VHG St. George, Chittenden County, Vt.

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                                                 ST. GEORGE.                                                       851

 

 

 

ST. GEORGE.

 

BY HENRY LAWRENCE.

 

St. George is a small township lying 8 miles S. E. from Burlington, and 28 nearly W. of Montpelier. It was not organized until 1813, and this fact, together with the rather limited size of the town, has led to the very general impression that it was for­merly a gore, and not a chartered township; this, however, was not the case. It was chartered August 18, 1763, by Governor Wentworth, of New Hampshire, to Jesse Hallock and 63 others,* and by the terms of the charter was a full-sized township, or 6 miles square; but upon surveying the towns in that part of the-country, it was found— owing, perhaps, to a misapprehension at that time of the course of the Winooski river—that the area was not sufficiently large to give to each town the number of acres named in their charters; and, as it turned out, it was the misfortune of the proprietors of St. George to suffer the greater part of the deficiency. The circumstances were as
follows:

 

The towns of Charlotte and Hines­burgh were granted in 1762, and their boundaries marked. The year following the towns of Burlington, Williston, St. George and Shelburne, were granted, and as the Winooski river, by the terms of their char­ters, was to form the north lines of Burling­ton and Williston, their boundaries were readily established, beyond dispute. But upon surveying those towns, such was the course of the river, it was found that the S. E. corner of Williston reached quite to the north line of Hinesburgh, thus leaving a triangular piece some 6 or 7 miles broad on the lake, and narrowing to a point at about 10 miles back from the lake, and containing some 1600 acres, which only remained to form the towns of Shelburne and St George. And as Burlington and Williston had a few days priority in the date of their charters over those of Shelburne and St. George, there was no alternative left to the two latter but to take what remained. St. George, unfortu­nately having the small end of the wedge, came near being crowded out entirely. As it is, however, it has an area of 2200 acres.

The name of the town is said to have been given in honor of the then reigning king of England. The pious prefix of the name would seem to indicate a high degree of reverence on the part of the proprietors who proposed the name for that august mon­arch; but had it been a few years later, when the burden of the stamp act and other kindred acts began to weigh heavily upon the colonies, they would, no doubt, have left off the Saint, and perhaps have substituted some other quite as significant title.

When it was finally ascertained to what an extent the town was reduced, by an act­ual survey, the proprietors—none of whom resided on their grant—determined to make the best of their misfortune; accordingly, they had the town laid out into 30-acre lots, each proprietor having one lot, or 30 acres, instead of 360, as they would have had if it had proved a 6 mile township; but as their charter was for a full-sized town, and the number of grantees 64, it was very easy for any one unacquainted with the facts to com­pute the number of acres in a "right" to be 360; therefore, their "rights" sold in the market for the same price as those of other towns.

A single instance, as related to me by an intelligent old gentleman, who was him­self a witness of the circumstance, will suf­fice to illustrate the matter. A gentleman

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* ST. GEORGE GRANTEES.—Jesse Hallock, Samuel Farmer, Christian Farmer, John Farmer, Christian Farmer, Robert Farmer, Peter Farmer, Jeremiah Leming, Thos. Ellison, William Ellison, Simon Ransom, Shem Ransom, Isaac Sears, Jasper Drake, Joseph Sacket, Joseph Sacket Doctor, Francis Sacket, William Butler, John Mann, Thomas Mann, William Mann, Ermes Graham, John Jeffrys, Isaac Underhill, Benj. Underhill, Henry Frankling, Jona. Courtland, Uriah Wolman, Amos Underhill, Richard Willik, Sam'l Willik, Jacob Watson, Benj. Ferris, Daniel Prindle, Joshua Watson, Benj. Leaman, Edmund Leaman, Richard Leaman, Richard Titus, Isaac Mann, Isaac Mann, Jr., Peter Vanderwort, Wm. Hayris, Magnes Gurrat, Robert Ling, John Dervicos Murphy, Edward Ferrol Murphy, Jno. Deveeanose Murphy, Jr., Thomas Wright, Caleb Wright, John Wright, Tim. Whitmore, Benj. Clap, Benj. Clap, Jr., Henry Clap, Daniel Quimby, Jona. Wake, Jona. Quimby, The Hon. John Temple, Esq., Theo. Atkinson, Esq., Wm. Hunk, I. Wentworth, Esq., John Fisher, Esq. [From the papers of Mr. Henry Stevens.—Ed]

