"A part of this township is mountainous, but the soil is generally good for grazing. Rupert produces some fine cattle. It is watered by Pawlet River, and a branch of the Battenkill, on which streams are mills of various kinds . . . The settlement of this town was commenced in 1767, by Isaac Blood, Reuben Harmon, Oliver Scott and a Mr. Eastman."

Gazetteer of Vermont, Hayward, 1849.

HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF RUPERT

      THE town of Rupert occupies the northwest corner of the county of Bennington, having for its west boundary New York State line, and its north the Rutland county line. Sandgate lies to the south, and Dorset to the east. The character of the surface of the land, like that of many of the towns of this county is generally rough, high mountains being frequent, and the general range of the Taconic Mountains crossing the eastern part of the township from south to north, gradually diminishing in height at the northern part. The most mountainous region, perhaps, of the whole township is the southern and eastern central parts, where stands Shatterack Mount, Masters Mount, Hay Stack Mount and Mount Antone, but the country east of Shatterack and south of Hay Stack is quite level and fertile.

      It is a long, slow journey through the "notch" from East Rupert to the west side of the Taconic range, but the beauty of scenery in a great measure compensates for the tedium of travel. The northeast corner of Rupert through the valley of Pawlet River is a most delightful section in which to live; the scenery is grand and the section abounds in large and productive farms. While practically cut off from intercourse with the great bulk of the township and compelled to unite and trade with the Pawlet and Dorset residents, these people of East and North Rupert have by no means alienated themselves from the balance of their town's citizens, but enjoy the same reputation for thrift and enterprise as do the others. In fact as a progressive agricultural town Rupert is second to none in this or any other county in Vermont. The farms are in as high state of cultivation, and are as productive, and the houses and other buildings are in as good condition, and the farmers are as enterprising as those found in any similarly situated town in the East.

      In the town are three small villages-East Rupert, Rupert and West Rupert-while North Rupert is hardly of sufficient size to be called such, nevertheless a post-office is established there for the convenience of the people of that vicinity. But the three first named have quite a number of houses and industries as well as a post office each. Of these the hamlet of Rupert is, perhaps, the largest and most important, and to it attaches an additional importance from the fact of its being something of a resort for summer visitors, although no special effort has ever been made to attract pleasure-seekers to the place.

      Rupert is among the older towns of the county. It was chartered by Governor Benning WENTWORTH on the 20th of August, 1761, under the same general form of grant as that by which other towns were brought into existence, and which needs no reproduction here. During that unfortunate and unhappy period in which the people of Vermont were struggling for existence as well as independence, and were opposed by the New Yorkers and the British, by the latter the least, however, there was not much attempt at settlement in this particular locality from the fact of its close proximity to the New York line and the defenseless condition of its people; but, fortunately for those that were here, the New Yorkers were too closely occupied and hard put in attempting to subdue and conquer ALLEN and his companions to give much attention to the people in this then northern and remote locality; still the people here residing were by no means exempted from outrages and persecutions from the contestants for the soil, as instances may be recalled in which New York's governor made grants or warrants of dispossess against inhabitants hereabouts, but these cases are not many.

      The first mention of Rupert in the "old proceedings" seems to have been made in January, 1776, when the representatives to the famous Dorset Convention were arranging for the future safety and protection of the inhabitants of the grants, and the sub-committee of the convention allowed this town two votes on the question then under consideration. At the Dorset Convention, held on the 24th of July following, Reuben HARMON and Amos CURTIS represented the town of Rupert. Reuben HARMON afterward became quite a noted personage, he having been granted authority to coin money for Vermont under her separate independence. His mint was in the northeast part of the town, not far off the road leading from Pawlet to Dorset. The act that gave Reuben HARMON authority to coin coppers for the State was passed in 1785, and under it he did an extensive business for himself and the State. Of course all this came to an end when Vermont came into the Union, or about that time.

      At the adjourned session of the Windsor Convention, held June 4, 1777, the town was represented by Dr. Gaius SMITH and Mr. Moses ROBINSON; and when the declaration of Vermont's independence was ready for signing the names of both of these worthies appear. There might have been, and unquestionably was, a little element of Toryism in the town about this time, as will be seen from the proceedings of the Council of Safety in session at Bennington oh August 27, 1777, from which this extract is taken: "Whereas this council has received a letter from Captain BURROWS, at Arlington, acquainting us that our scouts had taken all the stock of every kind from Anger HAWLEY's wife, of Rupert, and she had made application to him for a cow, as her children were in a suffering condition. These are therefore to require you to let her have one cow for the time being out of the first cows you take from any disaffected person. "During the days in which the acts of many persons were viewed with suspicion and a special permit was about the only safeguard one could have, it was ordered that "Jonathan SMITH is permitted to pass from this to Rupert and return with his family to this place;" this place meaning Bennington. A somewhat similar document was issued thus: "Agur HAWLEY is permitted to pass from this to Rupert."

