HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF 

ROCKINGHAM


      ROCKINGHAM lies in the northeastern corner of the county, in lat. 43° 11' long. 4° 32', bounded north by Springfield, in Windsor county, east by the west bank of the Connecticut river, south by Westminster, and west by Grafton and a small part of Athens. This township was chartered by Gov. Benning Wentworth, of New Hampshire, under the usual restrictions and reservations, December 28, 1752, to Samuel JOHNSON and fifty-eight associates, being bounded in the charter deed as follows, and said to contain an area of 24,955 acres:


”Beginning it the northeast corner of West minister, and running up by Connecticut river until it extends six miles in a straight line northerly, to a stake and stones upon Hickup meadow; thence running due west six miles to a stake and stones; thence running southerly six miles to the northwesterly corner of Westminster; thence running due east to the bounds first mentioned."
      There are, however, accounts of the town being originally chartered by the name of Goldenstowm, which name the locality bore more or less, up to 1850, though no records of such a charter ire extant. There are also still more plausible accounts that the first settlements were made under a charter from the Old Bay State, and that the place was called Fallstown, which was subsequently changed to Great Falls. Then again, too, there is a strong presumption that it the time Westminster was granted, by the name of Number One, Rockingham received similar privileges from Massachusetts, under the name of Number Two. But be these conjectures as they may, there is little value to be attached to them, except in the way of antiquarian lore, for to the Wentworth charter of 1752, is above stated, the inhabitants look for a valid title to their lands, and in its authority is vested the strength of their deeds.

      Rockingham is pleasantly diversified in surface, being sufficiently broken to form a beautiful landscape picture, yet not so uneven as to retard cultivation of its soil, which is, in general, warm and productive. From the meadow lands of the Connecticut river valley, the territory brokenly rises towards the west, being well wooded and watered, the timber being that peculiar to the border towns of the Connecticut, the township in its early history having been noted for its fine pines. The principal tributaries of the Connecticut, each in turn having several branches of their own, are Williams and Saxton's rivers. The former has its source in Andover, Windsor county, and flows a southeasterly course through Rockingham, emptying into the Connecticut about three miles above Bellows Falls; the latter rises in Grafton, takes a southeasterly course through Rockingham to the Westminster line, thence, just within the line to the Connecticut. These streams, with the Connecticut, afford excellent advantages for manufacture.

      The Connecticut is proverbial for its beauty, though here in Rockingham it throws aside its usual aspect of calm, placid loveliness, as if to show, in Bellows falls, what it is capable of in the way of sublime and imposing scenic beauty. Above the falls, located in the southeastern part of the town, and which are reckoned among the first of the natural curiosities of Vermont, the river varies from sixteen to twenty rods in width, and at their verge a large rock divides the stream, so that at low water the river flows only through the western channel, which is contracted to a width of sixteen feet. But at the times of high water, the appearance of the river and falls is sublime. Through its rocky bed the stream rushes with irresistible force, masses of water being broken by opposing ledges of rock and dashed many feet into the air, until the whole volume is thrown to the lower level, a distance of forty-two feet, forming a scene so sublime that, in the words of the poet, it may be said of it:

"Its voice was like the thunder, and its sleep Was like a Giant's slumber, loud and deep."
      In the following extract from the "History of Connecticut, by an Englishman," dated April 28, 1781, some idea may he gained of what Bellows Falls was in the eighteenth century. At this late day, however, we cannot, of course, vouch for the truthfulness of this bit of descriptive "history," but will leave the reader to draw his own conclusions:
"Two hundred miles from the Sound, says the Record, is a narrow of five yards, only, formed by two shelving mountains of solid rock; through this chasm are compelled to pass all the waters which, in the time of the floods, bury the northern country. Here the water is consolidated, without frost, by pressure, as it swiftly passes between the pinching, sturdy rocks, to such a degree of induration that no iron bar can be forced into it; here iron, lead, and cork have the one common weight; here, steady as time, and harder than marble, the stream passes, irresistible, if not as swiftly as lightning. The electric fire rends trees to pieces with no greater ease than does this mighty water. The passage is about 400 yards in length, of a zigzag form, with obtuse corners. At high water there are carried through this strait masts and other timber, with incredible swiftness, and sometimes with safety; but when the water is too low, the masts, timber and trees strike on one side or the other, and are rent in one moment into shivers, and splintered like a broom, to the amazement of the spectator. No living creature was ever known to pass through this narrow, except an Indian woman, who was in a canoe, attempting to cross the river above it, but carelessly let herself fall within the power of the current. Perceiving her danger, she took a bottle of rum she had with her, and drank the whole of it; then lay down in her canoe to meet her destiny. She miraculously went through safe, and was taken out of the canoe quite intoxicated. Being asked how she could be so daringly imprudent as to drink such a quantity of rum with the prospect of instant death before her, the squaw, as well as her condition would allow her, replied "Yes, it was too much rum to drink at once, to be sure ; but I was unwilling to lose a drop of it, so I drank it, and, you see, have saved it all."
      Who but an "Englishman" could have written such a truthful, thrilling, historic account?

