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A HISTORY OF

MASONS ISLAND 

“The Land of Canaan will I Give unto

Thee though but Few and Strangers in  It.”

         IT WAS with this quotation that Major John Mason, Indian fighter and settler, concluded the story of his life in the New ‘World. A young Puri­tan army officer, arriving in Boston shortly before the time of Cromwell in England, he broke the power of the Pequot inhabitants of Connecticut, and in his capacity of military leader helped settle several towns, partic­ularly Windsor, Saybrook and Norwich, where he (died in 1671. His reputation as a man of strong character, marked ability and hot temper survives him to this day. The mutual trust and friendship between himself and the Mohegan Indians was con­tinued by his family for many generations.

         It is a familiar story how Captain, later Major, Mason came into this section. At the head of a small band of colonists from the English settlements on the Connect­icut River, he sailed down the river and eastward along the coast to Narragansett Bay. Accompanied by the Narragansetts and a lesser number of loyal Mohegans, he marched overland and attacked and destroyed the Pequots at their fort just above what is now Mystic. By reason of this conquest in 1637. the Pequot country was later claimed both by Connecticut and by Massachusetts, from whence the Connecticut River set­tlers had come.

         On Sept.11, 1651, the General Court or Assembly Hartford, in recognition in of his victory over the Pequots, gave to John Mason “the Island commonly called Chippachauge, in Mistick Bay—also one hundred acres of upland and ten acres of meadow neare Mistick, where hee shall make choice”.

          The known history of this section before the arrival of the English is scanty. The coast was first explored by Capt. Adrian Block in 1614. In a 44-foot boat built on the Hudson, he sailed down the Sound and on to Cape Cod, carefully exploring the coast. Sailing up the Mystic River a short distance, he gave it the name Siccanemos after the Pequot Sachem. Pequot Hill above Mystic and Fort Hill in Groton were the centers of the Pequot territory which extended from Connecticut River to Week­apaug Creek. Around the mouth of the Pawcatuck were the Eastern Nahanticks, a Branch of the Western Nahanticks at Niantic. It is believed that the Nahantics along with the Mohegans at New London, were the original settlers along this coast, before the Pequots came down from north-east of the Hudson and subjected them. They all belonged to the Delaware or Algonquin race, and, with different dialects, used the same language. The Indians left few traces on Masons Island. According to early explorers and settlers, their chief means of livelihood was fishing from this and adjacent islands. A deposit of clam shells and charcoal bits near the spring at the north end of the lake indicates that they used to camp here.

          Following the acquisition of the Island by John Mason, this section of Stonington was rapidly taken up. After bitter boundary disputes with the neighboring colonies, the Connecticut General Court appointed a commission which set the Mystic River as the east boundary of Connecticut. This left Massachusetts a “corridor” to the Sound down through what is now eastern Connecticut. Stonington, formerly a part of New London, was set up as a separate town in 1658, and named Southerton. The famous charter granted to Connecticut in 1662 set its eastern boundary at the “Narragansett River”. Rhode Island said this must mean the Pawcatuck River, while Connecticut said it meant Narragansett Bay. In any case, it was agreed by both, in spite of Massachusetts’ claims, that Southerton belonged in Connecticut. It was recognized as a separate town and named Mystic, but the following year this was changed to Stonington. Office holders under Massachusetts jurisdiction fought the decision but finally accepted it. An “Act of Oblivion” was passed, pardoning all dissenters except Capt. Denison, Who still continued to act as magistrate under Massachusetts authority. He was forgiven in 1676 after his gallant work in the King Philip Indian War, but continued to plague the authorities.

          It was during this period that horse raising was the principal source of income to the inhabitants of the town. Fencing was difficult and rustling common. Islands were in great demand for pasturing. it was no doubt with this trade in mind that Mason, after acquiring his island, sought the removal of the Pequots from opposite at Naiwayonk (Noank). Trade was chiefly with the West Indies, and continued. until after 1800 when sealing and whaling became common. In a 1660 town meeting, it was ordered that all horses be branded and registered. Forty men were selected to go through the town three times a year to brand all unmarked horses for the town. A case is on record of a horse being arrested on the town common for injuring public property. The owner, or the horse, was ordered to appear in court to be fined.

