Vermont Historical Gazetteer
A Local History of
ALL THE TOWNS IN THE STATE
Civil, Educational, Biographical, Religious and Military
THE TOWNS OF WINDHAM COUNTY,
WITH HISTORIES OF
SUTTON IN CALEDONIA COUNTY, AND BENNINGTON IN
ABBY MARIA HEMENWAY.
MRS. CARRIE E. H. PAGE,
By E. A. DERBY.
Rockingham is a post town in the N. E. corner of Windham county. The Connecticut river washes the entire eastern boundary. Williams river runs through the central part and empties into the Connecticut about three miles north of Bellows Falls. Saxton's river is in the southern part of the town.
Some accounts inform us that the first settlements made in this town were commenced by people from Massachusetts who received a charter from that State, and that the place was originally called Fallstown, which was soon after changed to Great Falls, and was again changed to Bellows Falls, after the lands adjoining on both sides of the river were drawn and settled by Benjamin Bellows, who was one of the original proprietors of the town, as well as proprietor's clerk.
If the town was settled previous to 1752, and it is possible it was, the settlers forfeited their charter and abandoned their settlement on account of the Indians, or for some other cogent reason.
At that time settlements in Cheshire County, N. H., and Windham County, Vt., were very rare. White people had traversed the wilderness in this vicinity, observing the inducements offered to settlers; but although the soil, timber, streams, game and fish made the country attractive, it is probable that the numerous savages made the occupancy of the country too hazardous an undertaking for the whites to enter on. In 1744, there were but very few inhabitants between Swanzey and Charlestown No. 4.
Previous to this time settlements had been begun in Vermont, but none had become permanent as far north as Rockingham before 1754. The few people who had attempted to settle were continually harassed by the French and Indians. At all times they were subject to the attacks of a concealed foe. They could not cultivate the soil, or clear the land without being exposed to danger. The condition of the country, being almost wholly covered with forest. was favorable to the stealthy approach of the cunning savage; and the settler was liable at any instant to be shot down and scalped, or captured and carried into captivity. Their families were in constant danger of being massacred or captured.
Although the soil in this vicinity was everything that the agriculturist could desire, it is probable that the great attraction was fish. At certain seasons of the year the Connecticut literally swarmed with salmon and shad. The falls impeded their progress up the river, and, as a consequence, the eddy below was sometimes fairly packed with them.
The fact that people were attracted to this vicinity for fishing rather than for farming purposes, together with some other circumstances, tended to retard the early growth and prosperity of the town. As late as 1764, after the present charter had been obtained from Governor Wentworth, it was doubted that the town contained a large enough permanent population to retain the charter, and he took testimony from Michael Lovell and Benjamin Bellows, two of the principal proprietors, in regard to the matter. They both testified that "there were then twenty-five families settled in the town of Rockingham, who had already cultivated lands, and had so far improved them by actual settlement as to fulfill the conditions of the charter;" and this testimony was so conclusive that all further attempts to render the charter void were abandoned, and Rockingham became a town.
In early times the courts of this district were held at Chester. But as a large majority of the settlers were located on or near the Connecticut, they very naturally made an effort to have the courts assemble at some more convenient point. In conformity with this plan, the inhabitants of the town assembled on the 2d day of December, 1771, and "agreed to pay 70 pounds, lawful currency, towards the erection of county buildings, provided Rockingham be made the shire town." This was a liberal offer, but "by extraordinary exertions and by the influence of persons in authority," the courts were removed to Westminster, where was erected the court house which was afterward made famous by the "Westminster massacre."
At this time the courts were managed by officers of the King. The people were divided into two parties, Whigs and Tories, the former comprising those who were opposed to all authority not in conformity with the Continental Congress, while the latter abided by the authority of the crown, and considered that a royal proclamation was all that was necessary to keep the people in subjection to the King's officers.
In 1774, a committee of correspondence in regard to the friends of liberty was appointed, and on this committee were Moses Wright and Jonathan Burt of Rockingham. It was their purpose to throw off the yoke of despotism, and to secure this purpose they had resolved that neither life or property should be spared.
On Sunday, March 12, 1775, a party of Whigs from Rockingham went down to Westminster to dissuade the King's officers from opening the courts, Monday ; and thus were the people of this town among those friends of freedom who first resisted the King's officers, causing the first blood of the Revolution to be shed on "Court House Hill," in the town of Westminster. Capt. Stephen Sargeant, with his company of Rockingham militia, assisted in driving the court party from the house, and in securing them after the massacre; thus they lighted the torch of war that soon after blazed at Lexington and Bunker Hill.
Several of the Rockingham militia were wounded in this affray, and Philip Safford, lieutenant of the company, when surrounded by the Tories, knocked down ten of them with his bludgeon, and although he received several severe cuts from the sword of Sheriff Patterson, retired from the field daring the whole posse of King George to combat the Rockingham militia.
The Indians when on the war path, or when on hunting and fishing excursions, always halted a while at Bellows Falls to rest, and consequently the town was slow in growth, and continually disturbed by marauding parties.
In the year 1755, one Joseph Blanchard "numbered all the inhabitants from Brattleboro to Hartford in Vermont" and reported "that there were not more than 60 families then settled in all that territory."
In the spring of 1704, the war party that went from Canada to destroy Deerfield, Mass., passed through Rockingham on their return. The day was Sunday, and they stopped to give their prisoners an opportunity to rest.
While stopping there the Rev. John Williams - the ancestor of the Indian branch of the Williams family, which has been famous on account of the Rev. Eleazer Williams, who attempted to identify himself and Louis XVII, the lost dauphin of France, - preached a sermon, which was undoubtedly the first sermon that was preached in this town. His text was Lam. 1:18.
