January 16, 2013

Enos Kellogg's Stuff - What was in our House in 1832

I've known for a while that the probate records of Enos Kellogg were stored at Norwalk Town Hall.  I even made the effort to go look at them a year and a half ago while I was doing research for our National Register nomination.  At that first viewing, I discovered a few important things:
1.  Given the evolution in handwriting style and spelling conventions that has taken place over the past two centuries, it can be a huge pain in the ass to read early American primary documents (I actually knew this from college research work, but had blocked out the lesson);
2. Town Hall needs a large bed scanner for people doing research there;
3. I needed a new iPhone, as my old one couldn't handle the CamScanner app that would let me take good digital .pdf shots of the probate books.
Faced with those hurdles, I took a few notes on the documents, and then put the huge 1830s ledger books back on the shelf for another day.
Typically, that day didn't come until last week, when I finally found a little time to return to the Probate Office, iPhone 5 in hand, to take some digital images of the records associated with the Enos Kellogg House.  30 minutes later, I had 21 decent, contrast-enhanced .pdfs of the relevant documents which I could peruse from the comfort of home.
While home proved to be an exponentially more comfortable work environment (couch, cool refreshing beverages, television), one thing hadn't changed - slogging through the handwriting and linguistic nuances of the 1830s was still painful. 
So,  I spent several nights dividing my time between Season 2 of Sons of Anarchy on Netflix and transcribing probate records.
Despite my best efforts, about 5% of the documents remain unintelligible to me.   It is sort of like those magic eye pictures - you have to stare long enough and sometimes a word will finally pop out. 
I have some more staring to do, but the 95% that I can read contains some cool things.
The best, by far, is the inventory of our house at the time of Enos Kellogg's May 20, 1832 death, detailing what Enos owned, and how it was split up among his three daughters.

Kellogg Comstock Cemetery (from findagrave.com)
With his personal property valued at $15,898.99, and his real estate holdings valued at $15,807.54, the overall estate was worth $31,706.53.  Against this, there were debts of $525.00, $100.00 in cash held by Enos' son-in-law, Minot Ayres, to pay taxes and any other costs associated with the distribution of the estate, and $1,637.20 that was set aside for the support of Abigail Fitch (presumably a sister or niece of Enos' wife, Lydia Fitch Kellogg). 
The total value of the estate was divided equally among Enos' three daughters, Esther, Rebecca and Hannah.  Each daughter received $9,814.78 in the distribution, which was comprised of personal goods (furniture, household goods, books, clothes, etc.), property (including a house for each girl) and notes that Enos Kellogg held against quite a few of his acquaintances in Norwalk and New Canaan (lots and lots of notes - he was a big lender).
Among the personal goods, a few items were identified by the room in which they were located - a Looking Glass and Square Table in the North Room (our bedroom) went to Esther, as did a Barrel in the Milk Room (now Jenny's dressing room), while Hannah got a small table in the South Room (our TV room).  Bizarrely, each daughter also got a third share in Enos' rocking chair.  I can only assume it was some sort of prized possession to have been allocated like that.  I'm not sure how they worked out the custody agreement on the chair after 1832.  Other pieces of furniture that were listed, although not by room, included a number of bedsteads, an "old case with drawers", an "old desk", and numerous chairs.  Of course, all of these "old" pieces, which sound in the inventory like they should be destined for the Goodwill, were probably the 18th century antiques that I would kill to have today.
Another cool listing among Enos' personal estate was for blue edged and green edged plates.  I have found quite a few shards of plates around the yard that I am pretty sure were from these sets.

Almost as interesting as the items that were included in the probate inventory are the items that are not listed - no firearms, no horse, no carriage or wagon, no livestock.  Presumably, those basic elements of Connecticut farm life had already been transferred, most likely to Esther Comstock, who appears to have lived continuously in the house from its construction in 1784 (when she was an infant) through her death.  As Enos aged (he was 82 when he died), Esther's son George most likely assumed responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the farm, and was likely in possession of these missing items by the time of Enos' death.

With regard to the Real Estate, each daughter fared pretty well.  Esther inherited the "Homested" - our house (the inventory also details the barns on both sides of the street, which confirms their existence at least as early as 1832).  Sadly the Hog House and Wood House also listed on our property no longer exist.  Rebecca, meanwhile, inherited  a house, barn and "other buildings" at White Oak Shade in New Canaan (her orphaned cousin, Matthew Kellogg, who was raised alongside Enos' daughters in our house resided there in 1832).  Hannah's primary real estate inheritance was a house, barn, cider house and shop at Clapboard Hills in New Canaan.  Not a bad haul.
To sweeten the deal, each daughter received various other land parcels (tree lots, salt marshes, swamp land, etc.), as well as large groups of debt notes held against other Norwalk and New Canaan residents valued in excess of $1000 per daughter.

For anyone who really likes the nitty gritty, here is the transcription of the probate documents of Enos Kellogg.


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