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James Douglas of Cornwall, Connecticut




The following is extracted from Historical Records of the Town of Cornwall, Connecticut by T. S. Gold, Hartford Press, 1904

Douglas house in Cornwall, Connecticut
James Douglas, one of Cornwall's earliest settlers, built this house on Cream Hill in 1750. This building, demolished in the 1950s, was for many years the oldest occupied structure in Cornwall.
One of the most active pioneers in the settlement of this town was James Douglas. He came here, in 1739, from Plainfield, Cream Hill was his lot; it received this name from the superiority of the soil and the beauty of its scenery. This name was given to it, as Town Records show, before Mr. Douglas purchased. He bought two rights of Timothy Pierce of Canterbury, an original proprietor, in 1738, for 400; also, he bought fifty acres on Cream Hill, on which his first house was built. The fifty-acre lot was purchased of Jonah Bierce of New Fairfield, who had bought it of Nathan Lyon of Fairfield, an original proprietor. James Douglas was brother of Benajah, an original proprietor in Cornwall, but who settled in North Canaan, being the ancestor of the Douglas family in that town, and great-grandfather of the distinguished senator, Stephen Arnold Douglas.

 James Douglas and his wife, whose family name was Marsh taught the first school in Cornwall, he teaching in the winter and his wife in summer. Cream Hill, before the woodman's ax was heard there, was covered with lofty trees of various kinds, the surface not being entangled with underbrush, as much of the forest in town was. Mr. Douglas was an energetic and public-spirited man.

He expended much labor in opening a mine one hundred and twenty feet in depth, for gold. Specimens of the ore were sent to Boston for analysis, from which small sums in gold were returned. But the expense of obtaining it was too great to make it a paying business. Another mine was wrought for silver, sixty feet, with like results. He is said to have wintered the first stock in town -- a horse and yoke of oxen. Heavy snows caught him unprepared. Deer were abundant; the boiled flesh made a nutritious soup for the cattle, which, with browse from the trees felled for the purpose, was their support. The horse refused both, but ate hair from the skins, and moss from the trees gathered in blankets.

Mr. Douglas, about 1748, erected a large two-story house, which, about two years after its completion, was unfortunately burned down, and he built the house now standing on the same ground, which he occupied till his death. This is supposed to be the oldest occupied house in town. Capt. Hezekiah Gold, son of Rev. Hezekiah Gold, who married Rachel Wadsworth, granddaughter of Mr. James Douglas, purchased this property about 1790, of Mr. Joseph Wadsworth, a son-in-law of Mr. Douglas. This house and farm is at present (1877) owned by T. S. Gold.

Farmers were then their own mechanics. The old tan vat, where James Douglas tanned his own leather, was but recently filled up -- on the bank of the small stream now called the "Gutter," near his house.

Mr. Douglas had three sons and four daughters. The eldest of the daughters, Sarah, married Capt. Samuel Wadsworth; the youngest, Eunice, married Mr. Joseph Wadsworth; another, Olive, married her first husband, a Mr. Johnson, and after his death, Dea. Eliakim Mallory. The other daughter, Mary (or Rachel), married a Mr. Taylor, of New Marlboro, Mass. Two sons, William and James Marsh, having sold their property on Cream Hill, removed to Vermont, where some of their descendants at present reside. James Marsh married Rhoda, sister of Judge Burnham, of Cornwall. The other son, John, died in 1763, aged fourteen.


In the old cemetery at South Cornwall, we find the tombstones of James Douglas and his wife thus inscribed:

    James Douglas, Died Aug. 18, 1785, ae. 74.
    Mortals Awake
    Your time review, think on
    Death, Eternity is near.
    Rachel, wife of James Douglas, died April 23, 1790, ae. 78.
    Life how short,
    Eternity how long.

I am indebted to Charles H. James Douglas, of Providence, R. I., author of the "Douglas Genealogy," for the ancestral record of James Douglas:

    Dea. William1 Douglas, b. 1610; m. Ann, d. of Thomas Marble, of Kingstead, Northamptonshire; landed at Cape Ann 1639-40; removed to New London 1660; d. July   25, 1683. He had five children.
    Dea. William2 Douglas, fifth child of Dea. William1, b. April 1, 1645; m. Dec. 18, 1667, Abiah, d. of William Hough, of New London, and had eight children.
    Dea. William3 Douglas, third child of Dea. William2, b. Feb. 19, 1672-3; m. Sarah Proctor, about 1695, and in 1699 removed to Plainfield. He was one of a little company who, in 1705, covenanted together and formed a little church at Plainfield, of which he was chosen first deacon. He had twelve children, of which Thomas, the eleventh, was also deacon, and settled in Voluntown (now Sterling).


James Douglas, tenth child of Dea. William3, b. May 20, 171]; d. Aug. 18, 1785, aged seventy-four.

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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024