BY CHARLES H. GRAVES.
A TOWNSHIP lying in the easterly part of Caledonia County, and very well adapted to agricultural pursuits — the soil being generally free from stone, and consisting of a rich gravelly loam; is well adapted to the raising of all kinds of grain and grass, and in most parts to the growing of Indian corn successfully. Fruit, also, grows well here; there are some fine specimens in town. The winter of 1858 was, however, rather unfavorable for the apple; the old growth already shows signs of decay. With the exception of a range of mountains in the easterly part, the town is susceptible of cultivation; and even those mountain-lots, after being cleared of their heavy growth of timber, produce the best of pasturage. Indeed, there is very little waste land in town. The low lands, that in the early settlement were considered too wet and swampy for cultivation, are now the most productive and valuable. The township is well watered with springs and brooks that rise among the hills, and wind their way through the
valleys to the Passumpsic and Moose Rivers, the latter of which passes through a corner of the town. Along its borders are a few excellent farms, but no sites for mills. Near the centre of the town there is quite a mountain-ridge which somewhat divides the business of the town. Here is also a small pond, from which issues Pond Brook, on which are erected 2 saw-mills and 1 starch factory, which do good business; there are also 2 other saw-mills in town in successful operation a part of the year. In the easterly part of the township is an excellent quarry of granite, known as the "Evans quarry," which, for beauty and feasibility, excels anything of the kind yet found in this section, and will, doubtless, at some future day, he extensively used for building purposes. The town did not settle very rapidly, and has never numbered much more than 500 inhabitants. There was nothing unusual or remarkable in the events connected with the early settlement. In common with the early settlers of the rest of this region, the first inhabitants of Kirby suffered much inconvenience and many hardships — living as they did in a wilderness country, far from any market or source of supplies, and destitute in almost every instance of a team.
The exact data of the first permanent settlement made here is not known. Theophilus Grant and Phineas Page removed thither about 1792, locating near the town line adjacent to St. Johnsbury. In 1800, Jonathan Leach came into the north part of the town, then called Burke Tongue, and cut his first tree. He was soon joined by Josiah Joslin, Jude White, Jonathan Lewis, Ebenezer Damon, Asahel Burt, Antipas Harrington, and others, mostly from Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Jonathan Leach and wife are still living upon the same farm upon which he first settled, and are the only survivors of the first company of settlers. They still enjoy comfortable health, and their mental faculties are as yet very little impaired. The age of Mr. Leach is 85; of Mrs. Leach, 88 or 89. He was a native of Bridgewater, Mass. He made his first "pitch" in the town of Burke — purchasing a lot of land near the centre of that town. While absent, however, engaged in removing his family from Massachusetts to their new home, the proprietors obtained a new draught of the town, bringing his number some five miles to the southward of the spot where he had commenced clearing, in an unbroken wilderness. Procuring, on his return, the assistance of a neighbor as a guide, started out in quest of his number, which, after some difficulty, he succeeded in finding. In this new location he commenced his labors, in the month of April, 1800.
He erected at once a log house, though, as the reader may readily imagine, "under difficulties," inasmuch as he was destitute both of shingles and boards, not to mention numerous other articles usually deemed indispensable in order to convenient and successful house-building into this rude structure, and while his gable-ends were still open, he removed his family, consisting of a wife and two small children. Addressing himself now to clearing away the forest about him, and preparing the soil for cultivation, he succeeded the first year in raising a sufficient amount of grain to meet the wants of his family. By another year, without the aid of a team, he had subdued enough of the forest to gather in 150 bushels of wheat. By the third year, he had put up a framed barn — the building in which he thinks was taught the first school and held the first religious meeting in town (A. D. 1804). That barn is still standing, and is in a good condition. The first saw-mill in town, moreover, was built by Mr. Jonathan Leach.
The town charter was granted Oct. 20, 1786, and chartered Oct. 27, 1790, to Roswell Hopkins, by the name of Hopkinsville, containing 11,264 acres. Subsequently, 2527 acres were added from the town of Burke, known as Burke Tongue, and the name of the township altered, by an act of Legislature, in 1808, to Kirby. The town was organized on the 8th of August, 1807, and on the 29th of the same month, the first town-meeting was called to elect town officers. Selah Howe was chosen Moderator, Jonathan Lewis, Town Clerk, which office he held 17 years. Benjamin Estabrooks, Joel Whipple, Arunah Burt, first Selectmen; Philomen Brown, first Constable; Josiah Joslin, first Town Representative.