      The scenery, both above and below this point, is of more than common interest and beauty, while the views from the surrounding hills, as well as from the banks of the river, are exceedingly attractive. At the base of the falls are engraved the Indian picture writings mentioned on page 57. Capt. Kidd, the pirate, traditions tells us, ascended the Connecticut in boats laden with treasure, to this point, where, it is asserted, he buried his ill-gotten gains; but no discoveries have been made to authenticate the legend, nor to verify the old statement:


''Ever since the days of Captain Kidd, 
The Yankee's say there's money hid."
      The physical and geological structure of Rockingham opens a rare and interesting field of study for many of its characteristics in this respect are strongly marked. The rocks are mostly azoic, the principal veins being gneiss, calciferous mica schist, clay slate and talcose schist, distributed in parallel ranges, extending north and south, in the order as named, beginning on the west and varying in width from one to three miles. What is known as the fourth geological section of Vermont commences at Bellows Falls, and from this vicinity the following specimens have been placed in the State cabinet, at Montpelier: clay-slate, and clay-slate with garnets, hyaline quartz, argillomica slate, siliceous limestone, mica schist passing into gneiss, red granite, hornblendic gneiss, thick bedded gneiss, and hornblendic schist. While of minerals from Rockingham are the following: kyanite, wavellite, native alum, pinite, rubellite, staurotide, prehnite, chiastolite, adularia, black tourmaline, silver mica, indicolile, fluor, feldspar, fibralite, calcite, pinite, pyrope, stilbite and tremolite.

      Great changes have taken place in the vicinity of Bellows Falls in past ages. The gorge at this point, which has been spoken of, lies between Kilburn, mountain, which rises precipitously from the eastern bank of the river, and land which rapidly rises on the west to the Green mountains. In examining the passage of the river, geologists have concluded that it has been worn out by the passage of the stream, and that the valley above must have formed a lake eight hundred feet in depth, its surface being seven hundred and twenty-two feet above the present level of Bellows Falls. At Saxton's river village there is found a bed of peat four feet in depth, and underlying it a bed of marl of unknown thickness proving that here once rested an immense body of water.

      The natural terraces of Saxton's, Williams and Connecticut rivers, in Rockingham, are objects of common observation and interest to all who visit the locality. Many of them are so clearly cut and finely formed as to be almost considered works of art, rather than the deft handiwork of nature. At the village of Rockingham, on the tongue of land lying between Connecticut and Williams river, is an ancient sea beach, now lying nearly seven hundred feet above the level of the ocean. Above this point it is mostly worn away, and a sloping hill of gravel and sand takes its place.

      The freshets to which the town has been subjected from time to time in later years, have, without doubt, worked many changes in the land formations and alluvial deposits. In 1797 a freshet filled what was known as the “swamp hole" at Bellows Falls, with vast quantities of earth, so that land which had hitherto been utterly worthless was made valuable property, upon which is built many of the shops and mills of the village. The years 1818, '28 and '39 are especially memorable for severe freshets. In 1841 the guard-gates of the canal gave way during a freshet, and the resultant flood excavated a place one hundred feet in width near the grist-mill, removing not less than 7,000 cubic yards of earth, while the rise of the eddy below the falls was twenty-two and one-half feet. This highwater mark, however, was exceeded by that of the freshet of 1861.

      In 1880 Rockingham had a population of 3,797, and in 1882 had twenty-one school districts and twenty-one common schools, employing three male and twenty-seven female teachers, to whom was paid an aggregate salary of $5,515.43. There were 692 pupils attending common school, while the entire cost of the schools for the year, ending October 31st, was $7,073.36, with S. H. McCOLLISTER, superintendent.

      BELLOWS FALLS, one of the most important manufacturing villages in the State, is beautifully located in the southeastern part of the town, on the falls from which it derives its name, and which in turn were named in honor of Peter BELLOWS, one of the original proprietors of the town. It has six churches, (Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, Universalist, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic), a number of large manufactories, fine rows of business blocks, many elegant private residences, and about 3,000 inhabitants.

      The village is located on a plain about 172 feet above the bed of the river, and is laid out in streets pleasantly shaded by maple trees, while in the northern part is a beautiful grove of pine trees, a remnant of what was once the grand pine forest that covered the locality. Here a fine view of the Connecticut and the country way through to Ascutney mountain may be obtained. In 1831 there was incorporated a society to be known as "The Bellows Falls Fire Society," the limits of whose jurisdiction was to be confined within the following bounds:

“Commencing at the southeastern corner of said town, running on the southern line of the same to the southwest corner of Solomon HAPGOOD's farm; thence northerly to the northwest corner of Loran and James MORGAN's farm; thence easterly on the north line of said farm to the Connecticut river; thence southerly to the place of beginning."
      Little, however, if anything, was done under this act, as in 1833 the village was incorporated under an act approved January 30, 1834, the provisions of its charter including all purposes for which the first charter was granted. The village has grown materially since the railroads were built through this section, in 1849, though not so much as might have been expected in view of the magnificent water-privilege afforded here, and its location as a central point, there being now four railroads centered here, viz.: the Rutland & Burlington, Sullivan, Cheshire, and Vermont Valley.

MANUFACTURES

      The Fall Mountain Paper Co. is the largest paper making firm in this section of the country, its productions being furnished to a number of the large New York and Boston papers, and exported to a great extent. The company operates seven machines and manufacture news, glazed, rolled and sheet manila paper, and card middles. The company has selling agents in Boston, at 53 Devonshire street. William A. RUSSELL is president and A. N. BURBANK treasurer of the company. The officers of the Fall Mountain Paper Company are also interested in the Bellows Falls Canal Company, and control the water-power of the place.

      The Vermont Farm Machine Co., Nathan G. WILLIAMS, treasurer and manager, is the largest manufactory of farm machines in the country. Their specialties embrace the Cooley creamer, the Davis swing churn, Eureka butter worker, and the improved evaporator for the manufacture of maple and sorghum sugar.

