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,
Pages 528 – 531
By HOLLIS TOWN
But little is known to the writer of the early settlement of this town except what the records show. It was chartered by Gov. Wentworth, Sept. 9, 1761; was originally six miles square; is situated in the western part of Windham County, in lat. 420, 58' and long. 4°, 8' and is bounded north by Stratton, east by Dover and a part of Wardsboro, south by Searsbury and a part of Wilmington, and west by Glastonbury. It lies 14 miles northeast from Bennington and 16 northwest from Brattleboro. The township is but little settled, and is very mountainous. The most noted mountain is Mount Pisgah, which extends along the eastern part of the township. Deerfield River is the principal stream. It runs through the township from north to south. The first inhabitants, or the greater portion of them, settled in the east part of the town. Daniel Rice, Bezaleel Waste, Eben Most, David Babcock and Jonathan Richardson, settled in the northwesterly part of the town near the Great Meadows (so-called) situated upon the east branch of the Deerfield River. The early settlers in the east part of the town were James Parmele, John Parmele, Percy Rice, William Lawton, Silas Crosby, Ephraim Hodges, Jacob Williams and Peter Leach.
THE NAMES OF THE GRANTEES OF SOMERSET
Thomas Denny, John Houghton, Judah Moor, David Hall, Nehemiah Wright, Moses Gelb, Henry King, Daniel Jones, Benj. Sanderson, Jonathan Nail, Daniel Query, Noah Jones, Nathan Sargent, Jos. Chaplin, Asa Stores, Peris Rice, Timothy Nurse, Samuel Robinson, Ebenezer Fisk, Jacob Fisk, Andrew Haskil, Jonas Fay, Samuel Ruggles, John Haskil, Solomon Green, John Moffat, John Beauneau, Elijah Williams, John Bird, Elisha Goddard, Samuel Trask, Amos Putman, Jonathan Waters, Jr., Jonathan Sibley, Johnson Walter, Abijah Tucker, Phineas Jones, Robt. Henry, Matthias Weston, Bartholomew Woodbury, Ben j. Lewiston, Sam'l Deany, Ebenezer Chaplin, John Fletcher, Jonathan Stone, Wm. Houshard, Seth Washmore, Joseph Plummer, Wilder Willard, Ichabod Odel, James Taylor, John Putnam, Elijah Dickinson, Obediah Dickinson, Daniel Watson, Willard Stevens, Moses Singlebury, Ephraim Rice, Richard Dodge, Thomas Beard, Lampson Sheaf, Esq., John Downing, Esq.
The town was organized in 1792. The first freeman's meeting held in 1799.
The first town meeting was warned by Isaac Wheeler, Esq., of Whitington, held Nov. 19, 1792, at the dwelling house of Oliver Kimpton. Silas Crosby, moderator; James Parmele, town clerk; John Parmele, Percy Rice, Bezaleel Waste, selectmen; James Parmele, treasurer; Percy Rice, constable. This town was never run into divisions and allotted as must towns were. It was run in pitches; each proprietor made a survey of his lands. The several surveys marked upon the map of the town are as follows: Hazeltine's survey; Rice, Waste and Babcock's first and second surveys; Wm. Williams' first and second surveys; Luke Knowlton, Levi Hall, Isaac Wheeler, Nathan Wheeler and Richards' survey of Scott lands. Nearly all the inhabitants lived in the east part of the town until about 1840, when a new settlement commenced in the westerly part of the town, and the town meetings were always held in the east part until 1853, when a vote of the town was taken to hold the town meetings one-half the time at a new school house near the geographical centre of the town and the freeman's meetings at the present place. Meantime the inhabitants on the east side of the mountain were making every effort to be setoff to Dover and Wardsboro. In 1858 they succeeded in being annexed to Wilmington and Stratton, a strip two miles wide and four miles long to Wilmington, and two by two miles to Stratton, leaving the present town of Somerset four miles by six. The town of Wilmington refused to take the pauper resident on the territory set to Wilmington. The case went up to the Supreme Court and was decided against Wilmington. The present town of Somerset is comparatively level, especially the northwesterly portions, with a large amount of spruce and hard wood timber, together with good water power. The soil is rich and fertile, well adapted for English grain, grass and potatoes. Rev. Stephen Hitchcock was the first settled minister. There has been no settled minister in Somerset for more than 40 years. About 1835, a meeting-house was built just in the edge or just over the line between Somerset and Dover, the inhabitants of Somerset uniting with the Dover people in building the meeting-house, also in forming a church. The Rev. Daniel Leonard was the founder of this church and pastor for many years. About 1855, a society or church was formed of reformed Methodist. They have no resident minister. Rev. Thaddeus Cutler and Farnum Sprague have been their principal ministers. Hazelton Rice, Esq. and Ephriam Rice, Esq., were both town clerks for many years, and both represented the town, Ephriam Rice 13 years. I do not know as there were any soldiers in the 1812 or Mexican war from this town. In the last war there was from this town in Co. I, fourth Vt., Otis H. Pike, Ahar P. Pike, and Edward Lincoln. In the seventh Vt., Deliverance Pike, Oscar Pike, Asa Burnap and Lewis Corse. In the 8th Vt.., John M. Pike, Capt. Co. G, S. G. Stone and Timothy O. Negus. In 1st Vt. cavalry, Edward Rice and Daniel Burnet. There were drafted, Oscar W. Cutler; paid commutation, Emery I. Curtis. Eli Hall served but don't know to what regiment he was assigned; Charles Lowe, not accepted; Peter M. Stone, the town hired a substitute for him.
