OF THE TOWN OF
SHELBURNE lies in the southwestern part of the county, and is bounded
north by South Burlington and a part of Williston, east by St. George,
south by Charlotte and a part of Hinesburg, and west by Lake Champlain.
It was chartered by New Hampshire on the 18th of August, 1763, the following
named being grantees:
Steward SOUTHGATE, John SOUTHGATE, Richard GLEASON, Richard GLEASON, jr.,
Nathaniel POTTER, John BOND, jr., John POTTER, Antipas EARL, Samuel SEABURY,
Thomas DARLING, Samuel HIGHT, Gilbert TOLTON, Simon DAKIN, Joshua DAKIN,
Patridge THATCHER, James BRADSHAW, Ebenezer SEALY, Samuel WATERS, David
FERRIS, Joshua FRANKLIN, Thomas FRANKLIN, jr., Silas MEAD, Nathaniel POTTER,
jr., Robert SOUTHGATE, William CORNAL, John THOMAS, jr., John HUCHING,
Stephen FIELD, Nathaniel HOWLAND, Haddock BOWNE, Peter TATTEN, Benjamin
CLAPP, Tideman HULL, Jos. HULL, Lewis CAMMELL, Sidmon HULL, jr., Thomas
HULL, John CARNAL, Edward BURLING, John CROMWELL, Thos. CHIELD, John BURLING,
Ebenezer PRESTON, Uriah FIELD, Isaac UNDERHILL, Joseph PARSALL, John AKIN,
John CANNON, Jacob UNDERHILL, Zebulon FERRIS, Daniel MERIT, Jonathan AKIN,
Jeremiah GRIFFIN, Read FERRIS, Elijah SOTY, John HALLOCK, Benjamin FERRIS,
Benjamin FERRIS, jr., Samuel HILLS, David AKIN, Hon. Holcom TEMPLE, Theodore
ATCHISON, Mark H. J. WENTWORTH, John FISHER, esq.
It derived its name from that of a celebrated nobleman of the British
Parliament, the Earl of Shelburne, who opposed the claims of the government
of New York to the territory now comprised within the boundaries of Vermont.
The original area of the town, according to its charter, was to consist
of 23,500 acres, a little more than six miles square; but a mistake of
the surveyors stripped it of much of its expected possessions. Two surveying
parties, employed to run the lines of the lake towns, approached each other
gradually from opposite directions, meeting-the party from the south in
surveying Shelburne; the party from the north in surveying Burlington.
It was then discovered that there was not land sufficient in both towns
to satisfy the demands of each, and the lines of the surveyors overlapped.
The town of Burlington having been granted about a month previous to Shelburne,
held her claim by priority of charter. A portion of Potter's Point formerly
belonged to Burlington, but in 1794, among numerous alterations in town
boundaries made by the Legislature, this point was declared to be a part
of Shelburne. On the 9th of November, 1848, a portion of this town was
set off to St. George, which reduced the alleged 23,500 to the actual area
of 14,272 acres. Vexatious and expensive litigation has resulted from the
conflicting lines of these early surveyors, some of the early landowners
asserting their claim to title under one survey, and others under another.
The first of the surveys was made in 1775 by Silas HATHAWAY, in the employment
of Ira ALLEN, who assumed the ownership of large tracts in the town. This
survey was made by chain, with but little reference to the points of the
compass. Twenty-three years later Ebenezer COBB surveyed the town under
the direction of the selectmen, fixing the boundaries by compass and including
in his measurements the allowances necessary by reason of the variations
in the surface of the earth. After years of controversy and bitterness
of feeling, the conflicting claims were adjusted, and peace restored.
The surface of the town is irregular, but with only gentle waves
which add to the beauty of the view, without detracting from the value
of the land for cultivation. The crenellated outline of the lake here breaks
in upon the land with such a deep indenture as to form a veritable cul-de-sac,
called Shelburne Bay, which is bounded by the mainland and a point formerly
known by the name of the first settler of the town, POTTIER. Another point
was named in honor of another early settler, LOGAN. Not alone in beauty
of scenery does Shelburne excel, though that in some respects is past description,
but in richness and fertility of soil, which varies from a stiff clay to
a fine sandy loam, producing in abundance the grains and grasses natural
to this latitude, and in the western part of the town, the various fruits
in plenty. The principal streams are La Plotte River and Cogman's Brook,
with their several tribute rills and rivulets. La Plotte River enters the
town from Charlotte on the south, and flows north into Shelburne Bay, affording
water power at the falls from the beginning of settlement to the present.
Its peculiar name is said to have been derived from a peculiar event. During
the Revolutionary War a band of Indians numbering several hundreds concealed
their canoes under a line of willows that extended along the mouth of the
river, and went into the interior on an expedition for prisoners and plunder.
