Chauncey Judd: Puritan Training

Updated May 14, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Puritan Training

In those days the means of education was scanty. For some years a school had been established in Judd's Meadow, to be kept a few weeks in the winter; but while the boys might brave the winds and snows to attend it, the task was, for the most part, too severe for the girls. Indeed, the acquisitions of those who did go were not great. Spelling, if we may judge from the specimens which have descended to us, came, as Dogberry has it, by nature, for no art could have taught such achievements in misplacing the alphabet. Reading, writing and a small amount of arithmetic made up the list of the branches taught. Grammar, geography and the higher studies common to our day were practically unknown. But if little learning was imparted, little comparatively was needed. People lived by the strength of their arms, not by their stores of book knowledge; and the chief science needed was the knowledge of how to coax from the scanty soil sufficient supplies for man and beast.

Religion had its appropriate place in Isaac Judd's family; nay, we had almost said was indigenous in every true Puritan home of the early times. The big Bible lay upon the table, and from its throne of au­thority dispensed instruction and admonition to the assembled household. Reverently they all stood as the morning and evening prayer was offered by the father, and when the blessing was invoked upon the meals. The Sabbath began at sunset on Saturday night, when all work save that of the most imperative necessity was laid aside. On the Lord's day as many of the family as possible must go to meeting. There was then no meeting house nearer than Waterbury Center, the society at Salem not having been organ­ized till 1781. The distance was six miles, the roads rough, and horseback the only means of conveyance. To the elders of the family, of course, it was assigned to ride. Reining the steed up to the side of the horse-block, the father mounted first; then, adjusting her cushioned pillion to the saddle, the mother sprang up behind him, holding herself in place by her arm around her husband's waist. Lastly, the baby - for there was rarely an interval in that family when a youngster of this designation did not claim parental attention - was placed in its father's arms; and thus amply freighted, the patient animal took its jog-trot journey to the house of God. The young people ac­companied them on foot with sober and reverent pace, as became the sacred day, none being allowed to re­main home unless sick, or having the care of some one else, or for some indispensable need of the household or the farm.

The drum, vigorously beaten at the meeting-house door, announced the hour of worship. Entering the little sanctuary, no cushioned and carpeted pew was seen, but bare benches ranged in two teer before the pulpit; one for the men, the other for the women, and dignified according to the age and wealth of the worshipers. In 1769, however, it had been voted that those who are seated in the seats should have permission, at their own expense, to turn them into pews; and, shortly after, that men and their wives might be seated together in the pews.

Furnace or stove there was none, save the small foot-stove, containing a little pan of coals, which the wealthier matrons carried with them. No matter how severe the winter, the people, who perhaps had faced the cutting winds, or waded through the deep snows, on the way, sat the hour and a half through with heroic fortitude. Those who lived at a distance had, if they were able, small Sabbath-day houses, to which they repaired in the intermission to warm their stiffened limbs, and thaw their bread and cheese, and bottles of cider, which they had brought for a lunch. Then another hour and a half in the unwarmed meeting-house completed the services of the day, and they were dismissed to the long, cold ride home.

Did they count it a hardship thus to honor God in his sanctuary? No; it was a service of love, of unfeigned, heartfelt devotion. We know of nothing more affecting than the old, misspelled records, in which we may read of the sacrifices endured by the first settlers of the New England towns to procure for themselves and their children the privileges of public worship. The people of Waterbury were poor; the whole property of the township, real and personal, would not amount to as much as the cost of any one of a dozen of the church edifices now standing within its ancient limits. The little meeting-house in use at the time of the Revolution was forty by fifty foot in dimensions; and when built, fifty years before, it is said that the entire population of the town might have found found seats together upon its sills.

We love to linger amid the recollections of these old, Puritan families. They had their weaknesses and their faults, like the rest of mankind. Petty vices may have existed among the lower classes-the indolent, the shiftless, and the intemperate. Poverty, toil, the want of books, and remoteness from cultivated society may have caused a lack of polish, and some coarseness of manners and habits. But, making all allowance for these things, they were the salt of the earth. These hard-working, God-fearing fathers and mothers were the founders of the state, and none in all the family of nations had nobler than they.

