TABLE OF CONTENTS
RG 062:114, Town of Preston
Inventory of Records
Finding aid prepared by Bruce P. Stark.
Copyright © 2007 by the Connecticut State Library
The town of Preston was established in 1686, the 30th town in the Colony of Connecticut. It was named Preston in 1687, probably after Preston in Suffolk County, England, in honor of the family of Thomas Parke who came from that locale. The town is located in New London County. Griswold was hived off from Preston in 1815 to form a separate town. The original town encompassed some 68 square miles, while the present one is less than half that size. It is still governed by a board of selectmen and town meetings.
Preston Town Records consist of twenty-nine boxes and twenty-one volumes and the materials are divided into ten different series. Administrative Records comprise the largest series, followed by Tax Records, Court Records, and School Records.
Series 1, Administrative Records, 1767-1935, contains a variety of materials, including abatements, bonds, records of meetings, and a large quantity of treasurer records. Abatements of taxes (Box 1, folders 1-7), covering many years between 1793 and 1905, comprise the first body of records with significant research value. Most provide just the name and the amount of taxes abated, but some include reasons for the tax reductions. The reasons cited include error in original assessment, poverty, removal from town, or the fact that the person was a pensioner or soldier.1 Town officials were generally bonded and the records contain a number of bonds mostly for constables, tax collectors, and treasurers. Four folders of papers had the end of Box 1 hold some interesting materials. The first item is the 1767 emancipation of Cudgo Wanton.2 The folders on roads and highways include several items related to the Shetucket Turnpike Company, while the town meeting records provide some information on the management of town affairs.3 Fragmentary lists of town officers are found in Box 2, folder 24.
The bulk of the records in Series 1 consists of those of the town treasurer, the most important being treasurer bills. The bills covering the years between 1786 and 1818 do not contain a great deal of information. They follow the pattern of the following, "Pay Hezekiah Park Nine dollars eighty-three cents and charge the Town."4 Thereafter the treasurer bills become more informative and they provide documentation of town expenses for administrative costs like payment of town officers, care of the poor, repairs on roads and bridges, and miscellaneous expenses like providing meals for town officers and bounties for foxes. One representative bill paid on October 12, 1841 to Elisha Crary contains expenses for determining the place of residence of Willis H. Tracy, bridge plank, damages paid to a man from Colchester who was injured on Preston roads, assisting in preparing for elections, and expenses for his service as a selectman.5 They provide a good overview of nuts and bolts responsibilities and expenses of the town. In addition, some of the expenses paid Civil War soldiers and their families are also outlined in treasurer bills, like a payment of $200 to the husband of Annie K. Lamphere, "a Veteran Recruit," in March 1865.6 Two volumes of treasurer accounts generally provide summary information on bills paid. Series 1 also contains a series of treasurer reports covering many of the years between 1812 and 1894, including printed reports for the years 1854 and 1859.
Series 2, Poor Relief Records, 1750-1933, is housed in Box 7, folders 5-21. It begins with the oldest document in the collection, a 1750 bond by Samuel Mott obligating him to care for the bastard child of his daughter Thankful.7 It also includes an 1838 indenture for James Mason, "a black Boy," to teach him farming and brick making8 and two folders of contracts to Jonah Witter, Charles Hewitt, Francis J. Sholes, Edwin N. Roath, and Mrs. Hannah Sholes to maintain "according to the rule of humanity . . . all such poor Inhabitants of Said Town of Preston as are now Supported By sd. Town."9 Ten folders of correspondence in Box 7 contain the most detailed and useful information about the poor in Preston. Two 1850 letters offer good examples of the kind of information that can be found in this correspondence. The first letter from the selectmen of Colchester to the selectmen of Preston concerns Curry Bulkeley. The writer states that Curry was the son of Cesar Bulkeley who was once a slave of Gershom Bulkeley of Colchester. Gershom's wife Phillier was a slave to a Ransom of Colchester who was sold to a man in Lyme. After she was freed, she returned to Colchester and married Cesar.10 The next letter concerned the place of residence of James Tracy who, according to the selectmen of Lisbon, had been a legal resident of Preston since around 1840.11 The series also includes one folder of clothing appraisals for town paupers.
The third series, Land Records, 1772-1920, is located in ten folders in Boxes 7-8. It consists of seven folders of deeds, two of foreclosures, and one of miscellaneous papers.
