Tuesday, July 2, 2013

In Honor of Independence Day: A Little Local History

(I love how the one wispy cloud in the sky looks like smoke coming out of the chimney)

I spent a quiet Sunday afternoon touring the Newtown Historical Society's headquarters. The Matthew Curtiss Jr. House built around 1750. 

This is the sampler of Mary Louise Clark, age 9. 
Made in July 1829


This one was done by Catharine E. Sawyer, in the 8th year of her age.
It says: "Behold my work see what I've done
Forget me not when I am gone"

A sweet baby cradle. 
Matthew Curtiss Jr. had 12 children and a later occupant of the house had 15 children
so the cradle was put to good use.

Matthew Curtiss lived at the time of the Revolution and the surrounding areas were strong and open abut their loyalty to  England and the crown. Newtown had a large group of Tories as well and they stayed active throughout the war. But Matthew Curtiss was elected an officer of the local militia and formed a company of militiamen. They collected food, clothing and other supplies for the Connecticut troops in the Continental Army. Connecticut was so effective in obtaining provisions that it became known as the "Provisions State". Even at Valley Forge, Connecticut troops did not suffer from lack of food and clothing that other troops did. On March 31, 1776 George Washington wrote Governor Trumbull from Valley Forge:
"Among the troops returning unfit for duty for want of clothing, none of your State are included. The care of your legislature in providing clothing and necessaries of all kinds for their men is highly laudable and reflects the greatest honor upon their patriotism and humanity."

Because of the strong patriotism in the new state and its concern about the lingering Toryism, in 1777 the General Assembly of Connecticut required that an oath of fidelity be taken by every officeholder and freeman in order to be accepted as an elector. The town records of Newtown show that the oath was first administered to a few men on August 25, 1777. Among the first was Matthew Curtiss Jr. who took the oath before the town clerk, swearing to "uphold and defend if need be with his life the cause expressed as set forth in the Declaration of Independence."

He and his father Matthew Curtiss Sr., were both admitted as electors in the independent State of Connecticut. The legislature authorized the replacement of loyalist Tory officers who had neglected to perform their duties.Matthew Curtiss Jr. was appointed Lieutenant of the 16th Regiment. Their militia were called out for local emergencies such as a British raid on the salt works in Greenwich. There was also an expedition into New York but they came back without seeing any action. The war officially ended in 1783 and Newtown and Lt. Curtiss returned to domestic activities.



The house is full of interesting artifacts from Matthew Curtiss' time up through the Civil War. I enjoyed a delightful afternoon learning about local history from docents dressed in historical clothing of the Colonial time. I loved getting to know more about our local history!
 It gives me such an appreciation for the people who were courageous enough to fight for Independence and Liberty.
Happy Fourth!



One last interesting side note:
Connecticut is now know as the "Constitution State" because:
 The Fundamental Orders of 1638-39 comprised the first written constitution in history. Though this claim has been disputed by some, it remains a landmark document. It is thought that many of the features of the Federal Constitution were drawn from this document. The General Assembly designated Connecticut "The Constitution State" in 1959.



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