city is beautifully located on Otter Creek, at the falls on that stream,
and is seven miles from Lake Champlain. Otter Creek, at this place,
is about 500 feet wide, and, at the falls, is separated by two islands,
which form three distinct falls of thirty-seven feet. These falls produce
a great hydraulic power, rendered more valuable by being situated in the
heart of a fertile country, and on the navigable waters of the lake.
or river, between the city and the lake, is crooked, but navigable for
the largest lake vessels. During the late war [of 1812], this was an important
depot on the lake. Here was fitted out the squadron commanded by the gallant
McDonough, who met the British fleet off Plattsburgh, N.Y. on the 11th
of September 1814, and made it his.
settlement within the present limits of Vergennes was made in 1766 by Donald
M'Intosh, a native of Scotland who was in the battle of Culloden. He came
to this country with Gen. Wolfe's army, during the French war, and died
July 14, 1803, aged eighty-four years. The emigrants who subsequently located
themselves here, were principally from Massachusetts, Connecticut and the
south parts of the State."
of Vermont, Hayward, 1849.
OF THE CITY OF VERGENNES
For many years Vergennes has been waiting to see her history in
print, and the question has often been asked, Why is not the history of
Vergennes written? Most of the towns about us have one, but not Vergennes.
Even the indefatigable Miss Hemenway failed to procure one. Any one who
has attempted to gather up any fragments of her history knows that the
answers to this question are numerous. The territory of Vergennes had been
inhabited by white men twenty-two years before she had a corporate existence.
A fraction of three towns, her records were not her own, and the records
of Ferrisburgh, which gave her the largest territory of any of the three,
were burned in October, 1785. The men who made the history of Vergennes
had no leisure or inclination to write out for posterity the description
of the scenes and events that transpired here. The population of Vergennes
has been so changeable that tradition cannot do much for us, and only by
the most patient searching of the few records left can we form an idea
of her condition in the past, of her business interests, or the character
of her people; even the names of the men who did most for the founding
and settlement of our city are passing out of the memory of the present
generation. To recall some of those names and some of the scenes in which
they were actors is the most that we can do now; and we only repeat that
we cannot present a picture of their daily life in their business and social
It should be remembered that the history of Vergennes must be different
from that of a farming town. A different class of people located here.
Their pursuits and avocations were different. With only 1200 acres in her
territory, the farming interest within her limits was of small moment.
Those who expected to live by farming settled elsewhere. Manufacturers,
merchants, and professional men, with such mechanics and laborers as were
needed, composed her population. Of course, when the numerous ready-made
tools, building materials, vehicles, clothing, and other conveniences now
found in our stores had to be made by hand in mechanics' shops, a large
number of mechanics were needed; but as a class they have left but little
record of their doings or of their families.
The records of real estate conveyances and of town officers elected,
with very slight traditional recollections, form the only basis for a statement
of incidents and events in the forgotten past. A complete history of Vergennes
can never be given, because much of it is lost beyond recall. A few disconnected
facts may be gleaned, but their narration must read something like a chronological
table or a page in the dictionary.
During the French War, from 1755 to '60, many, soldiers and scouting
parties passed from the older New England States to and from Canada. There
were two routes, one up the Connecticut River and thence to Lake Memphramagog;
the other in the vicinity of Vergennes. To cross Otter Creek, over which
there were no bridges or ferries, made it desirable to find a place where
they could ford the stream, and doubtless some kind of a trail leading
to the fords was known to them, or the bearings from the mountains enabled
them to find their way through an unbroken forest of a dense and heavy
growth, with neither red man nor white man found to break this awful solitude
of nature. Noah PORTER, grandfather of George W. PORTER, of Ferrisburgh,
once said that he crossed Otter Creek, in one of those years, with a scouting
party on the rocks at the head of the falls (the deep channels have since
been blasted out), and he and his party were so impressed with the wild
and chaotic features of the scene that they spent some time in viewing
the falls. He said the west channel appeared very small and was so filled
with floodwood you would hardly notice there was any channel there; that
there were several beaver houses built on the floodwood.
The reports of soldiers aroused the love of adventure incident to
pioneer life, and an excitement was manifested in Connecticut and Massachusetts
and on the banks of the lower Hudson, to secure an interest in the cheap
lands and rich hunting grounds of the northern wilderness. In 1761 sixty
towns were chartered in Vermont. New Haven's charter bore date November
2, 1761; Panton, November 3, 1761, and Ferrisburgh, June 25, 1762. These
are the three towns from which Vergennes was taken. New Haven and Panton
were chartered to citizens of Litchfield county, Conn., and Ferrisburgh
to men of Dutchess county, N. Y.
In 1762 Deacon Ebenezer FRISBIE, of Sharon, Conn., assisted by John
CLOTHIER, Isaac PECK, and Abram JACKSON, surveyed the lines of the town
of Panton. Beginning at a walnut tree on the bank of Otter Creek (about
two rods above the west end of the bridge over Otter Creek) and running
due west to the lake; thence six miles south; thence seven miles east;
thence down Otter Creek to the place of beginning. They were paid for fifty-three
This first surveying party that was ever in Vergennes found that
the distance to the lake was less than seven miles; and it also appears
that the north line run by them was about eighteen rods south of the south
line of Ferrisburgh, leaving a strip between the two towns not covered
by any charter.
In October, 1788, the Legislature of Vermont granted to WHITELAW,
SAVAGE, and COIT the three islands near the falls, as land not heretofore
chartered. By agreement the line between Panton and Ferrisburgh was fixed
to run from the corner of New Haven just above the east end of the bridge,
and a broken cannon was placed in a cleft in the rocks to mark the spot,
and is there now, although buried out of sight.
In running six miles south they covered a large tract claimed by
Addison, and, as Addison's charter ante-dated Panton's, after a long controversy
it was settled by compromise, Addison holding the territory claimed. Probably
nothing was done in 1763 toward settlement. Ferrisburgh was also surveyed
in 1762 by Benjamin FERRISS and David FERRISS, but no settlement effected.
It appears from the proprietors' records of Panton that in 1764
James NICHOLS, Griswold BARNES, David VALLANCE, Timothy HARRIS, Joseph
WOOD, Captain Samuel ELMORE, William PATTERSON, Eliphalet SMITH, Zadock
EVEREST, Amos CHIPMAN, Samuel CHIPMAN, etc., to the number of fifteen,
did go to Panton and do some work on fifteen rights.
The statement in Swift's History of Middlebury gives from
tradition the following version, fixing the date two years later than the
record. He says that:
The romance and embellishment of this affair, which may be true,
is more interesting than the naked facts. It is said that Colonel REID
came here with a few men -- Donald MCINTOSH, a native of Scotland, who
was in the battle of Culloden, being foreman -- and took possession of
the mill; entered the house of Joshua HYDE, a settler in New Haven, just
above the falls, and took him prisoner, and crossed the creek; on landing
he managed to escape and recross in the boat of his captors, and disappeared;
that some friends of HYDE negotiated with REID, who paid for HYDE's crops,
etc., and HYDE gave him no further trouble at that time. After a few years
Ethan ALLEN and a party of Addison and Panton settlers visited the falls
and routed REID's men and put Pangborn in possession. That about one year
later Ira ALLEN was passing from his settlement on Onion River to Bennington,
and reaching the falls on a stormy evening, he thought to stay with his
old friend Pangborn. On knocking at his cabin door he was met by a stranger
with a drawn sword and threatening attitude, who, after some parleying
and explanations, admitted ALLEN and gave him a night's lodging. ALLEN
learned that Colonel REID had previously come on with a dozen Scotch immigrants,
who had been led to believe it to be a military movement, and they kept
up the regulations of a military camp, after driving off Pangborn and his
associates. In the morning ALLEN pursued his way to Bennington, but about
ten days afterward he, with one hundred men, appeared to the Scotchmen
at the falls, who found resistance to be useless and were secured while
the company under ALLEN's direction burned every hut that REID had built;
destroyed the grist-mill built by him, and broke the millstones and threw
them in pieces into the river. ALLEN then explained to REID's men how they
had been deceived, and most of them left and settled in the valley of the
Mohawk. Donald MCINTOSH and John CAMERON remained. Joshua HYDE, who had
been driven from his farm by REID, was with ALLEN's men, and doubtless
enjoyed the adventure. He had sold his farm, however, and settled in Middlebury.*
In a petition to Governor TRYON by the adherents of New York in 1772 it
is said that there were about fifteen families on Colonel REID's tract.
"Fifteen young men from Salisbury, Connecticut, and adjoining towns, started
for a home in this region, with some tools and effects in a cart drawn
by oxen. They followed Otter Creek from its source to Sutherland Falls,
cutting a way for their cart as best they could. They found no house north
of Manchester. At Sutherland's Falls they dug out a large canoe and put
in it their freight, and some of them as rowers started with it, towing
their cart behind the canoe. The rest of the party, with the oxen, went
on by land. John CHIPMAN stopped at Middlebury; the others came on, drawing
their canoe with their oxen around all the falls. Some of the party stopped
to prepare a place for permanent settlement in New Haven above the falls,
the others went on and settled on the lake shore. They all returned to
Connecticut in the fall.
"The charter required that five acres should be cleared and a house built
not less than eighteen feet square on each right within five years from
date of charter; but this was not accomplished. In accordance with a contract
made with the proprietors, Isaac PECK, Jeremiah GRISWOLD, and Daniel BARNES
began to build a saw-mill at the falls in the fall of 1764, but did not
complete it that year. In December, 1765, a bargain was made with Joseph
PANGBORN to build a good grist-mill at the falls, to do good service by
the first of May, 1767, for which he was to have a water power and fifty
acres of land adjoining, and the mill when built. It is uncertain whether
this mill was built by him, for in the summer of 1766 Colonel REID took
possession forcibly of all the property about the falls, claiming under
a New York grant all the land on Otter Creek, three miles wide from the
mouth to Sutherland's Falls. An entry in the Panton records makes it certain
that REID came in 1766, for at a meeting on the third Tuesday in November,
1766, they recite that Colonel REID had taken possession of the mill at
the falls which they had built.
"In 1769 the proprietors of Panton revoked the grant of a mill lot and
water power to the men who built the saw-mill, because they had not completed
it by the time agreed, and had allowed Colonel REID to wrest it from their
possession. In Slade's State Papers, pages 30, 31, and 33, in the copy
of Governor Tryon's letter, and answer of committee to same, signed by
Ethan ALLEN, clerk for said committee, and dated August 25, 1772, it appears
that 'more than three years previous Colonel REID took possession of the
saw-mill, one hundred and thirty sawlogs, and fourteen thousand feet of
pine boards, and did at that same time extend his force, terrors and threats
into the town of New Haven, and so terrified the inhabitants (about twelve
in number), that they left their possessions and farms to the conquerors,
and escaped with the skin of their teeth. The committee's letter
also states that 'not long after, the original proprietors of said mill
did re-enter and take possession thereof, but was a second time attacked
by Colonel REID's STEWART with a number of armed men . . . and obliged
to quit the premises again,' and the letter admits that not long previous
to the date of the letter, a small party did dispossess Colonel REID of
the saw-mill, which seems to have ended the controversy."
* It is
stated that at this time Allen built a block-house fort near the falls;
the exact location is unknown. It is certain a fort was built previous
to 1778 and called New Haven Fort.
Nothing more is found of record in regard to the falls until July
9, 1776, when Joseph PANGBORN deeded to David REMINGTON the fifty acres
given him by the proprietors of Panton. David REMINGTON was afterward convicted
of Toryism and his property taken to the use of the State, and sold by
the commissioner of confiscation to Gideon SPENCER and others. SPENCER
became the sole owner in 1786, the consideration in the deed being £500
In 1777 many inhabitants left their homes upon hearing that BURGOYNE
was coming up the lake and the Indians and Tories of his army were making
plundering excursions all along the lake shore, and when CARLETON came
with his army in 1788 nearly every settler abandoned his farm and business,
and the families scattered, some to Pittsford and the southern towns of
Vermont, and others went back to the towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts
from which they had emigrated to Vermont.
The Council of Safety sitting at Bennington on the 6th of March,
1778, issued a letter of instructions to Captain Ebenezer ALLEN to raise
a sufficient number of men and proceed to New Haven Fort, where he was
to take post and send out scouts to reconnoitre the woods to watch the
movements of the enemy and report them to this council or the officer commanding
the Northern Department (probably at Rutland). They say, "as there are
some few inhabitants north of the fort, should you judge them to be disaffected
to the interest of the United States of America, you will confine him or
them and secure his or their estate for the use of this State until such
person or persons may be tried by a Committee of Safety next adjacent to
the offender, etc."
Under date of March 19, 1778, a letter of Governor and Council,
ratified by General Assembly, to Captain Thomas SAWYER, at Shelburne, congratulates
him on his victory, laments the loss of Lieutenant BARNUM and men, [Lieutenant
Barnabas Barnum, of Monkton, who was surprised by a party of Indians and
British soldiers, and killed.] and says: "Viewing your dangerous and
remote situation, the difficulty in reinforcing and supplying you, do therefore
direct you to retreat to the blockhouse in New Haven. Bring with you the
friendly inhabitants. You are not to destroy any building, wheat or the
effects. You will remain at said blockhouse until relieved by Captain Ebenezer
ALLEN or Captain Isaac CLARK."
A letter to these captains directs them to repair to his relief
without loss of time; to assist the inhabitants, and, if possible, to secure
the wheat at Shelburne, and such other effects as in their power, but not
to burn any buildings or other effects.
On May 22 following, Governor CHITTENDEN writes to Captain BROWNSON
that David BRADLEY, in behalf of the inhabitants of New Haven and Ferrisburgh,
applies to this Council for liberty for their inhabitants to remain in
their possessions at present, as by reason of the situation of some of
the women it was impracticable for them to remove. He was directed to allow
such indulgence as necessity required.
In March, 1779, the line of the northern frontier was established
at the north line of Castleton and the west and north lines of Pittsford,
and all the inhabitants north of said line were directed and ordered to
immediately move with their families and effects within said lines, and
that the women and children go even farther south, and the men work on
their farms in "collective bodies with their arms."
It is generally supposed that no inhabitants remained in the territory
that is now Vergennes, from the fall of 1778 till peace was declared in
1783, when they began to return to their farms.
It was probably in the fall of 1778 that Eli ROBURDS and his son
Durand were taken prisoners and carried from their farm (lying between
G. F. O. KIMBALL's and Willard BRISTOL's, and extending back to the Beaver
Meadow) by a band of Indians, Tories, and British soldiers, and imprisoned
for three years or more. It is said that they were exchanged; that while
prisoners they were sent under guard to labor, but that Eli refused to
work for the British, and was so free in his remarks on the subject that
he was not allowed to leave as soon as his son.
Writers have pictured the sufferings of the prisoners thus taken
from their peaceful homes to endure the hardships of a British prison;
but we should not forget the sad condition of their wives and small children,
helplessly witnessing their husbands and elder sons forced away from them,
while their houses were burning and everything they had that was of value
being carried off by the plunderers. A more pitiful sight, indeed, it must
have been to see those stricken mothers carrying their infants and leading
other children, with scat clothing or food, through the woods on foot,
to the southern towns in Vermont! Knowing how dark the future and how sad
the present, their courage and fortitude seem almost without a parallel
After a few more years of war and suffering, the struggles of a
people few in numbers and weak in resources, against the power and wealth
of Great Britain, brought triumph and peace, a result that can be explained
by only one word -- providence. With returning peace the attention of the
people was again turned to their personal interests; and as the obstacles
to the settlement of their forsaken farms were removed they began, in 1783,
to return to the new settlements.
In May, 1783, the Panton proprietors met at the inn of Captain WILLARD,
in Pawlet, and, among other things, voted "to sequester ten acres of land,
together with the privilege of the falls on Otter Creek, for mill building,
to John STRONG, lying at the northeast corner of Panton, on condition said
STRONG build a good saw-mill at the above mentioned place by the 20 of
November, 1783, and a good grist-mill by the 20 of August, 1784, that shall
run at the times above mentioned," etc. Evidently the old mills had been
destroyed at this time. Spencer's lot (that was formerly given to Pangborn)
of fifty acres and STRONG's ten acres had not been marked out, and in 1786
it was arranged between them, Spencer taking the west part up to within
seven rods five links of the bridge, and Strong taking his ten acres above
In March, 1784, Asa STRONG, eldest son of John STRONG, of Addison,
Beebe PANGBORN, and Elkanah BRUSH lived near the falls on the west side.
Asa STRONG's house was where the south end of the Shade Roller Company's
dry house is. In this year it is said that Gideon SPENCER, then living
in Bennington, built a saw-mill, and in 1785 built a grist-mill near the
middle of the channel, between the island and the west shore. All above
the mill, up to the landing above the Shade Roller Company's factory, was
filled with floodwood, a part of which they had to cut out to get water
for the mill. In the summer of 1784 some fourteen families settled in Willsboro,
N. Y., on the patent of Wm. Gilliland, and got the lumber for the buildings
at Vergennes. Donald MCLNTOSH, who had been in Canada through the war,
returned to his farm on Comfort Hill about this time.
In October of this year Ethan ALLEN, of Bennington, deeds to Alexander
and William BRUSH, of New Haven, six acres of the governor's lot of five
hundred acres, in the northwest corner of New Haven, of which Allen had
become the owner. Judge ROBERTS's present home is near the corner of the
In 1785, while New Haven retained all her territory extending to
the head of the falls, the Legislature imposed a tax on New Haven to build
one-half of the bridge over Otter Creek at the head of the falls, and the
next spring the proprietors of New Haven, in public meeting called for
that purpose --
1st, Chose Luther EVERTS moderator;
2d, Voted that there be a tax of one penny on each acre of land in New
Haven, for the purpose of building a bridge across Otter Creek near the
3d, Chose Andrew BARTON collector;
4th, Luther EVERTS, treasurer;
5th, Eli ROBURDS and William BRUSH a committee to oversee the building
of bridge aforementioned;
6th, Chose Bezaliel RUDD, William ENO, and Robert WOOD committee of inspection;
7th, Voted every common laborer should have four shillings and six pence
per day, and a yoke of oxen, 2 shillings 6 pence;
8th, Voted the Committee purchase a Barrel of Rum, and more if needed for
9th, Voted that every man have 1/2 pint of Rum per day;
10th, Voted, that the Committee purchase a Grindstone for the benefit of
1785 -- Ethan Allen deeds to Widow Ruth BRUSH
seven acres from the northwest corner of the governor's lot, running from
the bridge in the direction of the present plank road (so called) and then
to the creek.
In October of this year the Legislature passed an act establishing
the county of Addison from Rutland county to the Canada line, which boundaries
were changed to nearly the present limits when Chittenden county was organized,
in 1787. County officers were appointed in 1785 for Addison county, William
BRUSH being one of the judges.
Timothy ROGERS, of Danby, Vt., a large landholder, came into this
vicinity this year. He moved in October from Button Bay to near Barnum's
Falls, on Little Otter Creek. He was proprietors' clerk of Ferrisburgh;
at the time of removing, the records of Ferrisburgh were burned. He said
that he landed from his boat at the foot of the falls on a rainy evening
and attempted to build a fire that they might light torches to guide the
women and children to his house, but the rain put out the fire, as they
supposed. He carried his goods out of the boat and left them on the shore
for the night. In the morning his men told him, what proved too true, that
the fire had not been put out, but had revived and spread, and burned some
of his effects--among them a chest of drawers in which were all the records
and public papers, as well as his private deeds for about 6,000 acres of
land, and notes and bonds for about $2,000.
On the 30th of May in this year Ethan ALLEN was in New York city,
and conversed with the French consul about a city that was to be incorporated
about the falls. This was more than three years before the date of the
charter, and is the earliest allusion to the project. At that time there
could not have been twenty families on the territory.
1786 -- Gideon SPENCER, of Bennington, who
had already built mills on the falls, moved to Vergennes and became identified
with the interests of the place, and an active and successful operator.
The records show that he was engaged in building and running mills and
iron works, buying and selling water power, and timber, and farming lands.
He was evidently a far-seeing and sagacious man. Unfortunately for Vergennes,
he encumbered most of the water power on the west side of the creek with
a long lease, which is still in force. He had several sons, who became
men of property and influence in the vicinity. His son Gideon, jr., lived
on the farm and built the brick house afterward owned by Samuel P. STRONG,
and then by Samuel P. HOPKINS. Soon after he came to Vergennes he built
a large gambrel-roofed house on the east corner of Andrew CRADY's present
house lot, and kept a tavern. A fine spring of water in the street in front
of his house supplied the neighborhood, until the supply was cut off by
digging wells and cellars in the vicinity.
In December of this year the town plot of Ferrisburgh was surveyed
by Timothy ROGERS, surveyor, and a committee appointed for the purpose,
consisting of Abel THOMPSON, Gideon SPENCER, Wm. UTLEY, and Wm. HAIGHT.
