is a mountainous township, at the south-east corner of the county, watered
by Deerfield River. Much of the land in the town is too elevated to admit
of cultivation. When it was first settled is unknown."
of Vermont, Hayward, 1849.
OF THE TOWN OF READSBORO.
by Hon. Faxon L. Bowen. Published by request.
READSBORO is situated in the southeast corner of Bennington county,
and bounded on the north by Searsburg, on the east by Whittingham and Wilmington,
on the south by Massachusetts, and on the west by Stamford and Woodford.
The population in 1880 was seven hundred and forty-four. There are at present
three post-offices in town, to wit: Readsboro, Readsboro Falls and Heartwellville.
Eight schools are also maintained with an aggregate attendance of about
two hundred pupils, and at a cost of about $1,000 per annum. Three churches
comprise the church buildings in Readsboro, in only one of which are services
regularly held, the Baptist society holding their meetings in the town-hall.
The first white persons who traversed Readsboro are supposed to
have been seventy-four soldiers on their return from the expedition against
Crown Point, in December, 1759, who, intending to go to the fort then standing
near where North Adams, Mass. is now situated, got lost, and striking to
the west branch of the Deerfield River in the present town of Woodford,
which they followed to the town of Charlemont, Mass., before reaching any
settlement, striking the Deerfield River where the village of Readsboro
now stands. At this point their provisions becoming exhausted, they made
a halt, killed, roasted and ate a dog that accompanied them, and then continued
their weary journey. They all reached Charlemont alive, although one of
their number, Daniel DAVIDSON, who had enlisted at the early age of fifteen
years, and who afterwards became a prominent citizen of Readsboro, was
so exhausted and benumbed with cold that he lay down to sleep, but being
soon missed by his companions they turned back and helped him along.
Readsboro does not appear to have been settled under any township
charter rights. The first grant of any part of the town was by the governor
of New Hampshire in 1764, of 3,000 acres in the southeast part to Major
Robert ROGERS, an army officer. Not complying with the conditions of the
charter, and after the breaking out of the Revolutionary War joining the
British and moving to Canada, his charter was treated as void. About the
time of the grant to ROGERS was another of 2,000 acres to General Phineas
LYMAN, by the name of WILMINGTON. This grant now constitutes the northwest
corner of Readsboro and the east part of Searsburg, being six miles long
by one-half mile wide. For many years this strip was claimed by Wilmington,
and was finally settled partly by adjudication, and partly through a committee
appointed by the Legislature at its session in 1853, and composed of Isaac
Wright of Castleton, Edward D. BARBER of Middlebury, and John F. DEAN of
Cavendish, who, after hearing the case, decided in favor of Readsboro and
Searsburg as against Wilmington.
Lieutenant-Governor Colden, of New York, issued a patent to John
READ and twenty-four others in the name of Readsboro, in the county of
Cumberland, April 4, 1770. This grant included the present town of Searsburg,
and was bounded and described as follows, to wit: Commencing at a black
spruce pine tree, marked by Phineas MANN with the letters S. E. for the
southeast corner of Stamford, and on the north line of Massachusetts Bay;
thence 80° east, 320 chains to the west bounds of Cumberland (now Whitingham);
thence along the west bounds of Cumberland and Draper (now Wilmington),
north toll east 960 chains to Somerset; thence along the south line of
Somerset north 80° west 320 chains to the east bounds of Woodford;
thence on the east bounds of Woodford and Stamford south 80° and 360
chains to the place of beginning. From this the town of Searsburg has been
taken off, and owing to the encroachments of Stamford and Woodford and
as now constituted the present town is eight miles long, four miles wide
at the south end, and a little short of three and one-half miles wide at
the north end, and contains about 20,480 acres. There are no existing evidences
that the town was ever organized under the New York charter, and it is
supposed that the patentees, mostly New Yorkers, fearing the troubles others
had experienced in Vermont from "viewing," "beech seals." etc., abandoned
Readsboro as worthless.
When and by whom the first settlement was made is unknown, but by
the petition of John HAMILTON and others, presented to the Legislature
of Vermont in 1779, it appears that two settlements had been made, one
by William BRUCE where the village of Heartwellville is now located, and
the other by one WHIPPLE, who was then in the Continental army, from which
he probably never returned, as no one has ever been able to learn anything
more about him, or the locality of his settlement.