During their absence the white men discovered their canoes riddled them
with holes and replaced them in their former positions. From their ambush
in the immediate vicinity, the patriots then watched for the return of
the savages, upon which they poured into their gathering a volley of bullets
which drove them precipitately to their canoes. No sooner were they in
the middle of the stream than they learned too late that they could do
naught but choose between death from drowning or from the deadly bullets
of the white men. This successful coup de main bestowed upon the stream
its significant title of La Plotte. Several arrow-heads and bullets have
been found in this vicinity. Shelburne Pond, in the eastern part of the
town, covers a little more than six hundred acres of ground, and because
of its piscatorial and scenic virtues is a favorite resort of pleasure
seekers during the summer season.
SETTLEMENTS AND EVENTS
Shelburne seems to have been occupied as a place of residence earlier
than any other part of the county, if we except, of course, the settlements
by the French in Colchester. Two Germans by the name of John POTTER and
Thomas Logan came here in 1768. POTTER was named in the charter as one
of the original proprietors, and may have been related to Nathaniel POTTER,
sr. and jr., named in the same instrument. These two daring adventurers
settled on the points on the shore of the lake, which are even now known
by their names, and became associated in taking oak timber in rafts to
the Quebec market. On their return from one of these expeditions the commanding
officer at Montreal sent with them a sergeant and two privates to guard
them in passing through the Indian settlements. At their first encampment,
a short distance south from the Canada line, the guard matured a conspiracy
to murder the unsuspecting Germans for their money, two of them agreeing
to commit the murder and the other taking an oath never to reveal the crime.
The deed was done and the victims buried on a small island near the point,
which are now, from this circumstance, known as Bloody Island and Bloody
Point respectively. The inactive accessory to the crime was unable, however,
to keep the secret, and soon after made a clean confession, which resulted
in the conviction and execution of his two friends and a severe whipping
for himself. Whether the Germans ever had families is not known.
About ten families had begun settlements near the lake before the
Revolution, though there is no information as to who they were, just where
they lived, or what became of them, except these two Germans and Moses
PIERSON. Mr. PIERSON purchased in 1769, one thousand acres of land in the
southwestern part of the town, which was afterward known as the MEECH farm,
and now owned in part by Colonel Frederick FLETCHER, of St. Johnsbury.
Here he built a block-house.
The battle of Shelburne block-house as it is sometimes called, has
been related in several ways, each story having its advocates, and of course
its critics. We have chosen to relate the one which we think bears on its
face the stamp of credibility: When the PIERSON family left Shelburne in
1777 they had harvested a large crop of wheat, and returned during the
winter to thresh and secure it. Meanwhile they were menaced by Tories and
Indians. Colonel Thomas SAWYER, of Clarendon, being apprised of it, with
Lieutenant Barnabas BARNUM, Corporal WILLIAMS, and fourteen soldiers, hastened
to the exposed frontier. It was the month of January, and the weather was
They marched through the trackless wilderness about ninety miles,
all on foot except Colonel SAWYER, who rode a fine stallion. Through the
energy and art of Colonel SAWYER, they were animated to surmount the extremes
of cold and hunger, until they arrived safely at the house of the PIERSONs.
There they remained strengthening the place, seven or eight weeks, when
suddenly the foe, who had been lurking about, disappeared. Colonel SAWYER
suspected this to be a stratagem, and learned that one PHILO, a Tory, who
had gone to Canada on skates, had returned with a considerable force, fifty-seven
in all. Accordingly all were immediately set at work barricading their
house, and when night came on had made all parts secure except one window.
The attack was made that night, and through that window two men who had
stopped and put up for the night were killed at the first fire of the enemy.
Their names were WOODARD and DANIELS. They were met by an incessant fire
from the besieged for three-fourths of an hour through port-holes made
for that purpose. During that time the Indians twice fired the house; and
Colonel SAWYER offered his watch as a reward to any one who would extinguish
the flames. There was no water in the house, but Mrs. PIERSON had been
brewing beer that day, and Joseph WILLIAMS, entering the chamber, broke
a hole through the roof, and extinguished the flames with the contents
of the beer barrel, under a deadly fire from the savages without. Colonel
SAWYER kept his word, and gave WILLIAMS his watch. The enemy were finally
repulsed, and two prisoners taken; the enemy also lost one officer and
one Indian chief, who were found dead in the field, besides several who
were thrown through a hole cut in the ice. This battle occurred on the
12th of March, 1778.
Of the brave little band who defended the house, Lieutenant BARNUM,
according to THOMPSON and DOWNING, was killed, though his name is not mentioned
anywhere in connection with the narrative of the battle I have given. Colonel
SAWYER cut from the nose of the Indian chief who was killed his jewels,
and secured his powder-horn and bullet-pouch as trophies of his victory.
Ziba and Uzal, sons of Moses PIERSON, aged respectively seventeen
and fifteen years, were actively engaged in this affray. An infant daughter,
who afterwards became the wife of Nehemiah PRAY, was lying in a bed at
the time and escaped unharmed, though bullets passed through the headboard
of the bedstead, and were found in the bed at the close of the battle.