They surveyed lots enough in the most desirable locations to give one to
each proprietor, five rods by six rods; then a second division of the same
number of the next most desirable lots; then all the remainder in a third
division. The "green" and public lots were designated, and the principal
streets. There was a small triangular piece above and near the bridge which
they called the "handkerchief lot," " for a gift of s'd Proprietors to
any man that will settle and continue the malting business on s'd lot two
years, to the advantage of himself and the public." Major Wm. GOODRICH
accepted it and afterwards deeded it with the stills, worms, tubs, etc.
The first session of Addison County Court was held in March of this
year, in Addison; John STRONG, chief judge; Ira ALLEN, Gamaliel PAINTER,
Wm. BRUSH, and Amos FASSETT, assistant judges. Samuel CHIPMAN, then living
near the falls, was appointed county clerk. He was the first lawyer that
settled in Addison county, and remained in Vergennes about eighteen years,
with fair success as a lawyer; but his forte seems to have been speculating
in real estate. He declined serving as clerk after one year, and Roswell
HOPKINS (grandfather of our present Dr. HOPKINS) was appointed and held
the office sixteen years, all of which time he was a citizen of Vergennes
and conspicuous in public affairs in town, county, and State. He was clerk
of the House of Representatives from 1779 nine years; he was secretary
of State fifteen years, and declined further nomination in 1802, when about
to remove from the State. He was one of a committee of distinguished men
to revise the laws in 1797. He was a man of fine talent, well educated,
and possessed of most agreeable social qualities; he became one of the
most popular men in the State.
The following lines, written by him, are found on a blank leaf of
a book in the county clerk's office:
friends, some deference is due,
every man, both me and you;
this respect in due proportion
to every man as is his station.
of Vergennes, am alderman;
more, a common councilman.
the office of county clerk I am put
clerk of the County Court to boot;
State I'm also secretary,
justice, too, which none will query.
more respect to me due, then
almost any other man.
titles numerous and great,
on me here and through the State.
careful, then, due deference show,
here and where'er else I go.
He was called "doctor" sometimes. He explains it as "doctor of conviviality."
In 1787 he was granted by the State a tract of land, 11,264 acres, in Hopkins's
Gore. In 1803 he thought Vergennes was becoming too crowded, and he moved
to St. Lawrence county. The town of Hopkinton was named in his honor. In
1789 he bought for a trifle two hundred acres of land (what was lately
the American House stands almost in the center of the south line of the
lot), and later owned the BOTSFORD farm and occupied a house near the site
of Botsford's house.
1787 -- In this year several business men came
into Vergennes and business was prosperous. The Legislature took some measures
to secure reciprocity with Canada, and Ira and Levi Allen were instrumental
in procuring the admission of timber, lumber, pot and pearl ashes, and
other products free of duty from Lake Champlain, and thus opened the way
for a business which assumed large proportions, and was a great boon to
all dwellers in this region. Great rafts of spars, square timber hewed
in the woods, were taken to Quebec, and much of it there loaded into ships
and taken to England. The ships in that trade were constructed with port-holes
in the stern, and long timbers were slid from the rafts into the holds
of the vessels. The raftsmen lived in houses built on the rafts. Potash
was also carried on the rafts.
In January of this year at a town meeting in Panton they voted that
"they are not willing to have no part of the town taken off for a city
at the northeast corner of the town." In February of this year Wm. BRUSH
resigned his office of assistant judge. Roswell HOPKINS was appointed county
clerk and Seth STORRS State's attorney.
At the session of the Governor and Council at Bennington, Ethan
ALLEN presents his letters from the French consul relative to the name
"Vergennes," and other matters. The plan of forming a city about the falls
had become publicly known at this time.
1788 -- This year was an important era in the
history of Vergennes. It is perhaps impossible to give a faithful picture
of her situation and business at that time. Several saw-mills and one gristmill
were in operation, a small forge on the east side of the creek and some
small potash establishments, a brewery, and blacksmith shops. There were
a few framed houses, mostly gambrel-roofed, the frames covered with upright
planks, nailed with handmade wrought nails and clapboarded, but seldom
painted. Most of the dwellings were of logs surrounded by the stumps and
small clearings, with the forest in close proximity. One hundred and fifty
to one hundred and seventy-five inhabitants were on the territory.
In June of this year Jabez FITCH, a man then fifty-one years old,
with two sons, went from Connecticut to Hyde Park, Vt., and passed through
Vergennes. In a journal kept by him he writes, under date of June 5, 1788:
little after sunset we arrived at one SMITH's, a little north of Snake
Mountain, where we put up for the night and found comfortable entertainment.
We are now within about six or seven miles of New Haven falls. I lodged
with one SAMSON, a Tory, but hope I have not caught the infection. Friday,
June 6, we took breakfast before we started and our landlord went with
us as far as the falls. We soon came into the town of Panton and traveled
about five miles through the woods before we came to a house. At about
nine o'clock we arrived at the falls and crossed the creek in a canoe,
but our horse and dog were obliged to swim. We made some stop at this city.
I was in at Colonel BRUSH's to leave some letters and at about ten set
off on our way again. We soon came into the town of Ferrisburgh and found
the road extremely muddy. We called at one Tim ROGERS', about noon in hopes
to obtain horse-baiting, but were disappointed and were obliged to travel
about five or six miles further, most of the way without a house. About
two o'clock we arrived at one COGSWELL's in Charlotte."
It is not clear why he had to swim his horse and dog; perhaps the
bridge built in 1786 was out of repair. There was no post-office in Vergennes
at that time and none nearer than Rutland. Before the Congress of the old
thirteen States would admit Vermont into the Union, Vermont had in her
splendid career as an independent State sovereignty, in March, 1784, appointed
a postmaster-general (Anthony HASWELL, of Bennington) and established five
post-offices--one in Bennington, one in Rutland, one in Brattleboro, one
in Windsor, and one in Newbury, and established the rate of postage to
be the same as it was in the United States, and provided for post-riders
to make weekly trips; and the people congratulated themselves on their
liberal mail facilities. The next year after the admission of Vermont into
the Union Congress established a post-office in Vergennes on June 1, 1792.
On the records of the Governor and Council at Manchester, October 23, 1788,
the following entry appears: "A constitution of the city De Vergennes having
passed the general assembly was read and concurred with two amendments,
which was agreed to," and, October 24, "an act granting the city of De
Vergennes town privileges having passed the General Assembly, was read
and concurred." This was an act permitting Vergennes to organize as the
towns about her did, with selectmen men, etc., for four years (afterward
extended to six years) before electing city officers.
The misnomer in the record quoted above was the error of the scribe.
The Legislature was sitting at the time at Manchester and consisted o Governor
Thomas CHITTENDEN, twelve councilors, and eighty-four members. Gideon SPENCER
was a member from Panton, Alexander BRUSH from New Haven, and Abel THOMPSON
from Ferrisburgh. The act of incorporation received Governor CHITTENDEN's
approval the day it was passed, in which the corporate name is, "the Mayor,
Aldermen, Common Council and Freemen of the City of Vergennes." Thus Vergennes,
with and because of her splendid water power and commanding situation,
regardless of her small population, became a city--the third in New England
in point of time, Hartford and New Haven having been chartered in I784.
The origin of the name given to the city is explained in a correspondence
between Ethan ALLEN and the French consul, Hector ST. JOHN DE CREVECOUR,
a French nobleman who had been educated in England and came to America
in 1754 and settled on a farm near New York city. In 1780 he went to Europe,
and in 1783 returned to New York as consul for France. He then became acquainted
with Ethan ALLEN, to whom he writes from New York, under date of May 31,
1785, a long letter in which he suggests the idea of Vermont showing her
gratitude to the French patriots of the Revolutionary War by naming some
new towns after distinguished Frenchmen, and says: "I would propose that
the town to be laid out on the first fall of Otter Creek be called the
town of Vergennes or Vergennesburgh; this in honor of the Count DE VERGENNES,
French minister for foreign affairs.” In a letter from France a few
months later he alludes to the name of Vergennes again. On the 2d of March,
1786, ALLEN wrote to St. John from Bennington that the Governor and part
of the Council met at Bennington to consult about the various propositions
of St. John and were well pleased with them. The council concluded to recommend
to the Legislature that "on the land contiguous to the first falls on Otter
Creek they would incorporate a city with certain privileges and infranchisements
and have already named it De Vergennes, to perpetuate the memory of your
prime minister in America to all eternity."
In September, 1788, the following bond was executed in Vergennes,
but no record appears of its enforcement:
"Land owners in Vergennes.--Bond for a twentieth part of their lands in
"Know all men by these presents.--That we, the persons hereunto subscribing
land owners in the district prayed to be corporated as the mayor, aldermen
and corporation of the city of Vergennes, to be set off from part of the
towns of Ferrisburgh, New Haven and Panton, do each of us separately bind
ourselves in the penal sum of one hundred pounds lawful money of the State
of Vermont, to the treasurer of said State, and his successor in said office,
to be paid within two years after the district above prayed for shall be
corporated by the Legislature of the State of Vermont, for the true payment
which sum we, the persons subscribing and ensealing these presents, do
each of us separately bind ourselves, our and each of our heirs, executors
and administrators, firmly by these presents. Sealed with our seals and
dated this twenty-ninth day of September, A. D. 1788.
"The condition of the above obligation is such that if the persons above
obligated shall well and truly make and execute good and sufficient deeds
of conveyance of one-twentieth part of the lands they each separately own
in the district above prayed to be established, as above, to the corporation
of said city of Vergennes within two years after the same shall be legally
appointed and established by the Legislature aforesaid for the sole use
and benefit of said corporation so long as they may or shall legally exist
as a corporation aforesaid, to be put to such use or uses as said corporation
may from time to time direct, then this obligation to be void and of no
effect. But if any person or persons obligating as above shall refuse or
neglect to make out such deed of conveyance, then this obligation to be
and remain in full force and virtue on such obligator or obligators respectively
and separately; which sums when collected by the treasurer of the State
of Vermont aforesaid, after deducting all needful expenses which may accrue,
shall by said treasurer be transmitted to the corporation aforesaid to
be for the sole use and benefit of the corporation forever. And it is hereby
provided that the lands given shall be at the option of the giver to say
where and the value shall be appraised by the corporation.
"William BRUSH, L. S.; Eli ROBURDS, L. S.; Alexander BRUSH, L. S.; Timothy
ROGERS, L. S.; Charles SPENCER, L. S.; Ebenezer MANN, L. S.; Jacob KLUM,
L. S.; William HAIGHT, L. S.; Solomon BEECHER, L. S.; Jared PAYNE, L. S.;
Abel THOMPSON, L. S.; Gideon SPENCER, L. S.; Sam'l WOOD, L. S.; Roswell
HOPKINS, L. S.; Jabez G. FITCH, L. S.; Richard BURLING, L. S.; Sam'l CHIPMAN,
L. S.; Israel WEST, L. S.; David BRYDIA, L. S.; William GOODRICH, L. S.;
Jon'thn SEXTON, L. S.; Donald MCINTOSH, L. S.; Wm. UTLEY, jr., L. S.; Asa
STRONG, L. S.; Ebenezer RANSOM, L. S."
The limits of Vergennes by the first act of incorporation were fixed
as follows: Beginning on the line of Ferrisburgh and New Haven at the southeast
corner of the town plot in said Ferrisburgh; from thence running north
320 rods to a stake and stones; thence west 400 rods to stake and stones;
from thence south across Otter Creek 480 rods to stake and stones in Panton;
from thence east across Otter Creek 400 rods to stake and stones; from
thence north 160 rods to bounds first mentioned, comprising 1,200 acres
of land and water; about 655 acres from Ferrisburgh, 300 acres from Panton,
and 245 acres from New Haven.
November 1, 1791, a large tract was taken from the remainder of
New Haven and annexed to Vergennes; but in October, 1796, this last act
of annexation was repealed and the tract annexed in 1791 was now formed
into a distinct town by the name of Waltham. The freemen of Waltham, however,
at that time were not allowed a representation in the Legislature, and
were directed to meet with the freemen of Vergennes in said city for election
of State officers and representatives. They were first allowed a representative
in 1824. In 1788 David BRYDIA, who lived at the mouth of Otter Creek (Fort
Cassin), sold to Nathaniel STEVENSON for $10 lot No. 45 (A. T. SMITH's
house lot), and STEVENSON soon built a large gambrel-roofed house on the
Alexander BRUSH deeds to Stephen R. BRADLEY, of Westminster, for
$20 the lot where Amos WETHERBEE now lives.
1789 -- George BOWNE, a merchant of New York city, buys the falls
on the east side, with ten acres, at a tax sale, for ten shillings and
two pence. In October, 1789, Rogers deeds one-half of the same to Jabez
G. FITCH, with all the mills, buildings, iron works, and privileges of
falls for £800--$2,666. Jabez FITCH also bought of Rogers lots 13
and 14 (Methodist Church lot and part of the Franklin house lot).
Jabez G. FITCH, who came to Vergennes in 1788 or '89, was one of
a large and enterprising family in the vicinity of Norwich, Conn. He quickly
engaged in active business in Vergennes and bought real estate largely;
was engaged in the Quebec trade in lumber and potash. He was a live Yankee,
capable of doing any kind of business; could build a saw-mill or make an
elegant clockcase, as he did for Thomas ROBINSON, and which now stands
in the town clerk's office in Ferrisburgh. He was not, however, a cautious
man; his business was extended and he became embarrassed. In his latter
days he was poor, and somewhere about 1820 his body was found in the creek
at the foot of the falls. It was supposed that he fell from the bridge,
the only railing of which was a square timber on the sides.
In 1790 the following return was made by James ATLEE, deputy sheriff,
on a writ against Jabez G. FITCH, in favor of John, Frederick, and Samuel
DE MONTMELLIN, merchants in Quebec:
"I attached the following property: one dwelling house, the residence of
said Jabez, with the lots numbers 13 and 14 (Methodist Church and Franklin
House lots), one storehouse on lot number 8 (where the probate office now
is), with two other lots adjoining; one dwelling house, the residence of
SPINKS, bloomer; one frame barn, two sorrel horses, one eight the other
nine years old, with one gray horse seven years old, with two yoke of oxen,
three brown and one black, two potash kettles with the house thereto belonging
with 1000 bushels of ashes; one forge with every implement necessary for
carrying on the same in said forge and apparatus thereto belonging, one
coal-house, one blacksmith shop, one dwelling house, the residence of Woodbridge,
one grist-mill with all the mill work therein complete, five sawmills with
the buildings belonging to the same, one fulling-mill, with the falls,
dams, flumes and conveyances thereto belonging; likewise all the lots said
buildings stand on, the whole situated in Vergennes, the property of the
within named Jabez G. FITCH."
In the charter of Vergennes the time of the first meeting for the
election of city officers was fixed to be in July, 1792 (afterwards extended
two years), and an act passed empowering the people to adopt a town organization
and elect town officers, as towns in the State did, until the time arrived
electing city officers.
Under this act on the 2d of March, 1789, William BRUSH, justice
of the peace, signs a warning for all the inhabitants that live within
the limits of the city of Vergennes to meet at the dwelling house of William
Brush, to elect officers, etc. At this meeting, on the 12th of March, it
being the first town meeting ever held in Vergennes, William BRUSH was
chosen moderator; Samuel CHIPMAN, town clerk; Dr. Ebenezer MANN, Richard
BURLIN, Colonel Alexander BRUSH, selectmen; William BRUSH, treasurer; Captain
Durand ROBURDS, constable; Timothy ROGERS, Samuel CHIPMAN, jr., Jabez G.
FITCH, listers; Eli ROBURDS, leather sealer and grand juror; William GOODRICH,
Ebenezer RANSOM, surveyors of highways; Asa STRONG, poundkeeper; Jacob
KLUM and William HAIGHT, with some of the above named, petit jurors.
The grand list of 1789 contained thirty-three names, three of them
nonresidents, showing thirty resident citizens. The names not previously
mentioned as elected to office were Gideon SPENCER, Ambrose EVARTS, David
ADAMS, Donald MCINTOSH, William UTLEY, Benjamin GANSON, Charles SPOOR,
Ebenezer HUNTINGTON, John HACKSTAFF, Israel WEST, Job SPINKS, Solomon BEECHER,
Aaron BRISTOL, Josiah HIGGINS, Jacob SMITH, Roswell HOPKINS, Nathaniel
1790 -- This year thirteen new names are added
to the grand list; those most prominent are Azariah PAINTER, James ATLEE,
Robert LEWIS, Albon MANN, Jonathan SPENCER, David BRYDIA.
In 1791 are added Samuel DAVIS, Abram BALDWIN, Thomas TOUSEY, Enoch
WOODBRIDGE, John W. GREEN, Roger HIGBY, Timothy GOODRICH, and others. The
list now contains fifty-seven names. The list of 1792 is not found, but
in the list of 1793 the names of Thomas BYRD, Justus BELLAMY, Stevenson
PALMER, Thomas ROBINSON, Jacob REDINGTON, Josias SMITH, and Azariah TOUSEY
are found; and in the list of 1794 the names of Jesse HOLLISTER, Benjamin
G. ROGERS, and Samuel STRONG appear, and Job HOISINGTON, who bought the
late Philo BRISTOL place of Josias SMITH for £25. Until 1797 the
residents in what is now Waltham are included. In 1797, after Waltham had
been separated from Vergennes, seventy-three names appear. After Vermont
was admitted to the Union in 1791 a census was taken by the government,
and the result gives 201 inhabitants. Taking the lists as a basis of calculation,
in 1797 there were 360 inhabitants. By the census of 1800 the population
In June, 1794, the Rev. Daniel C. SAUNDERS was settled in the city
as a minister of the gospel. He lived in a large framed house just west
of judge ROBERTS's homestead, until August, 1799, when he was dismissed
to become the first president of the University of Vermont. He writes in
May, 1795, in speaking of Vergennes: "Where so lately was the foot of the
savage, there is now the church and the altar. Divine goodness has caused
the wilderness to blossom as the rose. Future successive ages may have
a laudable curiosity to know the history of the beginning of this particular
church of Christ first established in the infant city of Vergennes. To
gratify them the following remarks are submitted to the eye of the candid
and the inquisitive:
"The population of the place was rapid, beyond the most sanguine calculations.
In a very few years they had members to make a respectable congregation.
Circumstances obvious in a new, uncultivated country prevented them from
having any regular preaching of the Word for some time. In the year 1790
they procured a regular candidate for a short period. They had little regular
preaching till the year 1792, in the month of May, when a candidate, Mr.
Daniel Clark SAUNDERS, A.M., educated in the University of Cambridge, New
England, came among them and continued several months. In the fall of 1793
he again received an invitation to settle in the gospel ministry, with
which he at length complied."
A regular church was organized September 17, 1793, by Rev. Cotton
Mather SMITH, of Sharon, Conn., who had been sent as a missionary to the
infant settlements of Vermont.
The learned doctor's idea of rapid settlement would hardly satisfy
a modern man in the present age, and possibly the doctor's successors might
not like the way preaching was paid for in his day, if we may judge from
the following vote passed in town meeting March 28, 1792:
"Voted to raise the sum of thirty pounds on the list of the year 1792,
one-fifth part in cash, the remainder in cattle or grain at the market
price, to be expended in hiring preaching the ensuing Summer."
In June of the same year Enoch WOODBRIDGE, Roswell HOPKINS, and
Samuel CHIPMAN, jr., were chosen a committee "to wait on the committee
appointed to come into Addison County to set a stake for county buildings,"
and voted, "that if established in Vergennes the buildings shall be erected
free from expense to the County."
But very few of the men who were active business men before the
election of city officers in July, 1794, have descendants or relatives
in Vergennes at present. They planned and toiled in clearing and improving
Vergennes and increasing her resources; but most of them have passed out
of the memory of all survivors, and tradition retains but faint images
of them. That they were bold and energetic men is certain; shrewd and sagacious
in business, free and generous in their hospitality, and of kindly sympathies;
plain and unpretentious men, but men of force. Those of the name of BRUSH,
who have been mentioned in this sketch, are strangers by hearsay even to
our oldest citizens. William was appointed by Governor and Council in 1785
to be assistant judge and elected by the people in 1786 to the same office,
which he resigned in 1787. Alexander, a colonel in the militia before coming
to Vergennes at an early day, was a respected citizen. He lived at one
time in a house which stood where the National Bank now is, and kept a
tavern. Elkanah BRUSH lived many years on the lot now owned by Mrs. PHAIR,
at the corner of Panton road and Main street; he married the widow of Luke
Strong about 1808, and afterward lived in the THOMPSON house.
Jacob KLUM conducted a tannery on the bank of the creek back of
Francis MCDONOUGH's house, and later on the west side, living in the shop
which Ahvia SCOVIL first occupied. Eli ROBURDS died in 1805, and was succeeded
on his farm by Durand ROBURDS, then major, who held many offices in Vergennes.
He afterwards sold his farm and moved to Ferrisburgh, to the house ever
since occupied by his children.
