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O an Englishman the idea of American antiquity must necessarily seem ludicrous. Two, or at the most three centuries, are all that we may historically claim for New England, or indeed for any portion of the country; youthful indeed when compared with the history of many English towns antedating the Norman, and even the Roman conquest.
But we have our antiquities none the less; and we shall continue to celebrate our first, second, and in rare instances third centennial anniversaries of towns, cities and institutions, with as much eclat as we choose, without consulting our respected cousins across the pond. In other words, we shall make the most of what antiquity we have, knowing that time will remedy all defects in this line, if we are only patient.
Bristol can boast of no such accumulation of years as that English town upon
the Avon to which it is indebted for a name, having but recently celebrated its hundredth anniversary, which occurred in 1885. Prior to its incorporation as a town it enjoyed the distinction of being an ecclesiastical parish under the name of New Cambridge. Perhaps the change of name from classical Cambridge to commercial Bristol, was a prophecy of the town's future, for the first century of its existence was yet young when manufacturing began to engage the attention of its citizens, and to attract capital and labor from other communities.
In 1721 that portion of Farmington now embraced in the towns of Bristol and Burlington, known as the West Woods, ten miles in length by five in breadth, was surveyed into five tiers of lots, separated by highways running north and south, connected by east and west highways at intervals. The survey also included one tier of lots now lying along the western
CHART FOR LOCATING LAND IN BRISTOL AS REFERRED TO IN FARMINGTON DEEDS,
This chart was made by James Shepard, of New Britain, by enlarging the map of Bristol on the Hartford County map of 1855, and drawing the roads as shown upon the map upon the chart prepared by Roswell Atkins, for the report of the Centennial of Bristol. The Burlington town line was located upon the Atkins chart by Mr. Shepard, who took measurements from ascertained bearings upon Chippen's Hill, and then enlarged the Atkin's plan to correspond proportionately with the county map. Absolute accuracy is not claimed, yet in locating lands by lot numbers, in the Farmington records, the writer has found the plot sufficiently exact to be of great use.
In 1727 Daniel Brownson bought the
border of Plainville and Farmington. These tiers of lots were a mile each in width, less the highways, which varied from twenty to forty rods in width. The lots were apportioned to the eighty-four proprietors of Farmington according to their rating, or tax list, the minister receiving a double portion, and were numbered from one to eighty-four in each tier, except the two eastern divisions, which contained twenty-one lots each, each lot being set off to four proprietors. These lots were occupied by the original owners, their heirs, or, as in numerous instances were sold by them.
SECOND MEETING HOUSE OF THE CONGREGATIONAL SOCIETY.
Ebenezer Barnes built the central
part of the Pierce house, which is con
sequently the oldest
building now standing in town. It was kept for forty years by the Barnes and Pierce families as a tavern. In the same year Nehemiah Manross, and Daniel Buck settled in the eastern part of the town, and during the ensuing years prior
first lot sold in Bristol. It was lot 71 in the fifth division, extending westerly from Goose Corner. Upon it was probably built the first house erected in Bristol. In 1728
THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH.
manufacturers naturally sought the watercourses, and upon every available stream small mills and factories were erected; and the hum of whirling pulleys, gaining their impetus from cumbrous overshot wheels, mingled with the monosyllabic commands of the plowman to his lusty oxen as he furrowed the stony soil of the adjoining fields.
The early history of the town is so closely interwoven with the history of the Congregational church as to be insepara
ble. So long as the settlers were content to ride on horseback to Farmington every Sabbath day, over the old beaten trails of the Indians, no separation was contemplated from the parental household. But, as the population of the western forest increased, and the long, tedious ride of nine miles was made perilous by spring freshets at Eight Acre, and by fierce storms and deep snows in winter, what was at first a murmur became a voice, and the privilege of holding divine services at home during the winter months was asked of the General Assembly and granted. This was in 1742. Thomas Canfield, a student for the ministry, was employed for the six months ending in the spring of 1743, and was therefore the first minister in Bristol. In 1744 by act of the General Assembly, an ecclesiastical society was formed, under the name of New Cambridge. Thus was organized the Bristol Congregational Church and Society.
From 1745 to 1747 a young Yale graduate, a resident of Southington, was employed with others to minister to the infant church. Samuel Newell was a man of pronounced views, stern and inflexible. He held to the doctrines of John Calvin, and advocated them conscientiously and fearlessly. When therefore in 1747 a vote was taken to settle him as pastor, there were those who, un
able to accept the harsh doctrines of Calvinistic theology, dissented, and ten withdrew from the society. In order to avoid the payment of church rates, and to avoid compulsory attendance upon objectionable services, they declared themselves of the Church of England, and under the Bishop of London. This was the beginning of the original Episcopal church in New Cambridge, which in 1754 crystalized into the formation of an ecclesiastical society, ministered unto by missionaries of the Church of England, under the auspices of the "London Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts."