Battenkill River passes through the north-western part of this town, in
a south-westerly direction . . . The settlement of Sunderland was commenced
in 1766, by Messrs. Brownson, Bradley, Warrens, Evarts, Chipman and Webb,
emigrants from Connecticut. Rev. Chancey Lee was settled over the Congregational
Church in 1786; dismissed in 1795."
Vermont, Hayward, 1849.
OF THE TOWN OF SUNDERLAND
THIS township was chartered July 29, 1761, the grant bearing date
one day later than that by which Arlington was brought into existence.
Sunderland is bounded on the north by Manchester, on the South by Glastenbury,
on the east by Stratton, Windham county, and on the west by Arlington.
The original grantees were sixty-four in number, Isaac Series being the
first mentioned. The surface of the land in Sunderland is quite similar
to that in Glastenbury and the other towns that lie almost wholly within
the Green Mountain chain, but there is more tillable land in Sunderland
than in Glastenbury, and this is on the west side next to the Arlington
line. The Battenkill River crosses the northwest corner of the town, and
in its course receives the waters of the lesser streams, Mill Brook and
Roaring Branch, and others of still less note. There is probably no town
in the county that possesses better water-power facilities, if properly
controlled, than does this, and it is equally true that there is no town
in the county in which this natural power is less utilized than in Sunderland.
However much this may seem as an uncomplimentary statement, it is nevertheless
true. The town has abundant resources but they are not properly developed.
Industries have been here but are now gone, and the old buildings are deserted.
Sunderland can never become an extensive agricultural town as nature has
not endowed it with the essential characteristics, but a manufacturing
community can be built up here with proper energy. Something has already
been done in this direction but it should not have been suffered to decline.
The most interesting of Sunderland's history is to be found in a
narrative of the events occurring within its boundaries during the years
prior to 1800. The town was chartered, as has been stated, in 1761, but
its organization did not take place until July 7, 1763, and that meeting
was held in Pownal. Isaac SERLES was chosen moderator, and George GARDNER,
clerk. At a subsequent meeting, July 11th, Samuel ROBINSON was elected
treasurer, Isaac SERLES collector, and Samuel ROBINSON, George GARDNER
and Isaac SERLES a committee to run the town lines. On May 15, 1764, the
third proprietors' meeting was held, at which Samuel ROBINSON was chosen
moderator, and Jabez WARREN, clerk. The fourth and fifth meetings were
held at Jabez WARREN's house in Sunderland, and the sixth also at the same
place; and at this last meeting, which occurred November 28th, Jedidiah
HURD, Gideon WARREN, and Timothy BROWNSON were chosen a committee to surperintend
the survey and allotments of the town and lay out the highways.
The survey and division of town lots, one acre each in size, and
sixty-six in number, was made by Samuel ROBINSON of Bennington, his labor
being completed in August, 1765; but before this time he had laid out the
proprietors' tracts in fifty-acre lots, one to each grantee, and this was
finished in June, 1765. Then during the next year or in 1766, settlement
in the town commenced, the pioneers in this work being Gideon and Timothy
BROWNSON, Joseph BRADLEY, Amos CHIPMAN, Abner and Charles EVERTS, Abner
HILL, and Reuben WEBB, all or nearly all of whom were from Connecticut.
Following these came others of the BROWNSON family and the AVERILLS, BRADLEYS,
DAVIS, COBINS, EVERTS, GRAVES, HILLS, HOYTS, HICKS, COMSTOCKS, TAYLORS
and others. The town is believed to have been organized about this time,
although no definite information on this point is to be derived from the
town records, which are in an exceedingly bad condition. The first discoverable
record of a regular freemen's meeting is of that held in 1769, at which
time Derrick WEBB was chosen moderator; Gideon BROWNSON, town clerk; Isaac
HILL, Zacheus MALLORY, and Thomas BARRING, selectmen; Rozelle HILL, constable;
and Ebenezer BARNES, Timothy BROWNSON and Amos CHIPMAN, overseers of highways.
In 1770 Isaac HILL was elected moderator; Gideon BROWNSON, town clerk;
Joseph BRADLEY, Timothy BROWNSON, and Gideon SERIES, selectmen. Other officers
were chosen at the same time, but the worthy town clerk, Gideon BROWNSON,
was more of a statesman and leader than penman, and from the records as
they now appear, one can only guess at his meaning, and guessing is too
liable to lead to error.
