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Picturesque Stamford, 1892


drawing of the letter ’T’

HE war for the Union, in all its developments—through all its successes and failures, its alternate hopes and fears, and its heavy drafts upon the fortitude and resources of the people—was nowhere in the sturdy and loyal State of Connecticut supported with a more prompt, determined and gallant spirit than by the people of Stamford. The political battle of 1860, which had resulted in the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency, had divided the citizens into two politically hostile camps of nearly equal numbers, and the battle was fought out with a determination on both sides which revived in all the memories of the sharp campaign of 1856, and in the minds of the older voters, the still more exciting scenes of the Jackson, Harrison and Clay campaigns of 1832, 1840 and 1844. But when, early in ‘61, it became apparent that the dissatisfied Southerners were determined to ruin, since they could not rule; the Union, there was practically, for the time being, but one party in Stamford, and those who had so lately been arrayed in opposing lines on the field of political conflict, now vied with each other in practical and strenuous assertion of the principle that the national Union must and should be preserved, and the supreme authority symbolized by its flag should be vindicated throughout the length and breadth of the land.

It was fortunate for the State, at this juncture, that the executive head of its civil affairs and the Commander-in-Chief of its military strength was a man whose courage, sagacity and patriotism were fully equal to the task of maintaining the traditional honor and loyalty of the Commonwealth. In January, Governor Wm. A. Buckingham called for volunteers to fill up the depleted ranks of the active militia of the State. This was a precautionary measure fully within the province of the Governor’s sole authority, and it met with a prompt response on the part of the commanding officers of the local militia company, the Stamford Light Guards, then under the command of Captain Lorenzo Meeker. Later, when the war was actively begun by the rebel guns opening on Fort Sumter, and on the 15th of April President Lincoln issued his first call for volunteers, Stamford responded by a public meeting held on the 20th inst., at which, by a most fitting chance, ex-Governor Wm. T. Minor was called to preside, and John Davenport, whose grandfather and great-grandfather were among the foremost leaders in the Revolutionary war, was chosen secretary. Thomas G. Ritch, H. F. Osborn, Rev. P. S. Evans, Rev. E. B. Huntington, Jacob Kreig, G. B. Glendining, Lorenzo Meeker and James Betts addressed the meeting, with one voice advocating a vigorous prosecution of the war, and thus expressing in stirring language what was the practically unanimous sentiment of the people. It was announced amid hearty enthusiasm that already thirty of our young men, headed by Theodore Miller and Theodore Delacroix, had signed their names on a list of volunteers. A committee, consisting of James H. Hoyt, Isaac Quintard, Charles Brown, William Skiddy and Albert Seely, was appointed to raise funds. Four thousand five hundred dollars were promptly pledged, and thus early it was apparent by the most practical proofs that the people of Stamford, irrespective of party affiliations, were ready and willing to contribute their share of men and money to defend the honor of the flag and maintain the integrity of the Union. As an expression and symbol of this feeling, arrangements were immediately begun for erecting in the center of the town a flagpole one hundred and fifty feet high, upon which, on the Fourth of July following, Captain Skiddy hoisted the national ensign to the masthead. The pole was surmounted by a truck—contributed for the purpose by Captain Skiddy—which had been taken from the flagstaff of the Castle of Vera Cruz, in the Mexican war. That historic old liberty pole performed its honorable function through all the trying years of the great civil conflict, and for twenty-five years after its close, until, yielding to the tooth of time. it was replaced by a new pole in 1891. Capt. Skiddy, who had been so appropriately chosen for the honor of first raising the flag upon it, had himself, in earlier years, known what it was to see that flag float in triumph over the smoke of battle. He was a midshipman in 1815, on the U. S. sloop-of-war “Hornet,” Captain Nicholas Biddle, when that vessel engaged and captured the British sloop “Penguin,” of about equal weight of battery and some thirty more men.

