CALEDONIA county was organized November 8, 1796, with Danville as
its shire town. It was called Caledonia in honor of the numerous emigrants
from Scotland, Caledonia being the ancient Roman name for Scotland.
The growth of St. Johnsbury, the construction of the railroad
through the town, and other causes, made it desirable that it should be
made the shire town, which was done, and the court-house in St. Johnsbury
was erected and first occupied by the court at the December term, 1856.
The soil is good and suitable to every condition of agriculture.
The western portion of the county is mountainous, and although the farms
in that part are on high lands, they admit of successful cultivation, some
of the best farms in the county being on the high hills of Danville. The
valleys of the Connecticut and Passumpsic rivers are composed of rich,
deep soil, and are easily cultivated.
It has been said of Caledonia county that every farm has its own
muck bed. While this is not strictly true, yet the deposits are so abundant
that every farmer can avail himself of this most excellent absorbent at
little or no expense. Caledonia county is a rich farming district, and
scores of farms give an affirmative answer to the question, "Does farming
pay?" The farmers are rapidly adopting the modern methods of agriculture,
realizing that the old ways of fifty years ago are as much out of place
on the farm as in the store or shop.
The county is well watered by many streams. The Connecticut runs
along the southeastern side, and the northern towns are watered by the
headwaters of the Passumpsic. Every farmhouse can be supplied with pure,
soft running water from the numerous springs which abound. There are many
falls at numerous places on the rivers, with power both improved and undeveloped,
which should make the county one of the first for manufactures. Among some
are Stevens river, which falls eighty feet in the distance of twenty rods
near its mouth; the Emerson falls on Sleeper's river, half a mile from
St. Johnsbury, which fall seventy-five feet in five rods; an available
power at Passumpsic of from 300 to 500 horse power, with two side tracks;
a 500 horse power of the St. Johnsbury Power Co., of which less than a
third is used, the Great Falls at Lyndon, owned and formerly used by the
Wilder Pulp Co., an immense power which is now idle; and many others.
The mineral resources are principally of granite. In Kirby and Sheffield
are extensive deposits of granite of very good quality and texture, which
have as yet been worked but little. The Blue Mountain granite from Ryegate
is known the country over, and is considered the best for monumental purposes
of any in the state. While the Hardwick quarries are equalled only by those
of Barre and for quality are surpassed by none in the world.
Gold specimens have been found in Waterford, and the rocks there
are of a gold-bearing formation.
There is also a slate ledge in Waterford, from which roofing slates
of very good quality have been quarried, but which is not worked at present.
The transportation facilities are excellent, three different lines
of railways crossing the county. One runs the entire length, north and
south, and the others east and west, giving direct lines to Portland, Boston,
and Montreal, with but six hours ride from either of the three. St. Johnsbury,
at the junction of two of these roads, offers exceptional advantages as
a business point, and also as a place to live. The town is liberally disposed
toward legitimate manufacturing enterprises, and the formation of an energetic
board of trade has awakened new interest in the resources of the town as
a manufacturing center.
Caledonia joins with her sister counties in presenting fertile plains,
well-watered valleys, health-giving breezes, and never failing harvests,
as inducements to Vermont's sons in the West to come home to the mother
state, which has enough and to spare for their comfort and sustenance.
Census of 1900, 7,010
The town is the essential unit of the political institutions of
New England. In a real sense a town is a moral being, with ideals, principles,
traditions, and a history, something more, something higher than a mere
aggregation of individuals and material wealth.
It is this nobler conception of his town and of his state that inspires
the citizen with patriotism and all the civic virtues; this conception
is the foundation stone of our constitutional liberties; hence the history
of the town is worthy of our first and most careful consideration. The
town of St. Johnsbury is not only the railroad, the industrial and the
educational center of north- eastern Vermont, but it has exerted a potent
and controlling influence, by reason of the character and ability of its
leading men. The tract of land, about 39,000 acres, on the Passumpsic river,
that included the present town of St. Johnsbury and a portion of the towns
of Concord and Waterford, was granted by King George III in 1770, to thirty-nine
petitioners, under the leadership of John WOODS and William SWAN.
It was called Dunmore, in honor of the Earl of Dunmore. There is
no record that any permanent settlement was made here until 1785, as the
authority of King George was not then recognized as paramount in this region.