          John Mason left three sons when he died, Samuel, John Jr. and Daniel, aged 27, 25 and 19. Among other lands, Samuel and John inherited the Island, while Daniel’s property was on the mainland. Daniel and his descendants in a direct line down to the parents of John and Andrew are buried in the family plot on the east side of Williams Cove above the Island just north of the main road. This burying ground was set aside in 1721. John and Andrew, last of the name on the Island, are buried north-west of the present Mason house.

          Samuel, the oldest son, owned considerable lands in Stonington. He built a house on Quaketaug Hill, but sold it when a young man and moved to Norwich. He settled and helped found Lebanon, where he held important positions in the community and was active in the militia, attaining the rank of Major. When he died at the age of 90, no sons survived him, and his interest in the Island passed to his daughter, Ann, who married her cousin, John III.

           John Jr., father of John III, was an active soldier, and represented Norwich in the General Court. He spent considerable time at sea, presumably sailing to the West Indies. He was a captain in the Great Swamp fight against the remnants of the Pequots in 1675, but died the following year from wounds at the age of thirty. His interest in the Island passed to his son, John III. John Jr.’s wife was named Abigail, and as the small island in the river was known by that name from early times, it is likely that it was named for her.

         Daniel spent his life in Stonington. His property included Andrews Island and the adjacent point, running up into the country. He too was active in the militia, and though popularly known as Lieut., which rank is on his gravestone, he became a Captain. Like his older brothers, he was active in town affairs. His property was di­vided between his three sons, Samuel, Peter and Nehemiah. Nehemiah owned An­drews Island where he built a house and lived. The foundation stands at the top of the hill. His first son, Andrew, died at the age of three, and it is believed the island was named for him. He is buried in the family burying ground.

         John III, who gained title to the whole of Masons Island, was born in Norwich, but settled in Lebanon where the family had large holdings. In 1703, at the age of 27, he moved to Masons Island with his wife and infant son and built a house on Money Point in front of the present Stoops house. The cellar was filled in in recent years. As transportation, particularly of live stock and produce, was carried on largely by water, this location was more convenient than now appears. Capt. Kidd, who had buried some treasure on Gardiner’s Island four years previously, had at this time disclosed in court where it was buried. Much excitement was aroused locally when it was dug up. Did the fact that Mason was digging his cellar on the point at this particular time give it the name of Money Point?

          The year after the house was built, Mason was appointed by the General Court Protector of the Mohegans, a position which had been held by his grandfather, father, uncle and older brother. This position of the Mason family was a peculiar one, and led to disputes and law suits of great notoriety which ended only after the Revolution with the disappearance of this branch of the Mason family. While volumes have been written about the case, it is still much confused. In substance it is the old story of the white settlers depriving the Indians of their lands unjustly, with the Masons defending the Indians. How much was due to altruism and how much to protecting their own interest in the large Mohegan lands west and north of Norwich is uncertain. Certain it is that the settlers on the lands, who came to outnumber the Mohegans four to one, forced the General Court to resort to decidedly unsavory methods to squeeze out the Mohegans and the Masons from any just compensation.

         In 1659, Major Mason then Deputy Govenor and recognized protector of the Mohegans, bought nine square miles at Norwich from Uncas. The rest of the Mohegan lands Uncas deeded to Mason to hold-in trust for the tribe because Mason was familiar with the white man’s laws. The Colony later claimed that this deed was merely to extinguish the Indians’ claims in favor of the Colony. The following year Mason surrendered ‘jurisdictional power” over this area, reserving the right to lay it out as he saw fit, and reserve a large farm for himself. Having full trust in Mason, the Mohegans agreed. The status of the land being already in doubt, one can pic­ture the confusion 100 years later after the Colony and various Sachems and Masons had deeded sections of the tract.

