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Joseph Huntington (1661 - 1747)

Joseph Huntington, the grandfather of Governor Samuel, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, in 1661. He married in 1687 and in 1691 moved with the founders of Windham to the new town where he took up the "thousand acre interest, or one allotment," in the new plantation deeded to him by his father Simon Huntington. Joseph received considerable tracts of land in the area of Windham Center, near Willimantic, along Beaver Brook, and in the southeast portion of the new town, in the area that later became Scotland Parish and the town of Scotland. Over the next several decades, he engaged in a brisk land trade, buying and selling rights to divisions as well as actual parcels of land throughout the new plantation. Between 1709 and 1726 he engaged in fifteen sales of land for house lots, hundred-acre lots, pasture land, and land for highways, and purchased twelve parcels of land from others (some of which he later sold).

In 1715 he began to provide, "for love and affection," land in Windham to his five sons for them to settle on. Nathaniel, his second eldest, was granted a hundred-acre lot (actually 120 acres) and an adjacent thirty-acre lot in February 1715 in the southeast part of town. After some quick trading with a neighbor, he ended up with contiguous parcels along both sides of Merrick's Brook and divided by the highway (now Route 14 - the hundred-acre lot north of the highway, and the thirty-acre lot south of the highway).

Joseph Huntington, Nathaniel's father, remained in Windham Center, and was a prominent member of the community, serving as deacon of the First Congregational Church there from 1729 until his death in 1747. Nearly all of his children resided in Windham or in the Scotland Parish section of town most of their lives.

Joseph continued to distribute land to his sons until just a few years before his death in 1747. His will provided only five pounds to his son Nathaniel, having given him a generous share already, undoubtedly referring to the land granted to Nathaniel in 1715. Other children divided his real estate or received similar financial bequests if they had already been given their shares.

Nathaniel Huntington (1691 - 1767)

Joseph's second son Nathaniel was born in Norwich on September 1, 1691. He lived his entire life in the frontier communities of Windham and Scotland Parish, and died in the latter in 1767. Nathaniel married Mehetabel Thurston, born in Bristol, R.I., in 1723 when he was thirty-two years of age. It is unclear exactly when Nathaniel erected a house on his lands along Merrick's Brook and moved there, but it is likely he did so either just before or just after his marriage in 1723.

Although Nathaniel is identified by Albert E.Waugh in his book about the Huntingtons as a farmer and a clothier, Nathaniel's probate inventory does not list any items or tools which would suggest the latter. Instead, his inventory includes farmerís tools and an old set of cooper's tools, perhaps the same ones listed in his father Joseph's probate inventory at his death in 1747.

Nathaniel and Mehetabel had ten children born between 1724 and 1745. The youngest, Elijah, died at age eight. Seven were sons, three daughters. We should not suppose that the humble occupation of farmer and cooper or clothier meant that Nathaniel and his family lived simple and obscure lives in the frontier community of Scotland Parish. On the contrary, the family of Nathaniel and Mehetabel achieved remarkable heights in their lives and should be considered local gentry. Nathaniel and Mehetabel sent three sons to Yale College; four sons became ministers; and one, Samuel, became an attorney, judge, member of the Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, two-term President of the Continental Congress, and ten-term governor of the State of Connecticut.

The success and prominence of this generation of Huntingtons was not an aberration. The family was an old and established one in Norwich and its many illustrious members and branches had played an active role in the economy and in local and regional politics since the mid-seventeenth century. They were especially active in the Revolutionary politics of the mid-eighteenth century, and this involvement was a springboard for a number of the Huntington family men, including Nathaniel and Mehetabel's sons Samuel and Enoch.

