Guilford - Encyclopedia

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GUILFORD, a township, including a borough of the same name, in New Haven county, Connecticut, U.S.A., on Long Island Sound and at the mouth of the Menunkatuck or West.

river, about 16 m. E. by S. of New Haven. Pop. of the township, including the borough (1900), 2785, of whom 387 were foreignborn; (1910) 3001; pop. of the borough (1910), 1608. The borough is served by the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad. On a plain is the borough green of nearly 12 acres, which is shaded by some fine old elms and other trees, and in which there is a soldiers' monument. About the green are several churches and some of the better residences. On an eminence commanding a fine view of the Sound is an old stone house, erected in 1639 for a parsonage, meeting-house and fortification; it was made a state museum in 1898, when extensive alterations were made to restore the interior to its original appearance. The Point of Rocks, in the harbour, is an attractive resort during the summer season. There are about 12 ft. of water on the harbour bar at high tide. The principal industries of Guilford are coastwise trade, the manufacture of iron castings, brass castings, wagon wheels and school furniture, and the canning of vegetables. Near the coast are quarries of fine granite; the stone for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty on Bedloe's Island, in New York Harbour, was taken from them.

Guilford was founded in 1639 as an independent colony by a company of twenty-five or more families from Kent, Surrey and Sussex, England, under the leadership of Rev. Henry Whitfield (1597-1657). While still on shipboard twenty-five members of the company signed a plantation covenant whereby they agreed not to desert the plantation which they were about to establish. Arriving at New Haven early in July 1639, they soon began negotiations with the Indians for the purchase of land, and on the 29th of September a deed was signed by which the Indians conveyed to them the territory between East River and Stony Creek for "12 coates, 12 Fathoms of Wampam, 12 glasses (mirrors), 12 payer of shooes, 12 Hatchetts, 12 paire of Stockings, 12 Hooes, 4 kettles, 12 knives, 12 Hatts, 12 Porringers, 12 spoones, and 2 English coates." Other purchases of land from the Indians were made later. Before the close of the year the company removed from New Haven and established the new colony; it was known by the Indian name Menuncatuck for about four years and the name Guilford (from Guildford, England) was then substituted. As a provisional arrangement, civil power for the administration of justice and the preservation of the peace was vested in four persons until such time as a church should be organized. This was postponed until 1643 when considerations of safety demanded that the colony should become a member of the New Haven Jurisdiction, and then only to meet the requirements for admission to this union were the church and church state modelled after those of New Haven. Even then, though suffrage was restricted to church members, Guilford planters who were not church members were required to attend town meetings and were allowed to offer objections to any proposed order or law. From 1661 until the absorption of the members of the New Haven Jurisdiction by Connecticut, in 1664, William Leete (1611-1683), one of the founders of Guilford, was governor of the Jurisdiction, and under his leadership Guilford took a prominent part in furthering the submission to Connecticut, which did away with the church state and the restriction of suffrage to freemen. Guilford was the birthplace of Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790-1867), the poet; of Samuel Johnson (1696-1771), the first president of King's College (now Columbia University); of Abraham Baldwin (1754-1807), prominent as a statesman and the founder of the University of Georgia; and of Thomas Chittenden, the first governor of Vermont. The borough was incorporated in 1815.

See B. C. Steiner, A History of the Plantation of Menunca-Tuck and of the Original Town of Guilford, Connecticut (Baltimore, 1897), and Proceedings at the Celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the Settlement of Guilford, Connecticut (New Haven, 1889).

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