HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF BETHEL

      BETHEL, lies in the northwestern part of the county, in lat. 43° 50' and long 4° 21', bounded northerly by Randolph, in Orange county, easterly by Royalton, southerly by Barnard, and westerly by Rochester, enclosing an area of 23,040 acres, or a tract six miles square. The charter of this town was the first granted by the State of Vermont, under the following circumstances: On December 29, 1777, an association was formed at Hanover, N. H., for the purpose of making a "settlement on White river and its branches," and in March, 1778, they petitioned the legislature of Vermont for the grant of a township to be called Bethel. In this petition they say they "understand that said lands were granted by the late governor of New York counter to the royal proclamation, to certain persons, the greater part of whom have now put themselves under the protection of the enemies of the American States." This petition met with success and a grant was made March 18, 1778, the township charter being issued to John PAYNE, John HOUSE, Dudley CHASE and forty-three others, December 23, 1779.

      The surface of the town is very broken and uneven, Paul's Peak and Blueberry Mountain, in the central part, being the principal elevations, though the soil is in general warm and productive. The timber on the highlands is mostly hemlock and spruce, while on the lowlands it is principally beech, birch and maple. The principal streams are White river, which flows across the southeast corner, and its second and third branches. The second branch but just touches upon the northeast corner. The third branch rises in Roxbury, flows through Braintree and the corner of Randolph into this town, and after flowing about four miles within this territory, joins White river. Locust creek falls into White river in the southeastern part of the town. Camp creek flows across the center of the town from west to east, joining the third branch a little northwest of the center of the township. There are also many other minor brooks and streams. Many good mill-sites are afforded. The Central Vermont railroad crosses the northeastern part of the territory, affording a convenient mode of transportation for the imports and exports of the town.

      Nearly the whole of this town, geologically speaking, is made up of rock, of the talcose schist formation, though there is a considerable bed of clay slate in the western part, and one or two small beds of granite and steatite are found. Traces of gold have been discovered in the southeastern part and in some other localities. On the farm of Albert G. MARSH are found specimens of iron ore, green vitriol, and excellent slate, and in the eastern part of the town Edwin KITTREDGE operates a good; granite quarry, operated by in 1867.

      Mr. E. A. MAXHAM, of Bethel, has a mounted specimen of the North American panther, killed in Barnard, November 24, 1881, by Alexander CROWELL. It measures seven feet six inches from tip to tip, and weighed, after losing several pounds of blood, 1821 pounds. It is said to be the largest specimen ever found in the country.

      In 1880 Bethel had a population of 1,693, and in 1882 was divided into twelve school districts, and contained twelve common schools, employing three male and twenty-one female teachers, to whom was paid an aggregate salary of $1,815.80. There were 668 pupils attending common school, while the entire cost of the schools for the year, ending October 31, was $2,166.81, with W. B. C. STICKNEY, superintendent.

      BETHEL, a post village located in the southeastern part of the town, on White river, is the central point for trade and travel from Barnard, Stockbridge, Pittsfield and Rochester, and one of the most important railroad stations on the line of C. V. R. R. between Essex Junction and White River Junction. It has three churches (Episcopal, Congregational and Universalist), a bank, two hotels, a graded school, an extensive flour and feed mill, a tannery, carriage shop, harness shop, marble and granite shop, two livery stables, about a dozen stores of various kinds, and between 500 and 600 inhabitants.
EAST BETHEL is a small post village located in the northeastern part of the town. It contains one church (Baptist), a hotel, about twenty houses and the usual compliment of mechanic's shops, etc.

      The Bethel Grist-mill, owned by Hiram H. GILSON, was built by Peleg MARSH, in 1835. Mr. GILSON employs four men and does a large amount of business. The mill has a water-power with an eight-foot head.

      James MANNIX's blacksmith shop was built in 1880. Mr. MANNIX does a large business in all kinds of blacksmith work.

