Frisbie-Frisbee HistoryThere are fairly complete records on famous people like the Adamses and the Roosevelts, but the average American generally cannot trace their ancestry beyond their grandparents. Yet the Frisbies are an ordinary family that can be traced back for nearly 350 years in this country, and for a generation before that in England. The record of the Frisbie-Frisbee family spans the entire history of America from the first English settlements to the present day, making it one of the best-documented of the early New England families in America!
Where did our Frisbies ancestors come from?
There is ample evidence that the name Frisbie is English, and that it was taken from one of two hamlets called Frisby in county Leicestershire (pronounced Lester-sheer) in England. The first mention of Frisby as a family name appears in the records of Leicestershire for 1239. A vicar with the last name de Frysby (his first name is not known) was vicar of the church at Welham, a village about 13 miles southeast of the city of Leicester, England. He may have been identical with the Roger de Frysbey who in 1246 was curate of the church at Barkestone, ten miles north of Melson Mowbray.
In the 1300s
In the 1300’s the name Frisby appears several times in the annals of Leicestershire: Richard de Frisby was a freeman of Leicester in 1314; Robert de Frisby was a carpenter in the city in 1365; and Joh. de Friseby, a “cartwryght”, is mentioned in 1379.
In The 1400s
In 1402, a Dr. Richard de Frisby, born in Frisby, conspired against the king and was hanged for it. Richard was a monk of the Friars Minor, who were the Francisans. The nature of his treason is not disclosed, but he may have been involved in the Lol’ard movement inspired by John Wycliffe. Wycliffe was vicar of the church at Lutterworth, a few miles south of Leicester. He died in 1385 but his movement continued after him. His followers were looked upon by the church authorities as dangerous heretics and were hunted down and put to death if they refused to recant from their beliefs. There is a record that on Good Friday in 1382 the leader of the Lol’ard sect in Leicester was arrested for preaching against church practices. One member of his congregation arrested with him was the vicar of Frisby and another member (although his name has not come down to us but is possibly Richard de Frisby).
During the mid-1400’s a Thomas Frisby served as head of the priory of Charley in Charnwood Forest, to the west of Leicester. The date of his appointment is not known, but it may have been 1444, when the then prior was removed because he spent too much time in taverns and was permitting the priory buildings to fall into disrepair. Thomas resigned from Charley in 1458.
In 1464 a Thomas Frysseby (perhaps the same as the Thomas who served at Charley) appears as prior of Launde, an establishment not far from the village of Frisby. Launde had been founded in the mid-1100’s and from 1162 was granted the revenues of Frisby when it was still only a manor. Thomas continued at Luande until 1478, which was perhaps the date of his death.
In The 1600s
Mr. Frisby of Waltham was well known as a sheep breeder in the 1600’s. Waltham is a village a few miles northeast of Melton Mowbray, and this Frisby may have been the ancestor of the Thomas Frisby who died in 1719 and is buried in Waltham church. There are inscriptions there to Thomas and his wife, their son Thomas, and to a John Frisby who died in 1784. The present church records of Frisby-on-the-Wreake date from 1658 (the earlier ones have been lost) and at that time there were no persons of the name living in the parish.
In the 1900s
Within the present generation, however, a building contractor named Frisby resided in the village and owned property there, and in 1965 the lone representative of the name Frisby was an elderly maiden lady. A Mr. G. Frisby was well known as a naturalist in Leicestershire in the early 1900’s and the name is still to be found in the vicinity of Leicester and Melton Mowbray.
With the exception of Prior Thomas of Charley, all of the Frisby’s mentioned above lived inside an irregular oval extending from a point twelve miles north of Frisby-on-the-Wreake (River Wreake is a river in Leicestershire) to a point six miles south of Frisby-near-Galby (Frisby was a township in Galby parish, 8 miles ESE of Leicestershire), and as the name is found consistently in the local records from 1239, it is reasonable to assume that the family originated in this area and took its name from one of the Frisby hamlets.
What is the history of our Frisbie ancestors in America?
We are not certain of the parentage of our founding Frisbie in America, Edward Frisbie, but he may have been the son of Richard Frisbie of Clerkenwell, England.