Richard BURLING after a few years is mentioned as a resident of
New York city. While here he was active in various kinds of business, principally
mills and iron works, and making potash, and the commerce growing out of
such business. The BURLING family at White Plains, twenty miles from New
York, were owners of large tracts of wild lands in Vermont, and probably
gave the name to Burlington.
Dr. Ebenezer MANN died at Vergennes February 12, 1796, in his sixty-second
year. Dr. Ebenezer HUNTINGTON was a practicing physician for Vergennes
and vicinity, and acquired great popularity. He was a genial man, a good
story teller, and enjoyed a joke. He lived on Comfort Hill, next south
of Thomas FISH's present residence. He was the father of Fordyce HUNTINGTON,
long a prominent citizen, and remembered by many.
Donald MCINTOSH, the Scotchman who came with Colonel REID in 1766,
went to Canada during the Revolutionary War, and returned at its close
to the place on Comfort HILL, where he lived for many years and on which
he was buried. He died July 14, 1803.
Nathaniel STEVENSON, also one of the earliest settlers, was engaged
in building mills and a forge on the west side of the creek, above the
bridge, but did not remain here many years.
Timothy ROGERS was a large landholder and interested in the city,
but did not long remain a resident here.
Thomas BYRD, an Englishman and a Quaker, was a character of note
here for many years; a man of sound judgment, of fine personal presence,
and of extensive reading. He was early elected mayor, and became the leading
trial justice for Vergennes and vicinity. Many a culprit received his sentence
from him--"ten stripes at the publick whipping post," then the common mode
of punishment. The post stood for many years near the present public watering
trough. Squire BYRD, as he was generally called, lived in a house where
O. C. DALRYMPLE's store now is. Although a good Quaker, he was not quite
a non-resistant. It is told of him that a citizen of Ferrisburgh, in an
altercation with some one in a store in Vergennes, told the man he lied,
and was immediately struck and felled to the floor. He went to Esquire
BYRD to enter complaint, and told his story. BYRD asked him, "Did you tell
the man he lied?" "Yes." "And he knocked you down?" "Yes." "Well, he served
you right. You may go; you can't get a writ here."
Justus BELLAMY, long a conspicuous citizen of Vergennes, lived at
the Sherman wharf. For many years he was the proprietor of Bellamy's distillery,
which stood near the brick store at the wharf. The late Elliott SHERRIL
married one of his beautiful daughters. Edmund SMITH married another. The
BELLAMY family at a later day moved to Canada.
Thomas ROBINSON, father of the late Rowland T. ROBINSON, who came
from Newport, R. I., lived in Vergennes several years, a part of the time
engaged in manufacturing, and at length bought a large tract of land, which
proved to be the best farm in Ferrisburgh and a monument to his skill and
judgment in the selection.
Jacob REDINGTON, soon after coming here, opened a tavern in a building
on the jail lot (C. B. KIDDER's store).
Josias SMITH, from Tinmouth, Vt., graduated from Dartmouth College
in 1789; came to Vergennes in the spring of 1791, and was a practicing
and successful lawyer in Vergennes to the time of his death in 1810. He
was first city clerk under the charter election and was mayor at the time
of his death.
Azariah PAINTER, who came here in 1789, was prominent in business
circles and well known as keeping tavern here for many years. He bought
of Jesse HOLLISTER, in 1800, what is now the Stevens House. He had two
sons, Lyman and Hiram. Two daughters of Hiram PAINTER are now living in
Vergennes, Mrs. KEELER and Mrs. SPRAGUE.
Azariah and Thomas TOUSEY were interested in mills and iron works.
Azariah started the stilling-mill and resigned it to Thomas; they came
from Newtown, Conn., but left no known descendants here.
Enoch WOODBRIDGE came from Manchester to Vergennes in the beginning
of 1791, bought and moved on a farm near where Ezra CHAMPION lives, and
in a few years moved to the grounds now occupied by Mrs. HAWLEY. He was
a highly educated man of talent, a graduate of Yale College; was in the
army through the Revolutionary War, a part of the time as commissary. After
the war he went to Bennington county, where he was register of probate
five years, judge of probate one year, State's attorney two years, which
office he resigned in the fall of 1790 to come to Vergennes, and was soon
elected judge of the Supreme Court, and for seven years was chief justice.
He was father of Enoch D. WOODBRIDGE; of Mrs. Villee LAWRENCE and several
other daughters. F. E. WOODBRIDGE and the late Mrs. PIERPOINT were his
grandchildren. He died April 21, 1805, in his fifty-fifth year.
Dr. John W. GREEN purchased in 1790, for £40, the lot and
buildings where F. E. WOODBRIDGE now resides.
Abram BALDWIN, David BOOTH, and Zalman BOOTH, all of Newtown, Conn.,
bought property in partnership, and did business on the west side of the
creek for several years.
Roger HIGBY (or HIGLEY) was a lumberman engaged in sending timber
to Quebec, but failed in business. He lived where the Farmers' National
Samuel DAVIS, a blacksmith, raised a large family in Vergennes,
one of whom, the Hon. Bliss N. DAVIS, who was born here in 1801, stated
at the Vergennes Centennial that his "father made the axes that felled
the trees to make room for the houses in Vergennes."
Robert and John LEWIS built potash works a little above the mouth
of Potash Brook. A few years later they assigned a large amount of property
for the benefit of their creditors.
Samuel DAVIS lived in the house north of the Congregational Church,
and his shop was in what is now William E. GREEN's garden.
Thus we see that down to the time when the city government was formed
a very large proportion of the few people here were active, energetic,
and bold business men, actively engaged in converting timber and wood and
ores of the neighborhood into merchantable condition.
The city officers were elected in July, 1794, agreeable to the law
of incorporation. (The time of annual meeting was changed in 1800 to the
fourth Tuesday in March.) This first city meeting was held in a new school-house
standing near the present town house. Enoch WOODBRIDGE was elected mayor;
Josias SMITH, clerk; Roswell HOPKINS, Samuel STRONG, Phineas BROWN, and
Gideon SPENCER, aldermen; Azariah PAINTER, sheriff; Samuel CHIPMAN, Eli
ROBURDS, Elkanah BRUSH, Ebenezer HUNTINGTON, Oliver PIER, and Jacob REDINGTON,
The records of the Court of Common Council show a respect for a
strict construction of the charter law, that has not always since been
apparent. When, a few months later, Samuel HITCHCOCK moved from Burlington
to Vergennes, and became associated with the picked men elected to fill
the city offices, Vergennes could boast of as large a number of strong-minded
and accomplished men as ever graced a country village. Samuel HITCHCOCK,
who had married a daughter of Ethan ALLEN, and was himself the peer of
any lawyer in his day, lived for several years in a house standing on the
ground now occupied by the Catholic Church.
In 1794, a minister was settled, and licenses were granted for six
taverns. In 1795 a jail was provided.
Daniel HARMON became a citizen of Vergennes and lived where the
National Bank is, and probably had a store in the lower corner of the same
lot, apparently the best location in the city for a store. In 1796 Harmon
conveyed a lot 22 by 40 feet, to Josiah and William FITCH, "traders in
company." This was what was lately known as Pat FOSTER's store.
In this year correspondence was held with Anthony HASWELL, of Bennington,
with a view to his establishing a printing press and publishing a weekly
paper in Vergennes; and a committee was appointed to agree with some person
to establish the printing business in this city, and give them the use
of a public lot. Thompson's History of Vermont says that the Vergennes
Gazette was founded at Vergennes by Samuel CHIPMAN, August, 1798. A copy
of this paper is shown by Mr. JOHNSON (No. 74.), dated February 5, 1800
"Printed for Samuel CHIPMAN, jr., by FESSENDEN at Printing Office adjoining
Court House." The Vergennes charter and by-laws were printed at Vergennes
in 1801 by CHIPMAN & FESSENDEN.
In April, 1797, a stock company was formed to build a court-house,
with 124 shares at $25 a share, the city to give the use of a public lot
on which to erect it, and to take as many shares as could be paid for with
the avails of another public lot to be leased for the purpose. The preamble
to the subscription reads:
"From the central situation of this city it is contemplated that the time
is not far distant when the Legislature of Vermont will be convened in
said city, if suitable accommodations can be had. Among the many considerations
which demand the attention of the citizens to prepare for such an event,
that of erecting a convenient house in which they may assemble for the
transaction of public business is of primary importance. An undertaking
of such expense is of too great magnitude to be effected by the ordinary
mode of taxation in our infant State. Other measures, therefore, must be
TOUSEY, BALDWIN & Co. subscribe for 10 shares; Gideon SPENCER,
for 8 shares; Zalman BOOTH, for 7 shares; Robert HOPKINS, for 6 shares;
Jabez G. FITCH, for 6 shares; DIBBLE & SHERRILL, 6 shares; Samuel HITCHCOCK,
for 6 shares; Samuel STRONG, for 6 shares; Daniel HARMON, for 4 shares;
Jesse HOLLISTER, for 3 shares; twelve others, 2 each, 24; twenty others,
1 each, 20 shares, leaving for the city 18.
The building was completed in time for the meeting of the Legislature
October 11, 1798, and stood on the highest land in the city a little farther
back from the street than the present town house. It was a building nearly
square, with large windows; was two stories high and well arranged for
the purpose for which it was built. The second story was used for a Masonic
hall until anti-Masonry became dominant in the State, when it was converted
into a school-room. To the lasting disgrace of the city the building was
taken down in 1838.
At the time of the meeting of the Legislature Isaac TICHENOR had
just been re-elected governor; Paul BRIGHAM, lieutenant governor; Roswell
HOPKINS, then mayor of Vergennes, was secretary of State; Daniel FARRAND,
of Newbury, was speaker of the House; Daniel C. SAUNDERS, who had been
recently dismissed as minister in Vergennes and was then living in Burlington,
preached the election sermon, in accordance with a custom that prevailed
in Vermont until 1835. Vergennes was represented by Amos MARSH, who was
the next year and several successive years elected speaker. John STRONG,
of Addison, was one of the twelve councilors. The session continued twenty-nine
Party spirit ran high in Vermont at that time, and for the first
time in her history the important civil officers to be elected by the Legislature
were chosen from the dominant party exclusively, amid great excitement.
The chief justice of the Supreme Court, Israel SMITH, a man in high repute
for his learning and virtue, was refused an election on party grounds merely,
which roused a violent and bitter feeling, and gave rise to the epithet
current for a long time, "The Vergennes slaughter-house."
A delegation of Indian chiefs from Canada came to Vergennes during
the session to ask of the State compensation for their lands, as they claimed,
from Ticonderoga to Canada line. Their claim was considered, but not granted.
The Legislature, however, paid their expenses while here, and gave them
a hundred dollars in token of friendship.
Mathew LYON, the very able and prominent Irish politician of Fair
Haven, who came to this country a poor boy at thirteen years of age, and
was bound out in Connecticut to pay the cost of his passage, had been arrested
for a trial under the alien and sedition law, and by the United States
Circuit Court, sitting at Rutland, in October, 1798, was sentenced to four
months' imprisonment and to pay a fine of one thousand dollars, with costs.
He had been elected to Congress in 1796, and at the next election in September,
1798, there was no choice; but in December following LYON was elected while
he was in jail. At the conclusion of his trial in October he expected to
be confined in Rutland jail; but the United States marshal was a bitter
political opponent of LYON's, and it is said lived in Vergennes. He took
LYON to Vergennes jail, where he treated him with great rigor. LYON's friends
from Fair Haven sent him a stove for use in the jail. LYON's term of imprisonment
expired February 9, 1799, and it was expected that he would be re-arrested;
but having been elected to Congress he, as soon as the door was opened,
proclaimed himself on his way to Congress, and thus made it unlawful to
arrest him. There was, however, intense excitement throughout the district
as the time of his liberation approached. He was a man to have warm and
devoted friends and bitter enemies, and the natural instincts of Vermonters
for free speech and a free press had been outraged, and they seemed anxious
to enter their protest against political persecution. The following contribution
to the Rutland Herald is reprinted in Governor and Council, Vol. IV, and
may be interesting to the people of Vergennes: "At the time of his [LYON's]
imprisonment in Vergennes under the odious sedition law, passed by Congress
during the Federal administration of John ADAMS, when he had stayed out
in prison the term of his commitment of four months, and nothing remained
but the payment of his thousand dollars' fine to entitle him to his liberty,
it was found that the marshal of the State, whose sympathies and preferences
were strongly with the Federal party and against Lyon, would stickle about
receiving for the fine any other than money that was of legal tender, and
in that case it might be difficult to procure the specie. Most of the gold
then in circulation was of foreign coin which passed at an uncertain value
according to its weight, which often varied by different weighers, and
was therefore not a legal tender. It was known that Mr. LYON while in prison
had issued frequent publications, therein freely discussing and sometimes
censuring the measures of the Federal administration, and that if any pretext
could be made for continuing his imprisonment and thereby prevent his taking
his seat in Congress, to which he had been re-elected while in prison,
the marshal would not hesitate to resort to it. It was further ascertained
that if the fine was paid, the marshal intended to re-arrest him for his
subsequent publications. Therefore, to secure his liberty so that he could
take his seat in Congress, which had already convened, Mr. Apollos AUSTIN,
a resident citizen of Orwell, and a man of wealth, at his own expense and
trouble procured the thousand dollars in silver dollars, and on the day
that Mr. LYON's confinement expired, Mr. AUSTIN with the entire body of
Republicans in Orwell, nearly every man went to Vergennes, where a like
spirit brought together some thousands of the Republicans from other parts
of the district and State, in order, probably, to overcome the authorities
from re-arresting. Mr. AUSTIN, however, was not permitted to pay the money
he had brought. All claimed the privilege of bearing a part, and one dollar
each was the maximum they would allow any one individual to pay. One gentleman
from North Carolina, a staunch Republican, was so zealously anxious for
the release of Mr. Lyon from prison, that he might take his seat in Congress,
at that time nearly equally divided by the two great political parties,
came all the way on horseback from North Carolina with the thousand dollars
in gold to pay the fine, supposing that as Vermont was then new and was
comparatively poor, the resources of the people were not sufficiently ample
to meet the exigency. Having paid the fine the friends of Mr. LYON immediately
took him into a sleigh, followed and preceded by a concourse of teams loaded
with the political friends of Lyon, which reached from Vergennes as they
traversed Otter Creek upon the ice, nearly to Middlebury, from which place
a large number continued to bear him company to the State line at Hampton,
N. Y., where they took leave of him and wished him God speed on to Congress."
It is singular that such an enthusiastic and excited gathering of
people from all parts, with teams enough to fill every vacant cleared space
in Vergennes (for there were no public conveyances as exist to-day), could
have taken place and no one in Vergennes to preserve a record of the proceedings,
or even to hand down to the next generation the tradition of the great
excitement. The writer well remembers the stories of his grandparents,
then neighbors of LYON, the excited crowd which attended LYON's passage
through Fair Haven, with music and banners and the wildest enthusiasm;
but the leading men of Vergennes were of the Federal party, and had no
sympathy for their political opponents. The words of censure of the government
for which Lyon was imprisoned seem mild in comparison with the political
abuse of the present age.
However much the citizens of Vergennes may have been interested
in public affairs, they were not indifferent to business matters, which
seem at that time to have been in a prosperous condition. In August, 1798,
SPENCER leases to Azariah TOUSEY a site for a slitting-mill and the privilege
of erecting a dam at the foot of the falls, from the hole in the rocks
on the island (now visible) to the west shore.
In January, 1799, Josiah and William FITCH sold their store (on
the bank lot) TO CURTIS & SAWYER for $800. SAWYER married a daughter
of Roswell HOPKINS and continued in trade here for several years. Argalus
HARMON bought the lease of the public lot in front of the green.
Among recent settlers of that time appear the names of Amos MARSH,
who lived on the Franklin house lot; Luke STRONG, another lawyer, who built
the Thompson house and died there in 1807, aged thirty-nine years; Luther
E. HALL, who first lived where KIDDER's store is and then in a house now
occupied by F. C. STRONG (he lived to a good old age in Vergennes); Belden
SEYMOUR, from Connecticut, whose trade was that of a hatter (accumulated
property, and he and his sons were long identified with the business of
Vergennes); Henry CRONK, long sheriff and constable, and tavern-keeper
(married a sister of Roswell HOPKINS; at length removed to a farm in West
Ferrisburgh); Wm. BURRITT (for many years an active and prosperous business
man in Vergennes); Bissell CASE, a tavern-keeper; Asa and Abraham DIBBLE,
the latter assistant judge of County Court.
The grand list of 1798 shows seventy-eight names. Fifty-four houses
are entered in the list at from one dollar to eighteen dollars: average,
five dollars forty cents; two hundred and forty acres improved land. The
total list was $6,709.25, but property, except houses, was entered at about
five times the amount of our one percent. General STRONG enters fifty acres
improved land; Donald MCINTOSH fifty acres; Roswell HOPKINS forty acres,
leaving only l00 acres for all the others.
From 1791 for about ten years the Newtown Company, as it was called,
was active in manufacturing, in buying and selling real estate, and in
loaning money. The company consisted of Abram BALDWIN, several of the name
of TOUSEY, and several of the name of BOOTH. BALDWIN and the TOUSEYs did
not long remain here; they were probably rich, but they were not popular.
Dr. David FITCH was a popular physician; he was born in 1795, was
a deacon in the Congregational Church, but his history is not well known.
Belden SEYMOUR, from Newtown, Conn., came here about 1796 and established
the business of making hats; not exactly the style used to-day, but satisfactory
to the wearers. He first bought a lot with a store on it in the block between
Elbow and Green streets, and eventually owned a large part of the square.
Belden SEYMOUR was successful in business, and at length retired with a
competence to his farm on Comfort Hill, where he died in 1841. His wife,
who was Abigail BEERS, lived one hundred years wanting a few weeks. She
was sister of Mrs. GREEN, the mother of William E. GREEN.
For many years after the city organization, taxation was light;
in one year the expense for the care of the city poor amounted to $15.
The bridge was the great burden, but with the help from the adjoining towns
and the aid of the lottery authorized by the Legislature they managed to
keep up a bridge. In 1800 they bargained with General STRONG to put four
trestles under the bridge, put in one new string piece and 800 feet of
plank for $13; and in 1805 he offered to build a new bridge for $500.
Many roads in Vergennes and vicinity had been opened, but frequent
changes in their location are recorded.
In 1795 the new school-house mentioned stood near where the town
hall is; a few years later it was moved on to the present school-house
grounds on South street and used until the large one, now Mrs. Julia ADAMS's
residence, was built.
STRONG & CHIPMAN built a grist-mill on the island, which they
afterward sold to Ephraim HUBBELL, and HUBBELL to Francis BRADBURY, February,
1810. The largest island was then much larger than it now is. One survey
says it extended up stream six rods above the bridge. It was bordered by
trees and wild grape vines, and some one had a garden on it. A gentleman
now living told the writer that the first grave he remembers was on that
island: a stranger was buried there. In low water there was a dry passage
from one island to the other, until channels were blasted out to secure
water for the mills. The trees were cut and portions of the large island
were dug away for the same purpose. Owing to this cause a mill on the island
for dressing cloth was undermined and fell into the stream.
Within the next few years the names of many new residents appear,
increasing the population to 516 in 1800, and to 835 in 1810. About 1797
John H. SHERRILL, grandfather of William A. SHERRILL and Mrs. William E.
GREEN, brought his young wife on horseback with Elliott SHERRILL, then
an infant in her arms, and came into Vergennes on a dark, rainy evening.
In Swift's history it is said that he had a store in Middlebury in 1798.
He lived here in 1800. He first lived where the Baptist Church stands,
but soon moved to the house on the west side, belonging to Dr. INGHAM's
estate, and about 1830 he built the brick front where he lived until his
death. He was an honored and respected citizen. Another citizen of this
date was Abraham DIBBLE, who was assistant judge of Addison County Court
Benajah WEBSTER, a native of New Hampshire, who had learned the
gunsmith's trade in New York city, came to Vergennes about 1806, and began
and continued for many years the business of blacksmithing. He first lived
in the house vacated by Samuel DAVIS next north of the Congregational Church,
but afterwards built the brick house now the property of William E. GREEN,
and converted his old house into a shop. The bricks for his house were
made at the yard of Dr. GRISWOLD, on the farm now occupied by Carleton
Bristol. Mr. BEERS, the father of Ransom BEERS, was at first associated
with Webster. Mr. WEBSTER had a large family of children; in later years
he moved on to the farm in Ferrisburgh now owned by his grandson, William
W. BARD. Warren WEBSTER, a son of Benajah, followed the trade of blacksmith
in Vergennes a while and moved West. One daughter, Delia WEBSTER, achieved
distinction and was known throughout the United States for her successful
efforts as an abolitionist and her consequent imprisonment in Kentucky,
and a trial which aroused the sympathy of every abolitionist in the land.