Court Records, 1802-1934, begins with two folders of assignment of wages, legal agreements by which debtors grant a portion of their wages to creditors. The bulk of Series 4, however, is composed of bills of costs and correspondence, criminal complaints, and writs. Representative of bills and costs and correspondence are two documents from the 1890s, the first an August 31, 1895 bill of costs for $19.48 for the case of the State v. Catherine Ockrey and a March 11, 1896 letter from James A. Bill of Lyme writing that he was willing to serve as an arbitrator in a controversy between the town of Preston and Ransom S. Sholes.12 Series 4 holds a large number of criminal complaints for such crimes as assault, breach of peace, driving horses too fast over bridges, drunkenness, illegal sale of alcoholic beverages, malicious mischief, sexual assault, theft, tumultuous and offensive carriage, and violation of dog licensing laws. The bulk of them were brought before Preston justice of the peace Hugh King between 1873 and 1895.13 The evolving ethnic makeup of the town is reflected by complaints against those with Irish and German surnames. Also found in Series 4 are three folders of liquor license applications located in Box 9, folders 6-8 plus another two folders in Box 23, Oversize, plus one folder of Norwich jail reports and eleven folders of writs for civil actions. One folder of papers on the Superior Court (Box 11, folder 9) holds an 1836 petition from James Carbury, a native of Scotland, asking for the right to hold real estate.
The bulk of the records in Series 5, Military Records, 1809-1901, relates to the Civil War era. The papers provide some information on Preston Civil War soldiers, particularly the folders on changes in Connecticut Volunteer Force, enlistment expenses, enlistments, and surgeon reports. Researchers learn, for example, that Henry J. Trowbridge, Company H, 5th Connecticut Volunteers, was discharged on March 4, 1863; that James Goldsmith received $120 for enlisting Nicolas Higgins in January 1864; and that Horace A Fitch secured an exemption from service in August 1862 due to "Lumbago and [a] general tendency to Rheumatism."14
Series 6, Vital Records, 1822-1936, consists of four folders statistical data on births, marriages, and deaths from 1862-94 and single folders of burial permits, death certificates, and miscellaneous papers. The statistical abstracts provide data on births by sex and month, marriages by residence, and deaths by age, sex, occupation, and cause. The abstract for 1862, for example, listed forty-six deaths, including two "Killed in the rebellion."15 For those interested in genealogy, the last three folders contain some information. Perhaps the most interesting item is the naturalization certificate for Conrad Greiner dated October 23, 1880.16
Preston Town Records hold a substantial quantity of School Records, 1810-1933. Three folders of enumerations by School Visitors contain lists of students and their parents for many of the school districts for 1863, 1865, 1866, and 1868. A Connecticut statute directed each school district during the month of January "ascertain the name of every person over four and under sixteen years of age, who shall belong to such district . . . and shall make return of the same to the School Visitors of the town."17 School Records holds additional materials that provide some information an education in Preston, for example, reports for tuition paid for students attending high school in neighboring towns, a smattering of tax lists, and a handful of school reports. The bulk of the series, however, consists of records meetings of the inhabitants of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 10th school districts together with some financial records.
The materials in Series 8, Church Records, 1786-1921, consist primarily of financial records along with scattered information related to church membership for the First Ecclesiastical Society.18 Membership information can be found in folders for leases of slips, membership applications, and subscriptions (Box 14, folders 13, 14, and 19). Box 14, folders 15-16 hold papers mostly concerning the difficulties the society had in hiring and maintaining ministers, a subject also addressed in subscriptions. One extremely unusual document found for some reason with the other papers in this series is a tattered copy of an 1800 contract between the master and seamen of the brig Caroline for a voyage from Norwich to the West Indies and return.19 Treasurer bills and receipts contain records of payments to ministers like John Hyde, Augustus B. Collins, N. S. Hunt, Alexander Yerington, E. W. Tucker, and A. H. Wilcox and records of expenses for maintaining and repairing the church building.
Series 9, Election Records, 1818-1935, includes records on admission of electors, appointments and oaths of office, certifications of electors, election returns, expense reports, and a series of voter lists. Researchers understand what admissions and voter lists contain, but certifications of electors are less readily apparent.20 Certifications represent documentation between town clerks of different towns attesting that a person who has moved to a new town was a legal voter in his former town of residence. "This Certifies that Thomas Palmer 2nd was admitted an Elector of the State of Connecticut April 2nd 1827 as appears by Stonington Records," The certification was dated and signed by the Stonington town clerk.21 The series contains seven folders of election returns, beginning with votes for governor and lieutenant governor for 1832 and then a gap of forty years. The town gave solid majorities to the Democrats from 1872 until the 1890s and thereafter voted Republican.
The final series consists of Tax Records, 1794-1932. These are particularly useful to genealogists who are seeking to track heads of families over time and to gain an understanding of economic conditions. A box of tax lists covering the period 1801-10, for example, includes separate columns for name, number of polls, oxen and bulls, cows and heifers, horses, mules, land divided into several categories, money at interest, and number of fireplaces, plus such luxury goods as chaises, gold watches, and silver plate. Exactly what are taxed changes over time. The series includes one volume called Polls and taxable property from 1848, 35 volumes of tax abstracts from 1881-1915, and 15 volumes of grand lists, 1916-30. A scattering of other tax related materials is also found in Series 10, including records for highway taxes, school district taxes, and scattered lists of bank stockholders and owners of wagon.