In 1785 Throop CHAPMAN and one SLOAN from Conway, Mass., commenced
a settlement on a farm formerly owned by Nathan S. BENNETT, about one mile
north of the village of Readsboro. The same fall Simon MIQUER or MIQUERS,
a Hessian soldier, who had been taken prisoner with Burgoyne at Saratoga,
with his wife, and infant daughter, then a few months old, afterward Mrs.
Betsey BOWEN, the second wife of James BOWEN, came and settled on North
Hill. He was soon after followed by one ROOT and others. It is related
by MIQUERS that when he first came to chop a little clearing for a house
he saw no man for six weeks, his only visitor being a huge bear, which
upon looking up from his work one morning he saw sitting up and calmly
watching the movements so new to his bearship. Robert VALENTINE, an Irishman,
also a prisoner taken from the British, settled about the same time near
the cemetery. Some accounts claim these men were with BAUM and taken prisoners
at Bennington. The first child born in town is supposed to have been Hannah,
daughter of Throop CHAPMAN, born November 8, 1785. The first death in town
was a young child of one COCHRAN, in 1786. It was buried between two rocks,
nature's monuments, which shall endure. The first adult that died in town
was Nabby, wife of Ebenezer THOMPSON, who died February 20, 1792, aged
thirty-one years. The store of Elijah BAILEY was burned November 12, 1793,
and with it the town records. John FAIRBANKS was then town. clerk.
The first town meeting is supposed to have been held in 1786, at
which time, in addition to the ordinary town officers, the inhabitants
elected a board of State officers, when Ichabod STOCKWELL, the smallest
man in town, was elected governor, and his salary fixed payable in vegetables,
cabbage heads predominating. Ever after during his life he was known as
The records of 1794, the earliest now in existence, show that in
that year a town meeting was called by Joseph HARTWELL and Throop CHAPMAN,
selectmen, to be holden on the 17th day of March, 1794, at the house of
Robert VALENTINE. Captain Joseph HEARTWELL was moderator; John FAIRBANKS,
town clerk; Simeon THAYER, first selectman, lister, treasurer, highway
commissioner and fence viewer; Elijah BAILEY, selectman, sealer of weights
and measures; Ezra AMIDON, selectman; Henry H. DAVIDSON, constable; Throop
CHAPMAN, grand juror; Philip BAILEY and Daniel DAVIDSON, highway surveyors;
Jerry DAVIDSON and Jedediah AMIDON, haywards or hog constables; Lieutenant
Samuel AMIDON, surveyor of lumber; Elijah SIBLEY, fence viewer. The foregoing
list will afford further information as to who were the early settlers.
At a town meeting held May 1, 1794 it was voted to raise a tax of sixpence
on the pound to support a school, and to divide the town into two districts,
the branch to be the dividing line. Lois WARD was the first school teacher.
She afterwards married one CADY, and died here in 1859, at the age of over
one hundred years. In 1794 the taxpayers in the town numbered thirty-six.
In 1796 they had increased to fifty-one. At a town meeting held that year,
September 6th, "to see if the town will vote to build stocks," it was voted
"there shall be no stocks built" Up to- 1800 the taxpayers numbered fifty-one.
In 1810 the number had increased to sixty-seven.
Daniel Henry DAVIDSON, spoken of as one of the early settlers, was
great-grandfather to Montraville DAVIDSON, of Heartwellville. He located
on lands awarded him by the government. The house formerly occupied by
STAFFORD, on North Hill, was built by his son, Henry H. DAVIDSON, previous
to the year 1800.
Among other early settlers may be mentioned Deacon Joy BISHOP, who
came from Fair Haven, Conn., and who settled where George WALLACE now lives
about 1794, cleared land, built a house, and then brought on his wife.
On one occasion, being out of meal, he walked to Bennington and returned
the same day, carrying one half bushel of rye for the support of his family.
He died at the age of eighty-two.
Joseph PARSONS, from Conway, Mass., settled just north of the village,
near Robert VALENTINE's, about 1790. He soon removed to the north part
of the State. In 1805, at the age of twenty-one, his son, Joseph, came
back, and cleared up the farm where his son, Elijah A. PARSONS, now lives,
in South Readsboro, and there resided until 1850, when he removed to Wisconsin,
where he died.
Lemuel BLANCHARD, the great-grandfather of the writer on the maternal
side, originally from Stonington, Mass., but later from Guilford, settled
in Readsboro Hollow, and was among the first comers. He was a rigid Seventh-day
Baptist, and it is related of him, that he used to say, "his faith was
so strong that he would believe his minister sooner than his own eyes."
