook. He was one of the original proprietors of Hartford, but sold his land there about 1645, and removed to Saybrook, in what was the Potapaug Quarter, and is now the borough of Essex; his home lot and house were in the region now occupied by the Hope-walk. He represented the town in the General Assembly continuously from 1686 to 1678. He was a large landholder in the town, and in other parts of the State. He died, probably, in 1678. His eldest son. Ensign John Pratt, was also a large landholder In Potapang, and elsewhere, and was a man of some distinction. ("Pratt Family.")

Source: History of Middlesex County Connecticut with Biographical Sketches of it's Prominent Men, New York: J. B. Beers & Co., 1884.