About this time Hon. Jonathan ARNOLD of Rhode Island, and his associates,
petitioned Governor Thomas CHITTENDEN of Vermont for a grant of unappropriated
land, who granted them a charter for a new township November 1, 1786. The
name of St. Johnsbury was given in honor of St. John De Crevecoeur, the
French consul at New York, at the suggestion of his friend, Colonel Ethan
ALLEN, a fitting recognition of a true and distinguished friend of America.
Among the grantees were the names of Jonathan ARNOLD, Samuel STEVENS, Ira
ALLEN of lrasburg, Joseph FAY of Bennington, the brothers, James and John
CLARK, James, Jonathan, and J. Cullender ADAMS, William and Jonathan TRESCOTT.
ALLEN and FAY were non-residents holding four shares, and Samuel STEVENS
held eighteen rights, or about 5,400 acres, most of which were subsequently
transferred to Dr. ARNOLD and other actual settlers. Arnold received 3,960
acres in his own right at the date of the charter, about one tenth of the
The area of the town was estimated at 21,167 acres. Provision was
made in the charter for education and religion, by the reservation of one
seventy-first part for the use of a seminary or college, and the same for
the use of county grammar schools in the state, also an equal share for
the support of an English school or schools in the township, and for the
settlement of ministers of the gospel. Provision was also made for the
erection of the first grist and sawmills, out of the proceeds of the public
land. The reservations of this charter were: That each proprietor
of the township should plant and cultivate five acres of land, and build
a house at least eighteen feet square on the floor, or have one family
settled on each respective right in said township within the time limited
by law of the state. Also that all pine timber suitable for a navy be reserved
for the use and benefit of the free men of the state. The penalty was
forfeiture of the land.
The settlement of the town was begun in the latter part of 1786,
just before the charter was granted. The pioneers were James MARTIN, J.
C. and Jonathan ADAMS, who located on the valley near the works of the
Northern Lumber Co., and Simeon COLE, who settled on the meadows south
of Center village. Later, Benjamin DOOLITTLE, Josiah NICHOL, Thomas TODD,
Jonathan and William TRESCOTT had all obtained rights as actual settlers.
The supplies of the little settlement were all obtained from the stores
and grist-mills of Barnet, at first transported on the shoulders of the
The spring of 1787 brought a notable addition, Jonathan ARNOLD and
sixteen others. Dr. ARNOLD was a man of high character and ability, formerly
a member of congress from Rhode Island.
He settled at the head of St. Johnsbury Plain, and also owned the
district now known as Fairbanks village. During the summer of 1787 he erected
the first frame house in St. Johnsbury, located just above the park, which
stood until 1844, when the boys burned it in celebrating the presidential
election of General Polk. The first town meeting was held in this house
in 1790, with Jonathan ARNOLD, moderator and clerk, Jonathan ADAMS, treasurer,
and Joel ROBERTS, Joseph LORD, and Martin ADAMS, selectmen. In June, 1787,
the one full right, reserved according to the charter for building mills,
was located on the Passumpsic, just above the mouth of Moose river. This
property, 300 acres, was assigned to Dr. ARNOLD, and during the spring
of 1787 he erected a sawmill, and later a grist-mill, the modern Paddock
village being known as Arnold's Mills. After the mills were established,
the rights assigned, and some highways laid out, the population increased
rapidly by immigration, largely from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and
Rhode Island. David GOSS removed to St. Johnsbury in 1792, built a sawmill
in 1793, and a comfortable residence the following year, thus forming the
nucleus of Goss Hollow.
These are the brief and simple landmarks of the early history of
the town. Traversed from north to south by the Passumpsic river, with its
tributaries, the Moose on the east, and Sleeper's river on the west, with
a surface diversified but not broken, and a soil well adapted to the purposes
of cultivation, the town soon took rank as a prosperous agricultural community.
interesting tradition is related in connection with the early survey of
the town. Dr. ARNOLD, with others, was establishing lines in the vicinity
of Sleeper's river, then known as West Branch. The provisions and equipments
were left in charge of Thomas TODD. When the surveyors returned TODD was
found on the riverbank enjoying a quiet snooze. Henceforward, said Dr.
ARNOLD, Let the West Branch be known as Sleeper's river.
In 1797, St. Johnsbury was set off from Orange county and with eighteen
others united to form the new county of Caledonia. The history of St. Johnsbury
for the next thirty years was that of many another New England town --
a continual struggle and some progress.