The first company was soon raised, and the people came to realize, as perhaps never so fully before, the painful sacrifices to be involved in the impending struggle, as they gathered to bid farewell to the gallant body of their townsmen and neighbors who had been the first to offer their services to the government. The words of sorrow, and yet of hope and determination, which were in the minds of all, found fitting expression in a parting address by the Rev. P. S. Evans, of the Baptist Church, the Rev. Mr. Weed, of the M. E. Church, offering prayer. This company went out under the command of Captain Albert Stevens, with Wells Allis as First, and Isaac L. Hoyt as Second Lieutenant. It was mustered into the United States service May 14, and performed active duty in Virginia, and shared in the labor and disaster of the fight at Bull Run. It was mustered out in Hartford August 12, 1861, its officers and most of its rank and file re-enlisting in other State forces, especially in the Sixth, Tenth, Seventeenth and Twenty-eighth Regiments.

In the meantime, Captain Lorenzo Meeker, a militia officer of long experience, a competent drill-master, and widely popular among the young men of the town, was engaged in organizing and drilling a second Stamford company, and succeeded so well that on the 25th of August he left for the seat of war with seventy-four good men in his command. His lieutenants were Chas. H. Nichols and John Stottlar. Wm. H. Meeker, Martin Stottlar and Norman Provost, who entered the service as sergeants, were made commissioned officers for meritorious conduct in camp and field, and John H. Botts and DeForest W. Ferris, who joined as private soldiers, were promoted to lieutenancies. Some of the best soldiers, both in rank and file, which the town of Stamford sent to the front, were found in Company D, and no Connecticut regiment performed more arduous or more useful service than the gallant Sixth. It served principally on the coast of South Carolina, and subsequently in Virginia and North Carolina. In August, 1862, another excellent company, recruited in the town, left for the State Camp, under command of Captain A. G. Brady; First Lieutenant Chas. A. Hobbie; Second Lieutenant Marcus Waterbury. Before leaving the State for the front, Captain Brady was promoted to be Major of the regiment (the 17th Connecticut Volunteers). Lieutenant Hobbie became Captain of the company, Marcus Waterbury First Lieutenant, and Edgar Hoyt Second Lieutenant. Meanwhile Captains Frank R. Leeds and Cyrus D. Jones succeeded in organizing a company each for nine months’ service in the Twenty-eighth Regiment. One of these companies numbered 108 and the other 95 men when they left the village. Captain Leeds’ Lieutenants were Chas. H. Brown and Philip B. Lever, and Captain Jones’, Charles Durand and Henry L. Wilmot. The commanding officer of the regiment was Colonel Samuel P. Ferris, a West Point graduate. and a son of Hon. Joshua B. Ferris. The Major was Wm. B. Wescome, also of Stamford, and the Adjutant Chas. H. Brown. Frederick R. Warner and Eugene B. Daskam quickly earned promotion and lieutenant’s commissions in the regiment. In no regiment which served in the war was Stamford so numerously or more worthily represented, and, quite appropriately, the regimental colors were a special gift from the people of Stamford, the funds for the purchase of the same being furnished by the late Hon. Oliver Hoyt and several other of the patriotic citizens of the town. The colors were formally presented to the regiment, on behalf of the donors, by James H. Olmstead, Esq., a prominent lawyer of the village, and a ready speaker, who gave stirring and eloquent expression on that occasion to the patriotic sentiment of the people of Stamford. The Twenty-eighth was mustered into the U. S. service at Camp Aiken, New Haven, November IS, and three days afterwards was taken by boat to Camp Buckingham, Long Island. From thence, in company with the Twenty-third Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, they sailed for the South, skirting the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts until they reached the Mississippi river, having in their crowded vessel sustained a severe storm at sea. Its most arduous and magnificent service in the field was performed in the siege and assault of Port Hudson in the summer of ’63. Soon after the fall of that fortress, the Twenty-eighth’s term of service having nearly expired, the regiment was ordered home, and returned via the now open Mississippi to Cairo, where the men were transferred to the railroad for their long journey eastward.

