Killingly was settled in 1700, incorporated in 1708, the forty-second town established in Connecticut. In 1653, the second John Winthrop obtained a grant of a large tract of land formerly held by the Quinebaug Indian tribe and known as the Quinebaug (Long Pond) Country. In May 1708 the General Assembly granted the privileges of a town and defined its boundaries. The selection of a name for the town was referred to Governor Saltonstall, whose ancestral manorial possessions lay in Killanslie and Pontefract, Yorkshire, hence “Killingly,” formerly spelled Kellingly, was taken from this part of England. The early name of Killingly was Aspinock, even after the authorization of the town by the Connecticut General Assembly, and may have been taken from the Indian word “aucks” or “ock” (the place where) and the name of any early English settler, Lieutenant Aspinwall. The home of Mary Kies, first woman to receive a patent from the United States Patent Office, Killingly is also the birthplace of William Torrey Harris and Sidney Percy Marland, Jr., the 4th and 19th United States Commissioners of Education. Charles Lewis Tiffany was born and lived here before removing to New York city where, in 1837, in partnership with John B. Young, also of Killingly, he opened a stationer’s store on Broadway. That enterprise later became the noted jewelry firm Tiffany & Company. During the 1830’s, Killingly was the largest producer of cotton goods in Connecticut and a century later was the curtain capital of the world.
Ezra Chamberlin was reported "killed" at the battle of Fort Wagner on Morris Island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor on July 11, 1863. His body was never returned to his hometown in Killingly for burial. Probably his death was confirmed to his grieving parents by local boys returning home from the battle.
His father, Elisha Chamberlin, died in Killingly in Nov. 1880 and in his obituary in the Windham County Transcript of 25 Nov. 1880 it confirms that Ezra did not return home. I quote “The loss of a brave son, who was a member of the 7th C. V., in the attack on Fort Wagner, during the rebellion, his body never having been recovered.”
There is a marker with his name on it in the Old Westfield Cemetery, Danielson, Conn., but he is not buried there. He probably was buried initially on Morris Island in a mass grave, then moved to the U.S. military cemetery in Beaufort after the war.
On Apr. 27, 2001, a team of researchers who are studying the remains of the Confederate Submarine, The Hunley, announced that they had found an identification tag associated with human remains, and the tag was that of a Union soldier! The soldier was Ezra Chamberlin, who was a volunteer in the Connecticut 7th Regiment.
The H.L. Hunley was a submarine, used by the Confederate military off the coast of Charleston during the Civil War. In an attack on the Union warship Housatonic, the H.L. Hunley sank off of Charleston on Feb. 17, 1864 (Hunley), where it remained until finally recovered on Aug. 8, 2000. During the following excavation efforts (still ongoing), the ID tag of Union soldier Ezra Chamberlin was found on the Hunley-- though Chamberlin was reported to have been killed in a battle at Fort Wagner, on July 11, 1863! In fact, Chamberlin's grave can be found in northeastern CT (in a cemetery in Killingly), where his remains were to have been burried at least a year after his death.
Further facts about the circumstances of Chamberlin's death, and the presence of his dogtag on the Hunley remain to be uncovered.
Send Comments and/or questions to: Killingly Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc.