The Old Chimney Stacks of East Haddam
The history of the town, as originally published in 1871
By Hosford B. Niles
Ch. 1: Early Settlement, Chapman
A stack of stones, a dingy wail,
O'er which the shadows cling and creep,
A path on which no shadows fall,
A doorstep where long dock-leaves sleep.
A broken rafter in the. grass,
A sunken hearth-stone stained and cold;
Naught left but these, fair home, alas!
And the dear memories of old.
Descriptions of the ruins of Tyre, and Nineveh, and Thebes, and those other ancient cities which flourished thousands of years ago, though often repeated, are always interesting. Notwithstanding they existed in a time so remote that the mind can scarcely fathom the dim distance, we love to contemplate their broken pillars and crumbling walls: to muse over their fallen towers and shattered hearth-stones; we love to unearth the buried secrets of their former existence, and reflect that all these relics were once associated with other men and women who had hopes, and impulses and aspirations like our own.
The treasures which the dead leave behind them are always precious in our eyes, and their handiwork, their inventions, the evidences of their daily pursuits, are always full of interest. And it is with these facts in view that in a few chapters upon the old landmarks that form the only connecting links which bind us to our ancestors in whose footsteps we follow along the dim pathway of life, the writer hopes to interest those who cling to the memories of their native town.
East Haddam may be justly regarded as one of the oldest, as it is one of the largest towns in the State. Its diversified scenery, its bracing atmosphere, and its early historic associations have made the town an object of admiration to travellers, and of love to her sons and daughters. And she has reared many worthy sons who have graced the Nigh pursuits of life; and of the virtue and beauty of her daughters she may well be proud.
The tract of laud of which East Haddam, is a part, extending from Chatham line to Chester Cove, and reaching six miles easterly and westerly from the river, was purchased from four Indian kings, in 1662, for thirty coats of a value not exceeding one hundred dollars. The tract thus purchased was taken up by twenty‑eight persons, mostly young men from the vicinity of Hartford, who settled in the northern part of this land on the west side of the river.
About six years after, the privileges of a town were granted the colony, and the tract was called Haddam; from Haddam in England.
This was about the twentieth town formed in the State. No settlement was made on the east side of the river till some two years later, or about 1670.All the inhabitants on both sides formed one society until 1700, when they formed two societies, but it was not till 1734 that the town was divided agreeably to the divisions of the societies; the west society retaining the name of Haddam while the east took the name of East Haddam.
The first settlement of East Haddam was begun at Creek Row, about the year 1670, over two hundred years ago. The first house, it is said, stood a few rods northeast of the site where Mason Gates' house now stands. Quite a number of houses were erected in this vicinity, and were occupied by the Gateses, the Brainards, and the Cones, and the same family names are peculiar to this neighborhood.
Fields, in his history, claims that the settlement at the Creek Row commenced in 1685, which appears to be an error, as from a document found in the colony records, it is certain that "Robert Chapman had a dwelling‑house in East Haddam north of the Creek Row, in 1675." It seems to be conceded on all sides that the settlement at Creek Row was first; then it must have commenced as early as I670. Besides, as the land was purchased and the settlement commenced in Haddam in 1662, it is hardly supposable that twenty‑three years would pass before any attempt was made to settle the east side of the river.
Among the earliest settlers of Saybrook was Robert Chapman. The name Chapman is of Saxon origin, meaning "chap‑man," "market‑man," a monger or merchant. A large class of surnames among the Anglo‑Saxons is derived from trades or occupations. Robert Chapman came from Hull, in England, in 1635, and was one of the company sent over by Sir Richard Salsonstall to take possession of :a large tract of land near the mouth of the Connecticut River, under the patent of Lord Saye-and-Seal. He was then eighteen years old, and was one of the band of adventurers who established the fort at Saybrook.
He was a man of exemplary piety. His parents were Puritans. That he was a person of influence in the town of Saybrook is evident from the fact that he was for many years Commissioner of Saybrook, and was elected as their deputy to the General Court, forty‑three sessions. He was‑therefore a member of the Legislature of the State at more sessions than any other man from the settlement of Saybrook to the present time. Mr. Chapman was likewise a soldier, as we find by the records of the General Court at Hartford, Oct. 14, 1675:
“Mr. Robert Chapman is by this Court appointed Capt'n of the Traine Band of Saybrook during the present commotion with the Indians.”
Mr. Chapman was a large land‑holder, not only in Saybrook, Haddam, East Haddam, but in Hebron; there he owned forty‑five hundred acres, which he received as one of the legatees of the Uncas. This land was given by will, in equal parts, to his three sons, John, Robert and Nathaniel. He settled on a tract of land at Oyster River, which has descended in the line of the youngest son of each family, and is now occupied by George W. Chapman, Esq., who is the youngest of the fifth generation.
Robert Chapman, Jr., second son of the first settler, was born in Saybrook in 1646. He owned at his death over two thousand acres of land in Saybrook, East Haddam and Hebron. Robert Chapman, 3d, was born April 29, 1675, and was one of the first settlers in East Haddam. He was a large land‑holder. One of his daughters married a soldier of Haddam Neck, and received two hundred acres of land as her portion, which has remained in the family to the present time, the owners now being two brothers, W.C. and H.N. Selden. Their farm is enclosed by over five miles of street fence‑one hundred acres being surrounded by highways. James Wilbur Chapman, grandson of the last named Robert Chapman, and of the seventh generation from the first settlers, was born August 8, 1802, and resided on, and was the owner of the farm which has remained in the family ever since it was first taken up. It has been deeded but once, and then to Robert W., having heretofore descended to the heirs by will.
Caleb Chapman was also a large land‑holder in East Haddam. He gave his land to his three sons, Timothy, Ozias and Timothy 2nd. The latter settled on the spot where Amasa Day now lives. The farm was subsequently sold to Phineas Gates, who was related to the Chapman family by marriage. He sold it to Julius Chapman, after whose death it was sold at auction and purchased by Mr. Day.
Timothy settled where Robert Day now lives; Ozias where Wm. S. Gates lives. Ozias had nine sons and six daughters. Joseph.Emmons, and Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Lord are among his direct descendants. Sylvester, the, oldest of Ozias' sons, acquired considerable property from his wife. He lived in the first house north of the Congregational Church, which was then considered quite a stately residence. He kept a store, which stood a few rods south of his house. He was also a Justice of the Peace in the town for a number of years. John Chapman, the eldest son of Robert, the first settler, settled at Goodspeed's Landing, his home standing on the spot where the Gelston House now stands.. He established the ferry across the river at that place, which has always remained private property, and until within a few years retained its original name of Chapman's Ferry.