Chauncey Judd: The Judd Family

Updated May 14, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

The Judd Family

The family to which our young friend, Chauncey Judd, belonged was descended from one of the oldest and most respectable in the town. His grandfather Joseph was son of Thomas, the third in a succession of Thomas Judds, who were among the colonial magnates, enjoying the highest offices and honors of the community. The first was one of the little band that made their long journey, in 1635, through the woods from Massachusetts to the banks of the Connecticut, carrying the wife of their pastor, Rev. Mr. Hooker, in a litter upon their shoulders. Afterward, removing to Farmington, he was the first deacon of the church there, and very often a deputy to the General Court. The second removed to Waterbury where he was repeatedly chosen deputy and also a justice of the peace and lieutenant, the highest military office permitted in a town until the number of soldiers it was able to enroll in its company was sixty-four. The third was a constable, town clerk and treasurer, schoolmaster, and literary oracle of the settlement. We may add that the succession of Thomas Judds has continued unbroken to this day, and has, we believe, perpetuated in itself and its collateral branches, to a good degree, the same qualities which so honorably characterized their Puritan ancestors.

At its first settlement Waterbury was not considered a very eligible spot for a plantation. The committee appointed by the colonial legislature to visit the place and ascertain its capabilities, reported that, in their estimation, it contained about six hundred acres of land fit for cultivation, and that it might support thirty families. This will excite a smile, in view of the fact that now Waterbury alone, without including the towns and parts of towns which have been set off from it, has a population of over thirteen thousand souls.

As the lands at the center were taken up, it became necessary for the young men and others who afterward removed thither to find abodes in the remoter districts. Four or five miles down the valley were broad, natural meadows, on either side of the river, which were annually enriched by the overflow of its waters. These had belonged to Lieutenant Thomas Judd, from which circumstance the spot, with the surrounding district, came to be called Judd's Meadow. Afterward, when the district became a distinct parish, it was designated Salem; and still later, at the time of its incorporation as a separate town, it borrowed from the romantic stream which traverses it the name of Naugatuck, a word said to be derived from the Indian terms naiag, or naug, signifying a high point of land or promontory, and tuk, a river, meaning thus the river of the high hills, a name that will be recognized as entirely appropriate by those who are familiar with the picturesque mountain valley through which it flows.

Hither Isaac Judd, the son of Joseph, removed with his family a few years before the date of our story. His farm was situated on the old road leading from the Bridge toward Gunntown, about a mile distant from the present village of Naugatuck. It was a pleasant location, on the southern slope of a hill, overlooking the valley of the Longmeadow Brook, a tributary of the Naugatuck. But the soil was thin and sandy, the surface of the ground was stony, and whatever in the way of crops was obtained from the farm was extorted by hard and untiring exertion.

They were brave hearts, who, in those old times, went forth from the paternal roof to make to themselves new homes, and to subdue the wilderness. Young men and maidens both were brought up to work, and they looked forward to it without dismay, as to the one necessary and honorable business of life. And by work was meant farm labor, with its in-door accompaniments of the dairy, the distaff and the loom. There were few trades, the carpenter, the blacksmith, and the shoemaker supplying the chief wants of the people that were not supplied by home industry. Manufacturing, save of the simplest kind, had scarcely begun in the colonies, the mother country having by stringent regulations suppressed, as far as possible, all attempts in that direction which would tend to spoil a market for her wares. The sons of the rich only could aspire to the learned professions. Thus the choice of an occupation by a young man was, for the most part, a very simple matter, and the only preparation needed for it that which he received as a matter of course from his own labors on his father's farm.

Isaac Judd was twenty-five when be took the young Anna Williams, then in her seventeenth year, to be a sharer in his lot of toil. Their patrimony on either hand was small. The bride's setting out usually consisted of a bed, with its linen and covering, the work of her own fingers, and sometimes a cow and a calf, or a dozen sheep; while a young man received his freedom suit of home-raised and home-made cloth, and a few pounds in money, or a horse or pair of oxen. But the young couple did not murmur. They were rich in each other's love, and in that inexhaustible treasure of hope which is the priceless heritage of all who have youth, good health and a pure heart; and they went forth, hand in hand, to carve out their own fortune, trusting to Him who had been the God of their fathers to guide and to bless them.

The farm having been purchased, the next thing was to build a house. This was a more formidable undertaking in those days than it is at present. Timber was indeed abundant, but it was growing in the forest, and most of the processes necessary for converting it into boards, shingles and laths had to be performed by hand. Nails, glass, latches and other hardware came from England, and were scarce and expensive. Bricks might be made, of course, for clay was everywhere about; but it cost labor to make them, and there was ever a convenient substitute in the fragments of granite which were thickly scattered over the ground.

