HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF READING

     READING lies in the central part of the county, in lat. 43° 30' and long. 4° 26', bounded north by Woodstock, east by West Windsor, south by Cavendish, and west by Plymouth. It contains an area of 23,040 acres, chartered by New Hampshire, July 6, 1761, to Zedekiah STONE and his associates to the number of sixty-one. May 30, 1772, a grant of the town was also issued, by New York, to Simeon STEVENS and others. The lands have all been held, however, under the New Hampshire charter.

      The surface of the town is uneven, its elevations being rather abrupt. Towards the western part is an elevated tract of land extending through the town from north to south, from which issues its principal streams, and it is worthy of remark that no water runs into the township. In the southwestern part, on the line of Plymouth, is a natural pond about two hundred rods in length and fifty in breadth. The outlet of this town is to the south, into Plymouth pond. From the northwestern part of the town the streams take a northerly direction, falling into Quechee river at Bridgewater. From the central and northeastern parts the streams take an easterly course and unite with the Connecticut river at Windsor. While those in the southeastern part take a southeasterly course and fall into Black river at Weathersfield. Some small streams, however, rise in the northern part, and, taking a north-easterly direction, fall into Quechee river at Woodstock. As a whole, the streams in Reading, though generally small, afford a tolerable number of mill privileges. The soil is fairly productive for grains and fruits, and affords excellent pasture land. The timber is generally hard wood, though the highlands afford spruce and hemlock.

      The rocks entering into the geological structure of the town are of the calciferous mica schist and gneiss formation, the latter underlying the eastern and western portions of the town and the former the central part.

      In 1880 Reading had a population of 953, and in 1882 was divided into eight school districts and contained eight common schools, employing one male and twenty female teachers, to whom was paid an aggregate salary of $852.35. There were 365 pupils attending common school, while the entire cost of the schools for the year, ending October 31st, was $958.27, with H. M. GUILD, superintendent.

      FELCHVILLE is a post village located in the southeastern part of the town. It contains two churches (Baptist and Union), one hotel, three stores, a school-house, two saw-mills, cabinet shop, undertaker's shop, tin shop, two blacksmith's shops, harness shop, wheelwright shop, paint shop, etc., and about 250 inhabitants.
      SOUTH READING, a post village located in the southern part of the town, contains one church (Methodist), a store, blacksmith shop, shingle-mill, chair-stock factory, two saw-mills, a grist-mill, etc., and about 125 inhabitants.
     READING (p. o.) is a hamlet located in the eastern part of the town.
      Clark WARDNER's saw-mill, located at Felchville, cuts about 75,000 feet of lumber per year.

      Carlos HAWKINS's saw and grist-mill and rake factory, located on Mill brook, was built about seventy years ago by Levi DAVIS, and came into the present owner's possession in 1838. Mr. HAWKINS does custom work, and manufactures 50,000 feet of lumber and 150,000 dozen rakes per year.

      D. P. SAWYER's grist grill, located at Felchville, was built by Hosea BENJAMIN, in 1851, for a carpenter shop. It was used for this purpose two years, then sold to Joseph S. DAVIS, who converted it into a grist-mill. In 1877 it was purchased by Mr. SAWYER. It is operated by water-power and has one run of stones.

      Myron A. DAVIS's saw-mill and chair factory, located at Felchville, was built by P. W. STEARNS, Clark WARDNER and Martin STOWELL, in 1869, upon the site of the woolen factory which was destroyed by fire. It was purchased by Mr. DAVIS in 1879. He employs twenty-five men in the manufacture of lumber and 1,200 dozen chairs per year.

      H. P. KENDALL's carriage shop, located at Felchville, was established by Benjamin M. KENDALL, in 1857. The present proprietor manufactures and does job work.

      Henry ALLEN's shingle-mill and chair-stock factory, located at South Reading, is what is known as the Lewis ROBINSON mill, and was purchased by Mr. ALLEN in 1880. He manufactures lath, shingles and chair-stock.

      E. W. C. BOYCE's saw-mill, located at South Reading, was once used as a starch factory, and came into Mr. BOYCE's possession in 1873. He manufactures 75,000 feet of lumber per year and 100,000 mop handles, also clothes-frames, ladders, etc. Mr. BOYCE also has an interest in a mill in Plymouth that cuts about 300,000 feet of lumber per year.

      E. E. GREEN's grist-mill, located at South Reading, has one run of stones and does custom work.

      JONES & HAWKINS's mills, located on road 30, manufacture 20,000 feet of lumber, 25,000 mop handles 500 barrels of cider and a large amount of chair-stock per year.

