XX indexVermont  




"Searsburgh is too elevated on the Green Mountains, either for cultivation, population, or wool growing. It presents, from almost every point, wild and beautiful landscapes."

Gazetteer of Vermont, Hayward, 1849.

By George J. Bond, esq.

      THIS town is situated on the eastern boundary line of Bennington county, and is in latitude 42° 45', and longitude 42° 6' east from Washington. It was chartered February 23, 1781, by Thomas CHITTENDEN, governor of Vermont, to William WILLIAMS and twenty-seven others, but was not surveyed or allotted until about the year 1800, at which time the survey was made by John MARKS, and for many years afterward the town seems to have been an unbroken wilderness. It was originally a part of a tract of land about twelve miles north and south, and about four or four and a half miles east and west, extending from the Massachusetts line on the south to Somerset on the north, and is bounded east by Whitingham and Wilmington; west by Stamford and Woodford. 

      Readsboro was first chartered four miles by eight, leaving what was supposed to be four miles square for Searsburg, but for some unknown reason John MARKS commenced his survey one-half mile too far north, leaving an unclaimed tract of land one-half mile in width and four miles in length between Readsboro and Searsburg. Some years afterward one Chester Packard made another survey covering this unclaimed tract and some of the south tiers of lots in Mark's survey, and by virtue of this survey and sundry survey bills and "colors of title" of later date, this unclaimed tract gravitated to Searsburg, and has so remained ever since. There is no known record of this Packard survey, and it is only mentioned in the Searsburg records to designate particularly the southern tiers of lots.

      From about the year 1800 to 1828 or 1830 Searsburg seems to have dropped out of existence. No titles of land seems to have passed from the original proprietors except in two or three instances, and but one instance of unbroken claim of title from original proprietors exists at present on the town records. Occasionally during this period a man moved into town, but the inclemency of the seasons and the uninviting nature of the land seems to have induced an early removal there from. There is a tradition that in 1812 one Samuel HOLLMAN began a settlement in the extreme eastern part of the town, but there can be found no definite proof of this fact. Soon after this, or before 1822, Benoni DAVIS moved into town and cleared a farm in the eastern portion, on what is now known as the "VORCE place," and there planted the first orchard. Mr. DAVIS's mode of conveyance was of the most primitive kind, consisting of a yoke of oxen, and his vehicle was two spruce poles, the ends of which were inserted in the ring of the yoke, the other ends diverging in the form of the letter V, with boards nailed across near the center to form a seat. On this contrivance he brought his provisions and apple trees from Halifax.

      About 1820 a Mr. HASKELL and Stephen MARTIN moved into town, but not to reside permanently. The first permanent settler in town was Joseph CROSIER, who came in 1823 with two sons, Joseph jr. and David, and located on one of the "Packard Survey" lots, near the south line of the town.

      That portion of the town was then a dense forest. They cleared up a piece of land, planted corn and potatoes, cut a road from their place to Heartwellville, built a log-house and covered it with bark. They went through the forest some three miles to some "meadows" in Woodford, cut and stacked a supply of hay, and then ventured to Halifax, taking with him his family, a yoke of cattle and a cow, but afterward returned to his forest home where he continued to reside till his death in 1844, at the age of fifty-eight. He left six sons who were for many years identified with every interest of the town. About this time also William EATON, known as the "Searsburg poet," came to town, and located about a mile north of Mr. CROSIER's place, on the farm now occupied by D. B. LEROY. He moved away in 1826, and Mr. CROSIER's family were alone in town till 1827, when Beniah GALLUP came from Halifax and located on another of the Packard survey lots, about a mile west of the Crosier place. The march of civilization then moved north, and in 1828 Mason PIKE located one mile north of the William EATON place; then came Nicholas GROUSBECK and Joseph EAMES in 1830, and others soon following. The town was organized at a meeting called on the 18th day of March, 1833, by Samuel H. BLACKMER, a justice of the peace from Bennington. At this the following officers were elected; Joseph EAMES, town clerk and moderator; Joseph CROSIER, Hiram WILD and David CROSIER, selectmen; Oliver PRESTON, treasurer; Luther PARK, Hiram WILD, Joseph EAMES, listers; John KNAPP, constable; Nicholas GROUSBECK, grand juror; Mason PIKE, highway surveyor; Solomon RICH, pound-keeper; Nicholas GROUSBECK, tithingman. Other minor officers were also elected. Luther PARK was the first representative to the Legislature in 1833. Hon. Trenor W. PARK for some time resided here in his youthful days near the place now occupied by Allen E. BRIGGS, and but a short time before his death he with a party of friends crossed the mountains and took a lunch at the old spring which had quenched his thirst so often in his boyhood.

