BY REV. O. G. CLARK.
GROTON, situated in the south part of Caledonia County, is bounded N. by Peacham, E. by Ryegate, S. by Topsham, and W. by Goshen Gore. Its area is 38 square miles, and it contained in 1830, 836 inhabitants; in 1840, 928; in 1850, 895; and in 1860, a slight increase on the preceding decade.
Groton was chartered Oct. 20, 1789. It was settled in 1787, and consequently it is 73 years since the first settlement was made. March the 28th, 1797, it was organized by a town-meeting, held at the dwelling-house of John Darling, pursuant to a notice issued by William Chamberlin, Justice of the Peace of the town of Peacham. At this meeting were elected the following town officers, viz.: — Samuel Bacon, Moderator; Nathaniel Knight, Town Clerk; Samuel Bacon, Nathaniel Knight, and James Abbott, Selectmen; Jonathan James, Town Treasurer; Wm. Frost, Constable and Collector; Dominicus Gray, Town Grand Juror; Israel Bailey and Edmund Morse, Tithingmen; Aaron Hosmer, Jr., and Silas Lund, Highway Surveyors; Robards Darling, Surveyor of Lumber; Wm. Frost, Sealer of Weights and Measures; Jeremiah Bachelder and Samuel Darling, Hogreeves; James Hooper, Fenceviewer.
The first freemen's meeting was held Sept. 3, 1799; but the town records do not show whether there was an election or not. There is, however, a tradition that at this meeting there were two parties, viz.: the Kennebunkers, who were settlers from Sanford, Wells, and Kennebunk, Me.; and the Gaghegans, from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut; and that the former, being more numerous, elected Jonathan Macomber, Representative. The truth of this tradition can be ascertained only by reference to the State records.
The surface of the town is agreeably diversified by hill and valley, presenting to the eye a landscape pleasing and beautiful, rather than grand and sublime. The soil, though hard, is well adapted to grass and grain, and, when well cultivated, richly remunerates the husbandman for his labor.
Whitcher's Mountain, situated in the southeastern part, is the highest elevation of land in town, being 1,100 feet above the level of theocean, and capable of cultivation to its summit, where there is quite a pond of water; not of sufficient dimensions and depth, to be sure, for steamboats and men-of-war, but ample enough for ducks and geese.
The soil, except in the eastern part, is hard and stony, and consequently difficult of cultivation. The rock is granite, and there is an abundance of it for all fencing purposes, and some to spare. In general, the rock of Caledonia County is primitive, and of the calcareo-mica-slate formation; but in Groton, Peacham, Danville, and the eastern part of Cabot, it is almost exclusively granite; showing that at some former period of the history of the earth, and by some powerful convulsion of her interior elements, the granite has been forced up through the primitive rock.
Wells River, which rises in Groton Pond, flows through the town from N. W. to S. E., and by its falls affords many excellent water privileges for mills and machinery, of which the inhabitants have availed themselves by erecting mills and locating machinery at various points along its banks.
In the north-western part of the town are two beautiful ponds of water, called Long Pond and Little Pond; the former 4 miles long by 1 broad, and the latter 1 mile in length by ½ mile in width. At the foot of the latter is the "Lake House," recently erected by McLane Marshall, the present proprietor and occupant. On the latter pond, also, is a pleasure-boat 30 feet long by 10 wide, called the "Lady of the Lake," and capable of carrying 60 persons at a time. Both these ponds contain an abundance of fish, and afford the inhabitants of this and adjoining towns no little sport in catching them. They both cover an area of 2,880 acres, one being 8 times as large as the other, and are at an elevation of 1,083 feet above the level of the sea, as estimated by Zadoc Thompson.
The first settlers of the town were as follows:— Aaron Hosmer, the great-grandfather of Josiah D. Hosmer, lately deceased, is said to have been the first individual who made even a temporary residence in town. He, being a hunter, pitched his tent on the meadow now known as the Orson Ricker meadow, and from thence went north to the ponds, one of which is in Peacham, and is called Hosmer Pond. But he never made a permanent residence within the limits of the town. Edmund Morse was the first settler in the north part of the town, and James Abbott occupied the farm now known as the Jacob Abbott place, and now owned and occupied by Percival Bailey. A Mr. James settled on the next farm south of James Abbott, known afterward as the Henry Low place, and now owned by Peter Whitehill. Edmund Morse, who was the first military captain in town, and whose sword was an old rusty scythe, settled in the north part of the town, on the next farm south of Mr. James, where he continued to live till his death, which
322 VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.
was at a good old age. Mr. Morse built the first saw and grist-mill in town, at the foot of the Little Pond. Before this, the early settlers went to Newbury to mill, some 15 miles distant, and not unfrequently carried and brought their grist on their backs. Mr. Morse's daughter, Sally, now the widow Hill, was the first female born in town.
JOHN DARLING, the father of Robert, Samuel, and Moses Darling, and great-grandfather of the present race of Darlings, was one of the first, and some say the first settler in Groton. He occupied the farm near the old burying-ground, since known as the Joseph Morrison place. He lived to a good old age, retaining his faculties to the last. At fourscore years he stood erect as a young man of twenty.
EDMUND WELCH was the first who settled on the William Frost farm, to whom he afterward sold it, and here Mr. Frost lived till his death, which was when he was about 65.
