The place we think of as Milford, Connecticut today, was called "Wepawaug" by the Indians, and was bought from them in 1639, and in no time at all, settlers poured in and populated the new "town" of "Milford." While agriculture was Milford's main industry in the early years, its situation on the coast naturally lent itself to sea trade, oystering, and ship-building. Milford has an anti-slavery heritage, and was a link in the "Underground Railroad" in the Civil War years. Three Governors of Connecticut were from Milford.
The name most often associated with Milford's "founding" is that of William Fowler, who made the purchase transaction from the Indians, and who built the mill on the site, along with others of his party, Edmund Tapp, Zachariah Whitman, Benjamin Fenn, and Alexander BRYAN.
Other names of Milford's first settlers include:
Deacon George CLARK Sr.
Reverend Peter Prudden
Sgt. John Smith
The "First Congregational Society" was the first organized church raised up in Milford, in the year 1639, and Rev. Peter Prudden is thought to have been the first preacher in the town. He had come to the new settlement from Wethersfield, although he was a native of Edgerton, Yorkshire, England. He, along with six others have been called "the seven pillars" of the church. The other six were namely, William Fowler, Thomas WELCH, Thomas BUCKINGHAM, E. Tapp, Zachariah Whitman and John Atwood.
An article in The Connecticut Magazine Vol. V. No. 3 March, 1899 titled "Early Milford" by M. Louise Greene says,
"The Milford men came in two bodies, those of 1639 and those of 1645. Most of them were from the English counties of Essex, Hereford and York. There were fifty-four heads of families or approximately two hundred settlers. Some came from New Haven, others from Wethersfield, following Rev. Peter Prudden who had ministered there between the formation of his own church at New Haven, August 22, 1639, and his ordination as pastor of the Milford church, April 18, 1640, after which Mr. Prudden took up his residence in Milford."
As a point of interest for Milford genealogy, individuals from the above Buckingham, Welch, Bryan, Camp, Platt, Clark, Treat, and Canfield families later married with the GILLETTE family of Milford.
"The Graves of Milford" written in 1857 by Rev. M.N. Olmstead, supplies us with some valuable information regarding the cemeteries of the place:
"On this tract of land (bought from the Indians) a plot was laid out in the garden of the minister for the burial of the dead. The first grave opened on this ground was for the infant son of Mr. William East, on the 18th of June, 1644; and the first adult buried here was Sarah, wife of Nicholas CAMP. From this period to 1675 all the dead of Milford were deposited here, among whom was the minister himself.
"A traveler on the New York and New Haven railroad, leaving Milford station for the east, will, in a few moments, cross the Wepowage river, and pass the "Soldier's Monument," standing in the south-west corner of the present repository of the dead. Four times, since 1675, has this ground been enlarged, and the ashes of those who died prior to this period have been DISINTERRED AND TRANSFERRED TO THIS PLACE, and, with thousands more, now slumber in silent repose, while the inscriptions on the sculptured marble trace the outlines of the history of Milford for more than two hundred years.
"... During the first five years after (the church's) organization not a death had occurred in the town. But in the year 1855 over fifty fell by ordinary diseases within the same compass.
"The Rev. Peter Prudden ... and ... his grandson, Rev. Job Prudden (who died in) 1774 (were both buried in) this graveyard. All of the (above-mentioned) "seven pillars" of the church "here lie entombed.
"Rev. Roger Newton, a near relative of Sir Isaac NEWTON, was born in England "... and died in Milford "on the 7th of June, 1683."
"In this lone spot rest the ancestors of many of the great men of our nation. Robert TREAT, a young man of eighteen years, came from Wethersfield to Milford with Rev. P. Prudden in 1639. ...
"Jonathan Law, jr., ... (was) Governor, 1741, from which time he was annually chosen governor till his death, November, 1750. ... Governor Law had five wives, all of whom now repose with him in this place of the dead.
"Henry Tomlinson, ancestor of Governor Tomlinson, here lies among the dead. He built the first public inn in the town of Milford, which was continued till within a very few years past. Twice General Washington put up at this inn, the last of which was in 1789.
"The ancestors of three of the signers of the Declaration of Independence rest in this graveyard; namely, Robert Treat Paine, Abram CLARK, and Roger Sherman. ...
"The ancestors of two members of the convention that framed the Constitution of the United States are buried here also; namely Roger Sherman and Jared Ingersol. And here, also, we find the name of the identical John Smith, who removed from Boston to Milford as early as 1643."
"Among the list of names here engraved we find that of Micaiah Tompkins. He was one of the planters of Milford. ...
"Some of the early settlers of Milford removed to Newtown, Durham, Wallingford, Cheshire, Farmington, Woodbury, Washington, Norwalk, Ridgefield, and New Milford."
In 1889 Nathan GILLETTE POND of the New Haven Historical Society gathered information from tombstones in Milford. The following items are from his work, "Incriptions on Tombstones in Milford, Conn. Erected prior to 1800"
"The first ground occupied for a burying place in the town, was a part of Mr. Prudden's home lot, being the east end of his garden. On the north side of it was a road called Prudden's or burying yard lane, which has long been shut up. The first English person who died in Milford, was a son of William East aged a year: he died Jun 18th 1644. The first adult, was Sarah, wife of Nicholas CAMP. The records state that 'she had twins on the 2d of September, 1645, and was doing well till the night of the 4th, when she was taken very ill with cold -- she died on the 6th (being the last day of the week) in the morning, and was buried the evening after, in the garden of Mr. Peter Prudden Pastour.' Here were buried all who died in the town previous to about 1675, and among these was Mr. Prudden himself in 1656. The present burying ground was first laid out small, but the town since, at five different times, have purchased land adjoinging and added to it. The original part is the southeast side."