      OSGOOD & BARKER's machine shop was established in 1873. At the death of Mr. BARKER, in 1881, Mr. OSGOOD assumed entire control of the business, though it is continued under the original firm title. He employs about fifty men, manufacturing a large amount of paper machinery, and doing considerable job work per annum. His foundry, located on Wells street, was built in 1873, destroyed by fire in November, 1881, and rebuilt the same year.

      BACON Bros.' lumber-dressing mill, located on Mill street, was established in 1873, where the firm now employs five men.

      MOORE, ARMS & THOMPSON's paper-mill was established by MOORE & ARMS in 1870, Mr. THOMPSON being admitted to the firm in 1882. The firm employs about sixty hands in the manufacture of manila paper, turning out from eight to ten tons daily.

      John ROBERTSON & Son's paper-mill was established in 1881, by ROBERTSON, MOORE & Co., commencing operations in January, 1882. During this latter year Mr. MOORE retired from the firm, the title being changed as it now appears. They manufacture tissue and medium manila paper, employing twelve hands and turning out 7,000 pounds per day.

      WYMAN FLINT & Son's paper-mill gives employment to about fifteen hands, turning out 6,500 pounds of tissue and medium minila paper per day.

      Norman S. BROCKWAY manufactures and repairs target and sporting rifles, and deals in all kinds of fire-arms and ammunition.

      The Bellows Falls grist-mill, operated by Frank ADAMS & Co., was established in 1861. It has the capacity for grinding 800 bushels of grain per day.

      George B. WHEELER's steam laundry was established about ten years ago coming into Mr. WHEELER's hands in June, 1883. He employs fourteen hands.

      The Bellows Falls bakery, H. L. CANADY, proprietor, was established by John PARTRIDGE, in 1879.

      The Fall Mountain Paper Co.'s steam saw-mill, located on Green street, Simon D. McLEOD, foreman, was established in 1880. It gives employment to thirty men, in sawing pulp wood for the company's mills.

      The Bellows Falls marble works, Hiram KING, Jr., proprietor, were established in 1874. They give employment to four men in the manufacture of all kinds of marble work.

      F. M. BARBER's picture frame and molding manufactory was established by George UNDERWOOD, in 1872. It gives employment to eight hands. 

      Willard RUSSELL & Co. operate one sixty-two inch machine and manufacture wood manila paper; they also run a pulp-mill in connection with their works.

      Orrin H. WHITMAN's carriage and wagon shop was established by Mr. WHITMAN in 1874. He does about $2,500.00 worth of work per year.

      DERBY & BALL are engaged in the manufacture of scythe snaths. Mr. BALL was engaged in this branch of manufacture at Springfield, Vt., about thirty years, the factory there being destroyed by fire in 1872.

      The Beollws Falls Brewing Co., whose brewery is located just across the river, in Walpole, N. H., have facilities for brewing about 50,000 barrels of ale and beer per annum. The firm is WALKER, DEWEY & BLAKE, Mr. WALKER being a resident of Boston, Mass. The company was organized in 1877.

      John T. MOORE's paper-mill was built in 1872. He employs about twelve hands in the manufacture of tissue, manila, and toilet paper, turning out about 1,500 pounds per day.


BANKS

      The Bellows Falls National Bank was chartered as a State institution in 1832, with Daniel KELLOGG, president, and William HENRY, cashier. In 1866 it was made a national bank with a capital of $100,000.00, and Nathaniel FULLERTON, president, and James H. WILLIAMS, Sr., cashier. In 1872 Mr. WILLIAMS was elected president, retaining the position until his death, in 1881, when his son James H. was elected to the vacancy, which position he still occupies. Preston H. HADLEY is the present cashier, having been appointed to that office in August, 1881.

      Bellows Falls Savings Institution was incorporated November 23, 1847, with Nathaniel FULLERTON, president; Asa WENTWORTH, vice-president; Hugh H. HENRY, 2d vice-president; James H. WILLIAMS, treasurer; and William F. HALL, secretary. The present officers are Henry C. LANE, president; John A. FARNSWORTH, vice-president; and John H. WILLIAMS, treasurer. The Institution has always enjoyed a high degree of confidence on the part of its depositors, and has done a flourishing business.


EDUCATIONAL

      The schools of the village are governed under a good system of graduation, consisting of five departments, taught in two school buildings. The first building was erected at a cost of about $17,000.00, and was completed in the winter of 1867-68, the old school building on the same site having been destroyed by fire late in the autumn of 1866. Before the erection of this building the district schools were taught in two departments, in a building on School street, now the Roman Catholic church building. The second school building is located on land west of Atkinson street, erected in 1877. Both buildings are brick, two stories high, and well finished.

      There are also select primary schools, and St. Agnes Hall, a seminary for young ladies, conducted under the auspices of the Episcopal church. This school was first put in operation in 869, by the late James H. WILLIAMS, president of the Bank of Bellows Falls, at the time of his death. The building was originally the homestead of S. R. B. WALES, and is now the property of the WILLIAMS estate, and is under a lease for twenty years. The school will accommodate twenty-five boarders, under the immediate supervision of Miss Jane HAPGOOD, principal.


