THE SEVENTEENTH REUNION
A Gala Day in Newtown – A Large
Gathering of the Boys and a Fine
Reception – The Business Meeting,
Dinner and Speeches
The 28th of August is an anniversary day with the boys of the Seventeenth, and this day is always chosen as their reunion day. Saturday was the 28th, and the fourteenth annual reunion of the regiment was held in Newtown, as handsome and hospitable place as the boys could have found.
The bulk of the regiment, together with the Wheeler and Wilson Band and the invited guests came up from Newtown on a special train, arriving at 11 a.m.Forming in line, and escorted by Custer Post, No. 46, G.A.R., Dr. W.C. Wile, commander, they marched up the dusty road to Newtown street. A halt was made here for a breath, for it was very warm, and then the line re-forming they marched down to the lower end of the street, countermarching and going to the upper end, near the park, and then back again, to the Grand Central Hotel, where a surprise awaited the boys. Mrs. George Blinn, a lady of New Haven, who is a guest of Landlord Brown, appeared on the piazza of the hotel and sang with great sweetness and power that patriotic song “The Flag of the Free.” She was loudly applauded, and the boys appreciated the compliment paid them.
Marching thence to Sanford’s Hall, the business meeting of the regiment was called to order by Lieut. A.W. Peck, the president of the association. Rev. Mr. Haulenbeck, of South Norwalk, offered prayer, and the minutes of the last meeting – Aug. 28th, 1878, in Bridgeport – were read by Secretary G.C. Peck. The treasurer’s report was also read, showing a balance in the treasury of $9.59. A motion was made and unanimously carried, that Hon. P.T. Barnum, having donated $5 to the treasury, be elected an honorary member of the association.
The election of officers for the ensuing year was then taken up amid some little excitement, and resulted as follows:
President – Captain Henry Quien, of Company C.
Vice-Presidents – Company A, Charles J. Smith; Company B, Marcus Waterbury; Company C, Theodore Morris; Company D, George W. Keeler; Company E, Charles Morgan; Company F, C.F. Loomis; Company G, W.H. Jennings; Company H, I.N. Crissy; Company I, I.L. Mead; Company K, J.H. Porter.
Secretary and Treasurer – George C. Peck, re-elected.
Executive Committee – Captain Henry Quien, ex-officio; Theodore Morris, Patrick Wade, Jr., W.A. Merritt.
After the election, Capt. Dunham and Maj. W.H. Mallory, of Bridgeport, made short addressed. The latter spoke of the publication of the history of Fairfield County, now being written, of a steel engraving of Colonel Wm. H. Noble, and a history of the regiment. The idea seemed to take with the boys, and it was voted to start a subscription paper to raise the sum needed – $100 – for that purpose. Major Mallory headed it with five dollars, and others speedily signed. The money will be raised immediately and the work be commenced.
This concluded the business meeting, and after adjournment the veterans formed in line again, and after a short march to the upper end of the street, they were led to the tables, which had been spread in a small park. Here the taste as well as the hospitality of the Newtown ladies was abundantly shown. The tables were loaded with not only the substantials, but with the delicacies. Handsome bouquets of flowers adorned the tables at frequent intervals, and the whole scene was one of pleasure and delight. The hungry veterans and their ladies immediately began the attack on the good things, and though the tables were occupied twice, and in some places three times, there was an abundance, and much food was left.
After the dinner the speeches were given. On a raised platform on the upper side of the park, were seated the speakers and the invited guests. Lieut. Peck first introduced Rev. J.P. Hoyt, pastor of the Congregational church of Newtown, who bade the boys welcome to the hospitalities of the town in an eloquent and witty speech. After relating two or three anecdotes he said there were three reasons why the veterans should honor Newtown with their presence. The first was, because they had a new depot. It cost $11,000 and was an honor to the town and to the Housatonic road. They had, or soon will have, five depots in the limits of the town, and he thought it was something to be proud of. The second reason was its historical antecedents. Newtown had a name before Bridgeport, and there is no doubt but that if Newtown had been situated where New York is, it would be a bigger place than that city. If Seaside Park, Waldamere, and the Rosedale had been located in Newtown, it would the largest place in America, and it only needed Barnum and his museum and residence, to make it renowned. The third reason was its long list of distinguished residents. He had heard that the grandfather of President Hayes used to live in Newtown, and upon inquiry he found that it was over in Branford somewhere. Then there was Lieut. A.W. Peck. He had recently married four Pecks, and he believed he was the only clergyman who could say he had married a bushel of Pecks. There was D. Camp, and, if he added the whole census list, he could show a list of distinguished citizens that Newtown was proud of. He closed by an eloquent peroration that was listened to with profound interest by all.
