HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF 
BRIDGEWATER

      BRIDGEWATER is a central-western border town of the county, lying in lat. 43° 37' and long. 4° 22’ bounded north by Barnard, east by Woodstock, south by Plymouth, and west by Sherburne, in Rutland county, the length of the western boundary being, by charter, eight miles, that of the eastern seven miles and a half, and of the northern and southern six miles each, giving an area of forty-six and one-half miles. The charter was given to Seth FIELD and his associates, July 10, 1761, in sixty-seven shares.

      The surface of the town is very uneven, except along the several streams where there is much level intervale land possessing an excellent soil. Among the many hills Mt. Hope, in the western part of the town, and Bald Mountain, in the southern part, are the most prominent. Though the highlands are in some parts quite ledgy, they contain many excellent farms, and afford excellent pasturage for cattle, sheep and horses. Here the timber is mostly spruce and hemlock, while the lower land abounds in maple, beech, birch, etc., from the first of which large quantities of sugar is annually made. The territory is watered by Quechee river and its numerous tributaries, many of which afford excellent water privileges. The Quechee rises in Sherburne and flows easterly through the southern part of this town into Woodstock. There was a time, however; when the river probably flowed into Black river instead of the course it now occupies. Extending from Stockbridge to Ludlow, following along the western line of Bridgewater, is a range of high land, which has no break except where the river now crosses it, through a deep gorge. West of this ridge is an unusually prominent valley which was doubtless once the bed of the Quechee when it flowed into Black river. There is also evidence that there was a blocking up of this gorge some time during the alluvial period, for the accumulations of coarse materials at the head of the stream in Sherburne are very great. One of these hills of modified drift arrests attention by its striking appearance. It occupies the middle of the valley like an island in a lake. Probably the bottom of this valley was filled a hundred feet or more with detritus, when the river flowed into Black river instead of coming to Woodstock, and it is likely that this hill of drift materials is only a remnant of that deposit.

      The rocks entering into the geological formation of the township are various. Nearly three-quarters of the territory, from the west line, is made up of rocks of the talcose schist formation. This immense bed, however, is cut by a narrow range of clay slate, extending nearly the whole length of the town from north to south, while in the southwestern part there is a bed of saccharoid azoid limestone. Next to this schistose rock, extending from Barnard to Plymouth, is a range of gneiss, having a mean width of about one mile. All of the rocks in the township east of this latter range are known as calciferous mica schist. There are also two quite considerable beds of steatite, or soapstone, in the western part of the town.

      In the summer of 1851, Matthew KENNEDY discovered gold in a gangue of quartz that traversed the slate ledge above mentioned. He did not disclose the fact however, until he had secured a title to the land, in September, 1852. Upon examination, it was found that gold existed in three or four veins of quartz, within the space of eighty rods; whereupon the “yellow fever" broke out in the community, and raged with unabated fury till a sale of the property was made to Ira F. PAYSON, Charles J. KANE and Simeon M. JOHNSON, in 1853. This company erected a crushing-mill and placed in it an engine for working the crushers, stampers, washers, etc., and in June, 1854, made the first experiment of separating the gold from its matrix of quartz. Various reports were afloat in the community respecting the amount of gold obtained per week from the quartz, but nothing reliable was ever known to outsiders of the percentage of gold which the quartz yielded. Amid these conflicting reports it was, however, evident that the stock of the company was on the decline; and the result was, that in February, 1855, the works were suspended and abandoned by the proprietors and the property again full into the hands of Mr. KENNEDY, by virtue of a mortgage which he held on the premises. Since that time nothing of importance has ever been done in mining, and it is quite evident that the precious metal does not exist in quantities sufficient to warrant remunerative working. Galena, or lead ore, has also been found here in small quantities.

      In 1880 Bridgewater had a population of 1,084, and in 1882 it was divided into ten school districts and contained eleven common schools, employing three male and fourteen female teachers, to whom was paid an aggregate salary of $1,096.13. There were 229 pupils attending common school, while the entire cost of the schools for the year, ending October 31st, was $1,182.18, with L. H. Spaulding, superintendent.

      BRIDGEWATER is a small post village located in the eastern part of the town, containing two stores and several mills and mechanic shops.
      WEST BRIDGEWATER is a small post village located in the western part of the town.
      BRIDGEWATER CORNERS (p. o.) is a hamlet located in the southern central part of the town.
      The Ashton Mill Co.'s mill, located on road 43, has the capacity for manufacturing 10,000 feet of lumber per day.

