The Genesee Ghost Town
Located in North Madison and North Guilford, Connecticut
By Gary Nilson
Hidden in what is now a large watershed owned by the Regional Water Authority is a long lost settlement called the "Genesee". Evidence of the settlement remains as old cellar holes overgrown with brush and trees. More evidence of it remains in the old land records in Guilford and now Madison, Connecticut. It is a peaceful quiet area that stretches several square miles. The only access is by a permit that can be obtained from the Regional Water Authority in New Haven on 90 Sargent Drive. A local Madison resident and historian Merrit Cleaver did a lot of research on it years ago and wrote a small book on the subject. A copy of his book is at the Scranton Memorial Library in Madison for researchers to read. He made a hand drawn map of several of the locations of the cellar holes and documented who the owners were. Town folklore says that a group of settlers that assembled in Killingworth planned to move to upstate New York for more fertile lands. Shortly after starting their trip they broke an axle on one of their wagons near the Iron Stream. They couldnt fix it so they sent someone back to get someone to make repairs. During their wait for the wagon to be repaired they apparently liked the surrounding lands of North Madison and inquired about purchasing it. Several supposedly did stay and tried farming the land there. Whether this is a true account or not has never been proved but what is known is that settlers of Killingworth, Saybrook, and Guilford did buy land about the same time shortly after the Revolutionary War. Several Guilford Land Records when describing location of the property actually mention "located in the Genesee". (Guilford Land Records Vol 18:196) The land is very rocky and not the most ideal for farming. The area was called Rockland for a reason. It appears that most of the settlers moved on for better lands. There were only a few houses left at the end of the 19th century.
The area was originally part of North Guilford called the Cohabit. It was called the Cohabit because the men would live together in temporary shelters. The members of the First Society would come up to the Cohabit on Monday and clear the lands and return on Saturday. In 1703 the Society of East Guilford was formed and called the Second Society. On April 24, 1704 Captain Abraham Fowler was appointed with others to lay out the Cohabition Land. In 1705 half of the Cohabit land was finally surveyed and divided. It wasnt until November 27, 1707 that the town unamimously agreed that those having land in the Cohabit could have a home lot. Those who lived in North Guilford could have their lot to the east of Sugarloaf Hill. Those in North Bristol could have their lot on the hill at the head of the Neck River. In June 1725 the Society of North Guilford was formed called the Third Society. The Fourth Society of Guilford was formed in 1733 . The Fourth Society eventually disbanded. In 1757 the Fifth Society was formed and called North Bristol. This is were most of the Genesee settlement was located. East Guilford became Madison in 1826. North Bristol eventually became North Madison.
It is not known exactly when the area was known as the Genesee but it is mentioned in the Guilford Land records in the early 1790s. The area had settlers long before it was called the Genesee. The land was divided up into lots in the 4th Division and later divisions. Many of the original proprietors are mentioned in the land deeds as the lots were sold or handed down in their families. There original proprietors were known to the 1st and 2nd societies as radicals and not wanting to conform to the laws and religious beliefs of the time. There were several landmark legal rulings in the courts on behalf of these settlers that wanted their own society that gave them and others of the time more religious freedom. We owe these settlers gratitude for their struggles for standing up and making their voices heard in the courts. The General Assembly in 1733 permitted these settlers to have their own 4th Division "within the bounds of the 1st Division".
Edward Parks from Killingworth was one of the first recorded settlers in the Cohabit. He was admitted as a planter in May of 1671. He married Deliverance French, daughter of Thomas French in 1669. He died in 1691.
The first recorded settler in the northern part of East Guilford was a Peter Blinn. He was born in Wethersfield in 1670, son of Peter Blinn. He purchased land in Guilford in 1698. He sold his property to Abraham Bishop on 24 Dec 1741. (Guilford Land Records Vol 6:187)(NEHGS Register 143:303-324)
When officers and soldiers of the Revolutionary War returned home from service they wrote in their journals stories of unbelievable fertile lands that were available in upstate New York in an area called the Genesee Valley. They claimed that ears of corn grew to 18" in length in that area! What may have delayed the eventual move by the settlers to upstate New York were numerous legal battles over the lands in the Genesee Valley. The lands were being purchased from the local Indians and disputes were common of the legal rights to the land. There were battles between the states of New York and Massachusetts over who had jurisdiction of the land. There are still legal battles today over the rights of the local Indians that owned the land originally. The treaty of Hartford in 1786 settled the battle between New York and Massachussets and the area started to open up for settlement. Connecticut purchased 100,000 acres due west of The Triangle Tract around 1797. With offers of cheap or free land for settlement many families left Connecticut for the opportunity.