      J.B. ALLEY & Co.'s tannery, located at Bethel, employs thirteen hands, turning out a large amount of work per annum.

      Samuel H. BANK's tilt sloop, located on Main street, turns out a large amount of work.

      E.M. WESTON's carriage manufactory, located on Main street, was built by D. & I. WESTON, and is now managed by the sore of the latter.

      Messrs. HASCOM, BROOKS & BRIGHRAM, proprietors of the Bethel Toy Manufactory, carry on a large business.

      Hibbard PERKINS's carriage sloop, located on road fifty-four, was built in 1858. This firm does a good business in custom work and repairing.

      M.D. BROWN's grist-mill, located at East Bethel, is supplied with three runs of stones. Mr. BROWN has also machinery for doing custom plaining.

      The National White River Bank, located at Bethel village, was chartered under the old State banking system, as the White River Bank, and commenced business in February, 1851, with Charles BAXTER, president, and L. L, TILDEN, cashier. In May, 1865, it was organized as it now exists, with a capital of $125.00. Nelson GAY, of Stockbridge, is now president of the institution, and M. Sylvester, cashier.

      The settlement of the town was commenced by Benjamin SMITH, in the autumn of 1779. The next year he was joined by Joel MARSH, Samuel PEAK, Seth CHASE, Willard SMITH and David STONE, after which the settlement increased quite rapidly. About the first thing the settlers did was to build a stockade fort, as in the then troubled state of the country an Indian attack upon the defenseless settlements might at any moment be expected. The fort stood at the lower end of the village, as near as can be learned, precisely where the railroad depot now stands. At the time the excavations were made for building the railroad, some iron relics were dug up at this point, a gate hinge, etc., tending to prove that this was the spot where the settlers, with their wives, children and property, had gathered themselves together for protection from the foe.

      The wisdom displayed in building this fort was soon made apparent, for on the 9th of August, 1770, a party of twenty-one Indians made a descent on Barnard and made prisoners of Thomas M. WRIGHT. Prince HASKELL and John NEWTON, also taking David STONE, of this town. Royalton had a small garrison of soldiers, commanded by a Captain SAFFORD. This garrison was called upon and was removed to the Bethel fort. This proved the salvation of Bethel, but was most disastrous to Royalton; for only a little over two months later a party of nearly 300 came on and totally destroyed the settlement in the latter town, and Bethel would have shared the same fate had it not been for its little fort and its garrison of brave and hardy men. This body of Indians came up White river as far as the mouth of the second branch, destroying every house but one, a log dwelling which stood north of the branch on the meadow, and was not discovered by the Indians, the occupants having extinguished the lights, and the savages feared to approach nearer the fort at Bethel.

      Early in August, 1781, an alarm was again spread, which caused the commandant of the fort, Capt. John BENJAMIN, to seek assistance from the neighboring militias. This alarm, however, proved to have no foundation in fact; still, in obedience to the application, Capt. Bartholomew DURKEE; on the 10th of the month, at the head of twenty-five of the stout men of Pomfret, marched to his aid, and was joined by Capt. Elkanah SPRAGUE with five men from Hartford. The readiness of the soldiers to fight, however, was the only method by which they were permitted to evince their bravery on this occasion. The sole record of the expedition which remains, is that which preserves the names of the militia, the number of miles they traveled and the days they were absent on service.