FIRES

      Several destructive fires have visited the village at different times, the first of which we have any record occurring in May, 1812, when a fine armory and the shops and manufactories on the canal were destroyed, entailing a loss of from $30,000.00 to $40,000.00. July 12, 1846, FLEMMING & GREEN's paper mill and other buildings were burned; loss $12,000.00 to $15,000.00. May 20, 1849, two dwellings, belonging to Horace BAXTER and Dr. ROBBINS, respectively, were burned; loss $5,000.00. September 25, 1849, the Island House burned; loss $10,000.00. In 1850 a machine shop burned; loss $1,500.00. In 1856 COOLIDGE's pail, and FLINT's peg manufactories were burned. In November, 1857, the American House burned. In 1858 a building owned by Norman HARRIS, on Canal street, was destroyed. March 14, 1870, however, occurred the most disastrous fire the village ever experienced. It originated in "Wood's block," and before it was discovered it had made such progress that Mr. WOOD's family barely escaped from the burning building. By this fire was destroyed Wood's block, in which were the stores and dwelling of O. F. WOOD, the barber shop of F. F. STREETER, the grocery and restaurant of Henry RUSSELL, the postoffice, Argus office, and the law office of C. B. EDDY. The following buildings were then successively burned: A small dwelling next to the block; a brick store owned by W. H. H. BARKER, and occupied by A. S. CLARK; the Bellows Falls hotel, Charles TOWNS, proprietor; a livery stable, connected with the hotel; GRAY & ALEXANDER's store; a building owned by Jabez HILLS, occupied by P. W. TAFT, and south of it another small dwelling. The burnt district comprised the entire eastern side of the "square" and part of Westminster street. The fire was finally quenched by the aid of engines from Brattleboro, Charlestown and Keene. September 28, 1860, a building belonging to Jabez HILL burned; a short time after this a large tenement north of Whightman's Hall was destroyed; in the autumn of 1866, the school house burned; in July, 1868, a large frame building owned by O. F. WOOD, occupying the "burnt district" of 1860, burned, and at the same time there was destroyed a building that stood south of Wood's and King's block, occupied by .J. C. GOODWIN, where the' fire originated. The following winter the postoffice and the boot and shoe store of Elbridge HAPGOOD burned; March 1, 1870, a frame building owned by Jabez HILL, in the location now occupied by Bingham's block, was destroyed; in May, 1870, the dwelling of Joshua WEBB, on Atkinson street, burned. There have been, in addition, several fires among the buildings of the railroad companies, and also some others that we have not mentioned, among the more recent of which is that of the Vermont Farm Machine Co.'s buildings.


WATER SUPPLY

      The Bellows Falls Water Co. was chartered in 1848, and the company was soon after organized, with James H. WILLIAMS, Asa WENTWORTH, George SLATE, William CONANT, and John ARMS, directors. Water is obtained from a pond about a mile and a half northwest of the village, having a head of about 290 feet. The original cost of the construction of the works was estimated about $10,000.00, $5,000.00 of which was raised by stock subscriptions, and the remainder by the directors, on their own responsibility. The laying of the mains was finished in 1850, and in 1873 the works were sold to the village corporation for $22,000.00, since which time about $5,000.00 has been expended in improvements. At the organization of the company, James H. WILLIAMS was elected treasurer and George SLATE, superintendent, who held their respective offices until the sale of the works. Mr. SLATE was also treasurer of the Connecticut River Mutual Fire Insurance Co., from 1869 till the close of its business, in 1882.

      SAXTON's RIVER is a pleasant little post village located on Saxton's river, about four miles west of Bellows Falls. It has two churches (Congregational and Baptist), the Vermont academy, one hotel, several stores, a woolen manufactory, tannery, carriage manufactory, two grist-mills, two saw-mills, etc., and about 700 inhabitants. On January 5, 1820, the limits of the village were defined as follows:

"Extending west, on the road leading to Grafton, as far as the division line between Ebenezer LOVELL's land and Samuel OBER's land; and north, on the road leading to John PULSIFER's, as far as the division line between Ebenezer LOVELL's land and Jonathan BARROW's land ; and north, on the road leading from Saxton's River village to the center village, in said Rockingham, as far as the division line between Gates PERRY's land and James WILLARD's land, and east on the road as far as Josiah FAY's house ; and also east, on the road to Bellows Falls, as far as the bridge, near WHITCOMB's mill; and south, on the road leading from Saxton's River to Westminster (West Parish), as far as the north line of the House farm, so-called; and east, leading up Balle's hill, so-called, fifty rods beyond Joseph ELLIOTT's house; and west, on the road to Samuel MOTTs, as far as the top of Beaver Dam hill, meaning to include all the public highways within the extreme limits above mentioned."
      These limits, however, were enlarged August 21, 1821, as follows: " Beginning near Gates PERRY's farm, on the road leading from Saxton's River, by Timothy CLARK's extending as far as Hezekiah RICE's farm."

THE VERMONT ACADEMY

      Efforts towards the establishment of this institution were instituted by prominent Baptist clergymen of Vermont, in 1869, and the institution was incorporated in 1872. It was proposed to attempt to raise by subscription a permanent endowment fund of $100,000.00. The project met with good encouragement from the first, as Charles L. JONES, of Cambridge, Mass., being desirous of conferring a substantial benefit upon his native village, gave to the enterprise $20,000.00, while the citizens of Saxton's River added to it $30.000.00, on condition that the academy should be erected in this village, which was accordingly done. In 1873 the whole amount was made up. Soon after, nearly $10,000.00 was raised for the purchase of land and erection of buildings. The school grounds consist of a plateau of thirty-five acres, upon which are two brick buildings and a ladies' dormitory and boarding hall, all comfortably arranged and well adapted to the purposes for which they ire intended. The present list of teachers is as follows: Horace M. WILLARD A. M., principal; Mrs. Ruth B. PULSIFER, lady principal; Rev. E. J. COLCORD, A. M., Major Charles H. SPOONER, B. S., Miss S. KENDALL, A. B., and Miss E. Bertha WHITTAKER, assistant teachers; Mrs. C. H. SPOONER, teacher of painting and drawing; and Miss H. Estelle WOODRUFF, teacher of music.

