lies in the northern part of the county, in lat. 44º 57', and long.
4º 51’, bounded on the northeast by the Orleans county line, easterly
by Sutton, south and southwest by Wheelock, and northwesterly by Orleans
county. It was chartered by the state legislature, October 25, 1793,
to Stephen Kingsbury and his associates. Its original area of about 22,067
acres was retained until November 23, 1858. when a corner, containing 3,000
acres was set off to the township of Barton, in Orleans county.
The surface of Sheffield is mountainous; but the land, unlike that
of many mountain ranges, does not seem to penetrate the distant sky, nor
is it characterized by craggy cliffs, abrupt precipices, or sharply pointed
peaks; but rather by gently sloping sides and rounded summits, heavily
wooded to their very tops. The soil is mostly of a loamy nature, although
broken, and in some parts stony. The snows here fall very deep, covering
the earth nearly one half of the year. Using the words
of one of the early settlers: “It is a first-rate place for sleigh-rides,
for the reason that we have nine months winter, and the other three months
very late in the fall.”
The town is watered by several brooks, which, rising upon the mountains,
unite a short distance north of the village, and form a considerable stream,
which, flowing onward, empties into the Passumpsic at Lyndon. Within the
limits of the town are several ponds romantically nestled amid the woody
elevations. Duck pond, so called from its having been a favorite resort
for wild ducks, is a small, shallow sheet of water, though it has the appearance
of having once covered a much greater surface. Gradually it is growing
more and more shallow, and as the waters recede, the atmosphere, rain and
frosts enter as successive agents in the work of general change, and, judging
from the past characteristics, the pond will sometime entirely disappear.
Bruce pond is so named from the fact that a man by the name of Bruce once
attempted to build a saw-mill near its outlet; but after erecting the frame
and getting his mill nearly completed, he suddenly abandoned the project,
removed the machinery, and left the country. The town is also supplied
with excellent springs, which, together with its elevated altitude and
pure air, renders it a very healthful locality. The mountain streams here
were formerly a favorite resort of the beaver tribe, their industrious
habits being marked by several meadows which produce a luxuriant growth
of grass, and which, from the earliest settlement of the town, until these
lots were taken up and settled, was yearly cut, stacked, and drawn to the
barns upon sleds during the ensuing winter. Traces of their dams in some
localities still remain, but the greater part of them have been leveled
by the plow.
In 1880, Sheffield had a population of 884. In 1885 the township
adopted the town system of schools, and its common schools now number eight,
having decreased one in the past year. One male and nine female teachers
were employed, to whom was paid an average weekly salary, including board,
of $5.50 to the former, and $4.76 to the latter. There were 229 scholars,
five of whom attended private schools. The entire income for school purposes
was $1,087.33, while the total expenditures were $876.86, with C.R. Garland,
Sheffield, the only post village in the township, is situated about
one mile from the southern boundary of the same, in a pleasant valley,
upon a stream designated as Miller's run. It consists of two churches (Methodist
and Freewill Baptist), two general stores, one grocery, a saw-mill, grist-mill,
and about thirty dwellings.
S. & R.C. Hall's saw-mill
is located on road 35, near 36, on the stream known as Miller's run. The
mill contains machinery sufficient for the manufacture of dimension timber
and shingles, and cuts about 8,000 feet per day. It was purchased by its
present proprietors in the fall of 1885. It was built by Joseph R. Ingalls,
in the spring of 1829.
Chesley's saw mill is located on road 20. Its capacity is about
4,000 feet per day, of dimension timber. The mill was formerly owned by
Hazen Gray, A.L. Barber, and C.H. Chesley, but the latter has been its
sole proprietor for the past four years.
Alfred Gray's grist-mill is located on road 32. It grinds about
5,000 bushels of native grain per annum. It was built in 1855, by
John Ingalls, Charles Sanborn and Joel Fletcher, and was used by them as
a starch factory. It was bought by its present owner eighteen years ago.
