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THE original grantees of Cornwall were probably residents of Litchfield county, Connecticut. The charter granted to them was signed by Benning Wentworth, governor of New Hampshire, on the 3d day of November, 1761.
The following are their names;
Elias Reed, Thomas Chipman, Murry Lester, Samuel Lee, Josiah Heath, James Nichols, Josiah Dean, Ebenezer Fletcher, Samuel Keep, Roswell Steel, Alexander Gaston, George Nichols, William Nichols, John Judd, Timothy Brownson, Solomon Linsley, Andrew Esquire, Moses Buck, David Cowles, Moses Read the 3d, Zuriel Jacobs, William Trumbull, Stephen Benton, Sarah Nichols, Benjamin Smalley, John Willoby, Joel Reed, Joseph Williams, James Nichols, jr., Enoch Slawson, Phinehas Holdcom, Josiah Willoby, Samuel Chipman, Thomas Tuttle, Jabez Tuttle, John Skinner, Samuel Hulburd, Hannah Austin, Ruluff White, David Averill, Amos Chipman, Jabez Williams, James Smith, Andrew Brownson and John Scovill, one right; Samuel Judd, Eleanor Smith, Benjamin Woodruff, Jonah Sandford, William Reed, Nathan Benton, Abiel Linsley, John Everts, James Landon, esq., James Landon, jr., Ezekiel Landon, Thomas Landon, John Hutchinson, esq., William Ham, David Reed, David Stevens, Richard Wiberd, esq., Joseph Newmarch, esq., Samuel Beebee, Isaac Benton.
Owing to the glaring discrepancies between the town lines, as established by the charter, and a re-survey dated September 25, 1784, both of which were grossly inaccurate, a controversy arose beween Cornwall and Whiting, which in 1789 ripened into a law suit. The result being unfavorable to Cornwall, the proprietors thereof repeatedly petitioned the Legislature for a rehearing, which was probably granted. Orin Field, an early resident of Cornwall near the Whiting border, is quoted in Matthew’s History of Cornwall as substantially saying:
“The proprietors of Whiting claimed about two miles of the south part of Cornwall, i. e., as far as the north line of Daniel Scovel’s farm, extended eastward and westward to the limits of the town; while Cornwall claimed about the same breadth of territory in the north part of Whiting, and both interpreted their charters as substantiating their demands. After the litigation above described the controversy was settled by a compromise, which assigned about two-thirds of the territory to Cornwall, and the balance to Whiting.”
There was danger for a time, also, of a rupture between the inhabitants of Cornwall and Weybridge respecting that portion of Cornwall which lies north of the Middlebury and Bridport road, Weybridge being inclined to demand the entire tract. The jurisdiction of Cornwall was finally acknowledged, however, on the ground of priority in the date of its charter. In reference to this point, Judge Swift, in his History of Middlebury remarks:
“There are on record several deeds referring to ‘Weybridge Old Corner.’ It is obvious that a different line was originally recognized [claimed by Weybridge] as dividing the towns of Cornwall and Weybridge, and far enough south to include the falls in the latter town, and by persevering examination we find that it forms the division line between Foot’s mill lot and the home farm of the late Colonel Storrs. There is no record of the time and manner of altering this line, nor have I found any living man who had any knowledge of such a line. But it is probable that the change was made by the surveyor-general in 1784, when the town lines of Middlebury were surveyed and corrected. Among the records of Cornwall town meeting in November, 1787, is the following: ‘A petition from Weybridge for setting off from Cornwall to the former old line was read and rejected.”‘
The proprietors, after organizing under their charter, adopted the name of Cornwall, from a town in Litchfield county. Their early meetings were held in Salisbury, Conn. The proceedings at these meetings can be only inferred, however, as the record was burned in Connecticut in 1788. If there were, therefore, any general survey and allotments of land in the town previous to that time, all traces of the division lines were so far obliterated by the loss of the records that the settlers, while claiming under some original right, consulted their preferences respecting the location of their claims. Hence it frequently happened that lots claimed under the same right were situated in different parts of the town. These claims were denominated “pitches.” Lots were also granted to settlers who had performed some town service, such as working on the highways, irrespective of the quantity of land previously granted, a method which resulted in unavoidable confusion and controversy, some of the later claimants finding no land unoccupied, “while many of the settlers, shrewdly observing the boundaries of the pitches occupied by their neighbors, after the lapse of years found vacant lots that had escaped the notice of surveyors and claimants, which they secured for themselves simply by having them surveyed, and the survey entered upon the record.” The difficulties thus engendered were not removed for years, and undoubtedly retarded the settlement of Cornwall. The custom was not confined to this town, however, but prevailed in all or nearly all the towns in the State.