BY OLIVER CHAMBERLAIN.
THIS township was chartered Sept. 15, 1761, under Benning Wentworth, Governor of the Colony, to Osee Webster and 61 others, — 68 shares, —* and derived its name from two proprietors, a Mr. Winn and a Mr. Hall. The town was laid out 6 miles square. It was the intention to commence the survey at the S. E. corner of Manchester, and measure east 6 miles; but, by mistake, it was commenced at the N. E. corner of Stratton, where said town joins Jamaica, and measured 6 miles west, leaving a gore of land between Winhall and Manchester, which was also joined to Winhall. The town is bounded N. by Peru, E. by Jamaica and Londonderry, S. by Stratton, and W. by Manchester, and lies 25 miles N. E. from Bennington. The westerly part of the town is rather high, and not much inhabited. No very high peaks, however, and fair for a mountain town. Stratton Mountain on the south, Peru on the north, and Windham on the east, girdles it with picturesque scenery. Winhall River, which heads in a pond near the S. W. corner of the town, passing through the southerly part, and falling into West River, in Jamaica, gives not only fertility to the pleasant vales, but excellent mill privileges to the inhabitants. The principal road leads from Brattleboro' up the West River, through Jamaica to Manchester. The roads of the town are indeed generally good. The soil, best adapted to grazing, is on an average with other mountain towns. Wild beasts have always been troublesome, especially bears, several of which are caught every year. Last March, Mr. P. Robbins and his two boys, with one Slade, were out upon a hunt, when their dog denned a bear; whereupon, Mr. Robbins firing into the den, out came bruin in fine season, and was for beating a retreat, but the dog seized him by the nose, and Mr. R., fearing to fire lest he should kill his dog, with an axe in one hand, with the other seized hold of the beast, and run with them quite a race before he succeeded in dispatching the bear, which was at length done. During the past season, the 'Bellows Falls Times' relates the following story for us. "There is no longer any need of going West for sporting among
* See Deming.
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good-sized game. Two boys in Winhall, sons of Wm. Kent, have outdone Crocket. A few days since, they came across an old bear and two cubs; the boys made an attack on them, hooting and yelling, which sent the old bear off in a hurry, when the cubs took to a tree; but the young Nimrods were not to be foiled; one of them succeeded in climbing the tree and shaking them off, the smallest boy catching one as it fell; the cub, not liking the exchange of protectors, used his teeth and claws freely, but he soon found two could play at that game, and he had to give up, and the youngsters brought home their captive, who has become quite reconciled to his new masters, and submits to be led about by a chain, happy in his new home."
Bondville, the only village, is situated in the east part of the town, on Winhall River. There is a M. E. Church here, where meetings are generally held, mostly Methodists, and another, a Union Church, at the centre. There are 2 post-offices in town, Bondville and Winhall; 8 school districts, 9 active sawmills, 1 gristmill, A. P. Graham's chair factory, which does a large business, and John & William Cudworth's extensive tannery. Lumbering is receiving much attention, large quantities of lumber being exported yearly. The sawyers have a slide which conveys the lumber from the steam-mills upon the summit of the mountain down its west side to Manchester very easily.
Nathaniel Brown, from Massachusetts, commenced the settlement about 1780. The firstborn was Salmon Day, son of Russell Day; the first death, that of Ben Rose; the first marriage, Ebenezer Whiting to Betsy Eaton; Cyrene Chapman was the first physician, Abram Underhill the first merchant, and Martha Taylor the first school-teacher. The Town was organized in 1796, Asa Beebe, Jr., Town Clerk; Isaac Sprague, Constable; Asa Beebe, Sen., Russell Day, and John Brooks, Selectmen. Asa Beebe was also the first representative in 1796, and Town Clerk from 1796, 25 years. In 1852 (according to Deming), Asa Beebe, Jr., had held the office of justice 23 years, Francis Kidder 14, Beriah Wheeler 14, and Benjamin Thatcher 12 years. SILAS HUBBARD was the first settler in Bondville.
THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH — No. of members, 14, — was organized in October, 1788; REV. BLACKLEACH BURRIT installed first pastor in January, 1793; Ephraim Whiting first clerk and deacon. Rev. Ashel Nott, who was ordained over the church, ministered here several years, and this was the principal church in town till the Baptist and Methodist organizations arose. The church now numbers but 12 members, and is supplied by Rev. L. Dwer, of Londonderry.