It appears from a letter I have just received from Mr. George E. Rice of West Dover, there was one soldier in the revolution from Somerset, Mr. Rice's grandfather; but the letter tells its own story.
LETTER FROM AN OLD MAN IN DOVER
The first settler in Somerset was Daniel Rice, my grandfather. In 1776, he settled on the farm I now own; his nearest neighbor was in Wilmington, about 7 miles. He built himself a shanty and kept bachelor hall for two or three years. He came from Hardwick, Mass. In 1777, he was at Wilmington after his weekly supply of provision, when he heard that the British army was marching towards Bennington. Went back to his shanty, took his gun and what ammunition he had, and crossed the Green Mountain through the wilderness and was in the battle of Bennington, Aug. 16, 1777. Was in the army three months, then went to Hardwick, Mass., and stayed through the winter. The next spring he returned to Somerset, and two of his brothers with him, Percy and Simeon. Percy purchased a large tract of land, part of it in Somerset and part in what was then Wardsboro. He built in Wardsboro on the farm now occupied by Abel Johnson. He was killed by the caving in of a well he was digging near his house. Daniel Rice married Sally Ball from New Bradford, Mass., in 1778, built a log house in which he lived six years, then built a framed house; went on horse back to Greenfield, Mass., after his nails, which were made by hand; the clapboard were split and shaved.
His children were: Daniel, Hazelton, David, Ephraim, Ashur, Susanah, Melinthy and Sally.
Daniel Rice's first purchase of land was 670 acres, for which he paid $640. He afterwards purchased several hundred acres of Col. Hazeltine and ran in debt for it, which caused him trouble. He was to pay for it in cattle and sheep; a mad dog bit 20 of his cattle; they went mad and died; he was unable to meet his payments. Col. Hazeltine got a writ out against his body and sent a sheriff from Windsor to serve it. Mr. Rice heard of it and avoided him by staying on the mountain west of his house the most of the time one summer. Burton was watching for him the most of the time for six months. On one occasion some of the boys saw him looking around in the woods near the house. Daniel, the oldest son, dressed himself in his father's clothes and started for the woods. Burton saw him and gave chase. Daniel managed to run around a deep mire or stump hole. Burton rushed for him, and went into the mud hole; he had considerable difficulty in extricating himself. When he came out he was covered with mud and slime. Daniel stood by and asked him what he was in there for; what he was after. He tried to get a clean suit to wear home, but failed, and went as he was. Never came back to serve his writ. The suit was settled by the Colonel giving Mr. Rice a longer time to make his payments.
I do not know why this town was called Somerset. Daniel Rice first settled and built a log house upon the great meadow. A heavy fall of rain caused the river to rise and overflow the meadow some two or three feet. Mrs. Rice and children were there alone. But Mr. Rice hastened home and with a horse brought them out safely. A saw and grist mill was built at the lower end of the meadow, but was not kept running a great length of time. Daniel Rice in a few years moved over upon the east side of the town where he lived to a good old age and died there. His son Ephraim lived upon the same farm and died there. George E. Rice, his son, now lives on the farm.
No post office was ever established in Somerset until 1870. At the setting of Congress in December, 1869 a petition was sent the postmaster general to establish a post office in Somerset, and the department did establish a special post office in Somerset, Windham county, Vt. and appointed Hollis Town, Jr. postmaster. We carry and receive our mails at Searsburg post office. The first mail was carried the fourth day of March, 1870.
DEATHS BY ACCIDENT
Three men have been killed in the new settled part of the town since 1841. In 1842 Samuel Mathews was killed instantly by the falling of a lodged tree. He was advanced in years. In 1858 Samuel Read was killed instantly in the same way, aged 38 years. On the morning of March 8, 1870, Hatsel P. Lyons took his ax and went to the woods to cut logs, and did not return at noon as usual. His wife feeling alarmed about him went to the woods and found him dead. He had lodged a spruce tree against a large birch tree. On arriving that morning he proceeded to cut down the birch tree, and in falling the main blow struck him on the back. It is not known whether it killed him instantly or not. He was a robust young man 28 years old. He left an infant son seven months old, whose mother died when it was a few days old. His sad death occurred but five days after his second marriage.
