Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Where Rocks, Reptiles, and Republicans Used to Congregate

Wick Griswold. Griswold Point: History from the Mouth of the Connecticut River. Charleston, S.C.: History Press, 2014.

Nehantics were the indigenous people living around Griswold Point beside the Connecticut River. The Algonquins called the Connecticut River the Quinneckitikut, or Long River. Pequots were warriors and were driven out of what is now New York State. Pequots often attacked Nehantics.

Dutch arrived in the area in 1614. Captain Block landed in what was the called Block;s Hole and later called Black Hole. Captain Block’s report of plentiful fur animals and friendly natives encouraged the Dutch to create a trading post 50 miles inland into the Connecticut River at what is now Hartford.

The British drove the Dutch out of the area. The Earl of Warwick, Robert Rich, received ownership from the British King of what became Connecticut in 1635. The Earl of Warwick granted a patent to Lord Saye and Sele and Lord Brok to the Connecticut River valley and coast. This would allow British seeking to leave England due to religious conflicts to move there.

The two British Lords hired a Dutch engineer Lion Gardiner to drove away the Dutch using guns and weapons. Fort Saybrook was created. The Pequots were then driven away fro the area.

Colonel George Fenwick in 1637 became the chief administrator of Saybrook Colony. George Fenwick replaced Lion Gardner as Governor of Saybrook Colony, Matthew Griswold became Agent of Deputy to Colonel George Fenwick, George Fenwick and Lady Alice Fenwick brought seeds and plant cuttings to plant in Saybrook. This possibly could have led to the colony’s motto Qui Transtudit Susinet, or Those Transplanted Shall Sustain.

After Lady Fenwick died, George Fenwick returned to England. Matthew Griswld took over government duties. Griswold was given land that today is in Old Lyme through New London. Griswold’s estate was named Black Hall.

Matthew Griswold allowed that land could belong to women whose husbands were still alive, This was not the custom then. Anna Wolcott Griswold, Matthew’s wife, was the first married woman to have titled property. She was accused in 1667 of witchcraft by John Tillerson. Matthew Griswold had Tillerson arrested for defamation of character. The court exonerated Anna and fired Tillerson 12 shillings.

Both Lyme and New London claimed four square miles of Bride’s Brook. The brook was so named when bad weather prevented crossing the brook. Governor John Winthrop officiated a wedding ceremony from the west side of the brook while the couple getting married were on the brook’s east side.

The Colonial Legislature granted both towns two square miles of the disputed land around Bride’s Brook. Yet the towns’ residents could not agree on how to divide the land A skirmish involving sickles and scythes resulted in the New Londoners involved being fined five pounds and the people from Lyme being involved being fined seven pounds. It was then decided that four men, two from each town, would fight for the land. Matthew Griswold II and William Ely fought and won for Lyme and won in two different battles.

Matthew Griswold II defied his father’s wishes to work on the farm and instead went to sea. Swept overboard yet saved by grasping a rope, Matthew II began a spiritual journey afterwards. He was, though, captured and impressed into the British Royal Navy, He deserted or was released on a beach with no money. He joined a privateer that had skirmishes with merchant ships and vessels. When the man next to him was killed, he had another religious realization. He continued fighting and was captured by the French. The French kept him in irons. He was sold to a Spanish army officer who walked him and others over 600 miles with their hands tied behind their backs. The Spanish Territory Governor issued a special warrant that took Matthew III and other captive to Spain to be returned to heir original countries. Matthew II took ill and was deemed beyond recovery, bled for what was then a common medical remedy, nearly bled to death, but recovered. The Captain was impressed with his recovery and  believed Matthew III was blessed. The Captain offered Matthew II a fortune if Matthew III would become Catholic. Matthew II’s mother came to him in a dream and told him to decline the temptations of wealth. Matthew III declined the Captain’f offer, Matthew II returned to Old Lyme in perfect health. Matthew II told his father “my business here was to make peace with you and die.” Two months later, Matthew II died at age 24.

Matthew III’s son John was elected to the Connecticut legislature 28 times and was a County Judge for 29 years. John’s son Matthew IV was a Captain of the Lyme Tran Band militia. Matthew IV was an overseer of the Mohegan Indian Tribe. He argued a legal case on a land rights dispute with the Mohegans. The Court first ruled in favor of the Mohegans. In 1771, the Royal Court ruled in favor of the colonists, thus settling the matter until the 20th century when the Mohegans received a casino as compensation.

Matthew IV was a member of the New Lights, who questioned traditional religious rituals and dogma. Many New Lights opposed the high taxes imposed in 1765 by the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act was repealed in 1766 showing the New Lights had political pull. Matthew IV became a Superior Court Judge.

The New Lights believes eastern Connecticut was overpopulated. New Lights formed the Susquehanna Company to encourage migration to Pennsylvania.

New Lights helped elect Jonathan Trumbull Governor and Matthew IV as Lieutenant Governor. Matthew IC later became Superior Court Chief Justice,

Matthew IV was a member of the Committee of Safety. He convinced there be a permanent placement of troops in Lyme during the Revolutionary War. British soldiers tried to capture Matthew IV yet his wife successfully hid him in a sea chest covered by burlap feed sacks. During a second capture attempt, Matthew IV hid underneath linens When a British soldier asked a girl spreading the linens “Did you see Matthew Griswold pass by her?” she honestly answered “No, I did not see him pass” for he had yet to pass by.

Matthew IV provided 60 pounds to fund the first submarine, the Turtle.

Matthew IV was elected Governor in 1785. He proclaimed a day of Tnanks-offerings. He was defeated for reelection by Samuel Huntington in 1786. Matthew IV later became President of the state Supreme Court of Errors and was the Lyme delegate to the U.S. Constitution ratification.

Matthew IV’s son Roger was elected to the U.S. Congress six times as a Federalist. In 1803 Roger was among those proposed that Northeast states succeed from the Union. Roger was elected Lieutenant Governor from 1809 to 1811. He was elected Governor in 1811 and reelected in 1812. Roger opposed the War of 1812 as it hurt New England’s shipping and ship building industries. Governor Griswold declined President James Madison’s request for four Connecticut troop companies to serve with the U.S. Army.

The British burned 28 American ships in Essex and burned some vessels in Brockway’s Ferry across the river in Lyme.

Roger clashed with fellow member of Congress, Matthew Lyon. Lyon accused Roger of enriching himself with his printing company. Lyon spit tobacco juice onto Roger. Roger moved to have Lyon expelled from Congress which failed to get the required two thirds approval with 52 in favor and 44 against. Roger took a walking stick and hit Lyon’s head and shoulders with it.

Roger died while Governor in 1812,

John Griswold began the Black X shipping line in 1823.

Many New Englanders supported the Civil War. John Griswold, son of Colonel Charles Chandler and Ellen Griswold, was a Captain of Company 1 of the 11th Connecticut Volunteers. This company fought in the Battle of Antietam. Most in that company died in battle.

The N.I, and G. Griswold Company in the late 1860s until 1879 was involved in shipbuilding. They built speedy clipper ships.

Florence Griswold donated property to the Lyme Art Association. With this land an art gallery she managed opened. Matthew IX and others formed the Florence Griswold Association that bought the property, paid the bills, and have Florence an income for life.

Matthew IX became a physician. As his hammertoe would have disqualified him from military service, the hammertoe was surgically removed. He served in World War I as a barrage ballon observer determining enemy positions and directing fire.


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