Said township was by charter, bounded as follows : Beginning at the northeast corner of Westminster and running up by the Connecticut river until it extends six miles upon a straight, line northerly to a stake and stones upon the bank of said river, in Hickup meadow, - thence running due west six miles to a stake and stones - thence running southerly six miles to the northwesterly corner of Westminster - thence running due east to the bounds first mentioned ; and that the same be and is incorporated into a township by the name of Rockingham, and the inhabitants that do or shall hereafter inhabit said township are hereby declared to be enfranchised with and instituted to all the privileges and immunities that other towns within our said Province by law exercise and enjoy.
The names of the grantees of Rockingham, under the charter of George II. were as follows : Samuel Johnson, Ezra Farnsworth, Isaac Parker, John Kilburn, Sylvanus Hastings, Josiah Willard, Nathan Willard, Robert Henry, William Willard, Peter Bellows, Nathan Smith, William Parker, Jonah Moor, Lemuel Hastings, Jonathan White, Lemuel Butler, Benjamin Bellows, Benjamin Stowell, Andrew Gardner, Jonathan Wetherbee, Abijah Wetherbee, William Simonds, Oliver Willard, Stephen Farnsworth, Jonathan Bigelow, Jotham Bush, Simeon Knight, Samuel Larabee, David Page, Hezekiah Elmore, Asa Douglas, Johanna Wetherbee, Jaezaniah How, John Stow, Obediah Dickerson, William Syms, Palmer Goulding, Joseph Lee, Thomas Martin, Samuel Wentworth, Andrew Gardner, Jr., Samuel Wetherbee, David Farnsworth, Asel Stebens, John Densmore, John Arms, Jacob Elmore, Isaiah Sawyer, Benjamin French, John Moffet, Daniel Maynard, Daniel Warren, Ebenezer Hinsdale, Jonathan Marle, Timothy Taylor, Isaac Winslow, Richard Clark, Tuttle Hubbard, Thomas Stebens.
Benning Wentworth was commissioned governor of the Province of New Hampshire, July , 3, 1741. He manifested considerable interest in the early settlement of Rockingham because he knew that large quantities of the best masting timber that could be obtained in the province were growing here. He resided at Portsmouth, N. H., but he had heard such favorable reports of the timber on "the river of the pines" that he came here to make personal examination, and to take measures "for the better securing the masting trees from being cut and felled." He caused the first saw-mills in town to be erected, one of which was located on Williams' river at the place now known as Brockway's mills, and the other near the mouth of Saxtons river. Gov. Wentworth received large official fees from the King of England, and also invariably reserved for himself in every township that he granted, 500 acres of the best and richest land for the purposes of speculation. When Rockingham was chartered, John Kilburn visited Gov. Wentworth and represented that the best lands lay back of the river. But the governor could not be induced to make his reservation except where he thought there was timber. Kilburn, failing to secure the lots he desired here, changed his tactics and pretended to be very anxious to secure some lots on the other side of the river, directly opposite the falls; the governor was equally loath to give up his choice of lots on that side, thinking that the best land must be near the falls; but he gave Kilburn the choice of any lots above or below the lands lying and being on Fall mountain. He finally concluded to take lands below, securing the best lands in Walpole and some on Williams' river, while the governor took the mountain range which was comparatively worthless, and to which John Kilburn gave the name of "Governor's Garden," a name which is retained to this day.
The town charter specified that the "first legal meeting of the proprietors " should be held on the last Wednesday of March, 1753. In conformity to this provision a meeting was held on the 28th of March, and Benjamin Bellows presided as moderator, in accordance with a provision of the charter to that effect. At this meeting it was voted "To lay out to each proprietor a house lot, and that the 72 house lots be laid out in three or more several places. That all the meadows, or intervale land lying on Connecticut river and up Williams' river, he divided into 72 lots, being one for each proprietor." A committee consisting of Andrew Gardner, Benj. Bellows, Jonathan Bigelow, Stephen Farnsworth and Asahel Stebens, was chosen for laying out the lands; and this committee was also authorized "to lay out all ye meadow and intervale land lying upon all ye small rivers, into 72 lots, and to take a plan of all ye lands in said town." The committee was also directed to "couple all ye various lots into equal divisions, in all making 72, so that ye drawing might be made all at the same time, so that in drawing, each of the 72 original proprietors would at once come into possession of all his lands. In consequence of this arrangement every proprietor received a house-lot, a river-lot and lot on some small stream as his equal share in the lands of the town. The committee to lay out lands was also directed by the proprietors "To select and lay out six acres for a meeting house place." It was voted that if any man should move upon any lands in the town before the meadow lands were laid out, he should have the liberty to take the lot upon which he had moved or done labor, provided it be on Williams river, without drawing.
Previous to adjournment Benjamin Bellows was chosen proprietor's clerk and collector of taxes. Andrew Gardner, Sylvanus Hastings, and John Grant were chosen assessors.
At this meeting the town was first properly and legally organized.
The original proprietors wished for perfect equality in dividing the town lands, and they had agreed to be satisfied with such lots as fell to them in the drawing. Selfishness was not so rampant in the hearts of the people then as it is now. Their sense of mutual dependence on each other for safety begat a sentiment of common interest in the general prosperity and welfare of the community. The settlers came together as one family and decided that each member should share equally the privileges of their joint proprietorship. Only a few town officers were needed. The proprietors were content to begin their town existence with a clerk, a committee, a collector of taxes, and town assessors.
