BY MISS NANCY M. HAYNES.
Peru, lying at the N. E. corner of Bennington county, was chartered by Gov. Wentworth, Oct. 12, 1761, under the name of Bromley. It was to have contained by admeasurement 2340 acres; but considerable more was allowed on account of the mountains and unimprovable lands. It is bounded N. by Mt. Tabor, E. by Landgrove, S. by Winhall, and W. by Dorset. This tract was to be divided into 72 equal shares, one to each Proprietor, 500 acres at the S. E. corner to Benning Wentworth; 1 right for the Society for propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts; 1 for Glebe; 1 for the first settled Minister in town, and 1 for Schools.
The West part of' the town is a primeval wilderness; the mountains high, rugged and broken; upon the summit. In the N. W. part is Buffum's Pond, covering about 60 acres; quite a curiosity on account of its elevation. The waters from this town reach the ocean by three widely diverging paths: some run west to the Battenkill, N. W. to Otter Creek, and some east into West River. The soil is varied, consisting of light, coarse loam, some gravel and very little clay.
At one time Dea. Thomas Wyman and Peter Dudley while near a spring by Mr. Dudley's house, where Ira Walker now lives, found two rusty bayonets where it is supposed
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there must have been a camping ground years ago. It might, however, have been trappers after beaver, for the meadow lands below were inhabited by those animals.
1773. The first settlement was commenced by Wm. Barlow, from Woodstock, Conn.
1778. A road was cut throught Peru by soldiers crossing the mountain to Manchester on their way to the battle of Bennington.
1797. The town was divided by the Proprietors into lots of 100 acres each.
1800. The first public road was surveyed through Bromley. There were but 4 families in town at the time, viz: David Stratton's, Aaron Killam's, Jonathan Butterfield's and Reuben Bigelow's.
1802, March 1st, the town was organized by a meeting warned for that purpose by Joseph Curtis, Justice of the Peace. Said meeting was held on the west side of the mountain, at the house of E. Hurlburt. John Brock was appointed Moderator and Town Clerk. David White, Aaron Killam. and Ebenezer Hurlburt, Selectmen. Reuben Bigelow and David Colson, Constables. In the autumn of this year there were 14 families in town. The next town meeting was appointed to be held at Butterfield's Inn, near the height of land on the old road from Peru to Manchester. The west side of the mountain demurred somewhat at this; they attended the first meeting held there and then petitioned to be set off to Dorset, but Dorset would not receive them, so they were set to Mt. Tabor, — a tract 200 rods wide and 6 miles long — and received the cognomen of "Mt. Tabor's leg." This "leg" was afterwards annexed to Dorset.
1803. The town was this year divided into two school districts. The first school was taught by Reuben Bigelow, in a private house. Schools were taught in private rooms for 4 years. During this year also 16 of the inhabitants united, to build a saw-mill. Unfortunately two dams were washed away before they began to do business; finally the mill was erected, but after a few years both mill and dam were washed away by a freshet. The next mill built, was by Samuel, Josiah, and Joseph Stone, in 1820, and was very useful to the community and of value to the. owners. The "privilege" is now owned and occupied by J. L. Haynes, from Fitchburg, Mass., who has erected one of the best of mills, and furnished with machinery for the manufacture of chair-stuff, &c. There are several other mills now in town, among which the "Notch Mill," so called from being situated in a Notch of the Mountains, is the most important; it is upon a furious stream called the Mad Tom. Many scouted the idea that a mill could be built there, because no road could be made to it; but Ira Cochran, with an energy and perseverence that could not be subdued, pushed up the almost impassible ascent for a distance of 2 miles, forming a way to reach the site of the mill, which was built in 1849. A contract was made by Messrs. Cochran & M. M. Manly, to furnish ties for the Western Vermont Railroad, but they could not be teamed down the steep declivity. The idea of making a "spout," down which lumber might be transported to the valley below, was conceived, and by the efforts of Mr. Manly completed in 1850. In 4 days a sufficient number of ties were sent down to pay the expense of the "spout." The first religious meetings were held in 1803, at the house of Reuben Bigelow. For some time the exercises consisted in reading the Bible and singing; at length it was decided that they must have prayers, and the first prayer was offered by Mr. Hill who was the oldest man in town. He was not a professor of religion, and hesitated for some time; but being strongly urged he remarked that he would "break the ice;" after him others led in prayer, and an increase of interest was manifested.
