Any detailed and complete history of Pownal would require an immense amount of time and research and the material available for such a history comprises a field which has been but lightly explored. The Vermont Gazetteer of 1824 gives a short account of the town and admits that little was learned about its early history.

      Any detailed and complete history of Pownal would require an immense amount of time and research and the material available for such a history comprises a field which has been but lightly explored. The Vermont Gazetteer of 1824 gives a short account of the town and admits that little was learned about its early history.

      These sketches will cover only such material as is familiar to the writer and will relate to events before 1800. If readers can supply new authoritative material or offer any corrections, they will be welcome.

      They will deal briefly with the various interesting features of the town such as its geography, natural features, its settlement, its troubles during the Revolutionary War and some account of the confusion of titles, and a brief account of some of the early settlers whose descendants are numerous in northern Berkshire towns and in Bennington county. The great natural beauty of the town is well known to all who pass through it. It stands high, in that respect which is beautiful everywhere.


GEOGRAPHY

      This town is in the southwest corner of Vermont, and comprises a wide valley bounded on east and it has fine intervales along the Hoosac river, with a wide plateau extending eastward with moderate elevations, both providing room for the splendid farms for which the town is famous. On the north is the long southern slope of Mt. Anthony. As one looks down the lovely valley from the northern hills he sees the Greylock range as a background, with the lofty Dome in the southeast corner of the town. West of the river, fine farms range along the slopes of Northwest Hill of Williams town. The Hoosac river enters the town through the Dugway pass and has a course of about three miles before crossing into New York.

      Very early plans of southern Vermont show Pownal as a six-mile-square area. It is delineated on the town charter. Its eastern and western boundaries were drawn as extensions of the similar bounds of Bennington. At the present time the eastern line is east of the Bennington line, and the agreement with New York in 1864 has carried the west line considerably beyond the early lay out.  Many an account says that Pownal corners on the northwest corner of Massachusetts at the famous tri-state boundary post. Actually the corner of Pownal and the state of Vermont is two hundred rods west of this marker.

      While this marker is well down the mountain side, the corner of Pownal is almost exactly on the crest of the range, and as the line runs northward it keeps on the ridge for several miles before it dips down to the bridge between North Pownal and Petersburg. It would appear that the intention was to have the mountain, as far as possible, the natural boundary of the state. The elevation at the corner of the town is 2,300 feet. The Dome, which is the highest point in the town, is 2,754 feet. South Pownal is 545 feet and Pownal Center is 986 feet above sea level.

      In 1739 Nathaniel KELLOGG made a survey for the Massachusetts government in the expectation of laying out townships along the Hoosac river. His survey extended from near the south line of Adams to a point near the Krieger Rocks in North Pownal. It seemed planned to include the intervale lands on both sides of the river. The north line of Massachusetts not having been determined at that time, the survey went as far as it dared but the establishment of the state line in 1741, which cut across this layout, resulted in its abandonment. In a later plan in 1749 which plots East and West Hoosuck and part of southern Vermont, the main river is called the Lussacutaquoge, or place along it. The river now called Little Hoosac is in this map called the Hoosac, and the river from Petersburg to the Hudson is the Schaghticoke.

      Before settlement, Pownal was merely a part of the great wilderness which lay between the Hudson and Connecticut rivers. It was the great hunting ground of the Indians. It does not appear that any Indian village existed in Pownal. An ancient trail crossed this area following the river, and which ran between the Hudson and the Deerfield.

      At Eagle Bridge the famous Mohawk Trail from Canada met the river trail which was followed in the Indian raids on Fort Massachusetts and other forts. It would be very probable that a branch of this early trail ran through Pownal Center to Bennington. The river trail was followed by a passable road soon after 1700 when the Pownal intervales invited early Dutch settlers. A road probably for horses extended the line to Fort Massachusetts and over the Hoosacs to Deerfield.

      As we continue the story of the development of this area into an incorporated township, we meet the tangle of disputed boundaries and authorities which raged for many years. Briefly stated New York claimed sovereignty of the lands north of Massachusetts, as far as the Connecticut river, but had made no effort to settle any part of it.

      After a time the province of New Hampshire claimed that their western boundary should be in line with the western bounds of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Therefore Governor WENTWORTH proceeded to lay out townships and grant charters in the area west of the Connecticut river. In 1764 the royal government decided that New York held the valid title to that region. In the struggle which developed because of the opposition of settlers to giving up their holdings, Vermont declared its independence. Not until 1789 was the claim of New York finally relinquished by the payment of $30,000 and Vermont soon after joined the Union.

      Disputes constantly arose over the boundaries of the old provinces. In a discussion of the boundary between Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Rufus Choate said:
 

"The commissioners might as well have decided that the line between the states was bounded on the north by a bramble bush, on the south by a blue jay, on the west by a hive of bees in swarming time, and on the east by five hundred foxes with firebrands tied to their tails."

      The story of Pownal from the time of the first settlement within its borders, until 1800 is one of continuous difficulties and excitement. When the town was incorporated in 1760 there were difficulties with the people already settled there supposing they were in New York. In 1760 they found themselves within the New Hampshire Grants. In 1764 the town was again under the New York government and so stayed until Vermont became independent. Therefore in the record of deeds office we find the grantors entitled at times as residing in New York, New Hampshire and Vermont. The next difficulty arose over the care of the proprietors' records. Then came the Revolutionary War and the confiscation of property and exile of many persons.

      The Dutch settlement has left a mark of their residence in the name of the cliffs of North Pownal which bear the name of George KREIGER, one of the Dutch settlers. The Indian association seems to have left but one name which is entirely of local usage and which is the name "Etchawaug," which was given to East Pownal. Hoosick and Taconic are Indian names but not confined to Pownal alone.

      In the history of Williamstown, Prof PERRY mentions a petition which was drawn up by a large number of settlers of southern Vermont and adjoining territory, which was to be submitted to the Stockbridge Indians, asking from them a release of any claims they might have to their old hunting grounds, and which would make their own titles a bit more valid. Nothing further appears about the matter.

      At an early date settlers from New York had come into Pownal valley and taken up residence there, building barns and houses and evidently under the impression that after a time the New York government would give them title to their lands. Therefore, when in 1760 they discovered that a township had been formed which would include their farms, and give the lands to new owners, there were immediately commenced claims and much disturbance for many years. It would seem that the Pownal Proprietors were inclined to be generous with them. At an early meeting they voted to allow John George KRIEGER to live where he had settled and voted him lands adjoining if he would use it on the same terms as if he was one of the Proprietors. It was also voted to allow Isaac VAN ORMAN to remain where he had located. However on June 3, 1782, a petition was sent to Montpelier which reads Thus:
 

"Petition of inhabitants of Pownal who live on several farms which were begun and possessed fifty years ago or thereabouts under the then almost insurmountable difficulties, hazards and expensive attending in a howling wilderness where nearest Christian inhabitants to the westward was Albany and near to southward and eastward was Deerfield, in the course of which time several of the present petitioners and prepossessors of others have been twice obliged to remove in consequence of the two last French and Indian Wars and had their inhabitants burnt up and their improvements destroyed and some of the then possessors actually killed. We esteem we have dearly purchased the right, especially when nearly thirty years afterward a grant of the same lands was made by the Govr of New Hampshire. Notwithstanding their arduous, expensive and hazardous task some persons did in 1760 supposedly by representation obtained grant of the town including our lands and possessions and in consequence suits and actions commenced against us and some forcible entrances were made."

      This was signed by Boston DEAL, Peter FOSBURGH, Amos POTTER, William BROWN, Adam FISHER and Henry YOUNG.

      A report in Vermont records states that a great many similar petitions were received in the state, and they recommended some measure of relief.

      The matter drifted along for several years and finally no further mention is recorded. The Vermont Gazeteer says that Sebastian DEAL, a Dutch settler, came to Pownal in 1724. VOSBURGH also came the same year. The others who signed the petition were later arrivals.

      There were frequent clashes between the Dutch and the people in the towns in northern Berkshire county and some blood was shed. M. B. JONES in his "Vermont in the Making” says: 
 

"In 1688 Governor or Thomas DONGAN of New York issued a Patent for lands along the Hoosack river. A portion of this Patent lay within the later New Hampshire Grant of Pownal and extended into Massachusetts Bay to the junction of the north and south branches near Fort Massachusetts. As early as 1763 one John HORSFORD, a resident of West Hoosuck who had purchased for small sums several New Hampshire rights in Pownal brought actions of ejectment in the New Hampshire court at Portsmouth against some Dutch settlers names Hans CREIGER, Peter VOSS and Bastian DEAL who had been living on these land for about thirty years under rights derived from the old Hoosack Patent. Judgements were obtained by HORSFORD at Portsmouth in July or August, 1764, and early in the latter month he attempted to dispossess these settlers with the aid of Justice of the Peace Samuel ROBINSON and Deputy Sheriff Samuel ASHLEY. While they were engaged in the task Sheriff SCHUYLER of Albany appeared with a posse and arrested HORSFORD, ROBINSON and ASHLEY for violation of New York jurisdiction and lodged them in the Albany jail where they stayed until September, when they were apparently admitted to bail."

      As indicated in the charter, Pownal was a Propriety town. A book has been written by Florence M. Woodward, PhD., entitled " the Town Proprietors of Vermont," which is most interesting to those who study town development in Vermont. She says "this system favored the quick disposal of unoccupied lands through speculative activity with little relationship to actual settlement." Many Massachusetts towns such as Propriety townships, but the system in Massachusetts was usually aimed at actual settlement of a town and encouragement to settlement, although there was some speculation involved.

      In Vermont speculation seems to have been the driving force, Speaking of Gov. Wentworth's charters Miss Woodard says, "He granted no less than 129 townships to groups of proprietors in this disputed territory between the years 1749 and 1764 inclusive. He not only reserved a considerable acreage for himself in each township, but often included in the list of proprietors members of his family, and of the New Hampshire Council as well as many personal friends. Although settlement requirements were to be found in each of these charters, the governor must have been well aware of the fact that in most cases they never could be met."

      Since those named as proprietors rarely saw their holdings, it is usually those who bought their rights who became actual settlers. Since the charter grantees paid nothing for their holdings, the sale meant a clear profit. Many of those names in the Pownal Charter were also named in the charters of other towns. In Massachusetts the number of rights in a town was almost always 63, 60 being individuals and three being the public rights for the benefit of a minister, schools and support of the minister. Pownal had 62 rights, but only 59 to persons and three for public usage.

      The Charter of the Town of Pownal may be seen at the town clerk's office and is well preserved and carefully protected. It is dated January 8, 1760, and is signed by B. WENTWORTH and is issued by George the Second, by the Grace of God king of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc., through his beloved and Trusty Benning S. Wentworth Esqr. "our Governor and Commander in Chief of our Province of New Hampshire." The land is granted in 62 equal shares to be divided amongst them and their heirs forever. It is for a township of six miles square and no more, and allowance is to be made for highways and uninprovable lands by docks, mountains, ponds and rivers. The town to be named Pownal. As soon as 50 families are settled it is free to hold town "fairs." The first meeting for choice of offcers to be held on the first Tuesday in March and the annual meeting forever thereafter shall be on the first Tuesday in January. Each grantee shall plant or cultivate five acres of land within five years, for each 50 acres of his share, shall continue to cultivate and improve the same or suffer forfeiture of his land. All white and other pine trees fit for masting and the Royal Navy shall not be cut or felled without his Majesties spacial license. Before any division is made among the grantees a tract of land as near as possible to the center of town shall be reserved and marked out for town lots of one acre each for a rental of one ear of Indian corn on Jany. 10 annually, and every proprietor or settler after ten years or from January, 1771, shall pay one shilling for every hundred acres he possesses. The names of the 62 grantees are annexed and it is stated that 500 acres or two shares are laid out for the governor.

