248 VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.
BY STEPHEN GLEASON.
THIS township was chartered by Benning Wentworth, Governor and Commander-in-chief of the province of New Hampshire, March 6, 1753, to Elisha Chauncey and 59 others (66 shares). Aug. 12, 1762, the time to fulfil some of the conditions of the charter was extended. The town was organized Feb. 11, 1789, at the house of Elijah Dewey, in Bennington; Samuel Robinson, Moderator; Matthew Scott, Town Clerk. Notwithstanding the solemn assertions by King George and the Governor that the town should be but 6 miles square and no more, and contain 23,040 acres, no allowance being made for highways and unimprovable lands, by rocks, mountains, ponds and rivers, the town does actually contain 42 square miles, being 6 miles by 7.
The first inhabitant was Caleb More, and about the same time Matthew and Zerah Scott settled. The firstborn was Benjamin Reed, Jr., son of Benjamin and Huldah Reed, Aug. 11, 1779. The first inhabitants who took the freeman's oath in town meeting held March 10, 1792, were as follows: Joseph Wilson, Caleb More, Obed Eddy, Zadock Pierce, Eli Pierce, Hezekiah Pierce, Benjamin Reed, and Samuel Orcutt. The first Representative chosen was Obed Eddy, who utterly refused to serve, in consequence of which no suffrages were given for Governor and other State and County officers and the meeting was adjourned.
The Town Clerks in order are as follows: Matthew Scott, Zerah Scott, Elkanah Danforth, William Park, chosen in 1809, and held the office (except Moses Robinson 2 or 3 years in the time), upwards of 30 years, Elisha Lyon, Wm. Park, Jr., Wm. G. Brown, Nathan Brown,* Horace Morse, Simeon Morse, Warren Fish, and J. C. Cormack. The old turnpike running through the town was chartered about the year 1800.
The first forge was built about the same time in Woodford Hollow, for the manufacture of bar-iron. After this there was a forge built for making anchors for gun-boats, for which there was a large contract made in the time of Jefferson's administration, which was duly fulfilled. Still some years after, another forge was built for manufacture of bar-iron, which was in operation till within a few years. There are nov in this building- from 1,200 to 1,400 cords of spruce and balsam poles annually sawed into barrel staves.
There are two ochre beds owned and worked, one by Lyman Patchen, and the other by Jedediah Dewey, both of Bennington. The digging is performed by beginning at the foot of the mountain and running nearly on a level for 20, 30, or more rods, or so far as the ochre remains good. It is considered profitable business. There are two establishments at the Hollow for manufacturing the ochre into yellow paint. There was quite a settlement in the Hollow before there were any inhabitants on the hill or "Woodford City," so called, 4 miles distant. The name was given, in derision, by J. C. Hollister, when the first family, about 40 years since, moved into the place. A sawmill had been erected previous to Zurial Cutler's locating. In a short time Wm. Park, Esq., and Wm. Park. Jr. settled, and thus a commencement was well started. Soon — about 1820 — they turned their attention to making charcoal on quite a large scale, jobs from 50 to 100 loads (100 bushels is called a load) and so on to 1,000 loads yearly. The coal was for the Bennington Iron Works, and carried on so long as they continued in operation. Coaling was also carried on in other sections of the town. Since coaling has been discontinued, the settlers have turned their attention to farming and lumbering. There are now 18 sawmills in town, which are estimated to cut out 200,000 feet each upon an annual average. This lumber is principally transported to Bennington and Pownal, Troy, and other Vermont and New York towns, though some larger orders are filled for New York City.
The new or Searsburg Turnpike was built in 1831-2, and opened for travelling in '32. It commences at Bennington line, by the stream leading to the outlet of Woodford Pond and follows the stream to the pond, thence east to Searsburg. The road is now well settled, and much travelled.
Woodford Pond covers about 100 acres. There are also several other smaller ponds in town, one covering about 15 acres. These ponds when first discovered, abounded with trout, and from that time for several years people came from Bennington and vicinity (guided by
* Father of Rev. Nathan Brown, editor of the American Baptist, New York City.
marked trees) for the purpose of angling. They would make their calculations to reach the pond the first day and make a raft, and on the second seldom failed to procure as many fish as they could carry home on their backs. About 30 years since pickerel were put into the largest pond, which made such havoc with the trout there are none caught there now. The pickerel, when the gate is hoisted at the outlet of the pond, run down the stream to the millponds below, so that there are as many caught at some of the ponds below as there are at the one of original deposit. Some of these pickerel weigh from 2 to 4 lbs., and there are others which cannot be drawn out of the water with the hooks and lines used. When this town was in a wilderness state there were large herds of deer ranging the mountains. People from Bennington and vicinity would go up to the height of land, and get beyond a herd of deer, and start them toward the streams or brooks, and drive them down into the valleys below, having men lying in ambush along the streams to shoot them down as they were passing by. There were also several elk and one moose killed in the Hollow.
