is situated in the southwestern part of the county and bounded on the north
by Poultney and Ira; east by Ira and Tinmouth; south by Tinmouth and Wells,
and west by Wells and Poultney. The territory of which it is formed is
of a peculiar shape and was taken from the towns of Poultney, Ira, Tinmouth
and Wells. The charters of these four towns were granted in 1761, except
that of Ira, the date of which is unknown ; but it is supposed to bear
about the same date. About three-fourths of a mile north of the village
of Middletown, a little east of the present dwelling-house of Harvey LEFFINGWELL,
on land now owned by a Mr. CAIRNES, is the spot where was formerly located
the northeast corner of Wells, southeast corner of Poultney, the southwest
corner of Ira, and the northwest corner of Tinmouth. The line from thence,
between the towns of Wells and Tinmonth, ran south, passing in its course
through the eastern part of the village between the school-house and the
stream, a little west of the school-house; also, in its course further
south, it makes the west line of the "old Zenas FRISBIE farm" (now owned
by M. E. WHEELER), the east line of the "Thomas MORGAN farm," and passes
very near the west line of the "BURNAM farm," now owned by S. W. SOUTHWORTH,
and the "PERRY farm," now owned by Mr. ATWATER. The line from thence (the
corners above named), between the towns of Poultney and Ira, ran directly
north from those corners, and lines running east and west from thence divided
the towns above named.
The township of Middletown was created
by an act of the Legislature of October 28, 1784. Prior to that time the
territory of which it is composed was included in the above named four
towns, with the lines as above indicated. The settlement of the town, or
the territory, was begun some years before 1784; and in speaking of such
settlement it will be mentioned as if in Middletown.
The exact date of the first settlement
cannot be given, except upon the authority of Mr. Thompson, who says in
his history that "the settlement was commenced a short time before the
Revolutionary War by Thomas MORGAN and others," "and mills were erected."
Mr. MORGAN came here before the war, as did also Richard and Benjamin HASKINS,
Phineas CLOUGH and Luther FILMORE. Mr. MORGAN, who lived until 1841, informed
Judge FRISBIE before his death that he found his way hither by marked trees
and that when he arrived not a tree had been cut; the entire town was an
unbroken forest. He also said that he came about three years before the
war began; but he probably considered the stirring events at Ticonderoga
and Burgoyne's invasion as the beginning of the conflict; if so, he probably
made his settlement in 1774. Mr. MORGAN bought one hundred acres of land
about three-fourths of a mile south of the village site, and built his
log house a few feet north of the site of the framed house on the "old
MORGAN farm" (now owned by his grandson, Daniel MORGAN). In the summer
of 1777, so energetically had he labored, he had four acres of wheat sixty
or seventy rods from his house, opposite of where Orson THOMAS now lives,
and on the east side and adjoining what is known as the "Coy Hill road."
He was called away to the struggle at Bennington and the wheat was never
harvested. Richard HASKINS commenced his settlement a little east of the
village site and he, too, had two acres of wheat in 1777, which he never
harvested, but went away to Bennington. Benjamin HASKINS had built his
log house and begun his improvements near where Deacon A. HAYNES now lives.
Luther Filmore had put up a log house on the southwest corner of what is
now known as "the green," in the village. Where Phineas CLOUGH first located
himself is not now positively known; but he very early settled on what
has since been known as the "ORCUTT farm," now occupied by Mr. LOBDILL.
These five men are all who are now known to have been here before the Revolutionary
War. They all left in the summer of 1777, joined the militia at Manchester,
and were all in Bennington battle.
But were "mills erected" before the
war? The mills known as “Miner's mills," in an early day were built by
Gideon MINER in 1782. They were located about a mile and a half east of
where the village now is. Mr. MORGAN then assisted Mr. MINER, as a workman,
in building the mills. MORGAN brought the mill irons from Bennington on
a horse. Members of the MINER family informed Mr. FRISBLE that there was
some sort of a mill there when Mr. MINER came, while descendants of Mr.
MORGAN were equally confident that he had nothing to do with mills until
he worked for Mr. MINER in 1782. If there was a mill there before that
time, it was never operated and was rebuilt in 1782 by Mr. MORGAN.
In Mr. THOMPSON's work referred to
he says that the settlers "returned after the war," which is somewhat indefinite.
While there was little done in the way of settlement for a few years after
the summer of 1777, still Benjamin HASKINS and Phineas CLOUGH were back
here in 1778, and MORGAN and FILMORE a little later; a good many others
were here before the close of the war.
Azor PERRY came as early as 1778. James
and Thomas MCCLURE, it is supposed, came in 1779. William and Jonathan
FRISBIE came in 1781; and Gideon MINER, Nathaniel WOOD and his sons, Jacob
and Ephraim, Caleb Smith, Jonathan BREWSTER, Gamaliel WALDO, Nathan WALTON,
and some others were here as early as 1782. And Joseph SPAULDING and some
others, it is supposed, came the same year. We find that a Congregational
Church was organized as early as the spring of 1782, and Mr. SPAULDING
was made its clerk. It is clear that the settlements from the close of
the war were quite rapid, as in the fall of 1784 the people petitioned
the Legislature, then in session in Rutland, for a new town; a movement
indicating that the settlers in those parts of Poultney, Ira, Tinmouth
and Wells now included in Middletown, fraternized and felt among themselves
mutual interests, in spite of the town lines. Two churches had already
been organized -- another proof of that fact -- Congregational and Baptist,
and a log church erected near the southeast corner of the present burial
ground; the members were from the four towns, but they all had common interests.
If the town lines had not been changed, it is more than probable that the
same village must have grown up here. The territory was formed apparently
by nature for a town, and the increasing number of settlers realized it.
The prayer of the petitioners for the
town was granted. On the 28th day of October, 1784, the following act was
passed by the Legislature:
An An Act constituting a new
Town by the name of Middletown:
the inhabitants of a part of the towns of Wells, Tinmouth, Poultney and
Ira, which are included in the bounds hereinafter described, have, bytheir
petition, represented that they labor under great inconveniences with their
several towns for public worship and town business, by reason of being
surrounded by high mountains,
it therefore enacted, and it is hereby enacted by the representatives of
the freemen of the State of Vermont in General Assembly met, and by the
authority of the same, that the tract of land or district hereinafter described,
be, and is hereby created and incorporated into a township, by the name
of Middletown, and the inhabitants thereof and their successors with the
like privileges and prerogatives, which the other towns in the State are
invested with, viz.:
at a beech tree marked, standing west 26 degrees south 310 chains from
the northeast corner of Wells; thence east 40 degrees south 290 chains,
to a white ash tree standing in Tinmouth west line; thence east 10 degrees
south 45 chains, to a beech marked; thence north 33 degrees east 264 chains,
to a beech marked; thence north to degrees west 333 chains, to stake and
stones standing in Poultney east line; thence south to degrees west 28
chains, to stake and stones; thence west 11 degrees north 60 chains to
a small beech marked; thence south 45 chains, to a hard beech tree; thence
west 40 degrees south 207 chains 5 links, to a stake and stones standing
in Wells north line; thence west -- south 4 chains, to a stake; thence
south 10 degrees west 185 chains, to the first mentioned bounds."
These boundaries took three thousand
five hundred and ten acres from Tinmouth, six thousand one hundred and
eighteen acres from Wells, two thousand three hundred and eighty-eight
acres from Poultney, and one thousand eight hundred and twenty acres from
Ira; making in all fourteen thousand eight hundred and forty-one acres.
Joseph SPAULDING, who was a surveyor,
was prominent in procuring the charter of the town, and it is believed
that the form of the surrounding mountains governed the survey, to a large
extent, thus giving the town its peculiar shape. After Mr. Spaulding had
completed his survey and the arrangements for presenting the matter to
the Legislature, the inhabitants conceded to him the honor of naming the
town, which he did. As he had removed from Middletown, Conn., and as the
new town was situated, if the term may be used, "in the middle of four
towns," he thought that name an appropriate one. In the fall of 1784, he,
with the petition in his pocket, went before the Legislature in Rutland,
presented the matter and the act was passed, as stated.
Following is a brief record of a town
meeting in this town, held November 17, 1784, in the log meeting-house:
a town meeting holden at Middletown, at the meeting-house, on Wednesday,
the 17th day of November, 1784, Voted, Edmund BIGELOW, Moderator; Joseph
ROCKWELL, Town Clerk; Edmund BIGELOW, Justice of the Peace; elected as
a committee, Edmund BIGELOW, Joseph ROCKWELL and Joseph SPAULDING, to;
reckon with several inhabitants of the town respecting costs made in getting
the town established. The meeting was adjourned to Thursday the 22d inst."
the adjourned meeting -- voted, That the amount allowed by the committee
chosen for examining accounts for getting the town established be two pounds,
12 shillings and 7 pence.
This meeting and its proceedings must
be looked upon as the organization of the town. From this record we find
that Edmund BIGELOW was the first moderator of the town and the first justice
of the peace; the latter office he held many years; and Joseph ROCKWELL
was the first town clerk.
The first annual town meeting was holden
March 7, 1785, at which meeting they elected the following town officers:
Hon. Thomas PORTER, of Tinmouth, being present, was chosen moderator, Joseph
ROCKWELL, town clerk; Jonathan BREWSTER, Jacob WOOD and Edmund BIGELOW,
selectmen; Caleb SMITH, town treasurer; Ephraim WOOD, constable; Ashur
BLUNT, Iona GRISWOLD, Reuben SEAN, listers ; Silas MALLARY, collector;
Jona FRISBIE, leather sealer; Samuel SUNDERLIN, Reuben SEARL, jurymen;
Nathan RECORD, tithingman; Elisha GILBERT, hayward ; Caleb SMITH, brander
of horses; Increase RUDD, sealer of measures; Edmund BIGELOW, sealer of
weights; Abraham WHITE, Solomon HILL, John SUNDERLIN, Benjamin HASKINS,
Benjamin COY, Phineas CLOUGH and James MCCLURE, highway surveyors; Luther
FILMORE, pound-keeper, Thomas MORGAN, William FRISBIE and Increase RUDD,
At the same meeting Ephraim WOOD, Gamaliel
WALDO, Reuben SEARL, Bethel HURD, Benjamin COY, James MCCLURE and Edmund
BIGELOW, were appointed a committee to divide the town into school districts.
That committee afterwards performed that duty, and the school districts,
with a very little alteration, remain to this day as recommended by that
Immediately following this town meeting
record is a "roll of the freemen of Middletown," which was doubtless made
in the spring of 1785. Following are the names:
Ephraim WOOD, John SUNDERLIN, Daniel
HASKINS, Samuel SUNDERLIN, Jacob WOOD, Reuben SEARL, Joseph SPAULDING,
Jona BREWSTER, Benjamin HASKINS, Jona HAYNES, Increase RUDD, Jesse HUBBARD,
Barzilla HANDY, Gideon MINER, Isaiah JOHNSON, Abel WHITE, Benjamin COY,
Timothy SMITH, Francis PERKINS, Samuel STODDARD, Benjamin BUTLER, Nathan
RECORD, Jona MEHURAN, Elisha GILBERT, Richard HASKINS, Thomas MORGAN, Chauncy
GRAVES, William FRISBIE, Anson PERRY, Sylvanus STONE, Thomas FRENCH, Gideon
BUEL, Caleb SMITH, Iona. GRISWOLD, Gamaliel WALDO, Joseph ROCKWELL, David
GRISWOLD, Edmund BIGELOW, Philemon WOOD, Jona FRISBIE.
By this list we are enabled to know
who were the early settlers of the town, and to it may be added the names
of Luther FILMORE, James and Thomas MCCLURE, and Silas MALLARY, who are
known to have been here prior to 1785. FILMORE, as we have seen, was here
before the Revolutionary War, and was elected pound-keeper at the first
annual meeting; MALLARY was elected collector, and James and Thomas MCCLURE
are known to have been here about as early as 1779.
Interrupted as the settlement of this
town was by the Revolutionary War, yet the grand list taken in the spring
of 1785, the first one made, shows that five hundred and seventy-four acres
had been cleared; and the personal property in the list was eighty-one
cows, forty-seven horses, thirty-six oxen, eighty steers, seventy-three
head of other cattle and twenty-two swine. This indicates a remarkable
growth and development in the few years of settlement preceding the date
of the list. Judge FRISBIE's father, who was a son of William FRISBIE,
told the judge what the condition of the settlement in the town was when
his father came in 1781. He said that FILMORE had cleared up three or four
acres where the village now is. MORGAN had a little more than that cleared,
and the two HASKINSes and Azor PERRY had made some progress in their clearing.
He told me that according to his recollection, six log houses had been
put up within the present limits of the town, when he came here. Those
he gave me as Mr. MORGAN's, FILMORE's, the two HASKINSes', CLOUGH's and
Azor PERRY's. Those were undoubtedly all there were in the town, or within
what is now the town, in the spring of 1781, except what had been put up
on the McClure road," as it has been called -- for it is well known that
Isaac CLARK (old Rifle) settled there as early as 1779, and that year he
was made town clerk of Ira, and James and Thomas MCCLURE settled there,
it is believed, the same year. At this time (1785) we find at least forty-four
freemen in the town -- the number of inhabitants might have been three
or four hundred, as most of the early settlers had large families.
A grist and saw-mill had been erected,
and were in active operation, grinding the grain of the settlers, and sawing
their lumber. Three framed houses had been built and preparations made
for erecting more. Of these first settlers in the town let us speak a little
more in detail.
Thomas MORGAN, as we have stated, made
the first clearing and claimed to have built the first framed house, though
he said that FILMORE and Richard HASKINS each began building the same season.
MORGAN's house stood on the lot now owned by Daniel MORGAN. Thomas MORGAN
was from Kent, Conn., and lived where he first settled to about the time
of his death, which occurred December 20, 1841, aged ninety-four years.
Jonathan MORGAN, his son, was the first child born in the town (1782).
He was for many years justice of the peace; represented the town in 1838,
and often held the office of selectman. He died December 3, 1857, from
the effects of being thrown from his wagon. He left three sons and four
daughters, of whom Daniel is the only one living in Middletown.
Luther FILMORE felled the forest where
the village stands. He came from Bennington and put up his cabin on the
southwest corner of the "green," as it is called. He afterwards built a
frame house on the opposite side of the road, in the yard of the place
now occupied by E. W. GRAY. He owned the land occupied by the burial ground
and deeded it to the town September 30, 1787; he also owned 150 acres including
the present limits of the village. He was the first innkeeper in the town,
beginning soon after he built his house. The tavern was kept there by him
and a part of the time by one of the BREWSTER family, until some years
after 1800. Sometime after 1811 Henry GRAY bought and lived in the house
until about 1835, when he built the brick house; the old tavern house was
moved down below "Cider-mill Hill," and repaired for tenant uses. Luther
FILMORE died February 9, 1809, at the age of sixty, leaving several sons,
none of whom are living.
Richard HASKINS returned after the
war to his settlement, near where Lucius COPELAND lives. He was from Norwich,
Conn., where the WOOD families came from; they came in 1782 and took Mr.
HASKINS's settlement and he took the next lot north - now the Copeland
HASKINS farm. He lived a long life and raised a large family; he died about
1845 in Highgate, Vt., when over eighty years old. Benjamin HASKINS was
a prominent man, a member of the Congregational Church, and though somewhat
eccentric, was a useful man in the community. It is said that he successfully
encountered and routed fourteen wolves with no arms but a cudgel, when
they attacked some cattle he was driving home. He died in 1824, aged seventy
Phineas CLOUGH died September 24,,
1809, on the farm where he first settled; he left but one child, a daughter
who married Erasmus ORCUTT. She inherited the farm, which became known
as the "Orcutt farm." She was the mother of five children, the only living
one beings Phineas C. ORCUTT, now in New Jersey.
Azor PERRY was deeded a piece of land
by one of the Tinmouth proprietors in 1777, the tract being in what is
now Middletown, and in the spring of 1778 shouldered his axe, came on and
took possession of his land. It was the same tract now known as the Azor
PERRY farm, and owned and occupied by Jonathan and Merritt ATWATER. He
built a log house where Mr. ATWATER's dwelling now stands, covering it
with poles and bark. Here he lived the first year alone, and was married
at Bennington in 1779. He was from the town of Orange, Conn., but lived
in Bennington a while before settling in Middletown. He was a rough, unpolished
man, but of strong will and high courage, and fought at Bennington and
other early battles of the war. Many anecdotes are related of his prowess
in fighting wolves and bears, for which space cannot be here given. He
had eleven children, several of whom are still living; one of these is
Mrs. ATWATER, who lives on the old farm. Mr. PERRY died November 15, 1824,
Thomas and James MCCLURE probably came
next in the order of settlement. They were natives of Scotland, and with
another brother first stopped at Wallingford, after coming to Vermont.
A little latter, in 1779, James and Thomas came on farther and decided
to locate in the northeast part of the town (then in Ira). Their settlement
was made at the upper end of the road which leaves the main road running
from Middletown to Tinmouth, a little east of what is known as the "EDGERTON
place." It was supposed a village would be located at this point, which
led to their selecting it as a place of residence. The two brothers appear
to have been prominent men and held many important positions. James died
February 22, 1815, at the age of sixty-seven years; Thomas died before
1800. Each left a family; David G. and Samuel were sons of James. David
G. was a physician and succeeded Dr. Ezra CLARK; was in practice here several
years prior to 1822, and removed to Ohio. Samuel was a farmer and died
in Middletown; had a large family, of whom two sons and two daughters are
living. His son, David G., lived and died in Rutland; his daughters married,
one of them Albert H. TUTTLE, of the Rutland Herald, and the other C. M.
HAVEN. Harry B. MCCLURE, second son of Samuel, lived many years in Middletown,
but removed to Spencerport, N. Y.
Next in the order of settlement came
William FRISBIE, whose name appears on the roll of 1785. He was a native
of Bethlehem, Conn., and lived in Stillwater, N. Y., a number of years
before coming to Middletown; all of his children were born there. He took
part in the battle of Saratoga, near his own home. The land he bought was
what is now known as the "BUXTON farm," and he put up his log house near
where the brick house now stands; in 1785, or 1786, he built a frame-house
a little northwest of the brick house site. He is remembered as a somewhat
eccentric man; unyielding in his principles and intolerant of a wavering
disposition in others. He died March 1, 1813, at the age of seventy-six
years. He had two sons and four daughters. The oldest son, William, jr.,
was seventeen when his father came to the town; he studied medicine with
Dr. CLARK and began practice in company with him, but soon went to Pittsford,
where he practiced until about 1820 thence he removed to Phelps, N. Y.,
where he died about 1837. He has descendants in Phelps and several in the
West. Zenas, the second son, was a farmer and lived and died in Middletown,
aged seventy-six years; he died January 19, 1851, leaving eight children;
two sons and a daughter live West, and a daughter, Mrs. Lucy A. THOMAS,
lives in Middletown, and a son, Hon. Barnes FRISBIE, now lives in Poultney,
and is one of the assistant judges of the county.
The settlements cannot be further taken
up in chronological order; but Captain Joseph SPAULDING, a name ever to
be honored in the town, may be appropriately alluded to next. He first
settled on what has been known at the “Micah VAIL farm," now owned by C.
CLIFT, but soon removed to where William SPAULDING now lives; this place
has ever since been owned in the family. It has already been indicated
that Captain SPAULDING was the leading spirit in the formation of the town,
and the people very properly made him their first representative. He was
about thirty-six years old when he came here; had taught school in Connecticut
and also taught the first one in this town, following the honorable occupation
for some forty winters and until he was more than seventy-five years old.
He was captain of the first militia in town and held that office at the
time of the Shay's rebellion in 1786; he started with his company to the
relief of the courts at Rutland, but learned at Castleton that their services
were not needed and they returned. He died February 25, 1840, at the great
age of ninety-six years. He was a candid, judicious and honorable Christian
man. Harley SPAULDING, now living on the next place north of the old homestead,
and Deacon Julius SPAULDING, of Poultney, are the only representatives
here of the families that sprang from Captain Joseph SPAULDING.
Jonathan BREWSTER came in as early
as 1782 and settled on the farm now owned by William KELLY, about a mile
and one-half south of the village. He was a leader in the formation of
the Congregational Church and its first deacon; represented the town four
years, and died April 29, 1820, aged seventy-six years. He had a large
family, seven of whom -- Orson, Oliel, Oramel, Jonathan, Eunice, Lydia
and Joanna -- survived him. Orson removed to Northampton, Mass., and there
died; Ohel died and left two daughters, one of whom is the widow of Dr.
Amos FRISBIE, formerly of Poultney; Jonathan and Oramel removed to northern
New York and died there; Eunice married Fitch LOOMIS, and was the mother
of Reuben and Fitch Loomis, jr., Mrs. Henry GRAY, Mrs. Thaddeus TERRILL
and Mrs. JOHNSON; she died about 1851. Lydia became the wife of William
FAY, the well-known early publisher of Rutland; Joanna married Luther CLEVELAND.
Gideon MINER removed from Woodbury,
Conn., to Rutland in March, 1779, and to Middletown in 1782; He settled
about two miles east of the village, at the place formerly called "Miner's
Mills." He built a grist-mill and saw-mill, the first in the town. He was
much esteemed and died in 1808, aged eighty years. Gideon MINER's oldest
child was Abigail, who married Thomas DAVIDSON, and died in Saratoga, New
York, in 1843, at the age of seventy-eight. Samuel Lewis MINER, the oldest
son, removed to Castleton in early life and died in 1817, aged fifty years,
leaving three children -- Roxena, Cyrena, and Lewis. Captain Joel MINER
was the third child, and became a man of unusual capacity and conducted
a large business; he was the leading man in the town at the time of his
death. He died suddenly at Montpelier, while attending the Legislature
in the fall of 1813, at the age of forty-four years; his children were
Ovid, now in the ministry in Syracuse, N. Y., and Lamson, also a clergyman,
and died in the midst of his usefulness at the age of thirty-three. Gideon
Miner, sr.'s, fourth child was also named Gideon, and became a prominent
man; was deacon in the Congregational Church nearly forty years, and removed
to Ohio in 1834, where he died at the home of his son, Dr. Erwin L., in
1854, aged eighty-four years. Ahiman Lewis MINER, son of Deacon MINER,
is an attorney and now lives in Manchester (see Chapter XVII). Deacon MINER's
other children were Chloe, who died in Ohio; Malvina, living in Missouri
as the wife of a clergyman; a daughter who died in Onondaga county, N.
Y., and another who died in Ohio in 1858; Orlin H., removed to Ohio in
1834 and died two years later; and Thomas Davison MINER, who died in Ohio
in 1856. Returning to the children of Deacon MINER, sr., there were Asenath,
who married Alexander MURRAY and removed to Albany, N. Y., and Lamson,
who died in 1806. The youngest was Elizabeth, who married Moses COPELAND
and had four children, Lucius, Martin, Betsey and Edwin. Lucius and Edwin
are among the prominent citizens of this town; Martin became a lawyer and
died in Bristol, Vt., January 11, 1861. Betsey married Deacon Julius SPAULDING
and died in Poultney in 1865. Moses COPELAND died May 3, 1858, aged eighty-eight
years, and his wife, Elizabeth, died in Poultney in the fall of 1866.
The name of Caleb SMITH is on the roll
of 1785, and he probably came here as early as 1783. He settled where Elihu
B. COOK now lives and was prominent in establishing the Baptist Church;
was its first moderator and first deacon; he was also town treasurer. He
died February 10, 18o8, at the age of fifty-nine years, leaving a son,
Jedediah, and a daughter who married Roswell TILLIE, of Tinmouth.
Gamaliel WALDO came here as early as
1782 from Pawlet, finding his way by marked trees. While Ticonderoga was
occupied by ALLEN and his men, Mr. WALDO was employed to convey provisions
to the fort, a perilous duty; he lived at Pownal during the Revolutionary
War, and settled here on the farm owned by Mr. HULBURT, cleared that place
and remained there until his death, in 1829. He was the father of one son
and four daughters.
