FERRISBURGH. 31

 

 

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A SKETCH OF THE EARLY HISTORY OF FERRISBURGH.

 

BY R. E. ROBINSON.

 

IF the traditions of the St. Francois Indians are to be relied on, the eastern shore of Lake Champlain was anciently inhabited by the Zoquageers, a subdivision of the great Abenakee tribe or nation which once occupied the northern part of New England. By the forays of their enemies, the warlike Iroquois, and the encroachュment of the whites, the Zoquageers were gradually driven from Vermont, and their last village of consequence within its limits, was on Missisque Bay, in the present town of Alburgh. They had, for the most part, removed before the Revolution to the St. Francois River, in Canada, where the survivors of this once powerful tribe now live, commonly known as the St. Francois Indians, though they style themselves as of old, Zoquageers and Abenakees, or as they pronunce it, Wau-ban-a-kees. Their names of rivers in Ferrisburgh were, of Great Otter Creek, Pecunk-tuk

32 VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.

or the Crooked River; of Little Otter, Wnak疚e-tuk, or the River of Otters; and of Lewis Creek, Sungahnee-tuk, or the Fishing Place.* Lake Champlain they called Pe-tou-bouque.

Before the middle of the last century the French king had granted large tracts on Lake Champlain to several of his subjects, and according to an old French map of 1748, what is now Ferrisュburgh was partly or wholly included in the seigneurie of Mons. Contrecceur fils. In 1772, after the conquest of the French possessions in America, the grantees under the French Crown petitioned that their claims might be confirmed by the English Government, but as the seigneurie of Contrecceur had been reunited to the Crown Lands of France because of the failure of the grantors to fulfil the conditions of their deed, their claim was invalidated. In the "Ordinance of the Governor of New France, reuniting to His Majesty's Domain all seigneuries not imュproved," mention is made of a "remonstrance of Seines de Contrecceur, in which they set forth that they have done everything to settle their grants; that it was impossible to find individuュals willing to accept lands, though they had offered them some on very advantageous terms, and were willing to give even 300 livres to enュgage the said individuals. . . . . . . that they intend to do all in their power to find persons to settle said seigneuries, and they hope to succeed therein; requesting us to grant them a delay on the offers which they make to conform themselves herein to His Majesty's intentions." Hence it appears that there were no early French settlers in what afterwards became Ferrisburgh.

In an English map of later date, a part of Ferrisburgh is within the limits of military grants to Capt. Williams and Lieut. Cuyler, but there is no evidence that there were any settlers under these grants.

Ferrisburgh Charter was granted, by Gov. Wentworth, of N. H., June 25, 1762; applied for by Benj. Ferris, of Oblong, Dutchess Co., N. Y. ; granted to David Merritt, Thos. Dougュlass, Volentine Perry, Gid. Gifford, Timo. Dakin, Anthony Field, J. Field, Benj. Ferris, Reed Ferris, and 55 others. The survey and division into lots was made the next year by Benjamin and David Ferris, surveyors for the Proprietors, but no settlers appear to have been in the township till about 1769, when a settlement was comュmenced at the first falls of Great Otter Creek, (then called New Haven Falls,) and a saw-mill erected there. Not long after, Col. Reid, who claimed under a N. Y. patent, forcibly ejected the N. H. settlers, and put tenants of his own in possession, who built more houses and a gristュmill. They were in turn dispossessed by Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, their houses and grist-mill destroyed, and Pangborn, the rightful owner, put in possession of his property. In July, 1773, Col. Reid came on with a number of Scotch emigrants, and again expelled the N. H. settlers, and repaired his mill. When this beュcame known at Bennington, Allen and his followers proceeded immediately to New Haven Falls, and forcibly reinstated their friends. They broke the millstones and threw them over the Falls, and warned the miller not to repair the mill "on pain of suffering the displeasure of the Green Mountain Boys." The Scotchmen, being informed of the nature of the dispute, left the place. (See "Ethan Allen and the Green Mounュtain Heroes," by H. U. DePuy.) A difficulty presents itself in tracing the early history of the town, from the fact that the first Records were deュstroyed by fire in 1785, while in possession of Timothy Rogers, the Proprietors' clerk and surュveyor, whose account of this mishap is subjoined, as recorded by him in the Ferrisburgh Records.