Sometime between December 1803 and Feb 1804 the name of the town was changed from Bromley to Peru. It is said the change was made because Bromley, so far as it had an reputation abroad, was noted for being a poverty-stricken place, and few would go there to settle; but the name of Peru being associated with the wealth of the South American Province, conveyed an entirely different impression. And indeed, very soon after the change, people began to come into the place, and for a time the town increased quite rapidly. It is thought by some, even now, that Peru is a poor township of land; true, there is no great wealth here, but there have been 16 years (not consecutive) during which no "poor" have been upon the town. Truly, here, if anywhere, has been answered the prayer of Agur, "Give me neither poverty nor riches."
1805. During this year, a Militia Company was formed, of which Peter Dudley was first Captain, and John Batchelder, first Ensign.
1807. The first school-house was this year built, near where Ira K. Batchelder's barn now stands. It was used for Town Meetings, — also for a church, until 1816, being furnished with a desk which served for a pulpit.
1814. The Turnpike between Peru and Manchester was built, which is the best place in the south part of the State, for crossing the mountains. During this year the meeting house was raised, near where the Methodist
church now stands, and completed in 1816, by the united efforts of Peter Dudley and John Batchelder, committee for the society. It was occupied until 1846, when the house now occupied, built by J. J. Hapgood, was dedicated. THE METHODIST SOCIETY commenced building a church in 1831, which was finished in 1848. It is now occupied most of the time.
In 1821 or '22, 3 schools were taught in the town. In 1840, the town was divided into 6 school districts; a few years since another was formed, making 7 at the present time. In 1830 the first select school was started through the influence of Esq. Bigelow; the term 4 weeks, and nothing taught except Grammar. After that no select school was taught until about 1848 or '49, since which time a strong interest has been manifested in educational matters; a select school having been well supported almost every autumn, and the district schools comparing favorably with schools of other towns in the vicinity.
The crops, while they are never superabundant, are almost invariably sure. The farmers increase in wealth slowly but surely. The revenue from the maple groves forms quite an item.
From some parts of the town the view of the surrounding country is exceedingly grand. Wachusett Mountain in Mass., and Monadnock in N. H., are discernable in the far distance, while near, billow upon billow of the Green Mountain range rises on the view. Between the latter and us lies a vast basin, miles in extent, comprising woodland and meadow, cornfields and pastures, dotted here and there with farmhouses; humble it is true, but full of happiness withal. The years pass gently and peacefully, each telling its tale of births and deaths, of change and of decay, but all so quietly that to learn the history of one is to know the history of all.
The CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH was organized Dec. 23, 1807, by Rev. Mr. Fairley of Manchester, and his delegate Capt. Burton, with 8 members, Benjamin Barnard and wife, Thomas Wyman and wife, Seth Lyon and wife, and Wm. Green and wife. There was no settled minister until 1813, missionaries and neighboring ministers officiating previous to that date. Thomas Wyman and Seth Lyon were soon elected deacons, and from the organization of the church, regularly as the Sabbath came, the people have congregated and held meetings, whether they had any preacher or not. The first settled minister was REV. OLIVER PLYMPTON. He came from Wardsboro in the latter part of 1812, or the first of 1813, and was ordained Dec. 28, 1813.