     CAMBRIDGEPORT, another pleasant little post village, is located about three miles west of Saxton's river, on the same stream, and lying partly in Grafton. It has one church (Union), several stores, a soapstone manufactory, etc., and about twenty dwellings. Its name is derived from J. T. CAMBRIDGE, who commenced the clothier's business here in 1825, and so named by Esquire WEED, then of Saxton's River.

      The following facts relative to the early settlement of the village, were gotten of Mr. Uzziah WYMAN, when he was over eighty years of age: "In 1792 a Mr. ADAMS came from the settlement at Saxton's River, making his way by marked trees, to what is now Cambridgeport, and built a hut, moving his family thereto in the same year. He remained only a short time, however, and for some years no other settlement was made. In 1810 some parties by the name of BULLING purchased a tract of 1,000 acres of land in this vicinity, including the present site of the village and extending over into the town of Athens, upon which they erected mills, where the village now is. In 1812, Nathaniel BENNETT purchased the mills, erected two dwellings, and the following year the first school house was built. In 1814 Simeon EVANS built the first store and commenced trade. During this year the first road was laid through, running east of the present factory pond, and over the hills to Grafton. Mr. EVANS also built the old tavern, which he occupied a few years. He died in 1819. In 1825 Mr. CAMBRIDGE, as before mentioned, commenced the clothier's business here, and soon after the mills were destroyed by fire, together with a quantity of dressed and undressed cloth. In 1838 the Union church was built called the Cambridgeport Union House, preaching being supplied by the Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, and Universalist denominations. During this year, also, a factory was erected by Royal EARL, John CAMPBELL, Josiah STODDARD, and Roswell MINARD, who worked it a few years, when it fell into the hands of Ithamer BALLS, who sold it to George PERRY, Benjamin SCOFIELD, and others, In 1860 this factory was burned, though immediately rebuilt. In 1866 the factory was sold to the Rockingham Woolen Co., and was afterwards owned by George WELLINGTON. A Mr. COCHRAN was the first blacksmith in 1819. Mr. MITCHELL, a hatter, came the same year. A man by the name of HOWARD opened a law office here about 1840, and died soon after.

      ROCKINGHAM, a small post village located in the central part of the township, on a branch of Williams river, has one church (Congregational), the first erected in the town, in hotel, one store, a blacksmith shop, and about a dozen dwellings. This village is principally noted as having been the location of the town-house, and as the place where, in early times, the towns people convened for public worship. The old tavern here was noted for the thriving business it drove, being largely given up to the entertainment of teamsters in their journeys to and from the markets. Since the advent of the railroad, however, even though the station here is only half a mile distant, the village has declined in importance.

      BARTONSVILLE is a small post village and station on the C. V. R. R., located about four miles northwest of Rockingham, on Williams river, in the northwestern corner of the town. It has one general store, a blacksmith shop, cider-mill, and an old hotel (not in use), and about-twenty dwellings. The village received its name from Jerry BARTON, one of the first settlers in the locality. In times past it has been somewhat noted for its manufactures; but the violent freshets it is subjected to at times, precludes much enterprise in this direction. In 1869 a freshet effected such a transformation in the locality that people are often at fault in locating old landmarks, or even in recognizing the locality. The railroad depot was washed away, with many rods of track which is now laid several feet lower than its former level.

      BROCKWAY's MILLS, a hamlet located on WILLIAMS river, is a station on the Central Vermont railroad. It has a saw and grist-mill and tannery, and about ten dwellings.

      George R. FARNSWORTH's grist-mill, located at Saxton's River, was established in 1879. It has one run of stones, for grinding meal and feed.

      S. R. EARLE's wagon shop, located at Saxton's River, was built by Elliot R. OSGOOD, and came into Mr. EARLE's possession in 1879.

      Leonard C. HUBBARD's grist and saw-mill, located at Saxton's River, was built in 1868. He manufactures about 150,000 feet of lumber per year, and grinds meal and feed. Mr. HUBBARD was born in Walpole, N. H., and became a resident of the town in 1851. He has been a justice of the peace over twenty years, and a notary public fifteen years.

      BUTTERFIELD & SMITH's soap-stone manufactory, at Cambridgeport, was built about fifty years ago, and was rebuilt by the present firm about twenty-five years ago. They manufacture a large amount of goods, their quarry being located in Grafton.

      M. R. LAWRENCE's grist and saw-mill and turning works, located on Williams river, were originally built about one hundred years ago. he employs about fourteen hands. The grist-mill has three runs of stones.

      Barry SCOFIELD's wool pulling and tanning establishment, located at Saxton's River, has been maintained by them since the autumn of 1877. The firm also deals extensively in wool, sheep pelts, hides, calf skins, etc.

      FARNSWORTH & Co., manufacturers of fancy cassimeres, located at Saxton's River, operate 646 spindles and eight broad looms, employing about forty-five hands, and turning out 400 yards of narrow goods per day. The factory was established in 1847, by George PERRY & Co. In 1869 the works were all washed away by high water, entailing a loss of $45,000.00.