 

 

 

852                         VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.

 

from the city of Now York purchased come "rights" in St. George, and, with a view of ascertaining the value of the same, came to see his newly acquired estate, and calling at the house of one of the settlers, began to inquire what the quality of the township was, &c., adding that he owned a thousand acres of land in the town. His host replied that some of the land was very good, some not so good, and asked the gentleman how many "rights" he owned, and the names of the proprietors. He replied that he owned three "rights." "Then you own but ninety acres," was the reply. "In those days," adds my informant, "I never heard a man swear so. He cursed the 'Yankees' most furiously, and, without stopping to make any further inquiries about his lands, returned home, probably to find another buyer as easily duped as himself."

The settlement of the town commenced in the spring of 1784, by Joshua Isham and wife, from Colchester, Conn. The house in which they first, resided in St. George was constructed by Mr. Isham and another man in a single day, and in that humble cot, we are told, Mrs. Isham resided for six months without seeing the face of one of her own sex. It was situated some 70 rods west of the present dwelling of Mr. Silas Isham. Though a house so frail as this must have been, would seem to furnish but a poor protection from the inclemency of the weather, as well as wild beasts and marauding Indians, yet we may not take this as an evidence of shift­lessness on the part of its occupant, for he was a thorough business man, and afterwards accumulated, through his own industry and perseverance, a competence; but it rather il­lustrates the hardships and self-denials inci­dent to pioneer life, and to which succeeding generations are almost entire strangers. Early in the following year Elnathan Higbee and Zirah Isham, with their families, settled in town. And, not long afterwards, Jehial Isham, Reuben and Nathan Lockwood, John Mobbs, James Sutton, Wheeler Higbee and others joined the settlement. And, by the census of 1791, seven years after the settle­ment commenced, there were 57 inhabitants, being nearly one-half the present population, which—according to the census of 1850—is 127.

Jehial Isham, one of the early settlers above named, was a man of great activity and physical endurance. He was actively engaged in the war of Independence. Soon after the close of the war, he removed to this town, He became the father of a numerous family of children, most of whom are still living. He died in St. George, at the residence of his son, in 1851, at the advanced age of 90 years.

The first child born in town was Martha Isham, now Martha Bliss, widow of the late Moses Bliss, of Shelburne, and daughter of Joshua Isham. The first male child was Lewis Higbee, both of whom are still living.

The first death is supposed to have been that of Heman Higbee, infant son of Wheeler Higbee, who died Sept. 17, 1791; first adult, Rebecca, Gilman, died June 22, 1797.

The first marriage was that of Jacob Hins­dill to Hannah Cook.

The first school-house was built soon after the settlement commenced. It was made of rude logs, with a huge Dutch-back fireplace built of stones, and with greased paper as a substitute for window glass; and, for a time, there were no other text books in school than Dillworth's spelling-book. Amos Cal­lender, of Shelburne, is believed to have taught the first school. There is, at present, but one entire school district in town, although there are two fractions, composed, in part, of territory from neighboring towns. There has never been any organized church in town, although there was in 1836 a class of Methodists organized, numbering some 10 or 12 members—Sherman Beach, class leader —which continued to meet regularly for about 10 years; but since that time they have had no leader, and their numbers having been somewhat reduced by deaths and other causes, they at present have no existence as a class. There are also several who recently joined by baptism the Baptist church in Hinesburgh, and others who are members of the Congregational church in that town. Preaching is enjoyed a portion of the time.

