338 VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE
BY HON. GEO. C. CAHOON.
LYNDON is a six miles square township, situated a little north of the centre of Caledonia County, in the valley of the Passumpsic, the natural northern terminus of the beautiful valley of the Connecticut. It is bounded S. by St. Johnsbury, cornering on the S. W. by Danville, W. by Wheelock, N. by Sutton and Burke, and E. by Burke and Kirby, and lies in latitude 44 deg. 32 min. N., and in long. 4 deg. 54 min. E. Its surface is uneven, interspersed with hills and valleys, carved out by the many tributaries of the Passumpsic, flowing from other towns, and uniting in this, and forming one beautiful river. Its waters are uncommonly cold and pure. These rivulets divide the town into a fair proportion of meadow and upland. The soil is a rich loam, easy of cultivation, and very productive. There it scarcely any barren or waste land in the town, and the highest hills are arable to their summits, and are usually as fertile and productive as the low lands, and will yield abundant harvests of any crop the farmer may choose to cultivate; and they also afford excellent grazing for neat cattle, sheep, and horses. The intervales, which are overflowed by the spring and fall freshets, and sometimes — unluckily for the growing crops in the summer — are sufficiently enriched by the alluvial deposit thus given them, as not to require the manure dressings which uplands need to restore the exhaustions of frequent harvests. In addition to these benefits, the beauty of the scenery is greatly enhanced by the variety of hill and dale produced by these various streamlets. Several sites of excellent water-power for mills and machinery are located in the town. The most noted of these are the "Great Falls" and the "Little Falls," both being on the main branch of Passumpsic River, and the Great Falls on the entire river as it leaves town; the head of the Falls, over which the railroad passes, being some 60 rods north of the south line of the town, and
having a descent, in about 30 rods, of 65 feet. The Little Falls are one mile above, having a descent from the bed of the river of about 20 feet. Both sites of Falls having rock beds, and rockbound shores, afford good facilities for the erection of factories, mills, and machinery of any kind — the river being of sufficient breadth, depth, and capacity for all needed practical purposes. The Great Falls have a capacity of operating an almost unlimited amount of machinery. The Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers Railroad, which runs through the town north and south near its centre, passes near both these Falls, and affords ready transportation for the manufactured or raw material.
The town was located in the summer of 1780, by Hon. Jonathan Arnold, Daniel Cahoon, and Daniel Owen, of Providence, R. I. an Exploring Committee of an association of about fifty of the most enterprising citizens of that city and its vicinity, to select ungranted territory for a township in which to settle a colony in the new State of Vermont — then famed for its beauty and fertility — and to procure its charter. Barnet, Peacham, and Ryegate were the only towns then chartered in the present limits of Caledonia County. The approach of the committee to the ungranted territory was by way of the Connecticut River Valley; and, as a natural continuation of the same valley, they followed up the Passumpsic River to its Great and Little Falls, and its extensive meadows on the main river, and its many tributaries; and made such further reconnoissances as they deemed necessary, to be sure that they were right. Thay then, from the summit of the high conical hill south-east of the "Corner Village," with the eye fixed the outlines now forming the boundaries of the town of Lyndon, as best comporting with the interests of their mission; and all will agree that it was a very judicious selection. Before its charter grant, the territory thus selected was called Bestbury. The author of the name is unknown, but it is indicative of the same sentiment in the sojourners in the wilderness, which has been entertained by its settlers — that it is the better land for an earthly habitation. It appears to have been the hunting and fishing-ground of the native American; and many arrow-points of flint, and other implements — made and used by Indians — of stone, were found by the early settlers about the Falls, in the river, and on the late Gen. Cahoon's farm, indicating that those pleasant fields, which have been the chosen grounds for military parades and mock-fights, in modern times, were also the battle-grounds of the aborigines at an earlier period.
The St. Francis Indians were the last known to occupy this part of Vermont, and scarcely a year passes without some of the descendants of that tribe come out of Canada in families, and select some favorite grove to encamp in, to make and peddle baskets and nick-nacks peculiar to their race; and they make themselves quite at home, and if reminded by the owner of the premises that they are too free-and-easy with the lands and property of others, they adroitly set up prior right by priority of possession, saying, "Indians were here before white men." With such squatter sovereigns to contend with, a few presents to the matrons of the tribe, with an intimation that you wish them to leave, is the most effective way for their removal.
The town was granted by the General Assembly of Vermont, Nov. 2, 1780, to Jonathan Arnold and his associates — in all 53, inclusive of the Governors of Vermont and Rhode Island, and the Rev. James Manning, D.D., of Providence, and the others, mostly his parishioners, uniting the interests of church and state in favor of the adventurers. The name Lyndon was given it in honor of the oldest son of the first grantee, Doct. Arnold, whose name was Josias Lyndon. Historically it was chartered Nov. 20, 1780; but that recorded in the Town Clerk's office bears date June 27, 1781, after its survey, and confers on the township the usual privileges and immunities of corporate towns, dividing the proprietary shares into seventieth parts, and reserving six for public uses, viz. College, County Grammar Schools, Town Schools, minister's settlement, minister's support, and mill-right, and 9 1-7 acres of each share for roads; a whole right containing 329 1-7 acres. Also, reserving that each share have a settlement, with a house 13 feet square on it, in four years, or so soon after the war as safety will allow. Josias Lyndon Arnold was a native of Providence, liberally educated, and professionally a lawyer, and also a poet. He settled at St. Johnsbury at an early day, but it is said that his social and educational tastes did not perfectly harmonize with backwoods life. He was probably the first lawyer settled within the present limits of the county. He died in 1792, and left a widow and daughter. The widow afterwards married the Hon. Charles Marsh, of Woodstock, and was mother of the Hon. George P. Marsh, the present American Minister to Sardinia. The Hon. Jonathan Arnold, first grantee of the town, having afterwards obtained the charters of Billymead and St. Johnsbury, and settled in the last town, died therein in 1793.
