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Welcome to our news and history blog!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Letter to the Editor: SEAMAN MEAD WAS THERE: Skating Across Long Island Sound in the Winter of 1857 (1912)

Source: Greenwich Press. Friday, March 1, 1912.

*NOTE: See also my article published by Greenwich Time in its March 27, 1994 edition.

TO THE EDITOR OF THE SUN – Sir: The recent frozen condition of the Connecticut harbors brings to mind a little incident that occurred many years ago. Long Island Sound was frozen over, from the Connecticut to the Long Island shore, in the winter of 1857. Many of the young people of Milford enjoyed skating on the ice near the shore, and trips were frequently made to the lighthouses on the islands offshore. Some of the young men, with a spirit of bravado, decided to skate across the Sound. Their preparations were quietly made, for they well knew that it would not be possible to obtain the consent of their parents, and at the time and place appointed by their leader twenty-five young fellows gathered.

Each was equipped with a piece of stout rope, about thirty feet in length, and a pair of skates. The trip to Long Island was safely made. On the return trip the boys landed on one of the small islands off Port Chester, N.Y. One of the twenty-five boys who made the trip is still living, the Hon. Seaman Mead of Greenwich.

Milford, Conn, February 21, H.Y. P. – NEW YORK SUN.


Source: Greenwich News. Friday, February 2, 1912. Page 1.

Has Created a Volume Dealing with This Town from Indian Days to the Present – Illustrations of Residences and Portraits of Citizens – Map of Greenwich in 1787. Shows Houses and Names of Occupants.

Self-committed to a single task, which began many years ago Historian Spencer P. Mead, author of "Ye Historie of Greenwich," the first copies of which arrived in Greenwich less than a week ago, has produced of work which is abundant in the credit due the writer and invaluable in its worth to the people of Greenwich and neighboring sections. It stands as the complete history of the town of Greenwich from the days of the first white settler to the present day, one of the best local histories ever compiled for the instruction and edification of any community.

Spencer P. Mead's gravestone is at Putnam Cemetery, Greenwich. 

To trace the course of the crossing and recrossing threads, diverging road and faintly blazed trails, was the work which Mr. Mead set before himself many years ago. He had dreamed the dream of a complete history of Greenwich; one which might be authentic and in every detail, and setting up this high conception as his ultimate goal, he has sacrificed many other interests and bent every endeavor to consummate the high purpose to which he dedicated himself, knowing well how year would drag on after year before the cloth he was weaving would be spread out for public inspection; before even he might call this pattern complete and begin first to weave together the thousands of slender threads.

How well the historian has succeeded cannot be told by saying that the public is offered a volume of seven hundred and sixty-eight pages 8vo and illustrated, nor even can it be conveyed by lightly touching upon its many facts in a review of this nature. It can only be appreciated by reading from cover to cover. Not a person who is a present living in Greenwich or who has ever lived in Greenwich, whether grown-up or still young, who cannot find it much that will interest and instruct, much that will seem almost unreal to some of us of the present generation, but which is so carefully drawn from all the available old records and so conclusively presented that one will readily accept as true and authentic this authors fullest detail. Those most familiar with the records of our town will be the first to testify that Mr. Mead's exhaustive study, for which he had earlier proved himself especially well fitted, has brought to earth almost hopelessly entangled traditions and many romantic legends to place them in their proper positions, as a part of history, unbiased and stripped tho they may often be of their more romantic features.

Mr. Mead's history of Greenwich contains a short account of the occupation of the land by the Indians; some of the less authenticated of the legends of the Indians; a graphic account of the battle between the Indians and the combined Dutch and English settlers at Strickland Plains at Cos Cob in 1644; descriptive accounts of the early settlers and their dealings with the Indians, and accounts of the French and Indian Wars as far as they pertain to the history of Greenwich.

Coming down to the last of the eighteenth century, the deeds of the colonists and their participation in the great war for freedom from England are amply portrayed. Greenwich with debatable ground during much of the period in which the Revolutionary war was fought, and Mr. Mead interestingly relates many stirring stories of exciting escapes of the patriots from the Tories and cowboys, who frequented the town. Tryon's raid and General Putnam's escape are presented in a new light and some of the old traditions are thoroly shattered.

