TABLE OF CONTENTS
RG 062:041, Town of East Haddam
Inventory of Records
Finding aid prepared by Bruce P. Stark.
Copyright © 2007 by the Connecticut State Library
The town of East Haddam, on the east side of the Connecticut River, was incorporated in May 1734 from Haddam. The second largest town in Connecticut with an area of 56.6 square miles, East Haddam was originally included in Hartford County. It became part of Middlesex County when it was organized in 1785. Despite its large size, East Haddam formed only two and one half ecclesiastical societies, the First Society, Millington Society, and Hadlyme Society, a portion of which is included in the northwest section of Lyme. It is reputed to have the largest road network of any town in the state.
East Haddam Town Records are housed in 30 boxes, 26 of which consist of Administrative Records, another 2 of Poor Relief Records, and with a scattering of materials on other subjects in the remaining 2 boxes of the collection.
Series 1. Administrative Records, 1762-1911, contains a wide variety of materials, including bonds, collector rate books, records of meetings, information on roads and highways, selectmen's correspondence, and a large quantity of town treasurer papers. Nineteenth-century town officials, like those of the modern era, were generally bonded and East Haddam Town Records include bonds for collectors of town rates, constables, and selectmen. The small quantity of collector rate books yields important information about household wealth and how taxes were apportioned. The levy for 1858, as an example, yielded $5,684.70. Of that sum, $1,578.20 was collected as a highway tax. 1 Box 2, folders 1-5, holds records of meetings of the Selectmen and Civil Authority, a little known town body, that had the power to appoint "Auctioneers of Foreign Goods, wares, and merchandise" and "Retailers of Wines and distilled Spirituous Liquors," plus boards of visitors to inspect the condition of children working in manufactories, jurors to serve at the Middlesex County courts, and nominees to keep taverns or houses of public entertainment.2 Box 2, folders 9-12 contains petitions to the selectmen and Connecticut General Assembly, the single most interesting one dated February 26, 1814 that deplores the "inexplicable conduct of our National Rulers" and "the preposterous & wicked measures pursued by our national Administration."3
Roads and highways merited a great deal of attention in the nineteenth century as in the present, although in the nineteenth century the costs of building and maintaining them were borne entirely by the towns, except for private turnpike companies supported by tolls. Documentation includes a small sample of certificates for road repairs, two road building contracts, damages awarded to property owners whose land was taken for roads, and documentation of road repairs.4 The records also contain seven folders of papers concerning building of new, altering the paths of, and repairing highways and bridges, not to mention eight folders of petitions from East Haddam landowners concerning the same subjects.
Administrative Records hold a modest quantity of papers documenting the role of East Haddam's Board of Selectmen, the most important being annual reports and correspondence. The annual reports generally consist of summary financial information of town expenses. Selectmen's correspondence (Box 3, folders 30-33 and Box 4, folders 1-16) represents the largest quantity of materials.5 It covers a variety of subjects ranging from complaints about injuries suffered on East Haddam's roads and bridges and general transportation matters to concerns about repairs to Middlesex County buildings, perambulating town bounds, requests for payment for services rendered, and demands for reimbursement for the death of sheep killed by wild dogs.
Treasurer records comprise the largest and most important body of records in the collection. Filling some twenty boxes, they provide detailed information on the finances of the town, expenses divided among four major areas - administration, education, poor relief, and roads and highways. Treasurer records begin with six folders of abatements (Box 4, folders 28-35)6, one of several parts of the collection that can be used to identify those at the bottom of the economic scale.7 Treasurer bills, filling some fourteen boxes, provide a comprehensive view of town expenses for a period of almost 100 years, from 1796-1892, except for the period between 1845-60 when only a small sample of bills are extant. These records are particularly useful to those interested in finding information about the town poor, most of whom appeared to be elderly widows or children. In 1796, for example, the treasurer paid Dr. Jonah Cone 10 shillings and 6 pence for caring for Prince Hobbs and $1.00 to Elisha Fuller for digging the grave of Mrs. Hannah 8. To those studying East Haddam's African American population, treasurer bills represent an indispensable resource.9 A second major category of expenses incurred was for management of town affairs. One 1840 bill recorded expenses for paper and stationery for a town meeting and the costs for dinners for the selectmen.10 Another for the 1865-66 fiscal year provides a detailed listing of the expenses of selectman O. H. Parker totaling some $93.0011. Voluminous bills for highway repairs are also found, a clear indication of both the cost and importance of roads in the community.