         John III, living on Masons Island and kept to the house for three or four years by sickness, allowed the Mohegan affairs to become very confused and involved. He therefore turned over the protectorship to a committee and devoted himself exclusively to stock raising. Horses were raised for export, cattle for beef and goats for cheese. At least three old walls from that period are still standing. One runs from the east side of the marsh south of Price’s, northerly to the Great Marsh, dividing off Money Point and the adjacent land. Another divides off Ram Point, starting on the shore north of Boronda’s it runs easterly to include a fresh water pond, up over Wolf Ledge and down to the Great Marsh. The third wall runs in part from the south end of the quarry property, known as Pine Hill, south-easterly to the previously men­tioned wall and includes the upper fresh pond. After being on the Island for about eight years, Mason had his own sloop built at New London, in. which he carried his stock to the West Indies to sell. At this time his wife died, and he married Mrs. Noyes, daughter of Gov. Sanford and granddaughter of Gov. Coddington of Rhode Island. Their son, born the following year, was named Peleg Sanford Mason, which is noteworthy as middle names were very rare at that time. Three years later at the age of 30. he petitioned the General Court for court expenses incurred in behalf of the Mohegans, also his old job as Protector. He was given the job hut no money. However he seems to have been genuinely interested in the Indians, for, leaving the farm in the hands of his older sons, he moved to Mohegan, which was between New London and Norwich, built a house and started a school for the Indians. One of his youngest pupils was Samson Occum. This brilliant young Mohegan later studied with Eleazer Wheelock, following which he went to England. There he made such an impression on Lord Dartmouth and others, that Dartmouth gave Wheelock money to start an Indian school. This Wheelock did, moving to New Hampshire where there were less advantages for the Indians and naming the school for its bene­factor.

         A few years after moving to Mohegan, Mason deeded half interest in the Island to his son who had remained to farm it. The deed reads as follows: “I, John Mason of New London to my son Samuel husbandman: one half of that my Island which was scituate in the South-westermost part of the township of Stonington and the dwell­ing house upon it. I say one half of said island and the dwelling house upon it, the said Island to be equally divided for Quantity and Quality between myself and my said son. Samuel, or our heirs ever and amen, for him or them to have and to hold, to possess and enjoy as a good estate of inheritance in fee simple”.

         Taking up the cause of the popular young legitimate heir to the Sachemship of the Mohegans against an illegitimate claimant backed by the General Court, John sailed to London in 1636, accompanied by his son, Samuel, and the young Indian, to press the claim. While there, first the Sachem and then Mason died, leaving Samuel to return home alone. Shortly before Mason’s death, the General Court appropri­ated 100 pounds for its agent in London “to prevent the ill designs of Mason”.

         Samuel and his brother, John IV, continued the fight against long odds, mortgag­ing their property to get money to fight the case at court where there were many palms to be crossed. Finally in 1744, Samuel, although still in his thirties, was forced to sell the Island. The west half was bought by Nathan Niles, and the east half by John Walsworth, both from this side of Groton. A wall marking the division was built, and still stands in part. Beginning on the shore where Mrs. Howard Horn’s property joins Loutrel’s, it runs northerly up through what is now the lake, through the valley in back of Goodspeed’s, the east side of the Great Marsh, and emerges onto the Great Plain to reach the north shore just west of Mitchell’s. Although every small island in this vicinity is recorded and named from earliest times, no mention has been found of Enders Island at that time. As late as 1847 the reef off the Yacht Club is shown as a sizable island called Bush Island. Even Ellis Reef is shown out of water, and is earlier referred to not as a reef hut rocks. It therefore seems possible that Enders was at that time a part of Masons Island. 

         The price of the sale referred to was 3500 pounds for each half of the Island. This money was in Bills of Public Credit of New England of the Old Tenor. A few words concerning this kind of money might be of interest. Connecticut trade had been carried on by barter, except for the small amount of English money in circulation and wampum. This Indian shell money had been officially valued at six white beads or three black beads equal to one penny. In 1709, Connecticut, following the example of Massachusetts, issued 8000 pounds in notes to be accepted for payments to the public treasury at a premium of 5 %. Taxes were provided for their redemption. Other series were issued so that by 1713 there were 20,000 pounds outstanding. Although they were reduced to 2500 pounds by 1732, they had declined in value almost from the beginning. While adequate taxes were provided for their redemption, they had been declared to have the same value as the Massachusetts notes which did not have proper backing and had become greatly inflated. In 1740, a war against the Spanish ‘West Indies’ required more currency, so bills of New Tenor were issued with stronger backing. By 1756 all bills were retired, and all accounts were required to be kept in silver. At the time of the sale of the Island, the bills referred to were worth about one-fourth of their face value. The home government had declared them not to be legal tender, that is they could only be used for payment to the treasury, but they were generally accepted as legal tender anyway. These notes should not be confused with “Continental” currency issued after the start of the Revolution. 

