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Welcome to our news and history blog!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Saunterings Around Town: A New York Correspondent... (1916)

Greenwich News and Graphic. Source: August 22, 1916.

A New York correspondent, who has been reading in the NEWS AND GRAPHIC of the development of the Higgins tract on Putnam avenue writes for information.

He wants to know if this land was not owned forty years ago by the late Solomon Mead who used it as a farm before it was sold to Frank Shepard, Francis Tomes and finally Mr. A. Foster Higgins.

The undulating territory north of Putnam avenue, including the Higgins property and the land occupied by numerous houses along Maple avenue and lower North Street, is suggestive of pre-Revolutionary days. The land records furnish the strongest incentive to a play of the imagination, but so many actual facts are resent that it is unnecessary to call upon the imagination to embellish an interesting story.

Here was the "Main Country road," the Putnam avenue of to-day. The little white wooden country church occupied a position near the present stone church.

The Putnam Cottage, then without the stone ell was the Tavern of Israel Knapp.

To the west and north were the farm houses of James Mead, who died in 1783 and of Samuel Seymour, who was born in 1730 and lived to realize the results of two wars, departing this life, at re old homestead in 1818.

Long after the cessation of hostilities the Knapp tavern was a popular stopping place.

Two generations of the same name-Israel Knapp- were in control. Daniel Merritt Mead in his history of the town, published in 1857 but long since out of print states that the members of this family were "the most inveterate Tories" and then he goes on to tell the story of the tragic death of the son of the first Israel-Timothy-to whom his father bequeathed twenty-five pounds sterling but the unfortunate Timothy died before his father and the legacy then considered a large sum went to his three sisters.

The impulse is to omit the details of Timothy Knapp and yet, possibly as true facts are unwound they may come out.

But before they are reached it is pleasant to contemplate those old sweepback farm houses, on the hill occupied by James Mead and Dr. Amos Mead, the latter being active on the committee of safety during the revolution and finding it convenient to "retire into the country for the whole winter" as Major Mead, the historian writes: Territory of more than one hundred and fifty acres, north of the country road with the exception of a small piece, known as the rock lot, was under cultivation. The two houses backed up against the superb view of the land and water and what little might have been seen from the kitchen windows was shut out by thrifty apple orchards or an imposing array of barns. In those days little regard was had for a view.

The settlement was decidedly think and when we read that Dr. Amos Mead had to go back "into the country," for safety from the enemy, it was fair to assume that Stanwich, Banksville and Round Hill were then a hovering wilderness.

The little triangle where the soldier's monument stands was for many years the center of the town's activities. before and during the Revolution it was he site of the village Smithy's shop. Here the oxen and horses were shod and artistic door hinges and latches were made for the carpenter and joiner. Possibly when the first meeting house for the Second Congregational church society was built, about 1705 that building was used for town meetings as was usually done throughout New England. The church members were the voters and the voters had to be church members in order to hold office.

Although the town records were kept at Cos Cob, this diminutive triangle, now called "Monument Park" was the center of activities in the west society.

The column is filled and yet the purpose with which it was begun has been sidetracked. It s so easy to ramble among the facts of other days, because there are so many of them that are interesting and some of them are instructive. And therefore the New York correspondent met wait t hear about the little farm of thirty-eight acres, which Solomon Mead's mother bought in 1823. He died eighteen years ago and most of his contemporaries have disappeared from view.

But Solomon Mead will always have a place in local history, as a man of honor, integrity and good judgment, and the only native of Greenwich who started with nothing, remained here all his life and left a million.


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