Then, in 1831, Sir Thaddeus FAIRBANKS, the inventor of the first
platform scale, took out his first patent and from that time St. Johnsbury
dates her material growth and importance, for by nature she seems to have
been designed for a manufacturing center. A biography of Sir Thaddeus FAIRBANKS
would be little less than a history of the town. In 1842 he, with his two
brothers, founded the St. Johnsbury academy, and until 1866 sustained it;
from that time until 1882 all the expense was borne by Thaddeus FAIRBANKS,
and during this time South hall was built, costing $30;000 and also the
present academy building, which cost $50,000. In 1882 the academy was endowed
with $100,000, $40,000 of which was, from its generous founder, and in
all his gifts amounted to more than $200,000.
On Sabbath day, April 14th, 1861, an hour before noon, a telegram
announced to the citizens of St. Johnsbury the disheartening intelligence
that Fort Sumter had capitulated to an armed force of the already partially
established Southern Confederacy! Major ANDERSON, with his threescore of
loyal adherents -- United States soldiers -- had surrendered to General
G. T. Beaureguard, the commander of the Confederate beleaguering forces.
This event aroused the country. On the 15th of April President Lincoln
issued a proclamation calling out for immediate service 75,000 of the militia
of the several states of the Union; at the same time convening an extra
session of congress. The quota of Vermont, under the call, was one regiment.
On the same day, Governor Fairbanks issued a proclamation, convening an
extra session of the legislature of Vermont on the 23d of April. At this
session the governor was authorized to raise six special regiments for
immediate service. The people of St. Johnsbury, like others throughout
the free states, felt the occasion to be momentous. It may be interesting
to future residents of the town to know the action of its inhabitants while
these stirring events were transpiring. Within two days after the announcement
that Fort Sumter had surrendered to the rebels, a public meeting was holden
in the town hall.
In response to a call Tuesday evening, April 16th upon all loyal
citizens who were willing to aid in maintaining the honor, integrity, and
existence of our national Union, the town hall was filled to overflowing
at an early hour. The meeting was organized by the choice of Hon. A. G.
CHADWICK as president. Upon taking the chair the president made stirring
and appropriate remarks upon the condition of our country, and our duty
as good and loyal citizens. Remarks were then made by J. D. STODDARD, Esq.,
Rev. Thomas KIDDER (who afterwards died while in military service), Hon.
B. N. DAVIS of Danville, Hon. C. S. DANA, George C. BARNEY, Esq., and Dr.
J. P. BANCROFT of Concord, N. H., but a former resident of St. Johnsbury,
Colonel George A. MERRILL, R. Armington, B. B. CLARK, Esq., John W. RAMSAY
(who was killed in the military service at Savage Station, Virginia), E.
C. Redington, Esq., Hon. Moses KITTRIDGE and others. President Lincoln's
proclamation, calling for 75,000 men, and Governor FAIRBANKS' proclamation,
convening an extra session of the legislature to take proper action in
relation thereto, were read and heartily endorsed. Strong resolutions denouncing
the rebels and sustaining the government were then presented and read by
Hon. C. S. DANA, which were received with great enthusiasm, and then adopted.
A single resolve is here given to serve as an indication of the high feeling
of patriotism that prevailed:
There were tories in 1761, and there are tories in 1861, and those of to-day
will go down to posterity as did those in the days of the Revolution, traitors
to their country when despotism is attempting to bind the people to the
car of political bondage.
At a late hour the meeting adjourned with but one feeling, and that
to support the president, the constitution, and the Union.
On the evening of April 22d another patriotic meeting was holden
at the town hall. The hall was filled to overflowing. Hon. C. S. DANA was
chairman, and after stirring and patriotic remarks by several persons,
seventy men came forward and volunteered their services, proposing to organize
themselves into a company according to law and hold themselves in readiness
to respond to the requisition of the president of the United States for
aid in suppressing the Rebellion. The following named among these seventy,
actually, though not all in the same regiments, entered the service: Franklin
BELKNAP, D. C. HAVILAND, Oliver W. HEYER, Hiram HANSCOM, E. P. WARNER,
John S. KILBY, Henry G. ELY, A. E. WORTHEN, Charles L. PADDOCK, Charles
HODGDON, John P. EDDY, William E. PARISH, A. 0. KIDDER, Albert J. AYER,
Curtis R. CROSSMAN, Thomas BISHOP, C. R. J. KELLUM, John W. RAMSAY, John
GREEN, A. F. FELCH, C. F. SPAULDING, Henry C. NEWELL, Samuel W. HALL, Orren
CHASE, Fred E. CARPENTER, John H. HUTCHINSON, William L. JACKSON,
Carlton FELCH, William NORRIS, A. C. ARMINGTON.