A group of settlers from East Guilford left between 1806 and 1810 for Bergen, New York. They were: Deacon Benjamin Wright, James Munger, Joarab and Wickham Field, Deacon Timothy Hill, Joel Wright, Stephen Evarts, David Evarts, Capt. Phineas Parmelee, Nathan Field, Uriah Crampton, Capt. Samuel Bassett, Sela Wright, Bela Munger, T. Wilcox, William Munger, Harvey Field, Joshua Field, Deacon Levi Ward, Deacon John Ward, Colonel W. H. Ward, Deacon Pitman Wilcox, Hamilton Wilcox, M. C. Ward, General Daniel Hurlburt.
The list of settlers from Killingworth who settled in or near Bergen, New York before 1810 were: Josiah Pierson and his five brothers Simeon, John, Philo, Linus and Russell, David Franklin and his four brothers Ishi, Sylvanus, Daniel and Reuben, Harvey Kelsey, Captain Daniel Kelsey, Uriah Kelsey, Martin Kelsey, Charles Kelsey, Josiah Buel, Jesse Griswold, Thomas Stevens, Daniel Stevens, Job Seward, Abner Hull Sr., Ebbie Hull, Roswell Parmelee, Ebenezer Parmelee, Samuel Smith, John Smith, Phineas Nettleton, Major Nathan Wilcox, Deacon Seldon, Augustus Buel, Jonathan Wright, and Calvin Seward. Between 1814-1816 there were William Gorton, William P. Munger, Alvah Stevens, and Lathrop Farnham.
I remember one house that was still standing on the beginning of the Regional Water Authority land near Genesee Lane on Race Hill Road. It was abandoned and unsafe to enter so it was torn down. It was possibly the Noah Hotchins house. Genesee Lane is a newer road and development that is located where the old Bunnel Road started and made its way to Route 79.
The above is the cellar hole of Reuben Kelseys foundation that is on Goats Lot Trail
The following is a list of locations of cellar holes and other Genesee landmarks that were taken by a handheld Garmon GPS 40 in 1993. The accuracy of GPS units has increased over the years. I listed the owner of the piece of property that was identified in the Guilford Land Records and Merrit Cleavers map in the list. There are many unknown cellar holes also:
Orren Leach foundation date 1801 .. N41 23 46.5 sec W72 39 13.9sec
Reuben Kelsey Foundation 1791 N41 23 36.5 sec W72 39 29.8sec
Stone Bridge over brook N41 23 31.0 sec W72 39 33.0sec
Obedia Tyler foundation 1790 N41 23 29.0sec W72 39 32.0sec
Noah Hotchkin foundation 1801 . N41 22 19.4sec W72 40 13.0sec
Morris Jones foundation 1786 ... .. N41 22 23.8sec W72 40 13.7sec
Jos and John Jones foundation 1803 .. ..N41 22 25.1sec W72 40 21.5sec
Old School House (Race Hill & Coopers Lot Trail) N41 22 28.5sec W72 40 20.8sec
Elijah Stevens Sr. foundation 1803 . N41 22 45.4sec W72 40 13.8sec
Elijah Stevens Jr. foundation 1797 N41 23 08.5sec W72 40 13.6sec
Noah Hill foundation 1790 .N41 23 10.1sec W72 40 08.7sec
Asher Thompson foundation 1798 ..N41 23 12.8sec W72 40 13.1sec
Ezekiel Wright foundation 1796 N41 23 25.6sec W72 40 03.8sec
Foundation probably Ezekiel Wrights barn .. N41 23 23.5sec W72 40 07.3sec
Rice Page foundation 1811 .N41 22 26.9sec W72 40 27.6sec
Abel (John?) Snow foundation 1799 . N41 22 01.8sec W72 41 34.4sec
Isaac Stone foundation 1774 ..N 41 22 09.2sec W72 39 30.5sec
Aaron Stone foundation (near axe handle mill) .N41 22 27.4 sec W72 39 03.2sec
Aaron Stone foundation .N41 22 35.4sec W72 38 51.3sec
Anson Bristol foundation 1802 ..N41 23 16.8sec W72 39 29.4sec
Genesee Saw Mill (owned by Eliphalet Lester) N41 23 18.6sec W72 39 32.9sec