The town was organized in March, 1813, at a meeting called for the purpose, and pre­sided over by Lemuel Bostwick, Esq., of Hinesburgh. Jared Higbee was first town clerk. Reuben Lockwood, Lewis Higbee and Levi Higbee, first selectmen; and Sherman Beach, first constable.

The surface of the town is uneven; but the soil is generally good, and is composed, for the most part, of gravel and loam, with

 

 

 

                                                 ST. GEORGE.                                                       853

 

a margin of clay along the western boundary. It is well adapted to cultivation, although attention is chiefly given to dairying. Perhaps no town in the county, if indeed in the state, can boast a larger number of cows, in proportion to the number of inhabitants, than St. George.

There are no streams of consequence in the town, and consequently no mills or mill privileges, but this evil is not without some advantages; for the people are subjected to no expense for bridges, nor loss by inunda­tions.

The taxes are very light, never having raised a town tax—with but two or three exceptions—since it was organized.

 

LEWIS HIGBEE

was born in St. George in 1788. He was the first representative to the Legislature, and re-elected to that office several times. He was possessed of no more than an ordinary degree of profundity; yet he had an inexhaustible fountain of wit and sarcasm, which made him somewhat conspicuous. Being without the advantages of education, and having no par­ticular taste for refinement, his manners were peculiarly rough and unpolished; neverthe­less, he seemed to possess the power of turn­ing his very rudeness to the best account, which many times gave point to his wit and repartee. An anecdote is related of him in connection with the Hon. Henry Clay, which goes to illustrate this characteristic.

Some years ago, while in the zenith of Mr. Clay's popularity, it was announced that he would be in Burlington on a certain day and address the people there. Thousands were assembled on and near the wharf, anxiously awaiting his arrival. Mr. Higbee had se­cured a commanding position on a high pile of boards, near the carriage which stood awaiting to convey Mr. Clay to the hotel. One of the marshals seeing him there, re­quested when he heard the sound of the bugle—which was to he the signal of Mr. Clay's arrival—to "Shout hurrah, so that they can hear you to the Empire State, and when we hear you we will join the chorus." At length the boat neared the wharf, and Mr. Clay stepped forward and mounted the car­riage, when Mr. Higbee—recognizing him by his tall and manly form—instantly re­solved to shake hands with the honored statesman, without waiting for the formality of an introduction. So stretching himself at full length from his precarious footing, to reach the hand of Mr. Clay, lost his balance, and was about plunging headlong, when Mr. Clay, seeing his danger, sprang forward, seized the hand of Mr. Higbee and righted him on his feet; whereupon, quick as thought, without waiting for the sound of the bugle, Higbee cried out, at the top of his sharp tenor voice: "Henry Clay from Kentucky; thrice he saved his country, and once Lewis Higbee—hurrah for Henry Clay!" It is needless to add that the air was rent with the deafening applause of the vast multitude. It is said that Mr. Clay acknowledged the compliment with great glee, and often re­ferred to it whenever he saw a Vermont man afterwards.

 

REUBEN LOCKWOOD, ESQ.,

was a resident of St. George for nearly 60 years. He was possessed of a well-balanced mind and sound judgment. Being scrupu­lously honest and exact in all his dealings, he had the undivided confidence of all his neighbors, while his quiet and unobtrusive manners secured the friendship and respect of all who knew him. No man perhaps ever did more for the town or was actuated by a more unselfish motive. The town was prompt in acknowledging his virtues, for they often bestowed upon him all the honor­able positions which were within the gift of the town. He represented the town at the age of 28, and was subsequently reelected 9 times; held the office of lister 25 years, and that of selectman 29 years. Was elected town clerk in 1833, and continued in that office 22 years; and in 1842 received the ap­pointment of postmaster, which he resigned in 1846. He removed from town in 1856, and has since resided in Irasburgh in this state.