When the oppressions of the mother country began to be felt in the colonies, there were none more prompt to join in resistance to them than Isaac Judd and his sons. Three of them-Roswell. Isaac and Walter- were of an age to bear arms, and at different times all entered into the army. Roswell was then a member of one of the militia companies of Waterbury. The British General Howe, having evacuated Boston, appeared in June, 1776, off New York, threatening an attack upon that city. Congress made a requisition upon Connecticut for troops, and the legislature, then in session, authorized seven regiments of volunteers to be raised in that colony to join the Continental army. A few weeks later the condition affairs became so critical that General Washington sent an urgent appeal for help, and the governor of Connecticut responded with an order directing the whole body of the standing militia west of the Connecticut River, and two regiments from the east side, to march forthwith to New York, until the present exigency is over. This was substantially a levy en masse for over one-half of the colony. It is estimated. says Bronson, that fully one-half of Washington's army in and about New York this year were Connecticut men; and that during this year (1776) the colony had in full twenty thousand troops in the service, whereas her whole available military force-from sixteen to fifty years of age-did not exceed twenty-three thousand.[1]

The companies from Waterbury arrived in season to take part in the disastrous battle of Long Island, and the various skirmishes and fights that followed. Many men were lost, both by casualties and sickness; indeed, the latter was the more fatal of the two. Called suddenly into service in the sultriest days of summer, subjected to the severest duty in the field, resulting in defeat and retreat, with no proper commissary or sanitary stores, it is no wonder that these raw levies were unable to stand the hardships, and that the hospitals, such as they were, were speedily filled with disabled men. In these circumstances, the Connecticut Assembly directed the governor to write to General Washington, requesting him, as soon as might be, to discharge the sick in the militia who should be adjudged incapable of further service.

Mr. Judd, receiving intelligence of Roswell's sickness and discharge under this order, hastened to the camp to look after him. He was, however, too ill to be at once removed; but owing to careful nursing. with a naturally vigorous constitution, he at length sufficiently recovered to warrant the journey. It was a long and toilsome undertaking. His father rode from Waterbury on horseback. There were no railroads then, nor even stage coaches. Small vessels had been wont to sail, more or less frequently, from New Haven or Derby; but during these troublesome times all regular communications of this sort were suspended. Only one way was left. Roswell was placed upon the back of the horse, and his father trudged on foot by his side. Their progress was slow, for the invalid was too weak to ride far in a day. It was nearly a week before they reached home - a trip which may now be easily accomplished in three hours.

As the war went on, the hardships it occasioned were more and more felt in the homes of the people. As early as 1774, Congress adopted a series of resolutions pledging the delegates and inhabitants of the colonies to a system of non-intercourse with Great Britain, hoping, by thus depriving her of a market for her manufactures, to compel her to redress their grievances. Nothing which was produced by England or her colonies was to be imported or consumed. Tea, coffee, sugar, molasses, spices, indigo, etc., were to be disused, Home industries were to be fostered. The rich were to discard their silks and broadcloths, and appear in homespun, which, if inferior in texture and finish, was at least the product of free hands.

To enforce this abstinence from imported goods, one of the resolutions of Congress recommended the appointment of a vigilance committee in every town, whose duty it shall be attentively to observe the conduct of all persons touching this association. If any were found violating the compact, the case was to be published in the Gazette, to the end that all such foes to the rights of British America may be publicly known and universally contemned as the enemies of American liberty; and thenceforth we respectively break off all dealings with him or her.

This Resolution was seconded by a vote of the town of Waterbury, in which it was agreed that the people would faithfully adhere to, and strictly abide by, the association entered into by said Congress, and appoint the gentlemen hereafter named a committee to see the same carried into execution in every article thereof.

It required no small courage and self-denial to comply fully with the terms of this agreement. The people had few luxuries at the best, and these swept them all away at a blow. What could families do without tea, sugar and spices, and a thousand articles needed for housekeeping and for personal use. But necessity is the mother of invention. Substitutes for forbidden articles were found or contrived, many of which would excite no little surprise at the present day. The cider cup more than ever supplied the place of both coffee and tea, and the tall maples furnished, to those who possessed them, their delicious syrup and sugar. In the family of Mr. Judd, who seemed not to have been thus favored, the necessary sweetening was procured in another way. The Indian corn is the botanical cousin of the sugar cane, and its juices, when fresh, are not without saccharine qualities. So the cornstalks were cut, their leaves stripped off, and the stems, bruised and wrung, were placed in a kettle and boiled, from which a coarse syrup was obtained, which helped to make pies and cakes palatable. The writer has often heard his relative, the venerable lady before mentioned, then one of the younger daughters of the family, describe this unique process, and say that she had many a time twisted the cornstalks for syrup-making till her little bands were blistered.


It is a fact, of which the Sons of Connecticut may well boast, that this little colony furnished more men, regulars and militia, in the war of the Revolution, than any other of the old thirteen. Massachusetts excepted. The following table will show: 1. The quotas of each, as fixed and required by Congress; and 2. The actual numbers furnished:

Colonies. Quotas Required. Numbers Furnished.
New Hampshire 10,194 14,589
Massachusetts 52,698 83,052
Rhode Island 5,694 10,192
Connecticut 28,336 39,277
New York 15,734 21,647
New Jersey 11,396 16,782
Pennsylvania 40,416 32,965
Delaware 3,974 2,763
Maryland 26,608 17,761
Virginia 48,522 31,101
North Carolina 23,994 11,238
South Carolina 16,932 6,660
Georgia 3,974 2,679
   Totals 288,472 290,706
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