      In most Proprietary townships there are three public rights, the Minister, The Ministery (for support of the minister), and the School. 

      Although the intention seems to have been that the minister should own the mister's right as his own estate, never the less that right was disputed in Pownal, just as it was in East Hoosuck. (Adams).

      The title to such a lot was usually stated to rest with the first settled or ordained minister. In Adams the Minister's lot was, whether by chance or intent about the poorest one of the intervale lots. When the first minister of Adams, Rev. Samuel TODD, claimed the lot as his own estate the claim was made that he had not been ordained, and besides had never been chosen by the town as their minister. When he made sales from the lot any doubt about the title was quieted by an Act of the Legistlature and by vote of the town. In Pownal the Minister's farm lot was a very fine 180-acre lot. It is situated about a mile north of South Pownal and the main highway goes directly across it. It reached from the river easterly a half mile, almost to the present state highway to the Center.

      Rev. Benjamin GARDNER claimed the entire minister's right as his personal property and the town disputed it, for reasons not entirely clear. One reason seems to have been because of a doubt of his real standing as an authorized Baptist minister. When the town proposed to sell this farm lot, he sued the town.

      Thereupon a committee was appointed to examine the evidence and report. Their report is interesting, because it is probably the origin of the distribution of ministeral money in the town, which still exists.
 

"The committee appointed by the town of Pownal at their meeting holden on the 16th of November for the purpose of conferring with Elder Benjamin GARDNER relating to claims to the minister's right make the following report to the town to wit: that they met at the dwelling house of the said Elder GARDNER on Monday the 23rd day of November passed and proceeded candidly and deliberately to examine the merits of his said claims, the merits of which we find to be found in the following facts, viz: In and about the year 1763 Elder GARDNER then a Public Preacher and ordainer Elder in the Society of the Baptists (so-called) removed into the town to reside and that he was duly authorized and appointed by the proper authority of that order from which he removed to preach and administer in all the respective ordinances of that society and that from the time of his removal into the town he continued to preach both to the inhabitants of said town, and neighboring parts and had so early as 1772 a large number gathered in this town, to whom with their approbation and conferences of other churches of that order administered the ordinance of Baptism, and who were formed into a church in church order disapline under his pastoral care and direction with the Fellowship and concurrence of other churches of that order, and that it appears by sufficient testimonies and by the records of the church that they chose him as their Elder and put themselves under his watch care, as such, and that the said Elder GARDNER did then accept the same and was duly charged for that purpose and that we were informed by the testimony of Elder Solomon SPRAGUE and others that knew of no other ordination or installment necessary for the due settlement of a minister under similar circumstances, neither from the Scripture nor the rules of the Baptist Association, from all which circumstances your Committee are clearly and unanimously of opinion that the said right ought injustice and does of right belong to the said Elder Benjamin GARDNER agreeable to the original donation of the same and that your said Committee have in consequence of their said appointment conferred with the said Elder GARDNER and taken a deed of gift of him of the said right to the said town, forever, for which generous donation by him to the said town your committee are of opinion he fully merits the thanks of the inhabitants thereof and a reasonable compensation of the expenses he may have been at respecting the same. December 2, 1789." 

Signed by Abiathar ANGEL, Abel DIMMICK, Judiah AYLESWORTH, Josiah WRIGHT, Judiah AYIESWORTH, Jr., David GOSS Amos POTTER.
 

      In town meeting December 2, 1789, voted to accept this report:
 
"Furthurmore voted that the annual rents and profits of said rights of land to be appropriated to the use and support of the Gospel in said Pownal, forever, and every person that is a voter in said town to have his equal proportion of said rents and profits of said lands if called for by said individuals to be contributed to the support of the Gospel where they choose in said town. Further voted that the Church of England so called is by this vote forever excluded from claiming or having any rights to the rents or profits of said lands as there is proper provision made for them for their supporting their ministers in said town."

      It would appear that Elder GARDNER was determined to have his claim acknowledged, even though he was willing to deed it over to the town. It does not appear how he was compensated. Perhaps not at all. He seems to have owned considerable property in other parts of town. The town then proceeded to divide the use of the farm lot between Rev. Caleb NICHOLS and Mr. Francis BENNETT. It is not clear what was the status of these before the settlement was reached. The Elder doubtless preferred to live near his brother. It appears from maps that the original road from South to North Pownal was an extension .of the street past the Daniel BATES farm, and was later laid down east of the railroad where it now is.

      The vote to exclude the Church of England was not because of any antagonism to the Church. The Church had made slow progress in New England and in 1701 a society was organized for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Governor WENTWORTH being a member of that Church made a contribution for the establishment of churches of that faith by making land grants to this Society. In a great many Vermont Towns there was a Glebe set aside for the Church of England. The exact number of such grants is not known but in 1907 when the above Society conveyed its titles to the Trustees of the Diocese of Vermont for the support of the Church, deeds were recorded in 139 Vermont towns where such lands were located. Such a right was established in Pownal. At an early town meeting it was voted to devote the sales from the Glebe for the building of a Meeting House. The writer does not know the present status of the Glebe right. In Massachusetts towns a right was set aside for the support of the minister. No such right was set aside in Pownal, perhaps because the so called Minister's right in Pownal of six division lots amounting to 435 acres was thought ample and not all of this was expected to be claimed by the first minister as his own estate. Evidently Elder GARDNER did claim the entire right as his own, but when it was acknowledged, he promptly deeded it to the town where it still remains, and the (?) about the town, are probably the moneys annually divided among Pownal churches. The Church of England having received a similar grant was considered as having been amply provided for, and not entitled to the income from any other source.

      In discussing events in Pownal before and during the period of the Revolutionary War, we find a great deal centering about the activities of George GARDNER, Esq. He came to town at an early period and left so many descendants that they fill many pages in the town's vital records and land records. He had a stormy career, but there is plenty of evidence that he was a well educated man of ability. He held at one time or another every office in town. He was a Justice of the Peace and a Surveyor and always bore the honorary title of "Esquire." He was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1707 and his birth antedates that of any other Pownal settlers. He was in the fourth generation from George GARDNER of Newport, whose matrimonial affairs are not yet entirely understood. Briefly we will quote the old statement that he had "divers wives and divers children."

      In 1658 his wife Herod went up to Boston to testify in some religious controversy and was by order of Governor ENDICATT whipped and imprisoned and then turned out to walk back to Newport through the wilderness a distance of sixty miles. The parents of George of Pownal were Joseph and Hannah (BRIGGS) GARDNER who settled in East Greenwich, R.I. In 1733 Joseph sold his son George a farm in that town. Nov. 11, 1737 George married Alice or Elsey BROWN of Newport and they lived in that part of East Greenwich afterward set off as West Greenwich.

      In 1753 he sold his lands there being then stayled as "of Beekmans Patent," New York. He resided in Beekmans until his removal to Pownal about 1762. He has been called the first settler in Pownal but he gave deeds from Beekmans as late as 1762 and while there he bought several Proprietary Rights in Pownal. George and Alice came to Pownal with a family of eleven children. He seems to have always lived in the vicinity of the old GARDNER Cemetery where he and many descendants are buried. His home, according to several accounts was near the Abraham GARDNER homestead. The 1869 Atlas of Bennington County marks the place in the field opposite the former A. B. GARDNER place.

      His granddaughter Amy GARDNER, born Feb. 25, 1763, has always been credited as the first child of English parentage born in the town. Births appear on the town record earlier than hers, but are evidently of children born before their parents came to Pownal and were added to the record in order to have the entire family on record together. Esq. George GARDNER has fifty grandchildren on record with the families of three of his children not known. Probably more of present day Pownal people are his descendants than from any other of the early settlers, and legions more have settled in other states.

      This family has furnished men who have served in many official positions in town, county and state. Elder Benamin (sic) GARDNER, brother of George came to Pownal in 1763, coming directly from Rhode Island.

      George GARDNER was involved with the Proprietors concerning the record books. Samuel ROBINSON was the first Clerk and he served until 1769 when George GARDNER and his brother Benjamin and Samuel ROBINSON Jr., were appointed to make a search for the loose papers and records of the former clerk. George GARDNER seems to have secured the papers and not given them over. In March 1775 a committee was appointed to deal with him and secure the books and records. In December 1775 a formal demand was made for them. Sometime before 1779 the papers were turned over but in February of that year it was voted to prosecute GARDNER "suspecting that he had destroyed part of the Proprietors Book." In August 1779 the Proprietors secured judgement against GARDNER, then in Hancock, for 1200 pounds, and the sheriff was required to seize all his lands and property in Pownal.

      Little was found as GARDNER had transferred all he could to his son, David. It appears that Proprietors had borrowed money of GARDNER and it was decided not to repay it. Dec. 27, 1779 they voted that "the moneys due the Proprietors which they borrowed of George Gardner Esq. and also the Glebe rights be applied toward building a meeting house in said town," the town and Proprietors to agree on the place where it would stand.

      Finally, June 27, 1782, a committee was appointed to thoroughly consider GARDNER's case and they reported: 
 

"Your Committee to whom was referred the petition of George GARDNER of Hancock beg leave to report that it appears that a judgement was obtained before the Honorable Supreme Court by a Committee of the Proprietors of the town of Pownal in 1779 for cutting a number of leaves out of the Proprietors Book, for which without doubt the Honorable Court thought they had sufficient reason.

"But it does not appear to your Committee from the witnesses that have been heard by them, that said George GARDNER ever did cut out all or any of the leaves that are cut out of the Proprietors Book, and they recommend that the aforesaid Committee who obtained the judgement and a sum of damages-pay the same again to the aforesaid George GARDNER except the lawful cost occasioned by said suit." 
 

      It is difficult to understand what object would be gained by any clerk, by destroying part of the record but all the clerks appear to have been under suspicion for many years. In 1774 GARDNER purchased land in Hancock, evidently finding Pownal too uncomfortable. Hancock and Stephentown were settled by numerous GARDNER families, all more or less related to the Pownal family. GARDNER had also become unpopular because of his pronounced Tory attitude. He stayed in Hancock during the period of the Revolutionary War and then came back to Pownal about 1791. Many accounts consider his return to Pownal as his first appearance there, instead of a return. The old Atlas of Bennington County says he was 14 days moving back, which seems a bit strange unless he walked. Further trials of George GARDNER will appear in the account of the Pownal Tories.

      Although George GARDNER was a staunch Tory his brother, Elder Benjamin, was a devoted patriot, but because of his relationship and devotion to his brother he came under the suspicion of the local Gestapo.

      A petition was presented to the session sitting at Manchester in October 1779 by 27 citizens of Pownal:
 

"That your petitioners humbly conceive that a certain man chosen by the Freeman of said town at their last annual meeting (viz Mr. Benjamin GARDNER) may if allowed be prejudicial to the United States, and in this particular; -- and beg leave to a state a number of facts which they are ready to verify (viz) that the said Mr. GARDNER some time after the evacuation of Ticonderoga by our troops, did use his endeavors to influence the said town to choose a committee to repair to Skeensborough to treat with the officers of the British army for protection and offered that if they would choose him he would go upon his own expense. And some time within twelve months past when he was discoursing respecting the states of New York and Vermont said he would give 50 pounds if this state might fall into New York State -- and but a Sabbath or two before he was chosen aforesaid, when preaching said "I never had any hand in this war, and I have lately heard from them, and there is a great stir among them, and I think if this is the case it is dangerous to fight them." And that upon our last Freeman's meeting the day on which he was chosen it appeared to your petitioners that he had used some undue means which was unjustifiable for he brought a great number of votes in his pocket which was already wrote and they were for himself -- and when a vote was called by the constable the people (some of whom could not read or write) repaired to him for votes and he delivered some votes which were for himself and the people appeared to take them without examination, and he gave one of those votes to his own son and also voted for himself. And that said Mr. Benjamin GARDNER may have neither seat or voice in this honorable house." 

