GAZETTEER OF TOWNS
GAZETTEER OF ORANGE COUNTY, VT. 
1762-1888.
HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF
WEST FAIRLEE

      WEST FAIRLEE, located in the eastern part of the county, in lat. 43° 56' and long. 4° 46', is bounded north by Bradford, east by Fairlee, south by Thetford and Strafford, and west by Vershire. It was chartered, together with Fairlee, by New Hampshire, September 9, 1761, to Josiah CHAUNCEY and sixty-three others. February 25, 1797, Fairlee was divided and the western part named West Fairlee. It contains an area of about 14,700 acres. The town was organized March 31, 1797, and Asa MAY was elected town clerk; Calvin MORSE, constable; Reuben DICKINSON, Samuel ROBINSON and George BIXBY, selectmen. Elisha THAYER was town clerk forty-seven years, from 1800. Mr. THAYER was the first justice of the peace, and held the office fifty-one years. For twenty-five years after the organization of the town, Fairlee and West Fairlee had but one representative; but in 1822 Solomon MANN was chosen to represent Fairlee, and Samuel GRAVES, West Fairlee.

      The surface of the town is diversified with hills and valleys, most of which are only great enough in extent to form a pleasing landscape picture without retarding cultivation of the soil, which is of a rich, arable quality, producing large crops of grain and grass. The timber is that common to most of the towns in the vicinity. The principal streams of water in the town are Blood brook, Middle brook, and Ompompanoosuc river, which afford some very good mill-sites. Middle brood flows through the center, and nearly the entire length of the town, and empties into Fairlee lake. Blood brook, in the eastern part, also empties into this lake, which lies partly in the southeastern corner of the town. Ompompanoosuc river rises in Vershire, runs through the southwest corner of this town, thence through Thetford, and empties into Connecticut river, in Norwich.

      The rocks entering into the geological structure of the town are calciferous mica schist and clay slate, the latter underlying a very small portion of the territory in the northeastern corner.

      In 1880 the population of West Fairlee was 1,038. in 1886 the town had seven school districts and seven common schools, employing one male and ten female teachers, to whom was paid an average weekly salary, including board, of $6.85 and $5.00 respectively. There were 182 scholars, fourteen of whom attended private schools. The entire income for school purposes was $1,275.69, while the total expenditures were $1,211.82, with William PAUL, superintendent.

      WEST FAIRLEE, a post village in the southwestern part of the town, contains three stores, one furniture and undertaking establishment, one church, one hotel, two carriage shops, one blacksmith shop, a saw-mill, livery stable, and 300 inhabitants.
      WEST FAIRLEE CENTER is a hamlet in the central part of the town.
      Almon JOHNSON's carriage factory, at West Fairlee, was built by him in 1878. He manufactures about one dozen carriages and sleighs per year, and also does a general repairing business.

      Horace SIBLEY's carriage shop, at West Fairlee, was built by the present proprietor in 1855. He formerly did an extensive business at one time about $12,000 per year. He now does about $800 worth of work per year.

      Alvah BEAN's shingle and lath-mill, at West Fairlee, cuts about 150,000 shingles and 200,000 lath per year. The rake factory, also owned by Mr. BEAN, was built in 1857, and manufactures about 200 dozen hand-rakes and a quantity of fork and hoe handles per annum. A grist-mill was added to the above in 1886.