The first settlement in the town was made in the spring of 1794,
by John and Richard Jenness and James and Jonathan Gray, who came on from
New Hampshire with their families. John Jenness built the first framed
house. He was by trade a tanner, and carried on the business here for a
time, using for a vat a trough cut from a large tree, and pounding his
bark by hand.
A large portion of the township was at one time owned by General
Hull but previous to his disgraceful conduct in the War of 1812, he exchanged
his possessions here with Isaac McLellen, for land in Newburyport, Mass.
The settlement increased slowly, but surely, and among the early settlers
other than those mentioned were Caleb Heath, Isaac Jenness, Samuel Daniels,
Reuben Miles, Henry Gray, James Hodgen and Samuel Weeks. Most of the settlers
were from New Hampshire, and brought with them the intelligence and thrift
which has always characterized the people of the Granite State.
The town was organized March 25, 1796, when the following officers
were elected: Moses Foss, moderator; Archelaus Miles, Jr., town clerk;
Stephen Drown, Archelaus Miles, Jr., and Isaac Keniston, selectmen; and
Jonathan Gray, constable. The first representative was Stephen Drown, elected
The town was first surveyed by Jesse Gilbert, and a beautiful tract
of about 1,000 acres was named in his honor, and is still known as “Gilbert
Square.” The first physician was a Dr. Mitchell; the first merchant John
Green, where Noah Folsom now lives. The first male child born in town was
William Gray, July 28, 1794, and the first female Hannah Jenness, October
15, 1794. The first marriage was that of Capt. Samuel Twombly and Elizabeth
Gray. The first death was that of an infant of Richard Jenness. The first
school house was built in 1805, upon land now owned by Sylvester Hall.
The first blacksmith was Capt. Joseph Staples, a veteran of the War of
1812, who moved into the town just after said war. The first church
(Baptist) was built in 1829. The first settled pastor was Rev. Zebina Young,
James Gray, one of the first settlers of the town, was born in Barrington,
N.H. He married Hannah Burrill, of the same place, and moved to this town
with his family in the spring of 1794. Mrs. Gray was the first white woman
that ever came into this town. His son Jonathan also came with him, and
to him belongs the honor of having felled the first tree in town. Benjamin
Gray, son of James, was born in Barrington, N.H., in 1787, and came to
this town with his father. He was a farmer and shared the pioneer life
with the early settlers. He married Susan Drown, and five children were
born to them, four of whom are living; Elizabeth E. (Mrs. Carpenter), in
Landaff, N.H., Franklin, Samuel and Harriet. James Gray, the father of
Benjamin, died May 26, 1859. He served in the Revolutionary war.
William Gray, the first white child born in town, was a son of Jonathan.
He was born July 28, 1794, served in the War of 1812, and at its close
married Abigail Staples. Twelve children were born to them, six of whom
are living, viz.: Alfred, who married Lydia J. Goodwin, in this town; Clarissa,
who married Jacob Welch, of Canaan. Vt.; Dorotha, who married Seth C. Collins,
of St.Albans,Vt.; Percival, who married Rachel S. Gray; Alonzo, who married
Joanna Berry, and Robert A., who married Mary A. Hanscom, are living in
Samuel Drown was born in Rochester, N.H., and came into this town
in 1795. He was an old Revolutionary soldier, having been attached during
some part of the war to an artillery corps. He was first engaged in the
battle of Bunker Hill, and served his country faithfully several years
afterwards. He died at the advanced age of ninety-six years.
Dea. Stephen Drown, son of Samuel, was born in Rochester, N.H.,
September 17, 1770. He married Sarah, daughter of James Gray, in 1791,
and they moved to this town in 1795, and settled upon the farm now owned
by Salma Davis, where they resided until his death, April 6, 1841. Mr.