The ordination sermon was preached by Rev. Mr. Tufts of Wardsboro. Mr. Plympton preached a few months, after his ordination, and went to Wardsboro, intending to be married to Miss Patty Cook of Newfane; was taken sick there, and died the day he was to have been married, and buried the day he was to have moved into town. Mr. Plympton's left hand was withered and he always carried it behind him. By his death this people lost a pastor whom all united in loving.
After this, several missionaries visited the place, preaching for a time: Mr. Amos Bingham came at two different times; while he was here, in 1815 or '16, an unusual interest was awakened, and many united with the church. Mr. Rosson came to town in 1826, and preached about 3 years; Then a Mr. Hurd. During his ministration by the labors of Rev. Mr. Martingale from Wallingford, a large number were added unto the church. Mr. Bowman Brown succeeded Mr. Hurd for a few months; in 1835 Thomas Baldwin of Plymouth, was ordained and settled; preached 10 years, and returned to Plymouth. The next pastor was Rev. S. S. Swift, who remained 2 1-2 years. Rev. Asa F. Clark commenced preaching here in April 1848: was settled in 1849, and remained pastor of the church 10 years. He left in the spring of 1859, and in the following October Rev. R. D. Miller, pastor of the church in Wardsboro, came to us. He is still with us, and may be long remain.
was born in Westminster, Mass., (most of the early settlers of Peru came from Westminter and vicinity,) in the year 1775; married Abigail Brooks, and came to Peru before 1800, — being one of the first 4 families in town: Mr. Bigelow was college bred, and would have been an influential man in any place, but he was the man of Peru. Energetic in every good work, he was the prime mover of affairs in town; taught the first school in town; read the Bible in the first religious meetings; and sermons after the organization of the church, whenever they had no preacher. He first represented the town in the State Legislature, and always filled some office, acceptably to the town, and creditably to himself; was for many years a Justice of the Peace; Sheriff, Town Clerk, &c. He was solicited to fill the office of Town Clerk sever‑
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al years before he consented, being Proprietors' Clerk, the business of which office gave him a much more extended acquaintence with men and things. He kept the tavern here for many years and was wont, as was customary in those day to partake of strong drinks; but when the wave of temperance rolled up the mountain side, he immediately became its advocate, and would neither use nor dispense to others the noxious beverage.
He had 12 children, and to say that they were all true sons and daughters of such a parent confers upon them an enviable, yet a rightful dower.
At one time Mr. Bigelow received a description of two thieves who were thought to be in the vicinity. He immediately set off; having arrived at the hotel in Londonderry, the inn-keeper, Mr. Gray, told him he tho't the very men he was in search of had taken dinner there and were then not far away on the road to Weston. Mr. Bigelow, saying "I will have them," went on alone, and coming up to them ordered them to stop. They started at full speed on their stolen horses, and he after them. He took them both, how we can not tell, unless there was a fascination in his eye, a power in his voice, and an authority in his command, that could not be resisted.
Rev. Mr. Bingham whom he valued very highly, was at one time stopping at his house. Mr. Bingham, a very earnestly devoted man, arose early one morning, and going into the cornfield, not far from the house, knelt in prayer. One of his daughters espying some black object in the corn, ran to her father, telling him that a bear was in the corn. He caught his gun and aimed it; but just as he was about to fire, Mr. Bingham slowly arose from his knees.
Mr. Bigelow died in 1834, aged 59. His widow lived in town until her decease, Sept. 1, 1857, aged 81.
afterwards deacon of the church, came to Peru in February 1801. The snow was very deep, and as he had no shelter for his cow, he dug a hole in the snow and covered it with hemlock boughs, to shield her from the inclemency of the weather. Dea, remained in Peru until about 1841 or '42, when he went to Landgrove to live. In 1844, he one day went into the woods to look for timber, and not returning at night, his family became alarmed, and searching for him, by candle-light, found him lying dead beside a log; but without any external injury. He had a family of 10 boys and 1 girl. His son Thomas, who was born the May after his parents came to town, was the first child ever born in Peru, — and still lives in town.