         After the sale of the Island, little is known about Samuel and John except that they continued to fight the case both here and abroad. In 1766, at the time of one trial. the “Mason Party still manifested a factious and troublesome spirit” according to remarks in the General Court. Reviled by the majority of their fellow settlers on lands taken from the Indians without just compensation, the brothers disappeared from the records. It is not known when or where they died. Their younger half­brother, Peleg, moved to Lebanon in 1745, where he was a leader in the community. Some of his family moved to Hartford, Vt., in 1800, and soon after to Ohio.

         The west half of the Island was left by its purchaser, Nathan Niles, to his son, Nathaniel, who moved into the old Mason house on Money Point. In addition to raising stock, he planted a good-sized orchard on the hill top just north of Wolf Ledge and enclosed it with a stone wall. This is located south-west of the house now owned by Haynes. If this location seems distant from Money Point, it should be remem­bered that orchards on hills are better protected from frosts, and this was the nearest open hilltop. In 1773, Nathaniel gave to his only son, Nathan II, all the west half of the Island except Money Point and Ram Point as bounded by the first two old walls previously mentioned. Nathan II then built the house now owned by Haynes and lived there. On the death of his father, he inherited the two points, which he di­vided among his three sons, Thomas and Elisha getting Ram Point and Nathaniel II, who had already started a large family, Money Point with the old Mason house. To his grandson, Jonathan, still a child, he gave 10 acres on the end of Noyage (Nauyaug) Point. In 1778, Nathaniel II built a house on the north end of the Island, and the house on Money Point was let out to John Parks. In 1788, a brother built another house on the river just south of Pine Hill. Nathaniel II shortly after bought the big house his father had built. When Nathaniel II died in 1794, the farm was divided up among his six sons and widow. It was at this time that the north-south walls di­viding the Great Plain were built at the north end of the Island to mark the divisions. It was customary at that time for the children to inherit all the property, the widow having the use of one third. This was referred to as the Widow’s Third or Right of Dower. In some cases a third of each child’s property was marked out for the widow, but in this case a third was laid out to be divided after her death. It included the east third of the house, with the particular rooms specified, use of the kitchen fire-place, the attic, cellar, out-house, cheese house, one third of the barn and barnyard (which is the present orchard) and one half of the well which was on the boundary line. Except for small pieces, the farm was later bought up by Jonathan, the oldest son. In 1799, Sands Fish bought Ram Point up to the old boundary wall. Except for the point beyond the present Ayers place which he sold to the Parks’ on Money Point, it was to remain in the Fish family for over 160 years. The first break in the Niles Farm, which did not include Ram and Money Points, came in 1836 when Jeremiah W.Wilcox bought Pine Hill. He continued making purchases until in 1873 he bought the farm house from Jonathan Niles’ heirs.

         When John Walsworth bought the east half of the island in 1744, he already owned considerable lands in Groton. Apparently no house was built on his Island property at that time, but in 1786 when his will was probated, it speaks of the “new” house on the site of the present Mason House. Andrew Mason was then living in the house as tenant and farming the cast half of the Island. This Andrew was the son of Nehemiah on Andrews Island already mentioned and a younger brother of the little Andrew who died. He had settled in Plainfield, but in 1756 at the age of 27, his father gave him half interest in his Stonington lands, and Andrew returned home. Apparently some time after his return, Walsworth, who was elderly and well-to-do, and whose son had moved to Hudson, N. Y., built the house referred to for Mason to tenant. This practice was not uncommon at that time. In 1786, when old Walsworth died, Andrew bought from the estate the east half of the Island up as far as the present Gatehouse. Six years later he bought the west half of the house and property from one of the two Walsworth heirs. The house at that time was a one and one-half story building on the foundation of the present main house. It was not until 1816 that Andrew’s grandsons bought the east half and the land, and built the present main house. The one and one-half story west wing is the west part of the original house moved off its old foundation to make way for the main section.

