VHG Ryegate, Caledonia County, Vt.

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RYEGATE.

 

BY REV. JAMES M. BEATTIE.

 

The town of Ryegate was chartered by New Hampshire, to Rev. John Witherspoon, D. D., Sept. 8, 1763. In the winter of 1773, a company was formed by a number of farmers, in the vicinity of Glasgow, Scotland, for the purpose of purchasing a tract of land for settlement in North America. This company was called the Scotch-American Company of Farmers. In March of the same year, David Allen and James Whitelaw, were commissioned by the company to carry out their purpose. Accordingly, on the 25th of March, they sailed from Greenock, and reached Philadelphia, May 24. On their arrival, they providentially met with Dr. Witherspoon, who was then president of New Jersey College, Princeton. He informed them that he had a township of land called Ryegate, in the province of New York on the Connecticut river, containing about 23,000 acres, which, if they could not suit them­selves elsewhere, he would be glad to sell to them, professing at the same time, to take a deep interest in the success of their enterprise. After spending five months in exploring the country, north and south, they returned to Dr. Witherspoon, then in Princeton, N. J., and bargained with him for one half of the town of Ryegate. On coming to New York, they met with James Henderson, a carpenter, and one of their shipmates, who had been sent to assist them in their undertaking. Leaving Mr. Henderson to come in a sloop by way of Hartford, with their chests, tools, and other necessary articles, they left New York, on the 19th of October, and arrived in Newbury, Vt., November 1, where they were hospitably entertained by Jacob Bailey, Esq., to whom they had a letter of introduction from John Church, Esq., who was connected with Dr. Witherspoon in the proprietorship of Ryegate. One week after their arrival, James Henderson appeared in a canoe freighted with the chests and tools aforesaid. On the 10th of November, Mr. Church came to Newbury. The town of Ryegate was then divided. The south half fell to the Scotch American Company. This was considered preferable to the north half for reasons given by Gen. Whitelaw.

"The south," he says in his journal, "has the advantage of the north in many respects.

"1. It is the best land in general.

"2. It is nearest to provisions which we have in plenty within three or four miles, and likewise within six miles of a grist mill, and two miles of a saw mill, all which are great advantages to a new settlement.

"3. We have several brooks with good seats for mills, and likewise Wells river runs through part of our purchase, and has water enough for a grist mill at the driest season of the year, of which the north port is almost entirely destitute.

"We are within six miles of a good Presbyterian Meeting; and there is no other minister about that place."

The last reason is particularly worthy of notice. These sons of Scotia in seeking out a home for themselves and others in the new world, were influenced in their choice not merely by the fertility of the soil, and other natural advantages; but by considerations of a religious character. Noble example! Worthy the imitation of all immigrants from the old world.

When they came to Ryegate, they found John Hyndman, one of their own countrymen, who had with his family moved into town a few months before. He was engaged in building a house. "So," says the journal, "we helped him up with it both for the conveniences of lodging with him till we built one of our own, and also that he might assist us in building ours."

These houses, built of logs and covered with bark, were finished about the 1st of January, 1774. John Hyndman's house stood a little northeast of the present house of John Bigelow. James Whitelaw's was situated near where William T. Whitelaw's house now stands.

Aaron Hosmer and family were the only persons, and the shanty in which they lived about one mile north of Samuel More's, was the only house in town previous to this time.

The remainder of the winter was spent in making an opening in the wilderness; the whole of the town being covered with trees of various kinds, among which were beech, maple, hemlock, spruce, birch and pines. James Henderson was employed part of the time in manufacturing wooden bowls, dishes, and other articles for domestic use. James

 

 

 

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Whitelaw went to Portsmouth and Newburyport for a sleigh load of such necessaries as they needed. In the month of April they made 60 pounds of maple sugar — a business that has been followed up in the town over since, large quantities being manufactured annually, both for domestic and foreign use. In May, James Whitelaw commenced the survey of the company's half of the town. On the 23d of May, David Ferry, Alexander Lynn and family, Andrew and Robert Brock, John and Robert Orr, John Willson, John Gray, John Shaw, and Hugh Semple, came over from Scotland; and in July when the survey was completed, drew their lots, and commenced a permanent settlement. These were among the first settlers. They were men of sterling worth. And some of their descendants are among the most respectable at the present time.

In the survey of the southern portion of Ryegate, a lot extending from the parsonage to the foot of the hill below John O. Page's, was laid out for a town, This was divided into small lots. Each purchaser of a lot in any other part of the township received a town lot. It was the expectation that a large town or city would, in the course of time, grow up in that place. But time has rolled on, and the city is still unbuilt. Like many cities in the West, it is but a city of faith. Whenever the early settlers had occasion to refer to that part of the township, they called it the town, although the only building upon it was a small log house. The hill at John O. Page's is still called the town hill.

The company's half of the town having been surveyed and allotted, David Allen, James Whitelaw's associate, left for Scot­land. It was an affecting occasion. All the inhabitants accompanied him to Col. Bailey's in Newbury, where they took farewell of him. James Henderson was unwilling to part from him even then, but journeyed with him all the way to Newburyport, before he took his leave. These early settlers, far from their native land, and exposed to danger, both from the Indians and wild beasts, were bound together by strong ties. It is no wonder therefore, that they were so loth to part with one of their number, and especially as that one had been a leader among them. Soon after the survey of the south half, the north half was surveyed and allotted.

In 1774, the settlement realized another accession from Scotland, John Waddle, James Neilson, Thomas McKeach, Patrick Lang and family, William Neilson and family, and David Reed and family, Robert Gemmil and son, Robert Tweedale and family, and Andrew and James Smith.