      The town has furnished a goodly number of professional men, as will be seen by the following list: Clergymen Watson NILES, 3d, Benjamin NILES, Daniel WILD, Asahel BLISS, Josiah BLISS, Benjamin SOUTHWORTH, Alden SOUTHWORTH, William BALDWIN, O. L. LAMPHERE, John COLTON, William DOUGLASS, A. S. HUTCHINS, and Fred LEAZER who is now engaged in preparation for the ministry, at Montpelier. The physicians were Samuel NILES, Harry H. NILES, Edward NILES (who died soon after graduating), Ward BASSETT, Dr. WHEELER, Nathaniel NILES, David M. BALDWIN, Henry HOLBROOK. The lawyers have been George NILES, Alpheus MAY, E. SOUTHWORTH, Benjamin MUNN, John SOUTHWORTH, John B. NILES, William W. NILES, Harry T. NILES, and William NILES who practiced but a short time when he gave up the profession. In addition to the above the town has given to the state and county one member of Congress (the first from the state), one lieutenant-governor, four members of the Constitutional convention, one elector of president and vice-president, a judge of supreme court, three judges of probate, three registers of probate, three state senators, a speaker of the state House of Representatives, a side judge of the county court, and a general in the late war.

      Among the first to settle in the town was Hon. Nathaniel NILES, who came from Norwich, Conn., about 1779, and settled near the center of the town, on Middle brook. He was a well educated man, a Congregational minister, and held many important offices in the gift of the people, being the first member of Congress from this state. He was twice married, first to a daughter of Dr. LATHROP, of Connecticut, by whom he had four children, viz.: William, Sally, Mary and Elizabeth. His second wife was Elizabeth WATSON, daughter of William WATSON, of Plymouth, Mass., who bore him five children, namely: Nathaniel, Samuel, Betsey, Watson, and Nancy. Nathaniel NILES was a man of high moral character and great. Intellectual attainments.

      Capt. Francis CHURCHILL, from Charlestown, Mass., a Revolutionary soldier, came to Fairlee during 1788 or '89 and located upon the farm now owned by his grandson, Francis V. CHURCHILL. He had born to him eleven sons and two daughters, all but one of whom lived to advanced years. His eldest son, William Leathers CHURCHILL, bought the old homestead, married Eliza LANPHERE, and passed his life here. He was one of the Plattsburgh volunteers in 1814, reared five sons and one daughter, of whom two sons only are living. He died in 1857. Francis W., second son of Capt. Francis, removed from Fairlee. Prof. J. W. CHURCHILL, of Andover Theological seminary, is a son of John and grandson of Capt. Francis. George W., youngest son of Capt. Francis, was a physician in Chelsea, Mass. The farm now owned by Francis V. has been in possession of descendants of this family nearly 100 years. Francis V. married Marinda E. MUNN. Carroll C., son of William L., has been for many years treasurer of Norfolk county, Mass. William L., Jr., a miller, was for several years jailor at Chelsea. Benjamin P. was a mechanic in West Fairlee, and his son F. C. is a partner in the famous firth of CARTER & CHURCHILL. Francis V. has served as representative, selectman, justice of the peace, etc.

      Henry CHILD, born in Woodstock, Conn., in 1789, emigrated to West Fairlee about 1827. He served in the War of 1812, was a town officer many years after settling here, and always a true patriot and philanthropist, dying in the seventy-second year of his age. He was married four times, first to Lucretia CHILD, second to Henrietta MAY, third to Lucy, daughter of Capt. Asa MAY, and fourth to Betsey BUEL. By the first marriage he had one daughter, by the second one daughter and one son, and by the third three sons, viz.: Asa M., Henry and George. Asa M. CHILD was born in Woodstock, Conn., in 1824, and was three years of age when his parents removed to West Fairlee, where he has served as selectman, justice and notary for several years. His wife is a daughter of B. D. WADLEIGH, of Lyme, N. H., and they have had children as follows: Alice M. (deceased), Nellie M., Asa I. (deceased), and Lucy M.

      Captain Asa MAY and his brother Stephen, from Woodstock, Conn., were early settlers on Blood brook. Asa was the first town clerk of West Fairlee after the division of the town of Fairlee, and served in various other town offices. He built the house (nearly l00 years ago) in which his grandson, Asa M. CHILD, now lives. Stephen MAY served in the Revolution, and his son Elisha was colonel of militia.