May 4, 1754, Benjamin Bellows, clerk of the town, gave notice by request of ten of the legal inhabitants, that there would be a town meeting at the house of Mr. Jonathan Bigelow, in said town, in the Province of New Hampshire, on Wednesday, the 29th day of May. At this meeting Esquire Bellows presided, according to the provision of the charter, and this aided him to become a great man among the early settlers. It was his good fortune to become possessed of many valuable lots in Rockingham, though he resided in Walpole. After accepting the report of the committee to lay out lots, " ye lands were drawn by lots as laid out." Benjamin Bellows took the lower meadow and the lands round said meadow for 21 house lots, he also took land on Saxton's river, in all 48 acres, for 16 three acre meadow lots, " as coupled to ye house lots afore named," and he also had "liberty to pick five more three acre meadow lots in any undivided meadow lands where he might choose to select the same." Bonds were required and given by all the drawers of house lots to have men on them by the last of March, 1755, otherwise the lots would revert to the town. He aided materially in the early settlements and was highly respected as a citizen and town officer. From the fact that he owned the lower meadow, (a part of which is owned by his descendants to this day), the Great Falls finally came to be called Bellows Falls.
At the May meeting it was voted that six acres of land be taken from the north end of house lot No. 3, being 33 rods square, and that the same be set off for the use of the town, for the purpose of building thereon a meeting-house, and that a road twelve rods wide be laid out through said land. It was voted that a tax of 20 shillings be paid by each proprietor for the purpose of making roads.
Benjamin Bellows and John Kilburn were directly and largely interested in the settlement and prosperity of Rockingham. They resided in Walpole, where may still be found numerous descendants of each, but owned lands here. They were public spirited men and in full sympathy with the best interests of all the settlers in this vicinity. They provided places of shelter and safety, where the people could easily defend themselves against the attacks of the Indians; and in times of danger they invariably resorted to the same.
The old Bellows fort stood on the north end of a hill near the house where the family afterwards resided, and which is still occupied by a grandson of Esq. Bellows. It was well located for defense against the Indians, and commanded an extensive view of the adjoining country.
He kept a large number of men in his employ, all of whom were well armed; and he also had one heavy iron gun, furnished by the royal government for the public protection.
John Kilburn's house which partook somewhat of the nature of a fort without being one, was nearly two miles further north, located on the low terrace. A desperate Indian fight occurred here Aug. 17, 1755. Four hundred Indians demanded of Kilburn that he and his party should surrender. But, although his force, all told, consisted of but four men and two women, he indignantly refused to surrender, and in reply to the chief who promised "good quarter." he replied, "begone you black rascal, or I'll quarter you !" The fight immediately commenced. The Indians fired on the house from the high terrace on the east, and the roof was soon completely riddled. The women worked with a will loading the guns, of which they had a number, and casting bullets. They melted up their pewter spoons and dishes, and when these were exhausted they suspended blankets in the chamber to catch the Indian balls which were sent back with deadly effect into the savage ranks. The unequal contest continued all the afternoon till nearly dark, when the Indians, thinking that Kilburn must have a regiment of men in the house, gave up the fight and returned to Canada, and never dared to molest Walpole again. Only one person in the house was injured. A man named Peak was wounded in the hip by carelessly exposing himself at a porthole, and afterward died for want of medical treatment.
John Kilburn lived to the good old age of 85 years; died April, 1789.
The first bridge across the Connecticut was built at Bellows Falls in 1785, and till 1796 was the only bridge crossing the river.
The building of this bridge was a great achievement. Isaiah Thomas in the Massachusetts Spy, Feb. 10, 1785, notices it as follows: "We hear from Walpole, State of New Hampshire, that Col. Enoch Hale hath erected a bridge across Connecticut river on the Great Falls, at his area expense. This bridge is thought to exceed any ever built in America in strength, beauty and public utility. This bridge is 360 feet in length and about 60 feet above high water mark.
Hale's bridge, as it was called, was 365 feet long, and was supported in the middle by a pier built on the large rock which divides the channel into two streams at high water. From the bridge an interesting view of the falls was had. The falls were then regarded as presenting "one of the most stupendous spectacles in nature." At that time the scene was much wilder than now. Large trees covered the banks to the water's edge - the volume of water was greater than now and more rapid. The Great Falls as well as the bridge attracted much attention from the traveling public, and travelers made it a point to stop and examine the wonders of the place.
After long-continued rains, and when the snow melts suddenly in the spring, the river rises very rapidly and often to a great height. Freshets occur yearly, and are sometimes so extensive that great damage is done.
About 1797, there was a great freshet which carried away the upper locks and did much damage. Yet it was not without its benefits. At that time there was (and is now) a place known as the "stone-hole," from which stone had been quarried to build a dam near where the saw-mill now stands. Below this dam was a swampy mud-hole. The freshet carried this dam away and with it vast quantities of rocks and earth which completely filled the swamp and formed a tract of valuable land whereon shops and mills were built which stood many years till destroyed by fire.
Since then several severe freshets have occurred, noticeable among which was one in May, 1818, one in September, 1828, another in February, 1839, when much damage was done to mills and bridges. At this time a bridge over the Connecticut, at Charlestown was carried away and came down the river in two parts, the largest part swept majestically over the dam and rapids. In 1841 there was another destructive freshet. The guard gates of the canal were not equal to the pressure, and gave way, letting a volume of water through that made a breach in the canal that soon extended from 15 to 100 feet in width. The quantity of earth moved, was estimated at 7000 cubic yards, and the damage to the canal and locks at $3000. The whole rise of water in the eddy below the falls was 22 1/2 feet. In April, 1862, was a freshet which threw this and all previously recorded freshets completely in the shade. The water rose to a point higher than it was ever known to reach before. Great alarm prevailed concerning the safety of many places in and about the village of Bellows Falls.
THE GREAT FRESHET OF OCT. 3, 1869.