JONATHAN WELCH, brother to Edmund, first settled on the farm now owned and occupied by his son Jonathan. JOHN EMERY settled on the Timothy Morrison farm, and CHARLES EMERY, his father, on the Medad Welch farm.
The first settler in what is now called Groton Village was one DANIEL MUNROE. His house was near the present site of William F. Clark's tannery, at the east end of the village.
A. M. HENDERSON, of Ryegate, built the first saw-mill on Wells River, near the present site of Gates's carriage shop, and soon after he also built a grist-mill where the present one, now owned by A. L. Clark, stands.
JOHN HOGINS, a tailor, was also one of the first settlers in the village. His house stood where Almun L. Clark's tavern now stands.
JERRY BACHELDER first settled in the Moses Plummer neighborhood, on the farm now owned and occupied by Joseph Ricker.
JOHN HEATH first settled in West Groton, on the place now occupied by Otis Rhodes. Mr. Heath lived here quite a number of years, was a justice of the peace, and quite a prominent religious man of the Baptist order. Afterward, Mr. Heath moved to the West.
DAVID JENKINS was the first who began on the farm now owned and occupied by Charles Morrison. The next occupant of the place after Jenkins was Moses Darling, with his father, John Darling; and after them, Jonathan Darling, son of Samuel Darling, occupied it quite a number of years, until he sold it to Charles Morrison, the present owner, and moved to the "Far West," where he now lives.
The next settlers in West Groton were JONATHAN and JAMES RENFREW, of Scotch descent, one of whom made the quaint remark in reference to the soil of West Groton, viz.: "If a man should strike an axe into the ground, and it did not hit a stone, it would be sure to hit a guinea." Their farms were the two places now occupied by Nathan Darling and Moses Adams.
DAVID VANCE was also one of the first settlers of this part of the town, where he lived a good many years, and became wealthy. He was elected representative of the town a number of years, and after raising up a family of 7 sons and 4 daughters, he moved to the east part of the town, where he now lives.
EDMUND and STEPHEN WELCH, and NATHANIEL CUNNINGHAM, were the first settlers in the extreme west of the town.
ELDER JAMES BAILEY, of Peacham, formed the first church in town, of the Calvinist Baptist order, upwards of 70 years ago. The first members were as follows:— Phebe Darling, with of John Darling; Anna Welch, wife of Jonathan Welch; Edmund Welch and wife; Sarah, wife of Stephen Welch; Betsey Morrison, wife of Bradbury Morrison; John Emery and wife Sarah; Mary, wife of James Hooper; Edmund Morse; Josiah Paul and wife Sarah.
In 1824, Rev. OTIS ROBINSON, from the State of Maine, was installed pastor over the church, and for a number of years it continued in a flourishing condition. But at length troubles arose, Mr. Robinson became deranged and moved away, and the church received a shock from which it has not recovered to the present day. Since that time they have had no settled ministers, but have been supported from adjoining towns, till within a few years they have had no preaching at all. A few years ago their number was 35. Of late they have taken a vote not to continue their church organization any longer, but to let each member have the privilege of joining any other church he pleases. The first deacon was Wm. Hodsdon; the second, Enoch Page; the last, Hosea Welch. The first is deceased; the two last are yet living, — living, too, in the fell assurance of immortality and eternal life.
FREEWILL BAPTIST CHURCH IN WEST GROTON.
BY REV. FRANCIS MORRISON, PRESENT PASTOR.
The Freewill Baptist Church in Groton was first formed in the west part of the town by Elder LATHROP, but how long ago, the records of the church do not say, but probably over 40 years since. Elder Lathrop presided over the church for a number of years with great acceptability as a preacher and a Christian, and under his labors there was a great revival of religion, by which the church was quickened, her numbers increased, and much good done. They had no meeting-house, and therefore were under the necessity of holding their meetings in private houses in the winter, and in barns in the summer. But withstanding the humble place of worship, people at times came from all parts of the town to hear the word, and found it indeed a Bethel. After Elder Lathrop left the church, his place
was supplied by various other ministers from other towns, but the church had no regular pastor till the year 1857, when Rev. Francis Morrison was ordained a minister over them; since which time the church, though small, has been in a prosperous condition. Their present number is 20.
M. E. CHURCH.
The records of the M. E. Church do not say who were the first Methodist preachers in town, nor how long it is since they first preached here; but the first preachers were quite successful, and soon gathered a small class, which was increased from time to time, till private dwellings and school-houses became too small for their accommodation. About the year A. D. 1837, they were enabled to build a good and commodious meeting-house, since which time, with the exception of a few years lately, they have had a preacher stationed with them all the time.
In 1838, Samuel G. Scott preacher in charge, there were on Groton circuit 107 members. During this year there was a great revival, the church was quickened, and many added to the church, some of whom continue faithful to this day.
In 1844, Benjamin Burnham preacher in charge, there were in Groton circuit 111 members.
Groton Village class contained 72 members.
West Groton class " 7 "
Jefferson Hill class " 19 "
Topsham class " 13 "
Since that time, by deaths, removals, and other causes, the number of members has considerably decreased, till of late, when a good work seems to be going on in the church, and some additions are being made.