Asa GARDNER, who died here in 1849,
came in with his father's family when he was ten years old, and lived to
be nearly eighty. His three sons, Charles, Almer and Daniel R., all lived
and died in this town. Asa BLUNT and Nathan WALTON came about the same
time Mr. WALDO did and settled north of him on the hill road to Ira. Mr.
BLUNT removed to northern New York quite early. Mr. WALTON raised a large
family and died in 1829.
Edmund BIGELOW, who was the moderator
of the meeting at which the town was organized, and the first justice of
the peace, settled where M. E., WHEELER lives; he seems to have been the
acting magistrate for fifteen years or more following his first election,
and to have been a competent official. The late Dr. BIGELOW, of Bennington,
was his son.
Joseph ROCKWELL settled where the widow
of E. PRINDLE resides, and was the first town clerk. The late Solomon ROCKWELL
was his son, and other descendants live in St. Lawrence county, N.Y.
John and Samuel SUNDERLIN settled north
of the village; Samuel probably on the place recently owned by Mrs. GERMOND.
John was a lieutenant of militia under Captain SPAULDING and a man of real
worth. His two daughters married Dyer LEFFINGWELL and Ohel BREWSTER. John's
son, Daniel, married Nancy STODDARD, and their sons, Erwin and Edwin, succeeded
Merritt and Horace CLARK as merchants in Middletown. John SUNDERLIN died
about 1826, on the farm now owned by the widow of Whiting MERRILL. Samuel
passed much of his life in Shoreham, but died in Middletown, March 11,
Increase RUDD settled on the farm now
occupied by Mrs. Aden H. GREEN and her son, Albert A. He had a large family,
none of whom are left in this vicinity.
Gideon BUEL and Jonathan and David
GRISWOLD all settled on what is now the road from "Miner's Mills" to the
HASKINS place, where Deacon HAYES lives; they were all Revolutionary soldiers.
Roswell BUEL, an attorney and member of the Rutland bar, is a grandson
of Gideon BUEL. (See Chapter XVII). Jonathan GRISWOLD moved from his first
settlement to the farm next on the north, now known as the GRISWOLD farm.
He had a son named Jonathan, who was killed by the discharge of a musket,
heavily loaded with a blank cartridge, near his head on a "training day"
in June, 1816. Jonathan, sr., died earlier than his brother David. The
latter lived to December 10, 1842, being ninety-three years old at his
death. All of his children, except his son David, removed from the town
many years ago. The son married Emily PAUL, daughter of Stephen PAUL and
sister of Dr. Eliakim PAUL; they had one son and four daughters.
Jonathan FRISBIE, a brother of William
FRISBIE, settled near where Martin H. COY now lives. He had several children,
most of whom died young.
Benjamin COY went to Tinmouth before
the Revolutionary War, and after that struggle was over, settled in this
town where his grandson, Martin H. COY, now lives. He was an industrious,
honorable man; had a large family. Martin H. and Charles P. are sons of
Reuben, son of Martin; Charles P. has moved to the West.
Francis PERKINS was a faithful soldier
of the Revolution; he was from New London, Conn., and located first where
John LEWIS lived and afterward, about 1786, removed to where Charles GARDNER
lived; he remained there until his death. His first summer there in his
log house, with his wife and his little child, before he had a clearing
made on which to raise anything, was one of much privation; they lived
much of the time on greens and leeks. Once or twice he carried a little
potash to Manchester, with which he purchased what .he could bring home
on his back; and on one occasion he worked for Azor TERRY a day, for which
he was given half a bushel of grain; this he carried to Miner's grist-mill,
had it ground and carried it home, making about nine miles travel, besides
his day's work, during the day. Such were some of the privations of the
fathers of the town. He was an honorable and upright man, and died December
26, 1844, at the age of eighty-six years.
Jonathan HAYNES was probably the last
man who settled here prior to the making of the roll given a few pages
back; he came early in March, 1785, and his name appears on the roll of
Captain Samuel ROBINSON's company, which was in the battle of Bennington.
Mr. HAYNES was severely wounded in that engagement, and at first given
up as beyond recovery; but he survived, settled here and built a log house
a few rods southeast of where the schoolhouse in the south district now
stands, and on the opposite side of the road. Soon afterwards he removed
about half a mile to what is known as the HAYNES farm, where his grandson
now lives. He died in Middletown May 13, 1813, at the age of fifty-nine
years. Of his large family all removed from this town except Hezekiah.
The latter also had a large family, two of the sons being physicians; these
were Bacchus, now in Rutland, and Sylvanus H., deceased.
The foregoing list includes the families
who settled here before the spring of 1785, with a little of their locations
and what they accomplished. They were people who came here fully imbued
with energy, perseverance and a determination to create homes in the wilderness;
how well they succeeded is known toy all. Leaving for a time this record
of settlements, let us see what the town authorities, as well as the men
we have named, turned their attention to in early years.
The town took early steps to provide
a burial-ground, the first one being on land now owned by Mrs. GREEN, opposite
the present foundry and saw-mill of E. W. GRAY; the land was then owned
by Increase RUDD, but the purchase, made on the 30th of July, 1787, was
from Luther FILMORE. Following is the language of the deed, in which we
find the location of the first school-house:
This ground was almost entirely occupied
with graves in less than seventy years. General Jonas CLARK saw the necessity
of enlarging the grounds, and in October, 1853, conveyed to the town about
an acre of land adjoining the old ground on the west; this was a gift to
the town, the only condition being that it be kept fenced.
at the corner of the road, four rods west of the school-house in the center
of the town at a stake and stones, thence running west sixteen rods, thence
south ten rods to a stake and stones, thence sixteen rods to a stake and
stones, thence ten rods to first mentioned bounds."
In 1791 the first census was taken
and showed the population of Middletown to be six hundred and ninety-nine
-- only a little more than one hundred less than at the present time. Rapid
progress had been made, not only in clearing up lands and putting up buildings,
but two churches had become firmly established and prosperous; schools
had been organized in about, every district; roads had been made and by
the united effort of a hardy, intelligent and industrious population, they
were moving along harmoniously.
Another grist and saw-mill had been
erected by Nathan RECORD, near where the road which runs to the "BARBER
place" crosses the race-way that now carries the water to GRAY's mills,
on land now owned by Mrs. Anna CLARK.
A blacksmith's shop, and one or two
other shops had been built in the village. Mr. FILMORE had begun to keep
tavern, and John BURNAM, who moved into this town some time during the
season of 1785, at about this time (1791) commenced building mills and
dwelling-houses at the place since known as "Burnam Hollow." Mr. BURNAM
removed from Shaftsbury to Middletown, and first purchased largely of real
estate in the south part of the town. His purchases included what has been
known as the “Burnam farm," now owned and occupied by Mr. S. W. SOUTHWORTH;
also the Whiting MERRILL farm, lying west of Mr. SOUTHWORTH's, and also
a large tract of land lying south of the MERRILL farm. He first put up
a log house in what is now called the "upper orchar " on Mr. SOUTHWORTH's
farm; the road then ran in that vicinity. The next year (1786) he built
a frame house, and in the year 1791 he again made large purchases of real
estate in the west part of the town; he began at once the erection of a
dwelling house, afterwards known as the "Sam WILLARD house," which is still
standing and said to be the oldest house in the town. His son, Jacob, occupied
these premises, while the father continued his extensive operations, building
mills, a forge, foundry, an oil-mill, carding-machine, a distillery and
dwellings. All these manufactures were successfully inaugurated and carried
on until the great freshet of 1811, which swept them all away. He rebuilt
the forge and saw-mill, but did not enter largely into business again.
Mr. BURNAM was a lawyer and a man of
uncommon ability; was born in Old Ipswich, Mass., in 1742 and came to Bennington
in 1761, being one of the first settlers in this State; he represented
the town in the Legislature six years, and died in Middletown August 1,
1829, leaving four sons and two daughters, none of whom are now living;
indeed, none of his many descendants now live in this vicinity.
The census of the town in 1800 shows
the population to have been one thousand and sixty-six – a gain of three
hundred and sixty-seven in nine years. This indicates very rapid settlement.
The village had sprung into existence with about as many inhabitants as
it now has, and probably more business. Every part of the town was settled
and the farms were cleared or partly cleared and under successful cultivation.