The damage done to the town was almost beyond compute. At Bartonsville the Williams river overflowed its banks and made a short cut across a bow, sweeping away the highway, portions of the railroad track, the depot and several dwellings. Bridges were lifted from their foundations and swept down the stream. The water inundated the meadows and carried away a great many fields of corn. Saxton's river rose with a sudden fierceness that was terribly destructive to property. The village of Saxton's River suffered severely, the damage done to that place being estimated at $75,000. A wool-pulling establishment, belonging to L. C. Hubbard, was carried away, with all its contents. Mr. Hubbard's loss was estimated at about $15,000. Messrs. J. A. Farnsworth, J. F. Alexander, and Benjamin Scofield lost heavily. A fine meadow farm a short distance below the village, belonging to a young man named Barber, was damaged to the amount of $5000. The river left its channel and cut a new one the entire length of the meadow.
It was one of the most remarkable floods of the present century. A large number of lives were lost.
TOWN REPRESENTATION AND TOWN CLERKS.
The State of Vermont began to legislate for the people in 1778. The General Assembly held its first session at Windsor, commencing March 12, and continuing 15 days. The first Assembly passed a few temporary laws but we find no record of them. They resolved, however, " that the plain word of God, as contained in the Scriptures, to be the law of the land."
Rockingham sent as delegates to this convention two men of considerable influence, Jona. Webb and Reuben Jones.
The following persons have represented this town in the General Assembly, and we add with them the names of the several town clerks.
Benjamin Bellows was clerk for the town proprietors from 1752 to 1760, when Joshua Webb was chosen first town clerk. He held the office one year, when Moses Wright was elected. From 1779 to 1788 the town sent two representatives, since which time it has sent but one.
Yrs. Representatives Town Clerks 1779 Joshua Webb, William Simonds Reuben Jones 1780 Joshua Webb, William Simonds Reuben Jones 1781 Joshua Webb, William Simonds Colburn Preston 1782 Joshua Webb, William Simonds Elias Olcott 1783 Joshua Webb, William Simonds John Roundy 1784 Oliver Lovell, Jehial Webb John Roundy 1785 Jehial Webb, Jehial Webb John Roundy 1786 Jehial Webb, Elijah Knights John Roundy 1787 Jehial Webb, Elijah Knights John Roundy 1788 Jona. Holton Jona. Holton 1789 Samuel Cutler Jehial Webb 1790 Jehial Webb Jehial Webb 1791 Samuel Cutler Jehial Webb 1792 Da'd. Sanderson Jehial Webb 1793 Da'd. Sanderson Jehial Webb 1794 Da'd. Sanderson Jehial Webb 1795 Samuel Cutler Jehial Webb 1796 Samuel Cutler Jonathan Burt 1797 Samuel Cutler Jonathan Burt 1798 Samuel Cutler Jonathan Burt 1799 Samuel Cutler Jonathan Burt 1800 Samuel Cutler Jonathan Burt 1801 Da'd. Sanderson Jonathan Burt 1802 Daniel Ferrand Jonathan Burt 1803 Levi Sabin Jonathan Burt 1804 Alex. Campbell Jonathan Burt 1805 Elijah Knight Jonathan Burt 1806 Alex. Campbell Jonathan Burt 1807 Alex. Campbell Jonathan Burt 1808 Alex. Campbell Jonathan Burt 1809 Elijah Knight Jonathan Burt 1810 David Campbell Jonathan Burt 1811 David Campbell Jonathan Burt 1812 Henry Lake Jonathan Burt 1813 Joseph Weed Joseph Weed 1814 Henry Lake Joseph Weed 1815 Benj. Smith Joseph Weed 1816 Benj. Smith Joseph Weed 1817 Peter Willard Joseph Weed 1818 A. S. Campbell Joseph Weed 1810 A. S. Campbell Joseph Weed 1820 Henry Lake, jr Joseph Weed 1821 Henry Lake, jr Russel Burke 1822 Eleazer Allbee L. W. Hubbard 1823 Eleazer Allbee A. S. Campbell 1824 Benj. Smith, jr A. S. Campbell 1825 Benj. Smith, jr A. S. Campbell 1826 William Hall A. S. Campbell 1827 William Hall A. S. Campbell 1828 A. S. Campbell A. S. Campbell 1829 Manasseh Divoll A. S. Campbell 1880 Manasseh Divoll A. S. Campbell 1831 A. S. Campbell A. S. Campbell 1832 N. B. Roundy A. S. Campbell 1833 N. B. Roundy A. S. Campbell 1834 William Henry A. S. Campbell 1835 William Henry A. S. Campbell 1836 Manasseh Divoll A. S. Campbell 1837 John Seaver A. S. Campbell 1838 Asa Wentworth A. S. Campbell 1839 Asa Wentworth A. S. Campbell 1840 Asa Wentworth A. S. Campbell 1841 Sam'l. L. Billings A. S. Campbell 1842 J. S. Fullerton A. S. Campbell 1843 No choice A. S. Campbell 1844 Henry Walker A. S. Campbell 1845 Daniel Kellogg Sam'l. L. Bilings 1846 Royal Earle James Willard 1847 Benj. Smith, jr James Willard 1848 A. Wentworth James Willard 1849 A. Wentworth S. L. Billings 1850 Russel Hyde S. L. Billings 1851 Russel Hyde S. L. Billings 1852 H. E. Stoughton A. S. Campbell 1853 Q. M. Dorand A. S. Campbell 1854 Q. M. Dorand A. S. Campbell 1855 A. Wentworth, jr. A. S. Campbell 1856 A. Wentworth A. S. Campbell 1857 J. D. Bridgman A. S. Campbell 1858 J. D. Bridgman A. S. Campbell 1859 Fr'klin Severens A. S. Campbell 1860 Fr'klin Severens A. S. Campbell 1861 Fr'klin Severens A. S. Campbell 1862 Fr'klin Severens A. S. Campbell 1863 Fr'klin Severens A. S. Campbell 1864 Fr'klin Severens A. S. Campbell 1865 Fr'klin Severens A. S. Campbell 1866 William H. Johnson 1867 William H. Johnson 1868 Josiah G. Divoll 1869 Josiah G. Divoll 1890 J. H. Williams
ROCKINGHAM. - Continued.