About this time, it was found necessary to erect a house to accommodate the immigrants on their arrival, until they could build houses of their own.

On the 22d of October, Andrew Smith departed this life. This was the first death that occurred. About a mile south from the Corner, a lot was selected for a burying ground, and here he was interred. The remains of a number of others of the early settlers lie in the same place.

And is it not highly discreditable to the town that that sacred spot — sacred by con­taining all that is mortal of men, whose memory, on account of their toils and perils in exploring and subduing our forests, ought to be dear to us all — should be unmarked by any monument. As the trees and bushes have been recently cleared off, why not pro­ceed a step further, in honoring the memory of our worthy ancestors, by erecting upon the place of their interment, a monument with an appropriate inscription?

In January, 1775, Gen. Whitelaw purchased a lot of land of Newbury, on the north side of that part of Wells river which contains the great falls, with the privilege of one half the river, for the purpose of erecting mills thereon. Accordingly, James Henderson commenced to prepare materials, and in October of the same year, a grist mill was finished, and put in operation. In this same month, the frame of a saw mill was erected, but not completed until July, 1776. These mills although in Newbury, were only two and a half miles from the centre of Rye­gate. They stood where Bolton's Mills now stand.

In April, 1775, the settlement was enlarged by the arrival of Archibald Taylor and family in February, and John Scot in April.

About this time the war of the Revolution commenced, and, in consequence, few additions were made to the settlement for a number of years. After peace was concluded, the spirit of emigration revived, and the town received many valuable accessions from Scotland. As a general rule, the Scotch, es­pecially those of the Presbyterian faith, with their habits of industry and economy, their knowledge of the scriptures, their regard for the sabbath, and the institutions of religion, are a blessing to any community where their lots may be cast.

The town was organized on the third Tuesday of May, 1776. James Whitelaw, first town clerk; assessors, John Gray and James

 

 

 

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Whitelaw; treasurer, Andrew Brock; overseers of highways, Robert Tweedale and John Orr; overseers of the poor, Patrick Lang and John Shaw; collector, John Scot; constables, Archibald Taylor, James Smith, William Neilson and David Reid.

The high estimation in which these persons were held, is evinced by the fact that at the expiration of the year for which they were chosen, they were by a vote of the town, continued in office for another year. In this year James Taylor was born, the first male child born in town. He died at the age of 64 years.

In common with the other early settlements, the people of Ryegate were subjected to great hardships and privations, a minute account of which would fill volumes. Take the following as a specimen:

In the summer of 1776, a year so memorable in the history of the United States, a message was received that St. Johns was retaken by the British, and that the Indians, who were a terror to all the early settlers, would be sent to lay waste the country. They were greatly alarmed, and at their wits' end to know what to do. After some consultation, they concluded the only course was to remove to some place of greater safety. Accordingly with what of their effects, they could carry in their flight, they left for Newbury, Where a fort, had been erected, and soldiers stationed, both to protect the settlers from the Indians and Tories in the surrounding country, and to check the incursions of the Indians and British from Canada. Before leaving, William Neilson filled a large Scotch chest with sundry articles, and buried it, and then to prevent the suspicions of the sons of the wilderness, burnt a pile of brush upon its grave. They soon found, however, that if they remained long at Newbury, a greater calamity, if possible, than war, would befall them. They had commenced to clear and cultivate the land; their crops were in the ground, and they must secure them, or die of starvation. These brave men again held a council and all agreed that there was no alternative but to return at the risk of their lives. Tradition reports that William Neilson preceded the rest. He bravely said, "It is better to die by the sword than famine;" and tearing himself away from his weeping wife and children, went boldly back, trusting in Jehovah's arm for safety. During the day he worked hard, and slept at night with his door barricaded, and his gun at his pillow. The expected invasion, however, did not occur, and consequently all in a few days returned to their own habitations.

Beasts of prey proved a greater annoyance than the Indians. The latter, by kind and hospitable treatment became the friends of the settlers, but the wolves and bears which were very numerous, were not so easy to subdue. For some time, John Henderson was the only person that owned a cow. One evening the cow not returning home as usual, Mrs. Henderson, her husband being absent, went in search of the cow. Soon after Mr. Henderson came in, and missing his wife, asked the children where their mother was? They replied, "Mother has gone for the cow." It then being dark, it at once occurred to him that she was lost. With a pine torch in one hand, and a gun in the other, he sallied forth to find her. He fired off his gun, but no reply being given, he proceeded further into the woods, and discharged his gun the second time. She answered. Following the direction of her voice, he found her lodged in a tree, where she had taken refuge from wild beasts. At another time, George Reynolds, on his way to pay a visit to one of his neighbors, encountered, as he supposed, a very fierce dog. After a sharp contest with the animal, he succeeded in putting it to flight; left however, in anything but a good humor, on arriving at his neighbor's, he gave the good woman of the house, a severe reprimand for keeping such a cross dog, and on examination it was found to be a wolf.

One day in the summer of 1778. Mrs. John Gray saw a bear carrying off a sheep. With a courage with which probably few ladies in this age are endowed, she followed the bear by his trail, till she suddenly came up within a few feet of him. Greatly terrified, she screamed outright, whereupon Bruin not accustomed to such noises, dropped his prey and betook himself to flight; and Mrs. Gray putting the sheep on her shoulder, returned home in triumph.

There was a long time before the bears were completely destroyed, particularly in the northeastern part of the town. In 1804, four bears that had been making havoc among the sheep, were killed on Robert Dickson's farm.

Bear's meat was much used by the early settlers. The lean part of the bear being like beef, and the fat like pork, it was a good substitute for both. When salted a little it was called corned beef.

