HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF ATHENS 

      ATHENS is a small irregularly outlined town lying in the northeastern-central part of the county, in 43° 47' north latitude and long. 4° 25' east from Washington,* bounded north by Grafton, east by Rockingham and Westminster, south by Brookline and west by Townshend. It was granted by Vermont March 11, 1780, with an area of 9,328 acres, and chartered May 3, 1780, to Solomon HARVEY, John MOORE, Jonathan PERHAM and sixty-three others. On October 27, 1794, a portion of the town was set off towards forming the town of Brookline, and October 30, 1816, a portion was set off to Grafton, and November 2, 1846, a part of Rockingham and a part of Grafton were annexed to Athens, so that it now contains an area of about 8,336 acres.

      The surface of the town is uneven, though the elevations are not generally abrupt, and afford a good, well-producing soil, though much better adapted to grazing than tillage. The natural growth of timber is beech, birch, maple, ash, basswood, hemlock and spruce. The only stream of importance is Bull brook, which, with its tributaries, flows a northerly course through the eastern part of the township. One of its tributaries originates in Athens pond, a body of water about thirty acres in extent lying in the western part of the town. Lily pond is another small body of water lying in the southwestern part of the town, deriving its name from the large quantities of white lilies growing in it. The principal rock entering into the geological structure of the territory is of gneiss formation, though there are small beds of steatite and azoic limestone found, and in the southwestern part considerable quantities of calciferous mica schist. Traces of gold have been discovered in the western part.

      In 1880 Athens had a population of 284, and in 1882 it had three school districts and three common schools, employing one male and five female teachers, to whom was paid an aggregate salary of $322.80. There were sixty-five pupils attending common school, while the entire cost of the schools for the year, ending October 31st, was $395.57, with Mrs. Ellen C. DAVIS, superintendent.

      ATHENS (p. o.) is a hamlet in the northeastern part of the town.

      The first attempt towards a settlement of the town was made in 1779, when Jonathan PERHAM, Seth OAKES, Joseph RASIER, James SHAFTER and Jonathan FOSTER came on; cleared a few acres of land, erected a log hut and then left the town. On the 25th of February, the following year, Jonathan PERHAM and Ephraim HOLDEN, from Rindge, N. H., brought their families, took possession of the log house, and were soon after joined by Seth OAKES and family, from Winchendon. Thus was begun the first settlement, the settlers enduring extreme privations and hardships, as the snow was four feet deep, through which, for eight miles, they had to beat their path through the forest. A yoke of small oxen were the only domestic animals they brought with them. During the following May, Mrs. OAKES was delivered of a daughter, the first child born in the town. The same month Samuel RAYLEY, from Sterling, Mass., and Micah REED, from Westmoreland, N. H., came into town, and during the following summer they, in company, erected a saw-mill, and the next year a grist-mill, receiving therefore 168 acres of land situated near the center of the town. The same year Simon EVANS, Ezra CHAFFEE and Jeremiah TINKHAM began improvements, and on the 18th of September of that year, Isaac, son of Jonathan PERHAM, died, the first death in the township.

      The town was organized and the first meeting held March 4, 1781, when William BEAL was chosen town clerk, Calvin OAKES, constable, and Daniel FULLER, Jabez HURD and Calvin OAKES, selectmen. Calvin OAKES was also the first justice of the peace. Abel MATTOON was the first representative, chosen in 1780. Joseph BULLIN was the first settled minister of the gospel, and also the first schoolmaster, and received the right of land allowed by charter to the first settled minister.

      In the latter part of October, 1780, soon after the burning of Royalton by the Indians, two men at work in a remote part of the town were alarmed by the whoops and yells of Indians. They quit work and spread the alarm as fast as possible. The people, affrighted almost out of their senses, hurried away with their women and children with all possible dispatch, expecting from each tree that they passed to be saluted by an Indian tomahawk or scalping knife. Jonathan PERHAM and family decamped in such haste that they left their oven heating and their oxen chained to a tree. The report was spread with the greatest rapidity through the neighboring towns, that Athens was destroyed by the Indians. The whole country round about was soon in arms to defend themselves and property from the merciless foe. Some spent the whole night in preparing their guns and ammunition, and the fearful apprehension of impending destruction chased sleep from every eye. Their fear, however, was soon changed to chagrin, for it was found that the hallooing of a hunter, aided by imaginations rendered susceptible by fear, amounted in the course of a few hours to the destruction of a fine settlement and the massacre of its inhabitants. The scare rapidly passed away and tranquility was restored.
Jonathan PERHAM reared eight children-four sons and four daughters -- all of whom settled in the town. Ezekiel PERHAM, brother of Jonathan, came here a few years later, in 1795, and also reared four sons and four daughters. One of these children, John, settled in the southern part of the town and reared a family of twelve children, three of whom, one son, Daniel, and two daughters, now reside here, and also other descendants of the family.

      Seth OAKES came from Bolton, Mass., and located upon the farm now occupied by Mrs. Ellen DAVIS. Two of his great-grandsons and one granddaughter, Mrs. James BROWN, now reside in the town.

      Capt. Ezra CHAFFEE, a Revolutionary soldier, brought his family to Athens in 1782, locating upon the farm now owned by David S. FARR. He reared twelve children. One of his granddaughters was the wife of Nathan T. SHERWIN, who now resides with his son, Joseph H. SHERWIN, on the farm next west of the old CHAFFEE place.

      Abraham BALL came to Athens in 1793, married Deliverence, daughter of Jonathan PERHAM, and reared eight children. One of his sons, Abraham, married Hannah EDWARDS and reared fourteen children. His grandson, Amos T. BALL, now resides about a mile south of the center of the town.

      Maj. Timothy H. WHITNEY, a native of Wilton, N. H., took command of a regiment during the war of 1812, and was present at the battle of Plattsburgh, though he arrived too late to take an active part in the engagement. He afterwards settled in Brookline and subsequently in this town. Three of his ten children are living, Ralph and Abial in Athens, and Hiram in Brookline.

      Andrew A. WYMAN, of Athens, was born in Rockingham, March 12, 1830, the son of Thomas and Huldah Gilbert WYMAN, who came to Vermont from New Hampshire. Thomas was a soldier in the war of 1812, and died a pensioner in 1879. His widow still survives him. Andrew A. was educated in the common schools and academies of Vermont, spending the time between terms in farming and teaching. Very soon after becoming a voter he was elected a justice of the peace, and in most of the years since has been re-appointed. During the civil war he served as selectman. In 1864, '65, '67, '72, and '73, he was a representative in the legislature, and in 1874 and '73 he was State senator from Windham county. In 1878 he was elected assistant judge of the Windham county court, which office he now holds. 

      The Methodist church, located at Athens, was organized at an early date, its first house of worship being erected in 1818, of brick. The present building, a wooden structure, was erected in 1859. It will accommodate 250 persons and is valued, including grounds, at $1,500.00. The society now has eighty-one members, with Rev. Albert RIGGS, pastor.
 
 
 

* As the whole county is in north latitude, and longitude is reckoned east from Washington, the words north and east will hereafter be omitted.

Gazetteer and Business Directory of 
Windham County, Vt., 1724-1884.
Compiled and Published By Hamilton Child,
Printed At The Journal Office, Syracuse, N. Y., July, 1884.
Page 79-81

Transcribed by Karima Allison ~ 2004