BY B. H. ALLBEE.
Geologically, Rockingham is well worth the attention of the most learned in that science. Many of the characteristics in this respect are strongly marked. The rocks are mostly azoic, and the principal veins are gneiss, what Prof. Hitchcock called the Green Mountain gneiss, calciferous mica schist, clay slate, and talcose schist, distributed in parallel ranges extending from north to south and extending from west to east, in the order named, varying in width from one to three miles. What is known as the fourth geological section of Vermont begins at Bellows Falls, and many excellent specimens have been placed in the State cabinet from here. Twenty varieties of minerals are found, some very rare and beautiful.
Great changes have taken place in the Connecticut valley in past ages and at Bellows Falls is seen the remains of the cause which led to the last, great change in the valley above. The conclusion is that the Connecticut valley is the product of erosion, extending over millions of years probably, and that the surface, if not the bed of the lake, which formerly filled the present valley, was once as high as Ascutney mountain, and the only possible outlet for this vast body of water was at Union, a mountain town of New Hampshire, which has a water-worn gorge through which the waters of Connecticut river once flowed over into the Merrimac valley beyond. At that time there was a lake above the present falls 800 feet deep, or as deep as Mt. Kilburn is high. Gradually the rocky barrier was worn away and the succession of terraces marks the various levels of the lake as the waters settled from year to year.
These terraces are objects of common observation to all who visit the town, and extend not only along Connecticut river, but alongside Williams and Saxton's river. Between Williams and Connecticut rivers there is a clearly defined sea beach. This beach is now 700 feet above the level of the ocean.
This is a post village situated on Saxton's river, three miles west of Saxton's River, containing about twenty dwellings, one church, stores and a soapstone manufactory and other necessary shops. It was named from J. T. Cambridge, who began the clothiers business there in 1825, and was named by Esquire Reed, then living in Saxton's River.
The first settlement of Cambridgeport was in 1792. A Mr. Adams went from the settlement at Saxton's River, making his way by marked trees, to what is now Cambridgeport and built a hut, moving his family there in the same year. He was dissatisfied, or other causes conspired to cause him to repent of his undertaking, for he remained only a short time, and no other attempts at settlement were made for some years. Men by the name of Bulling, in 1810, bought a tract of 1000 acres, including the present site of the village, on which they erected some mills. In 1812 Nathaniel Bennett bought the mills and built two dwelling houses, and in 1814 Simeon Evans opened the first store. The same year the first road was laid out, running east of the present factory pond and over the hills into Grafton. The same Mr. Evans built a tavern. He died in 1819. As before stated, Mr. Cambridge began the clothiers trade in 1825, but soon after fire destroyed the mills with a quantity of cloth. In 1838, the present Union church was built and the Methodists, Baptists, Universalists and Congregationalists took turns in supplying preaching. The same year, a factory was erected by Royal Earl, John Campbell, Josiah Stoddard and Roswell Minard. This company worked it a few years, when it fell into the hands of Ithamer Balls, he sold it to George Perry, Benjamin Schofield and others. It was burned in 1860, but was immediately rebuilt and it was finally burned, never to be rebuilt. A man by the name of Cochran was the first blacksmith in 1819, and a hatter, Mr. Mitchell, came the same year; a man by the name of Howard opened a law office there in 1840, but soon died.
Rockingham is a post village in the centre of the town, on a branch of Williams river. It was formerly quite a business center. It has a Congregational church, built in 1787, the oldest in town and with the possible exception of one or two, is the oldest in Vermont. Inside, the old fashioned pews, the high pulpit with suspended sounding board and the gallery on three sides. The village derives its chief interest from the fact that it contained the town house and in early times the people convened there for public worship. Since the coming of the railroad, the village, though only half a mile from the station, has declined in importance and the business mainly goes to other and larger places.
is a small post village on Williams river and in the extreme northwestern part of the town. It is little more than a hamlet now, though previous to 1869 it was an important and growing manufacturing centre. It was named from Jerry Barton, one of the first settlers in that locality. Now it has a railroad station, post and express offices, one or two small manufactories and 20 to 30 dwellings. It is a busy place, and is rich in agricultural resources.
Its manufacturing was growing, up to October, 1869, but the flood of that year stopped the growth of the place. There is one school, but no established church, though religious services are frequently held in the school house by clergymen from different parts of the town.
is a hamlet located on Williams river between Rockingham and Bartonsville.
The water power is furnished by a fall in Williams river of 20 feet or more, with a gorge below. The mills a few years ago manufactured wood buttons and the bell-shaped ornaments which were japanned and had the appearance of jet. When the work was begun there was only one other shop like it in the United States.
The first census of Rockingham was taken in 1771 and the population then numbered 225, 50 of whom were married and heads of families. The enumeration was as follows : 48 white males under 16 years of age; 62 over 16 ; 4 over 60; 52 white females under 16 ; 57 over 16 ; one colored male and one colored female. From that year forward the population increased rapidly, and in 20 years, 1791, had increased to 1235, and in 1890 it was over 5000.
Joshua Webb and Reuben Jones were the first delegates from Rockingham to the first general assembly of Vermont, which convened at Windsor, March 12, 1778.
DR. RUEBEN JONES
was one of the early settlers of Rockingham and for some time was the only physician and surgeon in town. The doctor was a man of extreme patriotism and a pronounced whig. He was clerk of the meeting held at Westminster, Apr. 11, 1775, to "devise means to resist the progress of oppression." In company with Joshua Webb he was a delegate to the Dorset convention of Sept. 25, 1776, and for three years represented Rockingham in the general assembly. At the time of the court troubles in Westminster, Dr. Jones mounted his horse and rode all the way to Dummerston to call the people to arms to resist the encroachments of the party of oppression. In all questions where patriotism was involved, the doctor was found on the side of his country. He was hospitable and generous to the extreme, and used money so lavishly that he became deeply loaded with debt and was confined in the debtors prison in 1785. He escaped and was re-arrested but was finally rescued from the officers by his friends. A short time after he removed to Chester: Dr. Cutler having arrived in town; and, afterward represented Chester in the general assembly. In character, he was an enthusiast and always warmly advocated any cause he espoused and no doubt did much to aid his town and state in some of those dark hours before, during and after the Revolution.