Twenty-one of this number enlisted in the Third regiment, and the
remaining fifteen in other branches of the service. Ten of the thirty-six
lost their lives -- five on the battle-field -- two in rebel prisons, and
three by disease.
At this meeting $1,700 were pledged by different individuals for
uniforming and equipping and providing needful supplies for such persons
as should enlist. Thirty revolvers were also pledged. E. & T. FAIRBANKS
& Co. pledged $2,000 towards a fund for the benefit of the families
of recruits. The United States government, by the time our soldiers became
organized, was ready to supply equipments, and the state made provision
for aiding needy families of men in the service. Though these subscriptions
were never called for in the form in which they were made -- the state
having made appropriations for the same purpose -- many of them, if not
all, were largely increased by contributions to soldiers and their families,
and to the sanitary and Christian commissions.
Other meetings of a patriotic character were holden at a later period
from time to time; but the foregoing abridged account of the two earlier
ones will be sufficient to acquaint the children of the spirit which stirred
the hearts of the fathers in these times that tried men's souls.
At a meeting of the citizens of the town of St. Johnsbury, holden
on the 4th day of May, 1861, -- duly warned by Beauman BUTLER, Barron MOULTON,
and Calvin MORRILL, selectmen of the town -- the following resolution,
offered by J. D. STODDARD, Esq., was adopted without a dissenting voice:
Resolved, That in all cases where the head
of any family, or any person upon whom any family of this town shall depend
for support, by voluntary enlistment as a private, musician, or non-commissioned
officer, shall be mustered into service under the laws of this state, or
the laws of the United States, and the sum appropriated at the extra session
of the Legislature held at Montpelier, April, 1861, and the provision of
Act No. 9, approved April 26, 1861, entitled an Act to provide for raising
six special regiments for immediate service, shall not be sufficient to
maintain and support such family, the Selectmen may and are hereby empowered
to provide such additional means for the maintenance and support of such
family, or families, during the absence of such person so detailed in active
service. All sums so expended shall be paid by the Treasurer on orders
drawn upon the treasury by the Selectmen; and the sum of ten thousand dollars
is hereby raised for the purpose, which sum is hereby appropriated, levied
and collected, from time to time, as the same is expended, as other town
On the same day the resolution which follows, offered by John BACON,
2d, Esq., was also adopted, to wit:
Resolved, That the Board of Civil Authority
of the town of St. Johnsbury, whose duty it is to make all necessary abatements
taxes; be instructed to abate all taxes assessed upon the polls and ratable
estates of all persons, citizens of the town of St. Johnsbury, who shall
volunteer or enlist into the active military service of the United States,
and such abatements to be continued during such service.
In pursuance of a warning of the selectmen, Barron MOULTON, Calvin
MORRILL, and J. H. APPLEBEE, a town meeting was holden on the 27th day
of August, 1862. Article two, as follows, was adopted, to wit:
To see if the town will vote to appropriate
out of the United States deposit money received from the United States
by the apportionment under the last census, twenty-five dollars bounty
to each soldier who will volunteer, and who shall be mustered into the
United States service from this town, to supply the place of the number
who will have to be drafted unless the town's quota is supplied by volunteers.
At the same time it was voted that if the sum thus appropriated
for the purpose specified should be insufficient, the selectmen should
supply the deficiency from the treasury, or by borrowing the requisite
It was also voted at this meeting to guarantee seven dollars per
month additional pay to all volunteers, provided the state failed to pay
this amount. The state, by an act of the legislature, paid volunteers seven
dollars per month, or allowed them, upon being mustered into the service,
$125 as commutation.
At a meeting of the town, duly warned by the selectmen, to provide
additional bounty to volunteers, above that offered by the United States,
-- and holden on the 19th day of November, 1863, -- on motion of Governor
Erastus FAIRBANKS, it was voted, --
That the Selectmen be instructed to offer
a bounty of three hundred dollars to each volunteer for three years or
during the war, and to pay the same when such volunteer shall have been
mustered into the service of the United States.