      S. & G. BAILEY's woolen mill, located near the center of the town, was built by Levi BAILEY, about 1815, for the manufacture of woolen cloth ; but the supply of water not proving sufficient this manufacture was given up and custom carding is now carried on.

      For the defense of Massachusetts and her frontiers, during the year 1754, Gov. SHIRLEY, on the 21St of June, ordered the commanders of the provincial regiments to assemble their troops for inspection, and make returns of the state of their forces at headquarters. The towns in the province were also ordered to furnish themselves with the stock of ammunition required by law. In spite of these precautions, however, the enemy, late in the summer, began their incursions in Massachusetts and along the frontiers of New Hampshire. At Bakerstown, on the Pemigewasset river, they made an assault on a family, on the 15th of August, killed one woman and made captives several other persons. On the 18th they killed a man and a woman at Steven's town, in the same neighborhood. Terrified at these hostile demonstrations, the inhabitants deserted their abodes and retired to the lower towns for safety, while the government was obliged to post soldiers in the deserted places. At an early hour on the morning of the 30th, the Indians appeared at Number Four, or Charlestown, on the Connecticut river, broke into the house of James JOHNSON, before any of the family were awake, and took him prisoner, together with his wife and three children, his wife's sister, Miriam WILLARD, a daughter of Lieut. WILLARD, Ebenezer FARNSWORTH, and Peter LABAREE. Aaron HOSMER, who was also in the house eluded the enemy by secreting himself under a bed. No blood was shed in the capture, and soon after daylight the Indians set out with their prisoners for Canada, by the way of Crown Point. On the evening of the first day the whole party encamped in the southwestern corner of Reading, near the junction of Knapp's brook with the Black river branch, where, on the morning of the 31st, Mrs. JOHNSON, who had been carried half a mile from the camp, was delivered of a daughter.

      This is the first account we have of any white person's visit to Reading, and records the first birth in Cavendish, for it was just over the line that the birth occurred. The daughter, from the circumstances of her birth, was named Captive. She afterwards became the wife of Col. George KIMBALL, of Cavendish. Upon the north bank of the brook, beside the road leading from Springfield to Woodstock, stand two stones, commemorative of the events recorded. The larger one is in its proper place, and the smaller one, though designed to be located half a mile further up the brook, whether by accident or otherwise, has always stood at its side. The stones are of slate and of a very coarse texture. They bare the following inscription:


This is near the spot
that the Indians encampd the
Night after they took Mr. JOHNSON &
Family Mr. LABAREE & FARNSWORTH
August 30th 1754 And Mrs
JOHNSON was delivered of her child
Half a mile up this Brook.
When troubles near the Lord is kind
He hears the captives crys
He can subdue the savage mind
And learn it sympathy
On the 31st of
August 1754
Capt James
JOHNSON had
A Daughter born 
on this spot of 
Ground being
Captivated with
his whole family by the Indians.

      The first settlement of the town was commenced by Andrew SPEAR and family, who came to Reading from Walpole, N. H., in 1772. His land embraced the farm now owned by Marcellus BRYANT, and the log house first built by Mr. SPEAR stood near the site of Mr. BRYANT's house. The precise date of SPEAR's arrival is not known, though his deed bears date August 20, 1772, and he then had not left Walpole. For five years this family resided here alone, when Barakiah CADY came on and located near Mr. SPEAR, about 1777. In 1779, the settlement was increased by the arrival of David HAPGOOD, John WELD, James SAWYER, Seth SAWYER, Joseph SAWYER, Jedediah LEAVENS, John SAWYER, Hezekiah LEAVENS and Samuel GARY. Benjamin BUCK, then about twelve years of age, came with Mr. CADY and lived with him until his majority. Benjamin SAWYER came from Pomfret. Conn., about 1780, and located upon the farm now owned by Charles A. DAVIS, and in 1796, built the house now standing thereon. He kept a hotel here for a time. His son, Benjamin, Jr., kept a hotel at the "SAWYER stand" from 1827 to 1834, and from 1840 to 1843. In 1781, John SHERWIN and Moses CHAPLIN came on. From 1772 to 1782, however, little progress seems to have been made in the settlement; but for the next nine years, pioneers came on until in 1779, the inhabitants numbered 747, and in 1800 this number had increased to 1,123.