The HARMON family was prominent in Vergennes during the first quarter
of the present century. Daniel HARMON came from Bennington county about
1795. Calvin and Argalus came two or three years later. They were known
principally as merchants and distillers. They traded in the stone store
now standing on Main street north of East street.
Edward SUTTON came to Vergennes about 1803, and until his death
in 1827 was a successful merchant, leaving a large estate for those days.
He lived in the house previously owned by Amos MARSH, and his store has
since been remodeled to form the dwelling house of J. B. HUSTED. At the
time of his death he was in partnership with Edward J. SUTTON, who died
the same year, and the business was closed, and the store building was
rented and used as a store for several years by many different parties
-- William F. PARKER, BIXBY & BLACKMAN, Cyrus SMITH, and others. The
estate of Mr. SUTTON was divided in 1828 between his two daughters, Caroline
and Jane SUTTON. The death of Jane SUTTON, in 1832, from cholera, followed
next day by the death of Edmund PARKER, caused an intense excitement in
Edward A. KENDALL, in “Travels through the Northern Part of the
United States in 1807 and 1808,” says: "Still lower on the Otter Creek,
and only five miles short of its entrance into the lake, is a cataract
which ranks among the most beautiful in New England. On its banks are seated
the town and village of Vergennes, a name intended to honor M. De Vergennes,
sometime minister of the court of France. Sloops ascend from the lake to
the foot of the cataract; and, from this and other circumstances, Vergennes
is well seated for iron works; bog ore abounds in all the adjacent country,
and stone ore is brought from Crown Point, on the opposite side of the
lake. A furnace, and other extensive works, in addition to those which
have been long established, are at this time erecting. There are bridges
across the Otter Creek, both at Middlebury and Vergennes; and each of these
villages exhibits a busy and thriving appearance.
"Roads both from New York and Boston meet in
Vergennes, whence there is a road due north to Burlington, distant twenty-two
miles, a commercial village and port of entry on the lake, and by which
there is a constant communication, either by land or water, with Montreal,
in Lower Canada."
In 1809 an important lawsuit was decided in regard to the falls.
Silas WRIGHT, of Weybridge, sued STRONG & SPENCER, of Vergennes, for
damages, claiming that the building of a dam at Vergennes, and the changes
made at the falls, caused such a rise of water that the lands on the creek
and on Lemon Fair, were overflowed, to the great injury of the owners;
but after a long trial, with many witnesses, the jury brought in a verdict
for the defendants.
The query that has always been most pressing for an answer in regard
to Vergennes --Why does not Vergennes grow faster in numbers, wealth, and
business? -- was just as unanswerable in 1800 to 1805 as it ever has been.
It was admitted everywhere that her situation was in the midst of a fertile
and productive country; that her water power was unrivaled; that the whole
body of water in Otter Creek, with a fall of thirty-seven feet, was available
for any purpose for which water power could be used; that the locations
for mills were peculiarly free from danger by reason of freshets; that
her means of communication by water with the northern markets were all
that could be desired; that her people were intelligent, numbering among
them some of the brightest minds in the State; and yet her population was
constantly changing; men did not come to stay; the returns from capital
invested in her business, except in rare instances, were not satisfactory.
But in the fall of 1807 and the year following it was thought that this
question would not be asked again; that a bright future awaited the little
city. A strong company of wealthy gentlemen of Boston proposed to embark
in the iron business in Vergennes on a large scale. Captain Francis BRADBURY
came on here and in October, 1807, secured a perpetual lease of water power,
and about seven acres of land on the west side of the creek, from Gideon
and Stephen SPENCER, for the consideration of $3,000 and an annual rent
of $300, and very soon assigned three-fourths of it to Stephen HIGGINSON,
William PARSONS, James PERKINS, and Benjamin WELLS, all of Boston. There
was at that time on the ground leased a forge and slitting-mill, a shop
for making nails, and near by a "steel-factory." On the east side was a
small forge; on the island a gristmill, and also one on the west side,
and a number of saw-mills. In January, 1808, this company advertised that
they would purchase charcoal in large quantities, and built large coal
barns for storing it; at one time they had fifteen such barns. SPENCER's
gristmill stood in the little hollow eight or ten rods below the bridge.
A low shed for the use of his customers extended toward the present dry
houses, and at the end of that a large gate, closing the road to the wharf.
A flume ran from the present dam by the side of the rocks in the bank on
a level to carry water for the machinery below. The large yellow house
(so called) was soon built, and in 1809 Thomas H. PERKINS leased, on a
perpetual lease for $5,000 and an annual rent of $500, the remainder of
the falls and mills and the land to Panton road on the south and city line
on the west, with some reservations of small lots previously leased. The
small leases were bought in by the company and their business enlarged.
Their forge had nine fires; they bought the Monkton ore bed and large tracts
of wood land, started a small forge on Little Otter Creek, near the covered
bridge on the road to Monkton; numbers of mule teams which they introduced
for hauling ore and coal were quite a novelty. Colonel WELLS, an accomplished
gentleman of Boston, was for many years the managing agent. It is said
that 177 tons of cannon shot were cast at their works for the use of MACDONOUGH's
fleet at the battle of Plattsburgh, and it is also said that the iron business
was closed soon after the war and that the company met the fate that many
other iron-makers have had to meet -- heavy losses; and the old question
returned unanswered, the population of Vergennes being no greater in 1820
than in 1810. Their grist-mill and saw-mill were continued for many years.
In 1825 they advertised for custom at their mill, and also that
they desired to sell various tracts of land in the vicinity. In 1815 Philip
C. TUCKER came on from Boston as a clerk or book-keeper for the company,
and remained till 1830, the acting agent in closing up their business.
He was fifteen years old when he came to Vergennes, and during his clerkship
studied law, and opened an office in 1824, and continued a successful lawyer
until his death in 1861.
Previous to the operations of the Monkton Iron Company, as they
were called, the burning of wood into charcoal in pits in the fields had
been practiced to some extent, but was largely increased when this company
began to purchase. Immense quantities were made on the lands of the SPENCER
family in Panton and Addison, who owned what are now the farms of N. RICHARDS,
H. HAWLEY, E. HOLLAND, J. CARTER, Thomas NOOMAN, and other tracts. When
Ira WARD was a young lad his father was engaged in the business for Spencer,
his family finding a temporary home in a house where E. HOLLAND lives.
Ira, just old enough to drive the cows home from the woods (when he could
find them), in passing along the road south of the house discovered a bear
advancing toward him. After gazing at him a few moments the animal turned
and left. Deer and game of all kinds were abundant in all this region even
at that time.
The necessity for workmen in the mills, asheries, and on the rafts,
and in chopping wood for coal, and the money so freely paid out by the
Monkton Iron Company, had brought to Vergennes quite a number of Canadians
with their families, a portion of whom occupied a cluster of houses on
what is now the Shade Roller Co.'s yards, and was then called "French Village."
A still larger number lived on East street. Among them were some quaint
and original characters, ever ready to give expression in broken English
to their wit and drollery, or to relate the adventures of their lives in
Canada, some of them in lumber camps and some of them in the Northwest
or Hudson's Bay Company as voyagers or carriers.
Previous to the War of 1812 Vergennes had become a central point
for pleasure parties from the surrounding towns, and Painter's Tavern,
where the Stevens HOUSE is now, was a resort for such parties and balls.
There were many young ladies in Vergennes, at that date and a little later,
whose fame for beauty, wit, and intelligence has come down to succeeding
generations, and some of the men whom the living now remember as quiet
and sedate citizens were then considered as agreeable and accomplished
society men, much inclined to gayety. As tending to show a slight difference
in the now and then, the following incident is given, as related to the
writer a few years ago by an aged lady who lived in Vergennes and was a
young lady in society from 1805 to '10. She said she well remembered going
to a ball where the daughters of the richest man in Vergennes were able
to enjoy the luxury and the very great distinction of appearing in calico
dresses, while their associates were obliged to wear the homespun and home-woven
linsey-woolsey dresses that all had been accustomed to wear before they
were startled by the introduction of such an extravagance as calico dresses.
She could not conceal the fact of her then admiration and longing for a
dress in elegance equal to the calico dresses of her rich friends.
In the summer of 1813 Lieutenant Thomas MACDONOUGH, then thirty
years of age, who had already made it manifest that he possessed the courage
and promptness and the cool and calm judgment necessary for the position,
was given the command of the very small naval force on Lake Champlain,
and December 19 took his vessels into Otter Creek for winter quarters at
"the button-woods," three-fourths of a mile above Dead Creek. Commodore
MACDONOUGH, as he was then called, made Vergennes his headquarters, and
during the winter was engaged in building several galleys or gunboats,
to carry two guns each. Before these were completed, on the 5th of April,
1814, General WILKINSON, then commanding the United States troops at Champlain,
N. Y., informed Commodore MACDONOUGH that the vessels of the enemy on Lake
Champlain would soon be ready to sail, and probably would attempt to land
a force for the purpose of destroying MACDONOUGH's vessels. On application
Governor CHITTENDEN ordered out the militia in Franklin, Chittenden, and
Addison counties, 500 men to be stationed at Burlington and 1,000 at Vergennes,
and on the 11th Wilkinson advised MACDONOUGH to erect a strong battery
at the mouth of Otter Creek. From the 16th to the 20th, General WILKINSON
and Governor CHITTENDEN were both at Vergennes, and the site of the proposed
battery was agreed upon. About the 12th of April a large body of militia
arrived at Vergennes and was quartered in different places--some in barns,
some in the school-house, some in the vacant house formerly occupied by
President Saunders. As the result of the consultation at Vergennes the
militia were all discharged except the company of Captain William C. MUNSON,
of Panton, on condition that they should rally on the firing of alarm signals,
and General Macomb was ordered to send 500 United States troops to Vergennes.
Ira WARD, now living, with a number of other members of Captain MUNSON's
company, was sent to HAWLEY's farm on the lake shore (Olmsted KEELER's)
to watch the lake and give notice of the approach of the enemy. The anticipated
attack of the British did not occur until the 14th of May, when one sloop
and eighteen galleys commenced an attack on the battery at the mouth of
the creek, commanded by Lieutenant CASSIN. The point has since been called
Fort Cassin. MACDONOUGH, with what vessels he had afloat, soon appeared
and put the enemy to flight, taking from them two fine rowboats. About
the last of May, MACDONOUGH's vessels were completed and sailed down the
creek. It has always been asserted in Vergennes that his flagship, the
Saratoga, was launched the fortieth day from the time the first tree used
in its construction was cut in the woods. He spent the summer on the lake,
and the result at Plattsburgh on September 11 is too well known to need
MACDONOUGH was a tall, spare man, extremely popular with all his
acquaintances in his vicinity. His office was in the second story of a
wooden building that stood where N. J. MCCUEN is now in business, the lower
room being used for a guard-house. One of the militiamen in the guard-house
accidentally discharged his musket, the ball passing through the floor
and near MACDONOUGH. In one of the consultations as to dismissing the militia,
MACDONOUGH said, "If you will take your militia home I will take care of
the fleet. I am in more danger from your men than from the enemy."
A number of ship carpenters came with the commodore to assist in
the building of his vessels. Captain BROWN was superintendent. Edward ROBERTS
went to the battle with him, and afterward remained in Vergennes.
There was great fear and anxiety among the citizens of Vergennes
at the time of the attack at Fort Cassin. Some of the families packed their
valuables to have them in readiness for removal, and some more excitable
ones did remove temporarily, but the scare was of short duration.
The law of the State then required that each town should deposit
with the town treasurer powder and lead for use in an emergency, and on
the 13th of May the town officers of Ferrisburgh met at Theophilus MIDDLEBROOK's
(then town treasurer) to "run" bullets and prepare cartridges, and continued
at the work through the night. On hearing the cannon about daylight their
anxiety was so great that they insisted on having news, and David, then
twelve year old and anxious to go, was dispatched on horseback to learn
the news. He could not be prevailed on to stop until he got to the point,
about the time the firing ceased, and he then returned with the good news.
The fears of the people were quieted for the time being, but a feverish
state of excitement prevailed throughout this region until after the battle
of Plattsburgh, which was one reason why the people rallied so quickly
when called upon to repel the invasion.
On the 4th of September, 1814, General MACOMB, then in command of
3,400 United States troops at Plattsburgh, of which number 1,400 were invalids,
appealed to Governor Chittenden for aid, as his small force was so manifestly
inadequate to resist the large force advancing to assault him. Governor
CHITTENDEN, believing himself unauthorized to order the Vermont militia
out of the State under such circumstances, called for volunteers. Hon.
E. P. WALTON says in “Governor and Council”: "This call was at once responded
to, not only in the western counties nearest the scene of battle, whose
men arrived in time to take part, but also in Central and Eastern Vermont.
Irrespective of party opinions or age, the people turned out en masse,
fathers and sons, veterans of the Revolution, and lads too young for military
service--all pressed on toward the lake." Many went from Vergennes and
vicinity; prominent among these was Samuel Strong, who had been major-general
of the Third Division of Vermont militia from 1804 to '10, when he resigned;
and Major Jesse LYMAN, who had been an officer in the Revolutionary army.
Judge SWIFT says in his “History of Middlebury”: "When a sufficient number
of volunteers had met together, they organized as they could, in a summary
and unceremonious way, by putting forward such prominent men as were willing
to be officers. And when new recruits came on they took their places as
they could in the ranks. To General Samuel STRONG, of Vergennes, was assigned
the position of commander-in-chief of the Vermont volunteers; Major LYMAN,
of Vergennes, was his right-hand man, and was appointed colonel."
Judge SWIFT, then secretary to the Governor and Council, and Amos
W. BARNUM, of Vergennes, who was the governor's military aid, crossed the
lake from Burlington to Plattsburgh in company with General STRONG and
others, on Thursday morning, September 9, and met General MACOMB at the
fort. On Sunday, the 11th at seven P. M., General STRONG writes to Governor
"We are now encamped with 2,500 Vermont volunteers on the south side of
the Saranac opposite the enemy's right wing, which is commanded by General
BRISBANE. We have had the satisfaction to see the British fleet strike
to our brave commodore, MACDONOUGH. The fort was attacked at the same time,
the enemy attempting to cross the river at every place fordable for four
miles up the river, but they were foiled at every attempt except at Pike's
encampment, where we now are. The New York militia were posted at the place
under Generals MOORE and WRIGHT. They were forced to give back a few miles
until they were re-enforced by their artillery. The general informed me
of his situation, and wished for our assistance, which was readily afforded.
We met the enemy and drove him across the river under cover of his artillery.
Our loss is trifling. We took twenty or thirty prisoners. Their number
of killed is not known . . . . What shall be our fate to-morrow I know
Before this letter was written, however, Lieutenant-General Sir
George PROVOST, "governor and chief of his majesty's North American Provinces,
and commander of the forces," as he styled himself, had hastily left for
Montreal, and what were left of his 14,000 troops, veteran soldiers of
Wellington's army, at ten o'clock that night began to follow his example.
It is not strange that so signal a victory filled the whole country with
astonishment and delight; but it is strange that men of Vermont had the
courage and resolution to volunteer to form a part of a force so small
and seemingly so inadequate to meet so large and well-appointed an army
of trained veterans. Towns, cities, State Legislatures, and Congress united
in their tributes of thanks and honors to the victors. The Legislature
of Vermont passed very flattering resolutions of thanks to General Strong
and the volunteers, and to Commodore MACDONOUGH, to whom they also granted
a tract of land. The Legislature of New York voted a sword to General STRONG,
and as a picture of a gala day in Vergennes in 1817, the following is copied
from the Northern Sentinel of July 18, 1817:
New York to Major-General Strong.---
June 26, 1817.
"Yesterday the sword voted by the Legislature of the State of New York
to be presented to General Samuel STRONG in consideration of services rendered
by him at Plattsburgh in 1814, was delivered to him by the Hon. Ralph HASCALL,
Colonel Melancthon SMITH, Major Reuben SANFORD, and Major David B. MCNEIL,
appointed by the lieutenant-governor of that State, acting as governor,
to perform that service. The day was fine, and the several exercises were
conducted in a manner peculiarly gratifying, under the direction of David
EDMUNDS, Amos W. BARNUM, Enoch D. WOODBRIDGE, Luther E. HALL, and Francis
BRADBURY, esq., the committee of arrangements on the occasion, and Major
LAWRENCE and Captain HUNTINGTON, marshals of the day. In the morning the
delegation from the State of New York were met at Mr. JOHNSON's inn in
Ferrisburgh by Messrs. WOODBRIDGE and BRADBURY, and Captain GEER's troop
of cavalry, and escorted to this place. It is but justice to remark here
that the conduct of the troops on this occasion, and through the exercises
of the day, was such as to do honor to themselves and their commander.
At one o'clock General STRONG was escorted from his house to Mr. PAINTER's
inn, where, after a short interview with the gentlemen from the State of
New York, he proceeded through a numerous procession of the volunteers,
who accompanied him to Plattsburgh, and other respectable citizens, to
the platform in front of the court-house. The delegation from New York
were then escorted by Captain GEER's troop, dismounted, to the top of the
platform, where the following address was delivered to General STRONG by
Colonel Melancthon SMITH in behalf of himself and his associates:
"Sir, The Legislature of the State of New York have directed the governor
to cause to be presented to you a sword as a testimony of the high sense
they entertain of your valor and public spirit and for the services rendered
by you during the invasion of Plattsburgh by the British troops in September,
1814. The lieutenant-governor, acting as governor, has honored us with
this commission. In adverting to the events of that period when a numerous,
disciplined and well appointed army, under officers of experience and well
versed in the art of war, flushed with recent and astonishing victories,
conquerors of the conqueror of Europe, boastful of their prowess, and confident
of success -- when such a force retires before our newly-raised, undisciplined
troops, not one-fourth their number, we have cause of gratitude to the
God of Armies, who so manifested his strength in our weakness. We are not
unmindful that, uninfluenced by local considerations, with no motive but
the love of country, no prospect of fame except at the sacrifice of your
life, no interest but a sense of duty, and notwithstanding every discouragement,
you, Sir, volunteered in defense of a sister State. The act will be remembered
by the people with gratitude. Accept, Sir, this sword. It is the gift of
a free people to a free man. It bears on its hilt the device of a Herculean
Mountaineer crushing in his arms the British lion; it will be a memento
for your sons to imitate your example, and incite them to deeds of glory.
It is given, not as a reward but a pledge, which the State of New York
will redeem when occasion shall present itself. We are directed to communicate
to you the consideration of his excellency the lieutenant-governor and
of the representatives of the people. We offer you our personal regard
To which General STRONG made the following reply:
"To be honored, gentlemen, for any services I may have rendered, with the
approbation of a State acknowledged to be the first in wealth, in commerce
and population, and in no respect inferior to any State in the Union, affords
a satisfaction I cannot undertake to express. It is well known that the
precipitate retreat of the British troops from Plattsburgh to their own
territory prevented the citizens and militia of the States of New York
and Vermont from coming to a close and severe conflict with the enemy.
Had it been otherwise I am persuaded that the volunteers from Vermont,
who knew no discouragement in flying to the relief of your State, when
suddenly invaded, would have faithfully performed the duty which one member
of the Union always owes to another. I accept the sword, gentlemen, and
request you to communicate to the lieutenant governor and Legislature of
the State of New York the high sense I entertain of the honor they have
conferred. And you will permit me to say that the manner in which you,
gentlemen, have executed your commission has added much to my gratification.
You will please accept the assurance of my respect and esteem."
The sword presented was of exquisite workmanship, its hilt and scabbard
of gold. On the scabbard was the following inscription: "Presented by his
excellency, Daniel D. TOMPKINS, Governor of the State of New York, pursuant
to a resolution of the Senate and Assembly of the said State, to Major-General
Samuel STRONG of the Vermont Volunteers as a memorial of the sense entertained
by the State of his services and those of his brave mountaineers at the
Battle of Plattsburgh."
After the presentation of the sword the general and the delegation
from New York, with the citizens, proceeded to Painter's Inn, where they
partook of a dinner provided for the occasion.
Vergennes people felt a special interest in the battle of Plattsburgh,
from their exposed situation and liability to an attack from the British
fleet; and the fact of the building of the vessels of our fleet here the
previous spring had also increased their interest in the result; and they
were, moreover, acquainted with the prominent actors. Few battles have
been more important in their results than this, which had great influence
in securing the treaty of peace which soon followed, and was celebrated,
when received here, with illuminations and great rejoicing. The volunteers
were not all fortunate enough to return uninjured. Thomas STEVENS, Wm.
MCKENZIE, and others in this vicinity received wounds. Major LYMAN contracted
fever from which he died soon after. General STRONG took a severe cold
which resulted in what was then called consumption, which made him an invalid
the rest of his life.
Business in Vergennes seems to have languished after the war; the
Monkton Iron Company did not long continue the manufacture of iron. In
Thompson's Gazetteer of Vermont it is said they suspended in June,
1816, and also that the machinery in operation on the falls during the
war consisted of one blast furnace, one air furnace, eight forges, one
rolling mill, one wire factory, besides grist, saw and fulling-mills, etc.