was born in Littleton, Mass., Nov. 4, 1773; married Lucy Barnard, in March, 1800; and came to Peru in 1801. He was first Captain of the Militia Company formed in 1805, and rose in office till he became Brigadier General. He had 5 sons and 8 daughters: 10 of whom are still living. Two of his sons, Peter and Stephen, excelled in military tactics. Peter, now living in Rutland, having been made an officer in the regiment before he was of age; while Stephen, like his father, became a Brigadier General. James, the third son, is a Lawyer, in Central N. Y. This was a prominent family in town.
was born in Westminster, Mass., May 16, 1778, and lived there until 24 years of age, when he married Annie Dunster, — who was born in Westminster, Aug. 10, 1776, — and started for Peru. They came through Rindge, where Mrs. Beard's friends presented her with a cow. When they got as far as Chester, the roads were so poor that Mrs. Beard had to proceed from there on foot, and drive her cow. She says that when people looked out, as she passed, and smiled to see her thus driving her cow along, she thought to herself, if they were moving perhaps they'd have no cow to drive. They arrived at Peru, Sept. 5, 1802. Eight years after, they removed from their first home to the farm where they now live, which is one of the best in Peru. On this place they erected a frame for a house, and partly enclosed it. A few boards, laid across the timbers, forming a loft, furnished the only place for the children to sleep in. Had one fallen out of bed, it must have gone to the bottom of the cellar. They now live in the best house in town, erected in 1858 by their son, with whom they reside.
In 1803, Mrs. Beard went on horseback, in a bridle-path, most of the way, to the north part of the town; and, on her return, when about half a mile from any clearing, she came up to three bears, directly in her path, which were digging for roots. Her horse refused to go on; she halloed, and threw at them her riding-stick. They merely looked up, and went on with their digging. She turned her horse, and riding back to an old tree, broke branches from it, which she threw at them, causing them to leave the path, two on one side and one on the other, and she rode on between them, unmolested, but not entirely free from fear. In 1811, she went on horseback to Manchester, for meal, which
was so scarce, at that time, that they would not sell it to a man, but could not refuse it to a woman, who should plead her own and her childrens' need. Though she left a babe of a few weeks old, at home, and proceeded on her way, amid the screams of wild beasts, she was undaunted.
In 1815, they were participants in a powerful revival under the labors of Rev. Mr. Bingham, aforementioned. Mr. Beard previously became almost an atheist.
Mr. Beard's health was always delicate, consequently the hardships of life in a new country, pressed more heavily upon his wife; but she bore them nobly; was the mother of 8 daughters' and a son, (all of whom were married and had families, the youngest being 34 years of age, before death entered the family.) She is now nearly 84 years of age, and is hale and hearty. Mr. Beard is 82, has taken care of a stock of cattle during the past winter, (1860,) staying at the barn more than half the time.
In 1807, Mrs. Beard and her young brother went on horseback to Mass.; the brother did not return, and she was to lead back the horse he had ridden down. When she got as far as Rindge, Rachel Philbrook, a young lady 18 years of age, decided to accompany her. So she came on horseback, staid 6 months, and then went to Reading, to which place her parents had removed. Soon after, Benjamin Barnard, born at Westminster, March 19, 1783, who had come to Peru with him father, Benjamin Barnard, in March, 1800, went to Reading and brought her back to Peru as his wife. She lived but 2 years. He then, in 1810, married Hepsabeth Philbrook, sister of Rachel, who still lives, being 78 years of age. Mr. Barnard is the only person now living in town who was here when he came, his brother Stowell, who lives here, having remained at Andover until the Autumn of 1800.
Mrs. Lucy, wife of Benjamin Barnard, Senior, was the oldest person that ever lived in town; She died in 1848, ages 98.