      A.D. BARROWS's saw-mill, located at Bridgewater Corners, cuts about 150,000 feet of lumber per annum.

      Mansell HESELTON's chair stock factory, located on road 38, is operated by steam power and manufactures  3,000,000 chair stretchers per year.

      W.C. BUGBEE & Co.'s mills, located at Bridgewater Corners, for the manufacture of chair stock and butter tubs, give employment to ten men and turn out $10,000.00 worth of chair stock and 5,000 butter tubs annually. The machinery is of the best quality, operated by steam power.

      The Chateaugay Steam Mills, A. L. & H. G. DAVIS, proprietors, are located on road 16. These mills have the capacity for turning out 10,000 feet of lumber and a large number of chair stretchers per day.

      The first lot of land surveyed was in the northern part of the town, in September, 1779, by Dea. Asa JONES, and in the winter following he brought his family from Woodstock on hand-sleds, making the first settlement in the wilderness town of Bridgewater, in what is now known as the Mendall district.

      During that winter they were the only inhabitants; but in May, 1780, Amos MENDALL joined them and soon after married a daughter of Dea. JONES, making the second family in the town. A daughter was born to the young couple in 1781, the first birth in the township. The child was named Lucy and lived here until she attained a ripe old age. In 1783 Isaiah SHAW and Cephas SHELDON moved their families into the northern part of the town, they having made some improvements the year previous, and Capt James FLETCHER came in about the same time. In 1784, Richard SOUTHGATE settled on the Quechee river where Bridgewater village now is, and about the same time a large family by the name of HAWKINS located where Bridgewater Corners now is. From this time forward the population increased quite rapidly, so that in 1791, at the taking of the first census, the town had 293 inhabitants, and in 1800 it had 781.

      The town was organized and the first town meeting held, March 30, 1785. when Asa JONES was chosen moderator; John HAWKINS, town clerk; Richard SOUTHGATE, James FLETCHER and Isaiah SHAW, selectmen; Joseph HAWKINS, town treasurer and constable; Bliss HOISINGTON, James FLETCHER and Joseph BOYCE, listers; Richard SOUTHGATE. grand juror, and Joseph BOYCE, Amos MENDALL and James TOPLIFF, surveyors of highways. John HAWKINS was the first representative, in 1784, and also the first justice of the peace, in 1786. The first saw-mill was built in the northern part of the town, by George BOYCE, in 1784. The Messrs. HAWKINS built one that went into operation in 1785, and Mr. SOUTHGATE another, which went into operation soon after. The latter gentleman also built the first grist-mill, in 1786. Josiah BOYCE built the first frame house.

      Isaiah SHAW, who came here in 1783, located upon the farm now occupied by his grandson, Elihu SHAW. Isaiah was twice married and reared a family of thirteen children, three of whom are now living. He was an eminently respected man and died here at an advanced age.

      Richard SOUTHGATE, who came here from Massachusetts in 1784 and took such an active part in developing the settlement, was the father of three sons and three daughters. Thomas, the oldest, was a farmer, his dwelling being located upon the site now occupied by Dr. RODIMAN's fine house. Thomas married Elizabeth WHITE and reared four children, one of whom, Mrs. Mary DAVIS, a lady eighty-four years of age, now resides in the village. James, the second son, became a farmer and tavern keeper, and settled at the village. He was twice married and had seven children, none of whom are now living. Richard, Jr., the youngest son, occupied the old homestead built in 1797, and now owned by F. S. McKENZIE. He took an active interest in military affairs, holding the office of captain of militia, and was familiarly known as “Capt. Dick." He was twice married and reared ten children, two of whom, Napoleon Bonaparte and Winfield Scott, now reside at the village, the only surviving ones.

      Levi SHURTLEFF came to this town from Carver, Mass., at an early date in its history, locating upon the farm now owned by Levi, Jr. He was twice married and reared a family of eight children, four of whom are now living.

      James TOPLIFF was born January 8, 1760, married young, and came to Vermont at an early date, first settling in Hartford, then coming to this town and locating upon the farm now occupied by his grandsons, Andrew J. and Calvin T. Mr. TOPLIFF held many of the early town offices and died at an advanced age, possessing the honor and respect of all.

      Norman N. BARROWS, residing on road 43, is the only surviving offspring of Lucy MENDALL, the first child born in the town. Mr. BARROWS is now over sixty years of age.