A count of Stamford representatives in the military service of :he government by land and sea, showed a total of 557 men up to September 20, 1862, including the two companies then just recruited for the Twenty-eighth regiment. When the second draft ordered by the government was made, October 27, it was found that Stamford had 192 men to her credit over and above the first draft, and had but six soldiers to furnish to make up the 198 men which the second draft demanded. The third draft for soldiers was made in October, 1863. In Stamford 166 names were drawn; of these 104 reported, 47 were rejected, 19 paid the commutation required and 8 furnished substitutes. Though no complete company organization was sent out from the town after the two full companies attached to the Twenty-eighth regiment in September, 1862, there were many recruits enlisted for the companies at the front and for other Connecticut and New York regiments.

It is believed, upon a reasonable estimate of the number of single enlistments in various regiments and in the naval arm of the service, in addition to the company organizations manned in whole or in a considerable proportion by Stamford volunteers, that in all, from first to last, not less than 750 or 800 men from Stamford, were for longer or shorter periods in the military service of the government during the War of the Rebellion. These figures—more than ten per cent of the entire population of the town—represent as full a measure of gallant, self-sacrificing and patriotic service as any town in the Commonwealth can boast. In connection with this, it is gratifying to record here that the names and much concerning the individual services of the soldiers of Stamford have been so carefully and appreciatively collected for permanent preservation by our historian. Rev. E. B. Huntington, whose “Stamford Soldiers’ Memorial” embodies the most worthy written tribute possible to our gallant townsmen, who served their country in her hour of deepest trial on the land and on the sea.

While thus her sturdy soldiery maintained the traditional reputation of the town for military spirit and loyalty to country, the general body of her citizenship neglected no opportunity of testifying their devotion to the cause, and of illustrating the temper and determination of a wide-awake and patriotic American community, fully aware that their country was engaged in a life-and-death struggle for its existence, and as fully resolved to do their share in its defense and preservation. In its corporate capacity it performed its part in a prompt, liberal and patriotic spirit from first to last, representing by its action, on the many occasions of its meetings to deal with the questions arising from the conditions and demands of the war, as fine an example of sustained and unwearied patriotism as the records of any town in the Commonwealth can show. As early as May 4,1861, the town, in a meeting legally called, voted a special tax of 1 ½ mills on the dollar to constitute a fund in aid of military enlistments, and of the families of “such volunteers who have gone or may go forth in company or companies organized in this town, during the absence of such volunteers.” A committee was appointed to audit the bills of expense already incurred, and to distribute aid to the families of such soldiers as might need the same; to each man’s wife three dollars per week, to each child under fifteen years one dollar, and to each widowed mother of such volunteer, three dollars. Furthermore the committee was duly authorized to increase these amounts to such sums as they might find necessary in special cases. This was but the beginning of a series of votes of like nature which make up the town’s official record through the war, and which show a total expenditure for war purposes by the town from 1861 to 1865 of nearly $76,000. In this place it may appropriately be added that many years afterwards, when it seemed apparent that a special bounty of $100 each for re-enlistments in 1864, had for some reason not been paid in the cases of forty-two soldiers, the town voted to pay the same with interest, amounting in each case to $247.96, to the surviving claimants or to their legal heirs. Such, in brief, is the town’s corporate or official record in sustaining the war for the Union, and in dealing with the men who went forward to the field of battle, and with their dependent ones whom they left to some extent in the public care.

More interesting still, if not more significant, is the record of what the people did by individual action and through voluntary organizations in aid of the cause they had so much at heart. In this phase of the patriotic spirit and efforts of the times, we are introduced at once to the active and useful work by which the women of Stamford bore their share of the burden which the continuance of the great struggle laid, in one way or another, upon the entire people. No pen may adequately report the sacrifices made by wives and mothers suddenly called to part with those not only nearest to their affections, but in many instances necessary to their support; but, in various other ways more easy to record, the patriotic labors and sacrifices of the women of Stamford were constantly in evidence. A notable phase of their work took form in the organization of a “Soldiers’ Aid Society,” which was the direct means of collecting and making effective use of between $6,000 and $7,000 in supplying comforts for the soldiers in the field and aid for the sick and wounded in the hospitals, especially the nearest great military hospital on David’s Island. Nor was this all. Much of the money collected was spent for materials of clothing, stockings, etc., and the labor voluntarily contributed in making these up was even a larger contribution in actual value than the cash amount itself. To the loyal women of Stamford is also chiefly due the success which attended the Soldiers’ Aid Fair, in Seely’s Hall, in the summer of 1864, by which the sum of $3,500 in cash was raised for the patriotic purposes of the Soldiers’ Aid Society. The people of Stamford had contributed, within a couple of weeks previous, the sum of $1,700 in aid of the work of the U. S. Christian Commission, and $1,000 for the benefit of the people of East Tennessee, who were greatly impoverished and oppressed on account of their refusal to join the cause of the rebellion.