This affair (it having been generally
termed "the Woods scrape"), occurred in Middletown about the year 1800,
and deserves brief mention here; our account being drawn from the very
careful investigations made by judge Barnes FRISBIE. The WOOD families
were early settlers of the town and came from Bennington; some of them
were in this town as early as 1782 and were originally from Norwich, Conn.
In 1800 they were more numerous here than the people of any other name
in the town; there being at that time Nathaniel, Nathaniel, jr., Ephraim,
Jacob, Ebenezer, Ebenezer, jr., John and John, jr., Philemon, Lewis, David
and Moseley WOOD. The Elder Nathaniel was the father of Nathaniel, jr.,
and of Jacob and Ephraim. Nathaniel was a preacher and after the organization
of the Congregational Church, offered his services in their pulpit; but
Deacon Jonathan BREWSTER, having known him in Connecticut as a man who
delighted in controversy and neighborhood difficulty, opposed WOOD's proposition.
He was, however, a member of the church until 1789, when that body passed
In October of that year the church
excommunicated him. It appears that this trouble arose mainly from WOOD's
charges against other members and the church, in which he claimed that
injustice had been done him. He was a very ambitious man, had a strong
will, good mental power and could not endure defeat.
Joseph SPAULDING, Lewis WOOD and Increase RUDD be a committee to confer
with Mr. Nathaniel WOOD, and tell him his fault, viz.: of saying one thing
and doing contrary, and persisting in contention, and saying in convention
that he wished for a council; and when the church, by their committee,
proposed to have a council to settle the whole matter, he utterly refused."
Being thus excluded from the church
he began holding meetings of his own, chiefly in the dwellings of his sons.
At this time, however it might have been previously, his doctrines included
a belief in supernatural agencies and special judgments of God upon the
people. By the year 1800, such was his tenacity of purpose and his influence
upon others that he had drawn into his circle nearly as many as constituted
either of the other congregations. These he assumed to regard as modern
Israelites, or Jews, who were under the special guardianship of the Almighty,
while the "Gentile " (that is, all who were opposed to him) would suffer
for their action. Such was the situation of WOOD and his followers, when
the new phase of the affair was developed through the use of a witch hazel
rod for the discovery of buried treasure and money-
WOODs did not begin this feature of the business, but they were in condition
to readily assume it.
A man calling himself WINCHELL when
he first arrived in the place began using the hazel rod. He was undoubtedly
a great and an expert rascal, and probably came some time in the year 1799.
It developed that he was a fugitive from justice from Orange county, Vt.,
where he had been engaged in counterfeiting. He went to the house of Mr.
COWDRY, near the line between Wells and Middletown, and staid there for
some time, becoming intimate with that family. Mr. COWDRY was the father
of Oliver COWDRY, who later became a noted Mormon and claimed to have written
the book of Mormon. It is probable that while WINCHELL was at COWDRY's
he began his impositions in the way of money-digging. Later in the year
1799 he repaired to Ezekiel PERRY's, in the extreme south part of the town,
and remained there all winter, keeping secreted from public gaze and practicing
his deceptions whenever possible without attracting too much attention
to himself. In the spring of 1800 he became a little bolder and gathered
quite a number in that immediate neighborhood, whom he confidently assured
there was money buried in that region and that he could find it with the
rod. He told them if they would keep the secret and aid in digging for
it, they should share in the results. When everything was ready, WINCHELL,
followed by his dupes, took his rod, went to the hill east of PERRY's house
and there, just on the Tinmouth side of the line, pretended that the rod
had located the treasure. His followers immediately began digging, which
was continued two or three days, when the party began to show signs of
giving out. WINCHELL made other investigations with his rod, and informed
them that the money was in an iron chest under a great stone, and that
they would soon come to it. Again they went to work and soon struck a stone.
Again WINCHELL had recourse to his rod, and as a result told the men they
must wait till sundown before raising the stone; that not a word must be
uttered nor their faith waver in the least, or he could not answer for
the consequences. After much prying and lifting at a stone so heavy as
to defy their efforts, one of the men stepped on another's foot, and the
latter cried out, "Get off my toes !" WINCHELL then exclaimed, "The money
is gone! Flee for your lives!" Every man dropped his tools and ran in terror
from the spot. WINCHELL had got what little money the dupes had, while
the digging was going on, which was, doubtless, his prime object.
Soon after this affair WINCHELL made
the acquaintance of the WOODS, whom he found ready and anxious to join
in his ignoble work. They began the use of the rod, the elder WOOD using
it mostly as a means of revelation, from which he deduced and delivered
numerous prophecies; while Jacob, one of his sons, became the "expert"
in the use of the rod for treasure-finding. The WOODS did not do much of
the actual labor of digging, leaving the hard work for their followers,
while WINCHELL still remained concealed. The greatest part of the digging
was done on the BARBER farm and on the Zenas FRISBIE farm, then owned by
Ephraim WOOD; but they dug a good deal in many other places, and many ludicrous
incidents are related in connection with this pastime, for which we have
not the space. The rods-men, as they were called, became absolutely infatuated
and gave up most of their time to the folly, and several families outside
of this town indulged in money-digging.
Among the numerous instances of imposition
practiced and credulity developed, which we cannot stop to relate, was
a pretended revelation to the WOODS that they must build a temple. The
timber was prepared and the frame raised as far as the rafters, when another
revelation put an end to the project. 'Towards the end of the year 1800
it began to be apparent that a crisis was approaching. "Priest WOOD," as
the old man was called, was becoming more vehement and frenzied on his
favorite theme of God's judgments on the misguided people who did not adopt
his creed, and it was not difficult to perceive that some sort of a collapse
or crisis was near. Finally, as anticipated, a revelation came that there
was to be an earthquake, just prior td which "the destroyer" would pass
through the land and slay a portion of the unbelievers and the earthquake
would complete the destruction of the remainder, with their possessions.
The day predicted for this great event was January 14, 1801. Concerning
this climax of the whole miserable business we now quote from judge FRISBIE's
history of the town as follows:
When the day arrived for the earthquake,
the WOODS and their friends all collected at the house of Nathaniel WOOD,
who lived on what has been known as the Micah VAIL farm, which is now owned
and occupied by Crockee CLIFT, and as they left their own houses, prepared
them for the earthquake by putting the crockery on the floors, and wrote
on each of their door-posts "Jesus our passover was sacrificed for us."
The rods-men, or those who handled the rods, among whom Captain WOOD was
chief, were at Nathaniel jr.'s, house early in the day. One of their duties
on this occasion was to determine who were and who were not to be saved
from the approaching destruction or "plague," as they called it, and to
admit such into the house, and those only who were to be spared. The occasion
was with them the Passover, and how they kept it will pretty fully appear
from the letter given hereafter.
Up to the evening of this day the people
of the town had looked unconcerned upon this folly of the WOODS, but now
they became suddenly aroused, and many were very much alarmed. They feared
some evil might befall some of the inhabitants during the night. They (the
Gentiles) had no belief in the WOODS' predictions, but feared that they
or some of their followers would themselves turn "destroying angels" and
kill some of the inhabitants, or get up an artificial earthquake by the
use of powder, which would result in injury to persons or property. Captain
Joel MINER was commander-in-chief of the militia in town, and hastily collected
his company. Captain MINER was a very energetic, as well as a very earnest
man. General Jonas CLARK was at the time one of his subordinate officers,
and was teaching a singing school which had assembled at the house of Mr.
FILMORE. Captain MINER came in much excited, reprimanded him for his indifference
in the matter, and ordered him to duty. He left his singing school at once,
and took his place in the militia. The general was not in the habit of
neglecting his duty, but he was a philosopher, and it is probable that
he "didn't think there would be much of a shower." Captain MINER stationed
his company as sentinels and patrols in different parts of the town, with
directions to allow no person to pass them unless a satisfactory account
of themselves could be given, and especially to have an eye out for the
"destroying angels." The town had a quantity of powder, balls and flints,
as the law then required; these were kept in the Congregational meeting-house
in a sort of cupboard under the pulpit. From this the militia were supplied
with the requisite ammunition, and Jonathan MORGAN was left here to guard
the military stores. There was no sleep that night among the inhabitants;
fear, consternation, great excitement and martial law prevailed throughout
the night; but the morning came without any earthquake, or any injury done
to any of the inhabitants or their property, except Jacob WOOD's crockery
was broken up in his house, where he left it on the floor. A journeyman
hatter in the employ of Dyer LEFFINGWELL said he thought "the earthquake
hadn't ought to go for nothing," and went into the house (it was where
Lucius COPELAND, esq., now lives) in Captain WOOD's absence to attend the
Passover, and broke up and destroyed his crockery. That was the extent
of the mischief so far as the destruction of property was concerned, and
no individual received any bodily harm. The militia were dismissed in the
morning and went to their homes.