         At the time Andrew bought the west half of this house, he also bought the Money Point house and property from Niles, so again the original Mason house came into the family, Andrew being the second cousin of the Samuel who sold it. Andrew’s wife died in 1797, as did another second cousin, Samuel, who owned lands adjoining the Island. The following year, Andrew, aged 68, and the widow were married, and moved down to the old house on Money Point, leaving his son, Nehemiah II, to run the big farm. In 1795, Andrew had bought the south end of the Island from Niles. Within two years he built a house on it in back of the present N. R. Dodge place for his tenants, the Parks family, who moved over from the Money Point house. Andrew and his wife continued to live in the old house until his death at the age of 83, after what must have been a peaceful old age.

         It has been a matter of conjecture where Andrew accumulated enough money to buy up over two-thirds of the Island. However it is a matter of record that during the Revolution large quantities of stores, especially cheese, were bought in Stonington. Since Andrew was operating one of the largest farms, as tenant, it is reasonable to assume that he made enough this way to buy up his holdings, in the period from 1786 to 1795. Samuel, Andrew’s cousin on the mainland and first husband of Andrew’s second wife, left two slaves to his daughters, who decided to free them. The certificate of emancipation, as recorded in the Town Clerk’s Office is as follows: “Whereas Hannah Avery and Wealthy Hewit both of Stonington in the County of New London hath this day made application to us the Select Men of said Town of Stonington for liberty to emancipate their Negro wench named Zilph and the said Select Men having examined said Mistresses and Servant and find it to be the wish of said Mistresses to emancipate, and likewise the said wench’s desire to be emancipated and we finding the wench to be 38 years old well and healthy and capable of getting her living, there­fore give said Hannah and Wealthy liberty to emancipate and they are hereby author­ized to emancipate said Zilph and make her free.

                                                                                                       Dated at Stonington this 9th day of Sept.  1799.

             Elisha Denison,  Latham Hull,  Edw. Swan, Stephens Hall, Nathan Pendleton - Select Men 

            Nehemiah II inherited from his father the greatest extent of lands owned by one member of the family since his great-great grandfather, Major John Mason. He spent his latter years in Brooklyn, N. Y., where he died a few years after his father. To his two oldest sons, Joseph D. and Daniel, he left the Island, which did not in­clude the north-west quarter still owned by the Niles. These two sons again brought the family into public life. Joseph was a selectman for several terms, and both were active in the militia during the War of 1812. In the summer of 1813, a British ship sailed up the Mystic River, destroyed but one sloop before she was driven off. Both brothers served two weeks in the militia at that time. The following year when the British attacked Stonington, they again served for a three weeks period, Joseph, aged 24, acting as sergeant. At the time of their deaths in 1833 Joseph held the rank of General and Daniel that of Captain. It is not known how Joseph came to be general, unless in the Black Hawk War, as there were no other military engagements during that period. Joseph was unmarried, and left a very considerable property in notes and shares in sealing and whaling vessels to his brother. Daniel stayed home to run the farm, which he did with great success. It has already been remarked that the present main house was built by them after 1816. At the time of Daniel’s death, there was in stock on the place 400 bu. of potatoes, 100 lbs of salt, 500 lbs of salt beef, 4 80-lb casks of butter, 400 lbs of cheese, 56 tons of “English” hay (grown from imported seed, not native grass) 144 sheep, 13 cows and a great number of farm implements. The farm and house were valued at $11,600, Abigail’s Island $15. Daniel appears to have been very fond of dress, as the inventory listed about three times as many clothes as usual for that time.

