XX indexVermont  




 "This is a mountainous township, at the south-east corner of the county, watered by Deerfield River. Much of the land in the town is too elevated to admit of cultivation. When it was first settled is unknown." 

Gazetteer of Vermont, Hayward, 1849.

Written by Hon. Faxon L. Bowen. Published by request.

      READSBORO is situated in the southeast corner of Bennington county, and bounded on the north by Searsburg, on the east by Whittingham and Wilmington, on the south by Massachusetts, and on the west by Stamford and Woodford. The population in 1880 was seven hundred and forty-four. There are at present three post-offices in town, to wit: Readsboro, Readsboro Falls and Heartwellville. Eight schools are also maintained with an aggregate attendance of about two hundred pupils, and at a cost of about $1,000 per annum. Three churches comprise the church buildings in Readsboro, in only one of which are services regularly held, the Baptist society holding their meetings in the town-hall.

      The first white persons who traversed Readsboro are supposed to have been seventy-four soldiers on their return from the expedition against Crown Point, in December, 1759, who, intending to go to the fort then standing near where North Adams, Mass. is now situated, got lost, and striking to the west branch of the Deerfield River in the present town of Woodford, which they followed to the town of Charlemont, Mass., before reaching any settlement, striking the Deerfield River where the village of Readsboro now stands. At this point their provisions becoming exhausted, they made a halt, killed, roasted and ate a dog that accompanied them, and then continued their weary journey. They all reached Charlemont alive, although one of their number, Daniel DAVIDSON, who had enlisted at the early age of fifteen years, and who afterwards became a prominent citizen of Readsboro, was so exhausted and benumbed with cold that he lay down to sleep, but being soon missed by his companions they turned back and helped him along.

      Readsboro does not appear to have been settled under any township charter rights. The first grant of any part of the town was by the governor of New Hampshire in 1764, of 3,000 acres in the southeast part to Major Robert ROGERS, an army officer. Not complying with the conditions of the charter, and after the breaking out of the Revolutionary War joining the British and moving to Canada, his charter was treated as void. About the time of the grant to ROGERS was another of 2,000 acres to General Phineas LYMAN, by the name of WILMINGTON. This grant now constitutes the northwest corner of Readsboro and the east part of Searsburg, being six miles long by one-half mile wide. For many years this strip was claimed by Wilmington, and was finally settled partly by adjudication, and partly through a committee appointed by the Legislature at its session in 1853, and composed of Isaac Wright of Castleton, Edward D. BARBER of Middlebury, and John F. DEAN of Cavendish, who, after hearing the case, decided in favor of Readsboro and Searsburg as against Wilmington.

      Lieutenant-Governor Colden, of New York, issued a patent to John READ and twenty-four others in the name of Readsboro, in the county of Cumberland, April 4, 1770. This grant included the present town of Searsburg, and was bounded and described as follows, to wit: Commencing at a black spruce pine tree, marked by Phineas MANN with the letters S. E. for the southeast corner of Stamford, and on the north line of Massachusetts Bay; thence 80° east, 320 chains to the west bounds of Cumberland (now Whitingham); thence along the west bounds of Cumberland and Draper (now Wilmington), north toll east 960 chains to Somerset; thence along the south line of Somerset north 80° west 320 chains to the east bounds of Woodford; thence on the east bounds of Woodford and Stamford south 80° and 360 chains to the place of beginning. From this the town of Searsburg has been taken off, and owing to the encroachments of Stamford and Woodford and as now constituted the present town is eight miles long, four miles wide at the south end, and a little short of three and one-half miles wide at the north end, and contains about 20,480 acres. There are no existing evidences that the town was ever organized under the New York charter, and it is supposed that the patentees, mostly New Yorkers, fearing the troubles others had experienced in Vermont from "viewing," "beech seals." etc., abandoned Readsboro as worthless.

      When and by whom the first settlement was made is unknown, but by the petition of John HAMILTON and others, presented to the Legislature of Vermont in 1779, it appears that two settlements had been made, one by William BRUCE where the village of Heartwellville is now located, and the other by one WHIPPLE, who was then in the Continental army, from which he probably never returned, as no one has ever been able to learn anything more about him, or the locality of his settlement.