In due time the house was completed and occupied. It is still standing, though now devoted to menial purposes. The covering of one end has been removed, and the owner stores there his ox-cart and other farm utensils. The low attic is an open harbor for the swallows, which hang their mud nests upon its blackened rafters, and fly twittering around in endless convolutions. The massive frame, sufficient to make half a dozen such as we construct in modern times, still hugs the great smoke-stained stone chimney, whose yawning fire-places were the cosy retreat of the youngsters in cold winter nights. There are the rent oaken clapboards, unpainted, and weather-beaten by the storms of a century and a quarter; the small windows; the doors, with their wooden hinges and latches; and the naked joists of the low ceiling, from which used to hang strings of apples and sliced pumpkin to dry for pie-making. There is the bed-room where the little ones were born and nursed, where soft, motherly hands smoothed the sick pillow, and whence, alas! some precious ones were tenderly borne away to their cold resting-place on the sandy hillock by the riverside, There is the old best room, where company was received, and where, from time to time, blushing maidens heard the sweet words which wafted them into the fairy-land of love and promise. Ah, it is sad to see these household shrines, consecrated by the joys, the tears, the loves, the aspirations of successive generations, falling into decay, and soon, like those who once dwelt there, to be known no more forever!

But we have been carried beyond our story. The house was completed, - at least so far as to be habitable, - and Judd and his young family moved to their new home. They had lived a few years in the same neighborhood with his father, at Buck's Hill, and already numbered some half a dozen as they met around their household board. Others came to them here, making, in all, the patriarchal number of twelve - seven boys and five girls; and when standing in a row across the end of the kitchen, as the good father loved to arrange them, their heads rose in smiling gradation, from the little toddler Harvey to the manly Roswell, like notes on the gamut of home love and happiness.

Roswell was the eldest, his father's pride, the beginning of his strength. He was now, in 1776, absent in the army. Next was Rosanna, a fair, quiet girl, whose excellencies had reached the hearing of Mr. Edward Perkins, a young widower in Bethany, and caused him to ride up to Judd's Meadow oftener than any apparent business rendered necessary. He was a tall, dignified person, in velvet small clothes and snowy stockings, with his jet-black hair hanging in a shining queue from under big cocked hat - the very picture of a gentleman of the olden time. It was a great wonderment with some of the younger ones what that tall man used to come there for so often; and they were not much pleased with the solution which sister Rosy one day gave them, that be came to tell them of his four poor motherless children, that had nobody to take care of them, and how he had asked her father if she might go down there and do it, and he had said she might; and so, before the cold weather came, she was going. But she comforted them by adding that it was not far away, and, may be, father would some day let them come down, and see her and the children - a suggestion which was subsequently verified in a way which even sister Rosy herself did not anticipate. For one of them, grown to fair maidenhood, not only saw the children, but one of these also saw her, and persuaded her to remain in Bethany, by which it happened that she became the daughter of her own sister; and other singular relationships were formed too complicated for my ingenuity to unravel.

As I have said, no young woman, in those days, of any smartness, was married till she had provided her linen for personal wear, bedding, table covering, towels, etc., with her own hands. Of course these were busy days for Rosanna. Seated at her spinning-wheel by the west window, which looked out upon the valley below, with the shining flax hanging upon the distaff before her, she spun daily her self-prescribed number or runs, the soft hum of her instrument rising and falling in gentle cadences, like the murmur of a busy bee-hive on a sunny bank in June.

Isaac, the second son, had already taken to himself a wife. He was barely nineteen, and might, one would think, have waited a few years; but the sweet-faced Patience Hammond had beguiled him, and most impatiently did he count the days till he had made her his own. As yet she had not removed from her childhood's home, but she was often over at Father Judd's to see Rosanna, and help her in her tasks at the wheel and loom. There was a great deal of confidential intercourse between them, and much mysterious and low-toned talk in the said west room, where these operations were carried on.

Walter, the third son, had gone into the army with his brother Roswell. The next daughter, Appellina, now sixteen, was emphatically her mother's help. Lively and cheerful, she could turn her hand to anything, from the Monday's wash and the Tuesday's ironing to making a rag baby for little Millie, or a whistle for the chubby-faced, four-year-old Reuben. Chauncey came next; then Anna and Ruth, the twins. These had a special charge of out-door matters. They knew all the hens' nests in the barn, and the age and pedigree of all the chickens in the coops. They knew where the biggest strawberries grew in the meadows, and where the scarlet winter-green plums hid themselves under the glossy leaves in the woods. Hand in hand they were always seen, running over the hills or racing after the yellow butterflies in the street - bright pictures of healthy, happy childhood.

It was a busy family: for the mother was a notable housewife, and all the children were taught to work. Come, girls, she would say, if any loitered at their tasks, every kit must catch her mouse; and she herself set the example, catching more than any of her daughters. The short gown and petticoat of checked linen, or in winter of linsey-woolsey, home-spun and home-woven, were their usual garments, except on Sunday, when a lighter stuff was worn, the mother and elder daughters, on special occasions, displaying the charms of chintz or calico. If the children at home went barefooted, even up to womanhood, it did not hurt them; and if the boys had stubbed toes and stone-bruised heels, they were tenderly cared for with rag and salve, and the loving word and gentle admonition to be careful next time soon dried the tear-stained face.

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