After the party had secured the wheat they left town, and Mr. PIERSON settled
in Orwell. His sons, Ziba and Uzal, were afterward captured in Shoreham
by a scouting party and taken to Canada, whence, several months later,
they made their escape, and reached home after suffering incredible hardships
and passing untouched through appalling dangers. After the close of the
war, in the spring of 1783, Moses PIERSON returned to Shelburne with his
family and occupied his former residence until his death, on the 28th of
July, 1805. His son Ziba settled on a farm on the main road in the south
part of the town, accumulated a good property, and held many offices of
trust in the town. He died of apoplexy on the 1st of November, 1820, aged
sixty years. Uzal PIERSON also became well to do, and owned a farm near
the lake, afterward owned by Ezra MEECH, jr., but was unfortunate toward
the close of his life and lost most of his property. He came to his death
by falling from a wagon on the 11th of June, 1836, aged seventy-two years.
Descendants of Moses PIERSON still dwell in Shelburne.
The following is a partial list of the more prominent early settlers,
in addition to those already mentioned: William SMITH, Caleb SMITH, Rufus
COLE, Thomas HALL, HUBELL and BUSH, associated on Potter's Point, Richard
SPEARS and Gershom LYON. In 1784 and 1785 Daniel BARBER, Daniel COMSTOCK,
Aaron ROWLEY, Captain Samuel CLARK, Benjamin HARRINGTON, Israel BURRITT,
Joshua REED. Timothy HOLABIRD, Sturgess MOREHOUSE, Remington BITGOOD, and
Jirah Isham located here and became residents. In the three following years
Dr. Frederick MAECK, Phineas HILL, Keeler TROWBRIDGE, Samuel MILLS, and
probably others came, and soon after Bethuel CHITTENDEN, Benjamin SUTTON,
Rosel MINER, Nathaniel GAGE, Ebenezer BARSTOW, Robert LYON, James HAWLEY,
Frederick SAXTON, Asahel NASH, Hezekiah TRACY, Asa LYON, John TABOR, Robert
AVERILL, Joseph Hamilton and several others became residents.
William SMITH, familiarly known as Quaker SMITH, settled on what
is still called SMITH's Point, in 1783. The farm has ever since remained
in the hands of his descendants. Caleb SMITH, the first town clerk of Shelburne,
came here very early, was justice of the peace, and held several other
offices. He was a prominent man in town, but removed to Williston, where
he died about 1810. His grandson, Frederick SMITH, is now a prominent citizen
Captain Daniel COMSTOCK settled in 1783 in the western part of the
town. After filling many positions of trust, well-deserved, Captain COMSTOCK
died on the 11th of January, 1816. Of his six children, Levi settled near
the lake in 1784, served many years as town clerk, justice of the peace,
etc., and died on the 10th of May, 1847, aged eighty-one years. His only
son, Levi, kept the tavern at the village for a number of years, and then
returned to the old homestead, now occupied by N. R. MILLER and in part
by William McNEIL.
Colonel Frederick SAXTON was one of the earliest inhabitants of
BURLINGton, his residence from 1785 to 1792 being at the head of Pearl
street. He then sold out to Colonel Pearl and removed to Shelburne, settling
on a farm near COMSTOCK's Point, now owned by his great-grandsons, Horace
and Edward SAXTON. He met his death by accidental drowning on the 28th
of April, 1796. Horace, his second son, represented this town in the Legislature
Richard SPEAR, from Braintree, Mass., came to Shelburne July 21,
1783, and settled on the farm now owned by his grandchildren, O. A. and
Mary M., the latter the widow of E. A. SPEAR. A part of his farm was in
When he first came to Shelburne that part of the town was an unbroken
wilderness, the nearest grist-mill being at Vergennes; for a long time
he took his grain to Whitehall or St. Johns with his market produce, afterwards
to Willsborough Falls, then to Winooski Falls, before a mill was operated
at Shelburne Falls. He died March 19, 1788, aged fifty-two years. His descendants
are very numerous.
William BLIN was an early settler from [Wethersfield] Connecticut,
and lived on a part of the governor's right south of the SPEAR farm. He
died not long after coming to Shelburne, leaving several sons, of whom
Simon, who died April 5, 1819, and Samuel, who died November 27 , 1844,
were the most prominent, both keeping a public house, and being frequently
called upon to serve the town in some public capacity.
