In 1710, the town of Woodbury in the northwestern corner of Connecticut enlarged its boundaries by purchasing 18,000 acres from the Nonnewaug tribe. This parcel was known as the "North Purchase." Thirteen years later, after the land had been surveyed, it was offered for sale. It was a forest wilderness alternating with rocky or swampy areas. The first settlers arrived in 1734, settled on the heights, and began clearing the land for cultivation.
North Purchase residents had to travel to Woodbury to attend worship services, a distance of five miles by animal trails or Indian forest paths. During the winter the terrain and weather made the journey even more treacherous. Citing the danger of having to travel to Woodbury for sermons, the 14 families in North Purchase petitioned the General Court in 1738 to appoint a minister to come to the settlement and give sermons during the winter months. Two years later, the Reverend Joseph Bellamy was appointed minister of North Purchase, which he subsequently renamed Bethlehem.
1. Locate the town of Woodbury in Connecticut.
2. Note the distances between Woodbury and its three closest neighboring towns, Litchfield, Waterbury, and New Milford.
3. What geographical features would early settlers have had to cross to get to Waterbury or Litchfield from Woodbury? What geographical features would early settlers have had to cross to get to New Milford from Woodbury?
4. How would winter weather aggravate traveling conditions between these towns?
5. Do you think the North Purchase residents were justified in asking the General Court to appoint a minister? Why or why not?
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