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 250                             VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.

 

 

 

 

COUNTY ITEMS.

 

BY HON. HILAND HALL.

 

EARLY SETTLEMENTS AND CHANGES IN

THE BUSINESS OF THE COUNTY,

 

The first business of the settlers, after provid­ing themselves with shelter from tho weather, was necessarily the clearing and preparation of their lands for cultivation. This by the early in­habitants was done as speedily as practicable, and their laborious industry was such that by the second year they were in general enabled to raise sufficient grain for their own subsistence, and soon afterwards something to spare. The continued emigration to the county and further to the northward furnished a ready market for most of their surplus productions for a number of years. The settlers also for a long period derived quite an income from the ashes produced in clearing their lands, which, being made into potash in rude works erected for that purpose, found a ready market at the towns on the Hud­son Diver, where it was exchanged for groceries and other necessaries not produced at home, Their lands were found to bear excellent crops of winter wheat, which was raised in consider­able quantities anti sent to market, until after the beginning of the present century, when it began to he an uncertain crop. Pork, beef, but­ter, and cheese were also produced for exporta­tion. The market for all these productions was at first at Albany, whither articles were generally transported with teams of oxen or horses in tho winter, when the rough roads were made smooth by snow, and the Hudson bridged with ice. There was, however, a ferry at an early day where Troy is now situated, provided with a scow in which teams crossed in the summer. By or before the close of the Revolution, some enter­prising New England people established them­selves at Lansingburgh, built warehouses, opened stores, and soon afterwards began to share the trade of this section of the country with the Albanians. The place bore the name of "New City" till it exchanged it for that of Lansing-burgh, about the year 1790. By that time a small village bad sprung up at Troy, which soon began to compete with Lansingburgh, and con­tinued its successful rival for several years, when it became, and has ever since continued to be, the principal market-town for western Vermont on the Hudson River, north of New York.

The business and employments of the inhab­itants of the county have undergone great changes since the first years of its occupation, and even within the present century. Sixty years ago probably five sixths of our people were engaged, either directly or indirectly, in agricultural pursuits. Now, perhaps less than one half are so employed. Then only some of the most necessary mechanical trades were pur­sued, and those to a limited extent, and gener­ally in a manner that would now be considered rude and bungling. The farming implements were then few, and of a coarse character, such as would now be discarded from use at once. The land was, however, new and rich, and bore good crops though imperfectly tilled. Now that the laud has become worn by long use, the pro­duction of good crops requires the steady appli­cation of manures and careful cultivation, and even with these additions the soil refuses to return us the winter wheat crop, by which the toil of our fathers was for many years amply remunerated. Now even spring wheat is only raised in limited quantities, our other agricul­tural productions being mainly rye, oats, corn, and potatoes, and the grasses which feed our domestic animals.

But, perhaps, the greatest change that has occurred in the business employments of our peo­ple is in their household affairs.

 

 

 

                                                    COUNTY ITEMS.                                         251

 

 

Prior to the commencement of the present century cotton had made no pretensions to the monarchy of the world, was indeed scarcely known as an article of commerce, and rarely used for any domestic purpose. Neither cotton nor woollen factories had come into existence, and nearly all the cloth in use by our people was made by hand-labor in families from wool and flax, the production of their farms. The wool was carded by hand by the farmers' wives and daughters, spun into yarn upon the "great wheel," and then wove into flannel by them, or, being doubled and twisted and properly dyed, was made into coverlets for beds. Such of the flannel as was not wanted for sheets and under garments was sent to the fulling-mill (one or more of which almost every town furnished), there to be prepared for other uses. Such of it as was designed for men's clothing was fulled and colored, and the nap more or less shortened by heavy iron shears moved over the cloth by hand. That which was intended for "women's wear" did not pass through the operation of fulling, but was dyed "red-brown," or some other favor­ite color, and, being made smooth and glossy by means of a heated press, was returned from the mill and used for winter dresses.

The flax, after being rotted. in the field, was prepared by the hand-break and swingling-knife for the further work of the family. Here the hetchel separated the tow from the finer flax, each to be appropriated to its proper use. The flax being wound upon the distaff was spun upon "the little wheel," which was turned by means of a foot-board, and thus made into linen yarn. This yarn being woven into cloth was used for sheets and pillow-cases, table-cloths, towels, and under garments, in short, for nearly all the pur­poses for which purchased linen and cotton cloth are now employed. The tow, spun upon the large wheel like wool, made filling for linen warp, and furnished a coarse article for the com­mon uses of linen cloth.

