BY W. H. FOLLET, ESQ.
Readsboro, in the S. E. corner of Bennington Co., is bounded E. by Wilmington and Whitingham, S. by Massachusetts, W. by Stamford and Woodford and N. by Searsburg. It has two post offices, Readsboro and Hartwellville.
The first white persons who ever traversed the town are supposed to have been 74 soldiers on their return from the expedition against Crown Point in December 1759, who intending to go to North Adams, Mass., got lost and struck the west branch of Deerfield River in the present town of Woodford, which they followed to Charlemont Mass., before reaching any settlement, striking the main stream where the village of Readsboro now stands; their provision becoming exhausted, they made a halt on the meadow of Hartwellville, and killed, roasted and eat a dog that accompanied them, and then continued their weary journey. They all reached Charlemont alive, though one of their number, Daniel Davidson, who had enlisted at the early-age of 15, and who afterwards became a prominent citizen of Readsboro, was so exhausted and benumbed with cold that he laid down to go to sleep, but being soon missed by his companions, they turned back and helped him along.
The first grant of any part of the town was by New Hampshire in 1764, of 3,000 acres in the S. E. part, to Maj. Robert Rogers, an officer in the British army; but as he did not comply with the conditions of the charter, but soon after the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, joined the British and removed to Canada, his charter was treated as void; or I am unable to find any allusion made to it among the land titles in town.
Another grant of 2,000 acres, in the N. E. part of the town, was made by New Hampshire, about the same time, to Gen. Phineas Lyman by the name of Wilmington, which now constitutes the N. E. corner of Readsboro and the east part of Searsburg, being 6 miles long, north and south, and about one half mile wide. This strip was for many years claimed by Wilmington. The dificulty was finally settled, partly by adjudication and partly through a committee, consisting of E. D. Barber, I. T. Wright and John F. Deane, appointed by the Legislature, at its session in 1853.
April 4, 1770, Lieut. Gov. Coldin of New York issued a patent, to John Read and 29 others in the town of Readsboro, in the county of Cumberland:
"Commencing at a Black Spruce Pine tree marked by Phineas Munn with the letters S. E., for the South East corner of Stamford, and on the North line of Massachusetts Bay, thence 80 E., 320 chains to the West bound of Cumberland (now Whitingham,) thence along the West bounds of Cumberland and Draper (now Wilmington) N. 10 E. 960 chains to Somerset, thence along the S, line of Somerset N. 80 W. 320 chains to the E.
220 VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.
bounds of Woodford, thence on the E. bounds of Woodford and Stamford S. 80 W. 360 chains to the place of begining," from which the town of Searsburg has been taken off and owing to the encroachments of Stamford and Woodford, the present town is 8 miles long, 4 wide at the south end, and a little short of 3 1-2 at the north end.
I am unable to find any evidence that the town was ever organized under the above charter, and as the patentees were mostly citizens of the State of New York, who met with such poor success in other parts of Vermont, during the days of "viewing" and "beach seals," they doubtless abandoned Readsboro as worthless. When and by whom the first settlement was made is unknown; but by the petition of John Hamilton and others presented to the Legislature of Vermont in 1779, it appears that two settlements had been made; one by William Brace, where the village of Hartwellville is now located, and the other by one Whipple, who was then in the Continental army, from which he probably never returned, as I have not been able to learn anything more about him, or the locality of his settlement. In 1785 Daniel Davidson, (mentioned above,) Throop Chapman and one Sloane from Conway, Mass., commenced a settlement on the farm now owned by N. S. Bennett, about one mile northwardly from the village. The same fall Simon Mique, a Hessian soldier who was taken prisoner at the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, with his wile and infant daughter,* a few months old, came and settled in town and were soon followed by others. The first child born in town is supposed to have been Hannah, daughter of Throop Chapman, born Nov. 8, 1785. The first death in town was a young child of one Cochran, in 1786, at the funeral of which Daniel Davidson read a sermon by Mathew Byles, D. D. The first adult that died in town was Nabby, wife of Ebenezer Thompson, who died Feb. 20, 1792, aged 31.
The Town Clerk's office was burned, in 1793, together with all the records of the town. John Fairbanks was then Town Clerk.
The first town meeting of which we can find any recollections among the oldest inhabitants was in 1786, at which time in addition to the ordinary town officers the inhabitants took it upon themselves to elect a board of state officers; among others one Ichabod Stockwell, being the smallest man in stature, was elected governor, and his salary fixed, payable in vegetables, among which was a certain number of cabbage heads. Stockwell lived a number of years but carried the title of Governor Stockwell to his grave.
The first town meeting on record was called in 1794, by Joseph Hartwell and Throop Chapman, Selectmen, to be holden on the 17th day of March, 1794, at which time John Fairbanks was chosen Town Clerk, Henry Davidson, Constable, and Simeon Thayer, Elijah Bailey and Ezra Amidon, Selectmen.
The first mills in town were a saw and grist mill, erected about 1787, by one Smith, near the site where Messrs. Cudworth & Howes' tannery now stands. Prior to this the people were obliged to go either to Bennington or Charlemont for their lumber or meal.
