OF THE TOWN OF
TOWNSHEND lies in the northern-central part of the county, in lat.
43° 3' and long. 4° 24', bounded north by portions of Athens, Grafton
and Windham, east by Athens and Brookline, south by Newfane and a part
of Brookline, and west by Jamaica and a part of Wardsboro. It was chartered
by New Hampshire, June 20, 1753, to John HAZELTINE and sixty-three others,
with an area of 23,040 acres; but the area was increased by the annexation
of the small town of Acton, October 29, 1840. Acton was chartered by Vermont
to Moses JOHNSON and thirty-two others, February 23, 1782, by the name
of Johnson's Gore, containing 5,045 acres, and comprising what is now the
northern "leg" of Townshend. January 2, 1801, it was incorporated by the
name of Acton, but without the right of a representative in the legislature,
only in connection with Townshend; but in 1823, it being discovered by
the inhabitants that the law provides that every "organized town" has the
right of representation in the legislative body, they proceeded, in the
next year, 1824, to elect Ebenezer HUNTINGTON to that office.
The surface of Townsend is very broken and uneven, many of the hills
being high and steep. There are, however, especially along the valley of
West river, large areas of good farming land. West river flows a southeasterly
course through the town, entering about the center of the Jamaica line,
and leaving on the line between Brookline and Newfane. Negro brook joins
it from the south, and SIMPSON, Joy and Acton brooks from the north. The
principal rocks are gneiss and talcose-schist, the former predominating
and the latter being found only in the western part of the territory. In
the northern part is also a bed of sacchroid azoic limestone and a bed
of steatite in the eastern part, of which Mr. Davis L. BEMIS has a valuable
quarry on his farm.
In 1880 Townshend had a population of 1,099, and in 1882, its ten
school districts contained nine common schools, employing four male and
fourteen female teachers, to whom was paid an aggregate salary of $1,187.34.
There are 230 pupils attending common school, while the entire cost of
the schools for the year ending October 31st, was $1,300.15, with J. K.
TOWNSHEND is a little post village in the southern part of the town,
lying in a valley that is girted about by abrupt and rocky hills, one of
which, Peaked mountain, rising from the east, attains an altitude of 750
feet above the village common. This common, or park, lies in the center
of the village, being occupied by the Congregational church. It was leased
to the town in 1803, for "so long as the town shall maintain the church
which stands thereon." At that time at was such a rough, rocky piece of
wild land that "an ox cart could not be drawn across it without being capsized."
It is now, however, a beautiful level green, shaded by handsome maples.
To the east of this stand Leland and Gray seminary, and the Baptist church.
The balance of the village is made up of two general stores, two millinery
stores, a drug store, tin ,shop, harness shop, blacksmith shop, marble
shop, hotel, and about fifty dwellings. Aside from the facilities afforded
by the Brattleboro & Whitehall railroad, the village is connected by
daily stages with Bellows Falls and Grafton.
WEST TOWNSHEND, a post village, lies about eighty rods from the
west line of the township, on the northern bank of West river. It has one
church (Congregational), two general stores, a lumber and chair-stock factory,
palm hat manufactory, grist-mill, carriage shop, jobbing shop, tin shop,
harness shop, etc., and about thirty-five dwellings. The village was called
Townshend before the establishment of the postoffice at the other village.
HARMONYVILLE, a small village located in the southern part of the
town, has a grist-mill, chair-stock factory, and about fifteen dwellings.
Its name was derived through somewhat ridiculous circumstances, as follows:
About 1828 or '30, the little village was at the zenith of its glory. William
R. SHAFTER was in trade where B. D. PRATT's dwelling now stands, having
succeeded Emery CATHAN, who erected the building, and Jacob FISH carried
on a custom saw, grist and flouring-mill, while the little settlement throughout
had a general air of sprightliness and progress. Townshend village, only
a half-mile distant, being somewhat tinged with jealousy, dubbed the little
village "Tin Pot." The imputation suggested by this title the aggressive
hamlet could not brook, so it retaliated by naming Townshend village "Flyburg,”
and called a council of war, at which it was decided to give their own
village ,a name worthy of its merits. Accordingly, after much debate, Harmonyville
was decided upon as the proper appellation. Emery CATHAN painted two signs
bearing this legend, nailing one to each end of the bridge that crossed
the river. They were soon pulled down by youths from the rival village,
however, though not until the name had become established, which has always
clung to the-place.