Besides the perils from the Indians and wild beasts, there were other difficulties that the early settlers had to surmount to put their

 

 

 

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descendants into the possession of their present inheritance. There were no bridges and no roads, but spotted trees. When they went to mill which was in Newbury, 10 miles distant from the central part of the town, they carried their grists on their backs. This was also the mode of conveyance, in carrying articles to and from the store, which was also located in Newbury. There, too, was their place of worship. Not only men, but women also, traveled all that distance on foot, that they might have an opportunity of worshiping the God of their fathers in the public congregation. "When the ladies," says Mr. Powers, "came to Wells river (there being no canoe), they would bare their feet, and trip it along as nimbly no a deer, the men generally went barefooted, the ladies certainly, wore shoes."

Money was a scarce article, as is shown by the following incident: Gen. Whitelaw purchased a corn-broom, the first that was used in the settlement. His daughter being very much pleased with it, remarked that she would never again be at the trouble to make a broom of hemlock brush, when one so much superior could be bought for twenty-five cents. "Marion," said her father, "I have seen the time when there was not twenty-five cents in Ryegate." (For the incidents that we have just related, and for many other facts in these sketches, we are indebted to Mrs. Abigail Henderson, daughter of Gen. Whitelaw, in her 78th year. She is a pious lady, and endowed with a remarkable memory).

January 9, 1777, James Henderson was married to Agnes Lynn, and on the 17th of the same month, Robert Brock to Elizabeth Stewart. These were the first marriages in Ryegate. Mr. Brock moved into Barnet, and settled. Mr. Henderson took up his residence in Ryegate. He was the first carpenter in town. Besides being very useful as a me­chanic during the infancy of the settlement, he afterwards served the town as representative, and in various town offices to which he was elected, He was a consistent member of the Associate Church. He died at the age of 85 years. His farm is owned and occupied by his son, William Henderson, in his 80th year (1861).

While exploring and subduing the forests, the early settlers did not neglect the intellectual and religions culture of their children. In the year 1787, the first regular school was established in James Whitelaw's house. The first teacher was Jonathan Powers. The school continued to be kept in private houses until 1792, when the first school house was erected. This was built of logs, and stood on the town lot, southeast of John O. Page's.

Previous to this time, James Whitelaw had been appointed surveyor general of the state of Vermont; and, in consequence was under the necessity of resigning his office as agent of the Scotch-American company.

Accordingly, he intimated to the company in Scotland, that they must appoint some other person to be their land agent in this country. In accordance with his request, they author­ized the members of the company, residing in the town of Ryegate, to call a meeting for that purpose. This meeting was held in March, 1793, at which William Neilson, James Hen­derson and Hugh Gardner were appointed managers, and it was "voted that James Whitelaw, who now holds the deeds of the company's land shall deed it to the managers and their successors in office."

Up to this date, Gen. Whitelaw held all the deeds of all the land that had been sold in the south half of Ryegate. He then delivered them all up with the disposal of all the lands belonging to the Scotch-American company not taken up, to the said managers. This was Gen. Whitelaw's last act as agent for that company, which he had served so long and so faithfully; and yet all his valuable services received but very small compensation.

In 1795, the town was divided into two school districts. These were afterwards subdivided to meet the wants of the people. There are now in the town 9 school districts. The school-houses with one or two exceptions, are neat and commodious. A growing interest is also taken in the schools; and it is the determination in most of the districts, that none but competent teachers shall be employed. The number of scholars between the ages of 4 and 18, are 342.

The attention of our forefathers was turned to the education of the heart and conscience, as well as the head. At one time they were under the impression that they would enjoy the ministrations of Dr. Witherspoon, the Rev. proprietor. But disappointed in that, those of them that did not find it convenient to attend church at Newbury, held meetings for prayer and Christian conference, read good books, and attended particularly to the religious education of the children. In March, 1797, they "voted to raise forty bushels of wheat by a tax, in support the gospel in the town for the ensu­ing year." They then engaged a part of the

 

 

 

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services of Rev. David Goodwillie of the Associate Church, who had been settled in Barnet over a colony also from Scotland. And it may be remarked in passing, that it was from the first settlers of these two towns, Ryegate and Barnet, that the county received the name of Caledonia.

Another event of some importance that occurred in 1797, was the erection of the frame of a meeting house on the hill west of the Corner. It was soon enclosed and meetings held in it. But it was not finished until in the year 1800. This was the first meeting house in town. Previous to this time, civil and religious meetings were held in private houses. For sixteen years after the erection of the meeting house, the people worshipped in it without any stove. It was used as a house of worship till 1850, when it was abandoned for a new and tasteful meeting house, built at the Corner south of the brick house, by the Reformed Presbyterian (old school) and Associate congregations of Ryegate. Town meetings, however, continued to be held in it till 1855, when it was pulled down, and a town house erected in the same place.

In the same year that the meeting house was finished, Rev. William Gibson of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, was settled. And being the first settled minister, he drew one right of land, which is now owned and occupied by James Beattie, Esq.

For some time after, Mr. Gibson's settlement, there were no carriages in the town. The only modes of locomotion were on foot and on horseback. It was not an uncommon thing on a sabbath morning, to see the wor­shipers, some on foot and some on horseback, flocking to the house of God. A man and his wife, each holding a child, frequently rode one horse. And notwithstanding these difficulties, many that lived from 4 to 6 miles distant from the place of worship, were seldom absent on the sabbath.

From the time that Mr. Gibson became pastor in Ryegate, the town has been well supplied with gospel ordinances.

