1906: Put Up Telephone Pole at Night

Residents of Middletown Were Angry the Next Morning

Middletown, Jan. 1
Captain Edward Miller, Luther Anderson, Thomas Smith and other property owners at the north end of Main street were indignant when they arose Saturday morning, for they found a big pole erected just at one side of their driveway which leads from Green street to their rear entrances. On closer examination it was found to be a telephone pole which had been erected Friday night after dark by the Southern New England Telephone Company. Captain Miller and the others appealed to Alderman Meech of the street committee, who visited the place and arranged with the telephone company to move the pole one foot to the east.

From the Hartford Courant, Jan. 1, 1906

1906: Wedded 74 Years; Dies

Demise of Charles A. Newell Separates Oldest Couple in New England.

Special Dispatch to The Inter Ocean.

Middletown, Conn., Dec. 27.–Death today separated the oldest married couple in New England. Charles A. Newell expired in the Middlesex hospital, aged 92 years. He was married in Portland, Maine, Nov. 25, 1832. His widow survives.

From The Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), Friday, December 28, 1906.

1906: Missing For 35 Years

Runaway Got Just Twenty-Five Miles From Home.

Funeral Held 32 Years Ago.

Old Man, Whose Relatives Thought He Died at Sea, Shows Up at Middletown, Conn., and Says He Just Went Over to Coventry, Twenty-Five Miles Distant, Bought a Farm, and Settled Down.

Special to The Washington Post.

Middletown, Conn., Dec. 25.– Joseph Grover Southmayd, who disappeared from his home, near here, thirty-five years ago and who was long since given up as dead, returned to-day, to the amusement of such of his relatives as are living.

The old man–for he is an old man now, though he was only twenty-two when he left–stamped into town early this morning, carrying a stick and looking weary. He did not in the least resemble Rip Van Winkle, for he is short, and Rip was tall, and Southmayd wears no beard. He looked about at the signs over the stores, however, until his evident curiosity and uncertainty attracted the attention of every one on the street. Not a soul who saw him recognized him.

Finally the old fellow went into a grocery store and asked where Jim Hatch’s place was.

“Never heard of him,” responded the busy clerk.

“Gosh! Guess you’re a stranger here, ain’t yer?” asked Southmayd.

“Oh, I guess not, not by ten years.” The clerk smiled.

“Do you know Bud Olmstead or Harry Cheney?”

“There’s an old fellow named Cheney runs a blacksmith’s shop,” said the clerk, still smiling. “Maybe that’s your friend.”

Old Friend Didn’t Know Him.

The next seen of Southmayd was at Cheney’s blacksmith shop, a little way from the main portion of the town. He walked in as if he had been there every day of his life.

“Hullo, Harry,” he said to the man at the bellows.

Mr. Cheney did not recognize Southmayd and went on with his work. The other man stood still a moment, and then he said:

“You don’t know me, do you? Well, I’m Joe Southmayd.”

Cheney dropped the bellows handle as if it was a hot coal and walked over to Southmayd. He looked at him long and earnestly.

“By jimps, that’s who you are, all right. How are you, Joe?”

“I’m all right,” said Southmayd, pleased at having found some one who knew him.

“You’ve been gone quite a while,” said Cheney going back to his bellows.

Southmayd seated himself on a box full of old horse shoes and asked questions at a great rate. He learned that fully two-thirds of the people he had known were either dead or had moved. At each bit of information he seemed downcast, but recovered as soon as he thought of another person to ask about. Those who were in the blacksmith’s shop and Mr. Cheney say that he talked for an hour without volunteering any account of his wanderings. Finally he asked about his relatives.

Relatives Held His Funeral.

He was told that when he disappeared a search was instituted in New York city for him, but no trace was discovered. He had always expressed a desire to go to sea, and for a long time his relatives believed that he had shipped aboard some vessel in New York harbor. Three years passed without any tidings from him, and then, in an account of a ship wreck, there was a report of the drowning of a young man who exactly answered his description. His relatives felt convinced that he was the man referred to, and funeral services were held for him here. All hope of his return was abandoned.

Southmayd took the news of the death of many of his relatives very badly, and finally left the shop without saying where he had been. He went at once to the home of the only relatives he had left.

Southmayd this evening looked up two or three other old friends, and with Cheney they got together. The returned wanderer kept asking questions all the time until Cheney broke off the conversation suddenly and asked Southmayd point blank where he had been all the time.