      In 1785 Throop CHAPMAN and one SLOAN from Conway, Mass., commenced a settlement on a farm formerly owned by Nathan S. BENNETT, about one mile north of the village of Readsboro. The same fall Simon MIQUER or MIQUERS, a Hessian soldier, who had been taken prisoner with Burgoyne at Saratoga, with his wife, and infant daughter, then a few months old, afterward Mrs. Betsey BOWEN, the second wife of James BOWEN, came and settled on North Hill. He was soon after followed by one ROOT and others. It is related by MIQUERS that when he first came to chop a little clearing for a house he saw no man for six weeks, his only visitor being a huge bear, which upon looking up from his work one morning he saw sitting up and calmly watching the movements so new to his bearship. Robert VALENTINE, an Irishman, also a prisoner taken from the British, settled about the same time near the cemetery. Some accounts claim these men were with BAUM and taken prisoners at Bennington. The first child born in town is supposed to have been Hannah, daughter of Throop CHAPMAN, born November 8, 1785. The first death in town was a young child of one COCHRAN, in 1786. It was buried between two rocks, nature's monuments, which shall endure. The first adult that died in town was Nabby, wife of Ebenezer THOMPSON, who died February 20, 1792, aged thirty-one years. The store of Elijah BAILEY was burned November 12, 1793, and with it the town records. John FAIRBANKS was then town. clerk.

      The first town meeting is supposed to have been held in 1786, at which time, in addition to the ordinary town officers, the inhabitants elected a board of State officers, when Ichabod STOCKWELL, the smallest man in town, was elected governor, and his salary fixed payable in vegetables, cabbage heads predominating. Ever after during his life he was known as "Governor" STOCKWELL. 

      The records of 1794, the earliest now in existence, show that in that year a town meeting was called by Joseph HARTWELL and Throop CHAPMAN, selectmen, to be holden on the 17th day of March, 1794, at the house of Robert VALENTINE. Captain Joseph HEARTWELL was moderator; John FAIRBANKS, town clerk; Simeon THAYER, first selectman, lister, treasurer, highway commissioner and fence viewer; Elijah BAILEY, selectman, sealer of weights and measures; Ezra AMIDON, selectman; Henry H. DAVIDSON, constable; Throop CHAPMAN, grand juror; Philip BAILEY and Daniel DAVIDSON, highway surveyors; Jerry DAVIDSON and Jedediah AMIDON, haywards or hog constables; Lieutenant Samuel AMIDON, surveyor of lumber; Elijah SIBLEY, fence viewer. The foregoing list will afford further information as to who were the early settlers. At a town meeting held May 1, 1794 it was voted to raise a tax of sixpence on the pound to support a school, and to divide the town into two districts, the branch to be the dividing line. Lois WARD was the first school teacher. She afterwards married one CADY, and died here in 1859, at the age of over one hundred years. In 1794 the taxpayers in the town numbered thirty-six. In 1796 they had increased to fifty-one. At a town meeting held that year, September 6th, "to see if the town will vote to build stocks," it was voted "there shall be no stocks built" Up to- 1800 the taxpayers numbered fifty-one. In 1810 the number had increased to sixty-seven.

      Daniel Henry DAVIDSON, spoken of as one of the early settlers, was great-grandfather to Montraville DAVIDSON, of Heartwellville. He located on lands awarded him by the government. The house formerly occupied by Martin STAFFORD, on North Hill, was built by his son, Henry H. DAVIDSON, previous to the year 1800.

      Among other early settlers may be mentioned Deacon Joy BISHOP, who came from Fair Haven, Conn., and who settled where George WALLACE now lives about 1794, cleared land, built a house, and then brought on his wife. On one occasion, being out of meal, he walked to Bennington and returned the same day, carrying one half bushel of rye for the support of his family. He died at the age of eighty-two.

      Joseph PARSONS, from Conway, Mass., settled just north of the village, near Robert VALENTINE's, about 1790. He soon removed to the north part of the State. In 1805, at the age of twenty-one, his son, Joseph, came back, and cleared up the farm where his son, Elijah A. PARSONS, now lives, in South Readsboro, and there resided until 1850, when he removed to Wisconsin, where he died.

      Lemuel BLANCHARD, the great-grandfather of the writer on the maternal side, originally from Stonington, Mass., but later from Guilford, settled in Readsboro Hollow, and was among the first comers. He was a rigid Seventh-day Baptist, and it is related of him, that he used to say, "his faith was so strong that he would believe his minister sooner than his own eyes." He cleared a farm, and died here about 1811, at the age of sixty-five, and was buried in the cemetery on the river bank.