The professors of religion in Ryegate are, with a few exceptions, Presbyterians; and are divided into three denominations — the Reformed Presbyterian (old school), Reformed Presbyterian (new school), and the United Presbyterian. About the time of Mr. Gibson's installment, a lot of land consisting of two acres, south of the meeting house, was purchased of Andrew Brock, for a burying ground. Being ledgy, and therefore not well adapted for a place of interment, another lot south of it has recently been purchased, by a company formed for that purpose. Some improvements have been made on it. When ornamented with walks and trees, it will be a neat yard. It is called the Blue Mountain Cemetery. Besides those mentioned, there are two other burying grounds in the town, one in the western part, and one near South Ryegate.

The surface of this town is generally uneven. The northern and eastern portions are hilly and broken. The only mountain, called Blue Mountain, is situated in the northwest part. This, though a bleak, barren mountain, is valuable for its quarries of granite, from which monuments, mill stones, &c., are manufactured. Its summit affords a commanding view of the surrounding country. Indeed Ryegate abounds in picturesque scenery. Limestone is found in different parts of the town.

Connecticut river bounds it on the east, and Wells river runs through the southwest part of the town, affording ample water power.

Ticklenaked pond, in the southern part, discharges its waters into Wells river, and North pond in the northern part, empties itself into Connecticut river. The whole town is well watered by springs and small streams.

The soil is mostly of clay and loam. The interval land on the Connecticut and Wells river, is level, and the soil of an excellent quality, producing abundantly all kinds of garden vegetables and grain. The other portions, though hilly, are also well adapted to the production of grain, and yield luxuriant crops of grass. The attention of the farmers is chiefly occupied with cattle raising and the dairy. This town has long been celebrated for its excellent butter.

There are two small villages in town, Ryegate Corner and South Ryegate, with a post office at each. Besides the meeting house already mentioned, there is another place of worship at Ryegate Corner, which belongs to the United Presbyterians. There is also a Union Church at South Ryegate where the Ref. Presbyterians (new school) worship.

There is no high school in town. But this is not felt to be a want, as in each of the adjoining towns of Peacham, Barnet and Newbury, there is an excellent academy. Hence the youth are well instructed, and care is taken to have the school attainments sanctified by lessons of Christianity. The inhabitants of Ryegate, are a plain, unassuming,

 

 

 

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honest, industrious and peaceable people. The Puritan and Presbyterian principles are finely blended in their manners and character.

The professional men that claim Ryegate as their birth place, are Rev. Robert Gibson, for many years pastor of the 2d Reformed Presbyterian Church, New York city, now deceased; Rev. John Gibson, and Rev. William Gibson, ministers in connection with the Presbyterian church in the south; Rev. A. M. Milligan settled in New Alexandria, Pa.; Rev. S. T. Milligan in Michigan; Rev. J. K. Milligan, pastor of the let Reformed Presbyterian Church, New York; Rev. James M. Dickson, pastor of the Church of the Covenanters, Brooklyn, Long Island; Rev. John Lynn, pastor of a Presbyterian church in Maryland; Dr. William Neilson, a distinguished physician and surgeon in Cambridge, N. Y., deceased.

Dr. Eli Perry came to Ryegate in 1814. He was the first physician in town, and is still with us, aged 70 years.

George Cowles is at present town clerk; and so completely does he enjoy the confidence of all parties that he has held that office for 18 years.

For the last half century the town has advanced rapidly, and we stand to-day amid fields of waving grain, and under trees bend­ing with luscious fruit; we look at the beautiful green meadows, and neatly painted farm houses, the well cultivated gardens and tasteful yards, the white school-houses, warm and comfortable; we see from a distance the church spire; all this to-day we see, where 86 years ago was a wild and unbroken forest. Thanks to the strong arms and brave hearts of our forefathers! Thanks to the Great Protector, who amid all their toils and perils, blessed them with health and strength, to accomplish the great work which they had undertaken.

 

 

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES.

 

JAMES WHITELAW,

 

Who may be called the father of Ryegate, was born at New Mills, parish of Oldmonkland, Scotland, February 11, 1748. He came here in 1773. The circumstances connected with his arrival and settlement, have been already stated.

He certainly was the chief agent in the settlement of the town, and for about 40 years his influence was felt in almost every movement. He built the first framed house in the town, which stood where the late Wm. Whitelaw's house now stands.

He was surveyor-general of the state of Vermont, and not only surveyed this town, but many of the town lines in the northern part of the state were run by him, and some of the towns allotted. This was done when there were no roads but dotted trees, and but few houses, and these many miles distant from each other. Hence his way, in many places through which he traveled, was obstructed by logs, rocks, mountains, and other obstacles. He was always attended, at such times, by three or four men, whose business it was to carry the chain, mark the trees, and render him such assistance as was needed. They carried their provisions on their backs, in knapsacks; slept at night in the woods, on beds of hemlock boughs; and often when they awoke in the morning, found themselves covered with a soft, white blanket, more than a foot thick, it having snowed during the night.

Surveying was his employment for 12 or 14 years, yet during all this time there is no record of his ever having been molested by any savage, beast, or venomous reptile. He always enjoyed good health and spirits, and submitted to the trials and hardships of his occupation with patience, and even cheerfulness.

In the year 1796 he completed a very correct map of the state of Vermont. He afterwards established himself in a land office, in which situation he continued the residue of his life.

He was three times married. In 1778 he was married to Abigail Johnstone of Newbury, by whom he had two sons and two daughters. The sons, who were useful citizens, are dead. The daughters are still living. His first wife died July 13, 1790. His second wife, Susanna Rogers, died in 1815. He married for his third wife, Jannet Harvey, a widow, who died in 1854, aged 88. She came from Scotland before the Revolutionary War, and lived to see the wilderness blossom.

