1862: The Battle of Fredericksburg

On this day, Elijah Gibbons was mortally wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia. He had been a foreman at the Douglas Pump Company and was a fervent abolitionist, having lost his job as sexton at the First Baptist Church when he decided to ring the steeple bell at the moment the abolitionist John Brown was hung. At the outbreak of the war, he raised a company of Middletown men to join the fight. He led his men, Company B of the 14th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry through the Battle of Antietam in September, 1862 only to lose his life at Fredericksburg. He is buried in Mortimer Cemetery and descendants still live in the area.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.

Elijah Gibbons

1885: Stirring Up Middletown Folks Also

Middletown, Conn., Nov. 18.–A representative of the adjutant general met with the selectmen on Monday for the purpose of ascertaining why a larger number of our citizens do not pay a poll tax. He learned that military service exempts an unusually large number, as Middletown has more veterans who served in the late war, in proportion to its population, then either Hartford or New Haven. Also, we have a goodly number of veteran firemen who are exempt on account of long service in the fire department.

From the New Haven Register (New Haven, Connecticut), Wednesday, November 18, 1885.

November 17 – Middletown 366


Russell Library is Dedicated

On this day, Russell Library was dedicated.  The building located at Opening Programthe corner of Broad and Court Streets was originally Christ Church and the first classes of Middletown High School, the first permanent high school in Connecticut, were held in its basement in 1840.  After the Episcopalian congregation built its new church, Church of the Holy Trinity, on Main Street, the building was purchased by Frances Russell and transformed into a library in memory of her husband Samuel Russell, the China trader and founder of Russell Manufacturing Company.

Although the building was dedicated and opened as a hall in November 1875, the library collection was not open to the public until the following April.

As the town grew, so did Russell Library, which now hosts almost 1000 patrons a day.  In addition to lending books, the library has kept up with the times, allowing patrons to borrow movies and DVD’s, use computers free of charge, attend workshops, classes, and lectures, and enjoy plays and musical performances.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.


18821117GAR flyer

Flyer for the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic), Mansfield Guard Post, Fair in 1882. The G.A.R. was the organization for Union veterans of the Civil War, and was a political force until the early 1900s.

1866: A Law Suit Against Substitute Brokers

The Superior Court sitting in Middletown, had on trial on Monday and Tuesday of this week, a suit brought by Hon. Samuel L. Warner, Congressman from this district, and others, against Samuel Bishop, Wm. E. Baldwin and Charles G. Wilson, of this city. It seems that the defendants, during the war, made a contract to furnish substitutes for the town of Middletown. It is claimed that when the price of substitutes rose, the defendants refused to fulfill their contract, but furnished substitutes after that for other parties. The case is not yet decided.

From the Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), Saturday, November 10, 1866.

November 2 – Middletown 366


Middletown Outrage Over Stamp Act

On this day in 1765, the spirit of Revolutionary protest was felt in Middletown over the passage of the Stamp Act by the British. The act required the American colonists to pay a tax on every piece of printed paper they used, and was seen as a direct attempt by the Crown to raise money in the colony without the approval of the colonial legislatures. An account of Nov. 2nd reads:

“Yesterday being the day prefixed to enslave America, by an unrighteous and oppressive ——, some of the principal gentlemen of this place, to shew the sense they had of their native liberty and freedom…. met together, and agreed that the bell should toll all day with the tongue muffled; that minute guns should be discharged, and a pendant hoisted half-staff high… Not less than eight hundred joined in this affair…It would be amiss to omit, that our young children, that can hardly speak, have already learnt this lesson well — Liberty, Property and no Stamps — which they sing along the streets.” War would break out in April ten years later, and over 124 men Middletown would hasten to Boston to join the effort.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.


Dedication of Commodore Thomas Macdonough Tablet

On this day in 1932, the Wadsworth Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution conducted a dedication ceremony for the tablet near Riverside Cemetery.

Dedication of Commodore Macdonough tablet.
Dedication of Commodore Macdonough tablet.