From 1816 to '23 were dark days for Vergennes, it not showing any
increase in business, wealth or numbers. The cold summer of 1816 was unfavorable
to all engaged in farming and had a tendency to lead men into other occupations.
The saw-mills, however, were at work to good advantage. Captain Jahaziel
SHERMAN and those associated with him were building steamboats in Vergennes,
which gave employment to a good number of men, but had no influence in
bringing men of capital and enterprise into Vergennes. General Samuel STRONG,
John H. SHERILL, Captain SHERMAN, Belden SEYMOUR, and a few others were
occupied in producing from the soil or by manufacture some addition to
the real visible wealth of the community; but a large number of the citizens
seem to have thought they could get rich by trading commodities or lands
with each other. Some lumber and potash were sent to Canada and considerable
wheat was carried to Troy. Until the Champlain Canal was opened in 1823,
wheat and other products were transported by teams to Troy, and goods for
the merchants brought back. Most of the teaming was done in the winter,
while the sleighing was good, by farmers residing in the vicinity. The
favorite route from here was through Bridport, Orwell, West Haven, etc.,
and taverns were found once in six miles, and frequently nearer, and were
well patronized, although many of the travelers carried food from their
homes. All the merchandise that came to Vergennes (except for a few articles
from Canada) was brought by teams. The merchants went to market twice a
year and purchased goods enough to last them six months. To order by sample
or give orders to travelling salesmen was a thing unheard of. To get to
Boston and back required about six days' riding in stages.
The trade of Vergennes has always been large in proportion to her
population. To be a successful merchant in that day required planning,
prudence, discrimination, and a wise foresight. Customers expected to find
in every store dry goods, crockery, hardware, drugs , and medicines, and
all kinds of groceries; especially all kinds of liquors, which were sold
as freely and in almost as large quantities as kerosene is sold today.
The merchant then must take grain and nearly all kinds of produce for his
goods, and find a market for the barter taken as best he could. He must
give long credits and have the happy faculty of making collections without
offending his customers. It was a good training school for the development
of the faculties, and many were made strong and fitted for public duties
by this training. The census of Vergennes for 1820 shows the number of
inhabitants to be less than in 1810 -- 835 in 1810, and 817 in 1820 --
and until 1823 there was no perceptible increase , and no nice buildings
were erected. There were about thirty two story houses, but most of the
others were low and of little value.
In two things Vergennes has always excelled, viz., her district
schools and her hotels; it is not easy to see the connection, but we accept
the fact. There were two district schools and three hotels usually. For
many years previous to 1826 Thomas W. RICH kept what had then gained a
reputation as Painter's Tavern and since as STEVEN's house. Mr. RICH was
a graduate of Dartmouth College and came from Monkton to Vergennes. He
died in 1826. The arrival of two stages a day at Rich's Hotel was an event
of great interest -- one from Boston and one from Montreal. The mail route
with the mail to be carried in stages was established in 1793 and kept
up until the railroad was completed in 1849. To see handsome coaches and
four good horses driving up to the hotel for the passengers to get out,
while the mail was being changed and the coach driven to barns back of
the site of SMITH & KETCHUM's present warehouse, where the horses which
had been driven twelve miles were taken off and fresh ones put in their
places, was a mild excitement coming every day, but ever new. The average
mail for Vergennes in 1820 might all be carried in a common hat. Many a
boy has thought that his ambitious views would be fully satisfied if he
could become a stage driver.
Previous to 1815 Jahaziel SHERMAN came to Vergennes and remained
here to become an important factor in the history of the city. He was a
man of great dignity of presence, of courteous manners, of great method
and a system in his business affairs, and universally respected for his
probity and high sense of honor. Before coming to Vergennes he was associated
with J. B. GERMAIN, of Albany, in navigating on the Hudson. In 1815 the
Champlain Steamboat Company finished a steamboat built at Vergennes by
Edward ROBERTS, a master carpenter, of which Mr. SHERMAN became captain;
this was the first Phoenix, 140 feet long, costing $45,000, to run eight
miles an hour. The Champlain was built here in 1817 for John WINANNS &
Co., of which George BRUSH became captain, and in 1818 the Congress was
built here by Captain SHERMAN at an expense of $30,000, of which R. W.
SHERMAN was captain; and again in 1820 Captain SHERMAN built here the second
Phoenix at a cost of $45,000. In 1824 he built the Mountaineer at Caldwell,
on Lake George, and in 1838 the second Caldwell at Ticonderoga, and in
1832 the Water Witch at Fort Cassin. Soon after coming to Vergennes Captain
SHERMAN purchased the house and property at the wharf and afterward acquired
a large real estate in Vermont. Captain SHERMAN was the representative
from Vergennes to the State Legislature in 1835 and '36. In 1836 he united
with the Congregational Church in Vergennes and was ever after one of its
firm supporters. He died in 1844, leaving a widow and five sons - Jahaziel,
Walter W., Richard W., Charles, and Benjamin. Charles, now the only survivor,
lives in Marshalltown, Iowa. One of the lake steamboats brought from Burlington
to Vergennes a large company of his business associates to attend the funeral
of Captain Jahaziel SHERMAN.
Samuel STRONG, second son of John STRONG, of Addison, came to Vergennes
in the winter of 1793-94 with his wife and four children, and moved into
the house formerly occupied by his brother, Asa STRONG, which stood near
where now stands the south end of the Shade Roller Co.'s dry house. Samuel
STRONG had been a farmer in Addison and for two years high sheriff of Addison
county. He soon became the owner of a saw-mill and of timber lands, and
by buying lands at a low price and managing his mills and farms with much
prudence and skill, his property increased in value rapidly. In 1796 he
built the large house (now J. D. SMITH's) which has not been changed in
appearance outwardly since first built, and is the only place in Vergennes
that has remained in the family of the original owner without a sale. At
the first city meeting after he came to Vergennes he was elected alderman,
and he held important offices for many years; was representative 1804 and
'05; assistant judge of the County Court five years; mayor of Vergennes
1811 to '16; at the same time was active in the militia of Vermont and
rose rapidly from one grade to another, to become a major general in 1804,
which office he resigned in 1810. When carding-machines were first introduced
to card wool into rolls for the spinning-wheel by machinery, instead of
the slow process of carding with hand cards, General STRONG was largely
engaged in their introduction into the New England States, New York, and
Canada. When the news came to Vergennes that volunteers were wanted to
resist the advance of the British at Plattsburgh, he immediately started
for Burlington and was there chosen by the general voice to take the command
of all the volunteers, and, with letters from Governor CHITTENDEN, crossed
the lake with the soldiers and reported to General MACOMB. After the battle
he returned with a severe cold, which terminated in consumption from which
he never entirely recovered. In 1816 he went to Georgia for the sake of
a warmer climate, hardly expecting to return; but he came back the next
spring, and having been advised by physicians to ride in the open air he
spent much of his after life on horseback. Being a man of great will power,
he would ride when so weak that he had to be helped on to his horse. He
and Judge WHALLON, of Essex, N. Y., established a ferry by horseboats from
the farm in Ferrisburgh now owned by Olmsted KEELER, to Grog Harbor. He
built the turnpike from Middlebury to Vergennes, and from Vergennes to
Adams's ferry. When the Vergennes Bank was organized in 1827 he was elected
its first president, and held the position till his death. He had one son,
General Samuel P. STRONG, and four daughters -- Mary, the wife of Roswell
D. HOPKINS; Clara, wife of E. D. WOODBRIDGE; Susan B. STRONG, the founder
of the Vergennes Library, and Electa, the wife of William H. SMITH. The
successful business career of General STRONG, his sound judgment, the fame
he acquired at the battle of Plattsburgh, and his constant activity, notwithstanding
his feeble health, combined to make him a man of note at home and abroad.
He was a tall, spare man of few words and unassuming manner. Early in life
he manifested the same qualities of independent opinion, prompt decision,
self-reliance, and determined perseverance that in after years made him
a leader among men. Many incidents in his life have been known to the public.
When he was fifteen years old he went with his father and brother from
Addison to Pittsford to get a drove of cattle, to supply the American soldiers
at Crown Point with beef. When within a few miles, their father left the
boys to watch the cattle and prevent their straying while he went to reconnoiter.
The father was surprised and taken prisoner by scouts from Burgoyne's army,
which had taken the post. The boys waited a reasonable time for their father
to return, but as he did not come they drove the cattle back to Pittsford,
and saved them from capture by the British.
At one time in loosening the floodwood, that accumulated to the
great annoyance of mill-owners, the floodwood gave way and took him with
it down the falls. He could not swim, but did not lose his presence of
mind. He would sink to the bottom and crawl toward land until obliged to
rise for breath, and then repeat the process. He had nearly reached the
lower island when picked up by some one in a boat.
In 1809 Amos W. BARNUM took the freeman's oath in Vergennes, and
continued to reside here till his death in 1838. He was son of Stephen
BARNUM, of Monkton, and from his first residence in Vergennes was prominent
in the business and public affairs of the day. Very soon after taking up
his residence here he was elected alderman and continued to hold important
offices. He was four times elected representative. He was mayor from 1824
to '28. He was a self-educated man of superior talents, of pleasant address
and extensive information, with ideas in advance of his age. At one time
he incurred the ridicule of his associates by predicting that some then
living would see a railroad in Vergennes. He was a large owner of real
estate here and elsewhere; he took great interest in the improvement of
farm stock, and introduced a superior breed of cattle and fine horses.
About 1827 he started a hemp-factory in Vergennes and built a rope walk
on the grounds now belonging to the American Hotel, which he then owned;
he was always ready for any business enterprise that promised success.
He was instrumental in building a tow path to increase navigation and in
starting a bank in 1826. He lived in the house now owned by Charles MERRILL,
and had the best kept house and grounds in the city, the best horses and
carriages, and entertained the most company and traveled more than any
other citizen. He was fond of horse-racing and high living, and bold and
daring business ventures. He owned several hundred acres of land, comprising
the Woodbridge and Wetherbee estates and lands adjoining, and had a private
race-course on the hill. He was largely interested in one of the best ore
beds in Moriah, N. Y., but did not live to reap the benefits of his development.
In later years fortune frowned upon him and he died poor, December 1, 1838,
aged fifty-seven years. He had no children.
In 1826 Reuben BRUSH, who lived in what is now a part of the Stevens
House, died. He had been a partner of William WHITE for many years. In
February, 1809, Josias SMITH deeds to him and William WHITE, of Sunderland,
merchants and partners under the firm name of WHITE & BRUSH, the lots
between the Stevens House lot and the residence of C. T. & C. O. STEVENS,
for $2,500. They continued in trade until near the time of BRUSH's death,
and were successful. When Mr. WHITE came here in 1809 he was thirty-five
years old; had been married thirteen years to Polly M. GARDNER, of Troy.
His son, William H. WHITE, was eleven years old. George FIELDS came from
Sunderland with Mr. WHITE and at a later day moved on to a farm in Waltham
owned BY WHITE & BRUSH, into the house where Stephen BURROUGHS now
lives, and proved to be a successful farmer. William WHITE died July 27,
7832, at the age of fifty-six. He was a large and dignified man, respected
by all who knew him. For many years two nieces of his wife lived with him
as daughters of the family, and were favorites in society. One of them,
Jane GORDON, married the Rev. Buel SMITH; the other, Mary GORDON, married
Bacon WHEELER. Reuben BRUSH was also a favorite in business and social
circles. He died in 1826 at forty-eight years of age, leaving a widow,
one daughter (now Mrs. DOOLITTLE, of Burlington), and two sons, both dead.
His widow afterward married Dr. Henry HEWITT.
Francis BRADBURY, a gentleman of the old school, was long in active
business in Vergennes as a manufacturer and merchant. He belonged to a
wealthy Boston family and had been a sea captain before coming to Vermont.
In the fall of 1809 he leased of Gideon and Stephen SPENCER the water power
on the west side of the creek and assigned it to the Monkton Iron Company,
of which he remained a member. In 1810 he bought the grist-mill on the
island and sold goods most of his business life here, in a store on the
west side of the creek. His brother Theophilus was with him at one time
and his brother Charles became interested in property in Vergennes. Charles
W. BRADBURY, the late head of the present family, was the son of Charles
BRADBURY. Francis BRADBURY had two children -- Francis, who died in Waltham,
and Frances, who married Samuel S. WOODBRIDGE; after his early death she
married Otis M. HAVEN, and is still living.
About 1823 Zebulon R. SHEPHERD, from Moriah, N. Y., and one of his
sons, started a mill at the falls on the east side for sawing marble, which
proved a failure after a few years; and about this time Horace WHEELER,
a brother of Preserved WHEELER, of New Haven, and Reuben WHEELER, of Vergennes,
built a large brick block on the corner of Main and Green streets, which
was rented for stores and shops until burned in 1830.
In 1824 Amos W. BARNUM leased to A. T. RATHBONE a site and water
power for a blast furnace on the east side of the creek. The furnace was
built the same year and soon leased to Hector H. Crane. BARNUM also started
a "Tow Path Co.," to tow from Fort Cassin to Vergennes the canal boats
that were expected to come through the new Champlain Canal. A charter was
obtained, the path opened and used a number of years until the steamboats
commenced towing boats up the creek, and a regular line of packets and
freight boats found employment in freighting lumber and produce to Troy
and New York, with return freights of merchandise.
BARNUM and others also began to agitate the project of establishing
a bank in Vergennes, and in November, 1826, a charter was obtained; in
1827 the bank commenced business, with a capital of $100,000.
From and after the year 1823 business in Vergennes assumed a more
promising aspect. Horace Wheeler built a large brick block at the corner
of Main and Green streets. Zebulon SHEPHERD started a marble factory; A.
T. RATHBONE a blast furnace; several new stores were opened; a tow-path
was opened on the bank of the creek from Vergennes to the lake. In 1827
the bank commenced business, and Amos W. BARNUM started a hemp-factory,
as before stated, at the falls and built his rope-walk. In 1828 John D.
WARD bought the lease of the Monkton Iron Company's grounds and built a
foundry, canal, etc.; employed a large number of men, and built up a flourishing
business, which he continued until 1836. In 1834 two new houses of public
worship were built, and the city soon commenced the laying of sidewalks
and planting of shade trees.
It must be difficult for the young people of to-day to form any
conception of the contrasts in the present and former methods of business
and travel, or the comforts and conveniences of every-day life. Very little
money was in circulation, most of the trade being in barter. The roads
were muddy and by no means clear of roots and corduroy; the hills were
steep, and bridges and sluices were often dangerous; not a sidewalk in
Vergennes, and not more than a dozen shade trees. There were a few two-wheeled
chaises in town for one horse, and four two-horse coaches hung on leather
thorough braces; steel springs were unknown; lumber wagons with no springs
were the wagons in common use; there was not a four-wheeled and covered
one-horse vehicle in Vergennes until after 1830. Very few stoves were in
use previous to 1824; the cooking was all done by open fires on the hearth,
in open fire-places; matches were unknown. To buy a ready-made garment
in the stores in those days was impossible. If a farmer wanted a new coat
his wife and daughters must secure a fleece of wool and send it to a carding-machine,
and receive it back in the form of rolls; then spin it on the old-fashioned
spinning-wheel, and either weave it themselves or have it done; then send
it to a fulling-mill, where the cloth is fulled, a nap raised, and then
pressed. When finished, the man must go to a tailor's and have his garment
cut and made. None of the present comforts for the feet were known except
the ordinary leather boots, and they had to be made to order, not being
kept on sale as at present. The first ready-made clothing in Vergennes
was brought from Montreal.
On the 1st of July, 1824, the first number of the Vermont Aurora
was published in Vergennes by Gamaliel SMALL, editor and publisher. On
the 15th of July he says:
"Since 1798 no great improvement has been made until within two years past.
Among the manufacturing establishments in Vergennes are a furnace and marble
factory recently built, three saw-mills, two grist-mills carrying seven
run of stone, three woolen manufactories, two tanneries, one of which is
doing extensive business for the foreign markets, two distilleries, and
eleven stores, each having an extensive assortment of goods imported the
last spring; there is also a book-store, a house of public worship, three
schoolhouses, and upwards of one hundred dwelling houses. The number of
inhabitants within the confines of the city is upwards of one thousand,
a considerable portion of which have settled here within the last year.
There have recently been built and are now building several elegant brick
"While we justly boast of the scenery in and about Vergennes, one of its
charms has been sacrificed to the spirit of progress. The island below
the falls was a charming spot before the railroad crossed it and connected
it with the west shore by filling the intervening space. The island contained
perhaps an acre and a half of land bordered with trees. It was a favorite
camping ground for small bands of Indians, who were in the habit of making
annual visits to Vergennes previous to 1830; who put up their wigwams there
and were visited by the curious, who were expected to buy baskets or bead-work
of the squaws. Their birch-bark canoes, and the skill with which they managed
them, were a wonder and delight."
AS REMEMBERED BY THE
CITIZENS, ABOUT 1825
Beginning on the south line on the road to Addison, a log house
stood at the southwest corner, opposite Dustin Baror's present residence;
one end of the log house was in Panton, the other in Vergennes. It was
occupied then by _____ KING. A little north of KING's was a two story framed
house owned by Alured HITCHCOCK, who died about 1830 leaving a large and
interesting family, who soon moved to Illinois; two of the sons were farmers
near Galesburg and one of them a professor in Knox College at Galesburg;
the oldest daughter married Nehemiah LOCY, a teacher in a Western school
district and afterward professor in Knox College; two other daughters married
Western men. HITCHCOCK had a good farm, which was sold after his death
to Elliott SHERRILL and the house removed. The next house was the large
house now standing opposite the cemetery; Sevy PRATT and Solomon HOBBS
owned it. Just south of where the brick school-house is now, was a long
wooden building used many years for a school-house. Opposite was the house
now standing there, owned and occupied by Mitchell ROCK, who worked for
Mr. SHERRILL many years in his cloth-dressing mill. One of his daughters
married Anthony BALDUKE; another married Charles SHOLLER. The brick house
of the school-house was owned and occupied by Samuel P. STRONG; the hill
this side of his house was covered with trees where the boys had to go
for the birch twigs needed in the schoolroom to teach the young idea how
to shoot. J. LEBONTE, a noted character in Vergennes, lived opposite the
present school-house, southeasterly; he had been a servant for Colonel
WELLS, and was famous for his witticisms and oddities. He had a large family.
Mrs. JANUARY is the only one remaining in Vergennes. Asa STRONG, one of
the first settlers in Vergennes, and long sheriff and constable, lived
where Mrs. Jacob SMITH now lives, in the house which is now on the opposite
side of the street. Elliott SHERRILL lived where his son now lives, and
George THOMAS, a carpenter, opposite. The THOMPSON house, originally clapboarded,
was bricked up about this time and occupied by Major John THOMPSON, then
in active business running carding-machines, etc., on the island. The next
house was where Mrs. PHAIR lives; it was then occupied by Theodore CLARK,
and was an inviting place, with a veranda on the south side and all in
fine order. The row of houses opposite was not there then, but a large
common or green used on training day and other public occasions. The barns
of General STRONG for the use of his large farm, which extended far up
the creek, stood near where is Dr. MCGOVERN's house, General STRONG living
in the house he built in 1796, where J. D. SMITH now lives. John H. SHERRILL
lived at the Dr. INGHAM place, and the MATHER family where the bakery is,
and there was one other house on the rocks. Opposite SHERRILL's were two
tenement-houses in a dilapidated condition. The gambrel-roofed house, where
SPENCER formerly kept tavern stood on the corner of CRADY's garden, and
was occupied by several tenants, among them Aaron STEWART, the father of
Shelden STEWART, and John FLANAGAN, father of the late sheriff of Burlington
and hotel-keeper in Hinesburg, and Newton and Martha FLANAGAN. Opposite
was a dwelling and a shoemaker's shop under one roof; Jacob MCLEAN then
occupied it. Just below DEMPER's was a low house used by John GIBSON, who
tended the Monkton Iron Company's grist mill, and on the other side of
the road was a similar house in which BRADBURY's miller lived. Captain
BRADBURY had a store near the creek, and Theodore CLARK had a store at
the end of the bridge. Back of CLARK's store was a potashery. In the space
about the landing several small houses stood, making a little settlement
by themselves, and called French Village. A small building used by John
H. and Elliott SHERRILL, for carding and cloth dressing, stood near and
below the bridge; then a saw-mill, and farther down stream a stone grist
mill and mill shed. A pent-road with a large gate led to the wharf, and
by the side of the road and farther south were several large coal barns.