England establishes settlements in North America
In June of 1606, King James I granted a mercantile charter to the Virginia Company of London (a group of London entrepreneurs) to establish an English settlement in the Chesapeake region of North America. That December, 104 settlers set sail from London with instructions to settle Virginia, find gold, and seek a water route to the Orient. Five months later (on May 14, 1607) the Virginia Co. settlers made landfall, establishing the Virginia colony at Jamestown. For the next 13 years the Virginia Company sent ship loads of passengers to Jamestown to produce crops, including tobacco, for sale in England.
Edward Frisbie of Branford, Connecticut 1600s
Probably orphaned at fourteen years old, Edward is the verifiable founder of our Frisbie-Frisbee family in America. In Colonial New England he would have been expected to care for himself as there were no provisions for orphans at that time and children as young as six were expected to earn their keep. With the endless work of the new settlements Edward Frisbie may have been taken charge of, and either “binded out” as a servant or apprenticed to a trade.
In 1638 the New Haven Colony coastal land was “bought” from Quinnipiac Indian leader Momauguin by Puritan religious leader John Davenport, expedition organizer Theophilus Eaton, and their followers—to found a religious experimental community based on Puritanism. Davenport and Eaton paid the Quinnipiacs “twelve coates of English trucking cloath, twelve alcumy spoons, twelve hatchetts, twelve hoes, two dozen of knives, twelve porengers, and four cases of French knives and size” for New Haven, and also agreed to protect the Quinnipiacs from the hostile neighboring Pequots and Mohawks Indians. The land was favorably situated next to a harbor suitable for building a trade route. There the colony shared hunting and fishing rights with the Quinnipiacs.
In July 7, 1644 after being driven from Virginia for being a Puritan, Edward Frisbie and a group from the town of Wethersfield, in the Connecticut Colony, settled the area of Totokett (meaning Tidal River, which they renamed Branford) on wilderness land within the New Haven Colony.
The Wethersfield Puritans arrived with all their belongings and set immediately to clearing the land, building their houses, and employing their first minister. In Connecticut Historical Collections, (pub. 1836) John Barber observed that the land of Branford was “composed of hills and valleys; the soil is strong, but cold. When quickened with manure, it yields rich crops.” The Puritan colonies in New England governed themselves for nearly 20 years, virtually without interference from England. The staunch Puritans had strict standards of behavior with which they ruled their members. Any behavior not meeting these standards was met with swift punishment. They even had a strict code of behavior for bachelors, requiring them to reside in an approved household under the supervision of the master of that house. Infidelity was dealt with in a severe manner. Puritans were not permitted to dance, play cards, sing secular songs, or consume “strong waters” to excess and were punished harshly for infractions by either a fine, whippings, or being set in stocks for public scorn and ridicule. Around 1649 Edward Frisbie married Hannah Culpepper (b.1628, last name unconfirmed) in New Haven, Connecticut.
They had eleven children: John, Edward, Samuel, Benoni, Abigail, Jonathan, Josiah, Caleb, Hannah and twins Silence and Ebenezer. All “family lines of descent” of FFFAA members originates with Edward Frisbie of Branford, and descends through one of his offspring.
(For more on Edward Frisbie of Branford see pgs.i-v, 1-23 and 862-880 in “Edward of Branford and his Descendants” Vol. I)
The “Edward Frisbie/Captain Joseph Frisbie Homestead,” Branford, Connecticut 1700s
The “Edward Frisbie homestead” also known as the “Captain Joseph Frisbie homestead” was built in 1769. This 246-year old house is one of ten 18th-century structures still surviving in the Stony Creek area of Branford, Connecticut. This Federal style two-story house with center chimney is privately owned and wonderfully preserved.
The “Edward Frisbie homestead” was most likely built by Edward Frisbie (1754-1821) the great-grandson of Edward Frisbie (1620-1690) original founder of Branford. Census records list builder Edward and his wife Jerusha Howd as the residents in 1800. Edward passed the property to his youngest child Captain Joseph Frisbie who also claimed it as his home. The 1850 and 1860 census list Captain Joseph as a boatman and a sailor. On May 16, 1985 the “Edward Frisbie homestead” also known as the “Captain Joseph Frisbie homestead” at 240 Stony Creek Road, Branford, CT was designated a National Register of Historic Places #85001058.