      W. E. KNIGHT & Son's carriage manufactory, located at Saxton's River, was built by Ransom FARNSWORTH, in 1870, and has been operated by the present firm about two years.

      Saxton's River Hotel, Marshall A WILDER, proprietor, was built by Jonathan BARRON previous to 1820. A. K. WILDER, the present proprietor's father, run the house from 1859 until his death, June 1, 1865.


EARLY SETTLEMENT

      The precise date of the first settlement of Rockingham is not known, though THOMPSON, in his “Gazetteer of Vermont,” says "the settlement of the township commenced in 1753. by Moses WRIGHT, Joel BIGELOW and Simon KNIGHT, who emigrated from Massachusetts." The Indians held undisputed sway in the territory of Vermont long after powerful settlements had been made in Massachusetts; and the Great Falls, as Bellows Falls was then known, being in a direct line of the trail taken by the northern tribes in their predatory incursions into the latter State, was always one of their principal halting places. This was doubtless largely due to the large numbers of fish that gathered in the eddy below the falls. It is said that at a much later date the river was at times almost packed with shoals of shad and salmon, so great was their abundance. Shad were not found above this point, but the salmon, incredible as it may appear, would make their way up the falls to the level above.

      The first record we have of a white man's visit to the township occurred in 1704. In March of that, year the celebrated attack on Greenfield, Mass., was made, by 240 Canadian Indians. On their return to Canada with 112 prisoners, the marauding party halted in Rockingham, near the mouth of Williams river, to allow their prisoners to rest. This halting place was about half a mile from the mouth of the stream, traditionally identical with the old Methodist camp-meeting ground. The day was the Sabbath, and among the unfortunate ones was the Rev. John WILLIAMS and his family, and he here preached a sermon, probably the first delivered in the county, selecting as his text Lamentations 1:18: "The lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandments. Hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow; my virgins and nay young men are gone into captivity." Some of Mr. WILLIAMS's descendants became eminent citizens of Vermont.

      According to the conditions of the charter, the first legal meeting of the proprietors was held on the last Wednesday in March, 1753, Benjamin BELLOWS presiding as moderator, when, among other things, it was voted:

"To lay out to each proprietor a house-lot, and that the seventy-two house-lots be laid out in three or more several places; that all the meadow or intervale lands, lying on Connecticut and Williams rivers, be divided into severity-two lots, being one for each proprietor."
      Andrew GARDNER, Benjamin BELLOWS, Jonathan BIGELOW, Stephen FARNSWORTH and Asahel STEBBINS were appointed a committee to layout lands, and were authorized "to lay all ye meadow and intervale lands lying upon all ye small rivers into seventy-two lots, and take a plan of all ye lands in said town." And were further instructed "to couple all ye various lots into equal divisions, in all making seventy-two, so that ye drawing might be made at one time."

      Thus, each of the seventy-two proprietors would at once come into possession of all his lands, each one receiving a house-lot, a river lot and a lot on some small stream. The committee was also directed "to select and lay out six acres for a meeting-house place." Andrew GARDNER, Salvenus HASTINGS, and John GRANT were chosen assessors; Benjamin BELLOWS, proprietors' clerk and collector of taxes.

      Gov. Benning WENTWORTH was interested in the settlement of Rockingham, on account of the excellent masting for ships obtained in this section, and came here personally to make examinations and to take measures "for better securing the masting trees from being cut and felled," as they had, by charter, been secured for "the masting of his majesty's navy." Through his instrumentality the saw-mills were erected, one at the place now known as Brockway's mills, and the other near the mouth of Saxton's river.

      The next meeting, called at the request of the legal inhabitants, was held at the house of Jonathan BIGELOW, on Wednesday, the 29th of May, of the same year, Esquire BELLOWS presiding. This fact, together with his fortunate choice of lands, led to his becoming a man of great choice among the early settlers. The report of the committee to lay out lands was accepted, and the lands were drawn by lot, as laid out. Mr. BELLOWS took the lower meadow, with the lands around the same, for twenty-one house lots; also lands on Saxton's river, in all forty-eight acres. He also had liberty to pick five more three-acre meadow-lots, in any undivided meadow-lands, which he might choose. A part of the lower meadow is owned by his descendants to this day. But both he and John KILBURN, though owning these lands in Rockingham, resided just across the river, in Walpole, N. H. They were generous, public-spirited men, and deeply interested in the welfare of their own and adjoining settlements. When the inhabitants became alarmed in consequence of Indian depredations in the vicinity, they would at once seek the protection of these brave men. A fort, known as the "Bellows Fort," of which there yet remain indications, was erected on the summit of a hill north of the house afterwards occupied by the family, and was supplied with a heavy iron gun furnished by the royal government for the public protection, while Mr. BELLOWS usually had in his employ a large number of men, well-armed for defensive warfare. Mr. KILBURN's house stood further north, upon a terrace west of the Abenaqui Springs. Here occurred the "KILBURN Fight," in which 400 Indians were repulsed by four men and two women, after which the Indians returned to Canada and never again appeared in Walpole. Mr. KILBURN died in April, 1789, aged eighty-five years, and was buried in the Walpole cemetery.

