Search billions of records on






   There were no lawyers among the early settlers of Canaan, and from the appearance of all the written documents that have come into my possession not any very learned men. There was very little use for law or lawyers so long as these men were contending simply with forests and wild beasts. Disputes relative to land titles were easily adjusted by the proprietors’ committees and the surveyor with his compass. It was many years after the first arrivals before the people had need of courts of justice or of lawyers. Every man felt himself constrained to be neighborly, friendly and forbearing, because each one was dependent upon every other one for some of the comforts in their rough life. In like communities, where the 1 abor of the day was followed by the rest of the night, there was no place for the idle and dissolute either to rest or amuse themselves.

   George Harris, who followed, close upon the footsteps of Thomas Miner in 1767, was an intelligent business man with a good education. Having the interests of the new colonists greatly at heart, he exerted a wise influence over them, so that while he lived, the uneven tempers were held in subjection, and for many years there were more precautions taken against wild beasts than dishonest men. In those first years, when it was necessary to observe forms of law, in order to give binding effect to the wishes of some grantee, recourse was had to Bezaleel Woodward of Hanover, or Benjamin Wheaton of Lebanon, both of whom held commissions as justices of the peace under the king.

   About the year 1779 William Ayer, holding a commission as justice of the peace from the governor of Massachusetts, came with his wife to make his home in Canaan. Nathan Follensbee, a young friend, accompanied him; they came from Amesbury, Mass., and on their arrival were very, hopeful of their future in the new settlement. They secured lands on South