At a town-meeting, holden on the 18th day of February, 1864, for
the purpose of enlisting more men and providing means for paying them,
the following resolution, presented by Hon. L. P. POLLAND, was passed,
That if it shall be necessary to raise any number of volunteers from the
town of St. Johnsbury, in order to raise the proportion of men said town
is bound to furnish under the last or future call of the President, the
Selectmen of said town are instructed to enlist the necessary number of
men, either new men, or men reenlisted in the army, and pay them a bounty
of three hundred dollars --
and are authorized
to draw money from the treasury of the town, or to borrow the money on
the credit of the town for that purpose.
The following resolution, presented by Jonathan ROSS, Esq., was
also adopted at the same meeting, to wit:
Resolved, That the Selectmen be authorized
to pay the men in the field, who have or may hereafter reenlist to the
credit of St. Johnsbury, prior to March 1, 1864, to the number of forty
men, the sum of $300 each, and to draw money from the treasury or borrow
the money to pay the same, and if more than forty men shall so reenlist
prior to said date, then instead of the sum of $300, the said selectmen
shall pay the sum due forty men pro rata to all then so re-enlisted, and
that the same shall be paid on the first day of June, 1864.
It was voted to raise fifty cents on the dollar on the grand list
forthwith forwarded notices of the foregoing vote to officers and soldiers
in the field, and under it sixty-four men re-enlisted to the credit of
the town of St. Johnsbury, giving to each, under the pro rata division,
the sum of $187.50 only.
At a town-meeting, warned by Calvin MORRILL; Horace PADDOCK, and
James R. STEVENS, selectmen, holden August 20, 1864, to see if the town
would give special instructions to the selectmen in regard to enlisting
soldiers for the present and future calls, on motion of Hon. Calvin MORRILL,
it was . . .
Resolved, That the selectmen be instructed
to fill the quota of the town under the President's last call for 500,000
volunteers, and for that purpose they are hereby authorized to borrow money
on the credit of the town.
The four great landmarks in the history of St. Johnsbury are: the
invention of the platform scale and the location here of the scale works
in 1831; the advent of the Passumpsic railroad in 1850, and its northern
extension; the consequent location of the county buildings soon after the
projection and completion of the Portland & Ogdensburg in 1870, now
the St. Johnsbury & Lake Champlain railroad, which insured direct connections
with the Atlantic seaboard and the great west. These great enterprises
are the foundation stones of the material prosperity of St. Johnsbury.
The foundation of the two national and two savings banks and the location
of such important industries as Ely's Hoe and Fork Works, The Northern
Lumber Co., Follansby & Peck, the Cross Bakery and Cracker Factory,
McLeod's Flouring Mills, the several granite works and the installation
of the electric lights are important factors.
The events since the war are too recent to be made a part of this
historical sketch and are left for the future historian to dwell upon,
but a word should be said of the attractiveness and natural beauty of the
town today, for surely Nature smiled when she made this spot, and her face
has remained a nest of dimples ever since. Such ups and downs, such long
slopes and such short slopes, such hills and such hollows, were never seen
before outside a puzzle box. A Swiss lady some years ago visited this town
and in a letter to the Boston Transcript said:
Here I am in American Alpland. Since I left
my own home, on the borders of limpid Lake Lucerne, I have not seen anything
comparable to the picturesque scenery around St. Johnsbury. This village,
with its environs, is one of the prettiest in New England.
Pretty is not the exact word to qualify a
scenery which combines the beautiful, the graceful, and the sublime, in
mountains, wooded hills, sweet valleys, and those blue eyes of nature,
as Goethe calls them -- the lakes -- and gorgeous cloudland.
If this seems overdrawn, ascend Observatory knob, just at sunset,
the hill rising abruptly a few hundred feet above the village at its western
edge; sweep the landscape with the eye, and you will feel as did the immortal
Whittier when he penned these beautiful lines:
by a light that hath no name,
glory never sung,
on sky and mountain wall
God's great pictures hung.
changed the summits vast and old!
melt in rosy mist; the rock
softer than the cloud;
valley holds its breath, no leaf
all its elms are twirled;
silence of eternity
falling on the world.
Successful Vermonters, William H. Jeffrey, E. Burke, Vermont, The Historical
Publishing Company, 1904, Pages 5-17
by Tom Dunn January 2003