The first settlement within the present limits of Ferrisburgh (for the events just related ocュcurred in that part of Ferrisburgh which is now Vergennes) was begun by Charles Tupper, who came from Pittsfield, Mass., just before the Revolution, and commenced improvements near where J. Borroughs now lives; but upon the breaking out of the war he returned to Pittsfield, joined the American army, and was killed in batュtle. One Ferris begun a settlement near Basin Harbor about the same time, which he also abanュdoned at the commencement of the war.

Mrs. Betsy Gage, an old lady near 81, says that her father, Zuriel Tupper, a brother of Chas. Tupper, was the first settler in Ferrisburgh, after the close of the Revolution. He came in the autumn of 1783, and in March, 1784, brought his wife and three children to Ferrisburgh. During his previous visit he had built a bark shanty for their accommodation, and this they occupied until the completion of their log-house. Mrs. Gage, who was then 5 years old, says that she well remembers seeing the sun shining down through the roof of their primitive abode. At the same time, Mr. T. had prepared a small plat of ground and sowed some apple seeds, and to him belongs the honor of raising the first apples from the seed in town.

Mrs. Gage's mother was 5ス months in her

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*This was told me by John Watso, or Wadhso, an intelligent Indian of St. Francois. He also gave the names of some other rivers of the Champlain Valュley. Azzasataquake was their name for the Missisque River, signifying, The stream that turns back. [Misュsisque is a corruption of Masaeepsque, The place of arrow flints; and applies only to the bay of that name.] The Au Sable was known as Popoquamanee-tuk, The Cranberry River, and Saranac is corrupted from Senhalenac tuk, The river of sumac-trees. The dried leaves of the sumac were used by them for smoking, and hence the tree was of sufficient imporュtance to give a name to the stream where it grew in abundance.

Watso's definition of this word is, "The waters that lie between;" that is, between the countries of the Abenakees and Iroquois. Others of the tribe with whom I have conversed interpreted this name otherwise, but cannot give an intelligible translation of it.

FERRISBURGH. 33

new home without seeing another woman; then Abel Thompson and family came, and soon after Z. Tupper's brother Absalom, Nathan Walker, Isaac Gage, and others came.

At Nathan Walker's house the first religious meeting was held, at which the Rev. Ephraim Sawyer, a Baptist clergyman, officiated. Afterュward, when Zuriel Tupper built a frame house, he fitted up a room in it which was long used as a place of worship, and for town meetings. This was the first tavern kept in town. The old Frasier House at Frazier Falls, known in early times as the Blue House, was the first frame house. The first schoolhouse was built of logs, and stood near the Booth Corner.

Mrs Gage thinks that the first male born in Ferrisburgh was her brother James, and the first female her sister Lovina.

Among the original Proprietors, most of whom were inhabitants of Dutchess Co., N. Y., were several of the Field family. When the charter was obtained, their father had taken "rights," as they were termed, for each of his sons, with the exception of one who chose a new saddle in prefュerence to a right of 400 acres of wilderness, the price being the same for each, $7.50. Anthony Field, one of these sons, having lost his property in the Revolution, resolved to try his fortune in the wilds of Vermont, and accordingly, in the fall of 1785, Anthony, his eldest son, was deュspatched on horseback to Ferrisburgh, to look at his father's land there.

As far as Pittsford there was a road; from there to Vergennes there was nothing but marked trees to guide the young pioneer; the streams were unbridged, and he had to swim them, drivュing his horse across before him. He went to Timothy Rogers, at Little Otter Creek Falls, who sent a man with him to show him his fathュer's right. In traversing the width of the tract, they did not see a rock nor stone, and Anthony, on returning to his father, gave so favorable a report, that it was determined to remove to Verュmont the next spring.