Sunderland, from its close proximity to Arlington, became more or
less involved in the exciting events that preceded the Revolution; and
while the more important events transpired in Arlington, the town of Sunderland
was not wholly free from the troublous element usually called Tories, and
one in particular of these was Benjamin HOUGH, concerning whose exploits
and final punishment much is said in the general history of this region,
and to be found in the earlier part of this work. HOUGH came to reside
in the town sometime about 1737 or 1774, and was clothed with all the power
and authority that could be derived from the office of justice of the peace
under the jurisdiction of New York, but this the doughty settlers in this
vicinity failed to recognize, so HOUGH naturally got into trouble. But
HOUGH was as obstinate as the other settlers were determined, and used
his greatest endeavors in sowing the seeds of Toryism throughout the vicinity;
indeed, so open and notorious did his inimical conduct become that he at
length fell into the custody of the Committee of Safety, before whom he
was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to "be taken from the bar of this
Committee of Safety, and be tied to a tree, and there on his back receive
two hundred stripes; his back being dressed he should depart out of the
district, and on return without special leave of the convention to suffer
death." On the 30th of May, 16i5 this sentence was extended and the prisoner
given a safe passport beyond the Vermont line, to which he did not return.
This punishment inflicted on HOUGH had a most salutary influence upon those
in this region who were disposed to share his sentiments, and subsequent
cases of a similar character were few indeed.
The first mention made of the town of Sunderland in connection with
the general events of the region is found in the proceedings of the celebrated
Dorset Convention of July 26, 1775, when, upon the verge of the Revolution,
the local authorities were organizing the military forces of the State
for future operations. Of the companies then organized fifty were raised
in Sunderland and its vicinity, and Captain Gideon BROWNSON was placed
in command, while Jellis BLAKELEY and Philo HARD were respectively chosen
first and second lieutenants. At this time Gideon BROWNSON was unquestionably
the foremost man in the town or its vicinity. He served through the war,
having been promoted to the rank of major in the Continental service, and
afterward general in the Vermont militia. J. A. GRAHAM said: "General BROWNSON
was a violent politician in the late war; and that as a proof of his valiant
conduct, he now (1797) carries in his body eighteen pieces of lead, which
lie received during that fatal contest."
In the Dorset Convention of J my 24, 1776 the town of Sunderland
was represented by Joseph BRADLEY, and he too was prominently connected
with both the civil and military affairs of the State, holding in the former
many positions of trust, and in the latter being an officer of rank. He
and Colonel Timothy BROWNSON were delegates from the town to the Dorset
Convention held in September, 1776; and at the famous Windsor Convention
June 4, 1777, Lieutenant BRADLEY represented the town, his associate at
that time being Eli BROWN -- also of Sunderland.
In this connection it will be proper to mention as among the prominent
early residents of Sunderland General Ethan ALLEN and his brother, Ira
ALLEN, although neither can be said be said to have been permanent residents
of the town. Ethan ALLEN was probably induced to take up his abode temporarily
in the town through the influence of his wife, whose maiden name was Mary
BROWNSON, and to whom he was married in 1762, at Roxbury. She died at Sunderland
early in the year 1783, and was buried in the north cemetery in Sunderland,
which had been deeded to the town by Ira ALLEN. The two brothers ALLEN
lived in the northwest part of the town near the banks of the Battenkill,
and here Ethan built a house in which he lived, and which remained standing
until about 1845, when it was taken down. Ira ALLEN also built a house,
barn and office building in the same section, and these too remained standing
for many years. But Ira ALLEN, at least, was but a temporary resident of
the town, his home being in Colchester, but his high civil and military
offices calling him so frequently to this region, he transferred his residence
for the time to Sunderland, that being a central point from which he could
"Colonel Timothy BROWNSON," says a contemporaneous
writer, "was among the first permanent settlers of Sunderland in 1766,
but in 1764 he had been one of the committee appointed to settle with the
collector of the grantees, superintend the allotments, and survey and lay
out the roads in that town. He was from New Framingham, Conn. He was a
prominent man in the civil affairs of the State, one of the most trusted
and confidential advisers of Governor CHITTENDEN, a delegate in the conventions
of January 16 and September 25, 1776, and was one of the twelve advisers
appointed to attend the next convention. He was also a member of the convention
which adopted the constitution, and councilor for 1778-84 and 1787-94.
