is too elevated on the Green Mountains, either for cultivation, population,
or wool growing. It presents, from almost every point, wild and beautiful
of Vermont, Hayward, 1849.
OF THE TOWN OF SEARSBURG
J. Bond, esq.
THIS town is situated on the eastern boundary line of Bennington
county, and is in latitude 42° 45', and longitude 42° 6' east from
Washington. It was chartered February 23, 1781, by Thomas CHITTENDEN, governor
of Vermont, to William WILLIAMS and twenty-seven others, but was not surveyed
or allotted until about the year 1800, at which time the survey was made
by John MARKS, and for many years afterward the town seems to have been
an unbroken wilderness. It was originally a part of a tract of land about
twelve miles north and south, and about four or four and a half miles east
and west, extending from the Massachusetts line on the south to Somerset
on the north, and is bounded east by Whitingham and Wilmington; west by
Stamford and Woodford.
Readsboro was first chartered four miles by eight, leaving what
was supposed to be four miles square for Searsburg, but for some unknown
reason John MARKS commenced his survey one-half mile too far north, leaving
an unclaimed tract of land one-half mile in width and four miles in length
between Readsboro and Searsburg. Some years afterward one Chester Packard
made another survey covering this unclaimed tract and some of the south
tiers of lots in Mark's survey, and by virtue of this survey and sundry
survey bills and "colors of title" of later date, this unclaimed tract
gravitated to Searsburg, and has so remained ever since. There is no known
record of this Packard survey, and it is only mentioned in the Searsburg
records to designate particularly the southern tiers of lots.
From about the year 1800 to 1828 or 1830 Searsburg seems to have
dropped out of existence. No titles of land seems to have passed from the
original proprietors except in two or three instances, and but one instance
of unbroken claim of title from original proprietors exists at present
on the town records. Occasionally during this period a man moved into town,
but the inclemency of the seasons and the uninviting nature of the land
seems to have induced an early removal there from. There is a tradition
that in 1812 one Samuel HOLLMAN began a settlement in the extreme eastern
part of the town, but there can be found no definite proof of this fact.
Soon after this, or before 1822, Benoni DAVIS moved into town and cleared
a farm in the eastern portion, on what is now known as the "VORCE place,"
and there planted the first orchard. Mr. DAVIS's mode of conveyance was
of the most primitive kind, consisting of a yoke of oxen, and his vehicle
was two spruce poles, the ends of which were inserted in the ring of the
yoke, the other ends diverging in the form of the letter V, with boards
nailed across near the center to form a seat. On this contrivance he brought
his provisions and apple trees from Halifax.
About 1820 a Mr. HASKELL and Stephen MARTIN moved into town, but
not to reside permanently. The first permanent settler in town was Joseph
CROSIER, who came in 1823 with two sons, Joseph jr. and David, and located
on one of the "Packard Survey" lots, near the south line of the town.
That portion of the town was then a dense forest. They cleared up
a piece of land, planted corn and potatoes, cut a road from their place
to Heartwellville, built a log-house and covered it with bark. They went
through the forest some three miles to some "meadows" in Woodford, cut
and stacked a supply of hay, and then ventured to Halifax, taking with
him his family, a yoke of cattle and a cow, but afterward returned to his
forest home where he continued to reside till his death in 1844, at the
age of fifty-eight. He left six sons who were for many years identified
with every interest of the town. About this time also William EATON, known
as the "Searsburg poet," came to town, and located about a mile north of
Mr. CROSIER's place, on the farm now occupied by D. B. LEROY. He moved
away in 1826, and Mr. CROSIER's family were alone in town till 1827, when
Beniah GALLUP came from Halifax and located on another of the Packard survey
lots, about a mile west of the Crosier place. The march of civilization
then moved north, and in 1828 Mason PIKE located one mile north of the
William EATON place; then came Nicholas GROUSBECK and Joseph EAMES in 1830,
and others soon following. The town was organized at a meeting called on
the 18th day of March, 1833, by Samuel H. BLACKMER, a justice of the peace
from Bennington. At this the following officers were elected; Joseph EAMES,
town clerk and moderator; Joseph CROSIER, Hiram WILD and David CROSIER,
selectmen; Oliver PRESTON, treasurer; Luther PARK, Hiram WILD, Joseph EAMES,
listers; John KNAPP, constable; Nicholas GROUSBECK, grand juror; Mason
PIKE, highway surveyor; Solomon RICH, pound-keeper; Nicholas GROUSBECK,
tithingman. Other minor officers were also elected. Luther PARK was the
first representative to the Legislature in 1833. Hon. Trenor W. PARK for
some time resided here in his youthful days near the place now occupied
by Allen E. BRIGGS, and but a short time before his death he with a party
of friends crossed the mountains and took a lunch at the old spring which
had quenched his thirst so often in his boyhood.