       Lois, daughter of Dudley CHASE, and wife of Benjamin SMITH, was a brave, noble woman. On the 6th of September, 1780, there was born to her end her good husband a son, who was also named Asa, the first birth on the town. Asa lived and died here, a quiet, unassuming, honorable gentleman, loved and respected by every one. He was but a month old when the Royalton massacre occurred, and his mother sought protection with him at the fort. Mr. SMITH then lived in a log house on the meadow of what is still known as the SMITH farm. It is said that when the family contemplated emigration to this town, from Cornish, N. H., Lois opened her bible to read the first verse her eye should rest upon, as a guide for her final conclusion, or as a prophesy of her final failure or success. The verse that met her eye was the fifth of the fifth chapter of Amos, -- "But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba, for Gilgal shall finally go into captivity and Bethel shell come to naught." This sharp warning, however, did not deter her, but after the burning of Royalton she insisted that its name ought to be Gilgal. The mantle of prophesy seems to have fallen on this family, for her father, Dudley, so it is related, came to Bethel with a surveying party some time before the date of the charter, and encamped one night on the stream in East Bethel, sleeping on the ground with a stone for a pillow. In the morning, like Jacob of old; he said to his companion, "This place shall be called Bethel, and who knows but that this stone which has been my pillow shall be one of the foundation stones of a church of God;" (Genesis xxxiii, 11, 18, 19, 22). In 1824 the Baptist church was built on the very place where they encamped, and all the stones in the immediate vicinity were gathered and used in the foundation that the prophecy might be fulfilled. Solon S. CHASE, a great-grandson of Dudley, now occupies the farm that Dudley gave to his son Simeon. The two adjoining farms were also given by him to his daughters, Lois and Alice. Solon S. was born here in 1813, and has resided on the old place seventy years.

      The town was organized and the first town meeting held May 14, 1782, when Barnabas STRONG was chosen clerk, Michael FLYNN, constable, and Joel MARSH, John BENJAMIN and George SMITH, selectmen. Michael FLYNN was also the first justice of the peace, holding the office from 1786 to 1814.

      Simeon BROOKS came to Bethel, from Connecticut, in 1780 and located upon the farm now owned by S. A. WEBSTER, who married his granddaughter, Nancy. He reared a family of six children and died in 1825, aged fifty-four years.

      Samuel PEAK, from Hartford, Conn., came to Bethel about 1780, locating in the eastern part of the town, where he died in 1829. Four of his seven children settled in the town and left a number of descendants.

      Rev. Thomas RUSSELL, from Long Island, came to Bethel in 1785, receiving the lot of land allowed by charter to the first settled minister. Only one of his four children, Hannah R., widow of Seneca MARKS, is now living. She was married in 1820. Two of her three children are living, one, Frederick H., on road 17.

      Michael FLYNN, from Connecticut, located in the northern part of the town in 1782, reared a family of six children and died in 1827, aged seventy-three years. Richard R., his first child, born in 1784; died here in 1846. Charles C., fourth child of Richard has always resided in the town.

      Peter WOODBURY, from Sutton, Mass., located in East Bethel about 1787, reared ten children, and died in 183-, aged seventy-eight years

      Jeduthan ROGERS, from Connecticut, came here in 1787, locating upon a farm at South Limpus, where he died in 1834. His only son, Isaiah, born in 1774, resided here until fifty years of age, then removed to New York, where he died in 1861, aged seventy-five years. Only one of his ten children settled in the town.

      Capt. Joel MARSH came to Bethel, from Hartford, Conn., at a very early date, receiving a grant known as the "miller's right," consisting of 400 acres, for building the first mill. Irene MARSH, daughter of Jonathan, was born in 1808, married William ADAMS and reared three children, two of whom, William R. and Rush M., now reside here. Albert L., third child of Jonathan, born in 1810, has never been absent front the town over six consecutive weeks.

      John BLAKE came to Bethel at an early date, from Massachusetts, and died here in 1852. William, his second child, reared a family of thirteen children, and died in 1874. Samantha, the fourth child of William, was born in 1826, married James S. FREELEN, and has reared a family of five children.

      Samuel WILSON came here with his father, from Connecticut, at an early date, and settled upon a farm on Camp brook. He reared seven children and died in 1836, aged seventy-nine years.

      Ezra PUTNAM came from Sutton, Mass., at an early date, and settled upon a farm in the southern part of the town, where he attained the great age of ninety years. His six children also permanently located in Bethel. Ezra, Jr., the fourth, born in 1792, reared seven children, three of whom now reside here.

