Prominent Citizens

The following profiles of prominent men of Woodbridge were published in Chapter VI of the 1892 “History of New Haven”

Prominent Citizens

A listing from 1892 of the prominent citizens of Woodbridge, Connecticut (from “History of New Haven”):

Captain Stephen Sanford was one of the original members of the church, and lived on the farm owned in later years by Mr. Nelson Newman. He was honored by his fellow townsmen, and took a deep interest in the church. He made the church a present of a silver communion cup and baptismal bowl. At his death he left a large landed estate, which was afterward sold, and from which, with other funds which he also gave the parish, was derived a large part of the society’s present fund for the support of the Gospel. As an appreciation of his services the following inscription was placed upon the monument erected to his memory:

“Capt. Stephen Sanford of Woodbridge departed this life on the 6th day of January 1779 in the 72 year of his age. His character was reputable as a man and a Christian, had the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom in this place so much at heart that he made a testamentary gift to this society of much the largest part of his estate, amounting to 930 pounds L. M., and appropriated the same to the support of the ministry in this society. This society therefore, as an acknowledgement and lasting memory of their gratitude for so liberal and distinguished a benefaction, at their own expense have erected this monument.”

Thomas Darling joined the church at Woodbridge in 1782, from New Haven. He was a valuable acquisition, and became one of the most prominent and efficient citizens, as well as members of the church. He was honored with, positions of trust by his fellow citizens. The epitaph upon his tombstone, which is given below, portrays a character of surpassing excellence and a life of unblemished usefulness. Of his sons, Noyes became a judge of the New Haven county court. Thomas lived on the old homestead. He was a prominent supporter of the Woodbridge church and of every good work. He was honored with positions of trust by the town, and beloved by all who knew him. His grandson, G. Halsted Bishop, occupies the ancestral home.

“In memory of Thomas Darling Esq who died Dec 1st 1815 Aged 63 years. He was distinguished for sound judgment and integrity in the discharge of public duties and purity of heart in the relations of private life. As a magistrate he was a peace maker, and just; as a member of society indulgent, upright and kind; as a professor of religion an example of tender and modest piety. To the Christian church an ornament and firm support. He remembered his Creator in the days of his youth, and in advancing age, and in the hour of death the faith of his Redeemer was his comfort and strength. Respected, esteemed, beloved here below, he is gone, we trust, to be approved, honored and blest above.”

The name of John Lines occurs among those who were first organized into the church. One of his descendants was David Lines. In his early boyhood David was intractable, uncouth, awkward and unambitious. It is said he once ran away into the swamp to keep away from his friends. Later he took to a seafaring life. He became connected with the Havre line of packets and was promoted till he became master of the vessel he sailed. The uncouth country boy we find captain of the steamship “Arago,”and one of the most successful and popular navigators of the times. The following inscription is on the massive monument erected to his memory:

“David Lines, Born at Woodbridge, Conn., died at Niagara, New York, falling it is supposed into the river above the great falls on Sabbath morning June 15th, 1862, aged 59. He was a seaman from his youth; he sailed early to the Pacific, to South American ports, to the Mediterranean, and for 30 years was connected with the Havre Packets. He was long known as commander of the Steamship Arago and crossed the Atlantic nearly 240 times. Under his skillful seamanship thousands passed safely over the seas, for the Lord did guide him and lead him to his desired haven. By them he was esteemed and greatly beloved and his untimely death lamented; a man of temperate habits, of great kindness, of true friendship, of liberal charity. His toils and enterprises were rewarded with a fortune, and a generous nature led him to befriend the poor. A veteran sailor, an honored man; he now sleeps the sleep that knows no waking.”

The Baldwin family, which are quite numerous in the town, trace their genealogy to Richard Baldwin, who was baptized in the parish of Aston, Clinton, Buckinghamshire, England, August 25th, 1622. Barnabas, whose father’s name was Barnabas, and who was the grandson of Richard, was one of the fifteen set off from Milford in 1738 to form the parish of Amity, and one of the first members of the church.

He was made ensign of the Sixth Company of New Haven in 1739, and in 1749 captain of the company of Amity. From his sons we have the different branches of the Baldwin family in the town. Captain James Baldwin lived on the tract of land sold by the Indian chief, Towtanimoe, to his ancestor, Richard Baldwin. He was a successful business man, public-spirited and ready to lend a helping hand to every good object. He was selectman of the town 27 years, town agent 5 other years, and was sent to the legislature 4 years.