      Benjamin BELLOWS was proprietor's clerk until 1760, when Joshua WEBB was chosen town clerk. In 1761 Moses WRIGHT was elected to this office. About this time some anxiety was manifested in regard to the charter, doubts perhaps arising as to whether all its provisions had been complied with; for, at a legal meeting held July 17, 1760, it was voted "that Benjamin BELLOWS get ye town charter renewed or lengthened out." But nothing further relative to the subject is found in the town records. At this meeting, also, it was voted to set off ninety acres of land to Michael LOVELL, as encouragement for him to build a good saw-mill and to keep it in repair for fifteen years from date. This land was so set off, where LOVELL had already begun the erection of a mill. It was agreed that he should saw for the proprietors of the township at one-half the mercantile rate, or at their option for one half the boards, he receiving, as further remuneration, the lot of land No. 15. This saw-mill was located on Williams river, and was probably the first erected in the town. The nearest grist-mill at this time belonged to Col. BELLOWS, in Walpole, N. H., was located on the small stream now known as Blanchard's brook.

      The first census of Rockingham, of which there is any account, was taken in 1771. There were then in the township 225 souls, fifty of whom were heads of families, or married men. The enumeration was as follows: forty-eight white males under sixteen years of age; sixty-two over sixteen; four over sixty; fifty-two white females under sixteen; fifty-seven over sixteen; one colored male and one colored female, whose ages are not known. These blacks were formerly slaves in Massachusetts, and were then in the employ of Mr. LOVELL. From this time forward, however, the population rapidly increased, so that the next census, taken in 1791, shows the number of inhabitants to have been 1,235.

      The delegates from Rockingham to the first general assembly of Vermont, held at Windsor, commencing March 12, 1778, were Joshua WEBB and Dr. Reuben POWERS.

      Dr. Reuben JONES was one of the early settlers of Rockingham, and for a time was the only physician and surgeon in the town. The doctor was a staunch Whig and a man of patriotic temperament. He was clerk of the meeting held in Westminster, April 11, 1775, "to devise means to resist the progress of oppression." He was a delegate, with Joshua WEBB, to the Dorset convention, September 25, 1776, and was for three years a representative of Rockingham in the general assembly. At the time of the court troubles in Westminster, Dr. JONES mounted his horse and rode hatless all the way to Dummerston, calling the people "to arms." He was very generous and hospitable, but so extremely extravagant that he became deeply involved in debt, and was confined in the debtor's prison in 1785. Effecting his escape, he was re-arrested, but was finally rescued from the officers by his friends. On the arrival of Dr. CUTLER in town, Dr. JONES removed to Chester, and was a representative of that town in the general assembly.

      Elias OLCOTT was born in Bolton, Conn., and came to Rockingham in 1763, at the age of nineteen years. He died October 29, 1794. He married Sibyl DUTTON, who died August 27, 1802, aged seventy-five. His son Elias was born in Rockingham, and married Fanny HASTINGS, of Charlestown,' N. H. He died in 1854, aged eighty-three or eighty-four. Elias OLCOTT, one of the latter's numerous children, was born in Rockingham, and married Charlotte DIVALL, of this town, who died April 7, 1858, leaving one son, Oscar D., who with his father, lives on Atkinson street, in BELLOWS Falls. The farm on which the elder OLCOTT settled has been in the OLCOTT family since 1763.

      Joshua WEBB, a native of Windham, Conn., came to Westminster in 1766. In the following spring he removed to the northwest part of Rockingham, where he remained a year, when he returned to Westminster. In the spring of 1777, he again came to this town, and settled on road 30, on the farm which has since been owned by the WEBB family, six generations of which have lived upon it. He was the first representative of the town, and sustained that relation during fourteen or fifteen successive years. He married Hannah ABBE, of Windham, Conn., by whom he had eleven children, all of whom were born in Connecticut. He died here April 17, 1808, aged eighty-six; and his wife, in 1815, in her ninetieth year. His, son Calvin came with him to Rockingham, and settled on the farm now occupied by Joseph CARLTON. Ethan B. WEBB, son of Calvin, was born on that farm and spent his life there. He died March 15, 1872, aged eighty-eight. He married Fanny BURNHAM, of Chester, Vt., who died September 24, 1876, aged seventy-nine. Three of their children, Sarah, Carlton E., and Emily, live in this town. Another daughter, Fanny, lives in Walpole, N. H. Luther WEBB, another son of Joshua, was three years old when his father came here. He had seven children, only two of whom are living, Joseph M. and Lucinda, both in this town, on the homestead farm, on which the former was born, September 23, 1803. Lucinda is ninety years old. Joseph M. married Elizabeth FOSTER, of Whitestown, N. Y., by whom he had three children, two of whom, William J., who was born August 29, 1843, and Emma E., who was born July 30, 1855, are living, both in this town, the latter with her parents.

      Ebenezer ALLBEE, a native of Massachusetts, came to Rockingham before the Revolution. His son John, who was born in this town, had twelve children. He died here at the age of fifty-eight. Samuel ALLBEE, son of John, was born here and lives on the farm on which his father died. He is now in his ninetieth year. Two of his sons, Simon S. and Lewis, reside in this town, the former with his father, and the latter on road 7. Lewis married Sarah K. THAYER, granddaughter of Captain William THAYER, a native of Massachusetts, who came to Rockingham in 1789, and settled where Lewis ALLBEE now lives, where he died in May, 1830, in accordance with his prediction that he would die as soon as a stick on which he was whittling had been brought to a point. His son William THAYER, was born on the farm in question, in June, 1790, and died December 27, 1854. He was a captain in the State militia, and a member of the State legislature for two terms.

      Ebenezer LOCKE, from New Hampshire, settled in Rockingham about 1780. He married Phebe MARCY and had nine children, one of whom, Lewis, is living in Chester, and another, Henry, who lived with his son, in Westminster, and died January 6, 1884, in his eightieth year.