      By an order of the Council of Safety, dated January 23, I778, Moses ROBINSON, of Rupert, was appointed a commissioner of sequestration of his town. This Moses ROBINSON should not be confused with Judge Moses ROBINSON of Bennington; the latter was councilor in 1778, and the former was in the General Assembly for the same and several succeeding years. When it became necessary in May, 1778 for the governor and council to have more perfect military organizations in the State, for defensive and offensive operations, one company of the Fifth Regiment was officered by Rupert men, and in fact a part of the company, the third, was raised in the town. The officers were Tapan NOBLE, captain; Enoch EASTMAN, lieutenant, and Moses ROBINSON, ensign. Among the justices of the peace chosen in pursuance of the acts of the Legislature at the session held at Bennington June 17, 1778, Reuben HARMON was appointed to that office for the town of Rupert.

      During the latter years of the Revolutionary struggle the people of Vermont were not seriously troubled by the British, owing to the celebrated "Haldimand correspondence" and negotiations, but notwithstanding that it was necessary for each town to maintain an armed defensive attitude, for which service men were either volunteers or drafted. Rupert had a number of each class of soldiers. To sustain them the authorities established storehouses in various quarters, and one of these was in Rupert. At that time Captain Joseph FARNSWORTH was commissary of purchases. It will be noticed from the foregoing extracts from the State journal of proceedings that the town of Rupert or its people did not play a very exciting part in the great theater of events that were transpiring in rapid succession during the early history of Vermont; but, according to her means, the town did all that could be done by any body politic. The population was small and exceedingly scattered, and of the few that lived west of the mountains many were compelled to cross over to the east side or go to other places for safety. The unsettled condition of civil affairs that prevailed generally throughout the State from 1765 or thereabouts until the close of the Revolution had as much to do with retarding the growth and development of Rupert as of any other town, and the exposed condition of her frontier, bordering as it did on New York State, rendered her position peculiarly embarrassing, and made settlement absolutely unsafe.

      As has already been said the town was chartered in August, 1761, but its settlement did not commence with that date. The first meeting of proprietors was held in Bennington on the 16th day of April, 1765, nearly four years after the grant was made; and at that meeting a proposition was carried to lay out the first division of lots in fifty acre tracts, one tract for each proprietor. This survey and division was made of that part of the town lands that lay in the north part thereof and east of the mountains, that is in the vicinity of what is now East and North Rupert. Settlement followed soon but not immediately after the survey and division above mentioned, and in order to encourage improvement in this locality the proprietors offered to donate one fifty-acre tract to the person who would make the first settlement. Of course the offer was accepted, but neither record nor tradition has preserved the name of the donee. But the first settlers in this locality are believed to have been Reuben HARMON, Amos CURTIS, Isaac BLOOD, Jonathan EASTMAN, Barnabas BARNUM, and perhaps some others whose names are now lost. This locality the reader will understand is that that lies nearest Dorset, and the settlement of Dorset was commenced at an earlier date than this; and to this day the inhabitants of Northeastern Rupert transact the greater part of their ordinary business at Dorset on the east, and Pawlet on the north, rather than to cross the mountain to the main part of the township.

      The second division of lots in the town of Rupert was made in 1768, and included the fertile bottoms along the valley of White Creek, and over to the west side of the town, near the New York State line. Settlements began here soon after the division was made, and Oliver SCOTT built a grist-mill here as early as 1773. But it was the pioneers of this region that were called upon to defend their property and liberty from the New York claimants, and while the intruders were generally repulsed in any proceeding against the settlers, and their officers sent off under the smarting impression of the "beech seal," cases were not wanting in which the inhabitants were dispossessed of their lands and improvements. During the war for independence, and especially about the time of Burgoyne's conquering tour of the valley of the Hudson River, were the inhabitants disturbed in their possession, not by any actual invasion by the British, but through fear of such an event, and nearly all left for places of greater safety, while a few, and only a few from Rupert, sought the protection of the royal arms and became full-fledged Tories. After the departure of the loyal people from the vicinity, the Tories, reinforced by others of like ilk, returned to the settlement, took possession and played sad havoc with all save their own property; and emboldened by the nearness of the British army they made an attempt to effect the capture of Major Gideon ORMSBEE, of Manchester, but not finding that person at home, they compelled his son to return with them to the White Creek country. A pursuing party was organized, and the young man was rescued a few days later. But after BAUM's defeat at Bennington and the withdrawal of the British army from the vicinity it was rather unsafe for any Tory to show his face, much less his presence, within reach or shooting distance of the committee of safety of the town. After the close of the Revolutionary War, and after the proceedings were consummated by which Vermont was admitted to the Union of States, the growth and settlement became very rapid and healthful. All through its fertile valleys fine farms were cleared and put under cultivation. Nothing occurred to disturb the settler in his possession for many years; the arts of peace superseded the tumults of war and contention, and joy and plenty were seen on every hand. This was the period of Rupert's greatest prosperity, in which she made rapid strides in the march of advancement; and her maximum population of sixteen hundred and forty-eight souls was reached in the year 1800.