Dated at Pownal October 4th, 1779.
 

      There was attached to this petition the deposition of Elisha BARBER of Pownal. 
 

"That at a meeting at the house of Charles WRIGHT in said Pownal on Sunday, the 5th of December, being the Sabbath before the last annual Freeman's meeting at which place Elder Benjamin GARDNER officiated as Minister; in the course of his sermon speaking of the present war in which he said a vast number of our young men had fallen in the field, he in a particular manner addressed the parents and heads of families in the following manner, says he "Fathers and Mothers, have you any more sons to part with -- for my part I have had no hand in this war -- I have lately heard that the British army is become a praying army, if that be the case it will be of no service for us to pretend to fight them for we should not be able to prevail against them." Further the depondant says not. Elisha BARBARA (sic), Oct. 12th, 1779.

      In defense two petitions were offered. One by the Military Company reads: 
 

"This may certify the honorable General Assembly of Vermont that we the subscribers have been well acquainted with Elder Benjamin Gardner's conduct concerning the present war as we live in the neighborhood with him and he and his family is in our company, he ever appeared to defend his country by always appearing at first notice of alarm or when men is sent for by encouraging men to elist (sic) by contributing money, arms, clothes, provision and any necessity that was wanting so that he nor his family has not been behind in their duty by money or personal service." 

Oct. 13th 1779

Joseph Briggs, Capt.
Mikel Briggs, Left.
John Potter, Ensign
Hugh Thompson, Clerk
 

      The other statement was sent by the Selectmen of Pownal and Officers in the Militia. "We in justice to Mr. Gardner think proper to declare that we have not known him guilty in any respect of the charges mentioned so far from it that he has always cheerfully given his full proportion toward the common Cause."

      Elder GARDNER seems to have been completely exonerated and he served in the Vermont Legislature in 1779, 1781, 1782, 1784, and 1786. Elder GARDNER came to Pownal from Rhode Island.

      He was born in 1715 and died December 10, 1793, and is buried near his brother in the Gardner Cemetery. His wife Jemina (REYNOLDS) died in 1806 at the age of 82. Elder GARDNER owned land in several parts of Pownal usually near his brother. On the town record is this account: 
 

"In or about 1763, Elder Gardner, then a public preacher and an ordained Elder of the Baptists, so called, removed into the town of Pownal to reside and was duly appointed to preach and administer in all the rights and ordinances of that society." 

      His son, Benjamin Jr., married his cousin Tabitha GARDNER, daughter of George and had several children. In 1780 Elder GARDNER was a member of Capt. Nathaniel SEELEY's Company of Alarm Men of Pownal.

      Another member of the Pownal clergy did not fare as well in the campaign against Tories. It is recorded that on June 9, 1780, the estate of the Rev. Samuel PETERS of Pownal was confiscated by the Commissioner and sold to Daniel STOREY. The order says Rev. PETERS had joined the enemy. There is considerable recorded about the estate of Beloved CARPENTER which was confiscated and sold to Elisha BARBER. Complications arose over these confiscated estates because the debts owed by these estates had to be met in some way, because even good patriots did not like to lose what was due them. Abundant material is on record about all these affairs. But it must be supposed that Pownal was not a loyal Town in the war, because the list of men who served is long and impressive. Only a small minority were Tories.

      The devotion of these Tories for the mother country was remarkable because rather than yield they saw all their hard won possessions taken away. There was some remuneration for those who settled in Canada where the British government settled them on new lands and repaid some of their losses.

      In the published Vermont Revolutionary Rolls we find the following Companies of Pownal men.

      Capt. Eli NOBLE's Company which marched to Saratoga in July 1781. There were 47 men in the company. Other officers were Lts. Josiah WRIGHT and Jos. DUNNING and Sergt. William BATES.

      Another Company also under the command of Capt. Eli NOBLE marching on the alarm to Castleton October 1781. 26 men. A few of them are also in the Saratoga company. John NILES was a sergeant in this company.

      Also another company under Capt. Benjamin GATES marched to Castleton in October 1781. 24 men. Officers were Lt. George PARKER and Joseph WHEELER, Ens. Stephen CUMMINGS, Sergts. Bulah WALDO, Moses PERKINS, Joseph BARBER, Corporals Michael DUNNING and Ebenezer SEELEY.

      About twenty others are listed in various other companies. Capt. Nathaniel SEELEY's Company of Alarm Men October 11, 1781, enrolled 38 men. Other officers were Lts. Thomas RANSOM and Silas WATSON, Sersts. Joseph BARBER and Beulah WALDO, Corporals Ebenezer SEELEY, Abiathar ANGEL, John LARABEE and Josiah NOBLE.

      There appears no definite record of those who fought at Bennington. It is probable that at the alarm all who could immediately went in unorganized bands and joined with other forces in Bennington. Probably most of those listed in the above companies also fought at Bennington.

      A study of the names of the Pownal grantees, shows that eight of them were either proprietors or settlers in the adjoining town of Williamstown.

      There are three under the name of Seth HUDSON "first, second and third" and apply to three generations of that name. One was the surgeon at Fort Massachusetts and the others his father and son. Three were under the name of WENDELL, being Jacob of Boston, a founder of Pittsfield, and the others John and Oliver, doubles relatives of his.

      There were two POWNALs, One, Governor Thomas of Massachusetts for whom the town was named, and a friend of Governor WENTWORTH. The other, named John, was his brother, who held office in the royal government and bore an elaborate title. William BRATTLE of Pittsfield was another.

      Governor WENTWORTH himself reserved two rights and Hanking WENTWORTH, who had another, was doubtless a relative. Two others were clergymen who were friends of Gov. WENTWORTH. Henry SHERBURNE, another holder of a right was speaker of the New Hampshire assembly. Gad CHAPIN and Joseph PYNCHEON were well known residents of Springfield, Mass. The two rights held by the VAN ORNUMs apply to men who evidently were settlers in the town before the charter was granted. They were Dutch. Only a few of the grantees appear to have ever lived in the town, and none appear in the town's vital records. It is hardly probable that any of them have descendants in the town today. Traffic in rights commenced the very year the charter was granted, which must have been before any plan of the town had been made to show the location of the holdings. A number of early purchasers came from the Nine Partners and Beekman Patents. The GARDNER family came from Beckman's where they had settled for a time after leaving Rhode Island. This patent lay along the Hudson river and was about opposite Canaan, Conn. There are many references to Beckman's on Pownal records.

      And now came the time when it was necessary for each of the charter grantees to know just where his 1-62 ownership in the town was situated.

      It would never do to divide the town into 62 equal parts, because that would result in some receiving a share vastly more valuable than others. The method usually employed in Massachusetts was adopted as being fair to everyone. This consisted in dividing the town into districts or divisions, each to contain 62 lots, each of which was numbered. Each grantee would draw from a box containing 62 numbered slips, the one bearing the number of the lot he was to own.

      The charter specified that the first division should be of 62 one-acre houselots, in a plot near the center of the town where it was presumed a village would be founded, and with room for a church, cemetery and common.

      The second division was to consist of 180-acre farmlands and plotted to include the lands especially suitable for farming. The third division of 90-acre lots would include areas perhaps fit for farming but not as good as the second division. Then the fourth divisions of 45-acre lots would comprise lands suitable for pasturage. Finally the sixth division of 75-acre wood lots would be plotted on the mountains along the east side of the town. These divisions were not allotted or even surveyed at one time. The first and second were drawn for in 1760 but the sixth was not allotted until 1797. Others were laid out from time to time. These six divisions did not completely cover the unoccupied land. There were odd parcels here and there called "pitches" which were used to make up shortages in surveys and some were selected by the proprietors where they desired. It seems evident that the first plots of the lots were rough outlined sketch plans and although it is said in the proprietors' record in 1760 that the first two divisions had actually been surveyed, the record also says in many places afterward, that portions had not been surveyed. When actually taken up for residence the lot was then surveyed and a record made.

      The bad feature of this arrangement was that the six lots owned by a grantee might be miles apart, and this called for a general readjustment by exchange deeds, to bring the six parcels into some sort of convenient arrangement. In May, 1760, the drawing was made for the first and second divisions. The record describes the method thus: "The public lots should not be drawn for, but were allotted near the center, and their numbers were not put in the box. Then cut as many pieces of paper, all of a size, as there are many grantees beginning at number one and so on to the last number. Then "shooked" and put in the box and each grantee shall have the same number in the second division that he draws in the first. The clerk usually drew the slips for the absentee members. The slips were drawn for each grantee in the order in which their names appeared on the charter. In one drawing Benjamin SIMONDS of Williamstown officiated as a disinterested person.

      In the selection of the town plot, in many Vermont towns, it appears situated in the exact center of the township. Bennington Center is exactly in that spot. In Pownal it was not quite so exactly located. It was staked out on the west slope of Mann Hill south of Pownal Center, and seems to have been a 120-acre lot. For some reason it was decided as not as favorable as a school lot, also a public lot adjoining on the north, and here the village of Pownal Center is situated, with its church, cemetery, common and school. The school lot of 180 acres, and a half a mile wide, was too large for its purpose and much was sold off to those who built along the street opposite the church.

      In 1762 George Gardner was appointed to prepare a new plan of the town; evidently the tentative sketches in use were not accurate and were causing trouble. At that time three divisions had been allotted. It is very likely that GARDNER assisted in plotting and surveying later divisions. The writer has attempted to replot the survey of his forebear, GARDNER, by use of the descriptions in the records. About 3-5 (3/5 ?) of the town has been plotted. It is very difficult work because there is little regularity in the arrangement of the lots and they are not always rectangular. The northeast quarter of the town and the sixth division wood lots are fairly regular.

      The pitch lots are extremely irregular and can hardly ever be identified correctly. In assembling the material for this plan it was evident public lots were placed before any others and they are in the central range of the town. The minister's lot was partly on the intervale; next eastward was the town plot and east of that the ministry or glebe lot. North of the town plot was the school lot.

      The original plan of the town disappeared many years ago and it is remarkable that the town records are as complete as they are, when one considers the hazards of moving them around from one clerk's house to another, and the danger of fire. It is certain that part of the proprietors' records is missing and a notation in the record explains that all the material to that date was recorded from loose papers and odd fragments of material. The proprietors' records only concern the disposal of the lands held in common. The town records contain the usual town business. Sometimes the same clerk served for both. When the last of the public lands had been disposed of, the proprietors' disappear from record forever.




WRIGHT

      Two of the first Pownal settlers were Charles and Samuel WRIGHT who took up two 180-acre lots of the first division just north of South Pownal; lots running from the river eastward for a mile.

      The Wrights removed to Pownal after having managed a tavern near Fort Massachusetts. The family is from Amherst, Mass. Charles married Ruth BOLTWOOD and she died in 1806, aged 85, Charles died in 1793, aged 77, and his gravestone records he was one of the first English settlers of this town. Their son, Solomon was born in Fort Massachusetts in 1763. He married Eunice JEWETT and had 11 children, their birth dates ranging from 1783 to 1808. Josiah, his brother, had a wife, Susanna, and their nine children are on the town record from 1788 to 1805.

