Peter Pond newsletter :: September 2015 :: #45

Peter Pond Society editor Bill McDonald
Peter Pond Society editor Bill McDonald

Hello PPSers:

You might have thought by my absence of over a year that there wasn't anything more to say about Peter Pond, once the Chapin and Gough books came out.

Peter Pond was an Anglican:

Here is a piece of new information you may take for what it's worth. I have found that Peter Pond was baptized Anglican or Episcopal (Church of England) and not Congregational which was the prevailing religion of Milford and most of New England at the time. This fact was found by the newest PPSer, Neil Olsen, parishioner and historian of 200-year-old Trinity-Church-on-the-Green in New Haven. He is writing the history of the church as well researching the life of Rev. Dr. Samuel Johnson, the first Anglican priest in Connecticut. Olsen was snapping pictures of Johnson's old records at Christ Church, Stratford, across the Housatonic River from Milford. It was the first Anglican church in the colonies founded by Johnson in 1723. Johnson was also founder of King's College in New York City which later became Columbia University. Here is more about him in a lengthy Wikipedia article:

In going over Johnson's baptismal register, it showed that Peter Pond, son of Peter and Mary Pond of Milford, was baptized January 23, 1740, five days after he was born Jan. 18. Olsen had heard of Peter Pond before and figured this must be the one. He found me through the PPS website and we exchanged several emails. Below is one of his emails with interesting comments. The photo of the Peter Pond baptismal entry is attached to this email and should be legible.



"Bill:

I drove by the cemetery today and saw the Peter Pond memorial. I think that's better than knowing where he was buried, though it would be nice to know.

Rev. Dr. Johnson was the only Anglican priest in all of Connecticut in 1723, but he began converting Yale students over the next 30 years to take up pulpits all over the colonies. This is why you find a lot of towns in the "places" entries in the register, some as far off as New London, and Brookhaven, Long Island.

After 1736, Dr. Johnson still traveled extensively, but spent more time in the parishes closest to Stratford. In 1740, he had handed off Fairfield, Trumbull, Norwalk, and other towns, but was still in charge of Derby, West Haven, Milford, New Haven, Wallingford, and along the coast to Branford.

According to the register, the baptism was done in Milford, probably at the Pond's home. Johnson officiated at these "house churches" until a church was built in Stratford in 1724, New Haven in 1753, West Haven in 1745, Shelton (then called Ripton) in 1749, and Derby in 1737. Milford didn't have an Anglican church until 1764. See Jarvis' Sketches for these and other Connecticut churches.

Actually, the front cover title page of the Christ Church, Stratford, Register notes that it was written by Johnson beginning in 1723, and he was the only minister there until 1754 when he went to NYC to found Columbia University. And it is in his handwriting.

His father appears as an adult baptism at Christ Church, Stafford, on March 7, 1737. This was a bold, and even courageous conversion to the Church of England by Peter Pond Senior; just a year later, a mob of 150 Puritans (men and Yale students) attacked the Anglican Rev. Arnold's servant and an ox in New Haven to prevent them from cleaning land to build an Anglican Church there. Puritans, who ruled both church and state, allowed no church in New Haven or Milford until much later. That must have been one fearsome ox to require 150 Puritans.

I transcribe Peter Pond Jr.s baptismal register entry as:

Milford (place), Jan. 23, 1740 (date), Peter (infant), of (parents) Peter & Mary Pond.

Note that 1740 is "Old Style", we would say it was January 23, 1741. According to the Julian calendar for 1740, it would have been a Wednesday, probably as Johnson was riding to West Haven, New Haven, and Wallingford or Guilford.

If you want a contribution to the News Letter I can write something about the state of the Anglican Church in Connecticut. Just tell me how many words. Johnson catered to the poor "Heathen whites", Indians, blacks, and even Jews. The Puritans hated him and boycotted him. Pond's parents bravely chose to leave the orthodox Congregational church and become Anglicans; thus Pond was raised as a member of a then despised minority. This might explain something about his character. Also, Johnson traveled to Milford to perform the baptism; there are only a few Milford baptisms in his register. Either Pond Senior was an important man, or a friend, or the baby was sickly.

all the best,

Neil"

So what should I make of this new information? First of all, it's interesting that the fact he was raised as a "despised minority" might explain something about his short-tempered character. That plus the fact he was big and tough probably went a long way toward having people fear if not respect him.

Also, is there a possibility that he was buried in the Anglican cemeteries of either neighboring Stratford or West Haven and not Congregational Milford? I figure the possibilities are slim because it is a matter of record that the presiding priest at his burial in 1807 was the Rev. Bezaleel Pinneo, Congregational minister in Milford at the time. But it's still probably worth checking the burial records of the Stratford and West Haven Episcopal churches sooner or later.

And it also may explain why he enlisted in the army at age 16, also stay away from wife and two children for close to 20 years to concentrate on the fur trade.

I'm not sure at what other angles I could look at. Perhaps you might suggest some?

Peter Pond portrayal:

It had to happen sometime. I have been asked to portray or re-enact Peter Pond at a tour of Milford Cemetery on Saturday October 24 at 1 p.m. Other figures in Milford history dressed in period costume will be standing next to their respective graves during the tour. I am not sure how many others there will be. Last year there were well over a hundred onlookers broken up into three different groups to keep the graveside crowds manageable. And there's an admission fee of $5.

I will be standing next to his mother Mary's gravestone dressed as kind of avant-garde 18th century fur trader with white shirt, blue jeans and LL Bean moccasins. Plus the Milford Historical Society is providing a beaver pelt and coyote pelt to throw over my shoulders. I have a call out for a buckskin jacket with fringes and fur hat so maybe that will lend to the theme. Not sure what else to wear. Oh yes, I'll be reading a speech on his life which I was told to keep under five minutes. Hope to see as many of you as can make it that day. Will try to get a photo with speech in next newsletter.

Au revoir,
Bill