On the 1st of May, 1786, the family, consistュing of the parents and eight children, (to one of whom, Mr. Benjamin Field, I am indebted for this account,) left Tarrytown, on the Hudson, in a small sailing vessel, which took them up the river as far as Half-Moon Point, now Waterford (?), and from there to the south end of Lake George they went in an ox-cart. At Lake George they found a man who had built a boat there for the purpose of transporting himself and effects to Grand Isle, and arranged with him to take them to Great Otter Creek. Arrived at the lower end of Lake George, a settler who was erecting a saw-mill there, drew their boat and goods across to Lake Champlain with his oxen, where they again embarked. The wind soon arose, and the boat being so heavily laden that they could not keep her free from water, they were obliged to land on the east shore of the lake, and encamp for the night. The next mornュing was calm, and they resumed their voyage down the lake to the mouth of Great Otter Creek, and up that stream to Vergennes, where they landed on the 15th of May, having been 15 days on a journey that is now accomplished in as many hours. From Vergennes they went to Abel Thompson's, in Ferrisburgh, where Mrs. Field and the young children remained 6 weeks, while the men were making a clearing and building a house on their "right," where Thomas Field now lives. The first season they cleared 10 acres and sowed it with wheat, and their labor was repaid by a bountiful harvest. There was a gristmill in proュcess of erection at Frazier's Falls, but there was no grinding done there for a year after the Fields came, and they had their flouring done at Verュgennes. The creek had to be crossed in boats, as there was no bridge there at that time, and on one occasion when Benjamin went to mill, he attempted to cross too near the Falls, and barely escaped being carried over them.

Mr. Field says that bears were the only wild animals that troubled the settlers. They deュstroyed their crops and stock, and gave them great annoyance, till the young backwoodsmen turned hunters and killed them off. George, one of the brothers, shot one at nightfall in the cornュfield; he ran into the woods, where they found him dead the next morning. Benjamin shot another that had caught one of their pigs, and they followed one to his winter quarters in a holュlow pine, where they killed him. On one of their hunting excursions the boys found three Inュdian canoes, turned upside clown with the paddles under them, and the poles of a wigwam, near the mouth of Mud Creek on Little Otter. They appeared to have been left there two or three years before.

Settlers now began to come in more rapidly. Many of the Proprietors were members of the Society of Friends, and several families of that persuasion moved into town. They built the first meeting-house in Ferrisburgh; it was a log-house, and stood where the old Friends meetingュ-house is.

I shall here leave this imperfect sketch of the first settlement of our town for some abler hand to fill out and bring down to the present day, with the regret which all must feel that measures were not sooner taken to gather up the fragュments of our early history, before so many, inュdeed, almost all of those who played their part in it, had passed from among us.

 

 

ADDITIONAL ITEMS.

 

Ferrisburgh was organized, Deming says, March 29, 1785; Thompson says, in 1786. The religious denominations are Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, and Friends. The Friends and Methodists have a meeting-house, and there

34 VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.

is a Union house near the centre. Several perュsons have lived to be near 100 years old. The epidemic of 1813 carried off between 60 and 70, mostly adults. Otter Creek is navigable 8 miles to Vergennes, and Little Otter Creek 3 miles, by the largest vessels on the lake. In Little Otter Creek are 4, and in Lewis Creek 3 falls, on which mills and other machinery are erected. No townュship in the State has afforded more or better timュber for market. The soil is in some parts clayey, others consisting of very productive mould. In this town was born Delia Webster, of Aboliュtion fame, but we have no data from which to form a sketch. Population in 1850 was 2,075. There are 2 post-offices, Ferrisburgh and North Ferrisburgh, and 2 railroad stations of the same name. The appearance of the townュship is that of a thrifty farming section. From some points the views are decidedly fine. In particular, upon a rise of land, after passing a pleasant villa on the route from Monkton to Verュgennes, the beholder looks with growing admiration off toward the beautiful Champlain, not afar. We first called upon Friend Robinson, who gave a word of encouragement and sent us over to the hospitable family of Esq. Rogers, with the kind injunction to our escort, "Now thee speak a good word to friend Rogers for this lady and her cause." Kind and courteous old gentleman; if not quite converted to Quakerism, we were altogether to Friendism. Suffice to say, at the Esquire's we were received with a Vermont welcome. In the evening we went back and lived over the early days of the settlement, the trials and expedients of those hardy, honest pioneers; listened to the story of one good church-going man, who, the first winter of his residence in town, having no sleigh or sled, fitted runners to the trundle-bed, in which he took his wife and chilュdren to meeting every Sabbath day; when the mountain squall threatened, covering over the heads of the happy load with an old quilt or covュerlet, so that at the door where the meeting was held the plump little troop were turned out from the bunk where they nightly snugged down to sleep, warm and rosy as if fresh from their slumュbers. There was to us godliness and beauty in the homely story. Few things have we more vastly enjoyed in our present labors than like rehearsals, told in the brief tarryings at almost every stage of our tour. Who can but heartily admire the man and woman, who, in every cirュcumstance, "puts the best foot forward?" Such were our forefathers, our foremothers, in Vermont. That evening and morning at Esquire R.'s was one of those visits Time never brushes with his wing as he passes reverent by.