      David GOODELL came from Amherst, Mass., settled in South Readsboro, on the farm where Henry STAFFORD now lives. He came by marked trees and at' first built a log-house.

      There is a tradition that one Priest BROWN, a Seventh-day Baptist, resided in Lime Hollow about 1794. He told his followers that they ought to lay by something each month for the needy widows and orphans that would soon people the hillsides round about. He advocated that the contributions be deposited in a storehouse, of which he was custodian. His suggestions were followed by many, and liberal supplies were furnished. At the end of the year the contributors concluded to take an account of stock, and on opening the storehouse to their amazement less than a dollar's worth could be found; yes, only a cake of maple sugar remained. It is needless to say further contributions ceased.

      James BAILEY, and Caleb, his son, came from Douglass, Mass. About 1794 when -he son was about fourteen years of age. They settled near the cemetery. James died December 14, 1814, aged eighty-eight years, and Caleb died April 6, 1867, aged eighty-seven years.

      Stephen BISHOP from New Haven, Conn., settled in town about 1800, and died in 1871, aged ninety-two years. Stephen and his son Daniel were noted as being successful bear hunters.

      George STEARNS settled opposite Henry DAVIDSON's about 1800. One night when he was away from home his wife, who was alone with her baby, heard the sow in the pen make an unusual noise. Upon peeping out she saw a huge bear looking into the pen. Just then the old sow rushed out to protect her pigs, when the bear seized her in his powerful embrace and made off with her to the woods where the next morning the sow's partially eaten remains were found by the owner.

      Christopher SHIPPEE settled in South Readsboro in 1822, on lands partially cleared by Benjamin TREVITT, an early settler. He came from Charlemont, Mass.

      In the west part of the town the first settler beyond Readsboro Lake was one HALL, who settled there about 1800 upon the farm now owned by Seth D. CARE. Seth CARE, father of Seth D., bought the farm in 1812.

      The other early settlers in this part of the town were Amos RICE, Horace RICE, and Captain William SANFORD.

      The first grist and saw-mill was erected by one Smith near the site where the tannery of A. H. TUCKER now stands. Prior to this the early settlers had to go either to Charlemont or Bennington for their lumber or meal, frequently suffering for want of suitable provisions, especially before securing their first crop.

      Richard CARPENTER with his young wife came from Massachusetts in 1804, and settled on the farm where their son Samuel now lives. He died in 1859, aged seventy- six years. His wife Annis lived to be nearly one hundred years old. "Squire Richard," as he was called, represented his town in the General Assembly many years, and was justice of the peace twenty-three years. James CARPENTER, a Baptist clergyman and brother of Richard, settled where Elias his son now lives sometime previous to 1810. He died in 1845, aged seventy-six years. Daniel CARPENTER and Chloe, his wife, father and mother of Richard and James, came with Richard and lived here until their death. Daniel in 1824, aged seventy-seven, and Chloe in 1823, aged seventy-nine years. At Daniel's house Baptist meetings were held for many years, his son James conducting the services. Mrs. Annis CARPENTER told the writer that when she came in 1804 there were as many residents on North Hill as now. Her husband, Richard, was a successful bear trapper. He caught in one fall seventeen bears and killed, with the help of his neighbors, one panther. At the time the town was settled wild animals were quite numerous. In the fall of 1807 or 1808 some wild animal came on the premises of Richard CARPENTER and killed a calf. This was near night, but rallying a few of his neighbors, armed with guns and axes and accompanied with dogs they went in pursuit of the intruder, which they soon drove up a tree, a few rods south of the house where Elijah CARPENTER now lives; but though it was quite dark they had no idea of loosing their game. So, hitching their tin lanterns to a long pole, they raised them up into the top of the tree, and having selected one of their best marksmen, the Rev. Jonas STEARNS, as executioner, and one other to fire an additional gun to throw more light upon the subject, they proceeded to business. The powder was in the pan, the elder had picked his flint, and grasping his old flint firelock and bringing his old fusee to a ready, his keen clerical eye twinkled along the length of the barrel, and sighting the "varmint" in the broad glare of a tallow candle in a tin lantern, he pulled the trigger. The powder in the pan hissed, and sizzed, and sizzled, the fire streamed in torrents from both ends of the old queen's arm, the old field piece recoiled, -- I supposed the elder would say kicked his shoulder, and bruised his cheek. As a result the elder's fire brought down a huge panther, which measured full nine feet from one extremity to the other, but although he had a broken shoulder and was otherwise badly wounded he was able to crawl under an old tree top, beyond their reach, without the aid of daylight. After having satisfied themselves that he could not escape they concluded to leave him until the next morning, when they returned and finished him.

