FIRST GRIST MILL

About six years after the land had been purchased from the Indians, although they had been busy all the time, a wilderness still surrounded them, and they were practically cut off from the outside world. Sickness was soon to come, and sorrow and death might follow. What more natural than that they should feel lonely with no well regulated method of “assembling of themselves together,” for the one common purpose of religious sympathy and helpfulness?

Next to the settling of a minister and the building of a meeting house, the getting of a grist mill that would grind the town’s grain was matter for serious consideration, being an absolute necessity.

The records show no action to give any one liberty to take water for power until 1711. No artificial ponds had been made, but there was the “Great Pond,” as spoken of, the Indian name of which was

“Quanneapague.” With no mill for grinding grain, the pioneers had from the first been obliged to use a mortar and pestle as the Indians did, or go to Stratford on horseback (for they had no wagons) for the nearest mill.

At a town meeting at the house of Daniel Foot, 1711, it was “voted that Benjamin Sherman, Ebenezer Prindle and Samuel Sanford should view ye pond and see if it would contain a grist mill.”

“Voted that Jermiah Turner should have liberty to build a grist mill, and ye inhabitants do promise to give ye sd Turner 40 square acres adjoining to ye mill.”

At a town meeting Dec. 24, 1711, at the house of Daniel Foot it was “voted for Poodertook brook to get a grist mill on Poodertook brook.”

In the meantime, negotiations had got so far along with Jeremiah Turner that the inhabitants chose Abraham Kimberly and Turner chose John Piatt to pick out the 40 acres he was to have for building the mill on Pond Brook, but Turner for some unexplained reason did not build the mill.

At another town meeting Feb. 12, 1712, it was “voted that Samuel Sanford shall have the liberty to get a grist mill upon ye Pond Brook that Jeremiah Turner had.”

“Voted that Abraham Kimberly, Ebenezer Prindle and John Grififin be instructed to draw articles of agreement with sd Sanford as fast as may be.”

The articles of agreement : “To all people to whom these presents shall come, we agents for ye Town of Newtown, in ye county of Fairfield and Colony of Connecticut in New England, authorized by ye sd Town

by a vote of ye sd Town at a meeting of ye sd town on ye eleventh day of January last past, as by ye record doth appear, do sign, seal and deliver an instrument of ye sd Town’s behalf for ye conveying and passing over unto Samuel Sanford and his heirs and assigns forever, two parcells of land hereafter described upon this condition. That ye aforesaid Sanford of Newtown, aforesaid, and his heirs and assigns do erect and maintain a grist mill on Quanapague brook in Newtown aforesaid or such other place as sd Town shall assign and convey for such an improvement and so attend ye same as that sufficient stores may be thereby ground for 50 families of Newtown, allowing reasonable time for repairing and rebuilding as occasion shall require, and grinding. Know ye that whereas by instrument

bearing date of ye 15th of March, 1712, the sd Town did convenant to convey and confirm unto ye sd Sanford and his heirs and assigns on ye conditions therein mentioned and ye sd Sanford being now in a fair way to accomplish ye erecting of a grist mill, for ye further encouragement we ye aforesaid agents for ye town of Newtown, do on ye sd Town’s behalf, by virtue of ye above sd authority above recited by these presents firmly and absolutely grant, make over, and confirm on ye conditions above described, unto ye sd Samuel Sanford and his heirs and assigns forever two parcells of land situated in Newtown afore sd, one of which parcells containing 16 acres lying in ye notch of Quannapague Pond aforesaid bounded with an highway on ye northwest, ye other parcel containing 24 acres lying on ye northwest side of ye aforesaid highway and bounded on all other sides with common land, together with all the privileges and appurtenainces unto them belonging, to have and to hold to him, his heirs and assigns forever, on ye conditions above exprest as free land upon all accounts whatsoever excepting only non-performance of ye conditions above sd indefeazable estate of inheritance to his and their own use and benefit forever. Reserving only to ye sd Town, liberty upon ye failure of sd Sanford and his heirs or assigns in any part of ye conditions aforesaid to enter and take ye above granted lands and premises. And further, we the aforesaid agents on ye behalf of ye sd Town and their successors, do, to, and with ye sd Sanford, his heirs and assigns covenant and promise ye sd Sanford, his heirs and assigns in ye quiet and peaceable possession of ye above granted land appurtenances during ye whole time and term of his and their performances of sd conditions according to ye true intent and meaning thereof against all and every person or persons whatsoever that shall lay and legal claim unto ye premises or any part thereof to warrant and defend forever. Witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seal.

Samuel Sanford (Seal)

Abraham Kimberly (Seal)

Ebenezar Prindle (Seal)

John (X) Grifin (Seal)

Witness, mark

Jno. Leavenworth,

John Foote,

September 12, 1713.

John Peck, Recorder.

A year or more passed and as neither Turner nor Sanford entered into agreement with the town to build a mill on Pond or Quannapague brook another town meeting was called to take further action in regard to getting a grist mill.

At a lawful town meeting, December 14, 1714, of ye settled and aproved enhabitants of Newtown being duly notified met and assembled together made choice of Thomas Bennitt, Abraham Kimberly and Daniel Foot a comity in behalf of ye town to agree with Samuel Sanford about ye land and stream laying under Mount Pizza and to draw articles of agreement with him for ye building and erecting a grist mill there for ye youse of ye Town and what land sd Samuel Sanford takes up about sd stream he is to lay off as much from his 40 acres of land at ye Pond.”

Recorded per me

Joseph Peck, Town Clerk.

