|History of the Town of Plymouth|
This history was Chapter 20 of the History of Windsor County, Vermont, with
biographical sketches of some of its prominent men & pioneers,edited
by Lewis Cass Aldrich and Frank R. Holmes, published in 1891 in Syracuse NY, by
D. Mason & Co, Publishers.|
The town of Plymouth, as it is now and for early a century has been known, was chartered by Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire, on the 6th of July, 1761, and was, therefore, one of the earliest chartered towns. The grantees under this charter were sixty-four in number, and headed by Jeremiah Hall. The town, however, was given the name of Saltash, and by that name it was known and called until February 23, 1797, when as act of the Legislature changed the name to Plymouth.
The town also seems to have been among those over which the province of New York sought to exercise control by specific acts, as well as the general authority she claimed to possess over this whole State; for in the year 1772, soon after of about the time of the erection of Cumberland and Gloucester counties, the governor of the province of New York made a grant of the lands of old Saltash to Ichabod Fisher and certain associates, the grant bearing date May 13, 1772, but it is not known whether of not the New York governor ever confirmed the Fisher grant by charter rights and privileges; probably he did not. And it is not positively known whether Saltash was first settled by persons friendly to New York or Vermont, for when the first pioneer, of whom there is a record, came to the town, Vermont had become an independent State, and had succeeded New Hampshire in extending protection and jurisdiction over the people of the districts or separate grants. But when the town was organized in 1787 or about that year, New York had practically lost control of the Vermont towns, although the rights of the latter were not then recognized by Congress, and the first officers were elected by the freemen in accordance with the laws of this State.
Geographically, the town of Plymouth occupies a position among the towns of
Windsor county on the extreme western border, abutting the Rutland county east
line; in the north and south measurement of Windsor county the position of the
town is central, being one of the six towns that form the central block of the
Plymouth is also reckoned among the more mountainous towns of the county, there being perhaps as large a number of peaks and high ridges as can be found in any of the county's towns. And the hills, too, do not appear to form any continuous range, but a series of broken mountain formations, with deep valleys between them through which course large and small beautiful mountain streams. Many of these peaks have been dignified with distinguishing names, some given in allusion to the surname of an owner or prominent resident of their locality, and others applied from the peculiar characteristic of the mountain itself, as fancy or taste might dictate.
In the northeast part are the so called Blueberry Ledges, on the north side of which were the old Chamberlain cider and saw-mills of years ago. Then, still in the northern section, are the other hills - Allen's Hill, Morgan Peak, Smith's Hill, Mount Pleasant, Wood's Peak, Slack Hill, Plymouth Notch, East Mountain, and many others of equal prominence. In the central part of the town are a number of mountains, to which have been applied respective names - Mount Tom, Old Notch, Mount Ambrose, South Hudus Mountain and Blueberry Hill; while the southern part has its Weaver Hill, Dry Hill, Saltash Hill, Tinney Hill, and others of less prominence.
In the southwestern part of the town, and north of Saltash Hill, is a spot that achieved some considerable notoriety many years ago, from having been the supposed general rendezvous and point of manufacture of a band of counterfeiters; and for their peculiar craft no more favorable locations could have been selected, for this region of the town has witnessed no settlement, even to the present day.
The general trend of the mountain system of Plymouth appears to be from south to north, with an inclination to the northwest. The town, too, possesses water privileges second to none in the county or perhaps in the state. The Black River is its principle stream, and has its source in Woodward's reservoir, although its extreme headwaters are in the towns farther north. From the reservoir the river flows southeast to a point a short distance from the old Ward lime works, where it broadens and forms a body of water known as Black Pond; thence continues its course to the southeast across the town and discharges into Plymouth Pond. This is a still larger body of water and from its area would be entitled to the more dignified appellation of "lake," should the citizens of the locality feel disposed to so designate it. The outlet of the pond is a continuation of the Black River, which flows thence into the town of Ludlow, crosses the other towns of Cavendish, Wethersfield, and Springfield, and discharges its waters into the Connecticut in the town last named. The principal tributaries of the Black River in Plymouth are Patch Brook, Little Roaring Brook, Money Brook, Great Roaring Brook, Grass Pond, and Duck Pond, on the east side. Hollow Brook and Broad Brook, tributaries of the Otta Quechee River, also have their headwaters in Plymouth town. The several ponds are stocked with fish of different varieties, and this with the other attractions of the locality have combined to make Plymouth a summer resort of some prominence.