      James DALRYMPLE settled in town across the pond in 1817. He lived with his son, Shepard J. His daughter, Saloma, married our worthy townsman Apollos BAILEY. Job STAFFORD from- Norwich, N. Y., settled on North Hill in 1820.

      There was but little manufacturing done in this town previous to 1832, at which time Sylvester and Luna BISHOP erected on the west branch of the Deerfield River, where the tannery of A. H. TUCKER now stands, a satinet factory, 70x40 feet, three stories high, at a cost of $16,000, running fourteen looms, employing twenty hands, and manufacturing about 1,500 yards of cloth per week. On the night of January 2, 1842 this building took fire accidentally, and together with the entire stock and machinery was consumed. It was never rebuilt, but remained a type of desolation, the wall still standing until 1850, when CUDWORTH & HOWES built a tannery upon the old site, and this in its turn was destroyed by fire. It was again rebuilt by A. H. TUCKER, who now employs about twenty-five men in the manufacturing of a very fine grade of upper leather.

      In addition to the business of farming, lumbering is carried on extensively. The Hon. Silas MASON at Heartwellville turns out manufactured lumber and chairs from his mill and chair factory, annually to the value of about $18,000. Montraville DAVIDSON, J. T. CARRIER, J. B. HOWE, E. B. FULLER, Titus STOWE, Daniel J. HICKS, and Lord STAFFORD turn out in the aggregate quite large quantities of lumber, cot beds, chair stock, and "Boss" sap-spouts. Formerly large quantities of charcoal were burned at Heartwellville, and one Lincoln RAYMOND figured quite extensively in real estate and law suits.

      Attention was early bestowed upon public schools and religion. The first minister who ever resided in town was one WILLIAMS, a Seventh-day Baptist; he made few converts. One ROOT, a Calvinistic Baptist, preached here for a while and organized a church. Daniel DAVIDSON, before mentioned, a very zealous Methodist, invited the ministers of his denomination and a great revival followed. Among their converts three, Elijah BAILEY, Jonas BAILEY, and Ezra AMIDON, became somewhat noted in the religious world. After preaching for several years they became dissatisfied with the church government of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and on January 16, 1814 organized the Reformed Methodist Church, which absorbed the mother church in this vicinity, and spread over other parts of the country. The Union Church at South Readsboro was erected in 1844-45. Rev. Joy BISHOP, now of Delphos, Kansas, was the first preacher. The Union Church, Heartwellville, was erected in 1876-77, entirely by the efforts of the ladies of Heartwellville, at a cost of $2,000. Such enterprise, it is believed, is nowhere surpassed in the State. The First Baptist Church of Readsboro was organized March 26. 1879, with twenty-six members, and Rev. Edward A. READ as pastor. The Wesleyan Methodist Church was organized in 1840, by Rev. A. KELSEY, with six members, during which year the present church was built.
Readsboro furnished her full complement of soldiers during the War of the Rebellion, and has placed to her credit three more soldiers than her quota called for.

      The early settlers of Readsboro were a hardy people, inured to toil and hardships common to frontier life in a new and rugged country like Readsboro. They cleared up the land, and in spite of the rocks and hills and uneven surface of the town their farms were fertile and productive, and the people prosperous and happy.

      The writer well remembers the old families of the town, the HOLBROOKS, the HICKS', SHELDONS, PIKES, PUFFERS, BATTLES, BOWENS, HOUGHTONS, CANADYS, BISHOPS, BLANCHARDS, DALRYMPLES. CARPENTERS, WHITCOMBS, WOLCOTTS, GOODELLS, BALLOUS, BURRINGTONS, BULLOCKS, SPRAGUES, SHIPPEES, CROISERS, PARSONS', LITTLEFIELDS, BRYANTS, STONES, SMITHS, STAFFORDS, FORDS, BROWNS, STOWES, BAILEYS, AMIDONS, RICES, ROSSES, CAREYS, and others, many of whom were prodigies of strength and endurance, who reared large families and depended upon the production of their farms for subsistence.