The Searsburg turnpike, leading from Wilmington to Bennington, was
begun in 1830, and for the next four years the population of the town seems
to have increased quite rapidly for a mountain town. A hotel was built
by Feman LAMB, on what is now the ROBINSON place, and for many years was
a successful and reliable house. This hotel was burned in 1871 and has
never been rebuilt. The turnpike was also a successful venture. From its
completion until the opening of the Troy and Boston Railroad a large share
of the freight and passengers from Troy to Boston and intermediate places
passed over this road. The writer of this chapter in his young days has
frequently seen forty and fifty passengers with the necessary accompaniment
of Concord coaches and baggage-wagons pass over the route on a summer morning.
But the glory of the stage route and the halcyon days of the stage driver
have departed, and a single horse with buggy or sleigh, as the season demands,
now conveys the daily mail. A Mr. BRIDGE of Wilmington, at that time owned
several freight teams, and run from Wilmington to Troy, N. Y., and often
through to Boston, Mass. It used to be a custom with him to send a trusty
teamster to Troy with a load of lumber or country produce, with instructions
to invest the proceeds in flour and grain. He would then start for home
peddling his flour and grain to the inhabitants on the road, and if he
sold out before reaching home he returned to Troy and bought more, and
so continued his sales until the people on the route were fully supplied,
and he finally reached home with a load. Old men who were his teamsters
in those days have told the writer that they were frequently out two weeks
at a time on the road.
The first saw-mill in town was built by James CROSIER, at the head
of "Devil's Stair Falls," and had quite a run of business for several years.
From this saw-mill the inhabitants seem to have been mostly engaged in
clearing up and improving their lands till in 1842, when SQUIRES &
SWIFT built a tannery about one mile west of the Wilmington line, on the
Deerfield River. This enterprise employed ten or twelve hands, and was
very successful, manufacturing annually upwards of one hundred tons of
sole leather. It was sold by SQUIRES & SWIFT to SAYER & BRACKET,
and by them to SHAW & METZ, and continued in operation until 1866.
In 1845 a destructive fire occurred, destroying several acres of valuable
woodlands in the central and eastern parts of the town. In the same year
the "SLOANE Mill" was built at the foot of the mountain on the Deerfield
River by Solomon RICH, and was occupied as a saw-mill and wash-board and
clothes-pin factory by S. and G. W. DOANE and others, until about 1866,
at which time the firm of DOANE & STANLEY began making grain measures
and butter boxes. The mill was burned in 1872, and was rebuilt by Simon
DOANE in 1897 and 1878. Simon and George W. DOANE came here about 1845,
and were for many years intimately identified with the best interests of
the town. At the death of Simon DOANE in 1878 the "Doane Mill" passed to
MASON & BUTTERFIELD, and has since been used in manufacturing lumber
and cot bedsteads. In 1845 Aaron PIKE built a saw-mill near the Somerset
line on the river, and later engaged in making bedsteads. In 1866 the mill
was burned, but was replaced by a larger one by Leonard SMITH of Troy,
N. Y., with Royal W. IRISH as foreman. This mill continued to be occupied
as a bedstead and lumber-mill until the year 1887, when it was purchased
by the Deerfield River Company and torn down by the latter and removed
to Readsboro. In 1850 a saw-mill was built by HAYNES & LIVERMORE at
the junction of the east and west branches of Deerfield River, but never
was very successful, therefore it went to decay in about ten years thereafter.
For some years prior to 1850 there had been a disagreement between
Searsburg and Wilmington in regard to the boundary line between the towns,
and after "acting" on the matter several times in town meetings without
any definite result, a petition was sent to the Legislature in 1852 asking
for the appointment of a committee to settle and establish the line between
Searsburg and Readsboro on the west, and Wilmington on the east The Legislature
appointed Isaac T. WRIGHT, of Castleton; Edward D. BARBER, of Middlebury;
and John F. DEANE, of Cavendish; who, after a full hearing in the matter,
decided in favor of Searsburg and Readsboro. The trouble seems to have
originated as follows: Wilmington was chartered under the name of DRAPER
by Benning WENTWORTH, governor of New Hampshire, June 17, 1763. In the
year following a grant was sent by Governor WENTWORTH to Robert ROGERS
of three thousand acres along that tract of land which afterwards became
Readsboro; and immediately afterwards he made another grant to General
Phineas LYMAN of two thousand acres, under the name of Wilmington, extending
northward from the ROGERS grant, and covering the northeast corner of what
was afterwards Readsboro, and the east part of what was afterwards Searsburg.