The old forges and furnaces were idle but one dwelling, where Laurence
AUSTIN lives now, was occupied, and also the large yellow house where lived
John WILLSON, a pilot on Lake Champlain for many years. He died about 1830,
leaving a widow and two sons William WILLSON, long a clerk in Vergennes,
and who died in New Jersey; and Edmond, once cashier of Exchange Bank in
New York, now a retired capitalist in Jersey City. There were no sidewalks
in Vergennes; every vacant place in the street on the west side during
the winter and spring was filled with piles of saw-logs and lumber, the
logs in vast numbers being drawn in while sleighing lasted, there to await
the slow process of being cut into boards by the old-fashioned upright
saw. The complaints in regard to our roads and sidewalks are not likely
to come from those who then had to pick their way either between or over
the saw-logs, in the day when rubber over-shoes were unknown and when Vergennes
clay possessed all of its native adhesiveness.
In 1826 some of the former high expectations in regard to Vergennes's
future greatness had vanished in the decay of the business of the Monkton
Iron Company; but to the young people of that day their elders seemed happy
in the pursuit of their various avocations. Their free and generous hospitality
and their cordial, social intercourse brought to them their own rewards.
The district school of the western district must be remembered by those
who then attended it as a joyous gathering of happy children and youth,
sure ever after to think their schoolmates were made of better material
than the rest of mankind. At this time a grist-mill owned by Francis BRADBURY
was in operation, standing where N. G. NORTON's mill is, run by Elijah
HITCHCOCK, and on the rocks southwesterly from it was the wool-carding
and cloth-dressing shop of Major John THOMPSON, with one very interesting
appendage in the estimation of the boys of that time, viz., the tenser
bars extending nearly the length of the island. On the small island General
STRONG had two saw-mills with a long slide upon which logs were drawn up
to the mill from rafts below the falls. The bridge across Otter Creek was
without other railing than a stick of square timber laid on the sides.
At the east end of the bridge and below it was another cloth-dressing establishment,
owned and operated by Reuben WHEDEN, who was an active and enterprising
business man. Below his shop was a saw-mill and then a gunsmith's shop,
and lower down a blast furnace where A. T. Rathbone cast stoves and hollow
ware. The first object of interest above the bridge after crossing to the
east side was the broken cannon set into a cleft in the rocks, a few feet
from the water and thirteen feet above the bridge as it then stood, but
higher up the stream than it now is. The original monument which marked
the bounds between New Haven and Ferrisburgh was a walnut tree, and after
the decay of the tree a committee marked the spot where it had been by
placing there a broken cannon, where it has since remained. Just back of
this cannon stood a building and tannery much smaller than the present
one, and near it were found the remains of the tubs and appurtenances used
in the brewery started there in 1789. About half way up the hill stood
a gambrel-roofed house owned by Daniel NICHOLS and rented to PEMBERTON.
Higher up the hill was a small house occupied by Jemmie BOND, as he was
always called, who supplied fresh meat to the citizens, from a cart. On
the corner of Water street was a two-story brick house; the basement on
Main street was afterwards used as a store, and the house occupied by its
owner, Wait Martin, as a dwelling. The house now occupied by F. C. STRONG
was then occupied by William H. WHITE. Across the street lived Captain
Francis BRADBURY, and on the lower corner of the bank lot was a small wooden
building used for a store and occupied by Hector H. CRANE. Where the bank
is now, was a two-story wooden house occupied by General Villee LAWRENCE,
the frame of which was moved later to form the present residence of General
Grandey. A jeweler's shop, used by Edmund SMITH, stood where is the probate
office. A portion of the Havens store stood on the corner and was occupied
by B. & G. SPENCER, merchants. Upon the next block, now so closely
built, was first Belden SEYMOUR's hat shop, a small wooden store, and then
next a similar building where General LAWRENCE sold goods and bought produce.
Nearly in the middle of the block was the cozy dwelling house of Belden
SEYMOUR, with a yard in front filled with shrubbery; the house was a story
and a half and built of wood. Two small wooden stores came next, occupied
by F. HUNTINGTON and WHITE & BRUSH. On the corner stood a low, rambling,
gambrel-roofed wooden building, which had been used for a tavern; it was
then used for a store and mechanic shops. On the opposite side of Main
street was a two-story house, the dwelling of Reuben WHEELER, with a store
in one corner, where ADAMS & WHEELER traded. Where the Farmers' Bank
is, was the law office of Noah HANLEY, soon after used as a harness shop
by William JOSLIN. Next was the dwelling house of Reuben BRUSH, now a part
of the hotel, and on the corner was "Rich's tavern," owned by WHITE &
BRUSH and kept by Thomas W. RICH from 1816 to '26. The building C. B. KIDDER
occupied was a large brick block built by Horace WHEELER, of two stories
and basement, the basement stores fronting on Green street being thought
very desirable locations.
SCOTT & RAYMOND had one of the basement stores, and Azro BENTON
another, and GRISWOLD & PAINTER another. Entering the building from
Main street into a large hall, on the right was the tailor shop of William
BURRITT, with his work rooms above; next came the city jail, and back of
that the book-store and bindery of Jeptha SHEDD. In front on the left hand
side of the hall William R. BIXBEY and William T. WARD had recently put
a stock of goods, being the first goods ever brought through the Champlain
Canal to Vergennes. Nathan HOSKINS's law office was in this building, and
in December, 1824, Philip C. TUCKER had opened a law office in the same
building. This building was burned in 1830, and one man who was assisting
to remove goods from the building was caught in the falling building and
burned. In the middle of this block was a large, low, gambrel-roofed house
occupied by Edward SUTTON (formerly occupied by Amos MARSH and built by
Jabez FITCH); the house was back from the road, with locust trees in front
of it. A square building stood above the house, which was used as a law
office by Smith BOOTH, and having been moved is now known as Dr. INGHAM's
chapel. The house now used for a dwelling by J. B. HUSTED was the SUTTON
store. A shed and storehouse occupied the present site of the Methodist
Church. The green was then anything but an ornament to the city, with no
trees on it, the ground uneven and at times very wet. The house of William
WHITE (now C. A. BOOTH's) was one of the few painted houses in the city.
Samuel WILSON lived where the brick house is and used as a cabinet shop
his present dwelling. Hector H. CRANE, a merchant and afterwards landlord
of the Eagle Hotel in Albany, N. Y., lived where Mr. WOODBRIDGE resides.
By the side of the street at the corner of the green stood the hay scales,
in striking contrast with the present conveniences for weighing; two ends
and a narrow roof, leaving an open space into which the load could be drawn,
where chains were fastened to the wheels and the load lifted by a windlass
and the weight found by a scale beam and poise. Much of the ground northerly
from the hay scales was public ground belonging to the city, and just back
of the town hall and high on the rocks stood the court-house, built in
1798 for the use of the Legislature in the first instance, and then used
for a court-house and a house of public worship, with a Masonic hall in
the second story. It was a large square building conspicuous from its location
and height. The WHEELER house was occupied by William BURRITT for a dwelling
house. The house where Dr. KIDDER lives was then and had long been kept
as a tavern. All public houses of entertainment were then called taverns.
This house changed tenants very often; Jesse HOLLISTER, Benjamin G. Rogers,
Bissell CASE, _______PAINTER, Norman ALLEN, William HARTSHORN, and Roswell
HAWKINS were among the number.
The Maxfield house was then the dwelling of Daniel W. BUCKLEY, and
the stone building next was a famous store kept by Argalus and Daniel HARMON
at an early day. A small yellow house stood on the lot now owned by R.
MALDOON, where lived the widow of Dr. HALL. The family of David EDMUND
occupied the house where J. W. BARNES lives. EDMUND, who was the boast
and pride of Vergennes from 1802 to his death in 1824, built the house
at an early date. A small house and blacksmith's shop was near PARADEE's
place, and the American House was rented to Henry CRONK, long sheriff and
constable in Vergennes, and prime mover in building a long two-story house
opposite the hotel for a place of meeting for the few Methodists in Vergennes
and vicinity; they met in the upper room, reached by stairs on the outside.
That house and the house then used as a dwelling in connection with the
tannery in the Lyman Hollow, were the only ones beyond the Wheeler house
on that side of the street, and there was only one on the other side beyond
the American. On Water street lived Thomas BYRD, in a house where DALRYMPLE's
store is. Miss BALDWIN lived next in a small house known as the WILCOX
house, then came the house soon after occupied by William JOSLIN, and then
the blacksmith's shop of Benajah WEBSTER, a building which had been the
dwelling of Samuel DAVIS, and where WEBSTER lived until he built the brick
house opposite, when he converted his former dwelling into a shop. An old
house stood on the present site of C. D. KEELER's residence. Near the dwelling
of Robert ROSS was a building used by Rodman STOWELL for a slaughter-house.
The old GREEN place (now Francis MCDONOUGH's) was then occupied by the
widow of John GREEN, and mother of William E. GREEN.
On Water street north of Main, towards the wharf, was a mechanic's
shop near John LIBERTY's, and at the base of Battery Hill lived Edmund
SMITH, a jeweler, in the house lately burned. The space between Potash
Brook and the wharf was used as a ship-yard, owned by Captain Jahaziel
SHERMAN, who lived in the house across the street from the wharf. About
this time Nathan DAGGETT, a brother of Mrs. SHERMAN, opened a store at
the wharf. A towpath was this year opened to the lake, for towing boats
to and from the lake. The steamboat Congress was advertised to make one
trip every week from St. Johns to Whitehall and back, stopping at Vergennes
one way. On Comfort Hill was found the dwelling of Edward ROBERTS; then
Dr. HUNTINGTON's large yellow house; then Cyrus BOSTWICK's, and next Jonathan
HUNTINGTON's; and at the SEYMOUR place was Nathan DAGGETT. Samuel MCKILLIPS
lived at the BOTSFORD farm and Moses MCKILLIPS where Ezra CHAMPION lives.
In the center of A. T. SMITH's lot stood the gambrel-roofed house of Daniel
NICHOLS, and Simon BUSH, a cooper, lived where LAPORT lives. Rev. Alexander
LOVELL, pastor of the Congregational Church, lived in the RUGG house, on
Elbow street; Thomas GEER in the house tin the corner. What is now Mrs.
ADAMS's dwelling was then used for a district school-house, where Sidney
DUNTON taught school. The BRADBURY place was the residence of William T.
WARD, a merchant, and soon after of Harry B. SEYMOUR; Noah HAWLEY, a lawyer,
lived where the PARKER House stands; then came a small house in which Simeon
WILLARD lived. Jeptha SHEDD's house is now Judge ROBERTS's. Where the Catholic
Church stands was a large house known as the HITCHCOCK house, but about
this time occupied by E. J. Austin, a jeweler. Nearly opposite on Elbow
street was the BOSTWICK House, as called afterwards, and all beyond to
the creek was cow pasture. Richard BURROUGHS lived in the MCCUEN house,
and years before taught a select school in his house. He was a graduate
of Dartmouth College in the class of 1796; was a superior mathematician
and published a work on trigonometry, navigation, and surveying. He died
in Waltham at the age of ninety years, having been engaged in teaching
about fifty years of his life.
Fordyce HUNTINGTON lived where Mrs. GOULAIT now lives, and his cow
pasture extended up beyond the cemetery. Beyond that lived John IRISH and
Peter WELCH. On South street, east of Philo BRISTOL's place, lived Dr.
Kent WOOD, and on Short street, at the SPRAGUE place, lived Edward J. SUTTON.
On Green street about this time the old wooden building on the corner of
Main street was taken down and the lot was vacant a while. A small shop
stood in the center of the block and one at the corner, with the stage
barns back of it (so called because the stage horses were kept there ready
for a change every time the stage passed through Vergennes). Opposite was
Alfred DUNCKLEE's cooper shop and where CUMMING's paint shop is now was
then Joshua SCOTT's blacksmith shop. The dwelling and grounds of E. D.
WOODBRIDGE occupied the whole of the school-house lot. Ratio L. STOWELL
had a hat shop in a small building opposite, and a wheelwright's shop was
on the HAWKINS corner. A wooden house of one and a half stories, on the
site of J. G. HINDES's house, was the home night and day of Walter PERRY,
a tailor, who lived there twenty years without going into Main street.
In the BIXBEY house lived William A. EMMONS, a saddler. Next to the HINDES
house on Green street was the most attractive house and grounds in the
city the home of Amos W. BARNUM, at that time a bold and successful operator
in the extensive and various business enterprises in which he was engaged.
In his yard were tame deer, and bears chained; running water in the back
yard, brought from the hill; stables filled with racing and breeding horses
of great fame; the house and grounds and stock evidencing the wealth and
taste and skill of the owner. The house opposite was built and used by
Ratio L. STOWELL, who died in 1884 at the residence of his son-in-law,
Walter A. WEED, in Shelburne. Abijah BARNUM, a brother of Amos W., lived
in a house where Mrs. SMITH lives; one house on the corner below, the residence
of SPAFFORD, and one opposite where Joshua SCOTT lived.
Horace WHEELER, a business man of great enterprise, lived in the
corner house northerly from the TUCKER place and ROBLEY had a house and
shop on the TUCKER grounds. CUMMINGS, a carpenter, lived opposite, and
Phineas YOUNG, from New Jersey, the father of a large family, lived near
where his son, Benjamin F. YOUNG, lives. Horace WHEELER's tannery was at
or over the brook, and John MCVENE, a blacksmith, and father of John E.
MCVENE, a successful lawyer, lived in the Dudley GORDON house. Nathan HOSKINS,
a lawyer, had a small house where T. C. MIDDLEBROOKS resides, and Seth
GEER where Edward HAYES is.
The old stone distillery stood where the same building now is, and
was then in operation and thought to be as necessary as a grist-mill. In
1824 the owners advertised whisky by the barrel at thirty-seven cents per
gallon. On East street was a cluster of small houses called French Village.
In one of them resided a Frenchman worthy of honor and sympathy from all
patriotic men. His name was Peter CHARTIE, sometimes called SHARKEY and
sometimes CARTER. He was one of the French patriots who came to this country
with Lafayette and served with him in the Revolutionary War. It is pleasant
to know that he received a pension from our government in his later years.
One of his sons, John, built a log house on the bank of Otter Creek a mile
below the falls and gave a name to the "Sharkey Bend" in the creek. The
widow of his son Jacob (also a pensioner) died in Vergennes in September,
OFFICERS ELECTED IN 1825
Mayor, Amos W. BARNUM; aldermen, William WHITE, Edward SUTTON, John
H. SHERRILL, John THOMPSON; sheriff and constable, Samuel B. BOOTH; city
clerk, William WHITE; common council, Villee LAWRENCE, Horace WHEELER,
Samuel P. STRONG; listers, Belden SEYMOUR, John H. SHERRILL, William WHITE,
Noah HAWLEY, Benajah WEBSTER; representative, Amos W. BARNUM.
During the second quarter of the present century the methods and
customs in mercantile business were somewhat changed. Previously merchants
bought only staple articles for sale, and, adding a large percentage for
profits, they waited for customers that were pretty sure to come, and many
of the early merchants became rich men. Conspicuous among this class in
Vergennes were the HARMONS, WHITE & BRUSH, and Edward SUTTON. Their
day was followed by a time of sharper competition, of greater risks, and
more numerous competitors for the trade of the country. Fancy goods were
more largely introduced and profits were not quite as large. People came
to Vergennes to buy goods from a great distance in every direction. The
merchants of Vergennes as a class were equal to the situation and were
generally successful. Villee LAWRENCE, among the older ones of this period,
obtained the reputation of being a man of clear and comprehensive intellect,
of great general information, and well versed in public affairs. His numerous
elections to offices of trust and responsibility attest the favor of his
acquaintances. A general in the militia of Vermont, representative of Vergennes
in the Legislature, a county senator, assistant judge of County Court,
and mayor of Vergennes, his ability was recognized in all those positions.
He married in 1814 a daughter of Enoch WOODBRIDGE and sister of Enoch D.
WOODBRIDGE, and lived several years in a small house where N. G. NORTON
now lives and then in a house on the site of the National Bank. He had
three sons and three daughters. His oldest son, Henry C. LAWRENCE, is still
living in Evanston, Ill. Charles B. LAWRENCE became chief justice of Illinois
and died a few years since. Edward, a farmer, died soon after. One daughter,
Sarah, now deceased, married John PIERPOINT, of Vergennes. The second,
Elizabeth, married E. W. BLAISDELL, of Rockford, Ill., and is still living;
the third daughter married and died in Connecticut. The wife of General
LAWRENCE died young, and he remained a widower until his death at Vergennes
in 1866, at the age of seventy-eight years. Fordyce HUNTINGTON, all his
life a merchant, was a man of a happy temperament and passed a serene and
tranquil life, winning the respect and affection of his associates. He
was many years in partnership with Wm. H. WHITE in trade, until Mr. WHITE
gave up the business to engage in other pursuits. Mr. HUNTINGTON was the
son of Ebenezer HUNTINGTON, one of the first settlers, and long a physician
in Vergennes. Fordyce HUNTINGTON married Eliza SMITH, a daughter of Noah
SMITH, and lived first in a house south of the Catholic Church, and later
where C. T. and C. O. STEVENS live. He was assistant, judge of the County
Court in 1842 and '43. He had two daughters; the oldest married John H.
BOWMAN, then a merchant in Vergennes, and died in Rutland. The youngest
daughter is still living in Vergennes. Wm. H. WHITE was a popular merchant
in his younger days, and partner of Fordyce HUNTINGTON, until his preference
for an active out-door life led him to relinquish the mercantile business.
He was interested in farming, and in 1836 purchased the iron works in company
with Apollos AUSTIN and Henry HEWITT, and was always an active and busy
man. He married Sarah BOOTH, a daughter of Samuel B. BOOTH, of Vergennes,
and lived a while in the house now occupied by F. C. STRONG. At the death
of his father he moved into the house by the green, where he died in 1874.
His wife, a most estimable woman, died in 1861. Only one daughter survived
him, the wife of Cyrus A. BOOTH, of Vergennes.
William T. PARKER, father of Mayor PARKER, of Vergennes, and his
brother and mercantile partner, George PARKER, both of them strong characters
and leading business men in Vergennes, are too well known to the present
generation to need further mention in this connection.
William T. WARD was a partner of William R. BIXBEY from 1823 to
1828, and then traded for a number of years in a small red store at the
west end of the bridge. The store was first used by Abel TOMLINSON, afterward
by Theodore CLARK, then by Mr. WARD, and lastly by Obadiah WALKER. Mr.
WARD had a potash establishment near the present ice-house. He is remembered
as a fine-looking and agreeable man. He married a daughter of John H. SHERRILL
and sister of Elliott SHERRILL; they had several children; the family moved
John B. LOVELL was a man of much enterprise, a bold and active business
operator, and an impulsive man, but with firmness enough to pursue his
plans with resolution. He sold goods in the WHEELER block on the corner
of Main and Green streets till the fire of 1830, and again after it was
rebuilt. He lived where Edward WHEELER now lives. Horace ONION and Samuel
MORGAN, from Windsor county, were among the popular and successful merchants
of Vergennes. After Mr. ONION retired from the business John H. BOWMAN
came into the firm, and MORGAN & BOWMAN continued the business. Mr.
ONION returned to Chester. Mr. MORGAN died in 1856 and Mr. BOWMAN now lives
in Randolph, Mass.
Isaiah SCOTT, of the firm of SCOTT & RAYMOND, was in mercantile
business but a few years when he was elected cashier of Vergennes Bank,
which position he held until the marriage of his only daughter to J. D.
ATWELL, when Mr. SCOTT left Vergennes and Mr. ATWELL was elected cashier.
William R. BIXBEY came from a Boston clerkship to Vergennes with a stock
of goods about 1823 and opened a store in company with William T. WARD
in the Wheeler block. He was very soon appointed postmaster by President
Monroe, and held the position till 1845. Mr. BIXBEY from his first coming
to Vergennes was an avowed supporter of religion and morality, and his
whole life was marked by a constant practice and advocacy of his principles.
He came here at the time when Sunday-schools were first started in Vermont,
and very soon, in connection with John SHIPHERD, organized a Sunday-school
which was held in the old court-house for many years and was a great success.
Only two members of that first school have continued members of the same
school to the present day. Mr. BIXBEY continued to be superintendent about
forty years. The agitation of the temperance question began soon after
Mr. BIXBEY commenced business, when he abandoned the sale of liquor and
continued through his life a most determined opponent of the liquor traffic.
He was an active and leading member of the Congregational Church fifty-seven
years. He was a man of great firmness of character, positive and decided
views, and ever faithful to his convictions of right and duty. He married
Lucy GOVE, whom he survived for a few years, and died in 1881, leaving
two children, Mrs. BISSEL, of Chicago, and William G. BIXBEY, of Vergennes.
Very many other merchants have done business in Vergennes for shorter
periods. There were eleven stores in 1824 and fourteen in 1842.
The lawyers in Vergennes are mentioned in the chapter on the Bench
and Bar of Addison county.
Among the farmers, manufacturers, and mechanics were men of ability
whose influence upon the public sentiment of Vergennes and her institutions
has been felt and acknowledged. General Samuel P. STRONG, an only son of
General Samuel STRONG, was brought up with habits of industry and economy.