Samuel, who appears to be another of the children of Charles had five children recorded after 1766. Boultwood WRIGHT, son of Josiah, married Anna BATES. Certainly this family has always been at the front in every sphere of action. Some of this family removed to North Adams. Through the numerous grandchildren of Charles WRIGHT, a great many Pownal families must be related. A complete account of all the activities of this notable family is too lengthy to trace further. The early members of this family appear to have first been buried in the cemetery near Pownal depot and afterward removed to Oak Hill.


ELDRED

      This name is often spelled ELDREDGE. Job, Nathan and Daniel appear in the 1790 census of Pownal. Nathan died in 1830 in his 89th year. John ELDRED, the oldest of the name in town, died May 10, 1784, aged 72. Daniel died in 1820, aged 71. This family is not very well recorded in the town records. John ELDRED mentioned, was the father of three brothers of the census. He was of the fifth generation from Samuel, the founder of the family. He was born in North Kingston, R. I., and was for a time in Scituate. He had ten children. His son, Thomas, is founder of the numerous family of Hancock, Mass. Daniel of the census married Amy VAUGHN, who died in 1812. His brother, Job, died in New Lisbon, N.Y. His wife was Mercy HARRINGTON. Nathan, his brother, first married Ruth SPENSER, and afterward her sister, Audrey SPENSER. Ruth, a daughter of Nathan, married Jeremiah BROWNELL, and her sister, Abigail, married Thomas BROWNELL. This ELDRED family is one of those early Pownal families whose intermarriages with the other early families make all these people almost one clan. Out of a great mass of ELDRED material, only these few items can be quoted,. The record of their descendents is indeed notable.


BROWNELL

      In the little cemetery in North Pownal are buried generations of the BROWNELLs who lived in that region. The fine old house near the river and state line is the home of one branch of the family.

      Thomas BROWNELL and his brother, Blackman, appear in the census. Their father must be the Thomas BROWNELL of Little Compton, R.I., born 1713, who married Mary BLACKMAN. There is no complete list of their children. Blackman BROWNELL came to Pownal before 1783, from White Creek. His wife was Eunice GREEN. Of their six children Thomas married Abigail ELDRED, and her sister married Caleb ELDRED.

      Neither BLACKMAN of the census nor brother Thomas were long lived. Blackman died in 1801 at the age of 49, and his brother in 1820, aged 67. On the BROWNELL monument is the record of "M.B. Died 1783, aged 60." This is supposed to be Mary BLACKMAN, wife of Thomas BROWNELL, but if so the age is not correct.

      A very elaborate genealogy of this family is being compiled by the Philadelphia branch of the clan.


BARBER

      This family is one of a group of Pownal families who originated in Connecticut. THE BUSHNELL, MORGAN, and TOWSLEE families were others of this group. Thomas BARBER, the first of this line, was of Windsor, Conn. Joseph BARBER, of Pownal, was a son of Samuel and Tryphena (HUMPHREY) BARBER. He was born in 1744 and died in 1806. He owned considerable property in the region east of Pownal Center, and doubtless lived in that neighborhood. Barber Pond is probably named for this family. Joseph BARBER married Leah GROVER and had 17 children. As one examines this list and notes the families who descend from him, it would seem to show that a very large number of the old Pownal families trace to him. To mention a few of those who married into this family we name the THOMPSONS, MASONS, KIMBALLS, MORGANS, OVAITTS, BUSHNELLS, TOWSLEES, DEANS, PARKERS, GARDNERS, MERCHANTS and many more. Elijah the ninth child, married Electa BUSHNELL and their son, Daniel, removed to North Adams.

      Here again is a family too numerous to describe in much detail, much as it deserves such an account. The descendants of Joseph BARBER have certainly added many a page to the history of Pownal when such a book is compiled and their record would be uniformly splendid.


NILES

      The NILES family, so long prominent in Pownal trace to John NILES, who came to town in 1778. He was the son of Nathaniel and Tabitha (GARDNER) NILES of West Greenwich, R.I. John NILES is usually termed "Captain." He married, in 1732, Mary BRIGGS, and in 1748, Elizabeth SPENCER. Among his children was a daughter, Elizabeth, and sons, John, Nathaniel, Samuel and Spencer. Samuel is supposed to have settled in Shaftsbury. John and Nathaniel settled in Hancock. Spencer married Amy ELDREDGE, a distant cousin, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth (NILES) ELDREDGE of Hancock. Spencer was killed by a falling tree about 1787. Most of Pownal family descend from his son, Russell.

      Among the curious items to be found in Pownal records is the confession of an early NILES, dated July 3,1780. He seems to have been determined that his rather small demeanor should be put on record for for all time, together with his confession and repentance. As we read it at this time, we can but wonder why he had it put in the public records.

      It reads: "Whereas of mere malice, ill will and grudge I have toward my neighbor Capt. Benjamin NICHOLS, did on 27th of June last, report concerning the said Benjamin NICHOLS that he was guilty of theft and had stolen from me a certain scythe which I myself had previously hid or caused to be hid in said NICHOLS barn, and did in continuance of my malice design, complaining of him the said Benjamin to authority, and in consequence thereof a precept was made to search for said scythe and the same did find where I had previously deposited said sythe, all of which doings of mine I do now most solemnly in the presence of God and man repent of and ask forgiveness of him the said Benjamin and all other Christian people and most solemnly promise not to offend in like manner any more. Witness my hand in the presence of John LARABEE and Gideon MYERS."


ANGEL

      Abiathar ANGEL is listed in the census of 1790 and his 10 children are recorded in the town records. Five of these children died unmarried.

      He was the son of Joshua and Elizabeth ANGELLO of Scituate, R.I., and was a descendant of Roger WILLIAMS. He settled in Cheshire about 1770 where he married Lucy BENNETT, daughter of Joseph, the founder of that town. When the large family of Joseph joined the Shakers, she and her sister, Eunice BRADFORD, were the only two who refused to go.

      During the Revolutionary War Abiathar had a notable record, serving as a captain. Although all of his children are recorded in Pownal, it is quite certain that some of them were born in Cheshire. He died June 17, 1830, at the age of 82. Lucy died October 9, 1846, at the age of 89. She was affectionately remembered as “Aunt Angel” by her many relatives.

      Of her children, Lucy married a DUNNING, Sally, a WRIGHT and Mary a BLACKINGTON.

      There exists a pocket diary kept by Capt. Abiathar during the war, relating his experiences. One corner is torn away by the passage of a bullet.

      James ANGEL of this family lived in North Adams and for a time published the Hoosac Valley News, and his descendants are the present owners and publishers of the Transcript.


JEWETT

      Thomas JEWETT of Norwich, Conn., settled in Pownal in 1769. He was born in 1736 and married Eunice SLAFTER in 1758. Their 10 children are recorded, the dates ranging from 1759 to 1778, and the list included six who were born before the family came to Pownal.

      Thomas was in the fifth generation from Joseph JEWETT of Rowley, Mass. He was active in Vermont state affairs. He was a member of the first legislature at Windsor in 1778 and also served in 1783 and 1791. He was also a member of the Vermont Convention of 1791, and was a lieutenant of militia in the Battle of Bennington.

      This family was prominent in Pownal for many years and has much on record in both the vital records of the town and in the land records. The numerous members of the early generations intermarried the other old Pownal families.


BUSHNELL

      James BUSHNELL, son of Thomas and Dorothy BUSHNELL of Saybrook, Conn., settled in Pownal about 1785. He was born in 1762 and married Electa MUNSON, daughter of Timothy and Sarah (BISHOP) MUNSON, the tavernkeeper in Pownal. The nine children of James BUSHNELL range from 1787 to 1810. There are 27 grandchildren entered on the town records. David, the eldest son, married Betsy ANDREWS, and had nine children. The eldest, Electa, married Elijah BARBER, and this large family is closely allied to others who settled in East Pownal.

      One branch settled in North Adams and many others removed to the new settlements in the midwest.


CARD

      Another family from North Kingston, R.I., is the CARD Family. The first of the Family in Pownal was William CARD, Who died in 1784. He was of the fourth generation from Richard CARD, an early settler in Portsmouth. William was born in 1711 and married Mercy BRIGGS at East Greenwich, R.I., June 13, 1733. He appeared in Pownal very early. At the time of his death he left six sons namely Jonathan, Job, Elisha, Daniel, Stephen and Benjamin. Also a daughter, Anne GOFF. Two sons, Peleg and Abel, died before their father.

      This family is well represented in the town records and is very numerous. The original William CARD farm was Lot 53 of the second division, and this lot was bought by the elder George GARDNER, whose family burying ground is situated in the southeast corner of this lot.


MASON

      Although the MASON family does not appear in the 1790 census, it came to Pownal about that time and has been prominent in town ever since. Their home spot appears to have been on the hill which bears their name.

      The family of Allen MASON and his wife Bethiah (MASON) is on record. Allen was born in 1764 and died in 1847. He is in the fifth generation from Samson MASON of Rehoboth, Mass., the head of the MASONS in America. The children of Allen MASON range from 1793 to 1819. His son, Christopher, born 1797, married Leah BARBER, and their 10 children range from 1820 to 1839.

      From such a numerous foundation the family became intermarried with many others of the old settlers. The family was nearly related to the numerous MASON families of Cheshire, Mass. It is also descended from Joseph JENKS, a famous colonial governor of Rhode Island, as well as from Rev. Chad BROWNE of Providence, the first Baptist minister in America.


TOWSLEE

      The census of 1790 lists Gideon TOWSLEE, from whom all the Pownal family descend. He is buried in the TOWSLEE family lot and died in 1815 at the age of 61. He was the son of Gideon and Lucy (OLDS) TOWSLEE of Suffield, Conn., and grandson of John TOWSLEE. The first of the family in Connecticut appears to be Michael TOWSLEY of Salisbury, Conn., a soldier in King Phillip's War. In 1678 he married Mary HUSSEY and settled in Suffield.

      Gideon of Pownal had a son, Solomon, born in 1783, who married Melissa BARBER, daughter of Joseph BARBER. Their 11 children are recorded in Pownal records.

      In the last 150 years this family has remained in Pownal. A descendant of this family, Mrs. Mary LAMPMAN, was the efficient town clerk for years and books written by her are perfection. The present town clerk, Mrs. TOWSLEE, a granddaughter of Mrs. LAMPMAN, has succeeded her grandmother.


MYERS

      In the southwest corner of the Pownal Center Cemetery near the street is the grave of Mary MYERS who died in November 1800 in her 86 year. All the MYERS families of Pownal trace her.

      She was born Oct. 23, 1715 in Bristol, R. I., the daughter of Joseph and Mary (BOWERMAN) MUNRO, Her grandfather, Tristram BOWERMAN, was a ship builder in Bristol and among other vessels he constructed "the good sloop William" as well as the sloop "Dolphin."

      When Mary MUNRO played along the waterside in Bristol and doubtless in her grandfather's ship yard, Pownal and the State of Vermont were regions unheard of. She married Oliver MYERS of Little Compton, a son of Nicholas "MIAS" as he spelled his name. He was doubtless of Dutch descent. Oliver MYERS settled in West Greenwich, R I., and was for a time in Richmond, R. I. He married Mary MUNRO May 13, 1736. They had eight children. One was Anna who married George GARDNER, Jr. The sons were Oliver, Hezekiah, Nicholas and Gideon, and grandsons Joseph and Benjamin, all of Pownal. Oliver MYERS, Sr., died Aug. 29, 1769 and his widow, Mary came to Pownal and lived with her children. The early MYERS families seem to have always lived near Pownal Center. One family owned the west part of the school lot where the late George MYERS farm is located. Seth MYERS had his family of ten children recorded in the town records, and the name of each child begins with the letter H.