We now introduce the letter to which
reference has been made. It is from Rev. Laban CLARK, D. D., a man who
was over ninety years old when he wrote. Mr. Clark was with the WOODS on
the eventful night.
the year 1801 I traveled in the north part of Vermont, and in Lower Canada.
I met at that time a man who told wonderful stories of finding St. John's
rod, and the strange things it accomplished. November 1, 1801, I went to
Brandon circuit, which then included all of Rutland county. I heard, on
arriving there, much talk of the rod-men. People were saying that certain
persons were directed by rods to certain plants and roots that they used
to cure diseases, in many cases which they thought almost miraculous. In
December I went to Poultney for my first appointment there; and was informed
that two young women had been following the rods in a severe cold and dark
night over places where men could scarcely go by daylight. I went thence
to Middletown, where I preached in the house of a Mr. DONE, the only Methodist
family in the place. After the close of the services the people began to
inquire of Mr. DONE about the "girls' tramp;" and I learned that his daughter
was one of the young women above mentioned. When I could see Mr. DONE alone
I conversed with him upon the subject. He told me that many people in America
were, unknown to themselves, Jews, and these divining rods would designate
who they were. I asked him to let me see one of the rods. After some hesitation
lie did so. I asked him to learn by it whether I were a Jew. The rod immediately
pointed towards me. I said then, ‘If that is true, please tell me to what
tribe I belong?' He tried several different tribes, but there was no motion
of the rod. I then said, 'I think I belong to the tribe of Joseph.' At
once the rod pointed towards me; thus proving to my satisfaction that it
was moved by the imagination of the person who held it. I felt anxious
for the result of all this, but said little.
my next appointment in Poultney Brother DONE met me there. He looked so
very dejected I feared he had come for me to attend some funeral service
for a friend. I asked for his family, and for the cause of his sorrow.
'O,' said he, 'the judgments of God are abroad.' He then said they had
determined to spend the next day as a day of fasting and prayer, and he
desired me to go and be with them. Accordingly, accompanied by Mr. YATES
and Esquire WELLS, I went. When we arrived old Priest WOOD was lecturing
on the words, "Thy judgments are made manifest," Rev. xv, 4. When he closed
I announced my appointment to preach at Mr. DONE's that evening. I was
asked to change the place to the one we were now in, as seats were there
all ready. I consented. I went to Mr. D.'s to tea and found a great deal
of secret maneuvering going on. To give them all freedom I went to the
barn for a time. On my return, I found posted on the door, 'Christ our
Passover was sacrificed for us.' I said nothing but went to my meeting.
After preaching, several persons commenced holding up rods, and running
from one end of the room to the other. I prepared to leave, when Bro. D.
came to me much agitated, and expressed sorrow that I could not stay at
his house that night. 'Where will I go?' I said. He replied, 'O, you will
fare as well as the rest of us.' So I sat down. We were soon ordered to
go to the house fixed up for the occasion --a school room where they had
made a large fire. They all came in much agitated many weeping. I found
they were expecting there was to be an earthquake. I conversed with several
respecting those that had the rods. They professed to have been converted,
but all the evidence I could gain of the fact was that the rods would work
in their hands. We sat there till morning light. As morning dawned they
went out and looking upward, kept working the rods. At last the old minister
said: 'O, I told them I thought it would not be until tomorrow night.'
Soon after light I went to Brother DONE's and asked to take a nap. On passing
through the parlor I found all the crockery setting in the middle of the
floor. After sleeping, I was taking my breakfast, when two men came in
and said they had found out the whole mistake. They had thought because
the rods had directed them to have all their goods packed up, that there
was to be an earthquake. But this was the 14th day of the first month,
(it was the 14th of Jan.), and on the 14th day of the first month the children
of Israel were directed to keep the Passover with shoes and hats on. So
they were directed now to keep that day until they were prepared to go
into the New Jerusalem. I made no remark, but concluded they had now something
to work on to deceive the people.
eight weeks I had another appointment to preach in the same place. When
I inquired of Brother DONE respecting the rods, he seemed perfectly honest
and sincere, but all in earnest and perfectly duped. He told me the rods
were able invisibly to remove gold and silver. He said they had found that
there was a vast quantity of it in the earth, and the rods could collect
it to one place. They were now doing the work and expected to get enough
to pave the streets of the New Jerusalem. I asked him if the gold came
in its native state or in currency. He said in both. I then asked him if
they had any person who understood refining gold. He said they had one
who understood it perfectly well. ‘Where is he,' I said. 'He keeps himself
secreted in the woods,' he replied. I asked his name, and he told me it
was WINGATE. I remembered at once; it was the name of a man who was detected
about two years before in Bradford, Vt., in milling counterfeit dollars.
My father having been selectman of the town at the time, I had known the
case well. After some reflection, I said to Brother DONE, ‘I fear there
is counterfeiting going on, and if you are not careful I fear you will
be drawn into it and your reputation and your family ruined.' He was alarmed.
I said, ‘I think I can tell you how to escape. If my fears are correct,
they will call on you for sums of money, and will want it in specie.' He
replied they had already done so. I advised him then to put away his rod
and quit them, or he was a ruined man. Four weeks after that, when I returned,
he told me he had not seen his rod since I left. I asked him to burn it.
He replied his wife knew where it was, and left the room. She brought it
and I burned it.
ascertained afterwards that the eldest son of Priest WOOD, called Captain
WOOD, was the principal religious mover in sight while WINGATE kept concealed.
WOOD was WINGATE's outside agent, and got up the religious excitement to
aid the scheme."
The foregoing was penned by a friend
for Mr. CLARK, as will appear from the following, which accompanied the
same in Mr. CLARK's own hand.
The conclusion of this whole affair
is that WINGATE, mentioned by Mr. CLARK, and WINCHELL, as he called himself,
were one and the same; and that he was a counterfeiter hiding from justice,
and that this affair was inaugurated for the purpose of covering some further
scheme of counterfeiting. Whether the WOODs were privy to this feature
of the business, if it existed, seems to be in uncertainty. It is more
probable, perhaps, that their part in the affair was more intimately associated
with the religious fanaticism and projects of the elder WOOD; and that
when WINCHELL came on the scene with his "rod," they seized upon it for
their own purposes. Previous to the beginning of this imposition with the
rod, the testimony is to the effect that the WOODS were respectable members
of the community, and some of them were very able men; Jacob WOOD was elected
one of the selectmen at the first meeting after the town was organized;
Ephraim was elected constable at the first annual meeting and several times
afterward; Nathaniel, jr., was probably the superior of all the Woods in
ability and culture; he represented the town in the Legislature several
successive years; was for a long period the active justice of the peace
here; was town clerk several years and held other offices. He was father
of Reuben WOOD, who studied law with Jonas CLARK, went to Cleveland, Ohio,
about 1817, obtained a large practice and was made a judge of the Supreme
Court of that State, and later governor. After the collapse of the "earthquake"
the WOOD families soon removed from Middletown to Ellisburg, N. Y., and
it is said became excellent citizens.
As to Mr. CLARK's opinion that this
WOOD movement gave rise to the Mormon doctrines of Joe SMITH, there seems
to be a good foundation for it. The two "religions" were much the same
at the start; the father of Joe SMITH lived in Poultney at the time of
the WOOD affair and had a hand in it; WINCHELL went from here to Palmyra,
N. Y., where Joe SMITH's Mormon religion obtained its first substantial
footing; it has been said that Oliver COWDRY's father was in the "Wood
scrape," and he afterwards went to Palmyra and there WINCHELL and himself,
and later their sons, engaged in searching for money with the hazel rod.
