HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF 

TOWNSHEND

      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. BATCHELDER, superintendent.

      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 per annum..

      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, assistant.

      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: 

"Samuel 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 with 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.