We will bring this sketch to a close, by quoting from the communication of a person who had excellent opportunities of becoming acquainted with Gen. Whitelaw. Says Mrs. A. Henderson: "As husband, father, brother, or friend, he was not surpassed by any in his day. His townspeople had the utmost confidence in him. He was their town clerk for upwards of 40 years; and town treasurer and postmaster, from the time of their establishment in the town, to the day of his death. He had always great care and government of his own words and

 

 

 

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actions. There was no pride or passion in his intercourse with mankind, but a wonderful serenity of mind and evenness of temper were visible in his very countenance. His benevolence and philanthropy were always equal, if not beyond his means. He was ready on all occasions to administer to the necessities of every one he saw in need. Few men have been more beloved in life, or more lamented in death." He died April 29, 1829, aged 81 years,

 

JOHN GRAY

 

Was born in Ederslie, near Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, in 1749. At the age of 23 he joined the Scotch-American Company of Farmers. As already mentioned, he came with others to Ryegate, in May, 1774. On his arrival he had but one shilling in his pocket. He selected a lot about half a mile north of the Corner, on which he erected a log-cabin, and commenced to clear the land, but spent the subsequent winter in Newbury. in laboring for the necessaries of life.

In 1777 he was married to Jean McFarland, by whom he had 7 children, 5 of whom died in 1796 and '97, leaving the eldest daughter and one next the youngest, a son. During the war he was occasionally molested by the Tories and Indians passing through this part of the country.

He was, from the commencement of its settlement, devoted to the interests of the town. Being a man of energy and decision of character, and withal generous and public spirited, he gained the confidence and esteem of all, and occupied a prominent position in the community. Several times he represented the town, was first captain of the militia, and held various town offices.

He was an efficient elder in the Associate Church, and a zealous advocate for the divine right of the Presbyterian form of church government. He was a peace-maker. "He was," said one that knew him well, "the noblest work of God — an honest man."

He died in Nov., 1816, leaving a widow, a daughter and son — the daughter since deceased. The son, William Gray, Esq., occupies the homestead, is the father of 11, and grandfather of 40 children, all alive.

 

HUGH LAUGHLIN

 

Was a native of Ireland, who emigrated to the United States and settled in Ryegate, Aug. 2, 1799. Possessed of considerable attainments, and a benevolent heart, he soon rose in the estimation of the people. Thrice he represented the town, was many years a justice of the peace, for a long time an active member of the bible society, and a deacon in the Congregational Church. He died June 30, 1826, in the 65th year of his age. He had 3 children.

 

ARCHIBALD PARK,

 

Born in Scotland in 1780, came to Ryegate when he was 14 years of age. In 1806 he married Margaret Renfrew. They had 12 children, 6 of whom, with their families, reside in town, within a few miles of each other.

Mr. Park took an active part in all the public movements of the town, was several years selectman, many years justice of the peace, and at different times overseer of the poor. He departed this life Dec. 12, 1847, in his 68th year.

 

WILLIAM GIBSON,

 

Born in Renfrewshire, Scotland; came to Ryegate with a family of 9 children (7 sons and 2 daughters), in June, 1801. He was a quiet, peaceable, and useful member of society, held various offices in the town, and was also an exemplary member and zealous office bearer in the Associate Church. Very generous and public spirited, he contributed liberally towards the support of the gospel.

All his children, except one son and a daughter, settled in Ryegate, and with one exception, have large families. His sons and grandsons are for the most part thrifty farm­ers, and honest, upright men.

Mr. Gibson died Jan. 2, 1844, in his 90th year. At the time of his death he had between 50 and 60 great-grandchildren.

 

JAMES NEILSON,

 

Son of William Neilson, was born in June, 1779. He possessed, in a high degree, the confidence of his townsmen. He represented the town 5 successive years, was justice of the peace many years, and held other offices.

In 1808 he was married to Agnes Gibson. They had 11 children. His son, Dr. William Neilson, now deceased, was an eminent physician. In early life be became a member of the Associate Church. As a professor he was exemplary. He died in June, 1840, in his 61st year.

 

JOHN CAMERON,

 

A native of Scotland, came to America and settled in Ryegate in 1790. He purchased 1000 acres of land in the western part of

 

 

 

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the town, and afterwards at the Corner, 1½ acres of John Orr, on which he built the first store in town. The land is now owned by his son, John Cameron, whose dwelling house occupies the place of the store. He represented the town more than 12 years, was several years member of the council, a judge in 1814, and although a Democrat, he was retained in office under the Federalists.

Judge Cameron was a man of large mental endowments, whose influence was not only felt in the community where he resided, but throughout the state. He died in 1837, aged 76 years. His first wife was a daughter of Gen. Stark.

 

JONATHAN COBURN,

 

Was a native of New Hampshire, but spent the most of his life in Ryegate, his father having removed to Vermont in 1789, when he was but 7 years of age. At the age of 24, after a careful examination of the principles of the Ref. Presbyterian church, becoming satisfied of their agreeableness to the Scriptures, he embraced them by public profession in the congregation of Ryegate, and continued an upright and exemplary member till his death. January 3, 1860. He was a consistent covenanter, who had no sympathy with defection. By his death the church sustained a great loss, where as an elder he was  an active, zealous, and faithful office bearer for 40 years, exemplary in all his attendance upon the ordinances.

He was moreover a peacemaker, often instrumental in removing offences and healing divisions. A man of comprehensive benevolence, his heart was full of love to all, and his hand ready to perform kindness to any of whom he knew as in need. He also took a deep and lively interest in the cause of missions, sabbath schools, temperance, and the oppressed Africans in our land. He died as he lived. "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." Mr. Coburn left .a widow and several children.

 

JOHN NEILSON, ESQ.

 

BY REV. JAMES M'ARTHUR.

