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
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:
is near the spot
Indians encampd the
they took Mr. JOHNSON &
Mr. LABAREE & FARNSWORTH
30th 1754 And Mrs
was delivered of her child
mile up this Brook.
near the Lord is kind
the captives crys
subdue the savage mind
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
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.
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
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
and Business Directory of
County, Vt., For 1883-84
and Published By Hamilton Child,
N. Y. Printed January, 1884.
by Karima Allison ~ 2004