Devil’s Hopyard Millstone

Near Devil’s Hopyard State Park in East Haddam, CT lies a broken millstone. Local oral tradition and new archaeological study connects this colonial-era millstone with a loyalist named Abner Beebe, who suffered abuse at the hands of his patriot neighbors:

Peter Oliver’s Origins and Progress of the American Rebellion, 1781, A Tory View (ed. Douglas Adair & John A. Schutz, Stanford University Press: 1961) provides this account of the story:

“A Parish Clerk of an Episcopal Church in East Haddum in Connecticut, a Man of 70 Years of Age, was taken out of his Ben on a Cold Night & beat against his Hearth by Men who held him by his Arms & Legs. He was then laid across his Horse without his Clothes & drove to a considerable Distance in that naked Condition. His Nephew Dr. Abner Beebe, a Physician, complained of the bad Usage of his Uncle & spoke very freely in Favor of [the royal] Government, for which he was assaulted by a Mob, stripped Naked, & hot Pitch was poured upon him, which blistered his Skin. He was then carried to a Hog Sty & rubbed over with Hog’s Dung. They threw the Hog’s Dung in his Face & rammed some of it down his throat; and in that Condition exposed him to a company of Women. His House was attacked, his Windows broke, when one of his Children was sick, & a Child of his went into Distraction upon this Treatment. His Grist-Mill was broke, and Persons prevented from grinding at it, & from having any Connections with him… All the foregoing transactions were before the Battle of Lexington, when the Rebels say that the War began.”

From a letter from Col. Joseph Spencer addressed to Gov. Jonathan Trumbull, dated September 14, 1774, we learn that “[Dr. Beebe]… has been tarred and feathered on account of his Tory views…[and] considers himself to be greatly abused.” There is no record of Trumbull replying. So, we can guess that the attack on Dr. Beebe 1) took place in September 1774; and 2) this attack was at least tacitly sanctioned by the authorities.

So, how did the millstone come to rest where it lies? The July 16, 1881 edition of Connecticut Valley Advertizer (a small paper serving the Millington region of East Haddam), provides a clue: “One Beebe owned the grist mill at the top of the fall. It is said that he was a Tory, and the revolutionists broke open the mill and rolled the principal stone down the falls, where it remains to this day.”

Land records show that the Beebe family owned property in the area, which they granted to a certain Chapman in March 1774. It was later sold back to Abner Beebe in 1792, almost ten years after the conclusion of the war.

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