Captain Ephraim Baldwin was one of the most prominent men of his times, both in town and parish affairs. He often represented his town in the legislature, and was one of the large-hearted supporters of the church. Of the names which have come down to the present none are more honored than his. He was eminently a peace maker and a firm support to every good enterprise.

Two of the original eight who were constituted the church of Amity were Ebenezer Beecher and Ebenezer Beecher, Jr. Ebenezer married Louise, daughter of Captain Isaac Johnson. The Beechers have always been prominent in the parish. Joseph Beecher gave the land for the church park, originally containing five acres.

There were two branches of the Clark family in Woodbridge. One branch came from Mr. David Clark; the other from Ensign George Clark, both of Milford. The two branches unite in the marriage of Noyes Clark and Mary Abigail Clark.

Mr. Treat Clark, who was a descendant of Ensign George Clark, married Miss Ann Maria Peck. He was an extensive farmer and cattle broker. He was one of the board of selectmen for 13 years, and represented the town in the state legislature four terms. Few men in the town were more highly respected and esteemed for urbanity and kindly assistance wherever he could be of benefit to others. The only child that survived him was his daughter, Mary Angeline Clark, who married Hon. Amos S. Treat, who represented the town of Woodbridge three years in the state legislature, and was honored with the speakership of the house. He afterward moved to Bridgeport, where he accumulated a large property, and was one of the leading men of the city.

The name Peck has been from the first prominent in the annals of Woodbridge. At the organization of the ecclesiastical society of Amity, in 1738, after they “made choice of Capt. Isack Johnson “for their moderator, “Secondly, They by vote made choice of Ebenezer Peck as their society dark and sworn according to law.” He was probably the son of Benjamin Peck, and the grandson of Henry Peck, who is supposed to have come to this country with Eaton and Davenport. There were two branches of the Peck family which settled in Woodbridge, the descendants of Joseph Peck of Milford, and those of Henry Peck of New Haven. The line of Joseph of Milford is Joseph,’ Joseph 2 , Jeremiah 3 , Phineas*. From Phineas we have Phineas, Jr., who entered the service in the war of the revolution, and was taken prisoner and confined in the old sugar house in New York, where so many perished through the inhumanity of the British. Tradition says he was reduced to a mere skeleton, but was finally released and brought home by men on a hand litter from New York. He soon after died.*

Mr. John Peck became one of the master masons and contractors in New Haven. At one time he was an alderman of the city. He was a prominent member and supporter of the College Street church. After acquiring a competence he returned to his native town, Woodbridge, which honored him with positions of trust, and sent him as representative twice to the legislature. He was a valuable aid in civil and ecclesiastical affairs.

Mr. Edwin J. Peck removed to Indianapolis, Ind., where he became a man of large wealth and influence. He was an elder in the Presbyterian church, and active in promoting the moral and Christian interests of the city. He was deeply interested in Sabbath schools and education, and gave a large part of his fortune to Wabash College.

The Newtons of Woodbridge descended from Reverend Roger Newton, the second pastor of Milford, who married Mary, daughter of Reverend Thomas Hooker, the first pastor of Hartford. Lieutenant Samuel Newton was a large landholder and prominent in town and parish affairs. It was from his house that the council for the settlement of all the early pastors took up their march for the sanctuary. General Booth, of Meriden, was a son of his daughter Mary. Another of his descendants was Senator Newton Booth, of California. Among others of the name who distinguished themselves was Nelson Newton, who was a most valuable and public spirited citizen, at one time state senator from his district, and holding office under the United States government.

Daniel Smith united with the church in Amity December 26th, 1742. From him descended Daniel Smith, 2d, whose son, Daniel Treat Smith, became a prominent member of the society and church. The parsonage of Reverend Mr. Woodbridge, consisting of a house and farm, was given to him as a remuneration for the care and support of Molly Woodbridge during her lifetime. Mr. Smith was a blacksmith by trade, and was strict in his Puritan faith and practices. At four o’clock every Saturday afternoon his workmen in his shop laid aside all work, and were called into the house to wash and prepare for the Sabbath. He was a man of large influence both in the society of Amity and in the town, and greatly respected for his integrity and moral worth.