The oldest person now living in town, is Mrs. Sarah Killam Stiles, born Apr. 7, 1766, at Wilmington, Mass. When 26, she married Ebenezer Stiles, and went to Wilton, N. H., where they remained 8 years; thence they removed to Landgrove, and lived 12 years, when they came to Peru. They had 9 children, all of whom are now living, — the youngest being 53 years of age. Mr. Stiles died in 1857, aged 93, having lived with his wife 65 years. His death was the first that ever occurred in the family. Although she is 94 years of age, I learned these facts from her own lips; and she wished me to examine a muslin cap she had made this spring, — very neatly done, — and showed me her knitting, which is very nice. She never uses glasses, but often threads a needle for her daughter, who is 41 years younger than herself, and can read her Bible very readily. She is regular at her meals, but very abstemious, taking no tea or coffee.
Jesse Brown, and also some widows, now living in town, are upwards of 92 years of age.
Mrs. Margaret Messenger, whose husband, John Messenger, has been dead 9 years, was born in Wrentham, Mass., and came to Peru about 24 years since. She is a woman of very superior mind, and, although 91 years of age, retains her faculties to an eminent degree, — writes very entertaining letters, attends church, and reads so as to keep up with the times; she is always happy, very social, and very agreeable in her manners. A happy old lady is always lovely, but she is particularly so.
Joel Adams, and wife, came to town in 1804; they are now more than 80 years of age.
DEA. DAVID SIMONDS
was born in Gardner, Mass., in 1786; came to Peru in 1803, and has since resided here. He married Anna Byam, of Jaffrey, N. H., and had a family of 11 children, one of whom, Oliver Plympton, has, for some years, been Town Clerk, Postmaster, &c.
brother of Dea. David Simonds, came into town in 1803, and has resided here since, except two years at Manchester, while educating his daughters at Manchester Female Seminary, — several of whom became eminent as teachers. He had 12 children, 8 of whom are living.
[From Rev. Mrs. A. F. Clark, of Ludlow, daughter of Mr. Simonds, we learn the additional particulars.
"Asa Simonds was born in Gardner, Mass. in 1790; married Miss Sophia Lyons, of Princetown, Mass.; was elected deacon of the Congregational church of Peru, prior to his brother, but never accepted; and died, at Manchester, May 27, 1861. May 24th Mr. Simonds was about starting for Peru from Manchester depot with a load of flour, when a violent gale arose and he drove under a shed for shelter. The shed was blown down upon him. He was taken from under the ruin, and carried into the depot house, where he died upon the third day from the injury received." — Ed.]
DEA. JOHN DAVISON
died in 1858, aged 86 years and 8 months. He rode 2 miles to church, on horseback, until within a month or two before his death. He was an earnest, energetic Christian.
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came into town, with his family, about 1815. His son, Benjamin, married Betsey, daughter of ——— Warren, who had come from Dedham Mass. Mr. Warren had a large family of children, several of whom have become eminent in the callings they have chosen. One son, SAMUEL MILLS WARREN, who is now a preacher in England, was, when quite a lad, put to work on a farm with Mr. Stowell Barnard; but neither his head nor his heart were engaged in the work. After having worked 7 months, he one day, while digging potatoes, became so excited, by the thoughts that crowded his brain, he threw down his hoe, exclaiming, "I will never dig another potatoe as long as I live!" and he never has; but he has ploughed deep in the fields of learning, and from the furrows brought forth treasures such as the Mountains of' Peru could scarcely yield.
The first physician of Peru, was a Dr. Clark, who came from Winhall. He was a very active member of the church, and prominent in all good works. He resided in town some 15 or 20 years.
In the early settlement of the town, three brothers, Barnard — Josiah, Benjamin, and Stowell; three brothers, Batchelder — John, Israel, and Edmund; and three brothers, Stone — Samuel, Josiah, and Joseph, came into the place. Of these nine but three are now living in town; but their descendants form quite an important portion of the inhabitants.