Benjamin HARRINGTON, long a sea-faring man, came to Shelburne from
Connecticut soon after the Revolutionary War, in company with his father
and his brother, William C. HARRINGTON, who soon after became a leading
lawyer in Burlington. Benjamin and William C. purchased the lot at the
end of POTTER's Point previously occupied by Hubbell & BUSH, and traded
for a time in a log building used previously for the same purpose by HUBBELL
& BUSH. In 1788 Benjamin purchased a farm in the center of the town,
now crossed by the railroad. In the following year, it is said, he caused
to be laid out and opened the main road from Middlebury to Burlington;
in 1796 erected the large building afterward kept as a public house by
his descendant, Cornelius H. HARRINGTON; in 1807 took the contract for
building the White Church edifice, as it was called, and performed the
work well. He accumulated a handsome property. He died on the 17th of January,
Joshua ISHAM, one of the most prominent among the pioneers of the
town, was from Williamstown, Conn. He came to Shelburne in the winter of
1793, after a nine years' residence in St. George, and purchased the lot
east of the falls in this town. He then bought the "old red store," goods,
land and potash, at the falls, of Thaddeus TUTTLE, who afterward became
one of the most prominent merchants in Burlington, and removed thither
in January, 1796. Soon after this he purchased of Ira ALLEN the grist-mill
and saw-mill erected by his grantor, and operated them through life. He
was a good business man and became wealthy. He held many town offices,
especially that of town clerk, and was long a member of the Episcopal Church.
He died on the 9th of April, 1840, aged eighty-two years. William R. LAWRENCE
now occupies his dwelling house.
Nathaniel GAGE was an early settler in the northeast part of the
town, who became well to do, held several town offices, and acted as justice
of the peace for a number of years. He was a leading member of the Methodist
Church for many years, but finally dissented from the views of the most
of his associates, and in 1844 caused to be erected what was ever after
known as the "Gage Church," in which he procured services of the Reformed
or Protestant Methodist denomination. He died November 27, 1854.
Joshua REED settled at an early date near the geographical center
of the town, and by virtue of enterprise and industry accumulated a valuable
real estate. He died April 30, 1843, aged eighty-four years. One of his
sons, Almon, received a liberal education, and became a noted lawyer in
Pennsylvania, being sent a number of years to the Legislature of that State,
and serving the State several terms in the House of Representatives.
James HAWLEY was a native of Connecticut, who went from Arlington,
Vt., in the fall of 1786 to Winooski Falls, in the service of Ira ALLEN.
He was a mechanic, and built the mills for ALLEN, residing in the latter's
house during the progress of his work. He then built the mills at Swanton
for ALLEN, and removed to Shelburne in 1792, at once constructing the mills
at the falls for his old employer. He lived for a time on what is known
as the Powers farm, embracing "Lovers' Lane," and afterward on the place
now occupied by Myron REED. In accordance with a peculiar custom of those
times he was appointed by Ethan ALLEN to act as tapster at that hero's
funeral, whenever it should take place. He was accordingly steward on that
occasion. He himself died in 1813, leaving a numerous family. One of his
daughters was the mother, in after years, of Mrs. Elizabeth ROOT, now living
on the point.
Ebenezer BARSTOW, who is mentioned at some length in the sketch
of ex-Governor John L. BARSTOW, his grandson, in later pages of this work,
came to this town from Connecticut soon after the Revolution, in which
he had served an active and highly honorable part, and settled on the farm
now in the hands of his grandson, John L. Ebenezer BARSTOW is frequently
mentioned in the early town records as holding some position of trust and
honor. He died on the 30th of March, 1834, aged seventy-eight years.
Asa R. SLOCUM, born at Hubbardton, Mass., in 1767, settled at an
early day in the northeast corner of the town, where his grandson, Lane
SLOCUM, now lives, and pursued the vocation of farming until his death
at the age of sixty-three years, in 1830. He had a large family of children.
Hon. Ezra MEECH was born in Connecticut in 1773, and emigrated with
his father and family to Hinesburg, Vt., in 1785. During all his early
life, wherever he was, he actively engaged in hunting and trapping, and
made frequent journeys to Canada to dispose of his furs. In 1795 he opened
a store at Charlotte Four Corners, and in 1800 married Mary McNEIL. In
1806 he purchased the old farm of Moses PIERSON, near the lake in Shelburne,
and removed to that place, where he kept a small store for years, and engaged
in the trading of furs and manufacture of potash. About 1810 he began lumbering
extensively, and dealt chiefly in oak timber, which he took to the Quebec
market. He was interrupted during the War of 1812, being then engaged in
supplying the American army with provisions. He filled many offices of
trust in the town, representing it in the Legislature, and was for several
years county judge. He was also elected to the national House of Representatives
in 1819 and again in 1825. In 1830, 1831 and 1832 he was the unsuccessful
Democratic candidate for governor. In 1833 he became a member of the Methodist
church. He was at the time of his death, September 23, 1856, about the
largest landholder in the State, his land numbering about 3,500 acres.
Eli THAYER was born in Thompson, Conn., in 1773, and came to Shelburne
in 1788; seven years later he married Ruth, daughter of Roderick MESSENGER,
of Jericho, Vt., and died of consumption on the 26th of October, 1838.
He settled and lived at the mouth of the La Plotte River. He was a carpenter
and joiner, and by reason of his probity and attention to duty served his
town in several public capacities, being constable and collector for twenty-two
years, and in 1815 and 1816 collector of the direct tax in Chittenden and
Addison counties. His son Lyman afterward lived in Burlington.