The natural productions of grain are wheat, rye, oats, barley, corn, potatoes, and the usual culinary vegetables of the State; these are grown for home consumption, and some for market. More oats are raised than all other grains, as they furnish good forage both by the grain and the straw, and they find a more ready marker, and are a very sure crop. Wheat used to be grown in great abundance, and formed quite an article of traffic, and the soil is well adapted to its culture at the present time; but the weevil has been its great enemy, and the cause of the failure of the crop for years; but
340 VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.
many farms have recently successfully tried the crop again, and others will do well to follow the example. Potatoes have given good profits for their cultivation for several years, and particularly since the construction of the railroad through the town for exportation, and were before that much grown for starch, as at a previous period for the making of whiskey. Rye and barley were formerly grown here for malt and distillation; but the worm of the still has long since ceased to devour either the potatoes, the rye or the barley, and they are all much more used for the feeding of cattle than formerly.
The growing of grain in not always so ready paying as the raising of neat-cattle, sheep, and horses. In all these, Lyndon holds a prominent position. The Shearman, the Root, and the Bemiss Morgans, have enjoyed a world-wide reputation. About a year since, a purchaser from the State of Georgia came here to buy a colt at a price of one thousand dollars. For symmetry of form, and for beauty of action, and for speed, they are unrivalled. Vermont horses rank high, and Lyndon horses rank with the highest. And so as to neat-cattle and sheep. Lyndon furnishes her full share of good oxen and good cows, and stock of every description, and a fair proportion of the Vermont butter found in market comes from this quarter; and many beef cattle, sheep, lambs, and calves, are marketed from this saint region. Another rich product of the town is maple sugar, relieving the North from subserviency to the South for the sweets of life.
The native forest-trees are white pine, spruce, hemlock, fir, and cedar, of evergreens, and of annual foliage the sugar-maple is predominant; beech, birch, bass-wood, butternut, elm, ash, and tamarack, interspersed with a variety of trees of smaller growth, both ornamental and useful, as the cherry, the moosemissa, the raspberry, and blackberry — the two latter, with the delicious strawberry of the hay-field, yielding rich nutritive fruit, contributing much to good living.
Tho grant of the township being to citizens of Rhode Island, so most of its early settlers came from that State and its vicinity, Seekonk and Rehoboth, Mass. Others came from the interior of Massachusetts, and the valley of the Connecticut River in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire; and some from the interior of New Hampshire, — Sandwich, and its neighborhood.
The first settlement was commenced by Daniel Cahoon, Jr., a native of Providence, R. I., then coming from Winchester, N. H. He, with a few chosen men, commenced a clearing on Right No. 3, allotted to his father, as original proprietor, in April, 1788. The first season was devoted to clearing land and building the log house, and growing scanty supplies of provisions; he having the honor of falling the first tree for the settlement. As the woods were full of game, and the river of trout, they fared more sumptuously than such adventurers would now. His first experience in housekeeping was in a camp of boughs; and then in one covered with bark peeled from the trees in large sheets, and afterwards in the log house, covered with the same material, keeping bachelor's hall. After his beginning, others followed in his wake, and shortly many a new opening was made in the forest, and many a smoke, rolling upward, indicated that human habitations were there in progress of construction. Jonathan Davis, Jonas Sprague, Nathan Hines, and Daniel Hall, were of the number. They did not attempt a winter's residence, but retired to their friends for more comfortable quarters; and, after rest and social enjoyment, and obtaining supplies of necessaries, the former adventurers returned the next spring, 1789, invigorated and with new zeal in their enterprises, — and one at least with a new stimulant to action, — and that was Davis, with his wife, the first female settler of the town, they making it their home in Mr. Cahoon's new log house. This year, most of the beginners of the previous year, with several others, moved their famines into town; and this year and the next were so well prospered and increased, that in 1791, so many had commenced settlements in different parts of the town, that it became desirable to have it organized for the making and repairing roads and bridges, and the better managing the prudential affairs of the community; and with the patriotic purpose of duly honoring the 4th of July, they fixed on that day for its organization; Abraham Morrill, Esq., of Wheelock, warning the meeting, and presiding until it was effected by the choice of Elder Philemon Hines, Moderator Daniel Cahoon, Jr, was elected Town Clerk; James Spooner, Daniel Reniff, and Daniel Cahoon, Jr., Selectmen and Listers; Nehemiah Tucker, Treasurer, and Nathan Hines, Constable and Collector. There were, at the time of taking the census this year, 59 inhabitants.
It was "Voted to have the Selectmen divide the town into six highway districts, to convene the inhabitants in working on the highways near home," and surveyors were chosen; then voted to adjourn the meeting to August 1st.
At the adjourned meeting, as expressed by the record, "Thinking it necessary, and highly conducive to the settlement of the town, that measures be taken to open new roads, and erect bridges for the convenience of the inhabitants of this and other towns, where the roads are almost impassable," and declaring the inability of the inhabitants of the town to do it — Voted that the Town Clerk make and forward a petition to the next General Assembly, for a tax of two pence on each acre of land in town for the purpose. And voted to purchase the Statute Laws and suitable record books for the town, and raised money by subscription, on the credit of the town, to pay for said books.