      The town was organized March 30, 1780, at a meeting held at the house of Capt. John WELD, when the usual town officers were chosen, Jedediah LEAVENS was the first town clerk, John WELD, Andrew SPEAR and Robert GRANDEY, selectmen, and Barakiah CADY, constable. The first representative was Andrew SPEAR, in 1779. The first birth was that of Ezra SPEAR, in 1773.

      The first saw-mill was built by Col. TYLER, of Claremont, N. H., in 1780, who also built the first grist-mill, in 1783; these were a little below Carlos WARDNER's, on Mill Brook. A saw-mill was built by Samuel BUCK, near Simeon BUCK's, at the raising of which Daniel BLANCHARD, the master workman, was killed. The first practicing attorney was Titus BROWN, in 1816. The first physician was Dr. Elkanah DAY. The second physician was Woodbury MARCY.

      Nathaniel PRATT, a deacon of the Congregational church, and an active worker in religious and educational affairs, came to Reading, from New Hampshire, at an early day. He located upon and cleared a farm in the western part of the town, where he reared a large family of children. His grandson, Jarvis now lives on road 32.

      Cornelius SAWYER, in company with his brothers, Benjamin and Joseph, and two sisters, came to Reading in 1780. Cornelius located in the southern part of the town, where he reared seven children, and died in March, .1835. His grandson, Daniel P., born here in 1827, has held the office of justice of the peace twelve consecutive years.

      Benjamin, Benoni, Samuel and Simeon BUCK, four brothers, came here from Connecticut at an early day. Benoni settled in the eastern part of the town, reared a family of eight children, two of whom, Rufus and Dexter, are living, and died in 1857 at the age of eighty-nine years. Rufus resides in South Reading, and Dexter on road 15. All the other brothers, except Simeon, reared families and resided in the town all their lives.

      John DAVIS came to Reading at an early day and located near the present site of Reading post office. He remained in the town until his death. His son Ezekiel came to the town in 1783, locating at what is now called Hammondsville. Ezekiel reared a family of twelve children, two of whom, John, of Cavendish, and a daughter, in Massachusetts, are living. His son Edmund was born here in 1793 and died in 1880. Edmund reared nine children, five of whom now reside here. Justus S. and Carlos live near South Reading and C. A. resides on road 42.

      David HAPGOOD, from Templeton, Mass., came to Reading at an early date and located near the center of the town. He is said to have built the first frame house in the town. It stood upon the farm now owned by E. S. HAMMOND, and was destroyed by fire in 1883. Mr. HAPGOOD held many of the town offices and reared a family of ten children. David, Jr., was the third child born in the town, in 1786, and resided here until his death, in 1859. He was treasurer of the town thirty-two consecutive years, and had a family of six children. Only one, Solomon K., is now living.

      Solomon KEYES, who took an active part in town affairs and was a justice of the peace for many years, came to Reading at an early date and located at what was afterwards known as Hammondsville. Solomon, Jr., one of his ten children, was born here in 1796 and died in 1872, upon the farm now occupied by his son, William W. W. KEYES, who also held many of the town offices, and reared eight children, two of whom reside in the town.

      Sewell WILKINS, from Mohawk, N. Y., was an early settler. He located on road 33, upon the farm now owned by Roland WILKINS. He had thirteen children, six of whom are now living.

      Daniel STEARNS came to Reading, from Massachusetts, at an early day and located in the eastern part of the town, where Jarvis PRATT now lives. Two of his eight children, still reside here, Rufus and Mrs. J. PRATT.

      Samuel NEWTON, from Hinsdale, Mass., was among the early settlers of the town. He reared a family of eleven children, four of whom are now living, and died in 1857. His son Asa, born on the old homestead in 1798, died in 1867. Morris C., son of Asa, occupies the homestead.

      Jonathan SHEDD, who took an active part in public affairs, holding many of the town offices, settled in the northwestern part of the town in 1786, where he reared four sons, and died in 1831. His son Isaac was about eight months old when he came hire, and resided in the town until his death, in 1872. Allen, son of Isaac, now resides at Felchville with his son George W. The old farm is now owned by Frederick SHEDD, grandson of Jonathan.

      Levi BAILEY, from Andover, Mass., came to Reading in 1791 and located about half a mile north of the center of the town. He had a family of twelve children, ten of whom attained a mature age and seven are now living. He died in 1850, aged eighty-five years.

      Paul STEARNS, from Massachusetts, came to Reading in 1765, and in 1800 located upon the farm now occupied by his son, Honestus. He was twice married, reared a family of eleven children, four of whom are now living, and died in 1844. John M. is a lawyer in Brooklyn, N. Y.; B. F. is a resident of Everett, Mass.; George W. is a physician of Hollister, Mass., and Honestus occupies the homestead.

