The following is chapter 13 from the book "Colonial Days & Ways as Gathered From Family Papers" by Helen Eveston Smith, 1900, published by The De Vinne Press.
The roots of a strong character draw their nutriment from far beneath the surface ; therefore it is less amiss than it might seem that we begin eget the simple story of this country pastor's wife by referring to that of another woman , who preceded her by more than a century.
During the twenty-five years which intervened between the landing at Plymouth and the battle of Naseby, New England had become the place of refuge for many of those to whom the mother land had ceased to be home save in fond remembrance. Among these self-exiled were many who fled from the choice which they must make, if they remained in England, between their faith on the one hand and an inborn and inbred loyalty to their king on the other.
Of these was one Mrs. Margaret Lake, who is mentioned in our chapter on “A Pioneer Home.” She was one of the original grantees of the town ship of New London, Connecticut, “sharing in all the grants and divisions of land made to the other settlers. ” Beyond this fact , and that she was a sister of the second Governor Winthrop's second wife, little more than is told in that chapter is known concerning her. The father of Mrs. Winthrop and Mrs. Lake belonged to that class which has ever furnished the backbone of old England — the frequently gentle born though often far from wealthy class of hereditary landowners, living at a distance from courts and fashions, but availing themselves of the best educational advantages afforded in their time. Many of this class fought and died for the worthless Stuarts, and to it also belonged the most upright and humane portion of Cromwell's ever-valiant forces.
The years from 1645 onward to 1675, the date of the battle with the Pequots known as the Great Swamp Fight, were full of danger to the New England colonists. Whatever their tender-hearted descendants may think about the matter in these days of security, there is no doubt that to our ancestors the Indian was a continual menace and terror, and no man gained more of the admiration of his fellows than he who best held in check this formidable foe. Among such defenders none in what is now known as New London County, Connecticut, was held to be stronger of arm and more dauntless of soul than Captain John Gallup, the son of a father equally renowned in the same line.
The first Captain John Gallup was a grandson of Thomas Gallup, owner of the manors of North Bowood and Strode in Dorsetshire, England. Being a younger son of a younger son, the emigrating Gallup may reasonably be supposed not to have possessed an unduly large share of this world's gear, but it is certain that he speedily became a man of some substance and much value in the colonies. His son, the second Captain Gallup, married Hannah, daughter of Mrs. Margaret Lake, thus bringing together the gentle and the warlike, and from their union sprang a race many of whose descendants have made their mark by council-fires and on the tented field, passing from one to the other as the needs of their country required, but flinching from no difficulty or danger when following what appeared to them to be their duty.
William Gallup, a son of the second John Gallup and Hannah Lake, married Sarah, a daughter of Samuel and granddaughter of William Chesebrough of Stonington, Connecticut. The last named came from England in 1630 in Winthrop's fleet. Of Mr. Chesebrough it has been written that “he could frame a building or he could sit as judge in a case at law. He could forge a chain or draw up a plan for the organization of the municipal government. He could survey a tract of land or he could represent his town in the General Court and adjust its disturbed relations with the constituted [colonial] authorities.” This shows him to have been a typical Yankee of the best sort — a man who could successfully turn his capable hands and brains to any useful thing.
It is said that Mr. William Chesebrough was a man of strong religious convictions, and certainly he must have enjoyed religious services, for it is recorded that in bad seasons, when the necessarily ill-made roads of the time were rendered more than usually impassable by heavy freshets and oozing frosts, he had been “known to start for church at a little after midnight in order to accomplish in good time the fifteen miles that lay between his home and the meeting house. "It required both strength of muscle and conviction to render the best of men so zealous as that. But, with all his zeal, Mr. Chesebrough had a fund of humor which made his genial society sought by young and old until his death in 1667, while his “judicious mildness smoothed many public and private difficulties in the region where he was, in two senses, the first settler.”
It is this Mr. Chesebrough's granddaughter, Temperance Gallup, whose marriage to the Rev. William Worthington is related in our account of “A Colonial Wedding,” and it was one of the daughters of this couple who, in 1756 or 1757, became the wife of the Rev. Cotton Mather Smith of Sharon, Connecticut.
The Rev. William Worthington was the first pastor of the West Parish of Saybrook, Connecticut, where he died in 1756. Family traditions, coming down through several lines of descendants, unite in ascribing to him “great blandness, urbanity and grace of manner combined with a keen and trenchant wit.” He was considered a learned man in his day, and as a preacher “was distinguished for using the persuasions of the Gospel rather than the terrors of the law.” Mr. Worthington left five daughters and one son — also William Worthington, a colonel of patriotic troops during the Revolutionary War, who died a bachelor. The youngest daughter married Dr. Aaron Elliott, son of the Rev. Jared Elliott of Killingworth, now Clinton, Connecticut. Another married Colonel John Ely of Lyme, Connecticut , whose noble record of high patriotism is but too little known. A third daughter married Elnathan Chauncey. A fourth daughter married Mr. William Hopkins. All of the sons-in-law of the Rev. William Worthington were prominent men in their several places of residence, and from all of them have descended many persons of social and intellectual distinction. It was the second daughter, Temperance, who became the wife of the Rev. Cotton Mather Smith of Sharon, Connecticut.