      Fred W. FARNHAM was born in Tunbridge in 1839, located in West Fairlee in i866, and is proprietor of the popular hotel at that place. He received an academic education, has held the usual town offices, having represented the town in the legislature in 1880, '82, and '84.

      General Stephen THOMAS, son of John and Rebecca (BACHELDER) THOMAS, was born in Bethel, Vt., December 6, 1809. On the paternal side he was descended from good Welch stock. John THOMAS was born in Amherst, N. H., and soon after the birth of Stephen moved to Vershire, Vt. At the commencement of the War of 1812 he enlisted in the American army, from which he never returned. It is presumed that his bones rested on "the tented field." His mother, Rebecca BATCHELDER, born in Brookfield, Mass., belonged to a good old family of that town, whose English ancestors emigrated to this country in 1630. Both the grandfathers of General THOMAS served in the sanguinary struggle for our independence, with the rank of lieutenant, and lived to enjoy some of the blessings of the liberties for which they fought.

      Being deprived of his father's aid at the tender age of three years, he had only such an education as the common schools of Thetford could furnish. When but sixteen years of age he was apprenticed to a woolen manufacturer, and became a skillful workman. At the age of twenty-one years, with a reputation for honesty, industry and energy, he bought on his own credit mills for cloth-dressing and wool-carding, which were burned near the close of the first year. He immediately rebuilt, and soon after sold the property which only wiped out the expense of building, and the debt on the first purchase. He resumed work in Thetford and finally in West Fairlee, and was a manufacturer until about 1840.

      From 1832 to 1840 he was constable and collector of West Fairlee. About 1836 he was appointed to the additional office of deputy sheriff, which he held about five years. In 1840 he was a deputy U. S. marshal, and took the census of seven towns of Orange county. His positions in office and favorable acquaintance with the people and acknowledged ability as a leader in the Democratic party, with which he had cast his lot, gave him a deserved popularity, and he was chosen by the people of West Fairlee to represent them in the General Assembly in the years 1838, '39, '45, '46, '60 and '61, and was state senator in 1848 and '49. In 1860 and '61 he was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant-governor, and received a large vote; but the party being in the minority they failed to elect him. He was a delegate to the Constitutional convention of Vermont in 1844 and 1851. He was register of probate for Bradford district from 1842 to 1846, inclusive, and judge of probate the ensuing three years. In early life he was interested in military affairs and held the offices of corporal, adjutant and captain of an uniformed rifle company. He was the Democratic delegate to the National conventions of 1848, '52 and 56, and was present at the stormy convention held in Charleston, S. C., in, April, 1860, and was also in attendance at the session held a little later in Baltimore. In these gatherings he saw unmistakable signs of the impending political storm, which culminated in secession and armed rebellion, and returned to Vermont with a sorrow so intense that he felt a relief from suspense when Fort Sumter was attacked. At the convening of the legislature at an extra session called by Governor FAIRBANKS on the 23d of April, 1861, General THOMAS met his colleagues in the House with a heavy heart. He foresaw with the ken of a prophet the great struggle that was but just begun. He was a member of the committee of ways and means. In this committee a motion was made to report a bill appropriating half a million of dollars for military purposes. This called out a spirited discussion, and after all the members of the committee except General THOMAS had expressed their opinion on its merits, he quietly arose and informed them that the country was on the eve of a gigantic contest that involved the life or death of the Union, and closed a convincing argument, by saying: "We will find foemen worthy of our steel"; and, "Gentlemen of the committee, I am in favor not only of appropriating five hundred thousand dollars, but I am in favor of appropriating one million dollars." Such was the convincing effect of this speech that the bill was passed, with the amendment that an additional five hundred thousand should be raised if needed.

      The bill found some opposition in the House, and several members advised caution in voting to raise so large an amount. One of the principal arguments against the bill was made by a brilliant member, who was one of the ablest debaters in the House; who closed his speech with the sentiment:

"One million dollars would vastly outweigh the patriotism of the people."
      We have not space to give even a synopsis of General THOMAS's vindication of the loyal patriotism of Vermont. His thrilling, impassioned speech held the whole Assembly spell-bound, and at its conclusion the vote upon the bill was taken, and every member voted "Yes."