BATES

      Certainly one of the "foundation" families of Pownal has been the BATES family, which furnished prominent men in all walks of life. The head of the family in Pownal was Francis BATES from Coventry, R. I., who died in Pownal April 4, 1804. He married Elizabeth BISSELL and had six children. The daughters were Lydia who married Ephram FISK of Stafford Hill in Cheshire, Susanna married Joshua MATTISON and the sons were Joseph, Francis, Stephen and Daniel. The last named, who died in 1842, married Margaret BAKER and was father of Orren BATES and grandfather of Daniel F. BATES of South Pownal. Francis BATES served in the Revolutionary War. It is difficult to determine just where Francis BATES first settled in town, but early deeds show that he owned lands a bit north of Pownal Center. However people do not always live in the lands they happen to own, but when his sister-in law, Susanna SHERMAN came to Pownal she evidently went directly to Pownal Center to "brother", Francis BATES


MATTISON

      In the 1790 census there are listed eight families of this name and in Shaftsbury are listed eleven more and all were more or less related. It is a very numerous family in Rhode Island and also in southern Vermont. It has been said that sometimes nearly every town office in Shaftsbury would be held by someone of this name. Those named in Pownal were James, Richard, Joshua, Abel, Thomas, James (two of this last name) and Francis.

      It would take some exceedingly difficult research to identify these nineteen families of Pownal and Shaftsbury. All descend from Henry MATTESON and wife, Hannah (PARSONS), of East Greenwich, R. I., who had six children and forty-four grandchildren The records of Warwick, East and West Greenich and Coventry record a multitude of people of this name.

      Probably those in Pownal were closely related to other early settlers. Of the Pownal MATTISONs we know that Joshua married Susanna BATES and has six children recorded. Richard had a wife, Mary and four children.

      Francis married Abagail SHERMAN, a daughter of Jacob, and had six children. Duplication of names certain identity difficult to establish.

      Descendants of this family settled in New York state and the midwest.


POTTER

      In 1790 there were six POTTER families in Pownal. The POTTERs have always been prominent citizens of Pownal and Bennington and some of them settled in North Adams. This is another very numerous family and it is connected with a great many other Pownal families in numerous marriages.

      Those who were in Pownal in 1790 were John, Zerobabel, James, Amos and two Abels. Four of these were the sons of Shadrach POTTER of Cranston, R. I., eldest son of Benjamin and Jemima (WILLIAMS) POTTER, Benjamin and Jemima gave some astonishing names to their children, among them being Shadrach, Mesheck and Abednego, as well as Zurial and a Holliman. Little is known of the eldest son, Shadrach whose children settled in Pownal and Bennington. His son Shadrach Jr., seems to have lived in Bennington but he is buried on the old Wm. B. ARNOLD farm in a small family plot, where the gravestones have been badly broken by vandals. This Shadrach and his brother, Zerobabel each had ten children.

      Shadrach POTTER, Jr., married Hannah POTTER. She was a daughter of William and Aline (WAIT) POTTER who are buried in a small burial lot near the top of a hill, on a road leading north from North Pownal. These families descend from George POTTER of Portsmouth, R. I., through his son, Abel. The descendants of Benjamin POTTER of Cranston, also trace to Roger WILLIAMS, John POTTER married Jemima CARPENTER and had a very large family. His brother, Philip POTTER married Phebe BRIGGS and had among others Arnold and Gilbert POTTER, names which persisted in this family. A complete record of the Pownal POTTERS would make a very large account.


SHERMAN

      Near the entrance to the cemetery at Pownal Center may be seen the gravestone of Jacob SHERMAN and his wife, Susanna. He died August 17, 1811, at the age of 78, and she died January 1, 1813, aged 76. They are the ancestors of very many people in Williamstown and adjoining towns, as well as Bennington and vicinity, to say nothing of many who settled in Cazanovia, N. Y., Farmville, Va., and New York city.

      The SHERMAN family of Williamstown own an ancient manuscript book bound in canvas, with its pages full of the cobbler accounts of Jacob SHERMAN and various school exercises. Scattered through it, in the mathematical tables, are records of some of Susanna's family, the ages in some cases being carried down to minutes, to provide arithmetic problems.

      The book is also a great source of genealogical information relating to Pownal families. In the old days, the cobbler or "cordwainer" used to visit a home and stay while he made shoes for the whole family. In keeping account of this work, we find the children who had new shoes or shoe repairs carefully listed. The book also contains records for several generations. The genealogical record begins: "Then was married Jacob SHEARMAN and Susanna BISSELL both of North Kingston., December the 30 Day A. D. 1753." Then follows the record of birth of their 11 children, closing with the quaint statement "all this I have done for you to look upon when I am dead and gone. Susanna SHEARMAN her heart and pen."

      Susanna also added a bit of family history on another page, which reads:

"In the year of our Lord 1766 April the first day I moved from North Kingston to Scituate and lived there till the year 1779 and thence I moved the 26th day of February for Varmount which is called Poundwell to brother Francis Bateses. I arrived the 10 day of March. I moved the 16 day of March to the meeting house in Poundwell and from thence I moved the 19th day to John Hinnery oseen (?) house to live for one year."

      The reference to the meeting house is not clear, because there was very certainly no meeting house in Pownal until 1790, but perhaps she refers to the private home where meetings were usually held. "Brother" Francis BATES had married her sister Elizabeth BISSELL. They were daughters of John and Ann BISSELL of North Kingston, R. I. Jacob was the son of William and Abigail SHERMAN, William being a grandson of Philip SHERMAN, a prominent citizen of Portsmouth, R I., and in the state generally.

      John SHERMAN, son of Jacob, married Amy GARDNER, who is considered the first native child born in the town. William Bissell SHERMAN, brother of John, married Sarah GARDNER, sister of Amy. The exceedingly numerous Williamstown SHERMANs are descendants of William. He and his brother John both served for along period in the Revolutionary War. It is impossible to sketch this family any further in this article, but mention must be made of their brother, Benjamin SHERMAN. He and his brother John and others rest in the old cemetery near the depot in South Pownal. Isaac SHERMAN, son of Benjamin, went to New York and amassed a huge fortune which was inherited by his daughter Cornelia, Mrs. Bradley MARTIN, the noted society leader, whose famous ball in 1897 was a landmark in New York for a great display and magnificence. She afterward settled on a 65,000 acre estate on Lake Neff in Great Britain and her daughter Cornelia, married the Earl of Craven. So it happens that a descendant of Jacob SHERMAN, cobbler, of Pownal, is enrolled in the British Peerage. Many another SHERMAN descendant held high office, not because of inherited wealth but through their own talents. The old home of John SHERMAN still stands on South Pownal Main street, not far from the bridge, a small shingled cottage on the south side of the street. John bought about 34 acres here before 1788 and the cemetery where the family is buried is part of his little farm. For a time he lived on part of the old original GARDNER farm and the elder George GARDNER lived with him under a life lease of one cent a year.


PRATT

      In the old Lovett cemetery near the Dugway is the grave of William PRATT whose grave records his death January 16, 1846, aged 86. Also that he was a Revolutionary patriot and served three years. He was also styled the first male child born in the town of Williamstown.

      The PRATT family has always been numerous in Pownal. Before 1800 about 40 births are recorded under this name. They have always been leading citizens and are still represented by many descendants in town.

      Their home region was the northern slope of Northwest Hill of Williamstown. Silas PRATT, father of William, was born in Shrewsbury, Mass., December 28, 1726, the son of Ephraim and Martha (WHEELOCK) PRATT. He was an early settler in Williamstown and was a member of the garrison of the West Hoosuck fort where his son William was born. He was a blacksmith and owned several properties in Williamstown. About 1762 he moved to Pownal, settling on the Pownal side of Northwest Hill on the state line. The property of Mrs. Jessica KROM is within his farm. His homestead seems to have gone years ago. William PRATT married Rosanna WILLIAMS, whose father, Nehemiah, was a settler on Northwest Hill. Silas PRATT and his son William fought together at Bennington. Rosanna PRATT told of looking across the valley and seeing the captured British marching down from Pownal Center after the Battle of Bennington. The records of the PRATTs fill many a page in Pownal records. They deserve more extended account than is possible in this sketch. The Lovett cemetery is probably named for John LOVETT who is buried there, who died in 1828, aged 87, and wife Mercy, who died in 1817, aged 79. They were from Cumberland, R. I., where is recorded the marriage of John LOVETT and Mercy DILLINGHAM, December 9, 1762.

      Several of the pioneer families of Pownal have been briefly sketched. Many other worthy families named in the 1790 census have not been traced because of lack of information on the part of the writer.

      The 1790 census is the great source of information about the place of residence of the families named.

      Many census reports are arranged alphabetically. But in others, including Pownal, the lists are given in the order in which the families lived along the highways. Therefore if a known place appears, the neighbors along the same road can be located accurately. The different roads are not separated in the lists, so one is unable to tell just where a road ended or joined another. But with the help of the land records, and the expenditure of a bit of time and patience, practically all the places of residence may be identified.

      Usually visitors from the far west wish to know exactly where was the old homestead of their family. If the lot number is given in the deed the plan of the town would show its location and with the help of the census, its exact location could be original house could be found there. The first houses of the pioneers were usually built of logs, and such houses were only temporary residences while the permanent structure was being built. There do not appear as many houses of the Revolutionary period in Pownal, as one would expect to find. There would not appear in an agricultural town, the splendid mansions which are seen in seaport towns. Event there begins to surround it mists and fogs which tend to obscure the true facts in the matter. And as the years go on and the story is repeated endless times, there is finally emerges a story entirely different from the real facts. Stories are rarely repeated exactly. They are added to, and given different interpretations, until the real story is almost obliterated.
 
 

      One of the traditions or ideas prevalent in most pioneer tows is that the first settlers found the town an unbroken forest. There is plenty of record to prove that this was not true. The fact that in Pownal it was possible to designate rather closely what lands were fit for farming and pasturage, shows that there was much cleared land. The Indians used to start huge fires to drive game out of the woods and these fires always resulted in clearings. Also, some soils have not been conducive to forest growth. It is doubtful if the Pownal intevale or the area west of Pownal Center was ever much more wooded than it is today. Some clearing had to be done, in places, but in the town as a whole it was not unbroken forest by any means.

      The stories of Indian conflicts in the town seem to have little recorded evidence to show that they ever occurred. The Dugway is a favorite place for traditions to start. In the very early days it was a place of very great disrepute and dangerous.

      The story that Washington once passed through Pownal on his way to Bennington is easily proven false by the simple fact that on the day he was said to do this, he was really on a boat, bound for Newport to New York. One story, often repeated, tells of the girl who fell off the cliffs in North Pownal and escaped injury. There is doubtless some truth to the story, repeated so often by Pownal people. There are several different versions of this happening. The one which was told in the writers family is this. That the girl lived on the flat east of the Kieger Rocks somewhere near the PETTIBONE farm. She was sent by her parents to the store in North Pownal to buy some bread. She attempted to go across lots, instead of going around by the road. Coming to the top of the cliffs, and attempting to find a way down, she fell and fortunately landed in the branches of a great pine tree. Sliding from bough to bough she reached the ground practically unhurt, and went on her way to the store, meeting astonished villagers on the way up to pick up her remains. Her only remark was, “Well, mother might have sent brother and not me." Other versions of this story are numerous.