He cleared a farm, and died here about 1811, at the age of sixty-five,
and was buried in the cemetery on the river bank.
David GOODELL came from Amherst, Mass., settled in South Readsboro,
on the farm where Henry STAFFORD now lives. He came by marked trees and
at' first built a log-house.
There is a tradition that one Priest BROWN, a Seventh-day Baptist,
resided in Lime Hollow about 1794. He told his followers that they ought
to lay by something each month for the needy widows and orphans that would
soon people the hillsides round about. He advocated that the contributions
be deposited in a storehouse, of which he was custodian. His suggestions
were followed by many, and liberal supplies were furnished. At the end
of the year the contributors concluded to take an account of stock, and
on opening the storehouse to their amazement less than a dollar's worth
could be found; yes, only a cake of maple sugar remained. It is needless
to say further contributions ceased.
James BAILEY, and Caleb, his son, came from Douglass, Mass. About
1794 when -he son was about fourteen years of age. They settled near the
cemetery. James died December 14, 1814, aged eighty-eight years, and Caleb
died April 6, 1867, aged eighty-seven years.
Stephen BISHOP from New Haven, Conn., settled in town about 1800,
and died in 1871, aged ninety-two years. Stephen and his son Daniel were
noted as being successful bear hunters.
George STEARNS settled opposite Henry DAVIDSON's about 1800. One
night when he was away from home his wife, who was alone with her baby,
heard the sow in the pen make an unusual noise. Upon peeping out she saw
a huge bear looking into the pen. Just then the old sow rushed out to protect
her pigs, when the bear seized her in his powerful embrace and made off
with her to the woods where the next morning the sow's partially eaten
remains were found by the owner.
Christopher SHIPPEE settled in South Readsboro in 1822, on lands
partially cleared by Benjamin TREVITT, an early settler. He came from Charlemont,
In the west part of the town the first settler beyond Readsboro
Lake was one HALL, who settled there about 1800 upon the farm now owned
by Seth D. CARE. Seth CARE, father of Seth D., bought the farm in 1812.
The other early settlers in this part of the town were Amos RICE,
Horace RICE, and Captain William SANFORD.
The first grist and saw-mill was erected by one Smith near the site
where the tannery of A. H. TUCKER now stands. Prior to this the early settlers
had to go either to Charlemont or Bennington for their lumber or meal,
frequently suffering for want of suitable provisions, especially before
securing their first crop.
Richard CARPENTER with his young wife came from Massachusetts in
1804, and settled on the farm where their son Samuel now lives. He died
in 1859, aged seventy- six years. His wife Annis lived to be nearly one
hundred years old. "Squire Richard," as he was called, represented his
town in the General Assembly many years, and was justice of the peace twenty-three
years. James CARPENTER, a Baptist clergyman and brother of Richard, settled
where Elias his son now lives sometime previous to 1810. He died in 1845,
aged seventy-six years. Daniel CARPENTER and Chloe, his wife, father and
mother of Richard and James, came with Richard and lived here until their
death. Daniel in 1824, aged seventy-seven, and Chloe in 1823, aged seventy-nine
years. At Daniel's house Baptist meetings were held for many years, his
son James conducting the services. Mrs. Annis CARPENTER told the writer
that when she came in 1804 there were as many residents on North Hill as
now. Her husband, Richard, was a successful bear trapper. He caught in
one fall seventeen bears and killed, with the help of his neighbors, one
panther. At the time the town was settled wild animals were quite numerous.
In the fall of 1807 or 1808 some wild animal came on the premises of Richard
CARPENTER and killed a calf. This was near night, but rallying a few of
his neighbors, armed with guns and axes and accompanied with dogs they
went in pursuit of the intruder, which they soon drove up a tree, a few
rods south of the house where Elijah CARPENTER now lives; but though it
was quite dark they had no idea of loosing their game. So, hitching their
tin lanterns to a long pole, they raised them up into the top of the tree,
and having selected one of their best marksmen, the Rev. Jonas STEARNS,
as executioner, and one other to fire an additional gun to throw more light
upon the subject, they proceeded to business. The powder was in the pan,
the elder had picked his flint, and grasping his old flint firelock and
bringing his old fusee to a ready, his keen clerical eye twinkled along
the length of the barrel, and sighting the "varmint" in the broad glare
of a tallow candle in a tin lantern, he pulled the trigger. The powder
in the pan hissed, and sizzed, and sizzled, the fire streamed in torrents
from both ends of the old queen's arm, the old field piece recoiled, --
I supposed the elder would say kicked his shoulder, and bruised his cheek.