J. H. FULLERTON, located at West Townshend, is extensively engaged
in the manufacture of palm-leaf hats. He furnishes employment at hat braiding
for: 1,600 to 2,000 persons in this and neighboring towns during their
leisure hours, and manufactures from 15,000 to 20,000 dozen hats per annum.
L. W. HASTINGS's grist-mill, on road 32, was built by Elijah WILKINSON,
about forty years ago, on the site formerly occupied by Elijah and Elisha
ALLEN's mill. The mill has one run of stones and does custom work.
F. W. EDDY's saw-mill, grist-mill, and chair-stock factory, located
on road 40, was built by W. H. WILLARD, in 1866. The saw-mill cuts 200,000
feet of lumber per annum, which is worked into chair-stock. The grist-mill,
for grinding the coarser grains, does custom work.
E. A. HOLMES's grist-mill, located at West Townshend, grinds about
2,500 bushels of merchant and 5,000 bushels of custom grain per year.
A. A. GOODELL &- Co.'s lumber and chair-stock factory, at West
Townshend, employs eight men and turns out about $6,00o.00 worth of work
Daniel HARRIS's carpenter and jobbing shop and cider-mill, at West
Townshend, is fitted with machinery for sawing and matching lumber and
for manufacturing sash, doors, etc. The cider-mill turns out about 400
barrels of cider annually.
C. H. WILLARD, 2d, located at Townshend employs five men in the
manufacture of shingles, rakes, chair-stock, and lumber.
Harrison CHAMBERLAIN's saw-mill. -- Daniel BARNES built a clothier's-mill
in. the eastern part of the town, early in the present century, where Harrison
CHAMBERLAIN's saw-mill now stands. It was used for this purpose as late
as 1830, about which time it was converted into a soapstone-mill, by F.
HOLBROOK, C. FARR, and B. DYER. About 1843 C. FARR purchased the privilege
and put up the saw-mill Mr. CHAMBERLAIN now operates.
Leland and Gray Seminary, located at Townshend, was incorporated
by the legislature, October 31, 1834, as "The Leland Classical and English
school of Townshend." A board of trustees was elected January 5, 1835,
with Hon. Peter R. TAFT, president. The name of the institution was changed
in 1860, to the one it now bears, in honor of Dea. Samuel GRAY, who made
an endowment of $500.00 to the institution. The building, a substantial
brick structure, was erected in 1835, CHAPIN HOWARD and John BLANDIN being
the building committee. Among those who have served the institution as
principal appear the following honored names: Professors SMITH and LYFORD,
of Colby University, H. L. WAYLAND, D. D., Rev. C. B. SMITH, Rev. Horace
BURCHARD, Rev. E. C. JUDSON, and others. The present board of trustees
is as follows: Hon. Abishai STODDARD, president; Hon. Ira K. BATCHELDER,
vice-president; Hon. Ormando S. HOWARD, treasurer; and Hon. James H. PHELPS.
The present teachers are F. B. SPAULDING, principal, and Hattie E. COLBURN,
The settlement of the town was commenced in 1764, by Joseph TYLER,
from Uptown, Mass., who drew his effects on a handsled from Brattleboro.