Drown represented the town in the legislature several years, was twenty-two
years town clerk, and taught the first school in town. He experienced religion
in 1800, was the first convert, and ever after one of the main pillars
of the church. To him the people were indebted as to a pastor for visiting
the sick, attending funerals, holding meetings, baptizing converts, and
performing all other pastoral duties. He lived an exemplary life, sustaining
his christian profession unblemished until death closed his labors.
William Simpson was the first of this family to move into the town.
He married Sally Heath. John Simpson, son of William, was born in 1770.
He married Lydia Gray, daughter of Jonathan Gray, for his second wife,
and Mary Keniston for his first. One child was born by his first wife,
and eleven by his second, eight of whom are living, Jonathan, Hiram and
Lydia (Mrs. John Blake), in this town.
Moses Hall came here from New Hampshire about the year 1800, and
commenced a settlement on the farm now occupied by R. B. Dow. He here erected
a log house and commenced farming, after the pioneer style. He was born
May 2, 1771, and was killed by a shed blowing down on him. He married Eleanor
Hawkins in 1779, and five of twelve children are living.
Joseph H. Ingalls was born in Medbury, Mass., in 1774. He came into
Wheelock about the year 1797, where he married Comfort, daughter of Capt.
Joshua Weeks, and continued to live in that town until 1806, when he moved
with his family to Sheffield, where he resided until his death. He was
one of the leading citizens of this place, and for a long series of years
held responsible offices in town. He was a member of the Vermont legislature
thirteen years, and of the Senate one year. As a man of sound judgment
and thorough business habits, he had few superiors. He died June 14, 1850,
aged seventy-six years.
Paul Otis was born in Stafford, N.H., in 1777. He married Mary Foss,
and moved to this town in the spring of 1809, and settled on road 25, first
erecting a log house in the dense forest and commenced felling trees. The
fruits of his labors were soon apparent, and the forests were converted
into productive fields. He reared a family of six children, three of whom
are living, viz.: Harriet, wife of Jonathan Clark, Martha (Mrs. Sullaway),
and Paul. Mr. Otis died in 1857, aged eighty years.
Aaron Drown was born in Rochester. N.H., in 1787, and moved to this
town in 1810. He married Betsey Tucker, of Rochester, by whom he reared
a family of ten children, eight of whom are living, and three in this town.
His son Noah was born in 1807. He married Lovina Bean, of Albany, N.Y.,
in 1832. Eight of their eleven children are living.
Joseph Barber was born in Barrington, N.H., September 12, 1778,
a son of John Barber, who was killed in Ossipee, N.H. by a falling timber,
in 1785. Joseph came to this town in 1812, first locating in the village.
After living here a short time he bought out the business of Capt. Joseph
Staples, the first blacksmith in this town, and carried on the blacksmith
business for about thirty years. He married Polly, daughter of Josiah Clark,
of Farmington, N.H., and nine children were born to them, three of whom
are living, viz.: Joseph L., Hannah L. (Mrs. Isaac Keniston), and Asa L.
The latter, at an early age, learned the blacksmith trade of his father,
and has worked at it for nearly fifty years. He married Hannah A. Jones,
December 26, 1849, and five of their seven children are living.
Capt. Joseph Staples served in the War of 1812. It is said that
in one engagement he slew with his own hand three British soldiers that
had attacked him, and after this encounter he joined his company in safety.
He continued in service until the close of the war, when he moved into
this town and for several years labored at his trade, being the first blacksmith
Alexander Berry was born in Barrington, N.H, and moved to this town
with his wife and five children in the spring of 1816, first pitching on
road 25 on the farm known as the “A. J. Ham place.” His son Samuel was
also born in Barrington, in 1790, and married Dorotha Willey. He reared
a family of ten children, all of whom grew to maturity, and five of whom
are living. His son Samuel lives on the farm cleared by his father, where
he was born July 29, 1813. He married Hannah French, July 17, 1834, and
seven children have been born to them, viz.: Elizabeth, Elisha, Lydia A.,
Mary J., Frank W. and Martha G.