      Asa SHERWIN, from Westmoreland, Mass., came to Reading in 1800, locating near the center of the town. He reared nine children, four of whom are now living, and died in 1872. His widow survives him.

      David HAMMOND, from Woodstock, came to Reading in 1800, locating near the center of the town. Four of his seven children are living. His death occurred in 1867.

      Oliver WHITMORE, from Weathersfield, Vt., settled near the center of the town in 1802, and afterwards removed to road 19, where his son, Charles S., now lives. He reared a family of ten children, seven of whom are now living, and died in 1845, aged sixty-four years.

      Joel, son of Jesse HOLDEN, was born here in 1804, kept a hotel at Felchville and at Hammondsville, and died in 1850. He had two sons, one of whom, Orsemor S., born in 1843, now resides here. He early developed considerable musical talent and became an expert performer on the organ, banjo and guitar, and was also popular as a ballad singer.

      Frederick WARDNER, from Alstead, N. H., came here in 1796 and located with his family on "WARDNER hill," and died December 17, 1825, aged seventy-one years, having reared a large family of children.

      William L. HAWKINS, son of William A. HAWKINS, was born in Northboro, Mass., June 14, 1773. His father was a captain in the Revolutionary army, and at the close of the war came to Reading and located on a lot of land east of the "Orson TOWNSEND place," and returning to Wilton, N. H., sent William L. on in June, 1789, to commence the clearing, and in a few weeks followed with the remainder of the family. William L. began at the age of eighteen years to teach school, his first school being at Bailey's mills, in 1791, and taught thereafter until 1818. In 1794 he became the owner of 200 acres of land and was engaged principally in farming until 1821, when he built a hotel at Hammondsville, opening it in 1822. This was destroyed by fire in 1836, and he built another in its place, which he kept for twenty years. He was town clerk, representative, justice, postmaster, and run a grist-mill, saw-mill and carding-machine. He married Anna TOWNSEND and had seven children.

      Capt. David BURNHAM, from Duxbury, N. H., came to Reading prior to 1786, and in that year opened at the Center the first hotel in the town. He was a public spirited man and his hotel was much frequented for many years. He married Abigail PERSONS, August 7, 1780, and reared eleven children. He died October 16, 1834.

      Thomas TOWNSEND was one of the early settlers of Reading, coming from Lynfield, Mass. He married Susanna GREEN, November 19, 1762, and came here with three sons and two daughters, leaving two married daughters in Massachusetts. Of the two who came to Reading, Susanna married Deacon Elisha BIGELOW, and Anna married William L. HAWKINS, Esq., who was a prominent man in the town. They had six children, only two of whom are now living. The sons, Aaron, William and Thomas, married and reared families in Reading. Aaron was born in 1773 and died in 1846. His first wife was Lydia SWAIN, who was the mother of his seven children. Sarah, the eldest, married Josiah FRENCH, of Clarendon, deceased. She now resides with a niece, in Rutland, at the advanced age of eighty-two years. Almond married Elvira BUTLER, both deceased. They had seven children. Louisa married Amasa PARKER, both deceased. They had five children, of whom only one, Mrs. William PATRICK, of Rutland, is living. James S. married Elvira WHITE, of Kentucky, where he lived and died, leaving one child. Mary went South to teach, and married William SMITH, of Arkansas, where they still live, having a large family. Otis A. married Lucia CADY, of West Windsor. He spent most of his life upon the old home farm in Reading, and died upon one adjoining, where his brother Almond lived and died. He left an adopted daughter. Caroline married William WHITE, of Cleveland, Tennessee, where she still resides with her second husband, who was a brother of the first. She has four children. Her oldest son was in the Union army during the late civil war. William TOWNSEND was born in 1780, and died in 1865. He was a farmer, as were also his father and brothers. His first wife was Susanna SMITH, of Wilton, N. H., to whom he was married January 8. 1806. She died in 1820, at the early age of thirty-six years and eleven months. They had eight children who reached maturity, and were quite inclined to emigrate. Elmer the oldest, was born in 1807, and died in 1871. He went to Boston, Mass., at the age of twenty and spent the remainder of his life there, engaging successfully in mercantile pursuits. He was noted for superior business talents and great benevolence. He married W. Ann BEECHER, of New Haven, Conn., now deceased. They left two sons and one daughter. Orson, the second son, was born in 1808, and died in 1865. He was the only son who settled in Reading. He lived and died upon the farm once his father's. He married Harriet M. HOLT, who is still living, and left four children. His second daughter, Annie, married Joel CRANDALL, and they now live upon the old home farm in Reading. Alfred and Albert, twins, were born in 1810, and died in the south. Albert died in Carthage, Miss., in 1844, and Alfred, in Austin, Texas, in 1871. They married sisters, Alfred's wife was Nancy COLE. He left four children. Most of his married life was spent in Louisana, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits. He lived there during the late war, and though a Union man, acted as postmaster under the confederate government.