This grant was some two hundred rods wide and six miles long. The charter
of DRAPER became void for some reason, and Governor WENTWORTH made another
under the name of Wilmington, and surveys under that name were made in
1769 and 1777. In making these surveys they seem to have covered not only
the original DRAPER charter but also the LYMAN grant. In the hearing before
the Legislative committee Searsburg claimed a certain white ash tree as
their true southeast corner. In their investigations the committee found
that this ash tree gave Wilmington their full charter distance and one
hundred and twenty-five rods more, while Searsburg was somewhat short They
also found that the ash tree stood in the true northerly continuation of
the west lines of Whitingham, and rendered decision accordingly. But there
has ever since been some controversy concerning the title of lands along
the LYMAN grant, some claiming under the Wilmington and others under the
Searsburg titles. Searsburg is still short of her charter distance east
and west, and the recent discovery of a very ancient line extending from
Stratton to the Massachusetts line makes it quite evident that she is entitled
to another addition on the west.
In 1856 George W. DOONE built a saw-mill and washboard and clothes-pin
factory at the foot of the Devil's Stair Falls. At the close of the war
in 1865 he sold to George J. BOND. This mill was burned in 1869 and immediately
rebuilt by Mr. BOND, and is one of the two active mills in town at the
present time, the MEDBURY mill being the other. The latter mill was first
built by Clark HARRIS in 1851, was burned in 1871, and rebuilt by A. B.
MEDBURY, and changed to a bench screw factory. In 1887 it was again burned,
and rebuilt by the R. BLISS Manufacturing Company, by which concern it
is now operated.
In the war of 1861-65 Searsburg took a part as honorable as any
of the other towns of the State furnishing twenty-one men under a quota
of twenty by enlistment, and six by draft in a quota of four. All the drafted
men paid commutation. Those who enlisted previous to the call of October
17, 1863 were: Feronda W. FISHER, Foster GROUSBECK, William O'BRIEN, Andrew
J. PIKE, George C. SHIPPEE, William E. SHIPPEE, William W. VORCE, John
A. WHITCOMB, and Horatio R. WILSON. Those credited under call of October
17, 1863 for three years were: George J. BOND, Silas M. HASKINS, Nathan
MANN. Volunteers for one year: Francis GOODELL, James R. LEROY, Almeron
GROVER. Volunteers for nine months: Charles BOND, Allen E. BRIGGS, Eli
BRIGGS, George FARRINGTON, Dighton JENNINGS, and Benjamin F. WILSON. Of
these Foster GROUSBECK, William O'BRIEN, A. J. PIKE, George C. SHIPPEE,
William SHIPPEE, William W. VORCE, and H. K. WILSON were wounded in action.
None were killed, and but one, Nathan MANN, was taken prisoner. He was
taken prisoner June 23, 1864, experienced the full horrors of Andersonville
prison, was exchanged, and died from the effects of prison life a day or
two after reaching home. George C. SHIPPEE, William O'BRIEN, and Benjamin
F. WILSON have since died, and Francis GOODELL died in service.
Lumbering and the manufacture of merchandise from wood has for years
engaged the chief capital and labor of the town. The timber is beech, birch,
maple, spruce, fir, and hemlock. The soil is a gravelly loam. Along the
Deerfield River the soil is rich, and yields good returns for labor, but
the town is quite hilly and only a small part is susceptible of tillage.
Corn, oats, potatoes, and hay are grown 'successfully, and wheat of good
quality and good yield is also raised, but farming has declined very much
since the war. The town is well adapted to grazing. The Deerfield River
and its tributaries furnishes a series of the best water-power in Southern
Vermont, and cheap and unlimited supplies of hardwood lumber offers the
best of inducements to the manufacturer.
The name of the first child born in town is unknown; the first marriage
was David R. HEATH of Corinth, to Elizabeth MORSE of Searsburg, December
4, 1837, by John KNAPP, justice of the peace.
of Bennington County, Vt.
and Biographical Sketches
of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.
by Lewis Cass Aldrich.
N. Y., D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1889.
XXXII. Page 489-494
by Karima, 2004
provided by Ray Brown