I went to the NEHGS on Friday to follow up on the genealogical account of my Freeman ancestors using local histories. It was in the genealogy Freeman Families of New England by Robert R. Freeman that I learned that my 8x-great grandfather, Edmund Freeman of Sandwich, Massachusetts along with John Nye, purchased of thousand acres of land in 1702 in the area now known as Mansfield, Connecticut. The Indian Name of the tract purchased was Nawbesetuck and although Edmund did not go to live there, his son, Edmund, did.
“Preceding the incorporation of Mansfield as a separate town in 1703, the sixteen legatees of Joshua (third son of the Indian Son Sachem Uncas) divide the pact of land according to the allotments specified in his will which he signed in 1675, and many of their parcels are sold to the earliest settlers.
Soon these settlers experience the hardships of crossing the river (Natchaug) to attend church services in Windham Center (Hither place) and the residents of Ponde Place (now Mansfield Center) agree to petition the General Assembly of Connecticut for incorporation as a separate town. The assembly grants this request in 1703, and the town is Named Mansfield after Major Moses Mansfield of New Haven, who supposedly “routed a body of Indians” in the general area.”
Edmund Freeman settled on pastoral land in Mansfield and appropriately, is known locally as Spring Hill. Life in Mansfield could be that of any small New England town.
“Agriculture and survival were the main concern during Mansfield’s first century. Land was cleared, crops were planted, walls, fences and roads were built, pounds were constructed to confine roving livestock, and bounties were levied on marauding wolves, blackbirds, and rattlesnakes. Enough mills were built to grind the corn, saw the wood, full the cloth and tan the hides. These operated as needed and when water was plentiful.
The town officers of that period reflect the nature of the town. In addition to the ever-important selectman and town clerk were the Hayward, the fence viewer, the leather sealer, the pound keeper, the chimney viewer, and the key keeper to name the most interesting ones.
The church was the hub of the town both geographically and spiritually, town meetings were held there.”
Fig 1. “Town Roads of Mansfield,” Department of Public Works. Photocopied from Mansfield Local History.
My 7x great-grandfather, Edmund Freeman was town selectmen of Mansfield 1751 and 1761. It was during this time that Mansfield joined other Connecticut and Massachusetts towns in the interest of land speculation. The book gave note of the town meeting Aug 26, 1761 of the first meeting of the grantees of Norwich, Vermont held at the house of William Waterman, innkeeper of Mansfield. Meetings were held here until 1768. It also gave note of Edmund Freeman’s acquisition of the land in Hanover, New Hampshire.
“A charter to the area now Hanover, New Hampshire is granted to Edmund Freeman and 10 others by the name of “Freeman, and others.” It conveys 22,400 acres for which, on December 25 of each year, each settler is to pay to the Crown, if demanded, one ear of Indian corn.”
Hanover, New Hampshire and Norwich, Vermont were neighboring communities, separated by the Connecticut River. Both communities were heavily settled by residents of Mansfield. In 1763, John Slafter of Mansfield made a journey to the area of Norwich, Vermont to examine the territory for settlement, where he was accompanied by Jacob Fenton and Ebenezer Smith. In 1767, the first settlers arrived in Norwich. John Slafter, with his bride Elizabeth Hovey, and a part from the area around Mansfield, go to Norwich, Vermont to settle. They travel through rough terrain to the Connecticut River thence by canoes, leaving Mansfield April 23 and arriving in Norwich May 10. Names of other Mansfield people who go to Norwich about this time are Johnson, Waterman, Fenton, Huntington Sargeant, and Hovey. In 1770, a group of Mansfield families removed to Lebanon, and Hanover, NH. Among them Jonathan Freeman and Edmund Freeman. This Edmund is probably the son of Edmund Freeman, the original acquirer of this land, because he died in 1766 in Mansfield. In 1776, John Slafter, who had gone to Norwich, Vermont in 1767 as an original settler, brings his family back to Mansfield, to escape the wartime dangers of the frontier settlement. This could be why some of the Freemans returned to Mansfield.
The war and frontier dangers probably raised the anxiety of Mansfield residents, but for the most part life continued peacefully in the rolling hills of Connecticut. George Freeman was a notable resident of Mansfield. He was born 1789 on Spring Hill to Skiff and Mary (Aspinwall) Freeman. He was a painter and famous miniaturist, someone who paints mini-portraits of people. Here are some of his works.*
Fig 2. Self-Portrait of George Freeman, b. 1789
Fig 3. Portrait of his father, Skiff Freeman, painted 1838 when he was 83
Fig 4. Portrait of his uncle, Edmund Freeman, and his wife, Hannah Dimmock Freeman
* Fig 2 -4 are photocopied from Robert R. Freeman, Freeman Families of New England, Vol. 1, (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books Inc., 2005).
Copyright (c) 2008, edited 2015 by Jake Fletcher