A large proportion of the rock formation in the town is primitive limestone, and fifty and even less years ago the manufacture of lime was one of the important industries of the locality. Some of this stone made excellent marble, and as early as 1834 a factory, capable of operating one hundred and fifty saws, was built and ran for a number of years. Some of this marble was of a white color and some was beautifully variegated. Near the vicinity of Mount Tom also there existed, and still does, and considerable bed of soapstone, but its production was not carried out to any marked extent.
The town of Plymouth abounds in natural attractions, greater than which there is none in southern Vermont, and the greatest and most celebrated of those in the town are what has been termed the Plymouth Caverns. These were first discovered early in July, 1818, and very soon afterward were explored. They are situate at the base of the mountain, on the southwest side of the river, and about fifty rods there from. They were caused by water running through the lime rock, thus making considerable excavations. The passage into the main cavern is nearly perpendicular, about the size of a common well, and ten feet in depth. This leads into the main room, oval in form, thirty feet long by twenty feet wide, and about fifteen feet in greatest height. The second room is reached through a broad, sloping passage, and is about half the size of the first. The third room is reached by a narrow passage, and the room is fourteen feet long, eight feet wide, and seven feet high. The fourth room is thirty feet long, twelve feet wide, and eighteen high, while the fifth room of this cave is ten feet long, seven wide, and but four feet in height. The sixth and seventh rooms are about the same size, each being about fifteen feet long, seven wide, and four high. From the seventh room there extends a narrow passage into the rocks something like fifteen or sixteen feet, and then seems to terminate. When first discovered the roof and sides of this cavern were beautifully ornamented with stalactites, and the bottom with corresponding stalagmites, but curiosity hunters have broken and carried nearly everything away that was most desirable. A few rods westward of the cavern just described is another, about one-third less in size.
The wealth of history made by the town of Plymouth rests in the record made by the town practically during the present century. To be sure the town was chartered as early, almost, as any other of the county's sub-divisions, but from its somewhat remote and isolated situation there was not the inducement here that attracted pioneers to other towns; and more than that, a settlement in the district of Saltash or Plymouth meant untold privations and hardships to the family of the venturesome pioneer who should make his abode within its limits. But notwithstanding all this, and in the face of all dangers and trials, the town was settled and peopled, and gained steadily in population and productions from the very first.
The very first settler was John Mudge, and that he came to the town during the
year 1777; and that he was soon afterward followed by the family of Aaron Hewett, during the same year. William Mudge, the son of John, was the first white male child born in the town, and from that event became entitled to and received the customary hundred acre lot that was awarded to the first-born male of the town. But pioneer settlement in Plymouth was very slow, more so, perhaps, than the majority of the neighboring towns, but no slower than others similarly situated. The first census, that of 1791, gives the town but one hundred and six, which was contained and embraced by about twenty families. Among them was the family of Aaron Hewett. As the settlement grew slowly over the next years more families did arrive.|
Some of these were: John Taylor, Lt. Brown and Capt. John Coolidge (both patriots of the Revolution), Jonathan Pinney, Isaiah Boynton, Luther Johnson, Nathan Hall, Asa Wheeler, Jacob Wilder, Moses Priest, Samuel Page, Ebenezer and Jonathan Wilder and Nathan Jones. Nine years later, or in 1800, the number of families had increased to nearly one hundred, and the population to almost five hundred. So far as can be determined in the absence of any written record, the town was organized about the year 1787, when the number of families could hardly have exceeded twelve or fifteen. Adam Brown is believed to have been chosen town clerk in that year.
The first freemen's meeting, of which there appears a record, was held in March, 1789; and Jacob Wilder was chosen town clerk; Samuel Page, Moses Priest, and John Coolidge, selectmen; Ebenezer Wilder, Jonathan Wilder, and Nathan Jones, Jr, listers. These men were of course pioneers in the town, but there were others as well, whose names, some of them, can be recalled. John Taylor, Lieutenant Brown and Captain John Coolidge (both patriots of the Revolution), Jonathan Pinney, Isaiah Boynton, Luther Johnson, Nathan Hall, Asa Wheeler, and undoubtedly others whose names have been lost, together with those mentioned before - Jacob Wilder, Samuel Page, Moses Priest, John Coolidge, Ebenezer and Jonathan Wilder, Nathan Jones, the first town officers - comprised in the main the little colony of pioneers who had the temerity and determined spirit to attempt the settlement of so uninviting a town as Saltash was at that period. These families are believed to have settled in the town as early at least as the year 1800, and a number of them before 1790.