“Kind o’ Fraid to Come Back,” He Says.

“Well,” said Southmayd, “I ain’t been very far. Didn’t have any intentions of going far when I set out. I went over to Coventry and went to work, saved, and bought a little farm. Got a nice place over there now, and a wife and two children.”

Coventry is twenty-five miles from Middletown! Southmayd’s listeners looked at him in astonishment and with some appearance of disgust.

“That’s the honest truth,” went on Southmayd. “Been in Coventry all the time, ‘cept once when I went down to New York for a trip. Made good money over there and liked the place and–”

“Why in thunder didn’t you let your folks know where you was?” asked Cheney.

“Didn’t want to. I just thought at first that I’d stay away a little while and come back. Then I thought it would be fun to meet some of ’em by chance, walking along the street or in a store. Got so after a while that I put off coming back again and I was prosperous and I didn’t see any use in coming back anyhow. When I bought my farm just outside Coventry I thought I’d come over and get the old folks and show them my place, but I met a girl and was pretty busy, and first thing you know I was married. Then I was kind of ‘fraid to come back and tell folks who’d know me, and pretty soon I got in the habit of not thinking about Middletown much.”

Nobody asked any more questions, and the party soon broke up. Southmayd went out to his relatives for the night. He offered to take Cheney and the others over to see his farm, and promised to give them a good dinner, but no one accepted.

From The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.), Wednesday, December 26, 1906.

1898: Jernegan Makes Peace Offering

Middletown, Conn., Dec. 19.–It is stated on the authority of a member of the committee appointed to make an investigation of the so called Jernegan process of extracting gold from sea water that Rev. P. F. Jernegan, formerly of this city, who is now in Brussels, has actually sent to the directors of the Electrolytic Marine Salts company $75,000 in cash as a sort of peace offering preliminary to his return to the United States with his family. Jernegan converted all his stock and securities into cash previous to going abroad, and it is nearly one-third of the proceeds that he has returned of his own free will and without promises or inducements of any kind.

From the Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), Monday, December 19, 1898.

1947: There’s a Difference

Middletown, Conn., Dec. 14 (AP)–A group of sign painters were working on a billboard here this cold December day because Edward J. Hill, a police traffic sergeant, has an alert eye for incongruities.

The billboard stands at the west end of the Connecticut River bridge, looming above a Highway Department sign cautioning “slow–dangerous curve.”

The billboard legend, extolling a brand of gasoline, said “Get going–fast.”

It doesn’t say that now, however. The gasoline company, at Hill’s suggestion, agreed to change the “get going” to “Start.”

From the Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), Monday, December 15, 1947.

1976: Good Selection

Middletown, Conn. (AP)–“Please, Santa, give me a winner for Christmas,” read the plea found in one of the mailboxes placed around the city for mail to Santa Claus.

It was written on a Connecticut off-track betting sheet.

“I hope he’ll think of us if Santa comes through,” said Bernard O’Rourke, head of the city department that installed the mailboxes.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio), Wednesday, December 8, 1976.

1971: Vivien Renews Battle With IRS

By Al Aumuller, World-Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. 3c25123 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c25123, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1267147
Vivien Kellums, 1941, by Al Aumuller, World-Telegram staff photographer – Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Middletown, Conn. (AP)–Vivien Kellems fought another round in her long-standing battle with the Internal Revenue Service today, and emerged saying that the IRS is “a gestapo–it is the police force of this country.”

The 75-year-old spinster was summoned to the IRS office here to produce her latest records.

She refused, saying the IRS was violating her 4th and 5th amendment rights and that she would rather go to court rather than turn over records without a specific list of what the IRS wanted.

Miss Kellems said the IRS owes her $83,000 because it has taxed her at a higher rate than it levies on married persons.

She said she had refused to pay taxes since 1969 as part [of] her battle to get regulations changed so they tax married people at the same rate as single persons.

She said the IRS doesn’t have a figure on how much it says she owes the government.

“They can’t tell what I owe them because I haven’t paid anything since 1969,” Miss Kellems said. “The federal government owes me a great deal of money,” she told two young IRS agents in a meeting which was tape recorded for waiting newsmen to hear.

“I am not going to pour good money after bad,” she said.

From the Bridgeport Post (Bridgeport, Conn.), Monday, December 6, 1971.