Hon. P.T. Barnum was the next speaker. He began by saying that the reverend gentleman’s anecdotes had reminded him of an anecdote, which he related. It is useless to try and give that anecdote here, as Mr. Barnum’s telling of it was half of the story. This anecdote reminded him of another, and so on until he had told half-a-dozen, all of them related in his peculiar manner, and setting the audience in roars of laughter. At the conclusion of his speech he said that he had been selected to perform a most agreeable duty, which was to him a very great pleasure. He spoke of the reunion of 1878, held in Bridgeport, and said that much of its success was due to the energy and labors of Mrs. Dr. L.H. Norton, and he wished to present that lady, on behalf and in the name of the Seventeenth Regiment, a set of resolutions expressive of their regard for her. He called upon Col. W.H. Noble to read the name. Col. Noble responded. They are as follows:
HDQRS. OF THE 17TH REG’T C.V.,
At a meeting of the executive committee of the above regiment, held the 28th day of August, 1878, the following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted:
WHEREAS, This fourteenth annual reunion of the Seventeenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, held this day at St. John’s Hall, Bridgeport, has been replete with the loving deeds of kind friends, and while we recognize with gratitude the efforts of all the noble ladies of Bridgeport in making this a gala day, we cannot but feel under special obligations to MRS. L.H. NORTON for her very hearty and active interest manifested in our behalf. Therefore be it
Resolved, That we hereby extend to Mrs. L.H. Norton our sincere thanks for her efforts put forth for our enjoyment, and to congratulate her upon the great success with which her labors have been crowned.
Resolved, That in her unassuming and quiet demeanor, her indomitable perseverance and determination, we recognize those sterling qualities which make the “true soldier” and the soldiers friend.
Resolved, That the foregoing preamble and resolutions be entered at length upon our records, and a copy, duly signed by the executive committee, be forwarded to Mrs. Norton.
William N. Noble,
P. Wade, Jr.,
Henry Huss , Executive Committee
Mr. Barnum then handed the resolutions, which are handsomely and appropriately framed, to Mrs. Norton, who sat on the platform, and received them with a quiet bow.
Major W.H. Mallory, of Bridgeport, was called upon to respond for Mrs. Norton. His remarks, which were too long for publication here, were both witty and eloquent. His theme was American womanhood, and he handled it nobly.
At the conclusion of his response, the following vote was passed by the veterans:
Resolved, That we tender to the citizens of Newtown our heartfelt thanks and acknowledgments for the kind reception of this our fourteenth annual reunion, and that it will ever be pleasantly remembered by those who are the recipients of that bounteous hospitality.
Hon. Sinclair Tousey then read the poem of Barbara Freitche, and Col. S.B. Sumner, on being called for read an original poem containing many happy bits and great eloquence. Rev. Mr. Hoyt then arose and paid a glowing eulogy to the memory of Sergt. Geo. B. Blakeslee, a member of the regiment recently deceased. He was followed by Rev. Mr. Haulenbeck, Col. Middlebrooks, Col. W.H. Noble, and J.A. Wilson, of Newtown, and the meeting was then dismissed.
This reunion was in all respects a most successful one. There were present over two hundred of the veterans, and a small army of friends. The ladies of Newtown, many of them summer residents, did nobly. They waited on the tables with grace and a heartiness that made the boys feel at home, and their kindnesses will ever be cherished warmly.
We had prepared a list of the decorations of Main Street, but the press of other matters prevents the publication. Most of the houses were decorated in some way, notably the Grand Central and Dick’s Hotel, which were elaborately trimmed with flags and bunting. – Danbury News, September 1, 1880