(This history of the “Edward Frisbie homestead” researched by Diane A. Davis with the help of Jane Bouley, Town Historian, Branford Historical Society, Branford, CT.)
The Frisbie Pie Company, Bridgeport, Connecticut 1870
In 1871, in the wake of the American Civil War, William Russell Frisbie moved from Branford, Connecticut (where his father Russell had operated a successful grist mill) to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Hired first to manage a new branch of the Olds Baking Company of New Haven, William later purchased the bakery, changing the name to the “Frisbie Pie Company.” Upon his death 29 years later, in 1903, his son Joseph Peter Frisbie took over management of the company. Under Joseph’s leadership the company grew from six routes to 250 and he opened stores in Hartford, Connecticut; Poughkeepsie, New York; and Providence, Rhode Island. Joseph, who preferred to custom-design and build his own equipment, made a pie-rimmer using the principle of the potter’s wheel, meat tenderers, a cruster that could process 80 pies a minute, and had his own power plant constructed in the building’s basement. By 1940 the bakery was churning out two hundred thousand pies a day and employing almost eight hundred workers. Joseph passed away in 1941 at the age of sixty-three. His widow, Marian Rose Frisbie, and long-time plant manager, Joseph J. Vaughn baked on until 1958. One historian believes that the company’s truck drivers were the first to toss Frisbie Pie tins, on the loading docks during their down time. The name “Frisbie’s Pies” was embossed on the tins. In the center they featured six small holes which caused the tin to “hum” as it flew. Nearby school children tossed the inverted pie plates around yelling “Frisbie” to signal the catcher to avoid being hit by the flying pie tin. This game made it to nearby college campuses, including
Yale University, where students discovered that the inverted pie tins had an airfoil shape which enabled a skilled person to thrown them in controlled trajectories.
Walter Frederick Morrison, returning home from World War II in 1948, saw that science fiction flying saucers were capturing people’s imagination. He set about designing a flying disc toy, adopting the brand new material—plastic. Initially, Morrison used a butyl stearate blend, but if you didn’t catch the brittle toy it would break into a million pieces. By 1951 Morrison had vastly improved his model and design, changed it to flexible polypropylene, and was calling it the “Pluto Platter Flyin’ Saucer.”
Rich Knerr and A.K. “Spud” Melin, fresh from the Univ. of Southern California, had just launched the toy company Wham-O when they noticed Morrison’s Flyin’ Saucers whizzing around Southern California beaches. They were interested in this exciting simple toy that employed the basic principles of physics. In late 1955, they invited Morrison to their San Gabriel factory where they made him an offer and acquired the “Pluto Platter.”
In 1957 the flying disc was introduced to the world. At first the saucers had trouble catching on. On a trip to the Ivy League campuses Knerr first heard the term “Frisbie.” Harvard students said they had been tossing around pie tins for years, and that they called it “Frisbie-ing.” Knerr liked the terms Frisbie and “Frisbie-ing,” so Wham-O adapted the name “Frisbee” to their product (changing the spelling from Frisbie to Frisbee to avoid trademark infringement). Since then over two hundred million Frisbees have been sold worldwide and have spawned an international World Class sports craze.
(This history of the “Frisbie Pie Company” researched by Diane A. Davis with the help of Dan O’Connor of Bridgeport, CT, present owner of Frisbie’s Pies, and “The Complete Book of Frisbee” by Victor A. Malafronte)
(For more on the Frisbie Pie Company, see our PUBLICATIONS section for “Frisbies in America”)
Richard Frisbie (Frisby) of Clerkenwell, England, 1600s
Richard Frisbie (Frisby) and his parents lived in Saint James, Clerkenwell an ancient parish in central London, England. His parents were most likely from Leicestershire, England, location of the Frisian village “Frisby on the Wreake.” On November 30, 1618 Richard Frisbie married Margaret Emerson in the Church of St. James in Clerkenwell, England. (Margaret, b.1597 in Folkingham, England was the daughter of Richard and Anne Emerson). Richard and Margaret’s first child Mary was born a year later, in 1619.