      Aurelia was born in 1811. She early engaged in teaching, and married Rev. Horace HERRICK, of Peacham, Vt. A large part of their married life was spent in teaching in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, for which employment both were peculiarly adapted. Mr. HERRICK's ministerial labors were mostly in Fitzwilliam, N. H., and Wolcott Vt. They are spending the evening of life in Felchville. Susanna was born in 1813, and died in 1879. She married Ezra FAY, now deceased, and left one daughter, Minnie C. FAY. William Smith was born in 1814, and died in 1864, in Clinton, Louisiana. The greater part of his life was spent in teaching in the west and south, though he later became a minister. He was twice married, and left a wife and ten children. Dennis was born in 1817, and died in 1874, in Amador county, California, where he was engaged in teaching many years, and acted also as county school superintendent. He taught in the west and south before going to California, teaching being his life work. He left a wife and two children. A more extended account of him and other members of the family may be found in the “History of Reading," published in 1874. William TOWNSEND married Hannah G. BIGELOW, his second wife, in 1820. They had seven children who reached maturity and are still living. Eliza, the eldest, lived with her aged mother in Felchville. Teaching was her principal employment during her earlier life. F. V. ALSTYNE, married Aurelia ROYCE, in 1,951. They have three children. Their early married life was spent in Reading, upon the farm of their uncle, Amasa WATKINS. They moved to Springfield in 1861, where they still reside. He is one of the firm of GILMAN & TOWNSEND, machinists. Isabella married Henry WATERMAN, of Norwich, a mechanic and farmer. Their home is now in Milford, Seward county, Nebraska. They have seven children. F. Torrey married Charlotte STEBBINS, of Norwich, in 1852, who died in Clay, Iowa, in 1874, leaving three children. They emigrated to Iowa early in their married life, where he was one of the pioneer farmers, and his home is still there in Clay. He was a Union soldier in the war of the Rebellion. His second wife was Mrs. Rosanna HEWARD, of Bloomington, Ill., deceased. His present and third wife was Mrs. Melissa BRAMAN, formerly of West Windsor. VanBuren married Annie AUSTIN, of Worcester, Mass., where they have lived many years. They have a home in Orange county, Florida, where they expect soon to reside permanently. They have one child, a son. Velette P. married Emily STEBBINS, of Norwich, who died in Iowa, in 1860, leaving one child, a daughter. He returned to Quinsigamond, Worcester Co., Mass., where he had formerly and still lives. His present wife was Eliza J. HALLETT, of St. Johnsbury, Vt. Marquis D. married Cordelia HICKS, of Ohio, in 1858, who died in 1870, leaving a daughter. Most of their married life was spent in Washington county, Iowa. He was a volunteer from Iowa in the late civil war. Since the close of the war he has been engaged in mercantile business in Conneaut, Ohio, where he now lives with his second wife, Mary PALMER, of Girard, Penn. They have two children. Thomas TOWNSEND married Philinda BECKWITH, of Acworth, N. H. They had four children who reached maturity, and are still living. Daniel S. married Martha STANFORD. He settled in West Burke and has three children. Ann H. married E. D. HOUGHTON, and resides in Keene, N. H., having eight children. Lewis S. married Julia AUSTIN, and resides in Utica, Ill. They have a son and daughter. Rufus E. married Caroline DOW, and has two children, Abbie and Stephen, who reside with them ay their home, in Woodstock.

      The Calvinist Baptist church, located at Reading, was organized by Dea. Silas BOWEN, Samuel KENDALL and others, with twenty-two members, in 1835, Rev. David BURROUGHS being the first pastor. The present church building was erected in 1861, and is valued, including grounds, ay $3,600.00. The society now has eighty-nine members, with Rev. A. HELD, pastor.

      The Union church of Felchville was organized by the Universalist and Methodist societies, in 1862. It will seat 175 persons and is valued at $1,000.00.

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 189-197.

Transcribed by Karima Allison ~ 2004