      Among the many who came during these years, and during the last century, the names of some can be recalled. David SHELDON, a veteran of the Revolution and a native of Connecticut, came to reside in the town in 1770. He became a deservedly prominent and influential man in the town and county, and was chosen to a number of offices of trust and importance. He had a numerous family of children, the descendants of whom still reside in the town. The name Sheldon has for more than one hundred years stood for a thrifty, industrious, progressive and worthy class of residents. Also among the early settlers were two SMITHs, Israel and Martin; the former a lawyer, one of the first in the county, and the latter a farmer; but authorities do not assert any relationship between them. Israel SMITH began law practice in this county in 1783, and after living in the town some years and representing it several times in the Legislature, he moved to Rutland; became chief judge of the Supreme Court in 1707, and was elected to the United States Senate in 1803. The other SMITH, Martin, came to the Indian River Valley in 1773, and lived there until his death. The pioneer physician of the town is generally believed to have been Dr. Josiah GRAVES, whose settlement commenced in 1788. However this may be cannot now be determined, but Dr. Gaius SMITH and Moses ROBINSON represented the town of Rupert in the convention at Windsor in 1777. The title "doctor” implies that he was a physician; he lived in the town, but whether he was an active practitioner or not is a query we cannot now attempt to answer. Robert COCHRAN, he of fame during the controversy with New York, was also at one time a resident of Rupert. All that is necessary can be learned of Robert COCHRAN's career during that period by reference to the early chapters of this volume. Soon after the year 1790 Joel TAYLOR, a former resident of New Hampshire, came to make for himself and family a home in Rupert, taking up his first place of abode on Rupert Mountain. Further mention of this family will be found among the biographical sketches.

      Although not an old resident of the town this chapter would be incomplete without some mention of William ROOT, a resident of East Rupert, and withal one of the most progressive and influential men of the township. William ROOT was born in New York State in 1818, and came to Rupert about the year 1833, taking up a home with the family of Philo SMITH. At the age of thirty-one years he married Caroline EASTMAN, of Rupert. Three children were the issue of this marriage. Mr. ROOT has not been an active man in political life, but he has been an energetic farmer and a straightforward business man, and that has given him an enviable position and reputation among his townspeople that political ambition could never accomplish. George A. ROBINSON of East Rupert commenced to build cheese factories something over twenty-five years ago, and it was that occupation that brought him to this locality, although his native town was Pawlet, only a few miles from his present residence. When he came to Rupert Mr. ROBINSON bought the Hiram EASTMAN farm on which h now resides. His first wife was Ann DERBY, of Rupert, who died in 1872. In 1878 Mr. ROBINSON married Sarah A. GUILD of Pawlet.

      While the township of Rupert is acknowledged to be one of the foremost towns of the county so far as the social and business character of its people is concerned, and while the people are progressive and enterprising in all that pertains to their personal comfort and welfare, they have been none the less interested in the spiritual and educational welfare of all that belongs to their town. The first church society organized here was the Congregational, that which leads in number of members in the State, which first took definite form at a meeting held June 6, 1786, having then but seven members. The first pastor was Rev. Increase GRAVES. The church edifice is at Rupert "street." The society at present numbers about seventy-five members, having made no substantial increase during the last twenty five or thirty years.

      The West Rupert Baptist Church society was organized under the direction of a council in the year 1803, and the first settled pastor was Rev. Alvin WALES. The members of this society number about forty persons.

      The Church of the Disciples of Christ was the last organized of the societies of this description in the township, and came into existence in 1839. The edifice was built soon after the society was formed. This has, or has had, the largest membership of any church society of the township.

      The statement has already been made that the town of Rupert reached its maximum population in 1800, as shown by the Federal census of that year, being an increase over the population of 1791 of 615. In 1800 the town had a population of 1,648. From that until the present time there has been an almost continuous decrease, as will be shown by reference to the following facts taken from the census reports from the time of the first enumeration in 1791 to that of 1880, inclusive. In 1791 the population of the town was 1,033; in 1800, 1,648; in 1810, 1,630; in 1820, 1,332; in 1830, 1,318, in 1840, 1,091; in 1850, 1,1O1; in 1860, 1,103; in 1870, 1,017; in 1880, 957. This decrease is not single to Rupert; the same or a similar showing is to be found in a majority of like towns throughout the State. This is explained by the fact that the younger generations have gone to other States, but why should that be so?
 

History of Bennington County, Vt. 
With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches 
of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. 
Edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich. 
Syracuse, N. Y., D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1889. 
Chapter XXVII. Page 452-458 

Transcribed by Karima, 2004 
Material provided by Ray Brown 

Rupert, Bennington, County, VT - 1790 Census

Virtual Vermont ~ Rupert