BY HON. JAMES P. BELL.
is 6 miles square, situated in the western part of Caledonia county,
having Cabot on the S. W.,
Walden belonged to Orange county until the organization of Caledonia county in 1796; was granted Nov. 6, 1780; chartered August 18, 1781, by the legislature of Vermont, to Moses Robinson and 64 others, on condition that each grantee put under cultivation 5 acres and build a house 18 feet square or more within 3 years after the close of the war, the state ever reserving all pine timber suitable for naval purposes. The town was surveyed in 1786.
surface is broken, laying upon the high lands that
divide waters flowing from a marsh near the center of the town east into the
Joe's brook, which has its origin in Cole's pond in the north part of the town, runs
southerly into Joe's pond in Cabot, thence into the Passumpsic, is the largest stream. Cole's pond was discovered by a hunter by the name of Cole from St. Johnsbury, thus deriving its name. Lyfford's pond in the south part of Walden was also discovered by one of Gen. Hazen's men of that name. A small portion of Joe's pond is situated in town.
brook and pond derived their names from a friendly Indian of the St. Francis
tribe who first discovered them, and used to fish and hunt in and around them.
He had a cabin in town for himself and his squaw Molly, for some years after
its settlement. He rendered valuable service to the early settlers by warning
them of danger from his red brethren, and in assisting them to explore the
wilderness around. He died at an advanced age in Newbury in 1819. His memory
was ever kindly cherished by those whom he had befriended. Capt. Joe, as he was
familiarly called, in his old age received a pension of $70 per year granted by
the legislature of
1779, Gen. Hazen built a military road from Peacham through Cabot, Walden, Hardwick,
and north to Hazen's notch in
The block house remained for some years and was temporarily occupied by many of the first settlers, having the honor of having the first school, the first sermon and the first birth in town, and at one time a family by the name of Sabin, consisting of father, mother and 26 children within its walls.
was mainly settled by emigrants from
Walden was organized March 24, 1794, — Nathaniel Perkins, town clerk, Nathan Barker, Nathaniel Perkins and Joseph Burley, selectmen, Samuel Gilman, treasurer, Elisha Cate, constable. In March, 1795, Samuel Huckins was first grand juror, and in the the same year Nathaniel Perkins was elected first representative.
March, 1796, the town voted to raise 30 bushels of wheat to pay for preaching, 30 do. to pay for schooling, $10 worth to defray town expenses; and appointed a committee of three to hire preaching. Thus early evincing their interest, in the cause of religion and education.
In March, 1797, voted to raise $5 for town expenses for the current year, being the first money raised by the town for any purpose, and $25 for schools likewise, and selected the first petit jurors.
First sermon in town by Elder Chapman, at the house of Nathaniel Perkins. in 1794. Dr. George C. Wheeler came into town in 1828; remained about one year; was the first physician. James Bell, the first lawyer, being the only professional man that ever permanently resided in town.
Nathaniel Farrington, Jr., was first merchant. Jesse Perkins, son of Nathaniel Perkins, first child born in town, is still a resident. No settled minister has ever had a residence in Walden.
The first death in town was that of Samuel Gilman, caused by the burning off and falling of a stub of a tree where he was clearing on the farm now occupied by Otis Freeman. He left his house in the evening to roll together the brands of the piles that were burning; not returning, his wife went in search and found his lifeless body crushed to the earth, and was obliged to obtain assistance of a neighbor before it could be extricated. The second death was that of Mrs.
Melcher, who was buried with her infant a few days old. The third, Ezekiel Gilman, killed by the rolling of a log upon him while engaged in rearing a log cabin. First marriage, Mr. Melcher. First school taught by Nathaniel Perkins. The oldest person deceased in town was Mrs. George aged 102. Her son Moses is now 90 years of age. Edward Smith is the oldest now living, aged 91 years.
have been five college graduates from this town, viz: Rev. Samuel H. Shepley,
now a teacher in
number of school districts, 13. The first church built was a Union house in
Walden has suffered for the want of a common center. There is no village in town, and no mills that do business to much amount, excepting saw mills. Population in 1860, 1102, showing an increase during the last decade of about 200.
first church organization was Congregational, organized in 1805. Its deacon,
Theophilus Rundlet, was a man of fervent piety, and conducted public worship on
the sabbath, with the help of occasional preaching,
for many years. He left town, and was gathered to his grave like a shock of
corn fully ripe, at an advanced age, a few years since. This church has lost
its organization, and none of its records are to be found. In 1828 a new
Congregational church was formed, and by the aid of the
In 1810 a Methodist. E. church was formed by Elders Kilbourn and Hoyt. Nathaniel Gould and wife, Timothy Haynes and wife, and Nathaniel Perkins and wife, were among its original members. It is the leading denomination in town; has had constant preaching for a long series of years. Its present membership is 107.