A complete list of Town Clerks in Somerset, Vt.:
James Parmele 1792-97, Silas Crosby 1798-99, Daniel Rice, 1800, 2, 3, 4, 13, Jacob Wellman 1801, Levi Crosby 1805, 6, 10, 11, 12, Thomas Rice 1307, 8, 9, Silvanus Parmele 1814-15-16, John Rice 1817-18, Hazelton Rice 1819-20, 24, 33, 37, 38, Elum French 1822, Jotham Pike 1823, Luther Alden 1828, Moses Pike 1834-35-36, Ephriam Rice 1839-50, Hollis Town 1851-80, and till October 20, 1881, the date of his death. Hollis Town, Jr., appointed November 7, 1881, by the selectmen to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Hollis Town. Hollis Town, Jr. 1882-83, J. W. Rice 1891.
A complete list of Town Treasurers for the town of Somerset, Vt.:
James Parmele 1792, 95, 97, Percy Rice 1793, 94, 96, John Parmelee 1798, 1803, 1807, Silas Crosby 1799, 1801, Daniel Rice 1800, 1802, James Palmer 1808-16, .Jotham Pike 1817-21, Hazelton Rice, 1822, 23, 24, 32, 33, 37, 51, Leonard Clark 1825, 26, 27, 29, Henry S. Cooper 1828, Joseph Morse 1830, 31, 38-45, Levi Snow 1834-36, Rufus Cobb 1846-51, John Kinsman Jr., 1852-55, Gideon N. Parsons 1855, Milo R. Crosby 1856-58, Hollis Town 1859-69, Sumner Curtis 1870-72, Elliot
Leonard 1873-83, Bion M. Leonard 1881, J. W. Rice 1891.
A list of Representatives from the town of Somerset, Windham county, Vt:
Daniel Rice 1799-1802, Hazelton Rice 1821, 46, Samuel Worthington 1824, 27, 29-30, Ephraim Rice 1826, 35,36, 39, 40, 41, 42.43.44, 45, 47, 49, 53, Charles Morse 1828, Elliot Morse 1832, 33, 34, Hollis Town 1837, 38, 48, 52, 54, 62, 63, 67, 68, 72, Joseph Morse 1850, 51, Milo R. Crosby 1855, 56, Gideon K. Morse 1857-58, Hazelton Rice, Jr., 1859, 60, Albert Blanchard 1864, Sumner Curtis 1865, 66, 69, 70, Asa Burnap, Jr. 1876, Franklin D. Chase 1880, Ebenezer Roberts 1882, J. W. Rice 1890.
The years 1803, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18,19, 20, 22, 23, 25, 31, 61, 74 and 78, it appears from the record there was no election.
Percy Rice 1792, Daniel Rice 1793, 98, 99, James Palmer 1794, Jacob Welman 1795, Richard Sawtell 1796, 1800, Ebenezer Waste 1797. Jonathan Stone 1801, William Abbee 1802, 5, 7, Luri Palmer 1803, John Parmele 1804, Ephriam Hodges 1806, John Kelley 1808, 12, 16, Daniel Rice, Jr. 1809, Edward F. Johnson 1810, John Rice 1811, 20, Hazelton Rice 1813, Thomas Rice 1814, Silvanus Parmely 1815, Luke Hiscock 1817, Levi Crosby 1818-19, Samuel Worthington 1821, 23, Rufus Cobb 1822, Luther Alden 1824-29, Joseph Pike 1827, Moses Pike 1830, 31, 38, 39, Isaac N. Pike 1832, Alexander H. Pike 1833, William H. Snow 1834, Levi Snow, Jr. 1835, Hollis Town 1836, 37, 79, Artemus Ward 1840, Gideon K. Morse 1841, 57, 58, George E. Rice 1842, 43, 44, 45, 46, 52, 53, 54, 55, Oliver Pike 1847, 18, Daniel Hill 1819, 50, Hiram M. Corse 1851, Ezra Stetson 1856, Hazelton Rice, Jr. 1859, 60, Hollis Town, Jr 1861, 62, 66, 67, 68, 69. 70, 71, 72, 73, 78, Emory I. Curtis 1863, 64, Sumner Curtis 1865, James C. Wheeler 1873, 75, 76, 77. 80, Charles R. Curtis 1874, Alfred A. Pike 1881, 82, 83, Mert Tudas 1891.