November 16 – Middletown 366


From the ‘Casual List’

Middletown (Connecticut) Nov. 16. Last Thursday, Miss Lucy Gill, of this city, fell into the river, where it is supposed she lay 15 or 20 minutes before she was discovered; when she was taken up, apparently a corpse, but, happily, soon recovered.

From the Salem Mercury (Salem, Massachusetts), Tuesday, December 2, 1788.


Sells Wife and Sues Buyer for $100,000

Aged Husband Says It Was All a Joke, But Purchaser Has Bill-of-Sale.

Middletown, Conn., Nov. 16.–(A.P.)–A 74-year-old man, who signed away his young wife for $10,000, was in court today and told Judge Alyn L. Brown and a jury it was a “joke.”

The document was offered in evidence. Josiah B. Stocking, Rocky Hill, is suing William Suda, Essex, for $100,000, the value of Mrs. Stocking’s affection as set in the papers alleging alienation of this affection.

The document was as follows:

“I promise to give up all claims on my wife, Mabel P. Stocking, to William Suda for the sum of $10,000.”

Stocking signed the document on October 23, 1925.

A previous suit was settled when Stocking received an automobile from Suda several months ago.

In 1926 Stocking advertised in a matrimonial agency paper for a wife while he was yet married, but he claims his wife knew all about it.

From the Scranton Republican (Scranton, Pennsylvania), Thursday, November 17, 1927.


Brownies to Play Middletown Eleven

Agawam, Nov. 16.–The Agawam Brownies will seek their fifth victory Sunday afternoon when they play the Middletown Sons of Italy at Middletown, Conn. The game is scheduled at Municipal Field at 2.

Agawam has won four, lost two and tied one this year. It is pointing for its Nov. 25 game with the Greenfield Lions at Greenfield.

From the Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), Saturday, November 17, 1951.

1822: Stealing Handsomely

Relative to the fire in Glastonbury, the editors of the Times say, “for the information of the editor of the Middlesex Gazette, we will state that Glastonbury lies in a direction N. N. E. from Middletown instead of Hartford.”–Now that is no information to the editor of the Gazette–he knew it well before.–But the editor of the Gazette would be very sorry to see in the next Map of the State of Connecticut, Glastonbury placed up in East-Windsor, and East-Windsor placed the Lord knows where–all owing to a blundering printer, who did not know how to steal a paragraph handsomely.

From the Middlesex Gazette (Middletown, Connecticut), Thursday, November 14, 1822.

1892: Connecticut Snake Story

A Farm Hand Makes a Discovery at the Bottom of a Well.

Middletown, Conn., November 13.–The long drought in the Connecticut valley has greatly delayed the advent of winter, and wild flowers, fruit trees and strawberry blossoms, snakes and other things are still current. The drought has also dried all the small streams and wells, and it was on account of the drought, too, that Farmer Alexander Penfield’s hired man, a Pole, had a unique and startling experience today. Like all his neighbors, Penfield had been getting his drinking water in a hogshead for his household and his barn stock from the distant river, and he was tired of the job. He determined to clean out an old well on the premises. It was a deep and capacious one, and it had been unused for several years.

The two men found that the well had been partly filled with brush, stones and other debris, but Penfield quickly rigged up a rope and bucket and sent the Pole to the bottom of it in the bucket. The Pole had not labored long before he was disturbed by a singular buzzing sound like the humming of a swarm of bees, and a moment later he began to see snakes. From every crevice in the stone curb of the well serpents thrust forth their heads, hissing loudly, then advanced their bodies, little by little, into the well, which were followed instantly by more snakes, all crowding on the frightened workman and tumbling on each other into the bottom of the dimly lighted shaft.

There were black snakes, water snakes, striped snakes and adders. For awhile the Pole waged a desperate battle against the serpents with his shovel, simply to protect himself from their attack, but in a few moments he was completely invested with a hissing, writhing, squirming, tossing tangle of serpents in the bottom of the pit, while a shower of snakes was continually falling upon him from the walls above his head.

Finally the Pole became terror-stricken and shouted to Mr. Penfield to haul him out of the engulfing torrent of reptiles. Mr. Penfield pulled vigorously on the bucket rope and soon had his man out of danger. After an hour or so the serpents returned to their retreat behind the well walls. Then Farmer Penfield lowered his man into the well again. He found the bodies of thirty-four snakes which the Pole had killed with his shovel. Mr. Penfield has abandoned his project of using the well and is still getting his water from the Connecticut river.

From the Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Pennsylvania), Monday, November 14, 1892.