OF THE TOWN OF
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:
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.
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."
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:
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:
was like the thunder, and its sleep Was like a Giant's slumber, loud and
Who but an "Englishman" could have written such a truthful, thrilling,
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."
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:
since the days of Captain Kidd,
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.
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:
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
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."
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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."
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
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
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
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,
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.
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:
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."
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."
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
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
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
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
and Business Directory of
County, Vt., 1724-1884.
and Published By Hamilton Child,
At The Journal Office, Syracuse, N. Y., July, 1884.
by Karima Allison ~2004
Census, Saxtons River, Vermont