Wesleyan's First Century: With an Account of the Centennial Celebration

By Carl F. Price | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
FOUNDING THE COLLEGE

THE little town of Middletown, a century ago, was already ancient, as American towns go, -- one hundred and eighty years old. It would have been years older, had not the troublesome Chief Sowheag and his Mattabesett Indians stood off the white settlers until 1650. By 1831 it was a thrifty, pious, smug community with muddy streets, frame houses, six churches, a ferry to Portland, then known as Chatham, and a few public buildings, such as the brick Custom House at Washington and Main Streets, a frame Court House at Court and Pearl Streets and the frame Jail on Broad Street. The whipping post still stood on the South Green, although it had not been used for criminals since 1805. The leading hotels were the Central, where the McDonough House later stood, and the Washington, where General Lafayette had been fêted in 1825 -- later the site of Berkeley Divinity School. The Post Office was in a Main Street store. Small manufactories, chiefly of machinery and woolen goods, thrived, and three of the present-day banks had started, Middletown National, Middlesex County and Middletown Savings. Elijah Hubbard was mayor, and John Fisk was in the midst of his fifty years term as town clerk. The hero of the town was Commodore Thomas McDonough, victor in the naval battle on Lake Champlain in 1814, who had died in 1825. Two little weeklies, the American Sentinel and the Middlesew Gazette, retailed the news.

The glory of the town was its natural beauty. The vistas of the long, winding river and the hills beyond added a charm which led President John Quincy Adams, when touring the Connecticut towns, to exclaim: "Middletown, I think, is the most beautiful of all" High Street was adorned with "stately

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