VHG Walden, Caledonia County, Vt.



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Walden is 6 miles square, situated in the western part of Caledonia county, having Cabot on the S. W., Danville on the S. E., Goshen Gore on the N. E., and Hardwick on the N. W. It lies 25 miles N. E. from Montpelier, and 12 W. from St. Johnsbury.

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.

The surface is broken, laying upon the high lands that divide waters flowing from a marsh near the center of the town east into the Connecticut river, and west into the St. Lawrence by way of the river Lamoille and lake Champlain. The soil is good, produc­ing grass and the English grains in abund­ance. The highest point of land is under cultivation, and is probably the most elevated improved land, in the state. The snows fall very deep, covering the earth nearly one-half the year. One of the early residents described the town as being a first rate place for sleigh rides, for the reason that we have nine months winter and the other three months were very late in the fall. There has been but little emigration west from Walden, the farms of the first settlers are generally occupied by their sons. There are now probably in town 25 voters by the name of Perkins who have descended from two persons of that name among the early settlers, thus showing the peculiar attachments that surround mountain homes.

Joe's brook, which has its origin in Cole's pond in the north part of the town, runs




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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.

Joe's 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 Vermont.

In 1779, Gen. Hazen built a military road from Peacham through Cabot, Walden, Hard­wick, and north to Hazen's notch in West­field. Hazen's road, as it is still called, passes through the S. W. part of Walden, and was of essential service to those who early came in to town. Gen. H. built a block house on the land now occupied by Cyrus Smith, and left a small garrison to man it until the next year. The name of the officer left in command was Walden, who requested that the town should receive his name when chartered, which was accordingly done.

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.

Walden was mainly settled by emigrants from New Hampshire. Nathaniel Perkins moved his family into town in 1789, his being the only family for the three succeed­ing years. Nathan Barker was the next. Mr. B. was soon followed by Joseph Burley, Samuel and Ezekiel Gilman, Elisha and Ben­jamin Cate, Samuel Huckins, Robert Carr, Major Roberson and many others, who main­ly settled on or near the Hazen road; and so rapidly was the settlement increased, that in 1800 the inhabitants numbered 152; at which time numerous families arrived, among whom were Timothy Haynes, Stephen Currier and John Stevens, who were the first settlers on or near the county road — a road running nearly centrally through the town east and west, which was laid out by a special act of the Vermont legislature, probably in 1801. The land upon which they originally settled is still occupied by their sons, and it may not be amiss to say in this connection, that they were men possessed of sterling qualities, and met the exigencies incident to the hard­ships of life in a new settlement with patience, courage and hope largely developed; lived to a good old age, and departed leaving the impress of their exertions on the religi­ous, educational and other institutions of the town.

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.




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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.

There have been five college graduates from this town, viz: Rev. Samuel H. Shepley, now a teacher in Pennsylvania; Mark Du­rant, now a teacher in Kentucky; James S. Durant, now a physician in Danville; Daniel W. Stevens, teaching in Ohio; and Giles F. Montgomery, now a theological student in Ohio.

Present number of school districts, 13. The first church built was a Union house in South Walden, in 1826; the second, a Con­gregational house, in 1844, in the north part of Walden; the third and last, a Union house, in 1856, in the southerly part of the town.

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.




The 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 Vermont D. M. society and other sources, it was supplied with the services of a clergy­man for some years, but is now essentially disbanded. Its two first deacons, Merrill Foster and Gilman Dow, being dead, and others of its members, united with the Con­gregational church in Hardwick.

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.






Was born at Bow, N. H., in the year 1770. At the age of 13 he removed to Peacham, Vt., with his parents, where he lived until the year 1800, when he removed to Walden. Much of his early manhood was spent in the woods. He was often employed as a guide by the early settlers, to conduct them to different parts of the country. Indian Joe was his constant companion in the woods for a number of years. Capt. Foster was a man of stern integrity and possessed great energy, which together, made him a friend of all.

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 New Hampshire in 1799, and settled on the farm now occupied by Jacob Dutton. He was possessed of pro­perty to some extent — a man of energy, so much so that in 1802, he raised 1300 bushels of English grains, accumulated property rapidly, kept the only hotel in town, for a number of years, and in various ways ex­erted a controlling influence over his townsmen. He represented Walden in the state legistature in 1801-2-3-8-9 and 1811. He lived to old age, and left a large property to his children.




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.




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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:




John Austin of pure Norman extraction, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, invented the tulip-shaped bell — for which he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, and took the name of Bell. He was a staunch Presbyterian, and during the religious controversy was obliged to flee, and went to the north of Ireland. From thence a large family of brothers emigrated to the United States, and settled in various parts of the Union. James, the second son, settled in New Hampshire, from whom the subject of the following sketch descended.

James 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 Hardwick, Vt., and was married to Lucy Dean of Hardwick, Mass., in 1801. Soon after this, he became entangled with a lawyer for whom he had done business as de­puty sheriff. A legal quarrel arose which lasted for years; litigation stripped him of his property, and threatened to ruin him. The struggles of that season of his life required more courage than to fight with physical giants. The inevitable privations of the early settler, the scarcity of provisions, when the clearings were small, and shaded by the thick forests which encircled them, so that the grain which had struggled through the summer was likely to be nipped by untimely frosts; the fearful drain upon pecuniary means, and the excitement attendant upon litigation; the wants of a young family of children, whom he tenderly loved; the pain to think that he had made the sharer of his trials a woman who had seen better days, — a woman of the strictest principles, ambitious — and who must have been more than human to be always patient under the allotments of fortune; — was enough to tempt a less buoyant spirit to do as another individual was advised to when sorely tried. Still, he never yielded, but rather pressed onward. The "divinity that shapes our ends," used this roughhewing as a means of showing to himself and others the talents that were in him. He became too poor to employ coun­sel, and was obliged to defend himself and plead his own causes; and soon displayed wit and a native eloquence, which, in those primitive times were more than a match for his mere legal antagonist. He eventually drove him from the field, and was ever after engaged in legal business, though not ad­mitted to the bar for a number of years after.

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




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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.

In 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 Washington, when a gang of slaves, manacled together, and driven by their keeper, passed by. When they came opposite the Capitol, they struck up, Hail! Columbia!" and the refrain was kept up un­til their voices were lost in the distance. He said: "What a satire upon our brags of freedom was that music from these unconscious wretches! Oh, how I longed to stand upon the floor of that house and say what I wanted to say." He was an earnest tem­perance advocate. During the political and other conflicts of his manhood, he was a firm, warm friend, and a most whole-souled despiser of those he disliked; but, as age advanced, and the tumults of life receded, the affections became predominant, and embraced all. His sportiveness almost went with him to the grave. After he was so infirm that his step was almost as uncertain as an infant's, he said to some one, alluding to his infirmities, that there was one thing he could do as quick as ever. "And what is that?" said the person addressed. "I can fall down as quick as ever I could!" was the answer. He was chosen a member of the council of censors, in 1848, which was the last public service in which he engaged.

There is but one sketch of any of his public efforts remaining. That was reported by S. B. Colby, Esq. of Montpelier, and which we take the liberty to insert in this article.

Orleans County, January Term,

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




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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,

                                                  JOHN MATTOCKS.


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."

Bell survived his friend a few years, encompassed with infirmity, and died of paralysis, 17th April, 1852.