Barber’s Trees

chs_1953_5_56The New Haven artist John Warner Barber knew a lot about trees. When he traveled around Connecticut in the early 1830s making sketches for his book, Connecticut Historical Collections, he carefully noted the species of the trees, so that he would be able to portray them correctly in the wood-engraved illustrations. Many of his drawings include young trees, recently set out, providing us with some idea of what kinds of trees people were planting in that period. Young trees, including at least one young elm, are shown lining the town green in Guilford. In his sketch of the Nathan Hale homestead in Coventry, Barber specifically noted the presence of “young maples” lining the road leading to the house. Some of those trees, now grown to massive old age, still survive. I wonder how many of Barber’s young trees are still to be found, scattered about Connecticut.

Over 300 of Barber’s views of Connecticut towns, including preliminary sketches and finished wash drawings, may be seen in Connecticut History Online, a collaborative digital library of historic images of the state.

September in the Archives

We have now completed the first month of our 2010-2012 NHPRC grant-funded cataloging project. In most ways, the 2010 project has picked up where the 2008-2010 project left off. Account books, diaries, and town papers remain high priority for cataloging, but if a manuscript collection contains more than just a single sheet, it is likely on our list.

No two collections of town papers and records are alike. Often they consist of tax documents (rates, bills, etc.), school records, and property deeds. Many times the collections comprise just a few documents, pulled (some might say haphazardly) from various other manuscript collections. Occasionally they are marked with the other accession number; most often they are not. Without any idea where they originated, it is impossible for us to return them. Creation of such collections is not a practice that actively continues at CHS. However, much of it is  information we want to make sure our researchers are aware exists. In September I added records to the online catalog for the following towns/areas: Bozrah, Burlington, Canton, Chaplin, Chatham, Coventry, East Hampton, Haddam, Hampton, Kensington, Killingly, Killingworth, Manchester, Milford, Newington, Portland, Preston, South Windsor, Tolland, and Woodstock. Many towns have already been cataloged, so if you do not see the one you are looking for, make sure to check the online catalog.

Among the other collections making their online catalog debut are the papers of the First Church of Windsor and the Tyler family. The earliest pieces from the Windsor church’s collection are the following from a 1681 seating chart.The two, non-contiguous sheets display the assignments made by the town’s Selectmen.


Seating chart, Windsor Church records, 1681-1850, Ms 00079. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT


The bulk of the material in the collection dates from the late 1780s and the tenure of the church’s minister, Rev. David Rowland. It includes a letter from Rowland accepting his position, a controversy concerning some of his methods, and agreements for his son, Rev. Henry Rowland, to co-lead the church.

The Tyler family collection is mostly military orders signed by John Tyler and Samuel Tyler. The most original piece is a report of the guards at a prison in New London, Connecticut.


"A Report of the Officer of the Day," Tyler Family papers, 1777-1811, Ms 23054. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT


The report lists the prisoners’ names, regiment, name of the person who confined them, the crime, and number of nights confined. On this day there were ten men arrested for desertion and four who had been taken prisoner of war at sea. The piece also details the number of guards present at the prison and where they were stationed.

All of these collections are open and available for research. Come visit! Your admission will cover both the research center and to our galleries, particularly our newly opened Connecticut Needlework exhibit.

Please contact us if you have any questions about the CHS, our collections, and the learning opportunities we offer.

Rufus Raises a Ruckus

Just arrived today is a terrific document, a complaint against Rufus Cheadle (1756-1816) of Coventry, Connecticut. The complaint is made by Joseph Talcott, Justice of the Peace, December 14, 1807. Cheadle has “fallen into scandalous offenses” and “has for a long time kept himself from the Communion table,” according to Talcott. Talcott then goes on to expand on the scandalous offenses. On July 21, 1807 Cheadle “did disturb and break the peace of his own family, and of the neighborhood in which he lives, by tumultuous, noisy and offensive conduct; by swearing profanely by the Holy name of God; by threatening with an ax in his hand that he would be the death of Jacob Allen; and with a butcher knife went at Sam’l Burden and swore by the Eternal God, that he the s’d Cheadle would rip up s’d Burden’s bowels, and spill his hearts blood”. Talcott then quotes scripture to defend his recommendation that the church “withdraw their watch and care over the s’d Cheadle.” On the verso of the document is a summons to Cheadle to explain himself before the members of the Church of Christ in North Coventry on January 1, 1808.

Was it a mid-life crisis that caused Rufus to act out in anger against Allen and Burden? Is there a deeper story here–was he feeling cheated by these men, kept from making a living or buying land, considered an outcast? Additional research, as always, may uncover the rest of the story.