The farmer and his sons were almost exclu­sively clad in the cloth thus manufactured. Such was also the case with the wife and daughters, except on Sundays and other holiday occasions, when a calico, white muslin, or even a silk dress might be worn. And when it is considered that nearly all of this clothing was made up in the family, and that the mother also thought it a part of her duty to give her daughters some in­struction in cookery and other branches of house­keeping, some idea may be formed by the young ladies of the present day of the active labors to which their grandmothers were subjected. All this was submitted to under the antiquated notion that active employment and exercise were pro­ductive of health, and that their labors were really beneficial to themselves and to society, — that which was useful being in those days strangely treated as of more importance than the merely ornamental. This notion was indeed carried to such an extent that many grown-up daughters did really understand something of the art and economy of housekeeping, — were, in fact, able to make a loaf of bread or a pudding, and to roast a piece of meat; and, when they were married, could even get their husband a breakfast or a dinner without the presence and instruction of their mother or the "hired girl." And what will scarcely be credited, now that the spinning-wheel and the loom have given place to the harp, the guitar, and the piano, it is even said that the husband was then stupid enough to be rather pleased than otherwise with these rude accomplishments of his young wife.

The first important improvement in cloth-mak­ing was the introduction of the carding machine, by which the wool was prepared for spinning, lessening the labor of the housewife about one third. The first machine of the kind put in oper­ation in this county was by Thomas Kershaw, a Scotchman, near North Bennington, in 1801. It was soon afterwards followed by others in other places. Then came into use, to a small extent, cotton wool, cleaned of its seeds by "Whitney's cotton-gin," and made into cloth in fam­ilies, and, by about the years 1809 or 1810, into yarn by machinery in factories. This yarn was for several years put out to weave in the com­mon loom. Now, by the use of machine-spinning and the power-loom in both cotton and woollen factories, the ancient mode of cloth-mak­ing has become almost entirely superseded.

Other important changes — such as those in the manner and convenience of travelling, of postal and other modes of communication and inter­course — might be noticed, but must be now omitted.

 

 

 

 

CENSUS TABLE.

 

POPULATION OF THE TOWNS IN THE COUNTY OF BENNINGTON, AT THE SEVERAL DATES WHEN THE CENSUS WAS TAKEN NY THE UNITED STATES.

 

 

 

1791

1800

1810

1820

1830

1840

1850

1869

Arlington

991

1597

1463

1354

1207

1035

1084

1146

Bennington

 2377

 2243

 2524

 2485

 3419

 3429

 3923

4392

Dorset

 958

 1286

 1294

 1359

 1507

 1432

 1700

 2090

Glastenbury

34

48

76

48

52

53

52

47

Landgrove

31

 147

 299

 341

 355

 345

 337

 320

Manchester

 1276

 1397

 1502

 1508

 1525

 1590

 1782

 1688

Peru

71

 130

 239

 314

 455

 578

 567

 543

Pownal

1746

 1692

 1655

 1812

 1835

 1613

 1742

 1733

Readsborough

64

 234

 410

 530

 632

 767

 857

 929

Rupert

 1033

 1648

 1630

 1332

 1318

 1091

 1101

 1103

Sandgate

 773

 1020

 1187

 1185

 933

777

 850

805

Searsburg

6

9

40

 120

 201

263

Shaftsbury

 1999

 1895

 1973

 2022

 2143

 1835

 1896

 1937

Stamford

272

 383

 378

 490

563

662

 833

760

Sunderland

 414

 557

 576

 496

 463

 437

 479

 567

Winhall

  155

 202

 429

 428

 571

 576

 762

741

Woodford

60

 138

 254

 212

 395

 487

 423

 379

 

———

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———

———

———

———

———

———

Aggregate

12254

14617

15892

16125

17470

16879

18589

19443

 

 

 

 

 252                             VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.

 

 

PRINTING.

 

The first printing press in this State, on the west side of the mountains, was brought to Ben­nington, from Massachusetts, by Anthony Has­well, who issued the first number of the Ver­mont Gazette, June 3, 1783 (see biographical sketch of him, p. 176). Its publication was con­tinued weekly, with occasional temporary inter­ruptions, until the year 1849, Mr. Haswell or some of his descendants being connected with the paper during tho whole period of its existence.