The name of Olcott has been familiar in this town since 1763, when Elias Olcott came from Bolton, Conn., at the age of 19 years. He married Sybil Dutton who died Aug. 27, 1802, aged 75 years. Mr. Olcott died Oct. 29, 1794. His son, Elias, was born in Rockingham and married Fanny Hastings of Charlestown, N. H., he died in 1854, aged 84. Elias, a son of Elias, jr., was born in town and married Charlotte Divoll of this town, who died Apr. 7, 1858. Oscar D., a son, lives on Atkinson Street in Bellows Falls and is prominent in town affairs. He is now treasurer of the town and enjoys the wealth that has accumulated through successive generations of Olcotts. The farm on which the first Olcott settled, still remains in the family, having never passed from their hands since 1763.
was the original of a vast family of Allbees who sprang from this town. He was born in Massachusetts and came to Rockingham previous to the revolution, and in the military officers of Windham county are found the names of many Allbees who achieved distinction in patriotic service. Ebenezer married Rachel Avery of Rockingham, and raised a family of 10 children. Ebenezer's son John was born in Rockingham Feb. 18, 1778, and raised a family of 12 children. Lewis, the fifth son, now lives in town, and Burton H., a grandson of Obadiah, the third son, is also a resident. John died at the age of 58. Samuel, the oldest son of John, lived on the old homestead until his death, which occurred three years ago, at the advanced age of 95. A daughter of Samuel, Jane, married Carlton E. Webb, a descendant of the Webbs who played such an important part in early days. Lewis married a granddaughter of Capt. William Thayer, Sarah K., and they now live on the farm upon which Cast. William Thayer settled when he came from Massachusetts in 1789. He has accumulated a large property. Children: Leonard, Ann and William Pitt.
There was another branch of the family founded by Deacon Albee, who came from Massachusetts in early times and settled on the Walter Wiley place. He had a son John, who married Sophia Smith, and raised a numerous family. The Allbees have always taken a prominent part in the affairs of the town, and a large number are now settled within the borders of the town, comprising not only farmers, but lawyers, doctors, journalists and merchants.
was a native of Windham, Conn., and came to Westminster in 1766. In 1767 he removed to the northwest part of Rockingham and stayed a year, after which he returned to Westminster, where he remained until the spring of 1777, and settled on the farm which has been in the Webb family ever since, six generations having lived upon it. Joshua Webb was a remarkable man in many ways. He was the first representative and held that office for 15 successive years. He married Hannah Abbe of Windham, Conn., by whom he had 11 children, all born in Connecticut. He died in this town April 17, 1808, aged 86. His wife died in 1815, aged 90. His son Calvin came to Rockingham with him. and settled on the farm with his father. Ethan B., son of Calvin, was born on the same farm and spent his life there, dying March 15, 1872, aged 88 years. He married Fanny Burnham of Chester, who died Sept. 24, 1876, aged 79. Three children, Sarah, Carleton E. and Emely, have always lived in this town. Carleton is a prominent man in town and is now town officer. There are other members of the family in this town and those immediately around, all of whom are much respected. Much of the ability of the ancestors has been transmitted to the descendants. Such families never die out, but are always remembered.
was a native of Lynn, Mass., and came to Rockingham among the first settlers. He bought a large tract of land in the southwest corner of the town, which he divided equally among his sons, Samuel, John, Joel and Asa. Mr. Barry was one of the first deacons of the old Congregational church. He took a conspicuous part in church and town affairs. His son John married Thankful L. Cone of Westminster. Joel, born in Rocking-ham, married Hannah, daughter of Samuel Ober, and had three children, all of whom are now living, Kendall P., in Saxton's River, Mary A., in Marlboro, N. H., and Lucius M., in Wardsboro, Vt. Kendall P., who married Clarissa Perry, a native of Hancock, N. H., has two sons living in this town, Lucius P. and Milton P. Milton P. is a prominent business man of Saxton's River.
was born in Jeffrey, N. H., and came to Rockingham in early times crossing the Connecticut on a raft of logs in company with Messrs. Bellows and Lovell. He first settled near the centre of the town, but afterward removed to Saxton's River and bought 200 acres of land which he occupied while he lived, and died at the age of 88 years. His son Isaac was born in town and spent most of his life here with the exception of a year or more spent at Manchester, Vt., where he married Lydia Wilkins. He died in 1859 or 1860. The Ober family is well known and has many influential members.
came from Cohasset, Mass., and was one of the first settlers of Springfield, Vt., to which town he went on horseback, with his young wife, and a party of friends in 1792. They camped in the forest while the company prepared log houses, and afterward lived in the wilderness and reared a family of children. Abel, one of the younger sons, married Priscilla Hodgkins of Chester and raised a family of ten children, one of whom, Amos H., the youngest son, is now a resident of Bellows Falls. He was born in Springfield. In 1878 he bought, in company with his son, a stove and tin business in Bellows Falls, which they conducted for some years. Mr. Brown has been bailiff of Bellows Falls corporation and has held other important offices of trust and responsibility. He has two children, Nellie and Frank H., who was at one time secretary to Gov. Farnham and later was proprietor of the Bellows Falls Times. He shared with his father in the hardware business, and is now one of the proprietors of the Waban Paper mills at Charles River, Mass. He has a wife and one child.