Nathan Fowler foundation before 1797 .N41 23 37.6sec W72 39 56.6sec
David Thompson foundation 1796 . ..N41 23 39.5sec W72 40 13.4sec
Reuben Stevens foundation 1793 ..N41 23 49.2sec W72 40 05.7sec
Jos Stone foundation (partially destroyed R79) N 41 23 18.6sec W72 39 32.9sec
Unknown foundation (possibly Shelly) N41 23 39.7sec W72 38 53.0sec
Unknown foundation (possibly Stone) .. N41 23 50.5sec W72 38 54.2sec
Unknown foundation (north of Nathans Pond) ..N41 24 07.7sec W72 38 50.0sec
Unknown foundation (300 SE of Orren Leach) N41 23 43.7sec W72 39 09.4sec
Unknown foundation ..N41 24 04.2sec W72 39 45.4sec
Unknown foundation N41 23 46.2sec W72 40 05.1sec
R. or A. Stone foundation N41 24 30.3sec W72 39 15.1sec
J. Stevens foundation ... N41 24 01.4sec W72 40 17.2 sec
Unknown Stevens foundation .. N41 23 58.6sec W72 40 17.5sec
Unknown foundation (Grandma Hall Trail) . N41 23 54.3sec W72 40 35.2sec
Unknown foundation (Old County Road) .. N41 23 51.0sec W72 40 36.9sec
Unknown foundation (Old County Road) .N41 23 47.9sec W72 40 54.9sec
Unknown foundation (Old County Road) .. .. ..N41 23 48.7sec W72 40 56.4sec
Unknown foundation (Grandma Hall Trail) .. . N41 24 26.0sec W72 40 36.6sec
Unknown foundation (Old Bangs Road) N41 24 18.7sec W72 40 37.4sec
Unknown foundation (Goats Lot Trail) ..N41 23 05.1sec W72 41 43.6sec
Unknown foundation (Race Hill Road) ..N 41 22 12.5sec W72 42 00.7sec
Unknown foundation (east of Rt 79) ..N 41 22 46.0sec W72 38 26.3sec
Unknown foundation (east of RT79) ..N41 22 51.3sec W72 38 23.9sec
Deacon Noah Benton (Twin Bridge Road) .N41 20 49.9sec W72 40 23.9sec
FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR
Several of the settlers living in North Bristol served in the French and Indian War.
Several of the Genesee and North Guilford settlers served in the Revolutionary War. I would like to make a complete list but I am sure there might have been others that were overlooked. All of the people below owned land in and around the Genesee area of North Bristol:
1852 Map of what is generally considered the "Genesee Tract" outlined in RED
(part of the 1852 Whiteford Map for New Haven County)
(Right Click image and select View Image to view detailed image)
(Part of the 1859 Clark & Tackabury Map Showing several houses still standing.)
(Part of the 1895 Topographical Map of the area)
(Map by Charles Hubbard in the book Old Guilford showing the Genesee Country )
Foundation - Morris Jones-Noah Hotchkin
Foundation - Joseph and John L. Jones
Foundation - Obediah Tyler
Foundation Reuben Kelsey
Foundation Reuben Stevens
Foundation Noah Hotchkin
Foundation Unknown-County Road N41deg 24min 00.3sec W72deg 40min 15.3sec
Foundation Unknown-County Road N41deg 23min 59.63sec W72deg 40min 16.6sec
Foundation Unknown-County Road N41deg 23min 52.0sec W72deg 40min 34.6sec
Foundation Unknown-County Road N41deg 23min 52.6sec W72deg 40min 37.0sec
Foundation Stream with Dam near foundation-probably a saw mill near above location
Rock Covered Well Near Reuben Kelseys foundation.
Stillwater Brook (Iron Stream) on Race Hill Road.
Old Stone Bridge (under newer wooden beams) on path to Obediah Tylers Foundation off of Goat Lot Trail.
Stream coming down the hill on County Road near one of the foundations.
Possibly a stone animal pen near Obediah Tylers foundation.
SGT Morris Jones b. 1735 Saybrook, Connecticut
SGT David Thompson b. 20 Apr 1751 Guilford, Connecticut