BY SAMUEL DAMON.
THE history of Ripton must be small when compared with Middlebury, or Cornwall, or Bennington. The face of the country, up among the mountains, was forbidding; and for a long while after its charter was granted, (which happened on the 13th day of April, A. D. 1781,) nothing more transpired, for a period of 20 years, than the surveying of a part of the town, and dividing it, by draught, among the proprietors. I have seen no one who could tell the exact time when the first and second divisions of lots were made. The charter was granted, by Vermont, to Abel Thompson and 59 others, besides 5 rights for public uses, (24,000 acres.) The name given by charter was "Riptown;" but, by common consent, the "w" was left out. I have thought that, if it had had a better name, it would have been sooner settled. There is a great deal in a name, and there have been several attempts to have its name altered; but it still bears the cognomen of "Ripton." About 39 years after its charter was granted, the population became so dense (?) 6,200 acres of land were severed from the "land of Goshen," and added to Ripton, who wanted more room. And it seems annexation was the order of the day, for, "about four years after, a large slice of 1,940 acres was taken from Middlebury, and set to the town; and, about 8 years after that, 900 acres from Salisbury was added thereto; so that its present limits covers an area of 33,040 acres. But yet, in 1825, there were only 18 families in town!
There was a rumor that the first child born in the charter bounds would be entitled to a right of land. So, a man by the name of Ebenezer Collar cut his way into the dense forest of the town, on to lot No. 10, and there, almost without a shelter, Nov. 11, A. D. 1801, (cold November,) his daughter Fanny was born. She is now living in town, the wife of Mr. Amasa Piper.
But the rumor was groundless,
And she was landless.
But Ebenezer Collar had the honor to be the first settler. In about one year after, his father, Asa Collar, came and put up a log-house, and began to clear the land. About the year 1803, Mr. Thomas Fuller moved into the Goshen part of Ripton, (Goshen then.) About the year 1805, Mr. Ebenezer Collar buried an infant daughter by the name of Polly; and, a few years after, a son by the name of Harvey, about 17 years old. Those were the first deaths in Ripton. About 1803—4, the centre turnpike was made, which passed through the S. W. corner of what was then Ripton. A part of the turnpike was then located not where it now is, but southwardly, on a hill; but afterwards, in 1825, was made down on the river. This is one reason why the town did not settle more rapidly, they had to go so far round to get to Middlebury. After the town was organized, (which was in 1828,) the settlement increased; saw-mills were erected; lumber was sawed; and the people began to have means to pay for such things as constituted the necessaries of life. Ripton is situated on a table land, westerly of the high range of the Green Mountains, with its east line extending quite to the top thereof, and taking in what is called the "Bread Loaf" Mountain, and having a range of high hills on the west, which separate it from the valley of Otter Creek. The town is somewhat diversified with hills, the most noted of which is called "Cobb Hill," which lies in its northerly part. The soil is generally of a primitive formation; but little clay is found, and no lime as yet; generally of a sandy loam, with many large boulders scattered promiscuously over the surface, having the appearance of being cast from the interior of the earth, when the mountains were thrown up; many of them resembling the slag which is drawn off from smelted iron, (opaque crystallized quartz.) The primitiveness of the soil is determined by the production of the most primitive of vegetables: the treefoil, or moss, which abounds to a great extent, especially among those parts densely covered with spruce and balsam, and on knolls made by the upturning of the forest-trees. No minerals, to any great extent, have been discovered as yet; although there are indications of
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iron in some localities, and also of gold in some of the streams. The forest contains spruce, beech, birch, (the yellow and cherry,) hemlock, maple, balsam of fir, lynn or basswood, white and black ash, and a very few pines, elms, and black cherry. In some marshy places, may be found the tamarack. The poplar, white birch, and pin cherry generally make their appearance as a second growth. The streams, in Ripton, are "Middlebury River," viz: the North Branch, the Middle Branch, and the South Branch, ordinarily, not very large; but in 1850, in July, they were swollen to such an extent, by the heavy rains, that East Middlebury was well-nigh drowned out. Some of the small streams which form the South Branch, have their rise in the westerly part of Hancock; the others have their rise in Ripton. The South and Middle Branches unite a few rods below the new sawmill of N. Lewis & Son. The North Branch joins the others a short distance west of the present town line. A branch of New Haven River has its rise in the N. E. part of Ripton. The farm productions consist of oats, Indian wheat, potatoes, some wheat, rye, and Indian corn. Peas, beans, and other garden vegetables, are raised in small quantities for home use; only a few potatoes and oats have been exported, while large quantities of that which constitutes "the staff of life" have been imported. There are only three farms in town but what have changed owners since the first beginning to clear them; and this has been accomplished under many difficulties and privations. The exports of Ripton consist chiefly of spruce boards, shingles, clapboards, and square timber, hemlock boards and timber, cord wood, coal, and some hemlock bark. About as many neat cattle, horses, sheep, and swine are imported as exported. Hops have been raised, to some extent, for export. The dwellings of the first settlers were the "log-cabin," thatched with long shingles, with a floor made of plank, split and hewed from the basswood; having a pile of stones to make a fire against, with an opening in the roof to let out the smoke. These gave place to more architectural and comfortable buildings as the facility for sawing timber into boards and shingles increased. It is a remarkable fact that the first framed house built in town (and is it not so in most of all the towns?) was made for a tavern; which, in those days, could not be kept without "spiritual knockings" at the bar! If this had been confined to the travelling public, there would not have been so much harm; but those in the vicinity of the tavern are generally the greatest worshippers of this "spirit rapping god." However, there were some who would not "bow the knee" to "Bacchus," "nor even kiss his lips." But I am moralizing. The next substantial building was a two-story house, erected by the Hon. Daniel Chipman, about the year 1830, into which he moved, and lived until a few years of his death; when he sold his large house to his son George, and built him a neat little cottage house, in which he lived the remaining part of his life. He also erected a good grist-mill, and did more, during the 20 years of his residence in town, towards the increase of the settlement thereof, by good and useful inhabitants, and the promotion of learning and good morals, than any other person who has ever lived in town; but his biography will appear in another article. There are others who have contributed their share in causing the town to be what it is. In 1830-31, Messrs. Geo. C. & Horace Loomis built a tannery, which was sold to Thomas Atwood in 1835, where the Atwoods, Amos A. & Charles E., carried on the business of tanning and shoemaking for quite a number of years; when A. A. sold out his interest therein to C. E. Atwood, who carried on the works until they were burned in 1852 or '3. On its site, is now a large sawmill, erected and owned by Mr. Norman Lewis & Son. From 1830 to 1840, there were no less than 12 sawmills in town. Lumber bore so high a price in the market, there was a perfect furor; almost every available mill-seat was occupied, and the lots were stripped of their spruces; but, like the hop business, when everybody was expecting to get rich, lumber went down in price, and the mills have gone to decay, — only 1 of the 12 is now doing anything at sawing. But, in their stead, have sprang up 4 good circular sawmills, which cut out more lumber in a year than did the whole 12. All this has had an influence to advance the interests of the town. But still, not more than one third of the good settling land has been improved. Much of the land now under cultivation yields a good return to the owners; and the more the forest is cut away, the more the seasons are made to conform with those in the valley of Otter Creek.
Two large coal kilns have been erected in town during the present year (1859), for the purpose of supplying the iron forge, at East Middlebury, with coal. There has been no regular dry goods store in town, — an inconvenience which the people feel to be considerable. Of late years cord wood has been a profitable article of export to Middlebury village. No one born in Ripton has had the misfortune to be a doctor, lawyer, judge, or member of any of the learned professions. Only one has had the honor of being a type-setter and a practical PRINTER. An occurrence transpired on the night of the 31st of May, 1858, which caused about as much horror among the town's people and vicinity, as John Brown caused among the Virginians, except the militia were not called out. They probably would have been, if we had such WISE men here as they had there. On the morning of the next day, June 1, on an extinguished brush heap, was found the body of Jonathan R. Furnal, blackened and burned to a crisp condition, his apparel being totally con-
sumed. It appeared, upon examination, that the upper part of the frontal bones of his chest were broken in; but nothing further was then discovered, nor has there since been elicited anything to show how he came to be burned. If he was murdered, it will come to light in due time. In closing the history of Ripton, I would further state that Calvin Pier was the first town clerk; he held the office 5 years. After him, the Hon. Dan'l Chipman, 6 years; Henry Downer, 3½ years; Chas. H. Champlin 2½ years; Arnon A. Atwood, 3 years; the writer of this, almost 7 years; Benj. H. Bacon, 1 year; Reuben A. Damon, 3 years, and J. M. Holden, 1 year. The town was first represented in the General Assembly, 1843, by Sam'l H. Hendrick. The Hon. Dan'l Chipman held the office of postmaster nearly 20 years, and until his death. After him, his son, George Chipman, Frederick Smith, Samuel S. Fletcher, and Zerah Porter, have successively been appointed postmasters. There are 5 school districts, which maintain both summer and winter schools; and the juvenile education is as good as in most other places. There are now only two denominations of Christian worshippers in town, — the Congregational and the Methodist Episcopal. The Congregational own the only meeting-house, and number about 40. The Methodist hold their meetings in the school-houses, and number about 60. The population numbers between 6 and 700 inhabitants; in 1850 its population was 567.
Up on the mountain lies a town, and Riptown was its name!
It is not of so great renown as those upon the 'plain! (?)
It has its present size obtained by ripping other towns;
Ten thousand acres it has gained, but not so many CROWNS!
A COLLAR did the town adorn, therein first to abide,
Therein the first one to be born, and also first who died.
The town produces well most kinds of grain, excepting maize,
Which fails by frosts, to fill, sometimes, — but yet the COBB we raise!
We lately raise good crops of BEANS, which goes with pork "first rate,"
When they're well COOKED it often seems the best we ever ate.
Its hist'ry I have written out, but still another PAGE
I add thereto, but not about what others did engage.