A Universalist society was formed in 1829, and a Freewill Baptist in 1837. The two last have only occasional preaching.
CAPT. ENOCH FOSTER,*
Was born at Bow, N. H., in the year
1770. At the age of 13 he removed to
Many are the strangers that remember his generous hospitality. He lived to follow four of his six children to the grave, and died at the age of 84 years. He was a member of the Congregationalist church for 40 years, and died as he had lived, a zealous Christian.
Came into Walden from
NATHANIEL FARRINGTON, JR.
Came into town when a lad with his father. He early developed business tact, was the first merchant in town, and engaged to the time of his death, in 1854, in farming, merchandizing, building mills, &c., ever doing a large miscellaneous business, thereby adding largely to his own estate, and to the material wealth of the town. He was possessed of a cool, sound judgment, and exercised an influence rarely attained, over his fellow townsmen for a long series of years. He was town representative in the years 1828-29—30—31—36 and 37. Simple
* This article furnished by a friend.
and unostentatious in his own habits, he disbursed of his means with great liberality for the maintenance and education of his large family, and ever exercised a kind, considerate care over the interests of those whom he had assisted by pecuniary aid, to better their fortune, and his memory is cherished gratefully by the poor and needy.
Moved his family into town in 1789, being the only family there for the three succeeding years.
He was possessed of uncommon energy, which enabled him to overcome the difficulties and hardships incident to living thus separated from the neighborhood of men. On one occasion he went to Newbury, a distance of 30 miles, on foot, and procured a bushel of Indian corn meal and returned with it on his shoulders.
His house was the home of all the first settlers for the time being, and no weary traveler was denied its shelter, or a share in its sometimes extremely scanty stores. He represented his town in the state legislature in 1795, being its first representative, also in '96-99-1800-1804-5 and 6.
Mr. Perkins was one of the original members of the Methodist church, and ever one of its pillars. He lived to see great changes in the town of his early adoption, and died at the age of 90 years, leaving numerous descendants.
A friend has kindly furnished the following:
Austin of pure Norman extraction, a native of
Bell was born in Lyme, N. H., in December, 1776. His father, James Bell, was
accidentally killed by falling on the point of a scythe which he was carrying
on his shoulder. His son was then but two years old. Mr. Bell's mother was a
woman of strong sense and Christian character, for whom he ever cherished the
strongest affection and respect. She married for her second husband, Col.
Robert Johnston of Newbury, Vt., in which town Mr. Bell was brought up to
manhood. Not far from 1800, he went to reside in
He settled in Walden In 1804 or 5; in 1810 he commenced the farm where he ever after lived, and where his son, Hon. James D. Dell now resides. The place was entirely wild, and the first tree fallen was the foundation log on which his cabin was erected. In 1815 he was elected to the state legislature, after having had conferred on him the office of justice of the peace, captain of militia, &c., which honors in those days were not without their significance. He was again elected to the legislature in 1818, and was a member of that body for 10 years in succession. He was an eloquent debater, and few men had more influence in the
house. Few were there whose political sway was felt more throughout the state than Mr. Bell.
At the time that Mr. B. was admitted to the bar of Caledonia county, it was composed of a constellation of many of the first order of talents, among whom he was received as a peer, and in mother wit surpassed perhaps any one of them. Intellectual sport he enjoyed from the foundations of his being, and his irrepressible laughter was genial and sparkling, as the bursting forth of sunshine. He moreover had an immense persuasive influence with a jury; his sympathies tiring strong, he intuitively hit upon those points which would sway them in the direction he wished.
The man was the man in his esteem, whatever the texture of his coat might be; his client's wrongs were his own wrongs, and he defended him with a zeal and enthusiasm that never flagged till his point was gained. He was a hard man to face, for perhaps when his legal antagonist had finished a labored plea, and thought his mountain stood strong, a few playful sallies from Bell, or a stroke or two of the scalpel of satire directed to the weak points of his argument, and he would find the whole fabric tumbling about his ears. A case of this kind occurred once, when he was attending court in a neighboring state, where he was a stranger. The counsel on the other side was a man of pretension, wealthy, influential, and much of an egotist. He made a great effort for his client, represented the wrongs he had suffered as without a parallel, labored to excite the sympathy by the presentation of arguments drawn from no very apparent facts, and worked himself up to a very high point of commisseration for his much abused client, and sat down. Mr. Bell arose with a very solemn face, but a queer twinkle of the eye, and said he thought they would all feel it a privilege to join in singing. "Hark, from the tombs a doleful sound," — he struck the old minor tune in which the words were then sung, and sung the verse through. The speech of his opponent, in the minds of those present, was upon the poise between the pathetic and ridiculous — the ridicule flashed upon them, and the house was in a roar. When the merriment subsided he went on with his plea. The advocate who preceded him had indulged in invidious remarks, not only in reference to Mr. Bell, but to the Vermont bar generally, and Mr. B. mentioned that he had been both surprised and pained at the ungentlemanly and narrow allusions which had been made by one who had the honor of belonging to one of the most liberal professions in the world; and the man afterwards ingenuously said, that he was never so used up.