Dr. Abner Mills removed into town about 1810, practising medicine in this and adjoining towns; but did not remain long, with the exception of the year 1813, when the prevailing epidemic proved very mortal here, there being 21 deaths in town, and mostly of adults. The people have ever enjoyed a very good degree of health. The oldest person deceased in town appears, from the record, to have been Zebulon Burroughs, aged 84. The first birth (June 2d, 1801) was that of Lavina Harrington. The first marriage celebrated was that of Nathaniel Reed and Sukey Sweat, Feb. 8, 1804. The first death was that of Henry White, Sept. 3, 1803.
There are now seven organized school districts in town.
In 1812, there was a Congregational Church organized, consisting of 11 members. Timothy Locke was chosen first deacon, which office he held until his death in 1850. This church has never had a pastor ordained over it; but has been improved a part of the time by itinerant ministers from abroad. In 1824, Rev. Luther Wood united with this church, and continued to preach a portion of the time, until, on account of the infirmities of age, he was no longer able to perform pastoral duties. In 1828, the church erected a comfortable house of worship, in which they continued to meet until about 1840, at which time the church numbered 45 members. About the
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same year a new church was formed at East St. Johnsbury. In order to enjoy better privileges and accommodations than what they had hitherto been able to, a portion of the Kirby Church asked and obtained dismission from the latter with a view to smiting with the former. This exodus from the old church left it in such a feeble condition that it was no longer able to sustain stated preaching. In consequence, most of the members have taken letters to churches in adjoining towns.
There was a Methodist Society established here as early as 1804, the class being formed under the supervision of the Rev. Mr. Peck, of the Lyndon charge. They were for a long time supplied with preaching from adjoining towns. At present, however, this society is in a flourishing condition, about 25 having been added the past year. They now number about 75 members, and enjoy stated preaching, — Rev. Mr. Bullard, pastor.
REV. LUTHER WOOD.
Father Wood, as he was more familiarly was born in Lebanon, N. H. In 1800 he removed to St. Johnsbury, Vt. He obtained a license to preach about 1804. I think he was never ordained over any church. His early history was marked with affliction, privations, and losses, — having been burnt out once or twice, and thrown upon the charities of the world with a large family of small children to sustain. His motto, however, was ever onward and upward.
At an early day he purchased a firm, and removed his family to town. About 1824, he, with his wife and some of his children, united with the Congregational Church here, which at that time was very feeble, and the timely aid which this connection afforded was joyfully received by its members. He continued to preach to them at intervals until he was called to his reward. Although he never possessed so much pulpit eloquence as many, yet his sermons were deep and impressive, and full of gospel truth.
They were more deeply impressed on the mind by the fact that they came from a warm and feeling heart, without any affectation of over-heated imagination. He lived to the advanced age of 79, and retained his mental faculties almost to the end of life. Of him it was emphatically true, he was a faithful servant of his Master. In his death the church and community sustain no ordinary loss. In his will he bequeathed $1800 to carry forward missionary enterprise.
HON. ALBERT WESLEY BURROUGHS.
Judge Burroughs, son of Seth and Olive Burroughs, was born April 18, 1815. Although he never enjoyed the advantages of what is termed a classic education, being by nature a scholar, he early manifested an ardent love for books; and being possessed of a discriminating mind and a disposition to improve, was, while quite young, initiated into the business interests of the town. Not only was he disposed to succeed, but was eager to excel in all his pursuits. At the age of 19, he was appointed county surveyor, and after that did most of the surveying in this vicinity. He entered the militia company, and was in due time placed at the head of the same. In 1843, he was elected Representative to the General Assembly; in 1850 and '51 elected one of the Assistant Judges of the County Court for this county; and, although he was a practical farmer and never entered the school of law, yet his knowledge of the science was quite extensive, and his practice considerable. His opinions, indeed, were often sought, and his decisions considered very reliable, scarcely less so than the majority of the bar. His death occurred on the 3d day of September, 1858.