Oversize materials and fifty-five volumes of treasurer accounts, election records, and tax records are placed at the end of the collection.
1The greatest number of reasons is found in an abatement book covering the years 1839 to 1905 (Box 1, folder 7).
2 Series, 1, Administrative Records, Abatements, Box 1, folder 24.
3 Additional items related to the Shetucket Turnpike Company are found scattered throughout the records.
4 Ibid, Treasurer bills, Apr. 1, 1811, Box 2, folder 28.
5 Ibid, Oct. 12, 1841, Box 3, folder 5.
6 Ibid, Mar. 14, 1865, Box 5, folder 9.
7 Series 2, Poor Relief Records, Bonds, Oct. 26, 1750 Box 7, folder 5.
8Ibid, Bonds and indentures, June 1l, 1838, Box 7, folder 6.
9Ibid, Contracts, Dec. 1, 1846, Box 7, folder 8.
10 Ibid, Correspondence, Sep. 2, 1850, Box 7, folder 15.
11 Ibid, Nov. 1, 1850, Box 7, folder 15.
12Series 4, Legal Records, Box 8, folder 12.
13Other less frequent charges include failure to send children to school and neglecting to raise them properly, idleness and non support of families, profane swearing, serving liquor to minors, and violation of tramp laws.
14Series 5, Legal Records, Box 11, folders 11, 15, 19.
15Series 6, Vital Records, Box 11, folder 21. The records included cause of death.
16Ibid, Box 11, folder 27.
17Series 7, School Records, Box 12, folder 5.
18The First Ecclesiastical Society was often referred to as the Preston City Congregational Society.
19Series, 8, Church Records, Box 14, folder 18.
20Beginning in the 1893, women were allowed to vote in town school district meetings, although the number enrolled was small. See Box 15, folder 26 and volume of "Register of Women Voters in Town and School District Meetings."
21Series 9, Election Records, Box 15, folder 33.
Series 1. Administrative Records (1767-1935).
Series 2. Poor Relief Records (1750-1933).
Series 3. Land Records (1772-1920).
Series 4. Court Records (1802-1934).
Series 5. Military Records (1809-1901).
Series 6. Vital Records (1822-1936).
Series 7. School Records (1810-1933).
Series 8. Church Records (1786-1935).
Series 9. Election Records (1818-1935).
Series 10. Tax Records (1794-1932).
Restrictions on Access
These records are stored at an off-site facility and therefore may not be available on a same-day basis.
The records are freely accessible to researchers, although they need to take extreme care not to disarrange the materials, particularly Treasurer's bills in Boxes 2-6. The volumes to tax records have leather bindings and care must be taken to avoid damaging them.
Restrictions on Use
See the Reproduction and Publications of State Library Collections policy.
The Classified Archives (RG 000) hold additional Preston records, some that supplement those found in Preston Town Records and others that cover subjects not covered in this collection. They include Civil War bounty records, miscellaneous tax and town records, school records, selectmen's accounts, stray and pound records, and vital records. For those interested in the religious history of the town, the State Archives holds records of the First Congregational Church, 1698-1917; Preston Long Society, 1758-1938; Preston City Baptist Church, 1815-74; and St. James Church, 1712-1948.
Connecticut. Justice of the Peace (Preston)
Church records and registers -- Connecticut -- Preston
Deeds -- Connecticut -- Preston
Elections -- Connecticut -- Preston -- Statistics
Justices of the peace -- Connecticut -- Preston
Local taxation -- Connecticut -- Preston -- Registers
Probate records -- Connecticut -- Preston
Property tax -- Connecticut -- Preston -- Registers
Public welfare -- Connecticut -- Preston
School enrollment -- Connecticut -- Preston -- Statistics
Schools -- Connecticut -- Preston -- History -- Sources
Soldiers -- Connecticut -- Preston
Tax assessment -- Connecticut -- Preston -- Registers
Taxation -- Connecticut -- Preston -- Registers
Voting -- Connecticut -- Preston -- Statistics
Voting registers -- Connecticut -- Preston
Writs -- Connecticut -- Preston
Preston (Conn.) -- Records and correspondence
Preston (Conn.) -- Statistics, Vital
Civil court records
The records were acquired by the Connecticut State Library on July 15, 1936 from the town clerk of the town of Preston. They were brought to Hartford by Harold S. Burt, Examiner of Public Records.