SAMUEL AND RUFUS GUILD
were twin brothers born in Dedham, Mass., where they married Annie and Mary Hoadley, sisters, natives of New Hampshire, and in 1804 they came to Bellows Falls engaging in the lumber business. Twenty years later Samuel was killed while at work. His son Samuel, was a paper maker and set up the first paper machine ever used in Vermont. For many years he was a foreman in the mills at Bellows Falls, where he married Roxanna Stevens and died at an advanced age. He had several sons and daughters, of whom George O. Guild, who has been a merchant in Bellows Falls for 30 years, and was postmaster under Cleveland. Mr. Guild has recently purchased 15 acres of land and intends to build a paper mill at an early day.
DR. SETH M. BLAKE
is a son of Joseph and Prudence Blake and was born in Brookfield, Vt., Aug. 21, 1817. In 1839 he came to Bellows Falls and began work in the office of the Bellows Falls Gazette, published by John W. Moore. In June, 1843, in company with G. F. Bailey, he purchased the Gazette published it in company one year, when in 1844 he purchased Mr. Bailey's interest and conducted it alone until 1846.
In 1847 he opened a dental office in Bellows Falls and practiced his profession for 30 years. During these years his work as a lecturer and writer attests to his ability. He married Martha J. Glover of Concord, N. H., Aug, 16, 1842, and they have a family of six sons and two daughters, of whom seven, as well as the parents are yet alive. Frederick J. is an artist at Bellows Falls, and is making himself famous. Others are in responsible and lucrative positions.
Dr. Blake was the first man to pen a word in favor of the extension of the Fitchburg railroad from Keene here. It was in an editorial published in his paper in 1843, and he has lived to see the town entered from four different directions, connecting it with all the great commercial centres of New England and New York. He has always been a student, more especially on astronomical subjects. At his home on Atkinson street in Bellows Falls he has an observatory on his house, in which is mounted a telescope powerful enough to enable one to view the more important celestial bodies.
DANIEL CAMPBELL, M. D.,
was born in Westminster, March 8, 1820. His father was Edward R. Campbell. The family are directly descended from the house of Argyle in Scotland. Daniel is a relative of Dr. John Campbell of Putney and Dr. Alexander Campbell of Rockingham. Dr. Campbell was educated in the common schools and at the Burr & Burton academy at Manchester, Vt. He spent his vacations in teaching, to help himself along. At the Vermont Medical college at Woodstock and at the Pittsfield, Mass., Medical college he obtained his medical education, receiving his degree from the latter place. For a year or more after his graduation, in 1842, he was demonstrator of anatomy at the Berkshire Medical college, Pittsfield, from which he had just graduated, and was associated in practice with Prof. H. H. Childs, at that time lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts. He left Pittsfield and came to Westminster, where he married Julia A. Hall, daughter of Capt. Edward Hall. They have a family of eight children, most of whom are now living. He practiced in Westminster West ten years and then moved to Saxton's River, where he has been in practice 35 years. Some years ago he was offered the chair of theory and practice at Dartmouth college, but preferred his country practice. He represented Rockingham in the Legislature in 1864-65. In 1880 he was defeated for Congress by James M. Tyler of Brattleboro.
Of his family there are now living Flora E., wife of Henry Frost; Harriet J., wife of Preston H. Hadley, cashier of the Bellows Falls National bank ; Clara O., wife of George R. Wales, proprietor of one of the leading dry goods houses of Bellows Falls, and Edward R., who follows his father's profession at Bellows Falls. Two children died young and two are at home in Saxton's River. Dr. Campbell has made a reputation which few physicians in the country are able to attain.
HON. JABEZ DELANO BRIDGMAN
was born in Grafton, June 10, 1828, and was a son of Dr. B. H. Bridgman. He received an academic education, and when 20 years old entered the office of C. I. Walker and George B. Kellogg of Saxton's River, as a law student, and when one year later Walker & Kellogg dissolved partnership, he accompanied Mr. Walker to Bellows Falls, where he completed his studies and was admitted to the bar in 1851. About that time Mr. Walker accepted a professorship in a Detroit, Mich., law school, and Mr. Bridgman purchased his library and continued his practice. A few years after he was married to Sarah, daughter of William Conant of Bellows Falls. In 1857-58 he represented the town in the Legislature, and was elected senator in 1880. He enlisted in the 16th Vt. Vols., was chosen adjutant but served only a few months when he resigned and returned to his law practice. He died, April 7, 1887, His partner, G. A. Weston, continues the business.
JAMES HENRY WIILLIAMS
was born in Chester, Jan. 16, 1813. In February, 1834, he came to Bellows Falls and entered the employ of the Bellows Falls Bank, remaining there until June, 1839, when he was elected cashier of the bank at Woodstock. That position he held until June, 1841, when he was chosen cashier of the Cheshire bank at Keene. In 1847 he was selected as cashier of the National bank of Bellows Falls, succeeding Hon. William Henry, who was elected to Congress that year. In 1872, Mr. Williams was elected president of the bank, holding the position up to his death, Aug. 13, 1881. In 1847 he was mainly instrumental in the formation of the Bellows Falls Savings institution, of which he was treasurer for many years. He was instrumental in founding the Episcopal school, St. Agnes' Halls, and in the erection of Union and Centennial blocks. At the time of his death he was an officer in every railroad company whose lines run into Bellows Falls, and had been a director in the Rutland railroad from the formation of the company in 1847.
His son, James H., is now president of the bank, and prominently identified with the Episcopal church, and to his late wife is due the beautiful chapel and parish house of
Immanuel church. She gave the money for its erection and furnishing, but lived only a short time after its dedication. Mr. Williams is an officer in a number of railroad companies and a member of the State Legislature.
Another son, John H., is secretary of the Bellows Falls Savings institution. He has been elected a director in the Vermont Valley Railroad company.