 

In Ryegate, Sept. 6 (1853?), died John Neilson, Esq., in the 79th year of his age. Mr. Neilson was born in the memorable year of the Declaration of American Independence. He was the second male child born in the town of Ryegate, and therefore intimately acquainted with its early history. He was born of religious parents, brought up in the fear of the Lord, and educated in the principles of the Associate Presbyterian church. These principles he espoused some 40 years since, in connection with the Associate congregation of Ryegate, and maintained them with an unwavering faith unto the last. He was an active member of the congregation in the weakness of its early history, and in its struggles of a later day stood firm in its cause; was liberal in his support of the gospel, and not only sound but strong in the faith.

He was ever modest and humble, but under afflictive providences, and in times of danger, when others were alarmed and disturbed, calm and peaceful he would say, "we are in the hands of a good providence," and therefore neither unduly feared nor murmured. He further manifested his faith by a truly Christian deportment in all his relations of life. As a husband, ever tender and affectionate; as a parent, maintaining that kind­ness and intimacy that ever endears; as a friend and neighbor, peaceable and obliging; possessing in an unusual degree that Christian courtesy and politeness proceding from a kind and generous heart.

Though his long life was one of almost uninterrupted good health, yet he had acquired in a high degree the patience of the saints, which is usually through much tribulation. This he ever indicated as occasion offered, but, especially in sickness, a severe attack of which brought him near to the gates of death about four years since, and which seemed to have been specially designed to discipline his mind and heart preparatory to his last illness, which in a few weeks re­duced the strong man to the extremity of death.

A few days before his death he remarked that he thought he could say with another, that he would place all his good deeds in one scale, and his evil in another, and flee from both to the merits of his Saviour. Let us then "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright? for the end of that man is peace."

 

JAMES WHITEHILL.

 

BY REV. JAMES MILLIGAN.

 

The subject of this memoir was born in Renfrewshire, Scotland, emigrated to America about the year 1798, and was for many years a ruling elder in the Reformed Pres­byterian congregation of Ryegate; was charitable to the poor, and liberal in support of the gospel; but in imparting his benefac­tions, seemed from principle to shun ostentation.

His habits were those of industry, sereni

 

 

 

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ty, and piety. Even in advanced life, he was "diligent in business," and "fervent in spirit." His modesty and diffidence even to a fault, was probably one reason why he did not pursue his education farther, and fill a place in one of the learned professions, for he had made in his youth considerable progress in the Latin language, besides having acquired a very ample English education. He was well supplied with religious books, which he read with great care and spiritual discernment; but the Bible was his chief delight, especially towards the close of his life. On his death-bed he remarked to the writer of this, that in secret prayer, morning and evening, he had great comfort, and also endured terrible conflicts with the adversary. "Many a time," said he, "the adversary tried to drive me from that post, but by the grace of God did not prevail." As a ruler in Israel, he was eminently useful, having an extensive knowledge of church history and government, as well as of didactic and practical theology. His attachment to truth and ecclesiastical order, united to his love of peace, made his services invaluable. During his last illness his ejaculations were frequent and transporting. His conversation became more and visibly in heaven. Reserve was laid aside, but humility continued, adding weight to his piety. His path was remarkably that of the just, which "shineth more unto the perfect day." A short time before his death he sent for his pastor, and requested him to take the following statement from his lips:

 

"I was baptized in the established church of Scotland, and before I was 20 years of age, renewed the baptismal bans avouching God to be my own God in Christ. Long I felt the obligation to commemorate Christ's dying love, but was afraid, until 1 had more evidence that I had passed from death to life. I was from early life persuaded that the Revolution was not so pure as the Reformation Church, but delayed joining the latter until I was 30 years of age. * * *

"I have found great advantage and comfort in consecrating and keeping my birth­day as a day of fasting, prayer, and self-dedication. I had frequently attended to this occasionally, but never statedly, until about 14 years ago. It affords an opportunity of ascertaining and comparing our spiritual progress from year to year.

"I approve of the American Revolution. The Colonies had a right to be free from Great Britain. But oh! they have declared their independence of God, as if they needed not His wisdom to direct, nor His power to protect them. The nations need to be taught their dependence upon the Lord, and allegiance to the Prince of the Kings of the Earth. I have endeavored, though in great meekness, to promote the interests of the Covenanted Church in this place. * * * * I should like to see all my children take an active and growing interest in the Reformation cause, and hope they will; but in the meantime, I desire to say with David — 'though my house be not so with God, yet hath He made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.'  *  *  I have no desire to live any longer, though I do not despise my life. I think it lawful to pray for an easy passage through the valley of the shadow of death, but leave it altogether with my God, who has been with me in all the six troubles of life, and who will not forsake me in the seventh. * * * * Oh! that He would hasten the consummation of His work, sanctify and deliver me from this body of sin and death, and take me to Himself, all through Jesus Christ my Lord."

 

 

CHURCH HISTORY.

 

 

THE ASSOCIATE CONGREGATION,

NOW THE UNITED PRESBY. CHURCH OF RYEGATE.

 

BY REV. THOMAS GOODWILLIE OF BARNET.

 

It is not known at what period the Presbyterian churches of Barnet and Ryegate were formed, but they were organized previous to 1779. Before, during and after the Revolutionary war, several Scotch clergymen came and preached to them occasionally, and sometimes administered baptism. Gen. Whitelaw who was the agent of that company, on his way to Ryegate in 1773, called on Rev. Thomas Clark, a Scotch, clergyman belonging to the Associate Presby. Church. settled in Salem, N. Y., and Col. Harvey, agent of the Scotch company that settled in Barnet, on his way to town in 1774, called also upon him, and to this clergyman John Gray of Ryegate traveled on foot 140 miles to obtain his services. He gave them a favorable answer April 8, 1775, and came and preached some time in Barnet and Ryegate, in the latter part of the summer of that year. He revisited these towns two or three times afterwards, during the Revolutionary war.