Jonathan LYON, with two sons and four daughters, came from Reading,
Conn., to this town in 1788, in company with Dan FAIRCHILD and three sons.
Jonathan LYON and his son Robert purchased a part of the governor's right
and passed their lives there. Jonathan died in the spring of 1791. The
FAIRCHILDs all left for Ohio in 1813. These LYONs were not related to Timothy
LYON, father of Captain Dan LYON, now a venerable citizen of Burlington.
Aaron ROWLEY came to Shelburne in 1784, and here, on the 28th of
October, 1786, his son Aaron R. was born, residing in town until his death,
October 4, 1866. Of his six children Erwin S. is still a resident of the
Israel BURRITT, a captain in the War of the Revolution, settled
at Shelburne Falls in 1784. By his first marriage he had five sons and
five daughters. Garrad, the seventh child, born October 19, 1789, participated
in the battle of Plattsburgh. Garrad lived on the ROWLEY farm, now owned
by BARTLETT & SMITH. Captain BURRITT lived many years into the present
century, and became the father of two other children by a second wife.
Asahel, son of Phineas NASH, of Wyoming, Pa., was born on the 29th
of December, 1750, and was present during the Wyoming massacre, July 3,
1778. Soon after he left Wyoming and after several removals settled in
Shelburne. John, his seventh child, born here June 13, 1796, is still living.
Hezekiah TRACY, born in 1745, settled in 1790 on the place and built
the house now occupied by his great-granddaughter, Carrie TRACY. His descendants
Benjamin SUTTON came to Shelburne about 1792, and had a family of
twelve sons and two daughters. He died not far from 1835, and his eleventh
child, Byron, passed his days on the old homestead, which is now occupied
by James B. SUTTON, son of Byron. James B. was born September 10, 1832.
Francis BLAIR came from Williamstown in 1796 and settled on the
place now owned by his descendant, George E. BLAIR. Rosel MINER settled
in 1794 on the farm now in the hands of his descendants.
Nathan WHITE, born at Middleborough, Plymouth county, Mass., February
15, 1763, died at Burlington, Vt., January 26, 1826. He was a descendant
of Peregrine WHITE, the first child born of English parents in America,
and was five years in the army with Washington; was at West Point when
it was surrendered by General Arnold, and was present at the execution
of Major Andre. He came to Burlington in 1791, and during that and the
following year manufactured brick near where Henry P. HICKOK now lives.
In the winter of 1793 he moved his family to Burlington, using an ox team,
and was eighteen days performing a journey of 253 miles. In 1797 he bought
a farm in this town, on POTTER's Point, of Thaddeus TUTTLE, and moved his
family here in the fall of 1799, where he spent the remainder of his days
as a farmer. He had three sons, Robert, Andrew and Lavater. Robert, the
eldest, born September 5, 1787, died December 20, 1872, leaving three daughters,
Elizabeth P., Mary H. and Laura C. Elizabeth married Elijah ROOT in 1831
and had one daughter, Maria L., who married Charles L. HART in 1856. Maria
L. has but one son, Fred R.
Lavater S. WHITE was born in Burlington on the 15th of May, 1799,
and was brought to Shelburne with the rest of the family in the following
fall. He developed into one of the best men ever in Shelburne; was a natural
mechanic, so much so that he acquired remarkable skill without the form
of serving his time. He died December 3, 1876. His whole business life
was passed in close association with Elijah ROOT, a sketch of whose life
appears in later pages of this work, and whose wife was a niece of Lavater
WHITE. Mr. WHITE resembled Mr. ROOT in his love for truth and hatred of
sham. In person and countenance he was most agreeable, powerful of understanding,
possessed of a keen and ready wit; was amiable, generous, graceful and
unaffected. He was a member of the Methodist Church, and was a great reader,
his house being all the time flooded with books and newspapers.
John TABOR was an early settler in Shelburne, arriving here probably
previous to 1790. He was a native of Princeton, R. I., and removed with
his father and family from there to Rutland county in 1788, the family
bestowing their name upon the town of Mount Tabor. John penetrated farther
into the wilderness to this town. He immediately took up land, a part of
which was situated on Potter's Point, where he resided until his death
in 1813, aged forty-seven years. He was twice married, and his numerous
descendants are now scattered through several States. He was energetic,
industrious, honest, courageous, sensible and just.
The first settlement commenced at Shelburne Falls was in 1785, by
Ira ALLEN, then a resident in Winooski village. A rudely-constructed log
bridge was built across La Plotte River, a dam was constructed some ten
rods above the present saw-mill dam, a saw-mill erected on the north side
of the stream, and a forge on the south. In 1786 a dam was constructed
at the lower end of the falls, and a grist-mill put in operation the next
season. Clothing works were erected and put in operation between the grist-mill
and saw-mill in 1789, by David FISH, which was purchased by Samuel FLETCHER
in 1805, owned and occupied by him until his death, April '23, 1852, after
which time it remained unoccupied, and in the spring of 1862 was swept
away by a freshet, as was also the old stone building formerly used as
The first saw-mill erected in this town was located directly east
of the public house, built by Benjamin HARRINGTON, the dam extending from
the high bank on the west side of the stream to the bluff rock on the east
side. This was built by Lazel HATCH in 1784; the bottom being of light
soil, and the dam but imperfectly constructed, it was soon carried away
and the work abandoned.