We cannot devote more space to detailing the evidences that the seeds of
Mormonism, at least, were planted in Middletown; but the foregoing are
the stronger points of the proof and are thought to be quite convincing.
We have not sufficient ill-will towards Middletown to care to make the
proof any stronger.
In the year 1801 there was again placed
on the records a "roll of the freemen of Middletown." As a list for reference
it is valuable: Ephraim WOOD, John SUNDERLIN, Daniel HASKINS, Samuel SUNDERLIN,
Jacob WOOD, Jonathan BREWSTER, Benjamin HASKINS, Jonathan HAYNES, Increase
RUDD, Edmund BIGELOW, esq., Thomas MORGAN, Jonathan FRISBIE, Benjamin COY,
Timothy SMITH, Francis PERKINS, Samuel STODDARD, Benjamin BUTLER, Nathan
RECORD, Jonathan MEHURIN, Richard HASKINS, Joseph ROCKWELL, Jesse HUBBARD,
Gideon MINER, William FRISBIE, Azor PERRY, Thomas FRENCH, Gideon BUEL,
Jonathan GRISWOLD, Levi SKINNER, Wait RATHBON, Gamaliel WALDO, James MCCLURE,
Phineas CLOUGH, Nathan WALTON, Silas MALLARY, Nathan COLEGROVE, James SMITH,
Ashur BLUNT, Luther FILMORE, Nathan FORD, Ephraim CARR, Rufus CLARK, Baruk
RUDD, Nathaniel WOOD, Nathaniel WOOD, jr., Nehemiah HAZEN, Enos CLARK,
Theophilus CLARK, Solomon ROCKWELL, Orson BREWSTER, Lewis MINER, Edward
CORBIN, Thomas DAVISON, Bela CASWELL, Stephen RICHARDSON, Joel FRISBIE,
Joel MINER, Jacob BURNAM, Roswell CLARK, David TRACY, Ansel SHEPARDSON,
Reuben LOOMIS, Joseph CHUB, Joseph BATEMAN, John BURNAM, esq., William
DOWNEY, Jonathan DAVISON, Samuel TRACY, Jonas CLARK, Nathan COLGROVE, jr.,
Moses, LEACH, Dyar MATSON, Gideon MINER, jr., Joseph SPAULDING, jr., Caleb
WHITE, Russel BARBER, Amasa MEHURIN, Abel HUBBARD, Ezra CLARK, Augustus
FRISBIE, Johnson RUDD, Ebenezer WOOD, Ebenezer BATEMAN, Fitch LOOMIS, John
BURNAM, 3d, Mosley WOOD, Alexander MURRAY, Jacob HARRINGTON, Calvin COLGROVE,
Ambrose RECORD, Samuel NORTHROP, Obadiah WILLIAMS, David GRISWOLD.
The foregoing list does not contain
the names of all the males over twenty-one years of age in the town in
1801. Jospeh SPAULDING, Asa GARDNER, Jonas CLARK, jr., Zenas FRISBIE, Philemon
FRISBIE, Elisha CLARK, George and Eli OATMAN, and a few others were then
inhabitants of the town, and over twenty-one years of age. There may have
been other names omitted.
Some of the persons named on this roll
were children of the first settlers and came in with their parents after
the first roll was recorded. Among such was Joel FRISBIE, brother of William
and Jonathan, who came in 1786. He bought out Francis PERKINS on the LEWIS
place and died there about 1811. He was an estimable citizen and had a
family of six children. Barker FRISBIE, youngest son of Joel, studied law
with General Jonas CLARK; was admitted to practice in 1814, and continued
his profession here until he died, February, 1821; he left no family.
Rufus BUTTS was a useful member of
the community. He was born in Wells and came to Middletown before he reached
his majority. He possessed great natural mechanical genius, and made many
early farm implements. He removed to Cambridge, Vt., and died there.
Bela CASWELL came to Middletown from
Mansfield, Mass., in 1786, when he was nearly fifty years old. He then
had four sons and six daughters, three of whom had preceded him to this
town. He settled where Deacon SEARS now lives and there died November 22,
1826, at the age of eighty-nine. His family were remarkable for their longevity.
Of the numerous descendants of the family, Mrs. Calvin LEONARD is the only
one living in this town.
Jesse CASWELL was a prominent citizen
and exerted a marked influence in the Congregational Church for many years.
He had three sons and two daughters. Menira, the oldest son, died in Castleton;
Jesse, the second, became a minister, entered into missionary labor and
died in Siam in 1848. Enoch, the youngest son was also a minister and died
at Bennington in 1863. One of the daughters married Russel BARBER, who
came here soon after the town was organized, and was one of the useful
men of the community. He died in 1830, at the age of sixty-two, leaving
a large family.
Moses LEACH whose name appears on the
last quoted roll, was one of the pioneers, and settled on the farm now
occupied by Edwin R. BUXTON. He died many years ago.
Reuben LOOMIS came in early and settled
on the first farm north of the village, now occupied by Mr. CAIRNES. He
died September 24, 1808. His son, Fitch LOOMIS, lived on the homestead
until his death in January, 1847, at the age of seventy-four. The latter
left five children, most or all of whom are dead.
Ezekiel PERRY, a brother of Azor PERRY,
before alluded to, came here before 1790, from Bennington county, having
taken part in the battle of Bennington. His family comprised eleven children,
none of whom are now living here.
George OATMAN's name does not appear
on the roll of 1785, but he was an early settler here, having come from
Arlington in 1785, doubtless soon after the roll was made. He located on
what has been known as the "Oatman farm” now owned and occupied by Amos
BUXTON. He was a strong man and had fought in the Revolutionary War. His
three sons were Eli, ELIAKIM and Lyman, all of whom are dead. He died about
1836. Two of the children of Eli live in Poultney and one in Milwaukee;
the two in Poultney being Mrs. DEANE and Mrs. BANNISTER. Eli CATMAN was
a prominent and useful citizen; held the office of selectman many successive
years, and other town offices; was one of the founders of the Methodist
Church. He died May 30, 1851, at the age of seventy-four. His children
were Ira, ORLIN, Joel, CALISTA, Emily, Lucien, Cyril, Ellen, Mary, Jane
and Demis. Of these we need only note Joel, who studied medicine with Dr.
ELIAKIM. Paul, graduated at Castleton in 1832 and became a prominent physician
of New York city. The other children are either all deceased or removed
to other parts of the country.
Dyer LEFFINGWELL was the first hatter
in the town, his shop standing on the site of the dwelling next east of
that now occupied by Edway MEHURIN. He died after a useful life in 1821.
His large family moved away from the town, except Harvey, who is still
living here and is, perhaps, the oldest man in the town.
The CLARK families have, perhaps, had
more to do with making the history of this town than those of any other
name. Briefly it may be stated that the Middletown CLARKs are descended
from Theopholus, one of the two sons of Thomas, who came to Massachusetts
colony some time previous to the year 1700. Theopholus had six sons --
Nathaniel, Benjamin, Adam, Theopholus, Jonas and Stephen. Nathaniel had
seven sons and three daughters; five of the sons removed to Middletown
from Canterbury, Vt., soon after this town was organized. They were Asa,
Elisha, Rufus, Roswell and Ezra Clark. Elisha and Rufus came as early as
1785 or 1786; the others later. They all remained for many years among
the substantial business men of the town and aided in laying the foundation
of society here upon correct, moral and religious principles. They were
all members of the Congregational Church. Ezra was a physician and practiced
here until 1819, when he removed to Ohio. Elisha was deacon of the church
some twenty years and was one of the first victims' of the epidemic which
prevailed here in 1813, dying at the age of fifty-seven. Asa died in Tinmouth
about 1823. Roswell removed to Castleton about 1818 and died there in 1825,
aged sixty-three. Rufus died in East Poultney about 1837 and Dr. Ezra CLARK
died in Ohio about 1828. There are no representatives of this branch of
the family in this State at the present time, as far as is known to us.