In the second half of the 19th century, school expenses began to take up an increasing share of the town budget. East Haddam had seventeen one-room schools and treasurer bills provide considerable detail on teacher costs, upkeep, and repairs. Town treasurer records also include cancelled checks, town orders, and town order stubs.
Series 2. Poor Relief Records, 1793-1892, consists of two boxes of papers documenting care of the indigent in East Haddam. Taken in combination with all the Treasurer bills for care of the poor found in Series 1, these records provide an excellent overview of how small towns carried out their responsibilities to take care of those who were unable to take care of themselves. The series includes three folders of contracts and agreements to individuals who agreed to take care of specified poor or all the indigent in the town for a period of one year. The earliest ones represent contracts to individuals to take care of one of two people for the ensuing year. The typical contract read, "Mr. Daniel Driggs & wife to Benjamin Graves one year from the 25th of Dec[embe]r 1795 for . . . Six pounds."12 The first town wide contract for care of the poor is dated November 25, 1825.13 The bulk of the series consists of forty-three folders of correspondence, most often between the selectmen of East Haddam and the selectmen of other towns, concerning either the payment of expenses of poor inhabitants who are legal residents of one town, yet are living in another town or concerning disputes over the legal residence of charges to the town.14 For example, in 1811, the selectmen of Hebron asked the selectmen of East Haddam for $150 for "John Birk an inhabitant of the Town of East Haddam [who] has for some time past resided in the Town of Hebron and by sickness has been reduced to indigence and want."15 An example of a dispute between two towns over who should pay the expenses for caring of a person in poverty is the 1864 one concerning Widow Phebe Johnson. The selectmen of Canton wrote that Johnson was unable to support herself and that they expected East Haddam to pay for her care. Selectman O. H. Parker of East Haddam replied that no evidence existed that she was ever a legal resident of the town, saying that she had been born in Colchester.16 Also included is correspondence concerning East Haddam residents who become patients at the Retreat for the Insane.
The correspondence in Series 2 also provides information over time on the lives of those at the bottom and some life stories, like that of Hobart C. Palmer in 1889, as described in a letter from the first selectmen of Meriden to the first selectman of East Haddam.
I have on my hands as a pauper one Hobart C. Palmer of your town. This Palmer is well Known thereabouts. His wife was one of the Babcock daughters residents of Upper Landing. Old residents of East Haddam will know him well. He was divorced from his wife a short time prior to 1860. . . . since he has been divorced he has been a rover staying in no place but a short time. He has gained no residence since in any place and he comes back directly from your hands. At present he is temporarily in our Alms House. What disposition of him shall I make? I await your advices.17
The remaining series in the collection contain much less information of substance. Series 4. Court Records, 1792-1890, consists of just four folders of papers (Box 28, folders 3-6), although it includes a handful of interesting items related to support for illegitimate children and poor relief.
Series 5. Military Records, 1838-1891, primarily holds papers relating to the Civil War. Of particular interest are two folders relating to enlistments, one concerning families of soldiers, and nine folders of exemptions in Boxes 28-29. Surgeon D. Williams appears to have been generous in granting exemptions from military service. The reasons include hernia, "imperfect motion . . . of the elbow joint," eye disease, piles, rheumatism, and general physical disability.18 In addition, the correspondence and enlistment folders hold information on individuals who were town charges.
Series 7. School Records, 1800-1895, holds several folders of miscellaneous papers related to education and eight folders of one-room school registers, for the 4th and 7th districts in the First Society.19 The records list the names of all students, record attendance and absence, and sometimes provides the name of the parent or guardian. In the 1848-49 school year in the 4th District, for example, the records indicate that students Dwight C. and Charles W. Wheeler were the children of Cicero Wheeler.20
1Rate Book, Box 1, folder 7.
2The entire board consisted of justices of the peace, selectmen, constables, and grand jurors.
3"To the Selectmen," Feb. 26, 1814, Box 2, folder 9.
4The large size of East Haddam and its extensive road system is reflected by the fact that the highways in just the First Society were divided into fifty-two sections, each with its own contractor responsible for repairs. "Copy of Contract," 1867, Box 2, folder 21.
5Correspondence concerning to care of the poor is found is Series 2.
6Additional abatements can be found scattered in treasurer bills.
7In addition, treasurer accounts (Box 5), treasurer bills (Boxes 6-19), and Series 2, Poor Relief Records (Boxes 26-27) represent the best resources for those interested in the ways East Haddam dealt with and paid the costs of caring for the poorest members of the community.