The first dwelling other than a log house was the block-house on
Potter's Point, by HUBBELL & BUSH, in 1784 In 1790 a house was erected
by Moses PIERSON in the southwest corner of the town. The first frame house
erected was by Lazel HATCH, east of the village, near the saw-mill erected
by him a small building about 12 x 16 feet, in 1784. It was occupied as
a dwelling house, as a store, a slaughter-house, a currying room, a cooper's
shop, a joiner's shop, a barn, a hog-house, a lumber room, a hen-house,
and for almost every conceivable purpose, and in various places. About
the year 1855 it became rather the worse for wear, and was taken down by
Nelson Newell, seventy-eight years from the time of its erection.
The second frame house was built in 1789 by Benjamin HARRINGTON,
a few rods west of the subsequent residence of Colonel Frederick FLETCHER.
The public house was erected in 1996, and from the commencement
of the nineteenth century frame houses began to multiply in all parts of
the town; but it was many years before log cabins wholly disappeared.
ORGANIZATION AND PROCEEDINGS
The first town meeting in Shelburne, of which Dudley HAMILTON was
chosen moderator, was held on the 29th of March, 1787. Caleb SMITH was
elected first town clerk; Moses PIERSON, Timothy HOLABIRD and Dudley HAMILTON
were made selectmen; Moses PIERSON, town treasurer; Aaron ROWLEY, constable
and collector; Joshua ISHAM, Joseph POWER and Jared POST, listers; Moses
PIERSON, leather sealer; Daniel BARBER, Jared POST, grand jurors; Moses
PIERSON, sealer of weights and measures; Ziba PIERSON, Sturgess MOREHOUSE,
Jirah ISHAM, Keeler TROWBRIDGE, surveyors of highways; Thomas HALL, fence
viewers; Thomas HALL, Keeler TROWBRIDGE, Uzal PIERSON, Joshua REED, tythingmen;
and Moses PIERSON, Thomas HALL, Timothy HOLABIRD, Aaron ROWLEY, Sturgess
MOREHOUSE, Daniel BARBER, Ziba PIERSON, Elnathan HIGBEE and Joshua REED,
petit jurors. The only vote taken at this meeting, if the records are complete,
was to the effect that the annual town meetings should thereafter be holden
on the first Tuesday in March, and that the selectmen should cause proper
notifications thereof to be posted twelve days previous at the "several
public houses in town. "In the following year Ebenezer BARSTOW was one
of the listers. It was voted at this meeting (March 4, 1788) that the selectmen
“look out and appoint one or more places to bury the dead." On the 2d of
September, 1788, Captain William HUBBELL being moderator, it was "Voted
that the town grant money to support the selectmen in carrying on the suits
of ejectment brought in favor of the publick rights of land in said town."
Sixteen pounds and eight shillings were accordingly voted. No other mention
of this litigation is made until July 13, 1791, when it was "Voted that
selectmen take out of court the suits for the four publick rights against
Mr. Moses PIERSON, and refer the same to Messrs. John KNICKERBACOR, Roswell
HOPKINS and Daniel HORSFORD for final settlement."
At a town meeting held at the house of Captain Benjamin HARRINGTON
on Saturday the 4th of October, 1800, the following amusing resolution,
illustrating the dawning enlightenment of the people in regard to small-pox,
was passed "Voted that the small-pox be admitted in the town by anocculation
for the term of six months, or to the first of April next under the inspection
and direction of the selectmen agreeable to law." On the 2d of the next
March it was voted in addition, "that the authority and selectmen have
liberty to admit of the small-pox in town from the 1st of November to the
first of March, under such regulations as pointed out by law." We cannot
but wonder at the hardihood of the pioneers in opening their doors to the
small-pox, even under the direction of the selectmen; and whether the plague
was ready to "depart the town" on the 1st of March, the records do not
The earliest New England towns were in the habit of including among
the necessary officers those of grave-diggers and coffin-makers; but Shelburne,
we believe, is the only town in Chittenden county which regularly elected
several of its citizens to the position. At the March meeting for 1811
Eli THAYER, Bethuel Chittenden and another were chosen coffin-makers. The
two offices were continued until 1861.
TOWN IN 1835
The population of Shelburne in 1835 was about 1,100. The village
of Shelburne, now at the railroad station, was then in appearance very
much as it is now. It had one church, the site for which, as well as that
for the school-house and the public common, was given by Benjamin HARRINGTON.