In February of 1620 Richard, Margaret and infant Mary joined an expedition to the Virginia settlements in North America (New England records list Richard on the manifest of the “Jonathan,” a ship of 350 tons carrying 200 passengers). Sailing from London, England on their three and a half month ocean voyage they arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, North America on May 27, 1620 (the “Jonathan” lost 25 passengers and 4 crew members during the journey). That same year their daughter Mary died, and son Edward was born. Indentured to the “Virginia Company of London,” Richard would have entered a half-share contract in which the Virginia Co. paid the cost of his passage, tools, food, clothing and a house (with the promise of receiving its title at end of his service). In exchange Richard would have agreed to labor for the Virginia Co. for seven years during which he was to receive half of what he produced and the Virginia Co. the other half. A November 1624 muster (census) of Sergeant William Barry in Elizabeth City, Virginia lists Richard Frisbie as one of his servants, giving his age as 34. (In 1619 the Jamestown plantations and developments were divided into four “cities” Charles City, Elizabeth City, Henrico City and James City. Richard probably lived and worked on the plantation of Mr. Buck Roe. With disease, the harsh living conditions, and the Virginia Co.’s unfilled promise to provide supplies and food needed for survival, settlers died in alarmingly large numbers. In 1620, the year Richard arrived in Virginia, the Virginia Co. had sent 840 new colonists of which over 600 died within that same year. By 1624, after shipping over hundreds of settlers from England and failing to produce a profit, the financially distressed Virginia Co. went into bankruptcy, with King James I withdrawing their charter. Between February and August 1625 Richard and family sailed back to London, and Clerkenwell.
Richard and Margaret had six more children, born during London’s outbreaks of the Plague. Five children lived very short lives, infant Ann dying in 1625, three-year old Richard, infant Zachary and twin Henry dying in 1629, and infant George dying in 1633.
England was a Protestant (Anglican) country, under the Church of England. A group inspired by John Calvin wanted to “purify” the Church of England of its excessive hierarchy and unnecessary ritual which they felt prevented man from communicating with God directly. These “Puritans” grew steadily in political and religious influence until in 1625 King Charles I declared Puritanism illegal, driving many followers to escape to the New World. Richard Frisbie who associated with influential Puritans, mainly the Whitaker family in Virginia, was most likely a Puritan.
Richard’s (probable*) second immigration to America with wife Margaret, son Edward aged fourteen and infant daughter Jane occurred in 1634 (at the time of the Great Puritan Migration) on the ship “Abigail” sailing for Boston (many aboard were fellow residents of Clerkenwell bound for the town of Wethersfield in the Connecticut Colony). The “Abigail” lost sixty passengers at sea during its ten week voyage from England, reaching Boston with an outbreak of smallpox aboard. Governor Winthrop of Bay Colony noted that many of the remaining passengers who were debilitated by the long journey “came sick on shore” and without adequate protection against the bitter New England weather died miserably during their first winter. Winthrop also noted “the poorer sort of people (who lay long in tents) were much afflicted with the scurvy and many died, especially at Boston and Charlestown.” Due to hard conditions on arrival, smallpox and disease upon the ship, many passengers died en route or shortly thereafter, among them were likely Richard, Margaret and infant Jane (since there is no further mention of the three in New England records). Richard’s son Peter, who remained in London, became a constable in the Clerkenwell parish (married twice and had six children). Edward presumably made a life for himself in the New World.*
*Many historians (including Frisbie researchers Nora Frisbie and Edward Selah Frisbie, p.15) have scoured land deeds, ship logs, church, marriage and death certificates and other documents to trace the histories of Richard and Edward Frisbie. Records from this period are few. All that is certain about the possible last voyage of Richard and family is that around the mid-1600s Richard, Mary and Jane Frisbie disappear from England’s records and a young Edward Frisbie appears in American records. From the fair amount of evidence historians have surmised that the family link from Richard of Clerkenwell to Edward Frisbie who settled in America are presently the strongest historical truth.