He was soon after joined by John HAZELTINE and others, from the same town,
who in turn were joined by emigrants, between that year and January, 1781,
to the number of 136, thirty-three of whom were males under the age of
sixteen years, forty between the ages of sixteen and sixty, and one over
sixty, thirty-five were females under the age of sixteen, twenty-six over
sixteen and one black female. In 1791 the population had increased to 676
souls. This growth of the town could hardly have been presaged from the
rather discouraging first attempts of the proprietors. They sent a committee
on to survey and plat the township, who returned, reporting that it was
impracticable to attempt a settlement of the territory on account of its
rocky and mountainous character. The grantees then endeavored to have their
charter transferred to lands located elsewhere; but, failing in this, they
sent Ebenezer WATERS, a surveyor, to the township, who laid out a range
of fifty-acre lots along West river. This survey was disregarded, however,
the proprietors selling portions of their rights under agreement that the
purchasers should locate upon any unappropriated land, under the direction
of a committee of the proprietors and a surveyor, have the lines run, and
recorded by the town clerk. This gave rise to the greatest irregularity
in the form of farms or lots taken up or purchased.
The first town meeting was held May 30, 1771, when Joseph TYLER
was chosen town clerk. Mr. TYLER was also the first Justice of the peace,
an office he held for nearly a quarter of a century, he being for many
years one of the most prominent and public spirited men in the town. He
was a delegate to the county committee at Westminster, in company with
Samuel FLETCHER, in June, 1776, and was made a major of militia in 1775.
The first representative was Gen. Samuel FLETCHER, in 1778, serving three
sessions. The first constable was Timothy HOLBROOK, and the first treasurer
John DYER, both elected in 1781, while the first listers elected that year
were Ephraim BARNES, Caleb HAYWARD, and Joshua WOOD, Jr. The first birth
was that of Mary HAZELTINE, August 5, 1766. The first death recorded is
that of Eleazer FLETCHER, April 6, 1771. The oldest person recorded as
having died in the town was Jane, widow of Col. John HAZELTINE, February
16, 1810, aged 104 years.
The first settlers in the old town of Action, were Riverius HOOKER,
John HOOKER, Ruel HOOKER, Noah FISHER, Eleazer FISHER, and Ebenezer BIVINS,
in 1781, the latter three of whom became the first permanent settlers,
as the others returned to their homes in Athens. None of the original proprietors
of the town, except Ebenezer BIVINS, Noan FISHER, Amos HAILE, 2d, and Philemon
HOLDEN, ever resided in the township, though many of them were residents
of Athens, Dummerston, Jamaica, Putney, Townshend, and Westminster, while
others lived in New Hampshire. Among the first additions to the settlement
was that of the family of Philemon HOLDEN, whose descendants and those
of the FISHER family, still reside within the limits of the old town. The
first framed building erected in Acton was put up by Philemon HOLDEN, and
the second by Deacon Isaac FISHER. The first saw-mill was built by Eldad
GRANGER, where M. A. COVEN's mill now stands. There was never a church
edifice erected, though religious meetings were held in dwellings and barns.
No schools were sustained, except in private houses, by voluntary contributions.
The first roads were mere bridle-paths through the forest, though some
of these were afterwards enlarged and became the highways of the present
day. The town was organized March 3, 1801, Waitstill CLARK being the first
town clerk. The town was annexed to Townshend in 1840, the union being
celebrated February 1, 1841.
General Samuel FLETCHER was one of the most prominent of the early
settlers of the town. THOMPSON, in his “Gazetteer of Vermont,” speaks of
him as follows:
FLETCHER was born at Grafton, Mass., in 1745. At the age of seventeen he
enlisted as a soldier in the contest between the British and French colonies,
in which service he continued one year. On his return he learned the trade
of a blacksmith, which he followed about four years, when he married a
young lady with a handsome property, and, resigning the sledge, removed
to Townshend to wield the axe among the trees of the forest. In 1775 he
joined the American standard at Bunker Hill, with the rank of orderly sergeant.