The paper, at an early day took the anti-fed­eral side in politics, and advocated the election to the presidency of Jefferson, Madison, Mon­roe, and Adams (as successor of Monroe) and afterwards that of Jackson, Van Buren, and the subsequent Democratic candidates. Its conduc­tors were usually earnest and zealous in express­ing their political views, and were thought by their opponents to be often unreasonably violent and intolerant. Hence various attempts were made to establish papers of opposing politics in the town and county, none of which, until a late period, proved permanently successful. Indeed, the publication of a country newspaper, except under peculiarly favorable circumstances, was, at an early day, pretty certain to be unprofitable. The Gazette, though favored for many years by a large share of the State printing and land ad­vertising, and a large circulation, was only able to maintain a kind of sickly existence, not unfrequently requiring the contributions of its politi­cal friends to keep it alive. It was indeed aided to some extent by the publication, by the office, of books and pamphlets, from a portion of which a profit was derived, while from others a loss was sometimes suffered.

Among the larger works published by Mr. Haswell, the original founder of the press, may be mentioned, "The Oracles of Reason," by Ethan Allen, in 1784; "Memoirs of Matthew Phelps," in 1802, and "Watts on the Mind," at a later period. The publication of the Oracles of Reason; or as it was familiarly styled, "Allen's Bible," was a losing business. There was much less call for it than the vanity of its author had led him to anticipate. Most of the edition in sheets was packed away in bundles in Mr. Haswell's garret, where they remained for many years, until they were finally burnt, or scattered and destroyed on the destruction of the house by fire. Mr. Haswell also published for a short time a periodical called "The Monthly Miscel­lany; or, Vermont Magazine," commencing in March, 1794; and again beginning, in January, 1808, another monthly magazine called "The Mental Repast." Neither of these were well sustained by the public, and each was discontin­ued at the end of a few months.

The first attempt to establish a newspaper in opposition to the Gazette, is believed to have been in the year 1800, by Thomas Collier and Wm. Stockwell, who came to Bennington from Litchfield, Conn., and issued a paper called "The Ploughman." It was continued weekly until some time in the year 1802, when the press was removed to Troy, where Mr. Collier estab­lished "The Troy Gazette." In the office of Collier and Stockwell, at Bennington, was an apprentice of the name of John E. Wright, upon whom a large share of the labor, both physical and intellectual, is said to have been devolved. He afterwards became proprietor and editor of the Troy Gazette, a distinguished member of Congress from Ohio, a judge of the Supreme Court of that State, and died in the city of Washington in February, 1861, being a member and chairman of the so-called "Peace Congress."

In March, 1811, a new paper of federal poli­tics was issued in Bennington, called "The Bennington Newsletter," and was published for about two years, first by Benjamin Smead, and afterwards by Williams & Whitney. Andrew Selden is believed to have been the editor. Mr. Smead was connected with the paper merely as a printer. He was a republican in politics, and had for a time been associated with Mr. Haswell in the Gazette office. He was afterwards a cap­tain in the army in the war of 1812, and was subsequently for many years the editor of a lead­ing journal at Bath, Steuben Co., N. Y., where he died within a few years past. Mr. Whitney was son of Judge Lemuel Whitney, of Brattle­boro', and died many years ago.

The next paper in the order of time was "The American Register," published at Arling­ton for about one year in 1816 and 1817, by E. Gilman Storer.

On the discontinuance of the Register, Mr. Storer published for a year, at Arlington, a religious periodical called "The Union Magazine," but not meeting with sufficient encouragement its publication was stopped, and he with his press removed to Sunday Hill, N. Y.

In the spring of 1822, a paper called "The Vermont Sentinel," was started at Bennington, by ——— Adams, from New Hampshire. It was found to be unprofitable, and lived but a few months.

Oct. 3, 1828, the first number of a paper called "The Journal of the Times," was issued in Bennington, "Henry S. Hall, proprietor, Wm. Lloyd Garrison, editor." They came from Boston. The Gazette, which had at first supported the election and administration of John Quincy Adams, had recently shown a decided leaning toward Jacksonism, and as the town and county were nearly unanimous for Adams, it was thought to be a favorable time for starting a new paper. The Times began with a list of 700 subscribers and bright prospects; but its fate was quite as disastrous as that of any of its pre­decessors. A bitter local quarrel then existed in Bennington, connected with ecclesiastical mat­ters, into which Mr. Garrison, who was then a young man, entered with all the zeal and assur

 

 

 

                                                    COUNTY ITEMS.                                         253

 

 

ance for which he has since been noted. His egotistical, ill-timed, and extravagant declama­tion upon local questions, which he little under­stood, exposed him to earnest and damaging retaliation from the opposite side, by whom he was assailed, without mercy, in the columns of the Gazette. Their strong weapon was ridicule, by which the laugh was so broadly and effectually raised and kept up against him, that at the expiration of six months his list of 700 subscribers had dwindled clown to less than 150, and he retired from the editorial chair in no very good humor, and left the State. The paper was continued to the 38th number by Mr. Hall, when it was stopped, and the press and type sold on execution to pay the paper-maker.