The men of the town of Stamford—both those who went to the front as soldiers, and those who constituted the great body of its representative citizenship at home—met every call of duty in a spirit entirely worthy of the town’s patriotic traditions. When. in the mid-summer of 1862, President Lincoln’s call for three hundred thousand men, following the events of a year which had made the gigantic nature of the task in which the nation had engaged only too manifest, a crowded meeting gathered in Seely’s Hall, pursuant to public invitation, and manifested in ail its proceedings a patriotic determination to rise to the full height of the necessities of the occasion, be they what they might. Speeches brimming with the aroused patriotism of the day were made by the most eloquent of our cleric and lay orators, in the midst of an enthusiasm unparalleled in its earnest manifestations in the whole history or the war—so far as the history of the town of Stamford is concerned—arid the sum of three thousand dollars promptly subscribed, indicated still more pointedly the determination of the people. At this most significant of Stamford’s several war meetings, George Elder, Esq., presided, with the following list of Vice Presidents: Charles Hawley, Truman Smith, A. N. Holly, George A. Hoyt, S. B. Provost, William T. Minor, Oliver Hoyt, William Skiddy, Wells R. Ritch, Isaac Quintard, Joseph B. Hoyt, Theodore Davenport, John Ferguson, Smith Weed, Charles Williams, H. K. Skelding, John B. Reed, Charles Pitt, J. B. Ferris, E. Po Whitney, Thomas Crane, Charles Hendrie, William R. Fosdick, Charles J. Starr, Morgan Morgans, James H. Hoyt, James B. Scofield, Oliver Scofield, Thomas Gardner, Seymour Hoyt, Nathaniel E. Adams, J. H. Carrington, J. W. Hubbard, J. D. Weeks, Alfred Hoyt, S. B. Thompson, T. S. Hall, John B. Knapp, G. F. Nesbitt, Lyman Lockwood, John Hecker and Charles H. Scofield. The Secretaries of the meeting were D. H. Clark, F. R. Leeds, George E. Scofield, and Francis M. Hawley. Among the speakers were Ex-Governor William T. Minor, Rev. Walter Mitchell, Col. William H. Noble, Thomas G. Ritch and J. H. Olmstead.