Like his father, Nathaniel Huntington provided land to several of his sons, but only to those which he did not provide with a Yale education. He granted Samuel a number of parcels out of the home farm between 1759 and 1768, as well as several farms Nathaniel had purchased. The sales/gifts included a one-acre parcel in 1759 where Samuel had his new dwelling house, now the site of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Nathaniel was an important personage in the community of Scotland. As the son of Joseph Huntington, himself a pillar of the community in Windham, and a prominent member of the Huntington clan, Nathaniel gained recognition and respect. He received substantial grants of land in the center of Scotland from his father, giving him control of agriculturally and economically important land along Merrick's Brook. Further, he was involved in the organization of the first church in Scotland and organization of the parish. He granted the land for the first meetinghouse and common land just south of it (both located approximately on the present triangular common at the intersection of Route 97 South and Route 14.) He granted land for the highway south from the meetinghouse (Route 97) and for what is now Pinch Street. Nathaniel leased his land along Merrick's Brook for construction of a dam and flowage to operate a gristmill for the benefit of the community, and sold small houselots along the roadways near the meetinghouse, as did Samuel Huntington, to whom Nathaniel had deeded the land south of Route 14. Nevertheless, the center of Scotland at the death of Nathaniel in 1767 was still very sparsely settled. There was the meetinghouse west of the intersection of now Route 14 and Route 97 South. On the east and west sides of now Route 97 only about one half dozen houses stood between now Route 14 and the Rev. Ebenezer Devotion's house to the south, among them the Elisha Hurlbut House (c.1759 - now the Olde English Tea Room). A gristmill and dam crossed Merrick's Brook about opposite from the Rev. Devotion's house. North of now Route 14 and east of the Huntington house, no structures existed until one reached the dwelling erected by Samuel Huntington c.1759 and the adjacent house of Judge Ebenezer Devotion built c.1767. Beyond that, to the east, was the farm of Daniel Ripley.

Before his death, Nathaniel clearly recognized that his son Samuel was the only son among those to whom he left land in Scotland who was financially secure and could ensure that the land would not be sold or lost out of the family. Therefore, he inserted into his will a codicil that granted a farm in Scotland which he had originally given to his son Jonathan to Samuel if Samuel covered the amount of a debt Jonathan had accrued to some merchants in Norwich, which Samuel did. Nathaniel left his home farm to Eliphalet, with dower rights to his widow Mehetabel. He also left her a portion of his personal estate including the east half of the house, his female Negro slave Nancy, all of his indoor household furnishings, a good horse, a side saddle and bridle, two cows and ten sheep, and the improvement of one-third part of all his remaining real estate.

Eliphalet Huntington

Eliphalet, the fifth son of Nathaniel and Mehetabel, stayed on the farm with his parents and at Nathaniel's death inherited the home farm. He married Dinah Rudd of Scotland in 1762 and they had at least six children. It is likely that it was during Eliphalet's tenure, when he and his family shared the dwelling with both of his parents and, after Nathanielís death, with his mother (Nathaniel left the east end of the house to his widow), that the leanto was added or that the fireplace in the existing leanto was constructed to provide a second kitchen for Eliphalet and Dinah. The hall, or east ground floor room, left to Mehetabel in Nathaniel's will, had originally served as the kitchen of the house. However, it was not unusual for households with two family units to have separate cooking facilities. Many surviving eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century houses in New England contain more than one cooking hearth and bake oven, usually the result of a multi-generational, multi-family household sharing the house.

Eliphalet's long struggles with intemperance resulted in his excommunication from the Third Congregational Society (Scotland Parish) in 1783 and some financial difficulties. Because he was living in New London in 1788 when an execution for unpaid debt was levied against him and Zephaniah Huntington, also of New London, it is unlikely that any additional improvements were made to the house until his departure.

The house was next occupied by his son Nathaniel, who was on the farm in the mid-1790s, and possibly sooner. It may have been during his occupation that with the assistance of his uncle Samuel the original chimney with its two added fireboxes was reconstructed and a smaller brick firebox erected within the original stone firebox of the hall (or, these changes may not have occurred until the property was sold to Roswell Fox).

Samuel Huntington

Since Samuel's legal and political achievements are well-known and written about in two books and numerous articles, I will focus here on his relationship to the property, which extends from his birth in 1731 and early years there through his death in Norwich in 1796. As the several published histories tell us, Samuel was not one of the sons chosen to go to college, despite the fact that his older brother and two younger brothers did attend Yale College. Samuel, however, benefited from a close relationship between the Huntington and Devotion families in Norwich and Scotland, gaining an education, a wife, and extremely useful connections from the Devotion family.