In accordance with the vote of the town, the committee conferred with Samuel Sanford; these articles of agreement were drawn up between the town of Newtown and Sanford, to which Samuel Sanford agreed:

“To all Christian people to whom these presents shall come. We agents for ye town of Newtown in ye County of Fairfield and Colony of Connecticut in New England authorized by ye sd Town by vote on December 14, 1714, to sign, seal and deliver an instrument on ye sd Town’s behalf unto Samuel

Sanford and his heirs and assigns forever, that is to say a certain parcell of land lying under a mountain known by ye name of Pisga, that is to say, all ye land lying under sd mountain to ye bend of ye brook commonly called Pohtertuck Brook, so called, with all ye land belonging to us southward of ye sd mountain to ye farms called Old Farms all sd land thus granted bounding eastwardly on ye eastward bank of ye aforesaid brook to him ye sd Sanfor, his heirs and assigns forever, provided ye sd Sanford throw up with sizer in quantity out of his forty acres of mill land ye sd Sanford hath Liberty to take up ye same for part of his 60 acres pitch, provided that ye sd Sanford erecteth and buildeth a good grist mill sufficient for ye supply of ye Town of Newtown at or before ye 20th of August next, upon Pohtotuck Brook, provided that ye sd Sanford maketh a good mill seasonably, allways allowing suitable time for repairing or rebuilding, we ye above sd agents, in ye Town’s behalf, engage yt no other grist mill shall be erected to ye damage of sd Sanford so long as he sd Sanford doth supply ye sd Town with good mills and for ye full performance of ye above sd premises we bind ourselves, our heirs, executors or administrators or assigns forever. In witness hereof we have set our hands and seals in Newtown, this 14th day of December, 1714, in ye first year of our sovereign Lord George.

Signed, sealed and delivered in presence of us.

Joseph Gray (Seal)

Peter Hubbell (Seal)

Samuel Sanford (Seal)

Thomas Bennitt (Seal)

Abraham Kimberly (Seal)

Daniel Foot (Seal)

September 21, 1715.

Joseph Peck, Recorder.

The articles of agreement were duly signed and witnessed, work on the foundation was immediately commenced and in due time the mill, with a limited assortment of machinery, was announced as ready for use. What a real treasure a good picture of the first mill would be to the antiquarian of today! No need that it be large, for the town called for one only large enough to furnish 50 families and it could be enlarged as necessity required. The records give no account of public celebration over its completion, but we can have no doubt that in the homes of those godly families prayers of thanksgiving were offered to the Giver of all good that, in addition to the blessings in their personal and family life by having a minister settled among them, they were also to have the means wherewith the grain they raised could be the more easily and effectually transformed into the “staff of life.”

It may be a surprise to some that the first grist mill was located where the building long known as the Niantic mill stands. It served its purpose well during Samuel Sanford’s life and for many years after his death, the town took entire charge of running the mill.

Samuel Sanford was about 30 years of age when he came to Newtown from Milford, Conn. In 1711, the year Newtown was incorporated a town, he was one of three chosen as selectmen at the first annual town meeting, Dec. 4, 1711. William Atwater Sanford, sixth generation in direct line of descent, who has compiled a book of the Sanford family, has this to say of him: “He was the father of ten children, seven of them born in Milford and three in Newtown.” Of John, second grandson of John Sanford, the writer says: “He was one of the largest landholders in Sandy Hook. He was called ‘Squire John.” Leaving considerable property to his heirs, his son Elijah received the major part, which included the cotton mill erected on the site of the grist mill built by Samuel Sanford, that still Stands on the banks of the stream flowing through the village; also a grist mill several hundred feet below, which is still used for the purpose for which it was originally built.

When Elijah Sanford died, the mill property passed into the hands of his son, David Sanford, and from him to his son, William, grand- son of Elijah. A long stretch of years it stood in the Sanford name and is owned now by Patrick Campbell. Oft repaired and somewhat dull from age, it serves the public, though not exactly as of old, when all the work was custom work, as the farmers raised the grain they used and the miller got his living from the toll he took for grinding, and laid by some cash for a rainy day. Now most of the grain for grinding, coming from the West, the farmer goes to mill with an empty wagon and money in his pocket, to return with his wagon full but pockets empty and, perchance, an increase of the debit side of the account.

The motive power of the old mill has not yet been superseded by steam or electricity, as the power still comes from the sparkling waters of the Pootatuck, the same old stream, with the same old Indian name, which, though differently spelled than of old, is a name musical in our ears, whose waters, ever beautiful to look upon as they ripple along in sunshine or in shade, until lost in the quiet restfulness of the pond below, are again let loose to move the great machinery of the rubber works and from thence pursue checkered, fascinating wanderings through wooded glen and quiet meadows, to find outlet in the waters of our beautiful river, the Housatonic.

Comments
  1. Nancy says:

    I didn’t exactly get the point/connection w/the history as it has to do w/the school?

    Like

    • William E. Males says:

      I am not sure either for sure, just felt led to look into it and the fact that the date of the grist mill property being signed over to Samuel Stanford was same as the shooting, 298 yrs. latter. Plus latter as the property was handed down, the mill fail to be as profitable to the people and great grandson John Stanford appears to have become less interested in the mill grinding grain affordably for the people and more in pursuing his fortune in Sandy Hook realty.

      Land, anniversary, property, location, school . . . I have spoken with others and they are looking into it as well. We’ll see.

      Like

  2. Nancy says:

    Thanks, as I value your insight!

    Like

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