"Thus far wrote Lambert in 1838, but since then, great additions have been made to the area, principally by the purchase of private lots, and it is now one of the largest "Burying Grounds" in the State, that has in it graves of those born in England previous to 1640. A few old stones on which but a few letters are legible, are not recorded in this book. The writer is confident that many stones are missing."
This website has a special focus on the Gillettes of Milford. Here are some of Nathan Gillette Pond's inscriptions pertinent to that focus:
* 212. Here lyes ye body of Jonathan GILLIT Deces'd Sept the 5th 1732 in the 29th year of his age
[Son of Eliphal & Mary (WHEELER) GILLIT; b. 1703]
* 213. Hlyb Jeremiah GILLIT Dec'd Sept ye 24th 1732 in ye 32 year of his age
[Bro. to 212; m. Frances BRYAN, dau of Richard; his widow m. Stephen MILES]
* 214. Here lyes ye body of Mary GILIT wife to Mr Eliphel GILIT aged 53 years Dec'd Jan ye 31st 1730
[Dau. of Ephraim & Mary (HOLBROOK) WHEELER, mother of #212 & #213]
* 215. Here lyes the body of Mrs Elizabeth GILLET aged 76 years Died Jul 17, 1732
[Probably mother to the husband of #214]
* 216. Here lyes the body of Mrs Phebe GILLIT wife to Mr William Gillit Jun'r who died Feb'y ye 10th AD. 1756 AE 29 ~ "Her dying word unto her husband are ~ Refrain you Passions, why so much dispare ~ Its the will of God I hope its for the best ~ For you -- for me & for my motherless ~ To whom adue -- to God & you ~ I now commit thare care" ~~ "Pattern of Pationts to the end of Life ~ Now ded she speak to every liveing wife ~ Peti such juelss should be laid in the dust ~ Men are unwarthy & the Lord is just."
[Dau. of Daniel & Zeruiah (CANFIELD) TERRELL; m. son of William & Elizabeth (WELCH) GILLIT, Sept. 1749]
* 217. Here lyes buried ye body of Elisha GILLIT son of Mr Elisah GILLIT & Mrs Sarah his wife who died May ye 22nd A D 1750 in ye 2nd year of his age ~ "Oh happy babe so early fled away ~ From this vile earth to realms of endless day ~ What wondrous change dear hast thou known ~ Leaving thy cradle to ascend a Throne"
[Mother was Sarah, dau. of John & Keziah (CLARK) BUCKINGHAM. For this name see also JILLIT]
... 232. William JILLIT son to William & Elizabeth JILLIT aged 1 year 7 months & 11 days dec'd Oct'r ye 19th 1726
[Mother was dau. of Thomas & Elizabeth WELCH] ...
... 233. Zebulon son to William & Elizabeth JILLIT aged 1 year 7 mo Died March ____
[Bro. to #232 & #234]
... 234. Sarah dau'r to William & Elizabeth JILLIT aged 5 years 11 mo & 30 ds Died April ye 11 1746 ...
... 237. In memory of Mrs Mary the wife of Mr Jesse Lambert who died June 6th 1776 in the 80th year of her age ~ "Remember my children & friend ~ That you must die as well as I"
[Wife of #236. See #214; dau. of Eliphal & Mary (WHEELER) GILLIT] ...
... 373. Here lyes ye body of Mary Sanford wife to John Sanford aged 26 years & 19 days Dec'd July ye 29th 1744
[Dau. of Jesse & Mary (GILLET) LAMBERT; m. Sept 14, 1743, son of #371] ...
... 444 In memory of David TREAT son of Mr David & Mrs Mehetable TREAT who died Feb'y 3rd 1797 aged 2 years & 20 days ~ "Rest lovely babe thy toils are at an end ~ Returned to God, they Saviour & they friend"
[Mother was Mehetable, dau. of Joseph & Hannah (BUCKINGHAM) PLATT] ...
Most (if not all) of the above persons written as "GILLET, GILLIT, JILLIT" etc., were the kin of Rev. William GILLETTE who was instrumental in the beginnings of the Seventh Day Baptist denomination in America, who was also a resident of Milford. Various sources state that he was living in Milford in 1722, married to Elizabeth WELCH (of the above-mentioned Welch family). A great grandson of his, Abram Dunn Gillette, D.D., wrote in 1867 while researching William's Milford days, "In 1856 I visited Milford Conn. and found records in custody of the Town Clerk as follows: 'Wm. Gillette marks his gees with a slit on the outside of the left foot and the inside of the right foot.' Entry dated March 7th, 1729-30."
The above-mentioned death of Sarah, the daughter of William & Elizabeth in April 1746, gives us the presence of William & Elizabeth Gillette as spanning AT LEAST from the time of their marriage at Milford in 1722 til 1746. Some descendants of William & Elizabeth today have the tradition that he was a clergyman. Others that he was a medical doctor, and others still, that he was a blacksmith in Milford. It is not beyond possibility that he was all of those things.
More information on the family of William Gillette is available through the WILLIAM link below, as well as other links we hope you will find useful.