The political history of the town is some­what remarkable for the unanimity of senti­ment that has always prevailed. It was or­ganized at the time of that political whirlwind which agitated the country at the period of the last war with Great Britain. And the people fully partook of the spirit of the times. Yet we find that at the first election for governor, held in 1813, Martin Chitten­den, the Federal candidate, received the en­tire vote, save one. But that solitary demo­cratic vote—cast by Sherman Beach, Esq.— continued to be recorded against the otherwise unanimous Federal or Whig vote of thee

 

 

 

854                         VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.

 

town for several years. And, indeed, the relative vote for state officers has always been nearly the same, until the presidential election of 1556, when Col. Fremont—the Republican candidate, received the entire vote of the town.

ST. GEORGE, Oct., 1865.

 

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BY-GONE YEARS.

 

An Extract from an unpublished Poem.

 

BY REV. ELNATHAN E. HIGBEE.*

 

[I send this as being somewhat appropriate in senti­ment to the noble work you have in hand in saving for their children the ennobling memories of our Vermont fathers.—E. E. H.]

 

The bugle's blast upon the hill,

From peak to peak is echoing still;

And sweeter does the ling'ring strain

Move back from rock to rock again,

And softer does the wavering tone

Through whispering leaves go murmuring on;

Although the hunter's left the trail,

And hurried far beyond the vale,—

So all things leave some mark behind them,

Enabling memory to find them,

Some parting light, some lingering strain,

To sweetly call them back again.

 

The past is present in the soul,

While years in quick succession roll,

And eyes, tho' dimmed by age, can trace

Many an old familiar face,

Whose answering smiles will e'en illume

The shadowy portals of the tomb.

The happiest hours of happiest days,

Like sweetest lines of sweetest lays,

Go with us wheresoe'er we go,

And treasured long the dearer grow.

Age spreads o'er youth more glorious hues

Than sunset o'er the gathering dews;

And brighter do old memories rise

Than rosy morn through dappling skies.

 

Then strike the harp for by-gone years—

Strike ev'ry string,

And let the spring

Of memory gush with joyful tears.

 

Can up the old familiar forms

We then did love,

And let them move

The trembling chords which passion warms.

 

Wake up old tones, amid the strain,

And let them speak

Until they break

The silence of those scenes again.

 

* A son of Lewis Higbee, a native of St. George, now pastor of a church in the State of New York.—Ed.

 

 

 

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SHELBURNE.

 

 

BY LYMAN THAYER.

 

Our ancient records are brief and indefi­nite, and much of interest, undoubtedly, is beyond the reach of any now living. I have endeavored to embody as many of the local facts and incidents of the town as can be ascertained in the limited and brief records which were made and have been preserved. I copy the original Charter of the town. It is a curious document as to phraseology and conditions, showing the manner, style and literature of 100 years past:

 

CHARTER OF THE TOWN OF SHELBURNE.

 

Province of New Hampshire:

                                                            George the 3d, by the Grace of God, of Great Brittain France and Ire­land, King, Defender of the faith, &c., To all persons to whom these presents shall come,— Greeting:—Know ye, that we of our special grace, certain knowledge and mere motion, for the due encouragement of setling a new plantation within our said province, by and with the advice of our truly and well-beloved Bening Wentworth, Esq., our Governor and commander in chief of our said province of New Hampshire, in New England, and of our council of the said province, have upon the conditions and revelations hereinafter, made, given and granted and by these pres­ents, for us, our heirs, and successors, do give and grant in equal shares, unto our loving subjects, inhabitants of our said province of New Hampshire and our other governments, and to those heirs assigns forever, whose names are entered on this grant, to be divid­ed to and amongst them into seventy equal shares, all that tract and parcel of land. situate, lying and being within our said province of New Hampshire, containing by admeasurement 23,500 acres, which tract is to contain something more than six miles square and no more, out of which an allow­ance is to be made for highways and unim­provable lands, by rocks, ponds, mountains and rivers, one thousand and forty acres free according to a plan and survey thereof made by our said governor's order and returned into the secretary's office and hereunto annex­ed, butted end bounded as follows, viz: be­ginning at a stake and stones, standing on the easterly shore of Lake Champlain, which is the northwesterly corner bounds of Char­lotte, a Township lately granted in this