The BAPTIST CHURCH was organized Oct. 16, 1811. It was the fruit of quite an extensive revival in the town at that time, and flourished for a period, but, not being strong enough to secure the settlement of a pastor, went into gradual decline; the members united with churches in neighboring towns, and the organization became extinct. They number about 15 at the present time.
The METHODIST CHURCH is the principal one now in town, and is supplied by circuit preachers. The ministers which have been raised in Winhall are Rev. Leland Howard, of Rutland, Ezra Sprague, Warren Cochran, and Americus Locke; lawyers, Russell Day, Jr., Luther Beebe, Rawson Vaile, Jonathan Vaile, and Addison Grant; physicians, Warren and Ashel Day, Leonard Sprague, Dudley Beebe, Lorenzo Sprague, Joel Vaile, S. C. Gleason, and Henry Chapin.
The first MILITARY COMPANY was organized in 1796, Francis Kidder, Captain. For the war of 1812, Charles Bailey, Francis Burbank, Cephas Williams, and Samuel Hunt, were drafted. These have volunteered for the present war, viz: Joseph E. Butterfield, Samuel Shattuck, Henry Taylor, and fourteen others.
Mr. Allen furnishes the following account of one of the early settlers, as he heard it from her lips. "I came here from Massachusetts in 1829, and have lived here 32 years. One of my first acquaintances was Mrs. Brooks, widow of Esq. John Brooks, who was the first settler, except a Mr. Brown, who made a beginning just in the bounds of this town, near Londonderry, a short time before Mr. Brooks, who located near the centre of the town." Mrs. Brooks says, "We came here from Montague, Mass., in 1778. Mr. Brooks came a year before I came, and made a small beginning. He returned the next Fall to Montague, and the next May again to Winhall. It was then a wilderness from the middle of Jamaica to Winhall (9 miles). I rode on horseback through the wilderness, guided by marked trees; and carried a child in my lap, and was caught in a heavy thunder-shower. We lived in a small log-cabin that summer, and I did not see a woman for six months. We returned to Montague to remain through the first winter. We raised a plenty of apples from the seed in 14 years.
Dr. Silas O. Gleason, son-in-law of Reuben Brooks, Req., furnishes the following biography of John Brooks, and brief account of Reuben Brooks.
was born In Ashford, Ct., in 1753, and died in 1820. He was about 23 years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed. He was in several campaigns during the war of the Revolution, and participated in the battle of Bunker's Hill. He married Rachel Taylor, of Montague, Mass., and moved into Winhall in 1780. The town, on his arrival, was almost one unbroken wilderness, there being but one family in the entire township. He had to cut his way the last 11 miles through the forest. He and his family camped out during this tedious journey. One camp for a long time was called, in honor of his wife,
Camp Rachel. He settled near the centre of the town, on one of the finest tracts of land in the vicinity. Perhaps we may say that unusual success attended his labors as a business man. He kept a public house for many years, and did much of the public business of the town. He was a man of great energy and perseverance, was highly esteemed as a citizen and a man.
REUBEN BROOKS, ESQ.,
was born in Winhall in 1786, and lived on the farm that his father settled on until 1853; he then went to Elmira, N. Y., his present residence. He was married to Lucy Musey, of Jamaica, Vt., in 1816. He lived on his birthplace for 67 years. He was a member of the State Legislature for 6 years; also a member of three different conventions for altering the Constitution of the State. He held the office of Town Clerk and Treasurer for 20 years.
S. C. GLEASON.
It might also he added of Reuben Brooks that he was the wealthiest man in Winhall, a much respected citizen, and has been a member of the Congregational church 25 years.
Mr. Brown, tho first inhabitant, was from Massachusetts; he had been a broken merchant. He soon located near Mr. Brooks, where he lived many years, and soon there came from Montague, Moses Taylor,. Seth Taylor, Ephraim Whitney, Jonathan Taylor, and their wives; Joseph and Nathaniel, Rose and Gershom Taylor. Also, from Connecticut, Asa Beebe, Asa Beebe, Jr., Ephraim Day, Ephraim Day, Jr., Oliver Day, Russell Day, Isaac Williams, Nathan Williams, James Williams, John Sprague, Jonathan Sprague, Wyman Sprague, Isaac Sprague, and David Brainard. The above were farmers, and labored under many difficulties subject to a new settlement.
