Stonington Memoirs and Biographies: A Select List

From Historical Footnotes,May 1999

Biographic Sketch of William Chesebrough, the First White Settler of Stonington, Conn., by Amos Sheffield Chesebrough, Hartford: Case, Lockwood & Brainard, 1893. Brief account of the English-born gunsmith who settled at Wequetequock Cove in 1649.

The Life and Times of Major John Mason of Connecticut: 1600-1672, by Louis Mason. New York: Putnam's, 1935. A biography of the soldier who slaughtered the Pequots at Mystic in 1637 and was granted Mason's Island.

The Diary of Thomas Minor, Stonington, Connecticut, 1653-1684, New London: The Day Publishing Company, 1899; The Diary of Manasseh Minor of Stonington, Connecticut, 1696-1720, 1915. Terse but informative journals on seventeenth-century farming by father, who settled at Quiambaug Cove in 1653, and son. Also available in a more recent combined edition.

Once Upon Quoketaug: The Biography of a Connecticut Farm Family, 1712-1960, by Rudy J. Favretti, Storrs: Parousia Press, 1974. Story of the Williams family, which settled on Quoketaug Hill, above Old Mystic, and stayed to this day. A warm and detailed chronicle.

A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, A Native of Africa: But resident above sixty years in the United States of America. Related by Himself. New London: C. Holt, 1798. The autobiography of the famous slave who had three Stonington owners and who eventually earned his own freedom and that of his family. Also available in Five Black Lives, Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1971.

Colonel Jonathan Palmer's War Diary, Stonington, 1774-1775: including the British Attack on Long Point, August 30, 1775. Edited by Norman F. Boas. Local account of the earliest days of the Revolution.

The Way of Duty: A Woman and Her Family in Revolutionary America, by Joy Day Buel and Richard Buel, Jr. New York: W.W. Norton, 1984. Detailed, enlightening account of the life and marriage of Mary Fish, of Mystic and New Haven.

Voyages Round the World; with Selected Sketches of the Voyages to the South Seas . . . , by Edmund Fanning. New York: Collins & Hannay, 1833 (republished, 1970). Stonington captain (1769-1841) who discovered the Fanning Islands in the South Seas, and continued on around the world in the Betsey, first vessel based in New York to complete the circumnavigation.

Nathaniel Brown Palmer: An Old-Time Sailor of the Sea, by John Randolph Spears. New York: Macmillan, 1922. The famous Stonington seafarer (1799-1877) who was a captain at 19, the discoverer of Antarctica at 22, and later leading ship designer and builder. Reissued with a foreword by Norman F. Boas and a bibliography on the discovery of Antarctica.

The Mallorys of Mystic: Six Generations in American Maritime Enterprise, by James P. Baughman. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1972. Hefty account of the shipping dynasty founded by Charles Mallory (1796-1882).

That Skipper from Stonington, by Theda Kenyon. New York: Julian Messner, 1947. A fictionalized account of the life of Richard Fanning Loper (1800-1881), seaman, inventor, and entrepreneur, whose Magic was the first successful U.S. defender of the America's Cup.

The Life Story of Henry Clay Trumbull, by Philip E. Howard. Biography of a member of a talented Stonington family. Trumbull (1830-1903) was a missionary, army chaplain, and prolific writer. The section on Stonington was probably written by his sister, the local colorist Annie Trumbull Slosson.

"She Was a Sister Sailor": The Whaling Journals of Mary Brewster, 1845-1851. Edited by Joan Druett. Mystic: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1992. Refusing to let her husband vanish for years, Mary Brewster sailed with him on the Tiger, out of Stonington. This is her record of tedium, terror, and adventure.

Stonington Ice, by Joseph A. Vargas, III. Westerly: Leo F. Manfred Associates, 1976. Winning tale of an ice business, founded by two early Portuguese immigrants, Frank Sylvia and Joseph A. Vargas, in 1864 and operated by the family until 1955.

The Davis Homestead, by Lawrence Davis. Edited by Emily Lynch. Stonington Historical Society, 1986. Recollections of family life on Stonington's oldest surviving farm.

Grace Wheeler's Memories. Stonington: Pequot Press, 1948. Recollections of country life by a beloved chronicler of Stonington history, who died in 1956 at the age of 98.

Draggerman's Haul: The Personal History of a Connecticut Fishing Captain, by Ellery Thompson. New York: Viking, 1950. Republished by Book & Tackle Shop, Watch Hill, 1981. Lively tales from a noted fisherman and amateur painter.

A Life In Photography, by Rollie McKenna. New York: Knopf, 1991. Recollections of a leading photographer who lived in Stonington for years, gorgeously illustrated with her work.

The Thousand Dollar Yacht, by Anthony Bailey. New York, Macmillan, 1968. Republished by Stackpole, 1996. A saga of small-boat sailing in Stonington waters centering on the built-to-order Billy Ruffian. Illustrated by a local artist, Peter Tripp.