(For more on Richard Frisby of London see pgs.862-870 in “Edward of Branford and his Descendants” Vol. I)
The Edward Frisbie “Hearthstone” house, Branford, Connecticut 1700s
This original Frisbie house built c1730 still exists in Branford, Connecticut. It is 285 years old, in fine condition, and still serves as a private residence. Researchers for many years claimed that the “Hearthstone” house was built c1685 by Edward Frisbie, citing that in his will when referring to his “new dwelling house, built on the outskirts of Branford three miles east out on the old Boston Post Road” that Edward meant the “Hearthstone” house. The “Hearthstone” house has since been determined by architectural historians to have been built about 55 years later by Edward’s grandson Joseph, son of John Frisbie and Ruth (Bowers). The house passed to his son Lieutenant Timothy Frisbie (the cow house and barn are mentioned in Lieutenant Timothy’s will when he died in 1776). The house then passed to Lieutenant Timothy’s son Jonathan and his wife Peggy Plant Frisbie, according to 1790 and 1800 census records.
The house went through years of un-notable owners until the 1930s, when it became a tea room named “Hearthstone.” In the early 1940’s it stood vacant, neglected and in danger of demolition until Dr. and Mrs. John P. Riesman purchased and restored the house. In the early 1950s Olin Eli Frisbee, founder of the Frisbie-Frisbee Family Association, made a pilgrimage to Branford to visit the house. Olin commented that “Hearthstone was in sore straights (at the time of its purchase by the Riesmans) The hearthstones from which it derives its name were sagging; the floors were painted a barn red; plaster had fallen from the walls and ceilings; doors had been cut off to fit the sagging floors. The mammoth central chimney which measures about 14 feet square** in the cellar was sadly in need of repairs. Like many of these early colonial homes, Hearthstone has its ‘Indian stairway’ a narrow, secret stair reached from upstairs by removing a wall panel, and winding down about the chimney to the cellar.” Indian stairways were said to have been built for escape in case of an Indian attack, but the few Indians living in Branford in Joseph’s time were peaceful and never a threat to the settlers. At the rear of the house a one-story section had a “borning” room for births, and an extra wide “death door” to accommodate the passage of coffins into and out of the house. The floor joists that held up the rear of the house were great dense hand-hewn oak beams. The floor planks were one inch thick and ran the full length of the room. The planks were cut 12”-14” wide, tapered wider at one end and narrower at the other following the length and shape of the oak trees from which they were cut. They were then laid alternately wide end-to-narrow to make them fit. The house has an unusual cornice over the front door. The colonial windows are “twelve-over-twelve” (twelve small glass panes per sash, two sashes per window). On December 1, 1988 the New England Colonial-style “Edward Frisbie house” at 699 E. Main Street in Branford, New Haven, Connecticut entered the National Register of Historic Places #88002638.
(This history of the “Edward Frisbie house” researched by Diane A. Davis with the help of Jane Bouley, Town Historian, Branford Historical Society, Branford, CT, and Betsy Goldberg at the New Haven Museum, Whitney Library, New Haven, CT)
The Judge Gideon Frisbee house and Museum, Delhi, New York 1700s
The Frisbee House was built in 1797 in Delhi, NY at the junction of Elk Creek and the Delaware Rivers, by Judge Gideon Frisbee (1758-1828) great- great-great-grandson of Edward Frisbie, founder of Branford, CT. The son of Lieutenant Philip Frisbee, Judge Gideon moved with his parents and siblings from Branford, CT to New Canaan, NY before settling in Delaware County, NY c1788. An early pioneer to the Delaware frontier region, Judge Gideon Frisbee built a log house, sawmill, and operated a brickworks. During the first years Judge Gideon was primarily a farmer but also bought logs from landowners upstream, floating them downriver for sale in
Trenton and Philadelphia. He eventually built the prominent “Frisbee House” which in its early years was the site for several public functions. In his lifetime Judge Gideon was a Justice of the Peace, County Treasurer and Associate Judge of the Courts of Common Pleas, Captain of the militia during the Revolutionary War, tavern keeper, farmer and entrepreneur. His house served as an inn, tavern, courthouse and 1797 meeting place for the first Delaware County board of supervisors. In 1960 the 200-year-old two-story federal-style home became “The Frisbee House & Museum.” The grounds include the house (which presently houses the Delaware County Historical Association), original barns, a one-room schoolhouse and the Frisbee family cemetery. It became a designated National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 12, 1976 (76001211).