Dr. Witherspoon, president of Princeton College, N. J., a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a member of congress, who owned lands in Ryegate, Newbury and Walden, and whose son was settled in the north part of Ryegate, visited this part of

 

 

 

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the country three times, first probably in 1775. In 1782 he preached in Ryegate and Barnet, and baptized some children. He returned in 1786 to this part of the country.

Rev. Hugh White, a Scotch clergyman, preached in Ryegate at the end of 1775.

Rev. Peter Powers, English Presbyterian clergyman, settled in Newbury from 1765 to 1784, preached occasionally in Ryegate, and probably in Barnet during that period.

Previous to 1779, the congregations of Barnet and Ryegate were associated in joint endeavors to obtain preachers. In that year a petition was sent from Ryegate to the church in Newbury, to obtain a share of the ministerial labors of Rev. Peter Powers. Rev. Robert Annan preached in these towns in 1784, and returned next year. Rev. Da­vid Annan preached in Barnet and Ryegate, in 1785. Rev. John Huston was present with the session of Barnet, August 31, 1786, when, the record says, "a petition was drawn up by the elders of Barnet and Ryegate, and preferred to the Associate (Ref.) Presbytery, to sit at Petersboro', Sept. 27, 1786, earnestly desiring one of their number might be sent to preach, visit, and catechize the two congregations, and ordain elders at Barnet." Accordingly the Presbytery appointed Mr. Huston for that purpose. In pursuance thereof, Mr. Huston came in October following, and visited and catechized the greater portion of the congregations. He remained till May, 1787, preaching in Barnet and Ryegate, and returned in November, 1788.

In 1789 and 1790, Rev. Mr. Goodwillie of Barnet, preached occasionally at Ryegate. And this church, from his settlement in 1790 (see Barnet Ecclesiastical History, pp. 205 and 206), received one-sixth of his labors till 1822.

For 32 years Mr. Goodwillie was diligent in preaching, pastoral visitation of families, and public catechisings, and never failed to fulfill his appointments except twice, when prevented by sickness. During this time, however, they occasionally had preachers sent to them by the Presbytery. In 1809, they gave Mr. Mushat, and in 1813, Mr. Francis Pringle, Jr., calls, but they settled in other congregations. In 1822, Rev. Thos. Ferrier was ordained, and settled as their their pastor. He resigned in 1825. In 1827, Rev. Thomas Beveridge was called to the pastorate of the Associate congregation of Ryegate, but did not accept the call.

After being a considerable time supplied by Rev. William Pringle, he was ordained and settled as their pastor, June 29, 1830, by the Associate Presbytery of Cambridge, Mr. Goodwillie, their former pastor, giving him the pastoral charge. He was the son of the eminent Rev. Alexander Pringle, who was for more than 60 years pastor of the As­sociate Congregation of Perth, Scotland, and married to the daughter of Rev. Alexander Bullions, D. D., being the granddaughter of Mr. Goodwillie. The greatest number of members at one time was 140. Mr. Pringle ministered till 1852. The congregation, how­ever, divided in 1840. Rev. James McArthur ministered in Ryegate one-half of the time, from 1846 till 1857, when he resigned. The congregation, after serious difficulties, is now happily united. The town hall and meeting house, finished in 1800, was the only church edifice in Ryegate till 1825, when the Associate congregation built a good church on a fine site at Ryegate Corner.

May 21, 1801, Barnet and Ryegate con­gregations were included in the Associate Presbytery of Cambridge, N. Y., to which they belonged till July 10, 1840, when they were included in the Associate Presbytery of Vermont. (See Barnet, p. 287.)

 

 

THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATION

(OLD SCHOOL) OF RYEGATE.

 

BY REV. JAMES M. BEATTIE.

 

This congregation was organized in 1798 or 1799. About the time that Rev. Wm. Gibson, who was driven from Ireland, be­cause of his republican firmness, and participation with the United Men, emigrated to this country, and preached in Ryegate. In 1800, the Covenanters, then few and feeble, not numbering more than 8 in full commu­nion, gave Mr. Gibson a call, which he accepted. He labored among them with some success until 1805, when his connection with them was dissolved.

While vacant, Rev. Jas. Milligan preached for them by Presbyterial appointment, and in 1817, became their pastor. The number of members at this time was 80. Mr. Milligan's labors were very abundant. He not only cultivated his own field, but for many years he visited and preached to the congregations in Topsham and Craftsbury. He continued to labor among the people in Ryegate till 1840, when he received and accepted a call from New Alexandria, Pa. The con­gregation again became vacant, and remained destitute of a pastor for 4 years. It was, however, for part of that time supplied with preaching, by Presbytery. In the winter of 1843 and '44. James M. Beattie. a licentiate.

 

 

 

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preached to them, and in the spring received a unanimous call, which was by him accepted. In June, Mr. Beattie was ordained and installed in the pastoral charge of the united congregations of Ryegate and Barnet, the Barnet congregation having united with Ryegate in the call.

At the time of Mr. Beattie's settlement, these congregations were in a somewhat broken and scattered condition. Owing to the troubles that arose towards the close of Mr. Milligan's pastorate here, they had de­creased in numbers. In Ryegate there were only 82 communicants, when Mr. Beattie took the spiritual charge.

By the blessing of God, the people soon became more united, and a new impulse was given to the cause.

Some very valuable members have been called to the congregation of the upper sanctuary, but others have arisen whom we trust will fill their places. The sabbath school, in connection with Ryegate congregation, promises to do much good.