In 1829 or 1830, a paper of national republi­can polities styled "The Horn of the Green Mountains," was issued at Manchester, and its publication continued between one and two years by E. C. Purdy.

In the spring of 1835, "The Vermonter" was started at Bennington, and continued for about a year. The press and types are believed to have been purchased and owned by leading whigs of the county, and their use furnished gratis to the publisher, Andrew F. Lee.

In 1837, the press and types of The Vermonter were removed to Manchester, where a new paper was commenced, called "The Bennington County Whig." It was first published by B. C. Cran­dall, and afterwards by Orlando Squires, and then by John C. Osborn, and lived between one and two years.

Feb. 5, 1841, the first number of "The State Banner" was issued at Bennington, by Enoch Davis, he having the use of the press and such of the types before mentioned as remained. At the end of a year, Mr. J. I. C. Cook became interested in the paper, and afterwards its sole proprietor, by whom and his son its publication is still continued.

May 28, 1861, a new paper was commenced at Manchester, called "The Manchester Jour­nal," A. C. Pierce, proprietor, "H. E. Mann and A. C. Pierce, editors." Like the Banner, its politics are republican.

 

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AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY.

 

THE BENNINGTON COUNTY AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY was formed and organized at a meeting held at the town-house in Shaftsbury, Feb. 12, 1848, the Hon. John H. Olin being the first president, and Samuel Ames, secretary, both of Shaftsbury.

The Society has held regular fairs in Septem­ber of each year ever since, which have generally been well attended, and have to some extent ex­cited an interest in agriculture, fruit-growing, ladies' work, and the mechanic arts, and pro­moted the general objects of the association.

The successive presidents of the society have been Nathan Burton, John S. Pettibone, Charles Hicks, Myron Clark, Paul M. Henry, Major Hawley, and Robert Ames.

The present officers of the Society are Robert Ames, Manchester, President; Henry B. Kent, Dorset, Hiram Cole, Shaftsbury, Vice-Presidents; Norman Bottum, Shaftsbury, Treasurer; J. B. Hollister, Manchester, Secretary. Addresses at the annual fairs were delivered by Prof. James Meacham, of Middlebury College, in 1848; by Hon. L. Chandler Ball, of Hoosic, N. Y., in 1852; Daniel Roberts, Jr., of Manchester, in 1849; and Charles M. Bliss, of Woodford, in 1860; and perhaps by others at other times. The usefulness of the Society has probably been somewhat retarded by the want of a permanent place and suitable erections for holding the an­nual fairs and exhibitions. This obstacle was removed in 1860, when suitable grounds were inclosed and fitted up for use at North Benning­ton, where the fair was held in September of that year, under circumstances promising com­plete success.

In 1820, an attempt was made to organize and put in operation a county agricultural society, and it appears from the Bennington Gazette that at a meeting held at Arlington, Feb. 5, 1821, Richard Skinner, then Governor of the State, was chosen president, and Abel Aylesworth, Jr., secretary; that other officers, including a pru­dential committee, were elected, and that, at a subsequent meeting of the committee, premiums were offered. No account of an annual fair, or exhibition, or any award of premiums is found. If a meeting of the kind was held, it was prob­ably unsuccessful, as the society does not appear to have been in existence the succeeding year.

In 1822, a pretended effort to improve the breed of horses, "trials of speed," over a course prepared at Bennington, principally by persons from abroad, seems to have been substituted for an agricultural fair. The races came off the 24th, 25th, and 26th of Sept. 1822, exciting great interest, and collecting together from abroad immense numbers of people, to the pecuniary advantage of a few individuals, and to the great detriment of the body of the community. All the immoralities of the worst part of city life seemed to be at once introduced into the town, and the races were felt to be such an intolerable nuisance that petitions, numerously signed, were forwarded to the General Assembly, producing the law of that year, prohibiting, under very severe penalties, all horse-racing for the future. It may be worth consideration, whether "trotting matches" are not allowed to occupy too promi­nent a place in our county fairs throughout the State; whether the advantage of making fast horses is not more than counterbalanced by their tendency to make fast young men; and whether the interest which they excite is not likely to occasion the neglect of other matters connected with agri­culture and the mechanic arts, which are really of much more importance.

H. H.