      Dr. Benjamin PERKINS, born at Lyme, Conn., about 1763, came to Bridgewater at an early date, and was one of the victims of the fever epidemic of 1813. This epidemic prevailed to an alarming degree, sweeping off great numbers of the most respectable and useful citizens. Nineteen persons in the town were swept off in the month of March, a great portion of whom were heads of families. Mr. PERKINS' grave is at Bridgewater cemetery. Dea. Joseph PERKINS, brother of Benjamin, was killed here by the falling of a tree, in June, 1824. Joseph was a worthy deacon of the Congregational church, and left a family of five to mourn his loss.

      Zebulon THOMAS moved his family to Bridgewater with an ox team, from Middlebury, Mass., in May, 1789, occupying two weeks in the journey, a distance of 180 miles. He located on road 26, upon the farm now owned by GREEN & BUCKMAN, he having purchased it of a man by the name of CLEVELAND. His family consisted of his wife and six children, William, Jesse, ZebuIon, Jonas, Lydia, Ebenezer, Simeon, Samuel and Arial. William married Azuba COBB and died at the age of sixty-three years, leaving no issue. Ebenezer married Polly THOMAS and reared a family of eight children. The homestead was divided between William and Ebenezer. Marson, son of Ebenezer, married Christina B. BOYCE and still resides here, and has had a family of three children. Erastus E., another son, has been a resident of Woodstock for the past thirty-three years. Simeon also lives in Woodstock. Horatio N. married Allura D. WOODWARD, and now occupies the place where Deacon Joseph PERKINS settled and died. All the other of Ebenezer's children are dead.

      Noah THOMPSON came to Bridgewater, from Halifax, Mass., about 1792, locating in the northern part of the town with his ten children, all of whom lived to attain an adult age, and many of whom became influential citizens. David filled most of the town offices and was returned to the general assembly several times. Zadock THOMPSON, the noted scholar, for many years a professor in the University of Vermont, author of "Thompson's Gazetteer of Vermont" and several other valuable works, was a son of Barnabas. He was born on his father's farm, corner of roads 10 and 11.

      Charles S. RAYMOND, whose grandfather was among the early settlers of the town, was born here September 20, 1815, and with the exception of a few years in the early part of his life, which were passed in Woodstock, always lived in his native town. He early took an active part in local public affairs and became one of the leading men of the town, representing his townsmen successively in the general assembly, senate, and serving them as delegate to conventions and public assemblies, and was widely known throughout the State. He was one of the original trustees of the savings bank, of Woodstock, an institution over which lie watched with unwavering fidelity to the last of his life, serving continuously as trustee from its organization in 1847. He was also a director of the Windsor County Mutual Fire Insurance Company, having had his first election in 1857 and served continuously, except one year, until his death. When the Woodstock railroad was projected, thoroughly believing in its importance and necessity, he gave it his earnest and hearty support, being one of its directors until his death. He was married, July 15, 1840, to Charlotte M. DANA, daughter of Charles M. DANA, of Woodstock, who survives him. Of his family, two sons, Charles Raymond, of Ludlow, and William C. Raymond, of Bridgewater, survive him.

      Joseph DIMICK, Jr., from Mansfield, Mass., came to this town in 1793, locating on road 37, upon the farm now owned by Chester DIMICK. He reared a family of thirteen children, six of whom are now living.

      Guerdon BACKUS, Jr., came from England about 1795, and located on road 35, upon the farm now owned by Scott ROBINSON. He had a family of ten children, many of whose descendants now live in Vermont.

      Smith WHITMAN came here, from Springfield, Vt., in 1806, locating upon the farm now owned by his son Andrew J. He assisted Mr. HAWKINS in building a saw-mill that went into operation in i808 and was carried off by a freshet in 1811.

      Elisha WOODS, from Petersborough, N. H., came here in 1813 and located upon the farm now owned by E. F. WOODS. He reared a family of twelve children, all but four of whom now reside here.

      William G. SMITH was born in Bridgewater in 1807, and resided here, with the exception of twelve years spent in Woodstock, all his life, dying in 1882. He had two children, Charles and Emily. The former resides in Plymouth and the latter upon the home farm.

      Josiah JOSLYN, whose father, Josiah, was an early settler in Woodstock, was born August 25, 1799, has been engaged in mercantile pursuits in this town many years. He married Ann TOPLIFF, October 16, 1825, and their two children, Andrew J. and Carlton T., are both living. Mr. Carlton, a hale old man of eighty-five years, has held most of the town offices, being a representative twice.

      Abadiah SPAULDING came here in 1830 and located in the southwestern part of the town. He married Jane KENNEDY, of Plymouth, and reared twelve children, six of whom are now living.

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 95-100.

Transcribed by Karima Allison ~ 2004