Besides supporting their pastor, the people contribute yearly to aid the funds of the foreign and domestic missions, and of the Theological Seminary. Since the settlement of the present minister 89 have been added to the congregation; and notwithstanding the losses that have been sustained in removals and deaths, there are at present 129 members.

 

 

 

THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATION

OF RYEGATE,

IN CONNECTION WITH

THE GENERAL SYNOD OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA.

 

BY REV. JOHN BOLE, PASTOR.

 

The origin of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ryegate, is nearly coeval with the first settlement of the town itself. The first pastor, the Rev. James Gibson. was settled in the year 1798. Mr. Gibson labored faithfully and successfully in building up a Reformed Presbyterian congregation amongst the early settlers in Ryegate. He was succeeded by Rev. James Milligan, who was translated from Coldingham to Ryegate in the year 1817. Mr. Milligan spent a long and useful pastorate amongst the green hills of Vermont, and the seed which he sowed here amid much toil and trouble is still bringing forth fruit to the Master's praise. Mr. Milligan removed from Ryegate, leaving the congregation vacant, in 1839. In the meantime a division had taken place in the Reformed Presbyterian church in America, respecting the use of the elective franchise. One party maintaining that those who exercised the elective franchise under the constitution of the United States, ought to be subjected to the discipline of the church, the other maintaining that this should be made a matter of forbearance. This resulted in the formation of two separate synods, each claiming to be the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. This unhappy division occurred in the year 1833. Its influence was soon felt in the congregation in Ryegate; and ultimately in the year 1843, the congregation were divided in respect to this question of using the elective franchise. Those in the congregation who believed that the exercise of this political privilege, ought not of itself, to be regarded as a sufficient ground for church censure, gave in their adherence to the General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and were by that body recognised as the Reformed Presbyterian congregation of Ryegate, in connection with the General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America. We have thus stated (as we believe impartially), the ground of the division which took place in the congregation, respecting the elective franchise; we have also defined, as distinctly as we could, the position occupied by the congregation with which we stand connected. It would evidently be out of place in a work like the present, to enter into any particular defence of the ground which we occupy as a congregation. However willing we might be to do this in other circumstances, yet in the present connection, as a matter of taste and courtesy. we confine ourselves to a simple statement of the facts in the case.

In the year 1848, the Rev. Robert A. Hill, was ordained pastor over the congregation. Mr. Hill continued to labor in Ryegate with much zeal and acceptance for upwards of three years, when he was removed to another field of labor. The present pastor was ordained over the congregation, in the year 1853. He has had much comfort in his pastoral connection with his people. There are now 135 members on the roll. Preaching is sustained all the time at South Ryegate, sabbath school is in successful operation, and a large and valuable library is established in connection with the congregation. In reviewing our history there as a congregation, from the beginning down to the present time, surely we have abundant reason to erect our "Ebenezer," and inscribe upon it, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."

 

 

 

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ELEGIAC EXTRACT.

 

On Rev. David Goodwillie, who died Aug. 2, 1830.

 

BY MARY JANE LAUGHLIN.

 

"I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." — Gen. XLIX, 18.

 

And long thou waitedst, venerable man,

While more than eighty circling periods ran,

Full fifty years through many a dreary scene,

Proclaimed a Saviour's grace with modest mien,

While Time, his desolating havoc spread,

Stood at thy work and choose still to remain,

Pleased with God's service to thy latest year.

Not long ago, did I behold thee stand,

With consecrated symbols in thy hand,

With hoary head, with aspect kind and meek,

The tears fast flowing down thy aged cheek,

Discoursing of thy Saviour's dying love,

And pointing to the boundless bliss above,

Like pilgrim past the dangers of the way,

Almost at home, thy looks appeared to say,

"My friends no more will I partake with you,

Till we in heaven our intercourse renew "

 

 

WHERE?

 

BY CARRIE S. GIBSON.

 

Where can I look for peace, to heal

My weary soul; and sorrow steal

From out my mind, and heaven reveal?

In the Bible?

 

What Book, unto our hearts doth bring

Good cheer; and never leaves a sting;

And give us hope, God's praise to sing?

The Bible.

 

 

SONG OF THE INVALID.

 

BY CARRIE S. GIBSON.

 

An invalid, we have been told, for many years; yet the first one to send the Quarterly a club from Caledonia county. Unable to go out into the neighborhood around, she laid the enterprise before her visitors. We appreciatingly commemorate this fair exam­ple of practical sympathy, and cheerfully find a modest niche in the department of her birthtown for this dear girl:

 

I'd love to climb the mountains high,

To wander thro' the valleys green,

To look athwart the azure sky,

And o'er the lakelet's silver sheen.

I'd love to wander with some friend,

Some dear, congenial, tender soul;

And view the blessings God doth send,

And watch the bright waves gleam and roll.

But ah! it may not — can not be,

And I must try to bow in love;

To leave my lot, O God, to thee,

And hope for happiness above.

 

 

MEMORIES.

 

BY MRS. M. S. BEATTIE.

 

Like gleams of the far-off heavenly

One by one in vision bright,

How the by-gone memories come,

To brighten the spirit's night.

 

I am kissing now a dimpled cheek,

I am smoothing golden hair,

I am thinking now, with a mother's pride,

My babe is wond'rous fair.

 

Two little snow-white arms of love,

Hold me in a soft embrace,

Two tender eyes of the sweetest blue

Look up to my happy face.

 

But the twilight deepens to night,

And I hear the wind's low moan;

And it whispers sad as it passes by,

"Alone, young mother, alone!"

 

O! it is true that the sunshine fled,

That lighted our home so bright;

O! it is true that the music died,

When those lips grew still and white.

 

 

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