1942: High Cost of Living

Wallace Adams, Training For War Plant Job, Pays $100 a Month For $25 Apartment, and Is Lucky.

Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Adams, who are living temporarily in Middletown, Conn., are paying $100 a month for a three-room apartment, “much like a $25 apartment in Moberly,” and apparently are fortunate to get it, as many persons there are offering a $25 bonus for an apartment, Mr. Adams writes Moberly friends.

Mr. Adams is one of 300 men from this area chosen by Pratt and Whitney, arms corporation, for special training in Hartford. He will be sent to Kansas City in February, where he will be assigned to personnel job.

“We live 22 miles from Hartford (where I go to school),” he writes, “in an apartment on the third floor of the Sears-Roebuck building. I go to school at night from 11:30 until 7 o’clock in the morning. Everything is plenty high here: eggs are 59c. a dozen and milk is 15c. a quart; and meat is a luxury only the rich can afford.”

“The weather up here is similar to Missouri except that it rains almost every day. I believe Connecticut is the prettiest state in the union, but it is also the most expensive to live in.”

“Anti-aircraft batteries are located on almost every vacant lot and are manned day and night. If you drive within 20 miles of the ocean, the upper half of your headlights must be covered with paint. We went through a blackout about two weeks ago and it sure was weird. The town where we live has a population of about 30,000, and during that blackout it was as quiet as it is out at dad’s farm. Every car stops right where it is and every person walking stays where he is. Until you’ve been through one, you have missed something.”

“I’m due back in Missouri February 1, 1943, unless Pratt and Whitney fires me, which I hope they won’t do. This training course I’m taking sure is tough and I spend lots of time studying when I should be sleeping, but I suppose it is worth it.”

Adams, before leaving Moberly, was associated with his father, R. O. Adams, in the Conoco Service Station at the corner of Coates and Johnson streets.

From the Moberly Monitor-Index (Moberly, Missouri), Tuesday, October 6, 1942.

1779: Schooner Eagle Captured

The Connecticut Privateer schooner Eagle was commissioned under David Brooks of Chatham, Connecticut on May 28, 1779. The schooner had a crew of forty-five men, including many from Middletown. The first lieutenant was Shubael Brainerd.

On September 20, 1779, HM Frigate Daphne led by Captain St. John Chinnery captured the Eagle. The Eagle was then sent into New York and the crew of forty-four men aboard was turned over to prison ships at New York on October 2, 1779. The schooner was condemned later that same year.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.

1906: The Annual Reunion of the 24th Conn. …

General Samuel Mather Mansfield
General S. M. Mansfield

… was held at Middletown, Conn., Sept. 19, with about 50 members of the regiment present. The old officers were re-elected: Gen. S. M. Mansfield, of Boston, Mass., permanent President; Lieut. A. H. Conklin, of East Hampton, acting President, and George N. Moses, of New Haven, Secretary and Treasurer. It was voted to hold the next Reunion in Middletown. The regiment did excellent service and has a fine record. There are about 149 of its original members living today. Seven deaths since the last meeting were reported.

From The National Tribune (Washington, D. C.), Dec. 6, 1906.

1862: General Mansfield Falls at Antietam

General Joseph MansfieldOn this day, Major General Joseph King Fenno Mansfield was mortally wounded leading his men at the Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland.

Having been raised in Middletown, and entering West Point just several months shy of his 14th birthday, Mansfield spent 14 years building Fort Pulaski in Savannah, was wounded at the Battle of Monterey in the Mexican War, and rose to become Inspector General of the entire US Army. At the outbreak of the war, President Lincoln placed him in charge of the defenses of Washington, DC and he later participated in the battle of the ironclads, the Monitor and the Merrimac from the shore batteries.

On September 15, 1862, he arrived in Sharpsburg to assume command of the 12th Corps of the Army of the Potomac, commanded by General George McClellan. After his death the day after the battle, his body was returned to Middletown accompanied by his son Samuel who had just graduated from West Point. He is buried in Indian Hill Cemetery.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.