      The Pownal Sketches are brought to an end by this number. They have touched only upon the more important episodes in the settlement of the town from 1760 to 1800. Deeper research would reveal much more. The succeeding 144 years of the town history could hardly record such a hectic period as the one in which the town was settled when it was at times "a town without a country. " Nothing has been said about the many interesting natural features of the town, or of its great field in the study of Botany. Some day perhaps a comprehensive history of the town, dealing with all its features may appear. It would be a town history more interesting the majority of such books.

      Through the courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical society, the writer was enabled to secure a copy of its splendid portrait of Governor Pownal and this copy, suitably framed, will be hung in the town office in Pownal Center.

"The preceding information was provided by the kindness
of Marion Sinclitico."

The above Sketches of Pownal. “is the first of a series of sketches of the history, legends and folklore of Pownal, prepared by William B. Browne, Register of Deeds and particularly interested in northern Berkshire and southwestern Vermont. The articles are written at the request of Pownal people and will be printed in the Banner and the North Adams Transcript.”

Provided by Martha Rudd, 2003.

These sketches will cover only such material as is familiar to the writer and will relate to events before 1800. If readers can supply new authoritative material or offer any corrections, they will be welcome.

      They will deal briefly with the various interesting features of the town such as its geography, natural features, its settlement, its troubles during the Revolutionary War and some account of the confusion of titles, and a brief account of some of the early settlers whose descendants are numerous in northern Berkshire towns and in Bennington county. The great natural beauty of the town is well known to all who pass through it. It stands high, in that respect which is beautiful everywhere.


GEOGRAPHY

      This town is in the southwest corner of Vermont, and comprises a wide valley bounded on east and it has fine intervales along the Hoosac river, with a wide plateau extending eastward with moderate elevations, both providing room for the splendid farms for which the town is famous. On the north is the long southern slope of Mt. Anthony. As one looks down the lovely valley from the northern hills he sees the Greylock range as a background, with the lofty Dome in the southeast corner of the town. West of the river, fine farms range along the slopes of Northwest Hill of Williams town. The Hoosac river enters the town through the Dugway pass and has a course of about three miles before crossing into New York.

      Very early plans of southern Vermont show Pownal as a six-mile-square area. It is delineated on the town charter. Its eastern and western boundaries were drawn as extensions of the similar bounds of Bennington. At the present time the eastern line is east of the Bennington line, and the agreement with New York in 1864 has carried the west line considerably beyond the early lay out.  Many an account says that Pownal corners on the northwest corner of Massachusetts at the famous tri-state boundary post. Actually the corner of Pownal and the state of Vermont is two hundred rods west of this marker.

      While this marker is well down the mountain side, the corner of Pownal is almost exactly on the crest of the range, and as the line runs northward it keeps on the ridge for several miles before it dips down to the bridge between North Pownal and Petersburg. It would appear that the intention was to have the mountain, as far as possible, the natural boundary of the state. The elevation at the corner of the town is 2,300 feet. The Dome, which is the highest point in the town, is 2,754 feet. South Pownal is 545 feet and Pownal Center is 986 feet above sea level.

      In 1739 Nathaniel KELLOGG made a survey for the Massachusetts government in the expectation of laying out townships along the Hoosac river. His survey extended from near the south line of Adams to a point near the Krieger Rocks in North Pownal. It seemed planned to include the intervale lands on both sides of the river. The north line of Massachusetts not having been determined at that time, the survey went as far as it dared but the establishment of the state line in 1741, which cut across this layout, resulted in its abandonment. In a later plan in 1749 which plots East and West Hoosuck and part of southern Vermont, the main river is called the Lussacutaquoge, or place along it. The river now called Little Hoosac is in this map called the Hoosac, and the river from Petersburg to the Hudson is the Schaghticoke.

      Before settlement, Pownal was merely a part of the great wilderness which lay between the Hudson and Connecticut rivers. It was the great hunting ground of the Indians. It does not appear that any Indian village existed in Pownal. An ancient trail crossed this area following the river, and which ran between the Hudson and the Deerfield.

      At Eagle Bridge the famous Mohawk Trail from Canada met the river trail which was followed in the Indian raids on Fort Massachusetts and other forts. It would be very probable that a branch of this early trail ran through Pownal Center to Bennington. The river trail was followed by a passable road soon after 1700 when the Pownal intervales invited early Dutch settlers. A road probably for horses extended the line to Fort Massachusetts and over the Hoosacs to Deerfield.

      As we continue the story of the development of this area into an incorporated township, we meet the tangle of disputed boundaries and authorities which raged for many years. Briefly stated New York claimed sovereignty of the lands north of Massachusetts, as far as the Connecticut river, but had made no effort to settle any part of it.

      After a time the province of New Hampshire claimed that their western boundary should be in line with the western bounds of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Therefore Governor WENTWORTH proceeded to lay out townships and grant charters in the area west of the Connecticut river. In 1764 the royal government decided that New York held the valid title to that region. In the struggle which developed because of the opposition of settlers to giving up their holdings, Vermont declared its independence. Not until 1789 was the claim of New York finally relinquished by the payment of $30,000 and Vermont soon after joined the Union.

      Disputes constantly arose over the boundaries of the old provinces. In a discussion of the boundary between Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Rufus Choate said:
 

"The commissioners might as well have decided that the line between the states was bounded on the north by a bramble bush, on the south by a blue jay, on the west by a hive of bees in swarming time, and on the east by five hundred foxes with firebrands tied to their tails."

      The story of Pownal from the time of the first settlement within its borders, until 1800 is one of continuous difficulties and excitement. When the town was incorporated in 1760 there were difficulties with the people already settled there supposing they were in New York. In 1760 they found themselves within the New Hampshire Grants. In 1764 the town was again under the New York government and so stayed until Vermont became independent. Therefore in the record of deeds office we find the grantors entitled at times as residing in New York, New Hampshire and Vermont. The next difficulty arose over the care of the proprietors' records. Then came the Revolutionary War and the confiscation of property and exile of many persons.

      The Dutch settlement has left a mark of their residence in the name of the cliffs of North Pownal which bear the name of George KREIGER, one of the Dutch settlers. The Indian association seems to have left but one name which is entirely of local usage and which is the name "Etchawaug," which was given to East Pownal. Hoosick and Taconic are Indian names but not confined to Pownal alone.

      In the history of Williamstown, Prof PERRY mentions a petition which was drawn up by a large number of settlers of southern Vermont and adjoining territory, which was to be submitted to the Stockbridge Indians, asking from them a release of any claims they might have to their old hunting grounds, and which would make their own titles a bit more valid. Nothing further appears about the matter.

      At an early date settlers from New York had come into Pownal valley and taken up residence there, building barns and houses and evidently under the impression that after a time the New York government would give them title to their lands. Therefore, when in 1760 they discovered that a township had been formed which would include their farms, and give the lands to new owners, there were immediately commenced claims and much disturbance for many years. It would seem that the Pownal Proprietors were inclined to be generous with them. At an early meeting they voted to allow John George KRIEGER to live where he had settled and voted him lands adjoining if he would use it on the same terms as if he was one of the Proprietors. It was also voted to allow Isaac VAN ORMAN to remain where he had located. However on June 3, 1782, a petition was sent to Montpelier which reads Thus:
 

"Petition of inhabitants of Pownal who live on several farms which were begun and possessed fifty years ago or thereabouts under the then almost insurmountable difficulties, hazards and expensive attending in a howling wilderness where nearest Christian inhabitants to the westward was Albany and near to southward and eastward was Deerfield, in the course of which time several of the present petitioners and prepossessors of others have been twice obliged to remove in consequence of the two last French and Indian Wars and had their inhabitants burnt up and their improvements destroyed and some of the then possessors actually killed. We esteem we have dearly purchased the right, especially when nearly thirty years afterward a grant of the same lands was made by the Govr of New Hampshire. Notwithstanding their arduous, expensive and hazardous task some persons did in 1760 supposedly by representation obtained grant of the town including our lands and possessions and in consequence suits and actions commenced against us and some forcible entrances were made."

      This was signed by Boston DEAL, Peter FOSBURGH, Amos POTTER, William BROWN, Adam FISHER and Henry YOUNG.

      A report in Vermont records states that a great many similar petitions were received in the state, and they recommended some measure of relief.

      The matter drifted along for several years and finally no further mention is recorded. The Vermont Gazeteer says that Sebastian DEAL, a Dutch settler, came to Pownal in 1724. VOSBURGH also came the same year. The others who signed the petition were later arrivals.

      There were frequent clashes between the Dutch and the people in the towns in northern Berkshire county and some blood was shed. M. B. JONES in his "Vermont in the Making” says: 
 

"In 1688 Governor or Thomas DONGAN of New York issued a Patent for lands along the Hoosack river. A portion of this Patent lay within the later New Hampshire Grant of Pownal and extended into Massachusetts Bay to the junction of the north and south branches near Fort Massachusetts. As early as 1763 one John HORSFORD, a resident of West Hoosuck who had purchased for small sums several New Hampshire rights in Pownal brought actions of ejectment in the New Hampshire court at Portsmouth against some Dutch settlers names Hans CREIGER, Peter VOSS and Bastian DEAL who had been living on these land for about thirty years under rights derived from the old Hoosack Patent. Judgements were obtained by HORSFORD at Portsmouth in July or August, 1764, and early in the latter month he attempted to dispossess these settlers with the aid of Justice of the Peace Samuel ROBINSON and Deputy Sheriff Samuel ASHLEY. While they were engaged in the task Sheriff SCHUYLER of Albany appeared with a posse and arrested HORSFORD, ROBINSON and ASHLEY for violation of New York jurisdiction and lodged them in the Albany jail where they stayed until September, when they were apparently admitted to bail."

      As indicated in the charter, Pownal was a Propriety town. A book has been written by Florence M. Woodward, PhD., entitled " the Town Proprietors of Vermont," which is most interesting to those who study town development in Vermont. She says "this system favored the quick disposal of unoccupied lands through speculative activity with little relationship to actual settlement." Many Massachusetts towns such as Propriety townships, but the system in Massachusetts was usually aimed at actual settlement of a town and encouragement to settlement, although there was some speculation involved.

      In Vermont speculation seems to have been the driving force, Speaking of Gov. Wentworth's charters Miss Woodard says, "He granted no less than 129 townships to groups of proprietors in this disputed territory between the years 1749 and 1764 inclusive. He not only reserved a considerable acreage for himself in each township, but often included in the list of proprietors members of his family, and of the New Hampshire Council as well as many personal friends. Although settlement requirements were to be found in each of these charters, the governor must have been well aware of the fact that in most cases they never could be met."

      Since those named as proprietors rarely saw their holdings, it is usually those who bought their rights who became actual settlers. Since the charter grantees paid nothing for their holdings, the sale meant a clear profit. Many of those names in the Pownal Charter were also named in the charters of other towns. In Massachusetts the number of rights in a town was almost always 63, 60 being individuals and three being the public rights for the benefit of a minister, schools and support of the minister. Pownal had 62 rights, but only 59 to persons and three for public usage.