He was one of the eight persons named by Governor CHITTENDEN as having
been cognizant of the Haldimand negotiation, and a member of the convention
of 1791, which adopted the constitution of the United States."
But loyal to the cause of the people on the grants as the great
majority of Sunderland's inhabitants were, there were some at least who
had imbibed the sentiments of the notorious HOUGH, and upon whom the official
eye was fixed. This is confirmed by the proceedings of the Council of Safety,
who were in the habit of watching suspected persons, and keeping them under
restraint in certain cases. The committees of safety in the several towns
were no less vigilant, and arrested any unknown persons. For these reasons
the council gave to suspected persons and to loyal citizens, also, passports
that they might be free to go and come without molestation. This is evidenced
by the following order made by the council in September, 1777: "The following
persons are permitted to pass, viz.: Daniel DORCHY and Sylvenus PERRY from
this to Sunderland and return within one month." Also, “Isaac GOODSEL is
permitted to pass to Sunderland to take care of his children and return
within six days." Here is an old order to the commissioners of sequestration:
are informed that Mr. S. PAYNE, of Sunderland, has in his custody one yoke
of oxen the property of this State, which we desire you to take into custody
When in May, 1778, the governor and council were organizing the
Second Regiment of militia, one company was provided to be raised in Sunderland,
of which Daniel COMSTOCK was appointed captain and Eli BROWNSON first lieutenant.
And during the same year, when justices of the peace were being appointed
for the various towns, Colonel Timothy BROWNSON was selected to fill that
office for Sunderland. The town officers chosen by the freemen for this
year, 1778, were as follows: Moderator, Joseph BRADLEY; town clerk, Abner
HILL; selectmen, Benjamin LEWIS and Amos CHIPMAN; constable, Samuel HOYT;
committee of safety, Jonathan HOYT and Joseph BRADLEY, (chairman); tithingmen,
Amos BROWNSON and Daniel COMSTOCK.
is permitted to pass from this (Bennington) to Sunderland."
order of council was made January 22, 1778:
is hereby given to the bearer, Arad Ivril (AVRILL), to transport five hundred
weight of flour out of this State, agreeable to a former contract (certified
under oath) made previous to the resolve of the council laying an embargo
on wheat, etc."
On the 23d day of December, 1779 it appears that the Board
of War held a short session at Sunderland At that time Timothy BROWNSON
was chairman of this body, the other members present being Major Benjamin
WAIT, Captain Ebenezer ALLEN, Lieutenant Joseph BRADLEY, Captain Joseph
BOWKER, and Captain Samuel ROBINSON. Another meeting of the same body was
held in the town on August 7, 1780, there being present Timothy BROWNSON,
Joseph BOWKER, Joseph BRADLEY and Ira ALLEN, three members being then residents
of Sunderland. At this time was passed this resolution: "Resolved to raise
by a draft on the militia sixty able-bodied non-commissioned officers and
soldiers, every man equipped, to join Maj'r Eben'r ALLEN's detachment of
rangers; that they be drafted from the several reg't in the following proportions,
(viz.) Col. Samuel HERRICK's Regiment, 24 men; Col. Ira ALLEN's Reg't.,
21 men; Col. Eben'r ALLEN's Reg't, 15 men."
The foregoing narrative contains all the events of importance that
occurred during the period of the town's history that was particularly
interesting. But during the time in which occurred what is known as "Shay's
Rebellion," Ethan ALLEN was a resident of the town, at least he was then
there. There is no record of any assembly of the Shay's insurrectionists
in Sunderland, but in connection with the events occurring about that time
General ALLEN wrote one of his characteristic letters, which having been
produced in the town, is deemed worthy of record in these pages, as follows:
From the year 1791, and even before that time, the growth of the
town of Sunderland has been steady and healthful, so that at the present
time its population is probably greater than ever before, and this respect
is an exception to the condition of many other towns of the county that
enjoy a more favorable situation. In 1791, the year of the first census
enumeration of the towns, Sunderland had a population of 414, a less number
than shown by any subsequent census. Ten years later, or in 1800, it had
557; in 1810, 576; in 1820, 496; in 1830, 463; in 1840, 437; in 1850, 479
; in 1860, 567; in 1870, S53; in 188o, 654. The increase shown between
the years 185o and 186o is undoubtedly due in a great measure to the construction
through the northwest part of the town of the Bennington and Rutland Railroad,
as it is now known, but which formerly was called the "Western Vermont"
road. The building of this road opened to the townspeople a way of transporting
their products of agriculture and manufacture to profitable markets. The
admirable water-ways of the town furnished excellent power, and manufacture
became one of the leading industries of the locality; but this seems to
have had its best days, at least judging from the idle factory buildings
now standing in the town, especially in the locality of Chiselville.