      Reuben BROOKS, from Connecticut, came here at an early date and located at Bethel village, and died in 1843, aged seventy-nine years. Two of ten children permanently located here.

      Oliver H. BROOKS, from New Hampshire, came to Bethel at an early date, locating at East Bethel, where he worked at his trade of carpenter and wheelwright, and for twenty-one years had control of the hotel, and during that time was postmaster. He had two children, of whom Samuel H., the youngest, born in 1828, resided at East Bethel.

      Reuben SPAULDING was a resident of Royalton at the time of the Indian trouble in 1780, and was one of the prisoners taken to Canada. One of his seven children, Edwin, is now living in Bethel. Charles, his third child, born in 1810, died in 1858. Two of his family, Elbridge G. and Ellen, twins, also reside here.

      Seth CHASE came from New Hampshire to Bethel among the early settlers, locating on road 30, near the present cemetery, the land comprising which he gave to the town. He afterwards removed to Randolph, where he built the first grist-mill in that town. His grandchild, Lucy CHASE, married Abel BYAM, by whom she had eight children, six of them now being residents of the town.

      John WALLACE, a native of Connecticut, came to Bethel about 1790 and located on road 17, upon the farm now owned by his grandson, Elroy E. He reared a family of thirteen children, all of whom lived to be over sixty years of age, and two are now living. John, Jr., born in 1801, resided here until his death, in 1872. Four of his children, Nelson H., Gardner J., Laura E. and Elroy E., reside here.

      Jeremiah MORSE, a Revolutionary veteran, came here from Massachusetts in 1794, locating upon the farm now owned by his grandson, Alexander MORSE, where he died in 1836. Four of his six children settled in the town.

      Nehemiah NOBLE, from New London, Conn., came to Bethel in 1794, locating upon the farm now owned by his grandson, Robert NOBLE. He served in both the war of the Revolution and in the war of 1812, and died in 1826, aged seventy years, having reared a family off ten children.

      Zachary DEAN, from Connecticut, came to Bethel about the year 1800, and with his son Zebulon located near the village, where he engaged in shoemaking. Later they removed to the farm now owned by Hiram DEAN, who makes the fifth generation of the family residing on that place.

      Othnial DURHAM, from Newport, N. H., came to Bethel about 1805, locating at Bethel village, where, with his brother Salmon, he commenced the clothing business. Subsequently he removed to a farm on the river road, where he died in 1870 aged eighty-two years.

      William, Samuel, Isaac; James, John, Isabella and Mary McINTOSH, children of John, came from Amherst, N. H., about 1810, locating in the northwestern corner of the town, known as Gilead. Samuel located upon the farm now owned by his son Samuel, on road 1.

      John BIRD, from Ware, N. H., came to Bethel about 1812, locating on South Hill. He died in 1871, aged eighty-seven years. Only one of his eight children, A. Benjamin, became a permanent resident of the town.

      Minot WHEELER, a native of Hollis, N. H., came to Bethel about 1812, and died here in 1840, aged seventy-two years. Two of his six children, Rebecca, widow of Joel DAY, and Gorden, are living.

      Asa CURTIS, a native of Orange, came into Bethel in 1812, locating in the northeastern part of the town. His widow, Lucy (FISH) CURTIS, is still living, at the great age of 100 years. Only one son, Charles W., resides in Bethel, on road 31.

      Reuben CHAPMAN, from New Hampshire, came to Bethel about 1812, locating upon the farm now owned by his son, Nelson, when he died in 1875. Two of his six children are living.

      Abijah SHEER, from New Hampshire, located as a blacksmith at Bethel village in 1816, and died in 1868, aged seventy-three years. He reared a family of nine children, five of whom are now living, two in Bethel.

      Calvin MORSE, from Orange county, came to Bethel about 1820, locating upon the farm now owned by his sixth child, Edwin. Mr. MORSE has filled with honor most of the town offices, and now, at the age of eighty-seven years, resides here with his daughter Betsy.