L. M. HAGAR, now of Burlington, was engaged in mercantile business on the
same site now occupied by the brick store, and in the building now used
as a storehouse, adjoining the brick building on the south. The only other
merchants in the village were David IRISH and Nelson PERRY, who, under
the firm name of IRISH & PERRY, conducted a store in a brick building
on the opposite side of the street from HAGAR, on the site afterwards used
for the Methodist parsonage. The only doctor in the village was Dr. Joel
FAIRCHILD, who lived in the next house north of the old tavern, the same
building being now occupied by the widow of Hezekiah COMSTOCK. There was
no lawyer in town, Jacob MAECK's practice here occurring some time later.
Levi COMSTOCK then kept the tavern, his successors being George B. ISHAM,
O. J. BALDWIN and others, until the accession of Walter A. WEED, who terminated
the dynasty of hotel proprietors in Shelburne about 1875. South of the
hotel in 1835 stood the tannery of Robert SPEAR, the shoe-shop appurtenant
to it being now used as a dwelling house by Prosper BACON. Mr. HAGAR made
potash soon after 1835 south of the old hotel.
At the falls Joshua ISHAM still owned and operated the saw-mill
and grist-mill, between these two buildings being the woolen-mill of Samuel
FLETCHER. On the hill west of the river Lemon JUDSON operated a tannery
and shoe-shop, which in those days were always associated. Across the river
from the woolen-mill Henry FULLER had a blacksmith and trip-hammer shop,
while Ira ANDREWS was thus early engaged in the occupation of a wheelwright
back of FULLER's shop. Soon after 1835 Dr. Jonathan TAYLOR settled at the
falls, and practiced medicine until compelled by the infirmities of age
to desist The old red store of Joshua ISHAM was then a thing of the past,
and its successor had not appeared. About 1840, however, Jirah B. ISHAM
and William RUSSELL, under the style of ISHAM & RUSSELL, built a store
on the west side of the river, and kept a stock of goods there for some
time. The building was burned shortly before the last war.
Outside of the villages no business worth mentioning was done, except
farming. The opening of the railroad through the town did not operate to
divert the channels of trade, as might have been expected. The villages
retained their relative size and importance, while the principal benefit
accruing was felt by the farmers, for whom the better shipping facilities
seemed to have been intended. Previous to that time cattle had to be driven
to Boston. Moreover, distance was practically annihilated and the markets
for farm produce brought within easy reach of the producers. In later years
the station at Shelburne has been a great shipping point for dealers and
growers of fruits. It is said that an average shipment of 8,000 to 10,000
barrels of apples is made here annually.
There are only two stores in town at present -- that of George W.
CURRY, at the falls, which is several years old, and that conducted by
H. W. TRACY and C. P. VAN VLIET at the village, under the name of TRACY
& VAN VLIET. This partnership was formed in 1878, and a stock of about
$8,000 value is carried. The store was built by John SIMONDS about thirty-five
years ago. The predecessors of the present merchants were MEAD & TRACY,
who were preceded by the senior partner, E. O. MEAD.
There is no lawyer in town, and but one physician. Dr. F. R. STODDARD
was born in Westfield, Vt., on the 16th of December, 1855, was graduated
from the medical department of the University of Vermont in June, 1882,
practiced in North Troy, Vt., until the following December, when he came
The Shelburne flouring-mills at Shelburne Falls, lineally descended
from the mills of Ira ALLEN and Joshua ISHAM, are now owned and operated
by James DENHAM, successor to D. L. SPEAR. Mr. DENHAM also owns and operates
the saw-mill at the falls. The Champlain Transportation Company's ship-yard,
which has for many years been situated on the eastern shore of Potter's
Point, affords the finest protective harbor for wintering crafts on the
lake. Here were made, among others, the following well-known steamers:
Gen. Green, Winooski, Burlington, Saranac, United States, Ethan ALLEN,
Boston, Adirondack, Vermont. The yard is connected with Burlington by telephone.
There seems to be record outside of the department at Washington
which will give the date of the establishment of a post-office in Shelburne.
About 1824 Oran ISHAM held the position of postmaster, and was succeeded
in 1825 by Cyrus McLAUGHLER. Following him have been: Garrad BURRITT, 1828-36;
Henry S. MORSE to 1842; George B. ISHAM to 1854; Cassius P. WILLIAMS to
1855; George B. ISHAM to 1860; C. W. ADAMS, 1861; C. H. HARRINGTON, 1862;
J. J. SIMONDS, 1863; Benjamin MAXHAM, 1864-65; Mrs. A. M. LOWRY to 1880;
Benjamin MAXHAM, 1881; Mrs. A. M. LOWRY, 1882; H. W. TRACY, to 1886; and
Miss Agnes GRIBBIN, the present incumbent. In 1880 R. D. ESTABROOK was
made postmaster of North Shelburne office, and was followed in 1884 by
I. A. MORSE.
The officers elected by the town of Shelburne for the year 1886,
are as follows: W. H. TYLER, town clerk; W. H. HARMON, deputy clerk; D.