Jonas CLARK, one of the six sons of
Theopholus Clark, came to Middletown in 1790; his sons Enos and Theopholus
(twins) had preceded him about twos years. Jonas had three sons -- the
two above named and Jonas Clark, jr., long known as "General” CLARK. The
senior Jonas was a peaceful, quiet citizen, member of the Baptist Church,
and died September 23, 1813, aged seventy years. The three sons were all
men of unusually marked character. Theopholus died comparatively young,
leaving seven children, among whom were Simon and Milton CLARK, who removed
many years ago to other localities. Enos was a man of vigorous intellect
and followed his trade of a mason; he died in Middletown at the age of
fifty-one, leaving a family of four sons, Barton, Culver, Ashley and Orson,
and two daughters. Of the sons Orson became the most conspicuous in public
life. He studied law with his uncle, Jonas CLARK, and was admitted to the
Rutland bar in 1828. He practiced in Middletown until his death, September
20, 1848. He represented his town in 1836-37, and was town clerk from 1836
to 1842 inclusive; was one of the senators from the county in 1840-41.
His sons are Albert, now in Cincinnati, and Warren, living in Whitehall,
General Jonas CLARK, the third son
of Jonas, sr., furnished a striking example of untiring industry and indomitable
perseverance. His school education consisted in merely learning to read;
his father was poor and his son learned the mason's trade, but occupied
his evenings and leisure in persistent study, until he had mastered the
law and was admitted to the bar soon after he was thirty years old. He
soon acquired a large practice; held the office of State's attorney for
Rutland county for sixteen years; was assessor and collector of government
taxes in 1819; a justice of the peace forty years and represented his town
eighteen years; was Democratic candidate for governor in 1849, and several
times the candidate of his party for Congress in this district; was a member
of three constitutional conventions, and held high rank as a lawyer. General
CLARK died in Middletown February 21, 1854, aged seventy-nine years. He
had three sons, Merritt, Horace and Charles; the latter died when but a
few years old. Hon. Merritt CLARK graduated at Middlebury College in 1823
and studied law with his father two years; his health failing, he engaged
in mercantile business with his brother Horace, opening a store in Middletown
in 1825; this he continued until 1841, when he was elected cashier of the
bank of Poultney, to which town he removed. They first began business in
Middletown in the building now occupied as a store and forming part of
the Valley Hotel structure; in 1832 they built the brick store now occupied
by Dyer LEFFINGWELL. Merritt CLARK represented Middletown in the Legislature
three years; was a senator for Rutland county in 1863 64, and represented
Poultney in 1865-66. In 1850 he was Democratic candidate for Congress in
this district. He has now retired from active business. His two sons are
Henry and Edward, the former a well known citizen of Rutland and the latter
Horace Clark spent his life in Middletown
and died February 23, 1852, red forty-seven; he was connected with the
building of the Rutland and Washington Railroad from Eagle Bridge to Rutland,
and on the organization of the company was elected its superintendent.
To this enterprise he gave an enormous amount of mental and physical labor,
and lived only to see it completed. His son Charles is teller in
the Baxter Bank, Rutland, and Jonas is connected with the Rutland Marble
Perhaps the most prosperous period
in the existence of Middletown was between the years 1800 and 1811. The
population had increased from one thousand sixty-six, the number at the
census of 1800, to one thousand two hundred and seven, the number when
the census of 1810 was taken. This was the largest population the town
ever had, and unquestionably it had at that time a larger population than
other town in the county in proportion to its amount of territory, and
it also at that time had the largest business interests in proportion to
its size of any other town in the county.
Poultney River rises in Timouth and
runs a westerly course through the center of the town from east to west,
furnishing excellent mill privileges. The MINERS were located on this stream,
in the east part of the town, and John BURNAM on the west part; and in
the village there were on this stream, and the small stream running down
from the hills at the north part of the town, and running into the river
at the village, two tanneries, clothiers' works and carding-machine, distillery
and other machinery, and all in active operation -- and all were conducted
by enterprising and competent business men. Burnam, as we have before seen,
had a very extensive business for those times, and so had the MINERS. There
were in the town at the time (1810) four grist-mills, three sawmills, two
or three forges, two distilleries, two or three clothiers' establishments,
besides other mills before named, and all were apparently doing business
to their utmost capacity. In the village were several mechanics' shops,
two taverns, two stores, one kept by a Scotchman by the name of William
SEMPLE; the other by James IVES; all was alive with the hum of business.
The town had become a central place for this part of Rutland county. Many
of the people from the adjoining towns of Poultney, Ira, Tinmouth and Wells,
came here for their mechanical work, to the mills, and for other business
purposes. But this then active, thriving little place received a check
by the freshet which occurred in July, 1811, from which it never fully
recovered. Its numerous mills, factories and machinery, with the exception
of what have since been a, known as Gray's mills, were all swept away.
In that remarkable freshet the streams rose so rapidly that little could
be saved. Burnam's mills in the west part of the town, as before mentioned,
consisting of a grist and saw-mill (he had at this time two grist-mills),
an oil-mill, foundry, forge, clothier's works and carding-machine, distillery,
some mechanics' shops and other buildings attached were all carried away,
with several hundred bushels of grain, a quantity of lumber, and much other
property. The stream rose so suddenly that but little, was saved. MINER's
mills, in the east part of the town had just been undergoing thorough repairs
under the superintendence of Henry GRAY; who lost his tools and clothing.
Orson BREWSTER had a tannery, and his
brother Jonathan a clothier's establishment, located near where A. W. GRAY
& Sons' horse-power manufactory now stands, which shared the same fate.
A few rods above the bridge, in the east part of the village, was a distillery
owned by James IVES, and above that a tannery. The hides in this tannery
were in great part saved, and the distillery building was not carried away,
but the hogs in the yard, to the number of one hundred or more, went down
the stream, and were scattered along from Middletown to Poultney, wherever
they happened to be driven ashore; some came out alive, but most of them
were drowned. Two dwelling-houses -- one called the Corbin
house, the other the Eldridge house -- in the east part of the village,
and on opposite sides of the stream running down from the north part of
the town, were also carried away; and besides this destruction of mills,
machinery, dwelling-houses and other property, great injury was done to
the lands on those streams.
The great event of the day was the
rescue of fourteen persons from the "Corbin house" just before it was swept
away; this house stood within a few rods of the road leading east from
the village, on the site of the new house on the east side of the stream
at that point. In it were the family of Mr. CORBIN, including his mother,
seventy years old, and Israel, son of Russel BARBER, and several children
who had gone there to escape from the rain. The ELDRIDGE house, standing
on the east side of the stream on the opposite side of the road from where
the school-house stands, was swept away first, when Mr. CORBIN called the
attention of the people in the village to the danger his house was in.
When they arrived at the scene the dwelling was surrounded by water and
the current on the west side, between the house and the village was seventy
feet wide and so rapid that it was impossible to ford it. The inmates of
the house, who might at any moment have been swept to their death, were
finally saved and chiefly through the activity and heroism of Joseph FOX.
The liberty pole was brought with the bell-rope from the Baptist Church;
the pole was thrown across the torrent, the end of it lying on some stones
that had been washed against tile house, considerable of its length being
submerged; the rope was tied around Mr. FOX's body and he made the perilous
crossing on the pole. The end of it was then raised higher and placed against
the house; the rope also fastened to the house at a proper height to serve
as a hand-rail, the shore end being lashed to a support at a corresponding
height. Thus a bridge was formed over which the fourteen persons crossed
in safety. Many other thrilling incidents occurred on that day which we
cannot detail further. A man named Orrin CLEAVELAND was drowned. The disastrous
effects of tile flood were greater in this town than in most others, on
account of the number of its industries and the character of the beds of
tile streams; and the town never fully recovered front the losses. Many
were thrown out of employment and forced to seek it elsewhere. At the census
of 1820 the population had fallen to one thousand and thirty-nine, a loss
of one hundred and sixty-eight. The place, however, remained one of considerable
business activity for many years after this event.
of Rutland County Vermont: with Illustrations &
Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers
by H. Y. Smith & W. S. Rann, Syracuse, N. Y.
& Co., Publishers 1886
of the Town of Middletown
- 641 - 665)
by Karima 2002
Gazetteer of the Town of Middletown, Rutland County, VT., 1881-82
Business Directory of the Town of Middletown, Rutland County, VT., 1881-82