An account of the burning of the Ferrisburgh Records, entitled,"A COPY OF THE ACCOUNT OF TIMOTHY ROGERS

 

HAVING HIS RITINGS BORNT."

 

"Know all men by these presens that yestorュday which was the sekont day of the 10 month I timothy Rogers of ferrisburgh was a moving from Botin bay in ferrisburgh to letill ortor crik forls and as I went by wartor I did not git up the Bay till about mid nite and my wife and five childorn and one woman peggy smith by name and one child was all in an open bote and it was a dark rany time we landid about a quartor of a mild from the hous som of the hands went up and got fir when they got down agane the fire was so rand out we cindild some fir by the side of a tree To lite barks that the famaly mite se a litill to walk up to the house for my wife was sik I led hir by the hand this morning Being the 3 day of the 10 m 1785 about son rise one of my men came and told me the tree by which the fir was kindled was bornt down and bornt up a large chist of droys that was packd as full as it cold be off cloths and Ritings of grate importuns I sepose I had about forty deads for about Six Thousand acors of land som on Record and som not notes and bonds for about two thousand dolars and all the proprietors Records of ferrisュburgh som other gods was bornt with all the cloths only what we had on these whoughs names who air here sind ar setain witnesis to the same for they helpd me move and seen the fire of the same this 3d of the 10 m 1785 likewise they sen the heaps of Riting in their proper shaps burnt to ashes "

"Timothy Rogers "

 

" Silas Bingham"

"amos Catlin"

"Zimry hill"

" Stephen Ryce jun "

 

At the foot of the page is written,

 

"go to tother leaf forad page 21 "

 

On the page referred to, the following is reュcorded, via:

 

"Rutland county s wallingford Janary ye 28th A. D. 1786 personly aperd Timothy Rogers and gave his Afformation to the truth of the within writting depsition to before me

Abarham Jacktion just of peas

 

adorson county Ferrisburgh september the 24 day 1791 this sartafys that timothy Rogers being cold apon by the request of the select men of ferrisburgh to giv acounpt of the proprietors Records and said timothy perd with the foregoing to show that said Records was destroyed in Octoュber 1785

Abil tomson asistant judg

 

the abov being don as apers was thought best for me to Record the same therefore was Recorded in propriertors Book page 21 the 30 of the 9 m 1791

By me Timothy Rogers proprietors Clark.

FERRISBURGH. 35

UNITED STATES.夕AN EXTRACT.]

 

BY REV. S. H. TUPPER,

 

A native of Ferrisburgh, and graduate of the Vermont University, now resident at Charlotte, in Chittenュden county.

 

WHERE once the log built huts were thick,

Now stand large houses built of brick;

And marble mansions line the ways

Where herds were wont to rove and graze.

As if by magic cities rise,

And temples tower in Western skies,

In fairest climes within our zone,

Until this age but little known.

One evil, only one we fear,

And this increases year by year;

With riches, lawless spirits reign,

And crimes increase with worldly gain;

In dissipation's vortex bred,

Are thousand youths to ruin led,

To pamper pride and lust for cash,

Four millions groan beneath the lash.

And churches, too, Oh, what a shame!

Wrest gospel truth for sinful gain!

God speed the day, in mercy speed,

When all in bondage shall be freed!

Ere Justice, weary with our deeds,

For vengeance on our people pleads;

And Mercy cease to stay the blow

That lays a guilty nation low.

 

Like Nineveh we should repent,

Nor wait to have a Jonah sent,

A greater has our danger taught,

That we to judgment must be brought;

A wicked nation's doom we see,

In Zion's fruitless, withered tree.

 

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