            Daniel left his wife, Hannah, with seven children, ranging from fourteen down to three years old. Hannah survived her husband by 24 years, living part of the time in the old Money Point house, part of the time in a house she bought three years after her husband’s death, which was built by a Niles on the site of the present Fulton place. The Money Point house was now well into its second century. Roughly built to begin with, in 1868 it was no longer standing. Daniel’s estate remained undivided until the time of Hannah’s death in 1857. The farm had been run in the mean time by her oldest son, Daniel. During the early part of this period the farm continued to prosper, Daniel adding on the North Wing containing the Wood Room, Milk Room and Sink Room adjoining the Cheese Room. However Daniel moved to Illinois about 1800, leaving John and Andrew, aged 23 and 20, to run the farm. After the death of their mother, the brothers and sisters applied to the court for division of the land. David Daboll, G. S. Allyn and F. A. Palmer were appointed a committee by the court. John was given the west half of the house, the oldest sister, Bridget, the east half. Andrew was given the South End. The two brothers at one time or another accumulated their sisters’ shares as well as two or three houses on the North End from the Niles or Wilcox Farm, and the Fish holdings north of Ram Point. When John was given the west half of the Mason House, the description ran as follows: “… Also the west half of the dwelling lying west of the line except the L on the north side of the main building, the cellar under the west part of the house with the privilege of going to and from said west part of cellar by cellarwav under east part of main building outside. Also barn and carriage house with the privilege of going to and from well east of said house for purpose of taking water therefrom, and with privilege of passing up and down the front stairs.” The description of the east half read: “…also the east half of the house (dwelling) as divided by aforesaid line, and cellar under the east half of said house, also whole of L on north side of said house, with the privilege to the occupants of the east and west halves of house equally in smoke house near thereto”. In 1863, John sold to the Fourth School District for the use of a school house only, the site where the “new” school house was built. An earlier one appears to have been across the wall and south of the road.

            The northwest quarter of the Island was nearly all in the possession of Jeremiah W. Wilcox in 1873 as already mentioned. Before and after that time, different fam­ilies had bought and built houses in that section, notably the Sawyers, Smiths, Davises and Paines, some living there for two and three generations. The Parks family con­tinued to live as tenants on the south end of the Island until the latter part of the last century. The Wilcox Farm was broken up by inheritance, principally in 1886 when the Ecclestons fell heir to the old Niles farmhouse and surrounding property, and the Crandalls the west part along the river from Pine Hill to Ram Point.       

            Around the turn of the century, Ranger, the well known landscape painter, dis­covered the natural beauty of the Island, and his work led to its introduction to other artists. For several generations, it has been a favorite camping and picnic spot, but it was not until about 1900 that, on leased land, permanent camps were erected. In 1912, A. W. and Charles Van Winkle bought the first camp sites, followed by Maud Allen, the Deckers (Debrots), Nickolais, Murrays, Dodges and Van Home. Andrew Mason died in the fall of that year. and in 1913 G. S. and Ellery Allyn bought the property from his estate which they have since held under the name of the Masons Island Company. Later the Eccleston property was added to this tract. In 1936, James H. Allyn acquired an interest in the property with them. On the death of John Mason in 1917, his heirs inherited his estate. These were principally the Colegroves, descendants of his sister, Elizabeth. This property, including the Mason house, is still in the possession of his heirs and assigns. His niece, Miss Elizabeth Colegrove, is the fifth in direct line to live in the house. Some years later the south part of this tract was acquired by Dr. Thomas B. Enders.

            A right of way to the Island is first mentioned in 1732 and again in 1744. It led up across the Williams Farm to the main road which at that time went from Old Mystic to Westerly. It was not until 1847 that a definite right of way was laid out by the Selectmen. This went from the Island to the road built between Mystic and the Road Church. Some time before, the Masons built a narrow causeway with a wooden bridge in the middle onto the Island, which was accepted as a town road. This had previously been the site of a ford, known as the Riding-Way. The present State Highway was not laid out until 1868. All roads on the Island have continued to remain private property except when, in 1927, the town accepted the road to the present Gate-House.

            The early traveled ways on the Island were no more than cart paths connecting up the various parts of the farms. One led from the old Money Point house north-eastward and up through the middle of the Island to the front of the present Mason house. From there it went on down the hill to the Riding-Way. A branch led from the front of the Mason house down south of the School House to the Niles Farm. Another led south from the Mason house to the shore below the present Rand Jones place and continued along the shore. Still another branched off from the old Money Point road and continued south to join the present road west of the Lake. Strangely enough, the only right of way definitely laid out before 1913 was the short piece known as Andrews Road running across the Gill and Charles Van Winkle properties. About that time, the Allyns built a road from the Riding-Way down along the east shore, which crossed the old path by Rand Jones and continued on to the Lake, where it di­vided, one branch running down west of the lake, the other down through the woods on the east. The road leading from there to Enders Island was built by Dr. Enders. Roads now in use have been laid out as definite rights of way. Before 1913, com­munication was by boat with Noank, and early summer residents for many years can recall the little flotilla which putted across the river every morning for supplies. Starting in that year, a passenger ferry was operated which made trips to Noank and Mystic from the old ferry landing in Poggy Bay opposite Stoops.