Samuel Willard was born at Barnstead, N.H., in 1808 and moved to
Wheelock when about ten years old, in company with his mother, three brothers
and three sisters. He lived there about ten years, when he, with his mother
and sisters, moved into this town, first locating on road 28. He married
Margaret Gray, daughter of Henry Gray, by whom six children were born to
him, four of whom are living, viz.: Oliver, in Barton; Paul, in this
town; Margaret N., who married Amasa Hutchins, of Stannard; and Mary J.,
who married Alexander Drake, of this town. He died June 8, 1870, and his
widow died June 3, 1881.
Noah L. Folsom, son of Andrew, was born in this town, January 25,
1828, and married, April 17, 1851, Hannah Pearl, who was born August 3,
1828. In 1855 he opened a hotel on the site of his present residence, remaining
there one year, then opening again farther up the street, where Mrs. Lucy
Drown now lives. On October 5, 1875, he opened a grocery store in the small
building, on road 32, corner 31, and here he remained until 1880, when
he commenced in the store where he is at present located, in company with
his son-in law, A. J. Giffin. In 1882-83 he represented the town
in the legislature, has been collector of taxes for twenty-two years, and
deputy sheriff sixteen years.
Dr. Cyrus Root was born in Strafford, Vt., in 1780. He graduated
at the medical institution in Hanover, N.H., and commenced practice in
Strafford, his native town, but subsequently moved to Wheelock, where he
practiced for a long series of years. His son Edward F. is living in this
town, on Road 2.
Stephen K. Dexter was born in Providence, R.I., and came to the
town of Barton when a young man, opening the first tavern in that town.
His son Samuel P. was born in Barton, March 28, 1803, and was united in
marriage with Mahilla Leavitt, of Wheelock, December 26, 1847. Three children
were born to them, of whom Henry H., born April 10, 1841, served in Co.
N, 2d Mass. Cav., and was killed in action February 22, 1864. The daughter,
Lucy L., was born December 31, 1844, and died September 20, 1866. The other
son William, was born November 3, 1838, married Mary J. Wright, of Pepperell,
Mass., February 5, 1867, and three of their five children are living; Mabel
K., Henry W. and J.W.
James Williams, with his wife and ten children, came to Lyndon,
Vt., from Rhode Island, in 1802. His son James, born in Rhode Island, came
to Vermont with his father. He married Betsey Peck, and reared a family
of eight children, only one of whom is living, Cyril, on road 9, in this
Freewill Baptist church. The early settlers of this town were
mostly of the Freewill Baptist persuasion, and they began early to hold
religious meetings in barns and dwelling houses upon the Sabbath. In 1800
the Baptists of this town and Wheelock united, and the first monthly meeting
was held October 6th, of the same year. The society at that time, counting
the members from both towns, numbered seventy-seven. They enjoyed frequent
religious revivals, until 1829, when a church was built in this village,
where they afterwards met for worship. They had no settled pastor until
March 9, 1836, when a new organization was formed, the members of the different
towns having become sufficiently numerous to render a separate organization
expedient. Rev. Zebina Young was that year installed as pastor.
The Second Freewill Baptist church, located at the corner of roads
25 and 26, was organized by its first pastor, Rev. Abel Bugby, February
11, 1837. The church building, a small structure capable of seating only
about seventy- five persons, was built in 1851. A. P. Tracy acts as pastor
for the society.
The Methodist Episcopal church, at Sheffield village, was organized
by Israel Luce, with forty members, in 1866, Rev. R. H. Barton being installed
as the first pastor. The church building, a wooden structure, was erected
in 1860. The society has 134 members, with Rev. Robert Christie, pastor.
of Caledonia and Essex Counties, VT.; 1764-1887, Compiled and Published
by Hamilton Child; May 1887, Page 300-305)
was provided by Tom Dunn.