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.


January 09, 2013

Fun with Maps

My friend at the Confessions of an Antique Home blog sent me a link to a 19th century map of Fairfield County that I hadn't seen before.  Clark's Map of Fairfield County, published in 1856, places and identifies all homes in the county.  Which is awesome.  After a few minutes of applying my very poor map skills to a scanned version of the map, I was able to locate my house.  There it is, just next to the New Canaan border, at the so-called Four Corners.  Very cool.

From Clark's Map of Fairfield County - 1856

What is less cool is that the house is labeled as that of J. Comstock.  Huh?  I know that in 1856, the house was owned by Esther Comstock, who had inherited the property from her father, Enos Kellogg.  While Esther appears to have lived elsewhere by the time of the 1850 census,  residing in the Enos Kellogg Homestead were Esther's son, George Edwin (Sr.), his wife Mary (Dibble) Comstock, and their children, Hannah, Walter, William, George Edwin (Jr.), Agnes and Rebecca.  Eight people, and not a J name among the bunch.  Damn maps.  Just when you think you know what was going on with your house, something like this comes along to make you second guess yourself.
Oh well.  My explanation is that when you're mapping out a couple thousand properties in the county, you're bound to make a few typos.  Maybe the J should have been an E for Esther, or a G for George.  As the old Tootsie Roll commercial says, the world may never know. 
The good news is that by 1867, with the publication of the Beers map of the Town of Norwalk, all was right in the cartographic world, with the property identified as that of Mrs. M. Comstock.  With Esther Comstock's death in 1864, the property passed onto her grandchildren, and was presided over by Mary (Mrs. M.), listed in the 1870 census as "keeping house". 

Beers Map of the Town of Norwalk - 1867

Just a few other things on the Clark map that are interesting (to me, that is - probably not to anyone else):
To the southeast of my house is a large tract of land labeled E. Kellogg.  This is the property of Enos Kellogg, great nephew and namesake of "my" Enos Kellogg.  Original Recipe Enos had raised Enos II's orphaned father, Matthew Kellogg, in our house, and Matthew, in turn, named hist first-born son in his honor.  The house of Enos II, located on Fox Run Road, still stands.  Enos II went on to serve with distinction in the Civil War.  As described in the History of the Seventeenth Connecticut by Colonel William H. Noble:
"Captain of Company H, Enos Kellogg, of New Canaan; a gallant officer; in the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and in the trenches on Morris Island. At Volusia, Fla., with only fifty men, seventy-five miles from any other Union force, he so fortified his position, aided by Lieut. Ruggles of Company K, that he frightened off the rebel captain Dickenson with his artillery and two hundred mounted rifleman."
Later in his life, Enos II was a Founder and Superintendent of Norwalk's Riverside Cemetery, to which he also contributed seven acres of his property.  He is buried there.
The other aspect of the Clark Map that is of interest with respect to our house is the readily apparent location of the "Four Corners", the intersection of Ponus Avenue, Carter Street and New Canaan Avenue.  The location of our house and the Comstock Brothers/Comstock & Lyon nursery is frequently described in 19th and early 20th century documents as being at Four Corners.  With the construction of the Merritt Parkway in the 1930s, the Four Corners intersection was destroyed, and the location name was relegated to the scrap heap of local history.