            In 1852, a railroad company was formed to connect Stonington with the east bank of the Thames River at New London which would form the last link between Boston and New York. The charter provided that the road cross the Mystic River by the shortest, most feasible and best route. In 1856, a right of way was laid out across Sixpenny, Abigails and Masons Islands, and work started. Piles were driven most of the way across the river before the work was stopped by the indignant inhabitants of Mystic who were being left without rail connections. Their committee wanted it to cross above the present highway bridge, but a compromise was reached on the present location. The piles in the river gradually disappeared until today but a few traces remain on Sixpenny Island.

            The Island has in the past been the site of several industries. Probably the first was a Fish Works on the site of the Yacht Club belonging to G. S. Allyn & Co., es­tablished about 1856. This was later expanded to include what is known as the Kettle Works on the site of the Rand Jones property. Another Kettle Works belonging to John Chapman was located near the end of Ram Point. The two dams forming the Lake, which was formerly described as a small swamp, were constructed about the time of the Civil War by Gurdon S. Allyn, who built and operated an ice house below the west dam. A chute ran from the ice house down to the shore to supply fishing boats from Noank. The businesses were carried on for a time by Louis P. Allyn.

            A quarry was started on Pine Hill about 1880 and operated by various lessees. Two early sketches show this to have been a very commanding hill. The quarry was finally bought from the Crandalls in 1908 by E. S. Belden & Sons, who operated it on a large scale. The stone forming the Nantucket Island Harbor jetties came from here. Andrew Mason also shipped stone from the south end of the Island, where he built the stone dock north of Murray’s at what is known as Deep Harbor.

            It is the rock formation of the Island which distinguishes it from neighboring land along the coast. When the last great glacier pushed out into the Sound, it smoothed and rounded the ledges and left the place sprinkled with boulders of all sizes. At the same time it deposited the gravel points and islands. A large seam of fresh water, which has its source on the mainland, breaks out at several springs on the Island. It is this supply which has been tapped by numerous artesian wells.

            The growth of the community naturally led to the forming of an organization, the Nauyaug Yacht Club, which flourished until cut short by the World War. Its successor, the Masons Island Yacht Club, was formed in 1927. In the spirit of pi­oneers, the early summer residents made substantial contributions to this and other projects of mutual benefit. The first undertaking was the original power and tele­phone line which, with no road to follow, came from the quarry down the middle of the Island. General participation in road upkeep was highlighted by the support given the town and railroad company in 1925 which made possible the building of the bridge over the railroad tracks. Previously, a spirited dash across the cut, trusting in the faithfulness of an old Model T, was a thrill reserved only for the hardy.

            The Island has always been a place of particular interest, and various stories have grown up around it and its inhabitants. Rather than subject such tales to the cold judgment of print, we will leave them on the fond tongues which have nourished them, where, no doubt, they will continue to flourish.

SOURCES:

Colonial Records of Connecticut

Probate Court Records, Town of Stonington

Land Records, Town of Stonington

Town Meeting Records, Town of Stonington

Land Records, Town of Lebanon

Mrs. Caulkins. “History of New London,” 1895

John W. DeForest. “History of the Indians of Connecticut, 1851”

Joshua Hempstead’s Diary

Miss Elizabeth Colegrove

 

Mystic, Connecticut, January, 1940.

 

The Utter Company  Printers

Westerly, Rhode Island

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All information is from sources deemed reliable but is not guaranteed by seller or agent. Offering is subject to error, omissions, prior sale, change or withdrawal without notice, and approval of the purchase by owner. We urge independent verification of each and every item submitted to the satisfaction of any prospective purchaser. Although care was exercised in obtaining and verifying this material, parties reviewing same should seek advice from tax counsel and legal counsel.