But whatever of hardships the pioneers of this town may have endured in
effecting a permanent lodgments here, they seem never to have directly suffered
under the smarting afflictions that attended pioneer ship in many other
localities, on account of the disturbances between New York and the
independent State of Vermont; nor were the few settlers in the town called
upon to furnish men and means with which to prosecute the war against Great
Britain, for, at that time, the town had scarce a handful of men within her
borders, and not enough to become noticed by the authorities of the State.
The first representatives to the State legislative body were chosen in 1778; but the
town of Plymouth seems not to have chosen a representative prior to the election
of Moses Priest, in 1795. As the town grew in populations, as the various remote
localities began to be populated, as the forests gave way to agricultural
improvements and development, the fact became disclosed that Plymouth
possessed other and richer resources than were contemplated, or even dreamed
of, by the pioneers. These vast mountains which were supposed to be of no
practical value, except for their forest growth, were found to contain mineral and
other deposits that once bid fair to place Plymouth far ahead of any of her
sister towns. Explorations brought to light the fact that these hills contained
deposits of marble, lime, steatite, iron, and gold, and other valuable commodities,
but the revelations came by periods, and each was worked and exhausted in its
turn, or else similar productions from other States supplied the demand and
rendered further operations here unprofitable. The marble and lime producing
industries of the town have already been referred to, so we may now refer to the
enterprise that founded the village of Tyson Furnace, as formerly known, or
Tyson of to-day.|
The period of the iron excitement and development of Plymouth began in 1835, about which year, or possibly a little earlier, the discovery of its deposit was made. Isaac Tyson was experienced in mining operations, and in crossing the mountains discovered by accident an iron deposit in the vicinity of Mount Tom. He examined its quality, and afterward sent to the locality an expert in iron ores, who prosecuted his explorations throughout the region with gratifying results. About the same time other mining operators became cognizant of the supposed inexhaustible deposits of iron in the town, and they likewise sent practical engineers to the town. In 1837 Mr. Tyson commenced the erection of his works, which were put in operation the same year. They consisted of a large blast furnace, beside a smaller one for convenience. Several excavations were made by which ore was taken, a part proving to be of superior quality, such as is called steel ore. As the works became established, and the mining, blasting and casting operations in full progress, a town was built up which was named after its enterprising founder - Tyson Furnace. Stores, a post-office, hotel, and numerable other business enterprises were established at the Furnace, and a large and successful business carried on there for a number of years; but at length there came a decline, one embarrassment followed another, and in a few years more operations ceased and the locality lapsed into its former state. A number of the old structures are still standing, relics of a former age of progress and enterprise, but the hundreds of person who found employment in connection with the mining and foundry enterprises have left the community, or sought other occupations.
Scarcely had this great wave of excitement died away and become lost in the past that there appeared another ripple on the surface of affairs within the town, and it continued to grow and increase until the people of the quiet town became almost wholly absorbed in the subject of the vast deposits of gold that lay concealed in the depths of Plymouth's mountains. Bridgewater lay substantially within the same belt and gold was reported there in great abundance; therefore, why not in Plymouth? About this time men, who had seen life in the gold fields of California, were returning to the East, and a party of them noticed a striking resemblance in the character of the soil in the two far apart places. Investigation followed, and the result proved that Plymouth, too, had gold deposits, but its quantity wasunknown, altogether a matter of speculation. The first "claim" was staked out by William Hankinson in 1858, in the vicinity of Five Corners (in the northeast part of the town), and within the space of a few square rods of land more than four hundred dollars worth of the coveted mineral was found. Other operators dug in other localities, and even some of the staid and quiet towns folk took up the pick and shovel and went in quest of sudden wealth. But heavy or extensive operators did not seem to take hold of the matter of gold mining in Plymouth to any noticeable extent, though reports of the field had gone abroad some years before; and the digging that was done, and the mineral that was found, was due to the efforts of local and some comparatively unknown parties. Still each was rewarded for his labor, but riches none of them ever acquired. At last, to give the field a practical and thorough test, in the year 1880 a corporations was formed, known as the Plymouth Gold Mining Company. This company came into the field well equipped with capital, tools and machinery, and commenced operations in the vicinity of Five Corners, They dug and mined a long the streams and in the hills for a considerable time, taking out some gold of good quality. Still later, in 1882, the Rooks Mining Company, comprised mainly of New York capitalists, began operations in the town, along the waters and in the headlands of the vicinity of the streams in the southeastern part of Plymouth, the principal scenes of operations being the valleys of Reading Brook and its tributary, Buffalo Brook, also Gold Brook. For a time these companies were reported as having abundant success; but mining operators are a peculiar class of people; if success is abundant the report to the contrary, thus hoping to keep out other operators and hold the whole field, and if success is indifferent they are not willing that the world should know of their mistakes.