He married in 1818 Eliza SMITH, a daughter of judge Isaac SMITH, and followed
farming for some years on a large farm of intervale land in Vergennes and
Panton, lying south of the school-house in the western district and in
1839 built the house lately occupied by Jacob SMITH and family, and surrendered
the care of his home farm to Samuel P. HOPKINS. He owned a large landed
estate and several saw-mills. He was president of Vergennes Bank many years;
was one of the directors of the Rutland and Burlington Railroad, and deeply
interested in all that related to the prosperity of Vergennes. He was a
man of positive opinions and few words, of a retiring disposition, and
had little patience with shams and pretenses and all false show. He was
thirty years a member of the Congregational Church, in which he took a
deep interest. He died childless in 1864.
Major John THOMPSON was long identified with the business of Vergennes
and passed a busy life of many changes. When quite young he lived with
his father on a farm near Basin Harbor, and could tell of coming to Vergennes
to mill, bringing his grist on a horse when he had to, cross Otter Creek
at the Gage ferry, at the mouth of Dead Creek, as there were no bridges
over Dead Creek. When older, he went to live with General STRONG, and in
early man-hood was sent to the neighboring States and Canada to set up
carding-machines sold by General STRONG, and collect the pay for them.
In 1812 he married Susan MATHER, whose parents lived where the bakery is,
and went on a farm in Addison, where he remained but a short time and returned
to Vergennes, buying the house and forty acres of land where he afterward
lived, and started a carding-mill and cloth-dressing shop on the large
island by the side of the grist-mill. In 1846 and '47 he was mayor of Vergennes.
He was a man of strong peculiarities and much native shrewdness, firm in
his attachments and in his prejudices. He died in 1867.
Elliott SHERRILL, a son of John H. SHERRILL, born at Albany, N.
Y., in 1795, came with his parents when quite young to Vergennes; was married
to Laura BELLAMY, daughter of Justus BELLAMY, of Vergennes, December 1,
1816. He was engaged in the early part of his business life in the carding
and cloth-dressing business, at his mills on the west side of the creeks
but at length retired to the farm now owned by his son. He was notable
as a quiet man of undoubted integrity and sound judgment, happy in the
retirement of his home with his books and papers, and universally respected.
He survived his wife a few years and died April 30, 1881, aged eighty-six
years; one son, William A. SHERRILL, and one daughter, Mrs. GREEN, now
living in Vergennes.
Hosea WILLARD, whose parents went from West Windsor to Fair Haven
in 1818, came from Fair Haven to Vergennes to practice his trade as a mason.
He immediately acquired the reputation of being a skillful and rapid worker
and soon became a contractor and builder, where he found scope for his
clear judgment and quick eye and ready hand. The churches, bank, and many
dwellings in Vergennes were built by him. His two brothers, Simeon and
Dennison, were also practical masons living in Vergennes. The active mind
of Mr. WILLARD led him in later life to find occupation and amusement in
the invention of many ingenious contrivances for saving labor. He married
Betsey BENTON, October 28, 1832, who died in 1878, and Mr. WILLARD in 1883,
John D. WARD, who began his business life as a blacksmith working
at his forge, is first heard of in Montreal, and was then called to this
vicinity to assist in arranging an engine on a steamboat. Coming from Fort
Cassin to Vergennes, when passing the house of Major Durand ROBURDS he
saw in the yard in front of the house, Laura, daughter of Major ROBURDS,
and felt that he had met his fate. Not long after he married her and she
went with him to Montreal, where by industry and economy he was able to
put up a furnace on the site of his blacksmith shop, and to take a trip
to England and Scotland to inform himself in regard to his new business.
He returned bringing with him Mr. William ROSS from Scotland. He was successful
in business, which he kept enlarging. He at length sold his interest in
it to his brother Lebbeus and came to Vergennes in 1828, purchasing the
property of the Monkton Iron Company, where he dug the canal to carry the
water, instead of the old flume, and put the works in order and managed
them successfully until importuned to sell them; he fixed a price, $32,000.
and his offer was accepted, and the property passed to the Vergennes Iron
Company, consisting of Apollos AUSTIN, William H. WHITE, and Henry HEWITT.
Mr. WARD left Vergennes in 1837, to the regret of most of the citizens,
who had come to look upon him as a complete master of his business, as
a most desirable citizen, and as a man of strong mind, who by his thorough
self-culture had become an authority on scientific subjects and well versed
in literary matters. William ROSS, who came from Scotland to Montreal,
and thence to Vergennes with John D. WARD, as a machinist, was a respected
citizen of Vergennes and a skillful worker in wood and iron. He died about
1871, leaving four sons and two daughters. His sons are all excellent machinists.
Robert lives in Vergennes. Thomas, who was killed in Rutland by the bursting
of an emery wheel, was proprietor of the Lincoln Iron Works in Rutland.
While in Vergennes he, in company with F. M. STRONG, invented the Howe
scales, now being manufactured in Rutland. George is in Arkansas extensively
engaged in lumbering. Crawford is a machinist in West Rutland. Chilion
WINES, a brother of Enoch WINES, a noted worker in the cause of prison
reform, was a carpenter and joiner and contractor; lived in the house now
occupied by James ROCK. He was a thoughtful man of considerable reading,
a great Bible student, and interested in theories of MILLER, the apostle
of Second Adventism. Joshua SCOTT, a blacksmith, was an active and enthusiastic
worker in every department in which he engaged. He was the father of Henry
A. SCOTT, who found more agreeable music in the tones of the piano than
in the ring of the anvil, and became a popular music teacher. Roswell HAWKINS,
a son of Roger HAWKINS, an early settler in this vicinity, was an active,
large-hearted man of varied pursuits in Vergennes. Samuel WILSON, an active
and intelligent business man in Vergennes from 1816, was a cabinet-maker
for half a century or more, and is now living, at the age of ninety-five.
The first building in Vergennes was the cabin of those who built the saw-mill
on the west side of the creek, and on that side the principal business
centered for some years; the next point to be improved was the farming
land above the falls on the east side, and lastly, what is now the business
The fact that so many taverns were kept in Vergennes at an early
day is suggestive of land speculators and lumbermen and a transient population.
Gideon SPENCER and Colonel Alexander BRUSH were the pioneers in tavern
keeping. In 1795 Jesse HOLLISTER, Wm. GOODRICH, David HARMON, Jacob REDINGTON,
Gideon SPENCER, and Bulkley JOHNSON were licensed to keep "houses of public
entertainment." Jesse HOLLISTER kept on the easterly corner of Main and
East streets; David HARMON where the old bank is; Jacob REDINGTON on easterly
corner of Main and Green streets; Gideon SPENCER on west side of creek;
Bulkley JOHNSON, unknown; William GOODRICH directly opposite the present
Stevens House. The Stevens House location was sold in March, 1795, for
$120; in July, 1799, to Jesse HOLLISTER for $840; in March, 1800 HOLLISTER
deeds to Azriah PAINTER for $3,000; in 1811 PAINTER deeds to A. W. BARNUM,
and in 1815 BARNUM to WHITE & BRUSH; in 1840 William H. WHITE deeds
to Chilion WINES and C. T. and C. O. STEVENS for $3,000. PAINTER and his
sons, Lyman and Hiram, probably kept the house from 1800 to 1816; then
Thomas W. RICH till 1826; Austin JOHNSON till 1828; S. DINSMORE till 1830;
J. W, ROGERS till 1832; Milton CRAM a short time; then Calvin H. SMITH.
In the survey of the town plot of Ferrisburgh in 1786 a lot in front
of the green, ten rods on Main street and six rods on Green street, was
designated as a public lot for court-house and jail. In 1796 the corner
was leased to Justus BELLAMY, on which he was to keep in order a jail forever.
Roswell HOPKINS and Jacob REDINGTON had before leased it and probably built
on it, but the lease was canceled. REDINGTON kept tavern there a few years.
The other half of the public lot was sold to Argalus HARMON for $450, in
order to put the avails of the sale into building the court-house. The
corner of Main and East streets was a favorite tavern stand until about
1835, but changed tenants often. The American Hotel was kept by Henry CRONK
a while. In 1824 Thomas STEVENS hired it of Amos W. BARNUM, and he and
his family kept the house most of the time till 1840.
Under the old system of teaching the common branches only in the
district schools, select schools were started in nearly every village.
Richard BURROUGHS, James Ten BROOKE, and Benjamin B. ALLEN were the most
noted teachers of boys' schools in Vergennes. Mrs. COOKE, Miss JEWETT,
Miss MILLER, Mrs. LEAVITT, and many others taught young ladies the higher
branches and the accomplishments. Mrs. COOKE taught a popular school in
the upper room in the old court-house from 1824 about three years. Previous
to the advent of Mrs. COOKE in 1803 a bargain was made to erect a building
on the northerly corner of Main and Water streets for a store and dwelling
below, and a room over the store for a women's school and a Masonic hall.
It is said that Miss SCISSON did teach school there at one time and that
the building was burned and the school moved across the street to a room
in what is now the FORTIN block. Since the establishment of the graded
school in Vergennes in 1864 the public want in regard to schools seems
to have been fully met and satisfied. The Bank of Vergennes, under a State
charter granted in 1826, elected their officers March 1, 1827, choosing
Thomas D. HAMMOND, Paris FLETCHER, Samuel STRONG, Belden SEYMOUR, Benjamin
FIELD, Fordyce HUNTINGTON, and Amos W. BARNUM as directors. BARNUM soon
resigned and William NASH was elected in his place. Samuel STRONG was made
president, and William WHITE cashier. The bank commenced discounting May
2, 1827, in a building on the present site of BARTLEY's tin shop, with
a capital of $100,000. The same year a stone building was erected on the
corner opposite the hotel for a store in front on Main street, and small
banking room in rear, with a strong vault, the entrance to the bank from
Green street and from the store. On May 14, 1865, the change was made from
the old State Bank to the National Bank of Vergennes, and capital increased
to $150,000. The twenty years' charter first taken was renewed in 1885.
At present Carleton T. STEARNS is president; Andrew ROSS, cashier; Charles
H. STRONG, assistant cashier. The Farmers' National Bank was chartered
May 25, 1880, with $50,000 capital, since increased to $75,000. Walter
SCRANTON is president; D. Henry LEWIS is cashier; S. W. HINDES, assistant
cashier. The present banking house of the National Bank was erected in
Samuel CHIPMAN, 1789; Jabez FITCH, 1790; Enoch WOODBRIDGE, 1791;
Gideon SPENCER, 1795; Amos MARSH, 1796; Enoch WOODBRIDGE, 1802; Amos MARSH,
1803; Samuel STRONG, 1804; Thomas BYRD, 1806; John H. SHERRILL, 1807; David
EDMOND, 1808; Amos W. BARNUM, 1810; E. D. WOODBRIDGE, 1811; A. W. BARNUM,
1812; David EDMOND, 1813; E. D. WOODBRIDGE, 1816; David EDMOND, 1817; E.
D. WOODBRIDGE, 1818; William WHITE, 1819; David EDMOND, 1821; Edward SUTTON,
1822; E. D. WOODBRIDGE, 1824; A. W. BARNUM, 1825; Noah HAWLEY, 1827; Philip
C. TUCKER, 1829; Belden SEYMOUR, 1831; John H. SHERRILL, 1832; E. D. WOODBRIDGE,
1834; Jahaziel SHERMAN, 1835; Belden SEYMOUR, 1837; Fordyce HUNTINGTON,
1838; William T. PARKER, 1840; John PIERPOINT, 1841; E. D. WOODBRIDGE,
1842; George W. GRANDEY, 1843; Villee LAWRENCE, 1845; Edward SEYMOUR, 1847;
F. E. WOODBRIDGE, 1849; George W. GRANDEY, 1850; F. E. WOODBRIDGE, 1857;
George W. GRANDEY, 1859; Edward SEYMOUR, 1860; C. M. FISHER, 1862; William
S. HOPKINS, 1864; B. F. GOSS, 1866; George W. GRANDEY, 1868; Paschal MAXFIELD,
1870; Walter G. SPRAGUE, 1874; F. E. WOODBRIDGE, 1876; Walter SCRANTON,
1878; G. F. O. KIMBALL, 1882; D. H. LEWIS, 1884.
Enoch WOODBRIDGE, 1794; Roswell HOPKINS, 1796; Thomas BYRD, 1799;
Roswell HOPKINS, 1801; Thomas BYRD, 1802; Amos MARSH, 1807; Josias SMITH,
1810; Samuel STRONG, 1811; Smith BOOTH, 1815; David EDMOND, 1819; Amos
W. BARNUM, 1824; John H. SHERRILL, 1828; Belden SEYMOUR, 1830; John D.
WARD, 1833; Belden SEYMOUR, 1836; Elliott SHERRILL, 1838; Villee LAWRENCE,
1839; E. D. WOODBRIDGE, 1842; Villee LAWRENCE, 1845; John THOMPSON, 1846;
John PIERPOINT, 1848; George W. GRANDEY, 1855; F. E. WOODBRIDGE, 1861;
George W. GRANDEY, 1864; John E. ROBERTS, 1867; George W. GRANDEY, 1871;
John D. SMITH, 1872; William S. HOPKINS, 1875; F. E. WOODBRIDGE, 1879;
George W. GRANDEY, 1880; Joel H. LUCIN, 1881; Charles E. PARKER, 1884;
N. J. MCCUEN, 1886.
Post-office in Vergennes, Addison county, Vt., established in 1792.
Postmasters -- Alexander BRUSH, March 2, 1793; Josias SMITH, August 10,
1793; Asa STRONG, October 1, 1795; Samuel CHIPMAN, April 1, 1799; William
FESSENDEN, April 1, 1802; John WILCOX, December 1, 1802; John GREEN, October
1, 1808; Abel TOMLINSON, April 1, 1811; Joseph TOMLINSON, February 3, 1812;
Abel TOMLINSON, July 1, 1814; John H. SHERRILL, January 29, 1816; William
R. BIXBEY, April 8, 1824; John PARKER, July 29, 1845; Elijah W. BLAISDELL,
jr., May 23, 1849; Philip C. TUCKER, May 24, 1853; George W. GRANDEY, April
1, 1861; John D. SMITH, December 18, 1865; Hiram C. JOHNSON, April 21,
1869; George F. O. KIMBALL, July 16, 1885.
Very many of the early business enterprises and the men who carried
them on have already received mention in these pages. One of the older
merchants of the city gives us the names of the following men who were
in trade here about 1830-35; G. & W. T. PARKER carried on mercantile
business, and Villee LAWRENCE also, in his own building on the site of
the present stone building. William R. BIXBEY was in trade, and ONION &
MORGAN were located in a building now occupied by Mr. HAVEN. John B. LOVELL
traded where KIDDER now is, and William H. WHITE where Mr. MCCUEN is now
in business. William T. WARD had a store on the west side. Harry B. SEYMOUR
manufactured and sold hats, and Samuel SEDGWICK was the city tailor. A
hotel was kept by Roswell HAWKINS in the building now occupied by C. W.
B. KIDDER, and Thomas STEVENS kept the old Stevens House in the building
since known as the American House.
Coming down to merchants of later days and those of the present
time, we may mention C. A. BOOTH, who served as clerk in 1836 for G. &
W. T. PARKER, where Lawrence BARTLEY's tin-shop now is. He began trade
on his own account before 1850, first where N. J. MCCUEN is in trade. That
block was built by William H. WHITE. The stone building where Mr. BOOTH
is now located was built by RUSSELL, and was known as Russell's block.
In that store William R. BIXBEY was the first merchant, and he sold out
to Mr. BOOTH. The latter began trade in his present location in 1877, and
is now associated with his son, William W. BOOTH, who began as clerk for
G. & W: T. PARKER in 1863.
Between then and the time of the formation of the present firm there
were several changes which need not be further detailed. Their business
is in hardware of all kinds. F. K. HAVEN has been in business here since
about 1850, beginning where Charles KIDDER is now located. After a short
period in Albion, N. Y., he returned and opened trade where William DALRYMPLE
now is. The firm was then STRONG & HAVEN, Foster STRONG being the partner.
This continued until 1867, since which time Mr. HAVEN has been alone. He
occupied his present store in 1855, and carries a stock of hats, caps,
boots and shoes, furnishing goods, carpets, etc. C. E. KIDDER began his
general mercantile business in March, 1879, in the store now occupied by
J. B. HUSTED. He removed to his present location in October, 1881, succeeding
I. H. SMITH & Co. CHAMBERLAIN & Co. (the firm comprising W. P.
CHAMBERLAIN, Frank HUNTRESS, and W. H. PATTEN) began the dry goods trade
in 1879, and occupied their present site in October, 1885, succeeding George
W. ROSS, who had done a general business for a number of years. Lawrence
BARTLEY occupies the store where a hardware and stove trade had been carried
on for a good many years by M. J. GRAVES, STEWART & BALDWIN, and J.
N. HAWLEY. Mr. BARTLEY began in September, 1884. SMITH & KETCHUM (I.
H. SMITH and H. KETCHUM) began their furniture trade about 1872, succeeding
CHARLES ADAMS on the same site. Charles DENNISON began the sale of drugs
and medicines in his present store in January, 1884, succeeding W. G. SPRAGUE,
one of the old druggists. His location is in the Dyer block, built and
owned by J. M. DYER, of Salisbury. J. B. HUSTED, merchant tailor and dealer
in clothing, began business about the year 1842, first where G. W. GRANDEY's
office now is. He removed to his present location when the block was built
in 1867. F. H. FOSS, who was formerly connected with the manufacture of
shade rollers, as manager, began his present business in 1884, and carries
a large stock of hardware, jewelry, books, stationery, etc. I. H. DONNELLY
has been engaged in merchant tailoring here since about 1878, coming from
Keeseville, NY. E. C. SCOTT began the grocery and provision trade
in Green street in 1873, and removed to his present store in 1880. O. C.
DALRYMPLE has carried on a grocery and crockery trade since 1880, and occupied
his present location in 1883. D. R. YOUNG succeeded J. E. YOUNG in the
sale of drugs and medicines in 1882. The latter had been in business here
since 1869. George E. STONE began business in selling boots and shoes and
groceries, and dealing largely in produce in 1883, succeeding P. &
M. T. BRISTOL; they were in the trade many years. W. R. DALRYMPLE formerly
sold groceries and crockery where O. C. DALRYMPLE is located, and began
his present business in boots and shoes, hats and caps, in 1882. E. G.
NORTON succeeded J. N. NORTON in the sale of feed and grain in 1882. Robert
HUDSON began the sale of stoves and tin ware on his present site in 1882.
E. T. BARNARD & Co. succeeded James J. BARNARD in the manufacture and
sale of harness and saddlery in 1876. The latter had been in the business
The Farmers' National Bank was established in June, 1880, with a
capital of $50,000, which was increased to $75,000 in 1885. The president
is Walter SCRANTON; M. F. ALLEN, vice-president; D. H. LEWIS, cashier;
S. W. HINDES, assistant cashier. The directors are Walter SCRANTON, H.
W. LEROY, N. F. DUNSHEE, C. W. READ, M. F. ALLEN, and D. H. LEWIS. The
Bank of Vergennes was established in 1827 with a capital of $100,000; Samuel
STRONG was made its president, and William WHITE cashier. The bank was
located on the site occupied by N. J. MCCUEN until 1843, when it was removed
to its present location. In 1865 the bank was rechartered as the National
Bank of Vergennes, with a capital of $150,000. The charter was renewed
in 1885 for twenty years. The present officers are as follows: C. T. STEVENS,
president; David SMITH, vice-president; Andrew ROSS, cashier; Charles H.
STRONG, assistant cashier. The directors are Marshall SMITH, Herrick STEVENS,
Thomas S. DRAKE, Russell T. BRISTOL, Joshua M. DEAN, with the president
In the face of the fact that Vergennes possesses a magnificent water
power, and the place would seem to be admirably situated for carrying on
extensive manufacturing operations, still industries of importance are
less numerous to-day than they have been at times in the past. The causes
that have brought about this state of affairs we shall not attempt to discuss;
but the inhabitants of the city feel the consequences keenly, at the same
time. that they cannot, or do not, successfully attempt to place the manufactures
of Vergennes upon the high plane where they belong. Chief among the manufacturing
establishments of the present time is the National Horse Nail Company,
which was formed in the fall of 1868. It is an incorporated company; with
Lawrence BARNES, of Burlington, as president; D. H. LEWIS, Vergennes, secretary
and treasurer; J. G. HINDES, manager. The buildings are owned by the Vergennes
Water Power Company, an organization which was formed in 1866 and purchased
the property known as the Vergennes Iron Company, with its water privilege,
on the west side of the creek, and about eighty acres of land. Its purpose
was to erect buildings as demanded and lease the water privileges to manufacturers.