It was an hour of exultation, not then for victories achieved nor for a near prospect of peace, but rather with a grand sense of the sacrifices yet to be made, and a determination. which imbued and enthused every mind, to meet the country’s occasion with a spirit capable of any sacrifice. Representative men of both of the great national political parties were prominent at the meeting, and for the time joined hands with equal loyalty and a common purpose to raise the insulted flag again over every stronghold in the South. But other hours were to come—hours of depression and discouragement, which were to apply a still more trying test to the patriotism of the people. The early months of 1863 constituted such a period. It was perhaps the darkest hour of the war, from the stand-point of Connecticut patriotism. In the previous September, at the indecisive but grevious slaughter of Antietam, no less than one hundred and thirty-six Connecticut soldiers lay dead on the field of strife, and four hundred and sixty-six were suffering from wounds. The useless slaughter of Fredericksburg had followed in December, and almost with the news of the Fredericksburg fight, had come the story of Kingston Bridge, in North Carolina, where, of the three hundred and sixty-six officers and men of the Tenth Connecticut who were in the engagement, one hundred and six were killed or wounded, and these included several of the men who had but lately left Stamford and Greenwich amid the tears and prayers, the hopes and fears of their families and friends. The spring campaign of ’63 opened with the stupendous disaster of Chancellorsville. The turn of the tide when the fall of Vicksburg and the national triumph at Gettysburg were to add a new historical glory and significance to the Fourth of July, were yet in the unknown and clouded future, and, meanwhile; the political party opposed to the administration of President Lincoln, spared no effort to secure a return to power, upon a platform of practical opposition to the war, whose success at that crisis in affairs would have unquestionably postponed, if not made forever impossible the triumph of the Union cause. It was in such circumstances the political battle was joined in Stamford, in common with the rest of the State, in the spring election of 1863. After a campaign of unprecedented intensity, William A. Buckingham, who represented a vigorous prosecution of the war, and an unyielding purpose to sustain the hands of President Lincoln, was declared the choice of the people of Stamford for Governor by a vote of 555, to 551 for Thomas H. Seymour, the candidate of the reactionary party. Later in the year the national prospects in the South had been splendidly improved by the achievements of General Grant and his able lieutenants, and in the alternation of hope and apprehension in loyal breasts, the former grew brighter and stronger, until Lincoln’s re-election proclaimed the doom of the Confederacy, and the surrender of Lee, at Appomatox, in the spring of 1865, announced the triumphant end of the great civil war. The people of Stamford shared in the national rejoicing over the victory, as they had, relatively to their numbers and means, fully shared in its achievement, and the town received back her returning volunteers with unstinted welcome. The town shared, too, in the national mourning which too quickly followed, for the death, at the hands of a vile assassin, of the great and good Lincoln, whose inscrutable fate it was to fall by a murderous bullet in the first month of a new four years’ term of the Presidency, and which promised so much of personal distinction to him and benefit to his country, through services which, in the circumstances, none could more wisely resolve or more ably render than he. The people’s rejoicing over the successful close of the war, thus so sadly checked, found expression later with the recurrence of Independence Day, in July, in the form of the most elaborate celebration of the “Glorious Fourth” which the town had known for many years, and which in every circumstance of the widest popular enthusiasm and interest has not been fully paralleled from that day to the present.

We shall hardly expect the war period, nor the years immediately following, of slow recovery from its enormous material losses, to be prolific in incidents of growth and business progress in the town. Nevertheless, the period was not without many notable changes for the better in the business aspect and general appearance of the village. From the ruins of the most important business block on Main Street, destroyed by fire, January 11, ’61, arose, the same year, the most pretentious brick building of which the borough center could theretofore boast. In 1861, also, the imposing “Seely’s Hall” building was finished, and the first public meeting held therein August 15. It has done much good service in the town ever since, and in recent years has been greatly improved and modernized, in the appearance of its store fronts, etc,. by the present owner, Mr. Charles F. Miller. The brick building then known as Hoyt’s Hall (now the Masonic Hall) was also substantially completed in ’61. and first opened for public uses in January, ’62. About this period, also, the Weed jewelry store was added to the list of modern business buildings in the village. In 1867 the railroad company’s new depot building was finished. and the following year a notable addition was made to the business center by the completion of the building now occupied by the Stamford Trust Co. These. together with the store now occupied by John Unckles, built in 1843, the Morrison building (formerly the Assembly Rooms) built in 1844, and a modest brick building in the vicinity of West Park, constituted the entire showing of the village in brick business buildings up to the construction of the present Town Hall in 1870, a year from which may be dated two decades of progress, expansion, and change such as the town had never before known in its annals, and during which it emerged from the rural village stage of existence, which had always characterized it, and assumed the aspect of a busy cosmopolitan American city, with all their diversity of race origin, of social habits and customs, of religious and denominational views, of political activities and prejudices, but all, we may confidently believe, owning a common allegiance and devotion to the flag of the United States, and equally ready to stand in its defense against the world.