      The Charter of the Town of Pownal may be seen at the town clerk's office and is well preserved and carefully protected. It is dated January 8, 1760, and is signed by B. WENTWORTH and is issued by George the Second, by the Grace of God king of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc., through his beloved and Trusty Benning S. Wentworth Esqr. "our Governor and Commander in Chief of our Province of New Hampshire." The land is granted in 62 equal shares to be divided amongst them and their heirs forever. It is for a township of six miles square and no more, and allowance is to be made for highways and uninprovable lands by docks, mountains, ponds and rivers. The town to be named Pownal. As soon as 50 families are settled it is free to hold town "fairs." The first meeting for choice of offcers to be held on the first Tuesday in March and the annual meeting forever thereafter shall be on the first Tuesday in January. Each grantee shall plant or cultivate five acres of land within five years, for each 50 acres of his share, shall continue to cultivate and improve the same or suffer forfeiture of his land. All white and other pine trees fit for masting and the Royal Navy shall not be cut or felled without his Majesties spacial license. Before any division is made among the grantees a tract of land as near as possible to the center of town shall be reserved and marked out for town lots of one acre each for a rental of one ear of Indian corn on Jany. 10 annually, and every proprietor or settler after ten years or from January, 1771, shall pay one shilling for every hundred acres he possesses. The names of the 62 grantees are annexed and it is stated that 500 acres or two shares are laid out for the governor.

      In most Proprietary townships there are three public rights, the Minister, The Ministery (for support of the minister), and the School. 

      Although the intention seems to have been that the minister should own the mister's right as his own estate, never the less that right was disputed in Pownal, just as it was in East Hoosuck. (Adams).

      The title to such a lot was usually stated to rest with the first settled or ordained minister. In Adams the Minister's lot was, whether by chance or intent about the poorest one of the intervale lots. When the first minister of Adams, Rev. Samuel TODD, claimed the lot as his own estate the claim was made that he had not been ordained, and besides had never been chosen by the town as their minister. When he made sales from the lot any doubt about the title was quieted by an Act of the Legistlature and by vote of the town. In Pownal the Minister's farm lot was a very fine 180-acre lot. It is situated about a mile north of South Pownal and the main highway goes directly across it. It reached from the river easterly a half mile, almost to the present state highway to the Center.

      Rev. Benjamin GARDNER claimed the entire minister's right as his personal property and the town disputed it, for reasons not entirely clear. One reason seems to have been because of a doubt of his real standing as an authorized Baptist minister. When the town proposed to sell this farm lot, he sued the town.

      Thereupon a committee was appointed to examine the evidence and report. Their report is interesting, because it is probably the origin of the distribution of ministeral money in the town, which still exists.
 

"The committee appointed by the town of Pownal at their meeting holden on the 16th of November for the purpose of conferring with Elder Benjamin GARDNER relating to claims to the minister's right make the following report to the town to wit: that they met at the dwelling house of the said Elder GARDNER on Monday the 23rd day of November passed and proceeded candidly and deliberately to examine the merits of his said claims, the merits of which we find to be found in the following facts, viz: In and about the year 1763 Elder GARDNER then a Public Preacher and ordainer Elder in the Society of the Baptists (so-called) removed into the town to reside and that he was duly authorized and appointed by the proper authority of that order from which he removed to preach and administer in all the respective ordinances of that society and that from the time of his removal into the town he continued to preach both to the inhabitants of said town, and neighboring parts and had so early as 1772 a large number gathered in this town, to whom with their approbation and conferences of other churches of that order administered the ordinance of Baptism, and who were formed into a church in church order disapline under his pastoral care and direction with the Fellowship and concurrence of other churches of that order, and that it appears by sufficient testimonies and by the records of the church that they chose him as their Elder and put themselves under his watch care, as such, and that the said Elder GARDNER did then accept the same and was duly charged for that purpose and that we were informed by the testimony of Elder Solomon SPRAGUE and others that knew of no other ordination or installment necessary for the due settlement of a minister under similar circumstances, neither from the Scripture nor the rules of the Baptist Association, from all which circumstances your Committee are clearly and unanimously of opinion that the said right ought injustice and does of right belong to the said Elder Benjamin GARDNER agreeable to the original donation of the same and that your said Committee have in consequence of their said appointment conferred with the said Elder GARDNER and taken a deed of gift of him of the said right to the said town, forever, for which generous donation by him to the said town your committee are of opinion he fully merits the thanks of the inhabitants thereof and a reasonable compensation of the expenses he may have been at respecting the same. December 2, 1789." 

Signed by Abiathar ANGEL, Abel DIMMICK, Judiah AYLESWORTH, Josiah WRIGHT, Judiah AYIESWORTH, Jr., David GOSS Amos POTTER.
 

      In town meeting December 2, 1789, voted to accept this report:
 
"Furthurmore voted that the annual rents and profits of said rights of land to be appropriated to the use and support of the Gospel in said Pownal, forever, and every person that is a voter in said town to have his equal proportion of said rents and profits of said lands if called for by said individuals to be contributed to the support of the Gospel where they choose in said town. Further voted that the Church of England so called is by this vote forever excluded from claiming or having any rights to the rents or profits of said lands as there is proper provision made for them for their supporting their ministers in said town."

      It would appear that Elder GARDNER was determined to have his claim acknowledged, even though he was willing to deed it over to the town. It does not appear how he was compensated. Perhaps not at all. He seems to have owned considerable property in other parts of town. The town then proceeded to divide the use of the farm lot between Rev. Caleb NICHOLS and Mr. Francis BENNETT. It is not clear what was the status of these before the settlement was reached. The Elder doubtless preferred to live near his brother. It appears from maps that the original road from South to North Pownal was an extension .of the street past the Daniel BATES farm, and was later laid down east of the railroad where it now is.

      The vote to exclude the Church of England was not because of any antagonism to the Church. The Church had made slow progress in New England and in 1701 a society was organized for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Governor WENTWORTH being a member of that Church made a contribution for the establishment of churches of that faith by making land grants to this Society. In a great many Vermont Towns there was a Glebe set aside for the Church of England. The exact number of such grants is not known but in 1907 when the above Society conveyed its titles to the Trustees of the Diocese of Vermont for the support of the Church, deeds were recorded in 139 Vermont towns where such lands were located. Such a right was established in Pownal. At an early town meeting it was voted to devote the sales from the Glebe for the building of a Meeting House. The writer does not know the present status of the Glebe right. In Massachusetts towns a right was set aside for the support of the minister. No such right was set aside in Pownal, perhaps because the so called Minister's right in Pownal of six division lots amounting to 435 acres was thought ample and not all of this was expected to be claimed by the first minister as his own estate. Evidently Elder GARDNER did claim the entire right as his own, but when it was acknowledged, he promptly deeded it to the town where it still remains, and the (?) about the town, are probably the moneys annually divided among Pownal churches. The Church of England having received a similar grant was considered as having been amply provided for, and not entitled to the income from any other source.

      In discussing events in Pownal before and during the period of the Revolutionary War, we find a great deal centering about the activities of George GARDNER, Esq. He came to town at an early period and left so many descendants that they fill many pages in the town's vital records and land records. He had a stormy career, but there is plenty of evidence that he was a well educated man of ability. He held at one time or another every office in town. He was a Justice of the Peace and a Surveyor and always bore the honorary title of "Esquire." He was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1707 and his birth antedates that of any other Pownal settlers. He was in the fourth generation from George GARDNER of Newport, whose matrimonial affairs are not yet entirely understood. Briefly we will quote the old statement that he had "divers wives and divers children."

      In 1658 his wife Herod went up to Boston to testify in some religious controversy and was by order of Governor ENDICATT whipped and imprisoned and then turned out to walk back to Newport through the wilderness a distance of sixty miles. The parents of George of Pownal were Joseph and Hannah (BRIGGS) GARDNER who settled in East Greenwich, R.I. In 1733 Joseph sold his son George a farm in that town. Nov. 11, 1737 George married Alice or Elsey BROWN of Newport and they lived in that part of East Greenwich afterward set off as West Greenwich.

      In 1753 he sold his lands there being then stayled as "of Beekmans Patent," New York. He resided in Beekmans until his removal to Pownal about 1762. He has been called the first settler in Pownal but he gave deeds from Beekmans as late as 1762 and while there he bought several Proprietary Rights in Pownal. George and Alice came to Pownal with a family of eleven children. He seems to have always lived in the vicinity of the old GARDNER Cemetery where he and many descendants are buried. His home, according to several accounts was near the Abraham GARDNER homestead. The 1869 Atlas of Bennington County marks the place in the field opposite the former A. B. GARDNER place.

      His granddaughter Amy GARDNER, born Feb. 25, 1763, has always been credited as the first child of English parentage born in the town. Births appear on the town record earlier than hers, but are evidently of children born before their parents came to Pownal and were added to the record in order to have the entire family on record together. Esq. George GARDNER has fifty grandchildren on record with the families of three of his children not known. Probably more of present day Pownal people are his descendants than from any other of the early settlers, and legions more have settled in other states.

      This family has furnished men who have served in many official positions in town, county and state. Elder Benamin (sic) GARDNER, brother of George came to Pownal in 1763, coming directly from Rhode Island.

      George GARDNER was involved with the Proprietors concerning the record books. Samuel ROBINSON was the first Clerk and he served until 1769 when George GARDNER and his brother Benjamin and Samuel ROBINSON Jr., were appointed to make a search for the loose papers and records of the former clerk. George GARDNER seems to have secured the papers and not given them over. In March 1775 a committee was appointed to deal with him and secure the books and records. In December 1775 a formal demand was made for them. Sometime before 1779 the papers were turned over but in February of that year it was voted to prosecute GARDNER "suspecting that he had destroyed part of the Proprietors Book." In August 1779 the Proprietors secured judgement against GARDNER, then in Hancock, for 1200 pounds, and the sheriff was required to seize all his lands and property in Pownal.

      Little was found as GARDNER had transferred all he could to his son, David. It appears that Proprietors had borrowed money of GARDNER and it was decided not to repay it. Dec. 27, 1779 they voted that "the moneys due the Proprietors which they borrowed of George Gardner Esq. and also the Glebe rights be applied toward building a meeting house in said town," the town and Proprietors to agree on the place where it would stand.

      Finally, June 27, 1782, a committee was appointed to thoroughly consider GARDNER's case and they reported: 
 

"Your Committee to whom was referred the petition of George GARDNER of Hancock beg leave to report that it appears that a judgement was obtained before the Honorable Supreme Court by a Committee of the Proprietors of the town of Pownal in 1779 for cutting a number of leaves out of the Proprietors Book, for which without doubt the Honorable Court thought they had sufficient reason.

"But it does not appear to your Committee from the witnesses that have been heard by them, that said George GARDNER ever did cut out all or any of the leaves that are cut out of the Proprietors Book, and they recommend that the aforesaid Committee who obtained the judgement and a sum of damages-pay the same again to the aforesaid George GARDNER except the lawful cost occasioned by said suit." 
 

      It is difficult to understand what object would be gained by any clerk, by destroying part of the record but all the clerks appear to have been under suspicion for many years. In 1774 GARDNER purchased land in Hancock, evidently finding Pownal too uncomfortable. Hancock and Stephentown were settled by numerous GARDNER families, all more or less related to the Pownal family. GARDNER had also become unpopular because of his pronounced Tory attitude. He stayed in Hancock during the period of the Revolutionary War and then came back to Pownal about 1791. Many accounts consider his return to Pownal as his first appearance there, instead of a return. The old Atlas of Bennington County says he was 14 days moving back, which seems a bit strange unless he walked. Further trials of George GARDNER will appear in the account of the Pownal Tories.

      Although George GARDNER was a staunch Tory his brother, Elder Benjamin, was a devoted patriot, but because of his relationship and devotion to his brother he came under the suspicion of the local Gestapo.