But whatever of success the companies and private operators have met with
is not at present generally known, but mining in Plymouth to-day is not
prosecuted with any great degree of vigor, or at least with such vigor as
is usually seen in highly productive gold regions. All these various enterprises,
whether permanent or otherwise, have been productive of good results to the
people of Plymouth, enabling the lumbermen to realize well from the sale of their
manufactures, the farmer on his products, their merchants from their stores, and
to the willing laborer and mechanic they have furnished profitable employment
for many years. And Plymouth, too, has held her population better that most
similarly situated towns in the county, there having been less of decline in
number of inhabitants that is noticeable in the majority of towns. Manufactures
also have been kept up, and are now in as fair condition of prosperity as can be
found in any town in the county.
L.M. and H. E. Pinney are manufacturers of carriage rims; Knight & Sanderson, E.C. Pinney, of chair stock; E.C. and E.A. Hall, of lime; Parker & Piper and Moore & Clay, of lumber and chair stock; W.M. Cook, shingles and lath, A.A. Sumner, of butter tubs. And within the last five years the following firms, some already named, have been engaged in manufacturing industries in the town: Christopher C. Hall, Horace N. Ward, P.P & H.P. Crandall and E.A. Hall, lime manufacturers; Frederick A. Butler, grist and saw mill and manufacture of shingles and chair stock; John P. Alward, Parker & Piper, Fullam & Adams, S.F. Pinney, Lyman F. Pinney, Henry F. Pinney, and Moore & Clay, saw mills; A.A. Sumner, A.F. Hubbard, saw and grist mills, Sanderson & Sumner and George M. Whitney, chair stretchers; John W. Pierce, pail handles, butter stamps, lath, rolling-pins, etc; Hubbard & Scott, cheese factory; Francis H. Cook, scythe stones. The merchants of the town, with their place of location, respectively, are as follows: Plymouth Union, L.B. Moore and A.N. Earle; Tyson, A.F. Hubbard; Plymouth Notch, G.M. Moore. There has been, in past and present, five church societies in the town of Plymouth, - Congregational, Baptist, Methodist, Christian and Free Will Baptist. The Congregational church was formed in 1806, and over it Rev. Prince Jenne presided for several years. The first Union meeting house was built in the south part of town in 1816. Another Union church was afterwards built at Plymouth. The only other church edifice, the Methodist, is at Plymouth Union.
Present town officers: Clerk, Mrs. L.B. Moore; treasurer, L.J. Green; selectmen, C.H. Scott, E.H. Pinney, A.A. Sumner; listers, Charles Carpenter, A.F. Hubbard, Henry Hudson; constable, J.C. Coolidge; superintendent, G.M. Moore; town agent, J.C. Coolidge. Plymouth representatives in Vermont General Assembly: 1795, Moses Priest; 1796-7-8-9-1800, Asa Briggs; 1801, Elias Williams; 1802-3-4, Asa Briggs; 1805-6-7-8, Daniel Brown; 1809 to 1817 (inclusive), Ephraim Moore; 1818 to 1821, Asa Briggs; 1822, Ephraim Moore; 1823 to 1825, John Lakin; 1826, Joseph Kennedy; 1827, none; 1828, John Lakin; 1829, Samuel Page; 1830, Levi Slack; 1831-32, Samuel Page; 1833, Cephas Moore; 1834, Samuel Page; 1835-36, John S. Fullerton; 1837-38, none; 1939 to 42, Levi Slack; 1843-44, Moses Pollard, jr; 1845-46, Jared Marsh; 1847-48, Moses Pollard, jr; 1849, Levi Slack; 1850, Abraham S. Day; 1851-53, John W. Stickney; 1854-55, Jairus Josselyn; 1856-57, Isaac Pollard; 1858-59, James A. Pollard; 1860-61, Calvin G. Coolidge; 1862-63, James S. Brown; 1864-65, A.B. Martin; 1866-67, Alpheus Earle; 1868-69, Thomas Moore; 1870-71, Charles A. Scott; 1872-77, John C. Coolidge; 1878-81, Alonzo F. Hubbard; 1882-85, Levi J. Green; 1886-89. C.A. Scott.
|This site maintained by Nancy Wygant of Philadelphia, PA. Last updated 1-23-2002.|