8Treasurer bills, 1796, Box 6, folder 3. The bulk of the earliest bills concern care of the town poor.
9African American and Native American surnames include Boham, Cambridge, Caples, Freeman, Hide, Jack, Lewia, Mason, Matson, Merchant, Mobs, Orchard, Prim, Primus, Robbins, Statia, Sobuck, Tattoon, and Williams.
10Ibid, 1840-41, Box 12, folder 1.
11Ibid, Box 12, folder 32.
12Contract of the Town Poor for the Year 1795, Box 26, folder 6.
13Agreement, Nov. 25, 1825, Box 26, folder 7.
14By Connecticut law, each town was responsible for the care of indigent who were legal residents of that community. Those who were not legal residents were sometimes physically removed from town or the town of residence was billed to pay costs of care.
15Daniel S. Way to Messrs John Brainard and others Selectmen, June 20, 1811, Box 26, folder 9.
16W. H. Parmelee to Selectmen of East Haddam, Oct. 26, 1864, Box 27, folder 2; O. H. Parker to Selectmen of Canton, Oct. 31, 1864, Box 27, folder 2.
17Le Grand Bevins to 1st Selectman, Nov. 8, 1889, Box 27, folder 22.
18Surgeon reports: Exemptions A-B, Box 28, folder 24.
19A list of the 17 school districts is found in Box 29, folder 6.
20Registers, 4th District, Box 29, folder 11.
Series 1. Administrative Records, 1762-1911 includes information on apprenticeships, bonds, tax collector files, licenses, civil authority and selectmen meetings, notices, papers, perambulations of town boundaries, petitions, printed materials, registrar of voters, roads and highways, selectmen, smallpox innoculation, taxes, town meetings and treasurer files.
Series 2. Poor Relief Records, 1793-1892 includes agreements/indentures, alms house files, blank forms, bonds, contracts, correspondence, inventory lists, ligislation, lists of paupers, petitions, printed materials, summonses and town farm information.
Series 3. Land Records, 1794-1797 includes papers.
Series 4. Court Records, 1792-1890 includes justice of the peace orders, paper and probate court files.
Series 5. Military Records, 1838-1891 includes adjutant general files, changes in Connecticut Volunteer Force, correspondence, enlistments, enrollments, blank forms, papers, soldiers' families' information, surgeon general files, surgeon reports and treasury office files.
Series 6. Vital Records, 1855-1885 includes papers.
Series 7. School Records, 1800-1895 includes papers and registers.
Series 8. Election Records, 1832-1883 includes notices for election meetings, election tickets and election returns.
Series 9. Tax Records includes papers, 1816-1882, and tax abstracts, 1937-1987.
Restrictions on Access
All records are freely accessible to researchers, although they need to take care not to disarrange any of the materials, particularly Treasurer bills in Boxes 6-19.
These records are stored at an off-site facility and therefore may not be available on a same-day basis.
Restrictions on Use
See the Reproduction and Publications of State Library Collections policy.
The Classified Archives hold other East Haddam materials of interest. They include the records of the First Congregational Church, 1702-1927; Second Congregational (Millington) Church, 1733-1931; Hadlyme Congregational Church, 1742-1932; St. Stephen's Church (P.E.), 1791-1933; the Moodus Methodist Church, 1840-1913, military enrollments, 1850-63; and additional records of the 4th School District. RG 070, Church Records, contains additional vital records of the Hadlyme Church.
Connecticut. Justice of the Peace (East Haddam)
Elections -- Connecticut -- East Haddam -- Statistics
Justices of the peace -- Connecticut -- East Haddam
Local taxation -- Connecticut -- East Haddam -- Registers
Probate records -- Connecticut -- East Haddam
Property tax -- Connecticut -- East Haddam -- Registers
Public welfare -- Connecticut -- East Haddam
School enrollment -- Connecticut -- East Haddam -- Statistics
Soldiers -- Connecticut -- East Haddam
Tax assessment -- Connecticut -- East Haddam -- Registers
Taxation -- Connecticut -- East Haddam -- Registers
Voting -- Connecticut -- East Haddam -- Statistics
East Haddam (Conn.) -- Records and correspondence
Justices of the Peace
All of the records, except the 1911 rate book were assigned accession number T000341. The 1911 rate book was transferred to the State Library in 2008 and assigned accession number 2008-020.