      A petition was presented to the session sitting at Manchester in October 1779 by 27 citizens of Pownal:
 

"That your petitioners humbly conceive that a certain man chosen by the Freeman of said town at their last annual meeting (viz Mr. Benjamin GARDNER) may if allowed be prejudicial to the United States, and in this particular; -- and beg leave to a state a number of facts which they are ready to verify (viz) that the said Mr. GARDNER some time after the evacuation of Ticonderoga by our troops, did use his endeavors to influence the said town to choose a committee to repair to Skeensborough to treat with the officers of the British army for protection and offered that if they would choose him he would go upon his own expense. And some time within twelve months past when he was discoursing respecting the states of New York and Vermont said he would give 50 pounds if this state might fall into New York State -- and but a Sabbath or two before he was chosen aforesaid, when preaching said "I never had any hand in this war, and I have lately heard from them, and there is a great stir among them, and I think if this is the case it is dangerous to fight them." And that upon our last Freeman's meeting the day on which he was chosen it appeared to your petitioners that he had used some undue means which was unjustifiable for he brought a great number of votes in his pocket which was already wrote and they were for himself -- and when a vote was called by the constable the people (some of whom could not read or write) repaired to him for votes and he delivered some votes which were for himself and the people appeared to take them without examination, and he gave one of those votes to his own son and also voted for himself. And that said Mr. Benjamin GARDNER may have neither seat or voice in this honorable house." 

Dated at Pownal October 4th, 1779.
 

      There was attached to this petition the deposition of Elisha BARBER of Pownal. 
 

"That at a meeting at the house of Charles WRIGHT in said Pownal on Sunday, the 5th of December, being the Sabbath before the last annual Freeman's meeting at which place Elder Benjamin GARDNER officiated as Minister; in the course of his sermon speaking of the present war in which he said a vast number of our young men had fallen in the field, he in a particular manner addressed the parents and heads of families in the following manner, says he "Fathers and Mothers, have you any more sons to part with -- for my part I have had no hand in this war -- I have lately heard that the British army is become a praying army, if that be the case it will be of no service for us to pretend to fight them for we should not be able to prevail against them." Further the depondant says not. Elisha BARBARA (sic), Oct. 12th, 1779.

      In defense two petitions were offered. One by the Military Company reads: 
 

"This may certify the honorable General Assembly of Vermont that we the subscribers have been well acquainted with Elder Benjamin Gardner's conduct concerning the present war as we live in the neighborhood with him and he and his family is in our company, he ever appeared to defend his country by always appearing at first notice of alarm or when men is sent for by encouraging men to elist (sic) by contributing money, arms, clothes, provision and any necessity that was wanting so that he nor his family has not been behind in their duty by money or personal service." 

Oct. 13th 1779

Joseph Briggs, Capt.
Mikel Briggs, Left.
John Potter, Ensign
Hugh Thompson, Clerk
 

      The other statement was sent by the Selectmen of Pownal and Officers in the Militia. "We in justice to Mr. Gardner think proper to declare that we have not known him guilty in any respect of the charges mentioned so far from it that he has always cheerfully given his full proportion toward the common Cause."

      Elder GARDNER seems to have been completely exonerated and he served in the Vermont Legislature in 1779, 1781, 1782, 1784, and 1786. Elder GARDNER came to Pownal from Rhode Island.

      He was born in 1715 and died December 10, 1793, and is buried near his brother in the Gardner Cemetery. His wife Jemina (REYNOLDS) died in 1806 at the age of 82. Elder GARDNER owned land in several parts of Pownal usually near his brother. On the town record is this account: 
 

"In or about 1763, Elder Gardner, then a public preacher and an ordained Elder of the Baptists, so called, removed into the town of Pownal to reside and was duly appointed to preach and administer in all the rights and ordinances of that society." 

      His son, Benjamin Jr., married his cousin Tabitha GARDNER, daughter of George and had several children. In 1780 Elder GARDNER was a member of Capt. Nathaniel SEELEY's Company of Alarm Men of Pownal.

      Another member of the Pownal clergy did not fare as well in the campaign against Tories. It is recorded that on June 9, 1780, the estate of the Rev. Samuel PETERS of Pownal was confiscated by the Commissioner and sold to Daniel STOREY. The order says Rev. PETERS had joined the enemy. There is considerable recorded about the estate of Beloved CARPENTER which was confiscated and sold to Elisha BARBER. Complications arose over these confiscated estates because the debts owed by these estates had to be met in some way, because even good patriots did not like to lose what was due them. Abundant material is on record about all these affairs. But it must be supposed that Pownal was not a loyal Town in the war, because the list of men who served is long and impressive. Only a small minority were Tories.

      The devotion of these Tories for the mother country was remarkable because rather than yield they saw all their hard won possessions taken away. There was some remuneration for those who settled in Canada where the British government settled them on new lands and repaid some of their losses.

      In the published Vermont Revolutionary Rolls we find the following Companies of Pownal men.

      Capt. Eli NOBLE's Company which marched to Saratoga in July 1781. There were 47 men in the company. Other officers were Lts. Josiah WRIGHT and Jos. DUNNING and Sergt. William BATES.

      Another Company also under the command of Capt. Eli NOBLE marching on the alarm to Castleton October 1781. 26 men. A few of them are also in the Saratoga company. John NILES was a sergeant in this company.

      Also another company under Capt. Benjamin GATES marched to Castleton in October 1781. 24 men. Officers were Lt. George PARKER and Joseph WHEELER, Ens. Stephen CUMMINGS, Sergts. Bulah WALDO, Moses PERKINS, Joseph BARBER, Corporals Michael DUNNING and Ebenezer SEELEY.

      About twenty others are listed in various other companies. Capt. Nathaniel SEELEY's Company of Alarm Men October 11, 1781, enrolled 38 men. Other officers were Lts. Thomas RANSOM and Silas WATSON, Sersts. Joseph BARBER and Beulah WALDO, Corporals Ebenezer SEELEY, Abiathar ANGEL, John LARABEE and Josiah NOBLE.

      There appears no definite record of those who fought at Bennington. It is probable that at the alarm all who could immediately went in unorganized bands and joined with other forces in Bennington. Probably most of those listed in the above companies also fought at Bennington.

      A study of the names of the Pownal grantees, shows that eight of them were either proprietors or settlers in the adjoining town of Williamstown.

      There are three under the name of Seth HUDSON "first, second and third" and apply to three generations of that name. One was the surgeon at Fort Massachusetts and the others his father and son. Three were under the name of WENDELL, being Jacob of Boston, a founder of Pittsfield, and the others John and Oliver, doubles relatives of his.

      There were two POWNALs, One, Governor Thomas of Massachusetts for whom the town was named, and a friend of Governor WENTWORTH. The other, named John, was his brother, who held office in the royal government and bore an elaborate title. William BRATTLE of Pittsfield was another.

      Governor WENTWORTH himself reserved two rights and Hanking WENTWORTH, who had another, was doubtless a relative. Two others were clergymen who were friends of Gov. WENTWORTH. Henry SHERBURNE, another holder of a right was speaker of the New Hampshire assembly. Gad CHAPIN and Joseph PYNCHEON were well known residents of Springfield, Mass. The two rights held by the VAN ORNUMs apply to men who evidently were settlers in the town before the charter was granted. They were Dutch. Only a few of the grantees appear to have ever lived in the town, and none appear in the town's vital records. It is hardly probable that any of them have descendants in the town today. Traffic in rights commenced the very year the charter was granted, which must have been before any plan of the town had been made to show the location of the holdings. A number of early purchasers came from the Nine Partners and Beekman Patents. The GARDNER family came from Beckman's where they had settled for a time after leaving Rhode Island. This patent lay along the Hudson river and was about opposite Canaan, Conn. There are many references to Beckman's on Pownal records.

      And now came the time when it was necessary for each of the charter grantees to know just where his 1-62 ownership in the town was situated.

      It would never do to divide the town into 62 equal parts, because that would result in some receiving a share vastly more valuable than others. The method usually employed in Massachusetts was adopted as being fair to everyone. This consisted in dividing the town into districts or divisions, each to contain 62 lots, each of which was numbered. Each grantee would draw from a box containing 62 numbered slips, the one bearing the number of the lot he was to own.

      The charter specified that the first division should be of 62 one-acre houselots, in a plot near the center of the town where it was presumed a village would be founded, and with room for a church, cemetery and common.

      The second division was to consist of 180-acre farmlands and plotted to include the lands especially suitable for farming. The third division of 90-acre lots would include areas perhaps fit for farming but not as good as the second division. Then the fourth divisions of 45-acre lots would comprise lands suitable for pasturage. Finally the sixth division of 75-acre wood lots would be plotted on the mountains along the east side of the town. These divisions were not allotted or even surveyed at one time. The first and second were drawn for in 1760 but the sixth was not allotted until 1797. Others were laid out from time to time. These six divisions did not completely cover the unoccupied land. There were odd parcels here and there called "pitches" which were used to make up shortages in surveys and some were selected by the proprietors where they desired. It seems evident that the first plots of the lots were rough outlined sketch plans and although it is said in the proprietors' record in 1760 that the first two divisions had actually been surveyed, the record also says in many places afterward, that portions had not been surveyed. When actually taken up for residence the lot was then surveyed and a record made.

      The bad feature of this arrangement was that the six lots owned by a grantee might be miles apart, and this called for a general readjustment by exchange deeds, to bring the six parcels into some sort of convenient arrangement. In May, 1760, the drawing was made for the first and second divisions. The record describes the method thus: "The public lots should not be drawn for, but were allotted near the center, and their numbers were not put in the box. Then cut as many pieces of paper, all of a size, as there are many grantees beginning at number one and so on to the last number. Then "shooked" and put in the box and each grantee shall have the same number in the second division that he draws in the first. The clerk usually drew the slips for the absentee members. The slips were drawn for each grantee in the order in which their names appeared on the charter. In one drawing Benjamin SIMONDS of Williamstown officiated as a disinterested person.

      In the selection of the town plot, in many Vermont towns, it appears situated in the exact center of the township. Bennington Center is exactly in that spot. In Pownal it was not quite so exactly located. It was staked out on the west slope of Mann Hill south of Pownal Center, and seems to have been a 120-acre lot. For some reason it was decided as not as favorable as a school lot, also a public lot adjoining on the north, and here the village of Pownal Center is situated, with its church, cemetery, common and school. The school lot of 180 acres, and a half a mile wide, was too large for its purpose and much was sold off to those who built along the street opposite the church.

      In 1762 George Gardner was appointed to prepare a new plan of the town; evidently the tentative sketches in use were not accurate and were causing trouble. At that time three divisions had been allotted. It is very likely that GARDNER assisted in plotting and surveying later divisions. The writer has attempted to replot the survey of his forebear, GARDNER, by use of the descriptions in the records. About 3-5 (3/5 ?) of the town has been plotted. It is very difficult work because there is little regularity in the arrangement of the lots and they are not always rectangular. The northeast quarter of the town and the sixth division wood lots are fairly regular.

      The pitch lots are extremely irregular and can hardly ever be identified correctly. In assembling the material for this plan it was evident public lots were placed before any others and they are in the central range of the town. The minister's lot was partly on the intervale; next eastward was the town plot and east of that the ministry or glebe lot. North of the town plot was the school lot.

      The original plan of the town disappeared many years ago and it is remarkable that the town records are as complete as they are, when one considers the hazards of moving them around from one clerk's house to another, and the danger of fire. It is certain that part of the proprietors' records is missing and a notation in the record explains that all the material to that date was recorded from loose papers and odd fragments of material. The proprietors' records only concern the disposal of the lands held in common. The town records contain the usual town business. Sometimes the same clerk served for both. When the last of the public lands had been disposed of, the proprietors' disappear from record forever.