      The Searsburg turnpike, leading from Wilmington to Bennington, was begun in 1830, and for the next four years the population of the town seems to have increased quite rapidly for a mountain town. A hotel was built by Feman LAMB, on what is now the ROBINSON place, and for many years was a successful and reliable house. This hotel was burned in 1871 and has never been rebuilt. The turnpike was also a successful venture. From its completion until the opening of the Troy and Boston Railroad a large share of the freight and passengers from Troy to Boston and intermediate places passed over this road. The writer of this chapter in his young days has frequently seen forty and fifty passengers with the necessary accompaniment of Concord coaches and baggage-wagons pass over the route on a summer morning. But the glory of the stage route and the halcyon days of the stage driver have departed, and a single horse with buggy or sleigh, as the season demands, now conveys the daily mail. A Mr. BRIDGE of Wilmington, at that time owned several freight teams, and run from Wilmington to Troy, N. Y., and often through to Boston, Mass. It used to be a custom with him to send a trusty teamster to Troy with a load of lumber or country produce, with instructions to invest the proceeds in flour and grain. He would then start for home peddling his flour and grain to the inhabitants on the road, and if he sold out before reaching home he returned to Troy and bought more, and so continued his sales until the people on the route were fully supplied, and he finally reached home with a load. Old men who were his teamsters in those days have told the writer that they were frequently out two weeks at a time on the road.

      The first saw-mill in town was built by James CROSIER, at the head of "Devil's Stair Falls," and had quite a run of business for several years. From this saw-mill the inhabitants seem to have been mostly engaged in clearing up and improving their lands till in 1842, when SQUIRES & SWIFT built a tannery about one mile west of the Wilmington line, on the Deerfield River. This enterprise employed ten or twelve hands, and was very successful, manufacturing annually upwards of one hundred tons of sole leather. It was sold by SQUIRES & SWIFT to SAYER & BRACKET, and by them to SHAW & METZ, and continued in operation until 1866. In 1845 a destructive fire occurred, destroying several acres of valuable woodlands in the central and eastern parts of the town. In the same year the "SLOANE Mill" was built at the foot of the mountain on the Deerfield River by Solomon RICH, and was occupied as a saw-mill and wash-board and clothes-pin factory by S. and G. W. DOANE and others, until about 1866, at which time the firm of DOANE & STANLEY began making grain measures and butter boxes. The mill was burned in 1872, and was rebuilt by Simon DOANE in 1897 and 1878. Simon and George W. DOANE came here about 1845, and were for many years intimately identified with the best interests of the town. At the death of Simon DOANE in 1878 the "Doane Mill" passed to MASON & BUTTERFIELD, and has since been used in manufacturing lumber and cot bedsteads. In 1845 Aaron PIKE built a saw-mill near the Somerset line on the river, and later engaged in making bedsteads. In 1866 the mill was burned, but was replaced by a larger one by Leonard SMITH of Troy, N. Y., with Royal W. IRISH as foreman. This mill continued to be occupied as a bedstead and lumber-mill until the year 1887, when it was purchased by the Deerfield River Company and torn down by the latter and removed to Readsboro. In 1850 a saw-mill was built by HAYNES & LIVERMORE at the junction of the east and west branches of Deerfield River, but never was very successful, therefore it went to decay in about ten years thereafter.