We had a BAKER; but his bread we did not like to chaw,
We like it done quite BROWN, instead of having it so raw!
The BIRDS oft make a visit here to PLATT their nests awhile:
But ROBBINS tarry all the year to labor and to toil.
Our rivers do abound with trout, — a FISHER does them take;
We have no ducks to swim about, — but yet we have a DRAKE.
Here we have DAY the whole year round ! I tell you nothing NEW;
Far in this place no knight is found, — and what I say is true!
I've filled my sheet some FULLER than at first was my intent;
But you will see, thus FARR, I am on punning surely BENT!
We have but LITTLE of our own, — and that we mean to keep,
Since we've a KING upon our throne to watch us while we sleep.
We have a PORTER at the door, our missives to receive
And send, — but I will BRAG no more of Ripton, I believe!
HON. DANIEL CHIPMAN, LL. D.
son of Samuel and Hannah Chipman, was born in Salisbury, Ct., Oct. 22, 1765. At the age of ten years, his father removed with his family to Tinmouth, Vt., where the subject of this sketch labored on the farm till nearly the close of 1783, when he commenced fitting for college with his brother Nathaniel, then a lawyer in Tinmouth. He entered Dartmouth College in 1784, and graduated in 1788. Immediately after leaving college, he entered upon the study of law with his brother Nathaniel, and was admitted to the bar in 1790. He first opened an office in Rutland, where he was in the practice of law till 1794, when he removed to Middlebury, and opened an office there.
In 1796 he was united in marriage with Miss Elutheria Hedge, daughter of Rev. Samuel Hedge, a minister of Warwick, Mass., and sister of the late Levi Hedge, professor in Harvard College, then residing with her mother in Windsor.
Between 1798 and 1808, Mr. Chipman represented Middlebury in the General Assembly for several years, and afterwards was chosen a member of the Council, to which office he was elected for several years in succession. In 1812, 1813, and 1814, he again represented Middlebury, and the last two years named, he was elected Speaker of the House, in which position he is said to have been distinguished for his promptness and decision. In 1814, he was elected a representative to Congress, which appointment he was obliged to resign after one session by reason of protracted illness. After regaining his health, the year following, he resumed the practice of law, and in 1818 and 1821 represented Middlebury.
In 1828 he removed with his family to Ripton, where he had invested considerable property, and had built a commodious house. There, retired from public life, he found leisure for preparing several works for the press, viz: the life of his brother, Hon. Nathaniel Chipman, LL. D., memoirs of Col. Seth Warner, and Thos. Chittenden, first Governor of Vermont. In 1850, he was elected delegate to the constitutional convention of that year, and while in attendance on his duties there, he was attacked with sickness, from which he never recovered. He reached his home in Ripton, in a feeble condition,
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and died April 23, 1850, in the 85th year of his age. At a meeting of the bar of Addison County, the following Dec., resolutions, highly commendatory of the character of Mr. Chipman, "as a lawyer, a statesman, and a man of letters," were passed by that body, and ordered to be entered on the records of the court.
FROM THE MEMOIR OF HON. THOMAS CHITTENDEN.
WHEN we formed a representative democracy, we considered we had made an improvement upon all civil governments which had ever been instituted. A pure democracy had ever been destitute of every property of a good government. The laws were ever in a ruinous state of fluctuation, and it utterly failed of protecting the people in the enjoyment of their rights. By instituting a representative democracy, we hoped to avoid all these evils, but as our government is founded on the democratic principle, unchecked by any other, that principle is gaining strength, and the tendency of the government is towards a pure democracy. Both political parties have long since discovered this, and it is amusing to witness their struggles in the race for popularity, — both make use of democracy as a condiment, with which they season every political dish, and democratic is considered a necessary prefix to every party name. The whigs call themselves democratic whigs, and the republicans call themselves democratic republicans. The next step will be, that one of the parties, no one can tell which, will attempt to shoot ahead of their opponents by assuming the name of democratic democrats.
Whether this tendency of our government toward a pure democracy will be for evil or for good, we shall be taught by experience. If it proves injurious, as we have reason to fear it may, the experience and intelligence of the people will induce them to retrace their steps, and the government will be improved and perpetuated. It is the natural government of civilized man, and as nature ever makes efforts to cure all diseases in the human body, she will be sure to make efforts to heal all wounds in the body politic; and she will effect a cure, if not prevented by quackery, as she often is, when making efforts to cure diseases in the human body.
MY MOTHER DIED.
I THEN was but a prattling boy,
And knew not of life's sorrow, —
A mother's love was all my joy;
I thought not of the morrow.
The pain and anguish racked her form,
She knew that we must part,
And pressed my tiny hands so warm,
It thrilled my very heart.
She closed those eyes, — her lips they moved, —
It was a silent prayer
For him she left, and whom she loved.
For God's protecting care.
Her prayer is answered, — yes, his care
He tenders day by day; —
His love, unmerited, a share
He does to me convey.
Perchance some guardian angel comes; —
Methinks it is my mother, —
And gently watches as I roam,
E'en closer than another.
JAMES F. MOBBS.