There was but little manufacturing done in this town previous to 1832, at which time Sylvester & Dana Bishop erected upon the west branch of Deerfield River, on the spot where the tannery of Cudworth & Howes now stands, a satinet factory 70 by 40 feet, 3 stories high, of stone, at a cost of $16,000; running 14 looms, employing about 20 hands, and manufacturing about 1,500 yds. of cloth per. week. This building on the night of Jan. 2, 1842, took fire accidentally, and together with all the stock and machinery was consumed; and not being insured was a total loss. It was never rebuilt; but remained a type of desolation, walls still standing until 1850, when the present tannery was built on the ruins. The present proprietors manufacture about 100 tons of sole-leather annually; consuming from 1,000 to 1,200 cords of hemlock bark, and from 500 to 600 cords of wood. Lime was formerly manufactured in considerable quantities in the east part of the town, but this has considerably diminished within a few years, owing to the cost of help and the low price of lime.
Iron ore is found in various parts of the town, but none of its beds present sufficient inducements to manufacturers to warrant working them. Large quantities of charcoal are manufactured in the west part of the town, which is carried to the furnace at North Adams, Mass., a distance of about 10 miles.
In addition to the business of farming, lumbering is carried on pretty extensively. The mill and chair-factory of Silas Mason at Hartwellville manufactures lumber and chairs to the value of about $18,000 annually. The mill of Geo. Ferguson & Co. cuts out lumber and staves to the value of from $7,000 to $8,000 annually. The steam mill of D. & T. Canin, also, at Hartwellville, which was started in 1859, cuts out about 7,000 feet of lumber per day. The mill of Stafford & Millard, at Readsboro Falls, in addition to the manufacture of chair-stuff, is capable of cutting out from 4,000 to 6,000 feet per day.
* This daughter, now Mrs. Betsey Bowen, is still living in town.
The mill of Ansil Howard, at the Falls, and Ansil Howard, Jr., at the Lower Falls, each cut out from 1,000 to 2,000 feet per day, in addition to which the latter has just added machinery, of which the proprietor is the inventor, for manufacturing wooden trays, which turns out very good work very rapidly. The mills of D. J. Hix and of J. B. Haven in the West part of the town, and A. C— & Son in the South part, are each capable of cutting out from 1,500 to 2,000 feet of lumber per day. The mill of A. Stone, at Readsboro, in addition to manufacturing large quantities of broom handles, cuts out from 1,200 to 1,500 feet of lumber per day. M. Sanford, at Readsboro, manufactures pen-holders, of several styles, at the rate of 100 gross per month, which find a ready market in New York.
The first minister who ever resided in town was one Williams, a Seventh day Baptist, but he made but few converts. One Root, a Calvinistic Baptist, preached here for a while but never resided in town. He organized a church which flourished for a while, but from death and removal their numbers have been diminished until they have ceased to keep up an organization. Daniel Davidson, mentioned above, who was a very zealous Methodist, invited in ministers of his denomination and a great revival followed. Among their converts, three, to wit, Elijah Bailey, Jonas Bailey and Ezra Amidon, became somewhat noted in the religious world. After preaching for several years they became dissatisfied with the church government of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and dissented therefrom, and in 1844 organized a new denomination, called the Reformed Methodist, which soon almost entirely absorbed the mother church in this vicinity, and spread over other parts of the country. The religious societies in town at the present time, are the Reformed Methodist, Protestant Methodist, Congregationalist, and Universalist.
The first school kept in town, was soon after its organization, by one Lois Ward, who afterwards married one Cady, and died in Readsboro, in 1859, at the advanced age of upwards of 100 years. At a meeting of said town, holden on the 19th day of May, 1794, it was voted to divide the town into two School Districts, and in 1796 it was again divided, into three Districts.
At the time the town was first settled, wild animals were quite plenty. In the fall of 1807 or '08 some animal came on the premises of Richard Carpenter, and killled a calf. This was near night; but rallying a few of his neighbors, armed with guns and axes and accompanied with dogs, they went in pursuit of the intruder, which they soon drove up a tree a few rods southwardly from the present residence of Daniel Carpenter, Esq.; but, though it was quite dark they had no idea of loosing their game, so, hitching their tin lanterns upon a long pole they raised it up into the top of the tree, and having selected one of their best marksmen (Rev. Jonah Stearns, now a resident of Williamstown,) as executioner, and one other to fire a gun to throw an additional light upon the subject, they proceeded to business. The Elder's first shot brought down a panther, which measured full nine feet from one extremity to the other; but though he had a broken shoulder, and was otherwise badly wounded, he was able to crawl under an old tree top, beyond their reach without the aid of daylight. After having satisfied themselves that there was no danger of escape, they concluded to leave him unil the next morning, when they returned and finished him.
THE DYING CHRISTIAN. — AN EXTRACT.
How bright and cheering is the dawn,
The ransomed spirit's radiant morn
Of endless day ! his night is past—
His dreary night of weariness
Is buried in forgetfulness!
And all the past of care and pain
Is vanished like a troubled dream.
No thought of all that's said and done,
By busy men beneath the sun,
Disturbs the spirit's calm repose,
Or checks the tide of joy that flows
From Heavenly fountains fresh and free—
Foretaste of what those joys shall be.
O tell me not of death's dark night,
Nor turn away in pale affright
The vale of death is hallowed ground,
And liyht Divine shines all around.
Rev. Wm. MARKS.