As a result the elder's fire brought down a huge panther, which measured
full nine feet from one extremity to the other, but although he had a broken
shoulder and was otherwise badly wounded he was able to crawl under an
old tree top, beyond their reach, without the aid of daylight. After having
satisfied themselves that he could not escape they concluded to leave him
until the next morning, when they returned and finished him.
James DALRYMPLE settled in town across the pond in 1817. He lived
with his son, Shepard J. His daughter, Saloma, married our worthy townsman
Apollos BAILEY. Job STAFFORD from- Norwich, N. Y., settled on North Hill
There was but little manufacturing done in this town previous to
1832, at which time Sylvester and Luna BISHOP erected on the west branch
of the Deerfield River, where the tannery of A. H. TUCKER now stands, a
satinet factory, 70x40 feet, three stories high, at a cost of $16,000,
running fourteen looms, employing twenty hands, and manufacturing about
1,500 yards of cloth per week. On the night of January 2, 1842 this building
took fire accidentally, and together with the entire stock and machinery
was consumed. It was never rebuilt, but remained a type of desolation,
the wall still standing until 1850, when CUDWORTH & HOWES built a tannery
upon the old site, and this in its turn was destroyed by fire. It was again
rebuilt by A. H. TUCKER, who now employs about twenty-five men in the manufacturing
of a very fine grade of upper leather.
In addition to the business of farming, lumbering is carried on
extensively. The Hon. Silas MASON at Heartwellville turns out manufactured
lumber and chairs from his mill and chair factory, annually to the value
of about $18,000. Montraville DAVIDSON, J. T. CARRIER, J. B. HOWE, E. B.
FULLER, Titus STOWE, Daniel J. HICKS, and Lord STAFFORD turn out in the
aggregate quite large quantities of lumber, cot beds, chair stock, and
"Boss" sap-spouts. Formerly large quantities of charcoal were burned at
Heartwellville, and one Lincoln RAYMOND figured quite extensively in real
estate and law suits.
Attention was early bestowed upon public schools and religion. The
first minister who ever resided in town was one WILLIAMS, a Seventh-day
Baptist; he made few converts. One ROOT, a Calvinistic Baptist, preached
here for a while and organized a church. Daniel DAVIDSON, before mentioned,
a very zealous Methodist, invited the ministers of his denomination and
a great revival followed. Among their converts three, Elijah BAILEY, Jonas
BAILEY, and Ezra AMIDON, became somewhat noted in the religious world.
After preaching for several years they became dissatisfied with the church
government of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and on January 16, 1814 organized
the Reformed Methodist Church, which absorbed the mother church in this
vicinity, and spread over other parts of the country. The Union Church
at South Readsboro was erected in 1844-45. Rev. Joy BISHOP, now of Delphos,
Kansas, was the first preacher. The Union Church, Heartwellville, was erected
in 1876-77, entirely by the efforts of the ladies of Heartwellville, at
a cost of $2,000. Such enterprise, it is believed, is nowhere surpassed
in the State. The First Baptist Church of Readsboro was organized March
26. 1879, with twenty-six members, and Rev. Edward A. READ as pastor. The
Wesleyan Methodist Church was organized in 1840, by Rev. A. KELSEY, with
six members, during which year the present church was built.
furnished her full complement of soldiers during the War of the Rebellion,
and has placed to her credit three more soldiers than her quota called
The early settlers of Readsboro were a hardy people, inured to toil
and hardships common to frontier life in a new and rugged country like
Readsboro. They cleared up the land, and in spite of the rocks and hills
and uneven surface of the town their farms were fertile and productive,
and the people prosperous and happy.
The writer well remembers the old families of the town, the HOLBROOKS,
the HICKS', SHELDONS, PIKES, PUFFERS, BATTLES, BOWENS, HOUGHTONS, CANADYS,
BISHOPS, BLANCHARDS, DALRYMPLES. CARPENTERS, WHITCOMBS, WOLCOTTS, GOODELLS,
BALLOUS, BURRINGTONS, BULLOCKS, SPRAGUES, SHIPPEES, CROISERS, PARSONS',
LITTLEFIELDS, BRYANTS, STONES, SMITHS, STAFFORDS, FORDS, BROWNS, STOWES,
BAILEYS, AMIDONS, RICES, ROSSES, CAREYS, and others, many of whom were
prodigies of strength and endurance, who reared large families and depended
upon the production of their farms for subsistence.