HON. A. N. SWAIN
was born in Reading, Vt., July 12, 1828, and when 19 years old went into the Journal office at Windsor to learn the printer's trade. After serving his apprenticeship, he went to Brattleboro where he resided over two years. In 1856 he married Susan W. Putnam, and came to Bellows Falls and began the publication of the Bellows Falls Times, of which he was editor and proprietor 33 years, selling out in September, 1888 to Frank H. Brown. Mr. Swain was an able newspaper writer and always stood for what was best and truest in men and party principles. All through the dark hours before, during and after the war, the Bellows Falls Times spoke fearlessly for the right. Its editor became the leader of the better part of the population and his reputation as a fearless exponent of principles extended far beyond the confines of his town and the utterances of the Times were quoted far and near. Swain of the Times; McIndoe of the Vermont Journal; Stone of the St. Johnsbury Caledonian and Greene of the Woodstock Standard! What a quartette of noble workers in the cause of truth and right. Today only Mr. Swain is left, but the works of all live after them.
In 1870 he was a member of the constitutional convention, and met as colleagues, such men as Hon. Edward J. Phelps and others of almost similar prominence, in revising the constitution of the State. He considers it the most important appointment of his life.
In 1872 Mr. Swain represented this town in the Legislature and again in 1876. In 1888 he was elected to the State Senate and served one term. He was appointed on the Normal School educational committee. He is now enjoying the well earned fruits of his labors, in his pleasant home on Westminster Street in Bellows Falls. There he and his excellent wife are spending their life's decline in peace and enjoyment. Mr. Swain is a justice of the peace, which makes him police tustice of Bellows Falls. He is president of the Rockingham Free Library association. He is a living example of the prizes which can be won in country journalism. Mr. Swain is entitled to the comfort he is now enjoying.
In Revolutionary times Rockingham was a strong Whig town and very decided opposition to the Tories was manifested, and the people of the town were among the first to resist the king's officers. The Rockingham militia, composed of 40 men or over, commanded by Capt. Stephen Sargent, aided in driving the British from the Westminster court house the 13th day of March, 1775, when the Revolutionary war really opened. Philip Safford, a lieutenant in the company, fought bravely while surrounded by Tories and though badly wounded by Sheriff Patterson's sword, it is said that he " knocked down ten of his adversaries with his bludgeon, making good his escape and daring the whole posse of King George to fight the Rockingham militia." A committee of inspection consisting of Moses Wright, Joseph Wood, William Simonds, Oliver Lovell and Ebenezer Fuller were chosen in July, 1775, and at the same time the following military officers were appointed : Joseph Wood, captain ; Charles Richard, lieutenant; and Isaac Stowell, ensign. The meeting of the committee was held at Jehiel Webb's house, and voted "to deal summarily with all who should speak against the common cause." This committee was dismissed several times and as often chosen again, indicating that there must nave been much opposition to its existence or its actions, or both.
The loyalty of the mass of the people never was questioned, however, and in 1777 a meeting was held to consider means for levying men to fill Col. Warner's regiment, or to raise money for that purpose. It was voted, however, "to do our equal proportion in maintaining and supporting the just cause of America." Thus was the town ranged on the side of the struggling federation of States and cast its lot with the whole State in aiding to carry on the war. Another meeting was held June 23, and the town decided to receive ammunition consisting of powder, bullets and flints, of the committee, sent from the State of New York. Up to this meeting the names of 55 men are found who had taken the oath of allegiance. The names of 20 are recorded as having marched to Ticonderoga and 22 marched to Manchester, some probably being present at the battle of Bennington. The records do not show how extensive may have been other soldiers from this town during the Revolution, but, inasmuch as loyal men everywhere gave up every other consideration to fight for the independence of the nation, it is probable that many a sanguinary Revolutionary battlefield saw some of Rockingham's sturdy sons.
Whatever may have been the state of feeling in the war of 1812, no record appears that the town took any particular part in that period of fighting. Indeed, the war of 1812 was so much a war on the water that there may have been no call for any special display of patriotism on the part of Rockingham men.
In the Mexican war a few are found, but not so many as in the Revolution. One reason probably was, that there were more men and the war was so short fewer were needed, comparatively. A few soldiers of that war are probably buried in some of our churchyards, but none are left to tell the tale now inside the limits of the town.
When the battle cry was again sounded in 1861, the men of Rockingham responded nobly. In common with every town in the State the insult to the flag stirred their hearts and sent a wave of patriotism over the town, which culminated in a meeting, April 24, 1861, at which among others, the following resolution was adopted:
Resolved: That we, citizens of Bellows Falls, here in meeting assembled, do pledge to every patriot of Bellows Falls who will volunteer to defend our country from assaults of rebels, that we will see that his wants and the wants of his family while he is engaged in the service of his country are supplied."
The exertions in raising money for bounties, enlisting troops, private subscriptions, and the aid of the women, will compare with that for dozens of other Vermont towns. Under the spirit an impulse of the resolution quoted, the town furnished 269 men, among whom 39 were substitutes, and 32 citizens paid commutation fees. The details of those dark days, when the stability of the Union wavered in the balance, are the same as for every town. Hope, fear, doubt, hung alternately over the hearts of the people, until the final stand at Appomattox Court House, and Lee's army laid down its arms forever. Then the Rockingham boys came "marching home" and settled on the farms, or went into the workshop once more. From that time on the history of the town has been one of peace.
The most conspicuous soldier developed by the rebellion was Gen. Lewis A. Grant, now assistant secretary of war. He was an attorney in Bellows Falls about war times, but rose in the service to be a brigadier general, and commanded the Old Vermont Brigade, which became so famous in fight. Others just as gallant and brave bared their breasts to the storm, but General Grant was the greatest among men who were all great.