      For some years prior to 1850 there had been a disagreement between Searsburg and Wilmington in regard to the boundary line between the towns, and after "acting" on the matter several times in town meetings without any definite result, a petition was sent to the Legislature in 1852 asking for the appointment of a committee to settle and establish the line between Searsburg and Readsboro on the west, and Wilmington on the east The Legislature appointed Isaac T. WRIGHT, of Castleton; Edward D. BARBER, of Middlebury; and John F. DEANE, of Cavendish; who, after a full hearing in the matter, decided in favor of Searsburg and Readsboro. The trouble seems to have originated as follows: Wilmington was chartered under the name of DRAPER by Benning WENTWORTH, governor of New Hampshire, June 17, 1763. In the year following a grant was sent by Governor WENTWORTH to Robert ROGERS of three thousand acres along that tract of land which afterwards became Readsboro; and immediately afterwards he made another grant to General Phineas LYMAN of two thousand acres, under the name of Wilmington, extending northward from the ROGERS grant, and covering the northeast corner of what was afterwards Readsboro, and the east part of what was afterwards Searsburg. This grant was some two hundred rods wide and six miles long. The charter of DRAPER became void for some reason, and Governor WENTWORTH made another under the name of Wilmington, and surveys under that name were made in 1769 and 1777. In making these surveys they seem to have covered not only the original DRAPER charter but also the LYMAN grant. In the hearing before the Legislative committee Searsburg claimed a certain white ash tree as their true southeast corner. In their investigations the committee found that this ash tree gave Wilmington their full charter distance and one hundred and twenty-five rods more, while Searsburg was somewhat short They also found that the ash tree stood in the true northerly continuation of the west lines of Whitingham, and rendered decision accordingly. But there has ever since been some controversy concerning the title of lands along the LYMAN grant, some claiming under the Wilmington and others under the Searsburg titles. Searsburg is still short of her charter distance east and west, and the recent discovery of a very ancient line extending from Stratton to the Massachusetts line makes it quite evident that she is entitled to another addition on the west.

      In 1856 George W. DOONE built a saw-mill and washboard and clothes-pin factory at the foot of the Devil's Stair Falls. At the close of the war in 1865 he sold to George J. BOND. This mill was burned in 1869 and immediately rebuilt by Mr. BOND, and is one of the two active mills in town at the present time, the MEDBURY mill being the other. The latter mill was first built by Clark HARRIS in 1851, was burned in 1871, and rebuilt by A. B. MEDBURY, and changed to a bench screw factory. In 1887 it was again burned, and rebuilt by the R. BLISS Manufacturing Company, by which concern it is now operated.

      In the war of 1861-65 Searsburg took a part as honorable as any of the other towns of the State furnishing twenty-one men under a quota of twenty by enlistment, and six by draft in a quota of four. All the drafted men paid commutation. Those who enlisted previous to the call of October 17, 1863 were: Feronda W. FISHER, Foster GROUSBECK, William O'BRIEN, Andrew J. PIKE, George C. SHIPPEE, William E. SHIPPEE, William W. VORCE, John A. WHITCOMB, and Horatio R. WILSON. Those credited under call of October 17, 1863 for three years were: George J. BOND, Silas M. HASKINS, Nathan MANN. Volunteers for one year: Francis GOODELL, James R. LEROY, Almeron GROVER. Volunteers for nine months: Charles BOND, Allen E. BRIGGS, Eli BRIGGS, George FARRINGTON, Dighton JENNINGS, and Benjamin F. WILSON. Of these Foster GROUSBECK, William O'BRIEN, A. J. PIKE, George C. SHIPPEE, William SHIPPEE, William W. VORCE, and H. K. WILSON were wounded in action. None were killed, and but one, Nathan MANN, was taken prisoner. He was taken prisoner June 23, 1864, experienced the full horrors of Andersonville prison, was exchanged, and died from the effects of prison life a day or two after reaching home. George C. SHIPPEE, William O'BRIEN, and Benjamin F. WILSON have since died, and Francis GOODELL died in service.

      Lumbering and the manufacture of merchandise from wood has for years engaged the chief capital and labor of the town. The timber is beech, birch, maple, spruce, fir, and hemlock. The soil is a gravelly loam. Along the Deerfield River the soil is rich, and yields good returns for labor, but the town is quite hilly and only a small part is susceptible of tillage. Corn, oats, potatoes, and hay are grown 'successfully, and wheat of good quality and good yield is also raised, but farming has declined very much since the war. The town is well adapted to grazing. The Deerfield River and its tributaries furnishes a series of the best water-power in Southern Vermont, and cheap and unlimited supplies of hardwood lumber offers the best of inducements to the manufacturer.

      The name of the first child born in town is unknown; the first marriage was David R. HEATH of Corinth, to Elizabeth MORSE of Searsburg, December 4, 1837, by John KNAPP, justice of the peace.

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 XXXII. Page 489-494

Transcribed by Karima, 2004
Material provided by Ray Brown