He returned to Townshend in January following, where he was made a captain
of militia. He was, at this time, principal leader in the county convention,
and was ordered, as captain, to raise as many minute men as possible in
his vicinity, who were to hold themselves in readiness to march at the
beat of the drum. His whole company volunteered, and in 1777 they marched
to Ticonderoga for the purpose of relieving the American army, which was
then besieged. On this expedition with thirteen volunteers, he attacked
a British detachment of forty men, killed one and took seven -prisoners,
without sustaining any loss himself. He soon after received a major's commission,
and continued in the service until after the capture of Burgoyne. After
his return, he rose through different grades of office to that of major-general
of militia, which office he held six years. He was several years a member
of the executive council, and in 1788 was appointed high sheriff of Windham
county, which office he held eighteen consecutive years, and was also a
judge of the county court three years. He died September 15, 1814, aged
about seventy years."
The TAFT family were among the early settlers of Townshend. During
the winter of 1798-'99, Aaron TAFT came from Uxbridge, Mass, and bought
the farm where Peter HAZELTON lived, on TAFT hill. Jesse MURDOCK, son-in-law
of Aaron, negotiated the purchase. On March 9, 1799, the family started
from Uxbridge for their new home in Townshend. The household goods were
loaded upon a sled, which was drawn to West Townshend by two yoke of oxen,
and the snow here was so deep that it took nineteen yoke to move the effects
from the West village to the end of the journey. At that time the snow
at Uxbridge was not over three inches deep, while in the woods here it
was six feet deep on a level.
Peter R. TAFT, then fourteen years of age, accompanied the family.
He -came all the way on foot, and drove the cow. In the winter, like other
farmers' boys, he did chores, helped prepare wood for the fire at home,
and went to the district school. During the other months he spent his time
in helping his father carry on the family homestead. His education, however,
was under the oversight of his father, who was a college graduate. Fondness
for mathematics resulted in his becoming a land surveyor, and receiving
the appointment of county surveyor. The accuracy of his work in establishing
disputed lines, and in making divisions of real estate, brought him into
-public notice and gave him much employment in every part of the county.
The duties of this office often made necessary a long attendance on his
part at the terms of our county court. On such occasions he was a willing
as well as an attentive listener, and so gained a knowledge of many legal
principles which a person of his parts would be apt to apply correctly
in unfolding the twist of a complicated law-suit. From his first experience
as a trial justice, the entire public had great confidence in him as a
magistrate; and, in one capacity or other, he was often called upon to
decide matters in dispute between litigants. While pursuing his studies,
he devoted a portion of his spare moments to reading, a habit which grew
with his advancing years. Later in life he was indeed a great reader. In
early manhood he taught for a number of years the winter term of the common
school in his district, and was employed as long as he could be hired by
the district for that service. As a teacher he had an excellent reputation.
No person was oftener called upon to fill town offices. In one position
or other his service was almost continuous. This was the case also in Jamaica,
to which town he removed in 1825. When he gave up farming and returned
to Townshend, in 1837, its voters, with unanimity, replaced him in the
offices which he had so acceptably filled in former years. To the guidance
of business matters he brought intelligence, honesty, energy, prudence,
and a judgment that hardly ever mistook the right way. In the efforts made
to establish what is now Leland and Gray Seminary, he took a very active
part. His name heads the list of corporators, and he was the person designated
in the statute for calling the meeting which organized the corporation.
As one of the committee for erecting the academy building, his foresight
and executive talent were highly appreciated. During his residence in the
State he was one of the board of trustees, and was regarded as one of their
most thoughtful and reliable advisers. In 1827 and 1828 he was chosen at
the head of the board of road commissioners. These were county officers,
and were elected annually by the joint assembly, as required by the statute
of 1827. The nature of the duties cast upon this office made their performance
laborious and perplexing. He was chosen judge of probate for the district
of Westminster in 1830, '31, '32 and '33; a judge of Windham county court
in 1835,'36 and '37; a justice of the peace in 1818, 1824, 1825-'35, 1838-'40,
making twenty-two years of service as justice. In the general assembly
of 1818, '20, '22 and '24, he represented Townshend, and in 1827, '33 and
'34, he represented Jamaica. As a private citizen he was esteemed for his
general information, integrity, readiness to do a favor, and for his social
and genial qualities. In 1810 he married Miss Sylvia HOWARD, of Townshend,
with whom he lived until her death, in 1866. In 1839, his only child, Hon.