The points of intersection between the two families were extensive: the Reverend Devotion's wife was of the Lathrop family of Norwich, neighbors and close associates of the Norwich Huntingtons; Nathaniel Huntington and the Rev. Devotion were occasional economic partners, buying and selling real estate to each other; Nathaniel Huntington had a close relationship to the church in Scotland, where Rev. Devotion was minister, as one of the key organizers of the ecclesiastical society and donor of land for the first church; two Huntington brothers married daughters of Rev. and Mrs. Devotion (Samuel -1761, and Joseph - 1764), sisters Martha and Hannah Devotion; Judge Ebenezer Devotion (son of the Reverend) married the first cousin of Samuel and Joseph Huntington.

Samuel obtained an adequate early education, allegedly under the tutelage of Rev. Devotion, to enter into study of the law as a young man. He was admitted to the bar in Windham in 1754. Apparently he erected for himself a house on the site where the present Catholic Church is located in Scotland on the north side of now Route 14 by 1759, as in that year his father Nathaniel transferred to him an acre of land "where his new house now stands." It is possible that he had anticipated his marriage to Martha Devotion and had erected for himself a new house, planning to stay in Windham to practice law rather than removing to Norwich as he did shortly thereafter.

In 1759 and again in 1767, by will, Nathaniel transferred several parcels of land to Samuel that were part of his original hundred-acre and thirty-acre lots. Samuel's success as an attorney and judge provided him financial security, and as such he became the benefactor for his less fortunate or successful siblings. Samuel provided money to Eliphalet in 1772 when Eliphalet mortgaged the farm to him, ultimately owning the property and allowing his nephew, Eliphalet's son Nathaniel, to occupy and work the farm as a tenant. He also bailed out his brother Jonathan by covering a debt he had to Daniel Lathrop of Norwich, thus gaining control of a farm his father Nathaniel had left to Jonathan. It was on this farm that Samuel allowed his wayward brother Eliphalet and his family to live. And Samuel performed a similar function with other relatives in Massachusetts and Vermont, buying farms and allowing them to reside there.

Samuel, like his father, was also generous to the town. In 1774 he granted additional land for a new meeting house in Scotland. In his will he left a parcel of land to the society for a parsonage. It was Samuel who sold a small parcel of land to Judge Ebenezer Devotion for a houselot in 1767 (presently Brad Vincent's house east of the Catholic Church) and a hundred-acre farm nearby. Samuel also sold the land to Elisha Hurlbut for his house in 1759 (now the Olde English Tea Room).

When Samuel died in 1796, he left his father's farm, to which he had given the name "Huntingdale," to Samuel Huntington, Jr., the son of his widowed brother Joseph. Samuel, Jr. and his sister were raised in the household of Martha and Samuel Huntington in Norwich as if they were their own children. Samuel Huntington, Jr. sold the farm several months after Gov. Samuel's death to Roswell Fox.

It is likely that the house underwent a few changes during the time that Samuel Huntington was growing up or living in the house, prior to his erection of a new house for himself in 1759. The west half of the house was probably constructed during his childhood or youth (we only know that it was there by 1764, but it is likely that it was there earlier - how early is not yet clear). The leanto may have been constructed as well before his departure in the 1750s, but more than likely it was built in the 1760s or 1770s, possibly after Eliphalet married in 1762. Most changes to the house, then, after the initial doubling of its size, probably post-date his departure.

Samuel remained intimately connected to the house during his lifetime, both financially and undoubtedly, emotionally. It is very likely that he contributed to its maintenance and improvement during the years that Eliphalet and his family resided there, and then when Eliphalet=s son Nathaniel worked the farm in the 1790s, possibly financing the rebuilding of the hearth in the hall and the minor interior remodeling that went with it.

Next Section: Post Huntington Owners

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The Huntington Homestead is owned and operated by the Governor Samuel Huntington Trust, Inc., PO Box 231, Scotland, CT 06264. A non-profit corporation formed in 1994, the Trust is authorized by the IRS to receive tax-exempt contributions. This site has been made possible by a grant from the Connecticut Society of the Cincinnati.
This page last modified on 2/17/01.