Mr. Mead has briefly chronicled the part taken by Greenwich in the building of the new federal and state governments under the charters by which they are covered today. He has inserted a particularly interesting history of the old turnpikes, tracing themselves thru the town, and the story of the toll-gate, located on what is now Toll Gate Hill, just west of Horseneck Brook which was shortly west of old Horseneck. In history each section of the town, Olde Greenwich or Old Town, Mianus, Cos Cob, Horseneck, Byram, Stanwich and other settlements are given the full measure of their importance to the whole town. By the earlier accounts it can be seen that Horseneck, or that part of the town which is now incorporated into the Borough of Greenwich or is closing adjoining it, was of much less importance than several other parts of the township. Mianus and Cos Cob with their trading packets and village stores were once far larger and more impressive places than were Rocky Neck and Horseneck.

No vivid contrasts are allowed at the matter-of-fact historian, but may be permitted the reviewer, who sees only the realities of to-day. One who is accustomed to seeing the long lines of double lamped automobiles racing up Greenwich avenue from the Greenwich station shortly after a late afternoon train arrives, can hardly help wishing to be carried back for a moment to the time when "it was not an unusual sight to see a line of carts, each containing fifty bushels of potatoes, extending from the landing at Cos Cob to the Hub, waiting for a chance to unload." Those were the days when a Greenwich man's wealth was measured by the bushel and not by the acre. The Dun and Bradstreet reports of those days were kept on the pads at the docks in Mianus, Cos Cob and Rocky Neck and what Wall street knew or thought it knew had no bearing on the individual's position in social life.

The historian has thoroly searched the records of the nineteenth century, setting forth much that is important. A very valuable work has been the compiling of records of the town's enlistments in the Civil War. With this is given a brief, but very interesting history of the several of the regiments in which Greenwich men went through the great struggle. The accounts of the 10th 17th and 28th Connecticut Volunteer regiments are most complete.

Church history is begun almost with the early settlers and brought down to date. Important real estate transfers begin with the Indians and are traced thru many generations. Governmental history begins with the early disputes between the Dutch and English and is brought to date. Resolutions passed at some of the earliest town meetings may be found, as well as resolutions passed in town meetings only a year or two ago. Of the later important doings chronicled are the centennial celebration of General Putnam's ride, the burning of Alexander Mead's barns, he unveiling of the Soldiers and sailors monument, the unveiling of the Putnam monument, the dedication of the Town Hall and the dedication of the Putnam cottage.

One chapter is devoted to the incidents and modes of life of the early settlers, a journey by stage in 1826, market boats, steamboats, railroads and trolleys. Business centers and industries are traced from the early days to the present. A sketch of each lawyer and doctor who has practiced or is at present practicing in town is given, sketches of the various newspaper publications which the town has seen, histories of the fire companies, libraries, hospitals, public schools, private schools, churches, hotels and societies are also given.

An invaluable aid to attorneys or others, who have occasion to search the records is given in an alphabetical list of landowners from the first Indian deed in 1640 to 1752.

One of the great features of the new work is the genealogies of the early families of Greenwich. Few can comprehend the vast amount of work which was required to complete even one of these family genealogies – and there are fifty seven in all. It has meant almost infinite pouring through musty records, some of which are in the possession of the town, others scattered through various probate districts and town clerk's offices. Often the trail has a lead through vast bundles of private papers, which their possessors have kindly granted Mr. Mead permission to investigate. Days and weeks have been spent in church cemeteries and private grave yards in Greenwich and elsewhere, where the only records left obtainable are sometimes been almost obliterated.

The book is amply illustrated. In it are half-tone engravings of six of Greenwich is oldest residences, to which some history is attached; five other old building such as taverns and mills, six modern dwellings, four new manufacturing plants, several landscapes showing historic spots, portraits of ten persons who are connected with the history, several sketches, and a reproduction of the map of the old Greenwich, now owned by F. W. Lyon, editor and proprietor of the GREENWICH NEWS, which was found only a few years ago and which has proved to be the most valuable of all maps ever made of the town.

The history is copyrighted by Mr. Mead and was published from the Knickerbocker Press. Bound in cloth the price is $5.00. An edition de luxe bound in levant and width Gil top will be sold at $10 per copy. Clarkson H. Mead and Richard Mead of 240 Milbank avenue are the agents for Greenwich.

Spencer P. Mead, LL. B., the author of the new "Historie of Greenwich," is a native of the town of Greenwich; one of the honor men, class of 1893, of the New York Law School; was admitted to the New York bar in June, 1893; is a member of the New England society; Son of the Revolution in the state of New York, and the Society of Colonial Wars. In 1901 he published the "History and Genealogy of the Mead Family," which is one of the most comprehensive genealogies ever published, and contains many interesting incidents relative to the beat family.  Mr. Mead is at present a real estate lawyer in the city of New York.