A look back: Milford's contribution to Independence

City Historian Arthur Stowe recounted the contributions Milford people made to the Revolutionary War, during a July 4 ceremony at the Milford Cemetery.

The history of Milford and the Revolutionary War is the story of Milford people and the decisions they made in difficult times, Stowe said.

In 1770, residents here had to decide if they were going to support independence — strike out with an untried form of government — or support a monarchy in existence for 1,000 years.

“Every man and woman had to make that choice,” Stowe said, before highlighting some of the Milford people who made the choice for freedom and independence.

The city historian talked about an ancestor of his, Captain Stephen Stow, who has gone down in Milford history as a martyr.

“It was Stephen Stow in 1777 who sat in the Episcopal church in Milford and heard a sermon from the minister about loyalty to the king,” Stowe said. “This so enraged him that he got up from pew number two in that church and stormed out and never returned.”

There was also Mistress Merwin, who, when the British came looking for supplies, got on her horse and rode into town and notified the militia.

“We all had these choices to make then,” Stowe said. “We all have these choices to make today.”

Stowe, as well as the Milford Fife and Drum Corps, veterans and residents, stood before the Soldiers’ Monument, as Milford’s history was discussed. The monument is a tall brownstone obelisk built in 1852 to honor 46 smallpox-infected Revolutionary War prisoners of war who died in Milford in 1777.

The infected Continental soldiers were prisoners of war, released onto a Milford beach on Jan. 1, 1777 by British forces. Two hundred men were dropped on the shore: 153 of them survived thanks to Capt. Stephen Stow and Dr. Elias Carrington, Stowe said. In caring for them, Stephen Stow contracted smallpox and died on Feb. 8, 1777 at the age of 51.

Stowe also talked about Joseph Plumb Martin, whose account of the Revolutionary War can be found in the book “Private Yankee Doodle.”

At the age of 15, Joseph Plumb Martin joined the battle for independence.

“He served throughout the Revolution,” Stowe said, “one of the few soldiers who did that. Different battles, of Monmouth, [at] Valley Forge, White Plains and so forth. He witnessed Major John André, the British spy, being taken to his execution. He was at Yorktown.

“He wrote his account as an old man around 1830, one of the first, one of only first-hand accounts of serving in the Revolution.”

Stowe said the decisions these individuals made helped shape the future.

“All these things people did were monumental at the time, done by one person,” Stowe said.

He told the gathering that Milford was a small town, with very brave and determined people.

“We owe our thanks to those people,” Stowe said.