About a mile and a half from the city of South Norwalk, in the State of Connecticut, rises an eminence known as Roton Hill. The situation is beautiful and romantic in the extreme. Far away in the distance, glistening in the bright sunshine of an August morning, roll the green waters of Long Island Sound, bearing upon its broad bosom the numerous vessels that ply between the City of New York and the various towns and cities along the coast. The massive and luxurious steamers and the little white-winged yachts, the tall "three-masters" and the trim and gracefully-sailing schooners, are in full view. At the base of the hill runs the New York and New Haven Railroad, with its iron horse and long trains of cars, carrying their wealth of freights and armies of passengers to all points in the East, while to the left lies the town of South Norwalk—the spires of its churches rising up into the blue sky, like monuments pointing heaven-ward—and whose beautiful and capacious school-houses are filled with the bright eyes and rosy faces of the youths who receive from competent teachers the lessons that will prove so valuable in the time to come.
Various manufactories add to the wealth of the inhabitants, whose luxurious homes and bright gardens are undoubted indications of prosperity and domestic comfort. The placid river runs through the town, which, with the heavy barges lying at the wharves, the draw-bridges which span its shores, and the smaller crafts, which afford amusement to the youthful fraternity, contribute to the general picturesqueness of the scene.
The citizens, descended from good old revolutionary sires, possess the sturdy ambitions, the indomitable will and the undoubted honor of their ancestors, and, as is the case with all progressive American towns, South Norwalk boasts of its daily journal, which furnishes the latest intelligence of current events, proffers its opinions upon the important questions of the day, and, like the Sentinel of old, stands immovable and unimpeachable between the people and any attempted encroachment upon their rights.
On a beautiful, sunny day in August, 1878, there descended from the train that came puffing up to the commodious station at South Norwalk, an old man, apparently a German, accompanied by a much younger one, evidently of the same nationality. The old gentleman was not prepossessing in appearance, and seemed to be avoided by his well-dressed fellow-passengers. He was a tall, smooth-faced man about sixty years of age, but his broad shoulders and erect carriage gave evidence of an amount of physical power and strength scarcely in accord with his years. Nor was his appearance calculated to impress the observer with favor. He wore a wretched-looking coat, and upon his head a dingy, faded hat of foreign manufacture. His shoes showed frequent patches, and looked very much as though their owner had performed the duties of an amateur cobbler.