      Jonas PROCTOR, a native of Stoddard, N. H., came to Rockingham in 1783, at the age of three years, and died in 1858. His son Nathan, who was born here in 1809, is living on road 28. His wife was Harriet, daughter of Peter DORAND, and granddaughter of Solomon WRIGHT, who was the first male child born in Rockingham.

      Jonathan BARRY, who was a native of Lynn, Mass., removed thence to Rockingham, and was one of the first settlers in this town. He bought a large tract of land in the southwest corner of the town, which he divided among his sons, John, Asa, Joel, and Samuel. He and Samuel OBER were the first deacons of the old Congregational church, in the central part of the town. His son John married Thankful L. CONE, of Westminster. Joel, who was born in Rockingham, married Hannah, daughter of Samuel OBER, and had three children, all of whom are living, Kendal P. in Saxton's River, Mary A. in Marlboro, N. H., and Lucius M. in Wardsboro, Vt. Kendal P., who married Clarissa PERRY, a native of Hancock, N. H., has two sons living in this town, Lucius P. and Milton P.

      Peter NOURSE, a native of Danvens, Mass., married Lydia LOW, of Ipswich, Mass., and came to Rockingham from Jaffray, N. H., in 1791. He settled in the northwest part of the town and died in 1833 or '34, aged ninety-three. He had eight sons and three daughters. His son Daniel, who was born in Fitchburg, Mass., and came to Rockingham with his father when twelve years old, married Nancy GEORGE, of Topsham, Vt., and succeeded his father on the homestead farm. He died at Saxton's River in 1865, aged eighty-three. George R. NOURSE, son of Daniel G., grandson of Daniel, and great-grandson of Peter, the pioneer settler, has resided at Bellows Falls since 1867.

      Deacon ALBEE, an early settler in Rockingham, lived on the farm now owned by Walter WILEY. His son John, who was born here, married Sophia SMITH and had a numerous family. They died here. Their son John, who is also a native of this town, married Belinda PRENTISS, of Westminster, Vt., by whom he had eight children, six of whom are living. One son, Charles P., married Hattie L. GRISWOLD, of Rockingham, and is living in this town.

      Robert WILEY married Abigail CAMPBELL, of New Boston, Mass., and removed thence to Rockingham at an early day. They located where the widow of John MOAR now lives, and both died here, he, January 27, 1826, aged fifty-eight, and his wife, May 6, 1844, aged sixty-nine. She fell into the fire-place in a fit and burned to death. Four of their eight children survive them. One, Ira, lives in Westminster. John W., 2d, son of Robert, who is living in Greenfield, Mass., was born in Rockingham, and married Randilla WEAVER, of this town. He had nine children, four of whom are living, two in Illinois, and two, H. I. and M. W., in Rockingham. H. I. lives on the old homestead, where all the children were born, and M. W. at Saxton's River, where his father died, February 10, 1866. The latter married, October 2, 1855, Eliza M. FRENCH, of Alstead, N. H., who died August 1, 1879, leaving two children, Corinne E. and Ernest.

      Samuel OBER, a native of Jaffray, N. H., came to Rockingham from Salem, Mass., at an early day, and crossed the Connecticut river on a raft of logs, in company with Messrs. BELLOWS and LOVELL. He first settled at the Center, but subsequently removed to Saxton's River, where he bought 200 acres, and died at the age of eighty-eight years. He was for thirty years deacon of the first church organized in the town. His son Isaac was born in Rockingham and spent his life here, with the exception of a few years spent in Manchester, Vt., where he married Lydia WILKINS. He died here about 1859 or '60, aged sixty-seven years. Hezekiah, son of Isaac, was born in Manchester, Vt., and came to Rockingham when young. In 1839 he went to the north part of the State, to Canada, and various other places, returning in 1872 to Rockingham, where he now lives. He is a mason by trade. Patten B., another son of Isaac, was born here and now lives on road 51. He married Lucy A. MINARD, by whom he has five children.

      James WALKER came to' Rockingham at an early day. He hewed the timber for the first meeting-house built in the town.

      Samuel O. ADAMS, from Acton, Mass., removed in 1789 to Cavendish, Vt., where his eldest son, Mark W., was born, May 22, 1790. The family removed to Rockingham and settled on the meadows in the northeast part of the town, where Mark spent the remainder of his life, and died in 1835, aged seventy-eight. In 1816 Mark married Philena ALLBEE, by whom he had three sons and two daughters, three of whom are living, Lucius W. and Mrs. L. A. BARRY, of Rockingham, and Hiram E., of Burlington.

      John DAVIS lived and died in Rockingham. His son Eri L. was born here and lived where his son Hubbard B. now resides. He died in 1875, aged seventy-three. The old homestead has been owned by the DAVIS family for fifty years or more.

      Capt. Ebenezer LOVELL, Jr., came to Rockingham from Worcester, Mass., at an early day. He was a recruiting officer in the war of 1812, and was chosen captain of a militia company at Saxton's River when sixteen years old. He afterwards removed to Putney, where two of his sons, Henry M. and John B., now reside. He died in Walpole, N. H., in 1865.

      Henry DAVIS came to Rockingham from Groton, Mass., at an early day. He died in Grafton about 1853. His son Henry was born in Rockingham in 1784, and lived in Orange and Washington counties for a number of years, but returned to Rockingham, where he died about 1864, in his eightieth year.

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 286-304 [15]

Transcribed by Karima Allison ~2004 
 
 

1920 Census, Saxtons River, Vermont