In digging to lay the foundation of a dam for the use of the first forge, in removing a large pine stump, the horns of an elk, weighing 60 lbs., were found imbedded in the ground below the roots of the stump. Mr. Cutler, the first settler of "Woodford City," on one occasion, lost himself in the woods, and wandered around until sundown. Seeing no prospect of getting out that night, he began looking about for a place to lodge, and, stepping over an old log, found himself in a nest of young cubs. The little bruins immediately gave a loud alarm, which was answered by the old bear, about 10 rods distant. Mr. C., entirely without weapons, made for the nearest tree with all possible dispatch. This was a beech, its nearest branch about 20 feet from the ground. He sprang up, and barely got his feet out of her reach when she struck at him with her paw. Finding his chance was good for staying through the night, he ascended into the branches beyond her reach, and cut off some small limbs, and fastened himself to the tree with withes. Mrs. Bruin kept near the foot of the tree, in close watch, until after daylight, when she took her family, and moved off to other quarters. Mr. C., beholding, at length, the coast clear, commenced taking a view from his elevated position of the lay of the land, hoping to again get a glimpse of civilization or the abodes of men. He made up his mind as to the course to take, descended the tree, and reached the habitations of human beings on the old turnpike about noon.
The first two public houses on the old turnpike were kept by different landlords until the road was given up as a turnpike. The next tavern was built in the Hollow by Elisha Lyon, and kept by him while he lived; after which, by Alva Hawks, Simeon Morse, and others, and now by Amos Aldrich, — owned by Mr. Hawks. After the new turnpike was built, Wm. Park, Jr., opened a strictly temperance tavern, which he kept for several years, and then sold to Alonzo Fox, its present owner.
There was another tavern opened for the benefit of the public the same year, about 4 miles E. of Mr. Park's, by Luther Wilson, and established on temperance principles. It soon passed out of his hands; has been kept by some 6 or 8 different men, and has been closed about 4 years.
There was also another public house kept 6 or 7 years by H. P. Noyes.
There has never been a meeting-house in this town. There are four different Christian denominations, but neither of them feel able to build by themselves, nor have charity large enough for each other to unite and build a union house. So they all meet in school-houses, and worship as their conscience dictates.
The REFORMED METHODISTS * formed themselves into a society, in the Hollow, about 1820. Rev. J. C. Hollister became their preacher, and located with them 12 or 13 years. He removed from this place to the State of Ohio, where he now resides.
The Methodists have had various other preachers since. The Rev. Thaddeus Cutler, born in this town, about 10 years since, became a preacher, and has preached here a part of the time to that Society, until the last year, when he moved to Searsburg.
Rev. Jonas Jewel (Baptist) preached hero. about 6 years, and them moved to Readsboro', and gave up preaching.
The Rev. Mr. Powers and other Baptist ministers have preached here at different times since. But there is no preacher or layman of that denomination in town at the present time.
The Rev. J. J. Gilbert (Congregationalist) preached here 2 years, and then moved away. The Rev. J. Bishop (Universalist) preached here a part of the time for 2 years. There is more or less preaching in the Universalist denomination every year.
The common schools are in a very good condition. The people are neither blessed nor troubled with the presence among them of any legal gentlemen, and they find it very convenient to get along without. But the Hon. A. P. Lyman, the present State's Attorney of Bennington County (1860), was born in this town, and has worked his way up to distinction by his own industry. Also, T. W. Park,† one of the most eminent attorneys in the State of California, was born in this town, and lived here principally until he commenced his studies with the Hon. A. P. Lyman, of Bennington.
* A society who left the M. E. Church about 40 or 50 years since, and assumed that name.
[ † This is the same Mr. Park of whom the following we copy from the "DAILY RUTLAND HERALD."—
250 VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.
"LIBERAL GIFT BY A VERMONTER. — The following correspondence will explain itself. The Mr. Park making this liberal gilt to his native State was reared in old Bennington; is a son-in-law of Ex-Governor Hall, and in the present instance, as ever, be shows himself a true-hearted patriot, and a worthy son of the Green Mountain State.
SAN FRANCISCO, CAL.,
May 12, 1861.
HON. ERASTUS FAIRBANKS, Governor of Vermont.
MY DEAR SIR: I have to thank the Pony Express for the pleasing intelligence that my native State had, by a unanimous vote of the Legislature, appropriated men and money to aid the Administration in the protection of the Constitution against the foes of the country.
I knew the Green Mountain boys, like their ancestors in the Revolution, will be found facing the enemy. Although nearly 6,000 miles removed from Vermont, I look with great interest to anything that relates to her honor, and always find her right. I love Vermont and her people, and take pride in being counted among her sons.
Inclosed you will find a check for $1,000, which the state or Vermont will please accept as my contribution towards defraying the expenses of fitting out her sons for battle, or supporting the families of those who may fall in defence of the flag of our Union.
With full confidence in the success of the right, I am, very truly, yours,
T. W. PARK.
P. S. — California is sound on the Union question.
EXECUTIVE OFFICE, ST. JOHNSBURY,
June 3, 1861.
SIR: It gives me pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your patriotic letter of the 12th ultimo, inclosing a check for $1,000, as your contribution to the State of Vermont towards defraying the expenses of fitting out her sons for the service of the country.
In behalf of the State of Vermont, I thank you for this munificent gift, which I assure you will be appropriated in accordance with your wishes.
The motives which have prompted you to this praiseworthy act, and the patriotic sentiments expressed in your letter, command my high appreciation, and will meet a sincere response from the hearts of all Vermonters.
T. W. PARK, Esq.,
San Francisco, Cal."