Alphonso TAFT, commenced the practice of law in Cincinnati, Ohio. To that
city the father removed, from Townshend, in the autumn of 1841, and died
there January 1, 1867.
Col. Amariah TAFT came when a young man to Townshend from Upton,
Mass., in 1769, and took up land on road 9, which he afterwards sold to
Levi HAYWARD, May 9, 1770, he was united in marriage with Mary JOHNSON,
also from Upton, by Rev. Nicholas DUDLEY, the first settled minister in
Townshend. Though not enjoying the advantages of a liberal education, he
was a man of energy, intellect and good judgment. He attained the rank
of captain in the militia, and became a colonel in the field service during
the Revolution. He also bore his part in the business of the town. His
children were Israel, Martha, Amariah, Jr., and Elisha. Amariah TAFT, Jr.,
married Dotia BURNAP and raised one son and four daughters. He was captain
of a local militia company. He died September 5, 1856. His only son, George
W., resides on road 12.
Benjamin DYER came to Townshend about 1770-'71, when a young man.
He married Elizabeth, daughter of John BARNES, of Townshend, and settled
on the farm now owned by W. DUTTON, but died at the age of forty-three
so that most of the clearing was done by his widow and children. They had
five children. John, the eldest, was born in Townshend, June 10, 1777.
He married Martha KINGSBURY and spent his life on the paternal homestead.
He had four children, the eldest of whom, Benjamin, resides on road 28,
in Townshend. One daughter, Mrs. Melinda BULLARD, lives in Grafton, and
another son, Martin C., in New York. Benjamin married Polly HOLBROOK, and
had seven children, of whom Mrs. Frank THAYER, of Guilford, is the only
survivor. His eldest son, John, enlisted in Co. D, 16th Vt. Vols., and
died from wounds received at Gettysburg, at the age of twenty-six years.
Levi HOWARD (or, according to more ancient orthography, HAYWARD),
was one of several children of Benjamin HAYWARD, of Mendon, Mass., who
settled in Townshend and Jamaica. He was born September 13, 1752, and came
to this town from Milford, Mass., in 1775. He married Bethiah CHAPIN, of
the latter place, and settled on land purchased of Col. Amariah TAFT, in
the west part of the town, on road 9, where he spent most of his life and
raised a family of six sons and two daughters. He died in Jamaica. Three
of his sons lived to maturity, Henry, CHAPIN and Levi, the former of whom
married Nancy WEEKS and remained on his father's farm. Levi, who was a
farmer, married Kesiah BLODGETT of this town and settled on the corner
of roads 40 and 41. He has five -children, all of whom are farmers. Henry
had twelve children, eleven of whom grew to manhood and womanhood. CHAPIN,
married Birsha SMITH, March 13, 1809, and had eight children, all of whom
married and had families. He was a tanner, having learned the trade of
Francis GREEN in a building which stood near where road 14 crosses SIMPSON
brook. He established himself in the tanning business at West Townshend
and acquired a reputation for integrity and ability. His tannery was the
first established in that village. He also kept a hotel in the present
hotel building. In 1832 he moved to East Townshend. He made regular journeys
to the West, where he became a large landholder. He was an acknowledged
leader in all projects for the upbuilding of religious, educational and
social interests, and to him more than to any other is due the establishment
of the Leland Seminary at Townshend. He was an able financier, and while
he aided public enterprises he also accumulated an ample competence for
himself. In 1834, '35 and '36, he ably represented Townshend, and at various
times filled minor offices. He was long a deacon of the Baptist church,
of which he was a most munificent supporter, both while it retained its
organization at West Townshend and after its removal to Townshend village.
He died May 6, 1854, aged sixty-nine years. His sons Aurelius Chapin and
Ormando Smith have been life-long residents of Townshend and active in
promoting its prosperity. Ormando S. still resides in Townshend.
