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Rev. James Scovill

James Scovill (1732/3-1808) was born in Waterbury, probably in the “old Johnson House” on Willow Street, which had been built by his grandfather, one of the original settlers in Waterbury. When Scovill was 10, his mother died and his father married Elizabeth Brown, daughter of the first Episcopalian in Waterbury. The Scovill family, formerly Congregationalists, had probably become Episcopalians at that time. Twenty-five Waterbury families became Episcopalians following the religious revival that swept through New England in 1740.

In the 1750s, James Scovill suffered an injury that was tended by Dr. Porter. During his long recovery, Scovill studied with Rev. Southmayd, pastor of the Congregational church. Southmayd urged Scovill’s parents to send him to college. Scovill graduated from Yale in 1757. The following year, Waterbury’s St. James Episcopal parish paid for his trip to England to be ordained as a minister. Scovill returned to Waterbury two years later and began his ministry at St. James.

In 1762, Scovill married Anne Nichols, a daughter of Captain George Nichols, one of the more prominent and influential men in Waterbury. They established a home facing the Green, at the corner of North and East Main Streets, and raised nine children.

The Scovills had at least two slaves in their household: Dick and Phillis. Dick was taken captive while a boy in Africa, probably during the 1750s; it is not known when he or Phillis arrived in Waterbury. Dick lived to be either 90 or 96; he died in 1835, outliving all those who had held him as property.

The Revolutionary War was a difficult time for Rev. Scovill, who sympathized with the English. On at least one occasion, he narrowly escaped being shot as a Tory and was forced to hide out in a barn at the top of Long Hill. During this time, one of his sons was arrested for being a sympathizer, and was forced to walk to Stratford, where he was imprisoned.

Following the war, Scovill began to spend his summers in New Brunswick, finally relocating there permanently in 1788, the year Connecticut ratified the United States Constitution. Dick remained in Waterbury with Scovill’s son James and with Deacon Stephen Bronson, who lived next door.

James Scovill (1764-1825), son of Rev. Scovill, lived in the family home on the corner of East and North Main Streets, facing the Green, and was father to James Mitchell Lamson Scovill (1789-1857) and William H. Scovill (1796-1854), founders of the Scovill brass factory, which became one of the most prominent and successful companies in Waterbury. James was a large landholder, farmer and merchant. He established a wool factory on East Main Street during the War of 1812, and operated a store out of his home. The store was run by his wife Alathea.

Related Biographies

The "Old Johnson House"
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The "Old Johnson House" - c. 1890
The Johnson House was built in the 18th century by Rev. Scovill's grandfather. Illustrated in Joseph Anderson, The Town and City of Waterbury, Vol. III, 1896.

James Scovill's House
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Rev. James Scovill's House - 1835
Originally on the Green at the corner of East and North Main Streets, Scovill's house was later moved to South Main Street, where it appears in this engraving. Illustrated in John W. Barber, Connecticut Historical Collections, 1835 and identified in Joseph Anderson's The Town and City of Waterbury, Vol. II.

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