1882, Mr. B. made a public profession, and joined the Congregational church in
Hardwick; and was ever after a conscientious and constant attendant at the
sanctuary, when his health permitted. He was a lover of freedom, and a hater
of oppression. Well, do we remember his relating the following anecdote. He was standing in front of the Capitol at
is but one sketch of any of his public efforts remaining. That was reported by
S. B. Colby, Esq. of
A. D. 1847.
Brother Bell has made one of his great speeches to-day in defence of Mrs. Hannah Parker, on trial for the murder of her own child. I have never heard or felt a deeper pathos than the tones of his voice bore to the heart, as he stood up in the dignity of old age, his tall, majestic form over-leaning all the modern members of the bar (as if he had come from some superior physical generation of men), tremulous, slightly, with emotions that seemed thronging up from the long past, as the old advocate yielded for a
moment to the effect of early associations, and introduced himself and his fallen brethren whom his eye missed from their wonted seats, as it glanced along the vacant places inside the bar. He said:
May it please your honor, and gentlemen of the jury:
I stood among giants, though not of them: my comrades at the bar have fallen. Fletcher! the untiring and laborious counselor, the persuasive advocate, the unyielding combatant, is where? Eternity echoes, here!
Cushman, the courtly and eloquent lawyer, the kind and feeling man, the polished and social companion and friend, where now is he? The world unseen alone can say.
Mattocks lives, thank God; but is withdrawn from professional toil, from the clash of mind on mind, the combat of intellect and wit, the flashing humor and grave debates of the court room, to the graceful retreat of domestic life.
I am alone, an old tree, stripped of its foliage and tottering beneath the rude storms of seventy winters: but lately prostrate at the verge of the grave, I thought my race was run; never again did I expect to be heard in defence of the unfortunate accused. But Heaven has spared me, another monument of His mercy, and 1 rejoice in the opportunity of uttering, perhaps my last public breath in defence of the poor, weak, imbecile prisoner at the bar.
Gentlemen, she is a mother. She is charged with the murder of her own child! She is arraigned here a friendless stranger. She is without means to reward counsel; and has not the intelligence, as I have the sorry occasion to know, to dictate to her counsel a single fact relating to her case. I have come to her defence without hope of reward; for she has nothing to give but thick, dark poverty, and of that, too, I have had more than enough.
But it gives me pleasure to say that the stringent hardship of her case has won her friends among strangers, and the warm sympathies which have been extended to my client, and the ready and useful aid I have received during this protracted trial, from various members of the bar, strongly indicate the great hearts and good minds of my departed brothers, have left their influence upon these, their successors.
Soon after Mr. Bell's return from court he received the following from Mattocks:
"Peacham, 16th January, 1847.
Brother Bell: In the Watchman I have just seen a specimen of your speech in the murder case. It is worthy of being inserted in the next edition of 'Elegant Extracts in Prose." Sir, you are the last of the Mohicans and the greatest, and when you die (which I fear will be soon, for from the account I hear of your effort in the cause of humanity, it was all but a superhuman brightening before death), the tribe will be extinct. You have justly called our two lamented friends giants, and with the discrimination of a reviewer, have given to each the distinguishing traits of excellence; and although your introducing me with them was gratuitous, it was kind, and the traits you have given me I owe to your generosity.
You say 'I was not of them;' this was a fiction, used in an unlawyerlike manner to prevent self-commendation, unless, indeed, you meant as Paul might have said, that he was not of the prophets, because he was a head and shoulders above them. I am proud that you have sustained and surpassed the old school of lawyers. Sir, you are the Nestor of the bar, and may be truly called the 'Old man eloquent.'
I am, sir, with the greatest respect,
your friend and humble serv't,
N. B. I reserve the all important part of this letter to stand by itself. Let us hold fast to our hope in Christ. We near the brink."