      He also procured the passage of a bill giving to every non-commissioned officer and private seven dollars a month in addition to the amount paid them by the United States.

      General THOMAS entered with zeal into the task of raising men for the army, and his ringing and rousing patriotic speeches electrified the whole state. In November, 1861, he was commissioned colonel and proceeded to raise a full regiment, including two batteries of 1,350 men, which he accomplished January 21, 1862, all uniformed and equipped, and all bills paid by the United States. He led his regiment to the front in March ensuing, and was its commander in the field the next three years, when he received the commission of brigadier-general, and served in that capacity to the close of the war.

      General THOMAS entered the army a Democrat, but by the course of that party he left it a Republican, designing to follow his new convictions in a quiet way. But the opposition of the old party, whose favorite he had been, would not permit it, and he was obliged to defend his course in public. The leaders with whom he had affiliated said to him after his return from the war, "THOMAS, you've changed; we haven't." "Fools never do," was his witty reply.

      General THOMAS, in conversation with the compiler of this sketch, remarked: "It's always hard for me to disagree with a friend." From this remark can be discovered something of the contest and the victory of conscience and right, when he severed his relations with his Democratic brethren.

      He is not without later political honors. He would not be a candidate for governor, but in 1867 and 1868 he served the state acceptably as lieutenant-governor, and positively refused re-election to a third term. He was pension agent eight years, commencing with 1870. He was a delegate to the soldiers' convention that nominated General Grant to the presidency; has been commander of the Grand Army of his state, president of the Officers' Reunion Society, and president of the State Soldiers' Reunion.

      For the last sixteen or seventeen years General 'THOMAS has resided in Montpelier, where he makes his influence felt in advocating, with his accustomed vigor and energy, the principles of the great party with which he now affiliates and in the affairs that engage the public mind, and he has a niche in the hearts of his fellow citizens, whom he has most faithfully served.

      Jacob CHURCH came to Vershire from Acworth, Mass., soon after the Revolution, and settled on what is called the North road, where he cleared a farm and reared seven children, all now dead. One son, Jacob, was born in Massachusetts, and was two years of age when he came to Vershire with his father. During his life he took an active part in town affairs, was select man many years, also lister, and represented the town in the legislature. He died in 1876, aged eighty-four years. Of his family of five children, all are now living, one son, George L., in West Fairlee engaged in trade and mining, and is chairman of the present board of selectmen.

      Capt. COMSTOCK moved from Thetford to West Fairlee in 1834 0r '35, and opened a general store in company with BRUCE & BOUTWELL, in a building located where E. P. GEORGE's store now stands. After a few years he sold out: his interest in the store and kept a public house where the present hotel now stands. After a time he sold his hotel and moved to a farm on Middle brook. He died August 24, 1884, at the residence of his son-in-law, Alvah BEAN. His widow is still living at the advanced age of eighty-nine years, the oldest person residing in the town.

      Israel BLISS was born in Chelsea, Vt., in 1797. In 1830 he married Philena ALLEN of Chelsea, by whom he reared a family of six children, -- Sarah J., Julia A., Albert G., Charles W., Wellis R., and John W., -- one of whom, Charles W., now resides in West Fairlee, engaged in the furniture business. Israel died in Vershire in 1869. His twin brother, Ira, was murdered in Burnside, Conn., in 1873. In early life Israel was a clothier, but later devoted himself to farming.

      Alvah BEAN was born in Plainfield, Sullivan county, N. H., July 29, 1814, and came to West Fairlee in August, 1839, and took charge of the farmers' and mechanics' store, then kept in a small building where E. P. GEORGE's store now stands. He married Phoebe A. COMSTOCK, of Fairlee, in 1847, by whom he has had no children. Mr. BEAN has always taken an active interest in town affairs, represented the town in 1848, '49, '53 and '54, was senator in 1862-63, has been town treasurer thirty-seven years, town clerk forty years, register of probate twenty-six years, judge of probate four years, and justice of the peace thirty-seven years. 