      Within the recollection of the writer John HICKS, Rev. N. D. SHERMAN, David GOODELL and others used to collect large droves of cattle and sheep, and large quantities of wool, butter and cheese from the farmers residing on the hillsides round about here, and take them to market, bringing back the-money, and distributing it among the owners of the produce.

      Nowhere could be found greener fields and sweeter feed than upon the mountain slopes of Readsboro. But there came a change, and what were the causes that wrought the change? I think they may be summed up in a few words. Readsboro was an inland town, far from the great centers of active business life, and in common with other towns in the vicinity was shut in by rugged hills, and accessible only over mountain paths that passes for roads. She could not compete with the more fortunate and better situated towns and neighbors. Hence the decline came. The broad fields and blooming prairies of the then far West opened up and threw their glittering light upon the enraptured vision of our young men. The Western fever broke out and assumed an epidemic form. Stories of waving fields of grain upon the rich and fertile plains, which could almost be had for the asking, of fortunes made upon the improvements, as they called them, were wafted back by friends that had gone to try their success in the frontier life. "You can plough all day and not strike a stone, and catch fish by the cartload from out of the lakes and rivers," was written back to friends at home. The older men and women that read these pages well remember those days and times. Our young men, middle aged and old, caught the inspiration, and filled with the energy and enterprise, transmitted them by their fathers, and developed by their rugged surroundings, they sought these new fields of action. Let the deserted farms, the ruins of old homesteads, the desolate hearthstones upon which the chirp of the cricket is no longer heard, complete the mournful story.

      It seems but meet that we give a short sketch, from the limited resources at our command, of the parentage and business career of the projectors and builders of the works that have rescued our town from obscurity and oblivion -- the Messrs. NEWTONS. It has been my pleasure, as it has been doubtless many of the readers, to make the personal acquaintance of the brothers, D. H., J. C., and Moses NEWTON. These three gentlemen, with their three brothers, James H., Joseph D., Solon, and one sister, comprise the family. Their parents, Deacon James NEWTON and Esther HALE, were married in Hubbardstown, Worcester county, Mass., February 10, 1824, where they resided until 1835, when they removed to Greenfield, Mass., where they have lived for the past fifty years and more. Mrs. NEWTON was maternally connected -to the BOUTWELL family, of which United States Senator BOUTWELL is a distinguished representative. The Newton brothers resided in Greenfield until 1862, when some of them went to Holyoke, Mass., and have been engaged in building and manufacturing there since, notably in the manufacture of paper and screws, in the purchase and sale of real estate, in the taking of contracts; in fact doing anything that requires skill, ingenuity and capital. I doubt if a family possessing an equal amount of Yankee acuteness and enterprise can be found in New England, while industry, frugality, and integrity are added to other characteristics. To their enterprise, sagacity and energy is the city of Holyoke largely indebted for much of its manufacturing prosperity. Mrs. Esther NEWTON, the mother, was a remarkable woman. To her executive ability, clear insight, and business instincts is largely due the success of her sons' enterprises, and from her they have received sound and discreet counsel as from time to time they laid their plans before her. These brothers came to Readsboro during the year 1882. The first year they built the dam and pulp-mill. The dam is fifty-two feet high from the bed of the river to the crest, built of logs, fastened together with iron pins, the interstices ballasted with stones, and is said to be the highest dam in the United States. The canal that conveys the water from the dam to the pulp-mill is twelve feet wide upon the bottom, and was cut through a solid ledge and huge boulders for the distance of one-fourth of a mile. At the pulpmill the fall of the water is about eighty feet, through the huge iron cylinder which turns six turbine wheels, of about two hundred horse power each, and manufactures from eighteen to twenty-four tons of wood-pulp in each twenty four hours. In the second year they fitted the river for driving logs by blasting down the huge rocks, building dykes and otherwise removing obstructions, down which they annually float from one to two million feet of spruce logs, to be manufactured into pulp and lumber; and during that year they also made preparations for constructing a railroad. The third year they built the railroad to Sherman Station. The fourth year they built a steam- mill and completed the railroad to Readsboro.

History of Bennington County, Vt.
With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches
of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.
Edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich.
Syracuse, N. Y., D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1889.
Chapter XXXI. Page 481-489

Transcribed by Karima, 2004
Material provided by Ray Brown