3d of May, 1787.
I consider it my duty to inform the Government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Bay that the malcontents of your State appear to be forming unlawful associations
in this State, and that this government are taking the most effectual measures
to prevent the mischievous consequences which may be consequent thereon.
Your people in the meantime may do well to take care of private murders.
You may depend that this government are so alarmed at the present conduct
of your insurgents that they will cordially consult any measures with your
government, which may be requisite for the mutual peace of both. I desire
you would present this Letter with my compliments to the commanding Officer
of the troops of Massachusetts in Berkshire County for their information.
And I am with respect, Your Humble Servant. ETHAN ALLEN."
" N. B.
Should it be policy for the Government of your State to publish the foregoing
letter at anytime after the 10th instant, I have no objection. E. A."
letter was addressed to Colonel Benjamin SIMMONS.
This little hamlet, the one that has for years rejoiced in the name
of "Chiselville," is situate in the central part of the inhabited portion
of the town, and derives its name from extensive manufacturing interests
that once flourished there, and was known as the Arlington Edge Tool Company;
but this manufacture has now practically ceased, therefore Chiselville
is in a condition of desuetude. The water-power here, on Roaring Branch,
is not to be excelled in the State.
Mount Pleasant is a small hamlet still further south than Chiselville,
and contains a dozen houses, perhaps, and has, or had formerly, one or
two industries of no special importance. The people here are engaged in
agriculture and lumbering.
The principal trading and manufacturing point within the township
is at Sunderland, a small station on the Bennington and Rutland Railroad,
a few miles northeast from Arlington. This is a pleasantly situated little
hamlet of small population, on the Battenkill River, having all necessary
stores and other interests to attract trade from the north part of this
town, and some from the south part of Manchester. The leading industry
here is the manufacture of veneering, which was established in 1871; and
in connection with this the proprietor, Mr. BACON, also has a lumber-mill
and box factory. Other industries of the place are BACON's feed and grist-mill,
and saw-mill. These comprise the chief industries of the locality, while
there may be some others of less note.
The township of Sunderland, like the majority, perhaps, of those
that comprise the county, has a bonded indebtedness, but not to so large
an amount by far as some others. The taxpayers of this town annually pay
interest on the sum of seventeen thousand dollars, besides raising the
necessary funds for current expenses, such as payment of officers' fees,
maintenance of the poor and supporting the schools, of the last named,
there being four in the town. The greater part of the town's indebtedness
was created by bonding for the railroad, which crosses the extreme northwest
corner, and is of no practical or substantial benefit to the people of
the south part except as they reach, the station at Arlington, some two
or three miles distant; but whether of benefit or not, the indebtedness
The officers of Sunderland, chosen at the town meeting in March,
1888, are as follows: Moderator, Samuel H. CRUM; town clerk and treasurer,
Henry S. BURT; selectmen, Edward G. BACON, Samuel CRUM and Arnold WEBB;
overseer of the poor, E. A. GRAVES; constable and collector, E. J. BROWN;
listers, Abel STILLSON, Albert P. BROWN, and O. E. DWINELLE; auditors,
James GRAVES, H. N. BUCK and J. W. HULETT; grand jurors, David SNYDER and
Reuben WEBB; inspectors of leather, A. R. STILLSON and A. R. WEBB; pound
keepers, Julius HILL and John MARBLE.
of Bennington County, Vt.
and Biographical Sketches
of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.
by Lewis Cass Aldrich.
N. Y., D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1889.
XXIX. Page 468-475.
by Karima, 2004
provided by Ray Brown