      Micah GEORGE came to Vershire from New Hampshire at an early day, married and reared a family of four sons and four daughters, and died in West Fairlee in 1860, at the advanced age of ninety-one years. Two of his daughters removed to the West, the other children located in this vicinity. Page GEORGE, son of Micah, located in Thetford, and there engaged in farming. He married Luna MATSON and reared a family of five children, all now living, Royal J. and Edmund P. in this town, Mrs. Stephen B. POOR in Fairlee, and Charles T. and Mrs. W. L. BABCOCK in Minnesota. He died in West Fairlee in 1876. Edmund P. came to this town in 1858, bought out the store of Alvah BEAN, and has since then carried on a mercantile business here. He was appointed postmaster in 1861, and held the office till 1885. He was senator from the county in 1876-77.
David MILLER, from Chichester, N. H., located in Strafford about 1800, in the northeast corner of the town, and carried on the business of farming. He died in 1837. Moses, son of David, was born in November, 1800, and now resides on the farm where his father settled. He had five children, four of whom are now living -- Madison M., Harrison D., Jonathan, and Rosina. Rosella died in infancy. Madison M. is engaged in farming and breeding fine horses in this town. He located here in 1852, and has held the offices of selectman, lister, and justice of the peace. Of his family of three children, two, Harris M. and John C., are now living, in this town. Mary C. died in 1875, at the age of fourteen years.

      John TEBBETTS, from Methuen, Mass., settled in Bradford about 1820. He was a hatter by trade, and also a farmer. He married Relief CLOUGH, who now resides in this town, aged eighty-eight years. Of his six children, all are now living, one son in Woodbury, Vt., Elizabeth and Azubah in this town, Mrs. Austin CHAMBERLIN in Fairlee, Mrs. George MARTIN in Bradford, and Joseph, born in Bradford in 1832, engaged in business in Boston three years, when he came to West Fairlee in 1858, where he has held all the principal offices of the town, was elected assistant judge of the county in 1882, and re-elected in 1884, which office he now holds. John TEBBETTS died at West Fairlee in 1864.

      Dr. Marcus J. BIXBY was born in Haverhill and reared in Warren, N. H. He began the practice of medicine at East Orange, Vt., and was also engaged in the boot and shoe business with his father-in-law, John CHUBB. He did not at first devote his whole time to medicine, but the growth of his practice led him to give it his exclusive attention. He graduated from Boston university, in 1880 settled in Corinth, and in 1884 located in this town. He married Angeline CHUBB in 1861, and has four sons and one daughter.

      The Methodist Episcopal church, located at West Fairlee village, was organized by J. D. BEEMAN, with ten members, in x877, Rev. L. L. BEEMAN being the first pastor. Their house of worship, the present building, was erected of wood in 1855, at a cost of $2,000, about its present value, and will comfortable seat 300 persons. The society now has fifty members, under the pastoral charge of Rev. W. M. GILLIS. The Sunday-school has thirteen teachers, with a membership of 300.

      The Congregational church, at West Fairlee Center, organized December 19, 1809, with six members, by Rev. Joseph FULLER, was first under the pastoral charge of Rev. Joseph TRACY. The first house of worship was built in 1811, of wood, which in time gave place to the present structure, also of wood, erected in 1855, at a cost of about. $2,000. It will comfortably seat 300 persons. The society now has forty-six members, with Rev. L. P. TUPPER, pastor.
 
 

Gazetteer Of Orange County, Vt. 1762-1888.
Compiled And Published by Hamilton Child,
The Syracuse Journal Company, Printers and Binders. 
Syracuse, N. Y., 1888.
Page 506-510.

Transcribed by Karima Allison ~ 2004