The Stamford & New Canaan Railroad Company was organized in the fall of 1866, and within a year the road was open for traffic. The next year the old town house, which had visibly outgrown its usefulness, was sold by the town to private owners, and removed to River Street, where it was made over into a dwelling. In 1868, the Stamford Water Company was organized, and in October of the same year the Yale Lock Company began its first factory building here. These two events proved to be significant harbingers of the new era of material expansion and progress which in the course of a few years was to lead to such important results in that direction. The former was indispensible to the growth of the town in the last twenty years, and the latter, by the large and steady expansion of its manufacturing operations, from its modest beginning, in 1869, to that magnificent measure of business achievement which requires the regular daily service of one thousand persons within the walls of its Works in 1892, has contributed more by far than any single influence or interest to the growth of Stamford in the last two decades of its history.

Early in 1869 a series of town meetings were held in reference to the building of a Town Hall. The subject was justly regarded as one of large importance, for it was felt that the time had come when such a building, if built at all, must be of such a character as would involve a large expense. The project met with earnest opposition, but, after considerable discussion, was finally endorsed by a decided majority of the citizens. In the last month of the preceding year, the town voted to purchase the old Universalist Church building—which then stood at the corner of Atlantic and Main Streets—and some adjoining property on the south of the church lot and fronting on Atlantic and Bank Streets. An attempt was made by the opponents of the project, in January, 1869, to have this vote rescinded, but the meeting called for the purpose, and largely attended, voted by a decisive majority in favor of the Town Hall project, appointing a committee to procure definite figures of the cost of the site required. That committee reported, at the annual town meeting following, that they had secured the lease of the Universalist Church (the land being owned by the town) for $6,000, and the adjoining property owned by William A. Lockwood, for $8,500. The report was adopted, and the town thus became fully committed to the policy of building. At the same meeting, the town voted an appropriation of $10,000 to consummate a reform in the methods of caring for the inmates of the town poor house, whom it was shown with urgency and force by J. H. Olmstead, Esq.; and other philanthropic citizens, were housed and maintained in a manner lamentably inconsistent with the civilization of the times. The result was the building of a spacious modern house, on the town farm at North Stamford, and a correspondingly large advance in the conditions of convenience and comfort for those whom fault or misfortune had compelled to seek asylum and shelter in the public charity. Another important local improvement, dating from about this period of the town’s history, was the enlargement of the old Canal. The idea of keeping its navigation open to its former head, north of the railroad, was permanently abandoned, and a large investment of money was made by J. B. Hoyt, J. D. Warren and others, in widening and deepening the channel as far as the present head of that waterway, which in former years had been so closely associated with the marine commerce of the port. The enterprise of Messrs. Hoyt and Warren constituted an important benefit to the southern part of the village, especially in filling in the lands adjacent to the canal on the west side, and reclaiming them from their original condition of salt meadows, and making them available for building and manufacturing purposes. This enterprise, in conjunction with the extensive building and street making improvements of George A. Hoyt, extending over a series of years in that quarter of the town, contributed an essential influence in the development of the village known as Hoytville or South Stamford. The Canal enterprise ,vas so far completed by the beginning of 1870, that on the 7th of January of that year the Stamford steamer, “Shippan” was enabled to navigate the Canal as far as the present steamboat dock, which ever since has been the principal headquarters of daily steamboat service between Stamford and New York.

The latter part of the year 1868 witnessed the removal of the “Webb Tavern,” better known to later generations as the “old Washington House,” so called from a traditional belief that General Washington put up there during one or more of his several journeys to eastern New England. It is at least probable that the old house had the honor of sheltering the colonial commander-in-chief, most probably in 1775, when Washington traveled through Connecticut on his way to take command of the Revolutionary army in Massachusetts. It was in front of the Webb tavern, in 1775, the Stamford patriots burned the “Bohea tea” after, with due ceremony and to the sound of fife and drum marching in procession up and down the Main street. Undoubtedly General Israel Putnam, General Lee and other military leaders of the Revolution, were at times housed in the Webb tavern. It was in design and finish a good type of the Connecticut village inn of a century ago, and for its various associations and venerable age was an interesting object lesson in our local history. An engraving from a photograph taken a short time previous to its demolition in 1868 appears above.

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Picturesque Stamford, 1892
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