The buildings in use by the nail company were erected for their particular
use. The company employs about fifty hands. The large wooden building adjoining
the nail works, the Flanders pump formerly extensively manufactured by
J. P. F. FLANDERS & Co. The business was closed about 1876 and removed
to Burlington. G. W. KENDALL carries on the manufacture of doors, sash
and blinds, in which business he has been engaged either alone or with
partners since 1869; the business was at one time much larger than at present,
and employed between thirty and forty men. Mr. KENDALL occupies a building,
owned by the Vergennes Water Power Company, which is stocked with excellent
machinery. ALDEN & COTEY (C. L. ALDEN and L. C. COTEY) are also engaged
in the manufacture of doors, sash and blinds, and bee-keepers' supplies,
and are contractors and builders, which business they began in 1884, succeeding
Erastus DANIELS. This factory is also a part of the property of the Vergennes
Water Power Company. The Vermont Shade Roller Manufacturing Company, located
at the west end of the bridge, was established by George D. WRIGHT and
F. H. FOSS, and W. and D. G. CRANE in 1877, for the manufacture of shade
rollers, slats, etc. In 1883 it was changed to a stock company, with W.
CRANE as president; Daniel ROBINSON, vice-president; A. G. CRANE, treasurer.
The capital is $60,000. The first buildings were burned, and the present
ones erected in 1884. S. A. TUTTLE is superintendent and one of the stockholders.
The Island Grist-mill, located on the island at the head of the falls,
stands on the site of the old BRADBURY mill, which was burned in June,
1877. The mill is operated by N. G. NORTON, who also carries on a lumber
trade and handles the Syracuse chilled plow. I. H. SMITH and Harvey KETCHUM,
under the firm style of SMITH & KETCHUM, began the manufacture of furniture
at their present location in 1878. They bought out HOLLAND & PARKER
and do a large business, employing twenty-five hands. BARTLEY, FISHER &
Co. (Lawrence BARTLEY, J. G. FISHER, and John FUSHA) began the manufacture
of furniture in 1880. They succeeded HAYES, FALLARDO & PARKER, who
manufactured doors, sash and blinds. The building occupied by them was
erected by Wm. E. GREEN and John E. ROBERTS, for the Sampson Scale Company,
which remained in business but a short time. F. M. STRONG is engaged in
the manufacture of wagon hubs and pokes, which business he has followed
since about 1879, a part of the time with a partner. His business reaches
$25,000 a year. Joseph PARADEE and Napoleon ROY are carriage and wagon
makers in the city, both of whom have been in the business for many years.
Morris DUBUKE and A. GRAVELINE are blacksmiths here, the latter also manufacturing
The Stevens House stands upon a site that has almost from the earliest
history of the city been devoted to hotel purposes, and a portion of the
present structure dates back to about 1800. It has been many times enlarged
and rebuilt, the brick portion having been added in 1848. The house is
at present well managed by S. S. GAINES. What was for many years kept as
the American House has been lately taken by G. W. PECK, who has established
a livery in connection with the house.
J.S. HICKOK does an extensive business in insurance, in which has
been engaged since 1875. He now represents the AEtna, of Hartford; The
Insurance Company of North America, Philadelphia; Phoenix, of Hartford;
German American of New York; Springfield Fire and Marine; the Niagara of
New York; Liverpool, London and Globe, and in life insurance the Northwestern
and the Travelers. W. G. SPRAGUE began the insurance in 1884, and represents
the Commeral Union of London; Phoenix, of London; Continental Fire, of
New York; the Vermont Mutual, of Montpelier; and in life insurance the
AEtna, the State Mutual, of Worcester, Mass., and the Accident Insurance
Company of North America at Montreal.
Congregational Church. -- Of this church the Rev. Daniel C. SANDERS
wrote in 1795 as follows:
ages may have a laudable curiosity to know the history of the beginning
of this particular church of Christ, first established in the infant city
of Vergennes. To gratify them the following remarks are submitted to the
eye of the candid and inquisitive. The population of the place was rapid
beyond the most sanguine calculations. In a very few years they had numbers
to make a respectable congregation. Circumstances, obvious in a new, uncultivated
country, prevented them from having any regular preaching of the Word for
some time. In the year 1790 they procured a regular candidate for a short
period. They had little regular preaching until the year 1792, in the month
of May, when a candidate, Mr. Daniel Clark SANDERS, A. M., educated in
the University of Cambridge, New England, came among them and continued
several months. He received an invitation to settle in the work of the
ministry among them, but circumstances at that time were thought to be
unfavorable. In the fall of 1793 he again received an invitation to settle
in the gospel ministry, with which he at length complied. Previous to this
a regular church was organized under the superintendence of Rev. C. M.
SMITH, of Sharon, who had been sent as a missionary from Connecticut to
the northern infant settlements in Vermont. This reverend gentleman, at
the request and with the assistance of several individuals, framed the
Articles of Christian Faith and Covenant of the Church, and regularly declared
them, on September 17, 1793, a regular Church of Christ."
Mr. SANDERS was ordained June 12, 1794, and remained here until
August, 1799, when he removed to Burlington, and soon afterward accepted
the presidency of the University of Vermont. Six members only are recorded
as having been added to the church previous to 1807. After being without
a pastor and dependent on occasional supplies for several years, Mr. John
HOUGH was hired for three months, and finally ordained March 12, 1807.
He continued here as pastor until August 25, 1812, when he was dismissed
at his request. He was afterwards for many years a professor in Middlebury
During his ministry sixty-nine members were added to the church.
The church remained without a pastor for five years, but was supplied with
preaching much of the time by candidates and neighboring ministers. During
this time sixty-five members were added to the church. Mr. Alexander LOVELL
was ordained October 22, 1817, and remained pastor of the church until
November 10, 1835, when he was dismissed by advice of council and at his
own request. During his pastorate of eighteen years, one hundred and forty
persons united with the church. In 1834 the present house of worship was
erected and dedicated. Previous to this, for several years after its organization,
the church held its meetings in private houses and in school-houses. In
1797 a large building was erected on the highest land in the city for a
State house. The Legislature occupied it only one year, 1798. It was afterward
used as a court-house, and on the Sabbath as a place for religious worship.
From the dismission of Mr. LOVELL, November 10, 1835, to August 31, 1836,
the church was again without a settled pastor. In this interim one hundred
and seventy-six united with the church, most of them on profession. This
large increase in so short a time was the result in part of a great revival
under the lead of Rev. Jedediah BURCHARD. Rev. Harvey F. LEAVITT was installed
August 31, 1836, and continued the active and efficient pastor of the church
until March 19, 1860, when he was dismissed by a mutual council called
at his request. His death occurred November 11, 1874. During the twenty-four
years of his ministry there were three hundred and twenty-four admissions
to the church. The pulpit was supplied during most of the next year by
Rev. Calvin PEASE, resident of the University of Vermont. Rev. George B.
SPALDING was installed October 3, 1861, and was dismissed August 1, 1864,
to become the pastor of the North Church in Hartford, Conn. During his
ministry nineteen persons united with the church. Rev. H. A. P. TORRY was
installed May 3, 1865, and dismissed August 18, 1868. During his pastorate
twenty-five persons united with the church and in the succeeding interim
thirty-six more. Rev. Horace P. V. BOGUE was installed November 25, 1869,
and was dismissed September 24, 1872. Seventeen persons were received into
the church at this time. Rev. William P. AIKEN was installed April 9, 1873,
and dismissed January 30, 1876. Thirty-seven were added to the church during
his pastorate. Rev. George E. HALL was installed May 2, 1877, and continued
until the installation of the present pastor, Rev. A. A. ROBERTSON, on
the 1st of July, 1884. The deacons of the church are Josiah PARKER and
Andrew ROSS; clerk, Julius S. HICKOCK; Sunday-school superintendent, Isaac
H. Smith. The present membership is about 230.
St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal Church. -- This church was organized
in 1883, by Cyrus BOOTH, Belden SEYMOUR, John PIERPOINT, George and William
PARKER, W. H. WHITE, William T. WARD, and others. Rev. Charles FAY was
secured as the first pastor. The church edifice was erected in 1834, of
brick, able of seating 250 persons. To this church the Rev. Charles John
KETCHUM ministered recently, and was succeeded in the present year (1886)
by the Rev. D. B. TAYLOR. The present membership is about one hundred.
The church officers are C. A. BOOTH, senior warden; Dr. F. W. COE, junior
warden; C. A. BOOTH, F. W. COE, Charles E. PARKER, vestrymen ; Charles
E. PARKER, superintendent.
Baptist Church. -- This church was organized in September, 1868,
and was chiefly the result of the labors of the first pastor, Rev. Joseph
FREEMAN. There were at first only nine members, and services were held
for a time in the town hall. The vestry of the church building was erected
and dedicated in 1877, but the entire building is not yet finished. The
membership at present is eighty-six. James A. AUSTIN and E. H. DANIELS
are the deacons. Rev. R. H. SHERMAN assumed the pastorate in 1885.
The Methodist. Episcopal Church. -- This society was organized with
about thirty members in 1840, through the labors of the first pastor, Rev.
C. R. WILKINS. The house of worship was erected in 1841 at a cost of $7,000.
The property is now valued at over $10,000, and there it no debt on the
church. A fine parsonage has been built and lately considerably improved.
The church officers are Ira KNOWLES, John CLARK, W. R. DALRYMPLE, Henry
A. HAWLEY, E. J. BRISTOL, W. W. WARD, Eli ROBERTS, stewards; H. E. GOODERE,
class leader; H. A. HALE, superintendent of Sabbath-school. The church
membership is 225, including the Ferrisburgh church, and about 150 in Vergennes
The Holy Family Roman Catholic Church was organized in 1834, and
in 1854 the first church edifice was erected of wood; this continued in
use until 1872, when the present brick structure was built at a cost of
$2,500. Rev. P. A. CAMPEAUX assumed charge of the church in 1884, succeeding
Rev. Father Joseph KERLIDON. The church is now called St. Peter's Church.
Reference has already been made to the early schools of the city
and it only remains to describe those of the present time. The city is
now divided into two districts, the creek forming the dividing line. In
the east district is a graded school, which is provided with a commodious
three-story school building erected in 1863. This school has an average
attendance of about 250 scholars, and is in charge of Aaron B. CLARK as
principal, with a competent corps of assistants. The west district has
only a one-story brick building, erected in 1830, and employs only one
teacher. W. G. FAIRBANKS is superintendent of schools in the city at the
present time. The two districts were united in 1885, and now form one district.
The Champlain Arsenal, a United States institution, was formerly in existence
here, comprising extensive buildings and twenty-eight acres of land, valued
at over $100,000. The State was given the privilege of storing a quantity
of war munitions here while the institution maintained its military character.
In 1865 this farm and arsenal property were purchased by the State and
transformed into the Vermont Reform School. The buildings were altered
to suit the requirements of the school, and the young of both sexes who
have been led into crime are cared for upon a system believed to be based
upon more humane ideas than those that prevail in ordinary prisons. Champlain
Valley Agricultural Society. -- This society was permanently organized
in January, 1881, but it had under temporary organization held two fairs
previous to that time. The grounds are located near the city and are now
supplied with proper buildings for the display of stock and other products.
The grounds are now the property of John M. DYER, who guarantees the payment
of the premiums offered, placing the society upon a firm basis. The officers
are H. S. JACKMAN, of Waltham, president; A. T. BOOTH, of Ferrisburgh,
William E. GREENE, of Vergennes, vice-presidents; secretary, M. T. BRISTOL,
Vergennes; directors, F. E. SEARS, Panton; Warren H. PECK, New Haven; O.
H. FISHER, Addison; E. S. WRIGHT, Weybridge; G. F. O. KIMBALL, Vergennes.
The charter of Dorchester Lodge, No. 1, F. and A. M., of Vergennes,
dates back to October 12, 1798, though there are documents showing assembling
of Masons as early as May 24, 1792. The first officers appear on record
under date of February 11, 1795; and are Samuel WHITCOMB, W. M.; J. B.
FITCH, S. W.; William GOODRICH, J. W.; Richard BARNUM, S. D.; Asa STRONG,
tiler. No further records appear until 1807. On the 10th of January, 1848,
the lodge number was changed from 3 to 1, which it still retains. The charter
members were Enoch WOODBRIDGE, John CHIPMAN, Roswell HOPKINS, William BRUSH,
and Samuel STRONG. Since its organization it has initiated 456 persons,
and is in a prosperous condition today, with a membership of 116 persons
and the following officers: Frank A. GOSS, W. M.; Olin A. SMITH, S. W.;
Edward A. FIELD, J. W.; CHARLES T. S. PIERCE, secretary; D. Henry LEWIS
treasurer; R. R. O'BRYAN, S. D.; Walter J. SPRAGUE, J. D.; C. H. MARSHALL,
S. S.; E. C. SCOTT, J. S.; E. D. ROBURDS, marshal; A. B. TABOR, tiler.
Royal Arch Masons. -- Jerusalem R. A. C., No. 2, dates its charter
back to April 4, 1805. It was organized by Zebulon R. SHIPHERD, deputy
grand high priest of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of New York State. Its
charter members were John CHIPMAN, Smith BOOTH, Asa STRONG, Jesse LYMAN,
Durand ROBURDS, Ezra PERRY, Jared BRACE, David EDMONDS, Calvin HARMON,
Solomon MILLER, Charles BUCKLEY, Solomon WILLIAMS, Carter HITCHCOCK, Benjamin
CHANDLER, Seth STORRS, David CHIPMAN, and Samuel HITCHCOCK. At the first
election the following were elected officers: John CHIPMAN, M. E. H. P.;
Samuel HITCHCOCK, E. K.; Josias SMITH, E. S.; Solomon WILLIAMS, C. of the
H.; Jesse LYMAN, P. S.; Samuel CLARK, R. A. C.; Durand ROBURDS, G. M. 3d
V.; Jabez G. FITCH G. M. 2d V.; Asa STRONG, G. M. 1st V.; David EDWARDS,
secretary; CaIvin HARMON, treasurer. This chapter, until January,
1869, held its meetings alternately here and at Middlebury. At that time
an amicable division was brought about and this chapter has been in a flourishing
condition ever , since, with a present membership of eighty-five, though
220 appear on its rolls; but some have gone to other chapters, and others
to the ministrations of the Grand High Priest above. Its present officers
are Ransom R. O'BRYAN, M. E. H. P.; Olin A. SMITH, E. K.; Richard MALDOON,
E. S.; C. T. S. PIERCE, secretary; George F. O. KIMBALL, treasurer; S.
A. TUTTLE, C. of the H.; F. A. Goss, P. S.; A. B. TABOR, R. A. C.; F. T.
HODGDON, G. M. 3d V.; E. A. Field, G. M. 2d V.; W. L. BERAY, G. M. 1st
V.; E. C. SCOTT, M. T. BRISTOL, Stewards; S. J. ALLEN sentinel.
Vergennes Council, No. 2, R. & S. M. -- This Masonic body was
organized January 13, 1818, by Deputy John H. COTTON, from Baltimore, Md.
Its charter members were Martin STONE, Amos W. BARNUM, Oliver BANGS, Enoch
D. WOODBRIDGE, Asa STRONG, Abijah BARNUM, Russell A. BARNUM, Amasa BELKNAP,
and Horace WHEELER. It was first officered by Martin STONE, T. I. G. M.;
Amos W. BARNUM, D. I. G. M.; Oliver BANGS, P. C.; Seth GERE, C. of the
G.; E. D. Woodbridge, treasurer; S. H. TUPPER, secretary; Asa STRONG, G.
steward. In 1855 a new charter was granted, and the society is working
with the following officers: Stiles A. TUTTLE, T. I. G. M.; R. R. O'BRYAN,
D. M.; W. S. HOPKINS, P. C.; Wm. W. BOOTH, recorder; M. T. BRISTOL, treasurer;
J. L. GRANDEY, C. of the G.; R. MALDOON, C. of the C.; H. H. BURGE, steward;
J. ALLEN, sentinel. [Compiled for this work by C. T. S. Pierce, of
The medical profession has been honored in Vergennes by the labors
of several eminent men, sketches of some of whom have been given in this
work. Brief notes of those at present practicing here may not be without
future historical value. Dr. W. S. HOPKINS is the physician of the longest
practice in the city; but we have not been favored with memoranda of his
life. Dr. George F. B. WILLARD, born in Boston July 26, 1853, was graduated
a Middlebury College in 1876, studied medicine at the St. Louis Medical
College, and was graduated in March, 1883. He has practiced in Vergennes
since that date. Dr. E. W. CHIPMAN, born in Brooklyn July, 1862, studied
his profession at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, and
in the University of Vermont, graduating in June, 1885; practiced first
in New York, and in November, 1885, came to Vergennes, entering the office
of Dr. KIDDER. The latter is one of the oldest physicians in this part
of the State. Charles W. B. KIDDER was born in Wethersfield, Windsor county,
Vt., in 1819, studied medicine at Castleton, and was graduated in 1843;
practiced first in Providence, R. I., about five years; then in Peru, N.
Y., about three years; then in Troy about four years, coming to Vergennes
in 1857. Since that date he has enjoyed a long and successful professional
career. Dr. L. E. DIONNE was born in Quebec and studied medicine in Magill
College, Montreal, graduating in 1862; practiced in New Market, N. H.,
until 1884, going thence to Canada, and removing to Vergennes in 1885.
Dr. A. A. ARTHUR, homeopathist, born in 1842 in Keeseville, N. Y., studied
his profession in Bellevue Hospital, New York, graduating in 1865 ; practiced
first in Elizabethtown, N. Y., one year, and came thence to Vergennes.
Dr. Enoch D. WOODBRIDGE, member of an honored family in the professions,
is in the practice of medicine here ; but we are without data of his life.
In the dental profession in Vergennes Dr. COE had an experience
extending over a period of forty years. With him studied Dr. F. F. PIERCE,
who was born in Salisbury, Vt., in 1832.. He began practice in Brandon
in 1860, and came to Vergennes in 1884. E. MCGOVERN was born in Canada
in 1848, and studied his profession in Middlebury and in New York. He began
practice in Vergennes in 1873.
The legal profession, which has been so honorably represented here,
has been sufficiently treated in the chapter devoted to the Bench and Bar
of the County.
The following is a list of the names of the volunteers who enlisted
in Vermont regiments during the late war, as compiled from the adjutant-general's
Volunteers for three years credited previous to call for 300,000
volunteers of October 17, 1863: F. ADAMS, G. W. ADAMS, E. ALLEN, G. AYRES,
S. AYRES, J. BARTLEY, J. BARTLEY, P. BARTON, W. L. BOYDEN, E. E. BURROUGHS,
J. CHAMPAIGNE, J. COKELEY, T. CORCORAN, T. DOMPIER, E. N. DRURY, C. H.
EDWARDS, J. FALES, E. J. FISHER, W. FISHER, J. FITZSIMMONS, B. L. FORTIN,
A. GILMORE, S. GREEN, H. HOY, J. JANUARY, C. W. B. KIDDER, C. KING, E.
KING, E. KING, L. KING, G. W. LAWSON, L. LIBERTY, D. MARTIN, J. MARTIN,
C. G. MCALLISTER, W. G.. MCCARTER, D. MCKINN, R. E. MCLAUGHLIN, G. MEIGS,
F. MILLER, J. MILLER, D. MORGAN, H. NOBLE, P. O'BRIEN, W. E. OWEN, S. PACKARD,
A. PALMER, W. PALMER, C. E. PARKER, G. PARKER, JR., H. PHAIR, C. H. PLATT,
C. PRICE, F. PRICE, J. A. PRINDLE, J. ROCK, A. SANDS, E. SHELDON, J. SHELDON,
H. SMITH, F. SNAY, E. D. SQUIRES, H. D. STOWELL, H. STOWELL, C. B. STRICKLAND,
F. B. STRICKLAND, L. TORVILLE, C. A. TREDO, J. WHEELER.
Credits under call of October 17, 1863, for 300,000 volunteers,
and subsequent calls:
Volunteers for three years. -- C. JANDREAU, J. THOMPSON.
Volunteers for one year. -- J. DOUGLASS, J. LAFOUNTAIN, I. MILLER,
A. J. PRESTON, J. PRESTON; J. RILEY, J. SCANLON, O. THIBEAULT, M. WELCH.
Volunteers re-enlisted. -- W. F. BRINK, L. BROOKS, W. HALL, E. KING,
C. G. MCALLISTER, F. MILLER, W. PALMER, J. A. PRINDLE, C. PRICE, L. TORVILLE,
T. TRAIN, A. WILLIAMSON, L. WOODWARD.
Veteran reserve corps. -- E. F. SQUIRES.
Not credited by name. -- Three men.
Volunteers for nine months. -- F. BARTON, J. FOSHA, E. JANUARY,
H. MILLER, J. MILLER.
Furnished under draft. -- Paid commutation, C. BOTTSFORD, J. BREMAN,
C. SHERMAN, W. H. SMITH.
of the City of Vergennes.
of Addison County, Vermont,
And Biographical Sketches
Of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers."
by H. P. Smith. Syracuse, N. Y.;
& Co., Publishers, 1886.
by Jan Maloy, 2002