All of the sisters bore a contemporary reputation of being more accomplished than most of the women of their time. Their father, being in advance of his age in considering that girls had as much brain and as much use for it as boys, had given to his daughters every attainable advantage. Comparatively few of the pastors of Parson Worthington's generation paid visits to Europe, but Mrs. Smith and one of her sisters in their girlhood accompanied their father on a visit which he made to England. In the diary of Juliana Smith we find this “long and arduous” journey referred to several times, but with an exasperating brevity and incompleteness, as:
“When Mamma was with Grandfather Worthington in Boston, England, she heard a great Organ the tones of which rolled like the Ocean, and the whole soul melted to its music."
And again, writing in 1779:
“When my Mother and Aunt were in England, thirty years ago, they were hospitably entertained at the country seats of some of my Grandfather's relatives there, and now we are told that one of them, who was an officer of the King's troops, and was an Ensign then, is now a Major, and is sick and a Prisoner in the hands of the Continentals. My Father will use every effort to have him brought to us, and then it is possible we may secure an exchange for my Uncle Ely, who holds the same rank in our army, and is now a Prisoner in the hands of the British in New York."
This exchange, so much desired, was not effected, the doctor being found too useful as a physician among the sick prisoners confined in the “Old Sugar House.” It was nearly or quite at the close of the war when Dr. Ely, much broken in health, but not in spirit, was restored to his family.
Mr. S.G. Goodrich (Peter Parley), who was the grandson of Mrs. Chauncey, says that Mrs. Smith and her sisters were all noted for their wide reading, their elegant manners, and their excellent house-wifery. ”The last two accomplishments may be taken without qualification, but in regard to the first claim it is necessary to make allowance for the conditions and times. Mr. Worthington's daughters certainly read Shakspere and Milton, for odd volumes of both of these classics still exist bearing the name of “Temperance Worthington, from her Father, " written on fly-leaves. Both bear evidence of having been well read, though carefully used. (Books were far too costly and rare to be treated slightingly.) It is said that all of Mr. Worthington's daughters were good Latin scholars, and it is certain that at least one of them, Mrs. Smith, was a fairly good French scholar, speaking the language sufficiently well to act as interpreter when occasion required, as it sometimes did when the French troops were here during our Revolutionary War. The same useful office was filled by one of her sisters, Mrs. Ely, I think, at Newport, Rhode Island. Mrs. Smith taught the language of our allies to her own sons and daughters, giving them such an interest in it that at least two of them continued to read French and translate it with ease, even in their latest years. Where Mrs. Smith acquired her knowledge of the French tongue I do not know. It was a most unusual accomplishment in the New England of her time, and may have been gained in one of the Huguenot schools in New Rochelle. There is no proof that she attended one of these, but several circumstances seem to point that way; among them is the existence of some delicate specimens, made by “Madame Smith” and her daughters, of such needlework as was then universally known as “French embroidery.”
The house to which Mrs. Smith came as a bride, in 1756 or 1757, was built a few years before that date by her husband's predecessor, the Rev. Mr. Searle. In spite of the fact that this dwelling was still in an admirable state of preservation, it was taken down in 1812 by my grandfather, who replaced it by a house of the then fashionable Grecian temple style of architecture.
The old house, as described to me, was large and heavily timbered, with its sides covered with over lapping cedar shingles. In front the hipped roof began to rise from a little above the ceiling of the first story, but sloped so little that the house was practically two stories high on that side. At the rear the roof slowly receded from the ridge-pole to the long stoep which ran from north to south across the back of the low-ceiled, many-windowed, wide and comfortable old manse. On the first floor four large rooms were grouped round the central chimney, against which, and directly opposite to the outer door, was a square hall from which a flight of stairs broken by a platform ran to the second story. In accordance with the general usage of the time, this outer door was divided into upper and lower halves. It opened upon a stone porch, provided with seats on the sides, and covered with an overhanging shingled roof unsup ported by pillars. At the time that my grand father remembered it a portion of the stoep at the rear had been inclosed to afford accommodations for a summer kitchen, for washing clothes, and a milk-room. At right angles with the house, stretching eastward, there ran out from one corner the immense woodshed, rendered necessary by the incessantly devouring open fires; and near the eastern extremity of the shed were disposed the other outbuildings. This was a great improvement upon the common village usage of colonial days, which was to cluster the woodshed and some of the smaller outbuildings around the front door.
The village green, which is now so beautifully elm-embowered, could then have been but a wide and unkempt common, a pasture-ground where scattered trees, the scant remains of ancient growths, afforded shade to sheep, cows, calves, geese, and sometimes even to swine.