Within the recollection of the writer John HICKS, Rev. N. D. SHERMAN,
David GOODELL and others used to collect large droves of cattle and sheep,
and large quantities of wool, butter and cheese from the farmers residing
on the hillsides round about here, and take them to market, bringing back
the-money, and distributing it among the owners of the produce.
Nowhere could be found greener fields and sweeter feed than upon
the mountain slopes of Readsboro. But there came a change, and what were
the causes that wrought the change? I think they may be summed up in a
few words. Readsboro was an inland town, far from the great centers of
active business life, and in common with other towns in the vicinity was
shut in by rugged hills, and accessible only over mountain paths that passes
for roads. She could not compete with the more fortunate and better situated
towns and neighbors. Hence the decline came. The broad fields and blooming
prairies of the then far West opened up and threw their glittering light
upon the enraptured vision of our young men. The Western fever broke out
and assumed an epidemic form. Stories of waving fields of grain upon the
rich and fertile plains, which could almost be had for the asking, of fortunes
made upon the improvements, as they called them, were wafted back by friends
that had gone to try their success in the frontier life. "You can plough
all day and not strike a stone, and catch fish by the cartload from out
of the lakes and rivers," was written back to friends at home. The older
men and women that read these pages well remember those days and times.
Our young men, middle aged and old, caught the inspiration, and filled
with the energy and enterprise, transmitted them by their fathers, and
developed by their rugged surroundings, they sought these new fields of
action. Let the deserted farms, the ruins of old homesteads, the desolate
hearthstones upon which the chirp of the cricket is no longer heard, complete
the mournful story.
It seems but meet that we give a short sketch, from the limited
resources at our command, of the parentage and business career of the projectors
and builders of the works that have rescued our town from obscurity and
oblivion -- the Messrs. NEWTONS. It has been my pleasure, as it has been
doubtless many of the readers, to make the personal acquaintance of the
brothers, D. H., J. C., and Moses NEWTON. These three gentlemen, with their
three brothers, James H., Joseph D., Solon, and one sister, comprise the
family. Their parents, Deacon James NEWTON and Esther HALE, were married
in Hubbardstown, Worcester county, Mass., February 10, 1824, where they
resided until 1835, when they removed to Greenfield, Mass., where they
have lived for the past fifty years and more. Mrs. NEWTON was maternally
connected -to the BOUTWELL family, of which United States Senator BOUTWELL
is a distinguished representative. The Newton brothers resided in Greenfield
until 1862, when some of them went to Holyoke, Mass., and have been engaged
in building and manufacturing there since, notably in the manufacture of
paper and screws, in the purchase and sale of real estate, in the taking
of contracts; in fact doing anything that requires skill, ingenuity and
capital. I doubt if a family possessing an equal amount of Yankee acuteness
and enterprise can be found in New England, while industry, frugality,
and integrity are added to other characteristics. To their enterprise,
sagacity and energy is the city of Holyoke largely indebted for much of
its manufacturing prosperity. Mrs. Esther NEWTON, the mother, was a remarkable
woman. To her executive ability, clear insight, and business instincts
is largely due the success of her sons' enterprises, and from her they
have received sound and discreet counsel as from time to time they laid
their plans before her. These brothers came to Readsboro during the year
1882. The first year they built the dam and pulp-mill. The dam is fifty-two
feet high from the bed of the river to the crest, built of logs, fastened
together with iron pins, the interstices ballasted with stones, and is
said to be the highest dam in the United States. The canal that conveys
the water from the dam to the pulp-mill is twelve feet wide upon the bottom,
and was cut through a solid ledge and huge boulders for the distance of
one-fourth of a mile. At the pulpmill the fall of the water is about eighty
feet, through the huge iron cylinder which turns six turbine wheels, of
about two hundred horse power each, and manufactures from eighteen to twenty-four
tons of wood-pulp in each twenty four hours. In the second year they fitted
the river for driving logs by blasting down the huge rocks, building dykes
and otherwise removing obstructions, down which they annually float from
one to two million feet of spruce logs, to be manufactured into pulp and
lumber; and during that year they also made preparations for constructing
a railroad. The third year they built the railroad to Sherman Station.
The fourth year they built a steam- mill and completed the railroad to
of Bennington County, Vt.
and Biographical Sketches
of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.
by Lewis Cass Aldrich.
N. Y., D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1889.
XXXI. Page 481-489
by Karima, 2004
provided by Ray Brown