L. SPEAR, M. QUINLAN, R. J. WHITE, selectmen; James F. WELLS, treasurer;
James E. WHITE, overseer of the poor and director of the poor farm association;
G. N. ROBERTS, first constable and collector; Edgar NASH, J. B. SUTTON,
James E. WHITE, listers; H. S. WHITE, W. A. WEED, Benjamin HARRINGTON,
auditors; James F. WELLS, trustee of United States deposit fund; William
WHITESIDE, John K. WEED, John BULBO, fence viewers; D. L. SPEAR, agent
to prosecute and defend suits in which the town is interested; Dr. F. R.
STODDARD, superintendent of schools; W. A. WEED, James E. WHITE, D. C.
SMITH, high school commissioners. There are now eight school districts
in town and a school in each district, besides a high school in the upper
story of the school-house in the village, district No. 1. The school-house
here was erected about fifteen years ago.
From the records it appears that the town hall was built early in
the year 1867. On the 26th of March in that year, William HARMON, H. S.
MORSE and C. P. WILLIAMS were chosen a committee to build a town house
"on the north side of the old white meeting-house recently burned." And
on the 17th of the next August it was voted in town meeting "that the town
house be open to all denominations for religious services, under the supervision
of the selectmen."
Very soon after the town was organized the citizens began to agitate
the question of preparing for the preaching of the word; but probably because
of great diversity of opinion with reference to the denomination of the
church organization, and the preacher, it took a number of years to accomplish
the desired object. The first reference in the early records to the subject
appears undate of March 1, 1791, when it was voted "that the town will
agree on a place for a house of publick worship," and Moses PIERSON, Phineas
HILL, Captain Daniel COMSTOCK, Ebenezer BARSTOW, Caleb SMITH, William C.
HARRINGTON and David NICHOLS were appointed "to agree on a place for setting
the meeting-house." On the 5th of June, of that year, Daniel COMSTOCK,
Moses PIERSON and Timothy HOLABIRD were chosen "to hire a preacher of the
gospel for a few Sabbaths." It was easier in those days, however, to appoint
a committee, than it was for the committee to hire preaching, when the
preachers, few enough, had so wild and wide a territory to cover, and had
to accept their temporal reward in grain or cattle; and there is nothing
in the record to show that the committee succeeded in their undertaking.
A hint of what may have been a warm denominational discussion is revealed
in a vote taken on the 26th of December, 1791, to "hire a preacher for
the year ensuing, and that he be of the Baptist denomination." On the 7th
of April, 1807, a committee was appointed to "stick the stake for a meeting-house."
A Congregational Church was organized in Shelburne on the 29th of January,
1807, by the Rev. Jedediah BUSHNELL, of Cornwall, with a membership of
three men and seven women. Their numbers were always small, and before
1835 concluded to unite with the Methodist Church. On the 27th of March,
1851, another organization was formed by the Congregationalists, but they
have never erected a house of worship nor attended separate services.
In 1800 the Rev. Henry RYAN, a Methodist clergyman preaching on
the Vergennes circuit, established an appointment at Shelburne, and preached
his first sermon at the house of Joshua READ. Other clergymen in town rather
looked upon him as an intruder, and his services were principally confined
to the east part of the town for several years. A society was soon formed,
numbering among its members Nathaniel GAGE, John SIMONDS, Phineas HILL,
and their wives. In 1833 the first church edifice was built of brick, and
was used until the present elegant stone structure took its place in 1873.
It will seat 300 persons and is valued at about $26,000. The present membership
of the church numbers about 146, while the average attendance at Sabbath-school
is about seventy-five. The present officers of the church are as follows:
Class leaders, J. F. WELLS, L. GREGG, N. R. MILLER, J. B. SUTTON, H. W.
TRACY, and F. R. STODDARD; stewards, Lee TRACY, Joel BARTLETT, George W.
CURRY, Eli H. PALMER, Robert J. WHITE, F. A. WEED, E. S. ROWLEY, Wm. McNEIL,
F. R. STODDARD, H. W. TRACY, D. C. SMITH. D. C. SMITH is also the Sabbath-school
There were many Episcopalians in this town and vicinity as early
as 1790, during which year the Rev. Bethuel CHITTENDEN removed here from
Tinmouth, Vt. Services were undoubtedly held regularly from that time until
Mr. CHITTENDEN's death in 1809, after which occasionally lay readings took
place, with now and then a visit from a clergyman. The communicants in
town numbered about twenty-five as early as 1810, and by 1820 increased
to not far from eighty. From October 27, 1818, to September 20, 1827, Rev.
Joel CLAPP, the first regularly settled clergyman, officiated as rector
of the parish, since which time services have been held with gratifying
regularity. A short time ago a beautiful chapel was erected and finished,
in which services are now held. The present rector is Rev. Mr. Hutchins,
of Chittenden County, Vermont
and Biographical Sketches
of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers
By W. S. Rann, Syracuse, N. Y.
& Co., Publishers, 1886
by Karima Allison ~ 2004