Directly in front of the parsonage, shading its porch, there stood an immense white-ash tree, be lieved to have been the largest of its kind in New England, under whose giant branches the Wequag nock Indians had often built their council-fires. This glorious tree lived and apparently flourished until a great gale in August, 1893. My grand father, William Mather Smith (who was born in 1786), said that within his recollection this tree had never increased in apparent size. From the front door to the gate, passing by and under the great ash, was a short and irregularly flagged walk, edged with box.
That one of the four principal rooms on the first floor which opened by four large windows to the west and south was occupied by the parson, both as his study and as the class-room for his pupils. There were then no theological seminaries, and the young men who wished to be fitted for the ministry studied with such pastors as were held in the highest estimation for learning and ability. About the time of the Revolutionary War the Rev. Dr. Bellamy of Bethlehem, and the Rev. Cot ton Mather Smith of Sharon, seem to have divided between themselves the greater number of divinity students of western Connecticut.
The parsonage furnishings would not strike the modern eye as either abundant or very comfortable, yet there were comparatively few dwellings of the day so well supplied. The dark mahogany desk at which the Rev. C. M. Smith wrote hundreds of the sermons preached during his fifty-two years' pastorate in Sharon is now in possession of his great-great-grandson. Some of the fine old chairs and a sofa of the same unrivaled wood, the latter handsomely carved, but of severe outlines and unapproachable discomfort, are in the same ownership. An inlaid sideboard of mahogany and satinwood, which adorned the parsonage living-room, and which had belonged to the parson's father, is now owned by a great-great-granddaughter. These, with some small round mahogany stands for candles, an ebony-framed mirror, and a few other of the choice things which once stood in the parsonage, are all that now remain of its furnishings, save the portraits of King George III and Queen Charlotte. About these the only remarkable thing is that they exist at all, for they are on glass, and could not have survived save by dint of great care; and who could or would have bestowed this care immediately after the War of the Revolution? The parson and his wife were both very strong patriots, but it would seem that there might have lingered some feeling of personal loyalty to the old sovereigns, which, through it all, preserved their frail presentments with faithful care.
One of the comparatively few imported carpets at that time in the country lay on the parson's study floor. The living-room, across the hall from the study, and communicating with the kitchen behind it, had a carpet of heavy homespun woolen yarn, woven in a pattern of broad, lengthwise stripes. Such carpets had two merits: being as smooth of surface as the “Kensington art squares” of our day, they were much more easily swept than the ugly rag carpets; and being of wool, honestly spun and woven, were practically indestructible, save by moths. Some were still made in Connecticut well into this century. In the specimens which I have seen the colors were a rich red, a dark yellow, an indigo blue, a dingy purple, and a dusky green.
The bedroom of the parson and his wife, communicating directly with the study, and, through a passage, with the kitchen also, was a fireless room opening to the south. No wonder that in winter its tall four-poster was sheltered with heavily woven linen or wool curtains under the more decorative hangings of picture chintz. Bitterly cold and drafty, in zero weather, must have been the rooms whose only warmth was that which could escape from the adjacent rooms. No matter how generous might be the blaze of the open wood fire, far more of its heat made its way up the chimney throat than to the opposite wall upon which its evening shadows gaily danced, and still smaller was the portion which could be coaxed into an adjoining room.
Heavy bed - hangings were a winter necessity be fore steam-heat, furnaces, or even stoves had been invented. My father and his brother, who well remembered these days, which, in country places, continued until about the end of their college terms in 1830 and 1832, have told me that on cold nights, after the fires had been covered, the wind often blew in great gusts down the wide-throated chimney, and that then the bed-curtains, heavy as they were, “blew like handkerchiefs in a gale,” and they were glad enough of the additional protection for their ears and heads of warm nightcaps knitted by grandmother, mother, or cousin from the yarn even then still spun at home from the wool of their own sheep.
As friction matches did not come into general use until 1835 or thereabout, it was still the cus tom to bank the fireplaces with ashes at night until not an ember or spark of fire could be seen, just as similar fires had been banked for untold centuries before. If this precaution were not thoroughly taken the fires were an ever-imminent danger. On very cold and windy nights it was customary for some members of a family to take turns in sitting up to watch the fires. My father, when a boy of eight or nine years, saw his father display to admiring neighbors wonderfully handy new invention by which fires could be readily kindled. ”Something like the trigger of a Aint-lock musket was pulled, and a spark struck from the flint and steel, which ignited a bit of punk; this, being judiciously blown upon, set fire to splinters of resinous wood, and this, in turn, to carefully reared piles of splintered kindlings and well-seasoned logs. Before the advent of the “fire-sparker" offlint and steel, when the earliest riser of a family was so unfortunate as to find that the too slightly protected embers of the previous nights fires had burned themselves out, or that the too densely covered ones had been hopelessly smo thered, it was his chilly task to wait and watch for the nearest chimney which should show rising smoke, and then to sally forth, with chafing-dish or foot stove in hand, to “borrow coals."