(This history of the “Judge Gideon Frisbee House” researched by Diane A. Davis with the help of Tim Duerden, Director of the Delaware County Historical Society DCHA-NY, Delhi, NY.)
(For more on the “Judge Gideon Frisbee House” visit DCHA-NY.org)
The Frisbies of Cromwell, Connecticut 1901
At the turn of the 20th-century inventors Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and others were hard at work in garages and small workshops across America creating the future! Among them were three generations of Frisbie men—Russel, Charles, and Russell Abner Frisbie—inventors and salesmen. All three Frisbie men would be closely tied with the J.&E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, manufacturers of cast-iron products and mechanical banks. The leadership, then ownership, of the J.&E. Stevens Company would be passed down through the Frisbie family as
the company grew to become the largest producer of cast-iron mechanical banks in the world. Today J.&E. Stevens banks are highly prized by collectors. Their intricate mechanisms that make whimsical characters kick pennies, shoot them from guns, and open mouths to devour them, fascinate and delight to this day!
Russel Frisbie, born in Branford, Connecticut, moved to Cromwell and joined the J&E Stevens Co. in 1866, becoming the firm’s general superintendent, designer & inventor. During this period factory buildings rapidly replaced farm fields as the Industrial Revolution roared into the 1900s. Connecticut was a major center of manufacturing in the U.S., home to firearm, watch, clock, hardware, and machine tool companies. Soon after Russel Frisbie’s arrival, John D. Hall walked into the J.&E. Stevens offices and presented plans for a mechanical bank, a new genre of product that would change everything for the company. A line of J.&E. Stevens mechanical banks were produced, of gaily painted buildings and figures full of action, as intricate mechanisms deposited coins into openings. In 1877, Russel’s son, Charles Brown Frisbie, also joined the J.&E. Stevens Company, eventually taking over as president/ treasurer. At the start of the 20th century, with the automobile industry in its infancy, Charles’s son Russell Abner Frisbie created his Frisbie “Red Devil” automobile. His Frisbie Motor Company
manufactured engines for boats, motorcycles, generators, pumps, and stationary machinery as well as precision parts for airplanes. Upon the death of his father Charles in 1935, Russell Abner Frisbie stepped into the position of president of J.&E. Stevens. He directed the company until WWII. Upon Russell Abner Frisbie’s death, he bequeathed the family home on Main St. to the Cromwell Historical Society. The Stevens-Frisbie House serves as a historic museum and headquarters for the Cromwell Historical Society.
(This history of the “Frisbies of Cromwell” researched by Diane A. Davis with the help of, Cromwell, CT.)
(For more on these three generations of Frisbies, see our PUBLICATIONS section for “Red Devils & Penny Shooters, the Frisbies of Cromwell” or click here to purchase)
(For more information on the Cromwell Historical Society visit cromwellhistory.org).
Modern Day Frisbie-Frisbees
Nora G. Frisbie stated that “It is also apparent from the printed records that Edward’s descendants were persons of integrity and great native ability.
There are no famous personalities such as Presidents and Governors in the Frisbie saga, but invariably the Frisbie men took leading roles in their communities. In the early days, they took “picky” jobs such as Town Clerk and Supervisor, which offered no historical laurels but required the trust of their neighbors.
As educational opportunities improved, Frisbies are found as doctors, lawyers, ministers, teachers and newspaper editors. More than one hundred Frisbies have registered patents with the U.S. Patent Office; more than one hundred have written books and magazine articles. Oddly enough the Frisbies as a whole are not successful as politicians. A few family members have served their State Assemblies and in the U.S. Congress, but politics require compromise, and Frisbies with definite ideas of right and wrong do not find compromise congenial. As to other characteristics, the Frisbies are stubborn. Many of the printed obituaries comment on the fact that the deceased person, once having taken a stand, was not inclined to deviate from it which is the reporter’s polite way of saying they were stubborn.
Present-day Frisbies are found in nearly all of the fifty states of the Union. One of the most surprising things to observe about them is the frequent occurrence of china-blue eyes. In genetics, blue eyes are a recessive trait, but in the Frisbie genes, they are dominant…I have observed them in descendants from all five lines from Edward of Branford.
(For more of Nora’s observations see pgs. iv-v in “Edward of Branford and his Descendants” Vol. I)