Of his descendants Mr. Willis Smith became a master mason and contractor in the city of New Haven. Some of the finest buildings in that city, and the soldiers’ monument in East Park, were constructed under his supervision. Another son. Isaac T. Smith, after residing in Woodbridge, removed to the city.

Deacon David Smith was a prominent man in the church and society of Woodbridge, and was largely connected by marriage with the other families of the place. One sister became the wife of Doctor Goodsell, another the wife of Phineas Peck and mother of Deacon William Peck. (*Peck genealogy). Deacon Smith was a man of sterling integrity, and his memory remains carrying the fragrance of Christian charity to the present day.

Stephen Peck Perkins learned the mason’s trade and became a prominent contractor in the city. He was a skillful and thorough workman. There was never a question but that work entrusted to him would be done well. He retired from business and built an elegant villa in his native town near the old homestead of his childhood. He was honored and beloved by his fellow townsmen. They conferred upon him important civil offices, and sent him to the legislature. He was foremost in all efforts for the welfare of the town and the prosperity of the church.

The first settlement in the town was made by Richard Sperry, whose house stood at Sperry Farms, in the bend of the road at the foot of the hill, in that locality. One of his descendants was Enoch Sperry, who had a mill on Brush brook. He was a very active business man, and also carried on clothing works, making: this one of the busiest points in the town. At one time seven roads led to these mills, in place of the one now existing. Enoch Sperry lost his life at the hands of an insane man. Several of the Sperry family descended from him are among the most prominent of New Haven’s citizens. The “Sperry Farms “in this town embraced very choice lands.

List of Early Inhabitants

In addition to the foregoing settlers and principal citizens, the following is a list of those living in the town prior to April 12th, 1784, as shown by the oath of fidelity, subscribed before Caleb Beecher, a justice of the peace of the town: Benjamin Woodbridge, Eliphalet Ball, Thomas Darling, Esq., David Perkins, Ailing Sperry, Elijah Sperry, Benjamin Hotchkiss, Jonathan Perkins, Abel Smith, Bezaleel Peck, Lazarus Clark, Nathan Piatt, Thomas Baldwin, Joseph Colens, Jared Tolles, Isaac Sperry, Lucas Lines, Samuel Brisco, Joel Hine, Jonathan Peck, Hezekiah Thomas, Eliakim Sperry, Nathaniel Sperry, Abraham Hotchkiss, Barnabas Baldwin, Jr., Samuel Johnson, Jr., Francis Martin, Caleb Peck, John Thomas, Daniel Tolles, David Thomas, Judah Andrews, Daniel Smith, Jared Beecher, Ebenezer Beecher, Joseph Downs, Elias Hotchkiss, S. Burrall Smith, Richard Russell, Jr., Zenas Peck, Archibald Perkins, Thomas Perkins, Ezekiel Hotchkiss, Aaron Clark, Joel Colens, Thomas Darling. Jr., Roger Peck, Thomas Ailing, Elijah Sperry, Andrew Bradley, Wilmot Bradley, James Wheeler, Amos Stilson, Samuel Beecher, Titus Smith, Benajah Peck, David Freeman, Samuel Fisk Peck, Abel Ives, George Gunn, Jesse Johnson, Christopher Newton, Barnabas Baldwin, Moses Sanford, David Smith, Solomon Gilbard, Jason Sanford, Samuel Downs, Timothy Ball, Jr., Simeon Sperry, Benjamin Peck, Lemuel Sperry, David Ford, Lieutenant Sperry, Richard Sperry, Asa Sperry, Nathaniel Tuttle, Ebenezer Sperry, Uriah Tuttle, Philo F. Dibble, Azariah Perkins, Caleb Geer, Hezekiah Smith, Nathan Clark, Asa Hunterton, Joel Sperry, Joseph Peck, Joseph Merwin, Amadus Dibble, Allen Carrington, Samuel Beach, Amos Stillson, Barnabas Baldwin, Jr., Jonathan Peck, Jr., Elijah Osborne, Nathan Sperry, Hezekiah Smith, Francis Martin, Oscar Hunterton, Jared Beecher, Eliakim Sperry, Aaron Clark, Abraham Hotchkiss.