IRA K. BATCHELDER,
son of Edmund Batchelder, was born at Mount Vernon, N. H., in 1811; came to Peru in 1819; began to teach when 18 years of age; and was married, in 1840, to Nancy, daughter of Benjamin Barnard. Although a farmer, and not College-learned, he is educated; always occupies some town office; is a Justice of the Peace, and the only Lawyer we have, which is at once a credit to the town as well as to him.
son of Josiah Barnard, was born in Peru. When a lad of 14 or 15 years, his father went to Ohio to live. Alonzo graduated at Oberlin, and became a Pioneer Missionary, at Red Lake, and vicinity; and has undergone hardships almost unparalleled.
grandson of Reuben Bigelow, graduated at Union College, Schenectady, and became a Physician. Several others, from Peru, have studied professions, and are now scattered here and there, exerting an influence, we trust, for good.
born in Peru; married a daughter of Reuben Bigelow; and lives in Illinois. He was recently elected delegate to the Presbyterian General Assembly, New School, at New York.
For some time previous to Feb. 1832, the wolves so molested the sheep in Peru, that two young men, Joseph Long and Joseph Barnard, took their guns and watched for them, one night, where they had been the previous night and killed several sheep. Soon they were heard howling, but passed by, about 40 rods from the barn, on to where Joseph Simonds now lives, and took their meal from a horse which had been killed there, which, is supposed, they scented in the distance. The next morning it was decided the wolves must be ferreted out. Seth Lyon and Isaac G. Long started in search of them, on snowshoes, with food sufficient to last some time. It was warm and pleasant when they set off, but soon the weather became intensely cold. They followed on in the track of the wolves, until Mr. Long's snowshoes became unfastened, and the hands of both men were so stiff with cold they could not fasten them, when he was obliged to leave them. They came to a branch of the Otter Creek, but instead of following the wolves farther, followed the river down. They were obliged in some places, to go so close to the shelving edge of the stream, that, being almost frozen, they could not keep their balance, and fell into the water two or three times. They had now been out three days and two nights, when Mr. Long, sinking into the snow at every step, became so weary he could go no farther. Mr. Lyon left him, to seek help, expecting he would perish before aid could be obtained. At length he came out at Danby Borough, and with others went back for Mr. Long, who was carried to the Borough senseless, his right hand frozen tight to his gun, which he had used as a cane. His boots had to be cut from his feet, and his body was badly frozen. He lost all the toes from his right foot, and the great toe from his left. He was 52 years old at the time, and, though he lived 14 years after, his health was never restored. His widow is now living, in her 81st year. She is feeble, but can read, and sews very neatly, without glasses.
Many years ago a Library was formed in town, comprising historical and religious works. A few years since the Young Men's Library Association was formed, and quite
an extensive library obtained, which has been of much benefit to the town.
In 1816, Warren Wyman "set up" the first store, and carried on business for a few months. In 1830, J. J. Hapgood commenced business, and still continues the merchant of the place. Wm. E. Polley has recently erected a new store, and is doing quite a business.
Peter Gould was a Revolutionary pensioner, and several others were pensioners from the war of 1812.
1814. The typhus fever raged as an epidemic, till there were scarcely well ones left enough to take care of the sick. Many died. In 1824, '50 and '56, the same fever returned but was only in one family each year, and there were but 5 deaths. The place is in general very healthy, and the only physician, Dr. Malden, works on a farm.
COUNTRY LIFE. — AN EXTRACT.
To wield the hammer, — swing the scythe and flail,
Our Farmers and Mechanics, not ashamed,
Toil late and early, braving storms and gale
To gain a competence, a "living," not a name.
A school house can be found in every ville,
Where knowledge is dispensed with liberal hand,
And scores of boys and girls with earnest will
Are striving well in learning's foremost ranks to stand.
MRS. MARY A. SIMONDS.
[Miss Haynes informs us, by letter, that she would acknowledge the kind assistance of Hon. Ira K. Batchelder, helping her gather and collate from the records of the town, data &c., for her historical account of Peru — Ed.]