Aurelius C. HOWARD, the eldest son of CHAPIN and Birsha S. HOWARD,
was born in Townshend March 29, 1812, and died at his residence here January
9, 1881. In 1835 Mr. HOWARD visited Michigan, then in its infancy and still
under territorial government. Though a young man he possessed a maturity
of judgment seldom surpassed by older men. On his return to Vermont he
induced his father to go West with him and invest in real estate in Kalamazoo
and adjoining counties, at the same time making investments from his own
earnings. He was thus instrumental in adding largely to his father's estate,
and at the same time laid the foundation of his own fortune, making Michigan
the center of the business transactions of his life. March 9, 1841, he
was married to Hannah E., daughter of Daniel and Lucy (STEVENS) COBB, of
Windham, and settled in Townshend village, where he resided until 1858,
when he moved to Chester, Vt., remaining there ten years, or until after
the death of his mother, when he purchased the homestead and returned to
Townshend. The love for his native town and State overpowered the attractions
of his business relations in Michigan so far as to induce him to retain
his old home, to which, for many years, he made annual visits, only spending
a month or twon and about Kalamazoo. Mr. HOWARD's excellent judgment, together
his conservative and cautious habits, which led him to thoroughly investigate
all matters that came under his care, rendered him a safe counselor in
business affairs, whether relating to public or private interests. He was
highly esteemed by his townsmen and acquaintances, not only on this account,
but also for his genial and social qualities, which were prominent traits
in his character. This regard was manifested in the resolutions passed
after his decease by the directors of the People's Bank, and the trustees
of Leland and Grey Seminary, speaking of the high opinion in which he was
held by the prominent business men who were associated with him in the
management of responsible trusts. He used his wealth to secure the comforts
and conveniences of life, but made no display of magnificence, never failing
to cordially recognize the poor as well as the opulent in his daily intercourse,
and at his death bequeathed a legacy of $10,000.00 for the benefit of the
poor of his native town. He was never ambitious for public office or for
public favors of any kind, though he loved the esteem of his fellow men,
and was entrusted by them with many weighty responsibilities in the towns
where he resided. He represented Townshend in the legislature of 1846-'47,
and Chester in 1859-'60, and was also a member of the constitutional convention
of 1870. He was a man of even temper, never allowing passion to move him
to indiscretion. Possessing strict integrity, honest himself in his dealings
in small as well as large things, he required of others his just dues.
He was never duped by flattery, nor moved by threats. To secure his aid
in matters of public or private interest it was necessary to convince his
judgment. Never lavish of his wealth, he nevertheless rendered substantial
aid to the religious and educational institutions cherished by his parents
and family, particularly during the latter years of his life. Nor were
the poor and unfortunate overlooked by him. He was a believer in the Christian
religion, and when in health a regular attendant upon public worship. In
August, 1877, he had an attack of apoplexy while at Brattleboro, after
which he had several other slight attacks, from all of which he speedily
recovered, but on Saturday, the day preceding his death, he had a more
severe attack, from which he did not rally to consciousness. His widow,
two sons and one daughter survived him.
Rev. Mark CARPENTER, of the CARPENTER family mentioned on page 203,
was born in Guilford, September 23, 1802,, and died in Townshend, Monday,
November 13, 1882, after an illness of two days. Before he became of age,
Mr. CARPENTER had had but three months of schooling. On attaining his majority,
however, he set to work in earnest to acquire an education, and in April,
1827, united with the Baptist church, being licensed to preach soon after.
He spent five terms in the academy and college at Amherst, taking his last
year and graduating at Union college, Schenectady, N. Y., in 1830, and,
after a three years' course at Newton Theological Institution, he settled
in Milford, N. H., where he was ordained February 26, 1834. From that time
until his death he was actively engaged in the gospel work, taking up his
residence in Townshend in 1875. Mr. CARPENTER's first wife, and the mother
of his seven sons, was Catharine A. HOWARD, daughter of the late Chapin
HOWARD, of Townshend. His second wife, who survives him, was Mrs. Sarah
B. JENKINS, for many years a missionary connected with the Hansom Place
Baptist church, in Brooklyn, N. Y.