ASA BEEBE was a good citizen, and a man of some business in town. He lived to see a family of five sons and seven daughters married and settled in town, and died Dec. 5, 1813, aged 65. His wife, Lydia Beebe, died Dec. 14, 1813, aged 70.
ASA BEEBE, JR., was the first Town Clerk, and several times a member of the State Legislature. He was an enterprising, industrious farmer, and highly esteemed as a citizen and neighbor. He married Sarah, daughter of Dea. Ephraim Day. They had a large family. About 35 years since he removed to Western New York, where he died at a very advanced age.
JOHN SPRAGUE died Jan. 22, 1814, aged 75. He was a respectable citizen, and had three sons, who settled and died in this town, viz: Jonathan, who died May 9, 1813, aged 52; Isaac, who died Dec. 16, 1813, aged 46; and Wyman, who died in 1849, at an advanced age. They were all worthy citizens.
RUSSELL DAY was first Justice of the Peace, and one of the first Selectmen; was a leading man in town business, as also in the Congregational church. He possessed a strong mind, sound judgment, and quickness to foresee difficulties that might arise; and being of a very cheerful temperament, was good society for the aged or the young. He raised a family of four sons and five daughters that few would equal in talent and energy of character. Three of the sons were physicians, and the other a lawyer. The family mostly settled in the State of New York. Mr. Day died suddenly Dec. 16, 1829, aged 73. His wife remained a few years on the old farm, and then went to live with her daughter, in the State of New York.
I will next give father Vaile's history in his own words:—
"I came from Upton, Mass., to Winhall in March, 1798, as a single man; I was then in my 22d year. I married, the next January, and went on to a farm in the centre of the town, where I have lived ever since, and am now 85 years old. I was soon chosen constable, and have been appointed Justice of the Peace several times, but have never accepted. I was Captain of the militia company in 1815, and in 1819 was elected Colonel-Commandant of the 3d Regiment, First Brigade and Second Division of the Militia of this State, and received an honorable discharge from Governor Skinner in 1822. I have raised up a family of seven sons and four daughters. One son is a doctor and two are lawyers. They live in Indiana. My wife died November 19, 1857. I have been troubled with the rheumatism for about 20 years; with that exception my health is very good.
COL. JONATHAN VAILE."
There is scarcely a descendant of the first settlers that came from Connecticut in town; yet there is one person in town, one of the first settlers from Massachusetts, who still survives, SETH TAYLOR, now in his 86th year. He resides with his sons, Seth and Billings Taylor, and is remarkably smart for a man of his age; he walks from his home to the village and back again frequently, a mile and a half distant. Last winter he walked this distance on snow-shoes. He was but a small boy when his parents came here. He attends every town meeting. In 1859 he and two other men of the same age stayed all night at the election of Town Representative. His mental faculties, with the exception of the loss of hearing, are remarkably good for a man of his age.
Among the absent sons and daughters that Winhall would count at home once more, and write their name and labors down on her historic page, are S. O. Gleason, M.D., and Mrs. R. B. Gleason, M.D., of the Elmira Water Cure, N. Y. To their charming "HILL-SIDE HOME," "where the city and country are at one view represented," the chronic sufferer flies for healing and is healed. The CURE has been open nearly 8 years, and they have prescribed for more than 10,000 cases.
THE HOUSEHOLD BAND.
We've gathered from my childhood here,
Beside this sacred hearth;
And I have found no other spot
So dear in all the earth.
And, as at first, we gather now,
Our band is not yet broken;
No cherished form has passed for aye,
No farewell word been spoken.
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Are there not some who wander far,
Far o'er the wide, wide earth?—
They dwell within our hearts the same,
But not beside our hearth.
And one sweet name we never speak
But in a whisper low,
Who, like a tender blossom, drooped,
And faded long ago.
The wavelets of a gentle stream
Beside our garden sweep,
And 'neath the drooping willows there
We laid her down to sleep.
Yet, as before, we gather now, —
Each one so loved and dear,—
For mem'ry, to her duty true,
Brings all the loved ones here.
And when life's partings all are told,
May those so fondly loved,
As oft on earth, meet once again,
A household band above.
NELLIE L. BUTTERFIELD.