      Washington CHAMBERLIN, from Stockbridge, Vt., came to Bethel in 1822. He reared a family of nine children, three of whom settled in the town.

      Thomas BUCK., from Portland, Conn., came to Tunbridge in 1830, and subsequently removed to Bethel, where he died in 1862.

      James MARTIN, from Pembroke, N. H., came to Tunbridge in 1834. James P., his youngest child, resides in this town, on road 34.

      Julius G., a son of George FASSETT, was born in Rochester in 1843, and made it his home there until 1877, when he came to Bethel, engaging in the hardware business.

      Rev. S. A. PARKER, a Universalist clergyman, has been a resident of Bethel for more than twenty years. He was born in Lempster, N. H., June 10, 1834, and was ordained in Stowe, Vt., August 25, 1859,-was pastor of the Universalist church there three years. He came to Bethel in May, 1862, and was pastor of the Universalist church sixteen years. For nearly five years he has supplied churches in the vicinity that were without a rector. He is now secretary of the Universalist Convention of Vermont and Province of Quebec. He has been trustee of Goddard Seminary, at Barre, ever since it was founded; was one of the charter members of White River Masonic Lodge, being its first master, and served in that capacity for ten successive years. His residence is in Bethel village.

      Christ's Protestant Episcopal church, located at Bethel village, was organized, with ten members, July 27, 1794, Rev. John C. OGDEN being the first rector. The first church building was erected in 1823, and gave place to the present structure in 1846. This building is a wood structure capable of seating 200 persons; it cost $2,090.00, and is now valued, including grounds, at $3,500.00. The society has at present 138 members, with Rev. Moses Parsons STICKNEY, rector.

      The East Bethel Baptist church was organized by a council of representative's from neighboring churches, in 1812, it then having ten members, Rev. Benjamin PUTNAM being the first pastor. The church building is a brick structure, erected in 1824 at a cost of $1,000.00; it will seat 250 persons and is valued at $1,200.00. The society now has fourteen members, under the pastoral charge of Rev. O. J. TAYLOR.

      The Congregational church, located at Bethel village, was organized by Revs. Justin PARSON, Calvin NOBLE and Joel DAVIS, with thirteen members, July 25, 1817, Rev. Benjamin ABBOTT being the first pastor. The old brick church the society first erected is still in use, and will seat 250 persons. Rev. R. J. BUGBEE is pastor of the society.

      The Universalist church, located at Bethel village, was not organized until Dec. 29, 1817, with thirty-six members, though they had stated preaching many years before. Rev. Hosea BALLOU and others preached to them near the beginning of this century. Rev. Kettredge HAVEN was the first resident pastor; he commenced his pastorate in 182I and closed in 1828. Rev. S. A. PARKER, the last resident pastor, commenced his pastorate in 1862 and closed in 1878. The society is now supplied by Rev. J. B. TABOR, of Gaysville. Their church edifice is built of brick and will seat 250 persons. It was dedicated Dec. 24, 1816, having cost $5,000.00, a very substantial and neat building. In 1853 it was remodeled and is now in keeping with the age. This society has always been large and prominent, many of the early settlers and many of the most respectable and influential people in town have been supporters and members of it.

      The Methodist Episcopal church of Bethel, located on road 48, corner of road 50, at what is locally known as Limpus, was organized many years ago, Rev. W. H. STODDARD being the first pastor. The church edifice was built in 1841, a building capable of seating 175 persons, and valued at $1,000.00. The society now has forty-five members, with Rev. H. K. HASTINGS, of Gaysville, pastor.

Gazetteer of Towns
Gazetteer and Business Directory of 
Windsor County, Vt., For 1883-84
Compiled and Published By Hamilton Child,
Syracuse, N. Y. Printed January, 1884.
Page 88-95.

Transcribed by Karima Allison ~ 2004