XX indexVermont  




 "The Battenkill River passes through the north-western part of this town, in a south-westerly direction . . . The settlement of Sunderland was commenced in 1766, by Messrs. Brownson, Bradley, Warrens, Evarts, Chipman and Webb, emigrants from Connecticut. Rev. Chancey Lee was settled over the Congregational Church in 1786; dismissed in 1795." 

Gazetteer of Vermont, Hayward, 1849.


      THIS township was chartered July 29, 1761, the grant bearing date one day later than that by which Arlington was brought into existence. Sunderland is bounded on the north by Manchester, on the South by Glastenbury, on the east by Stratton, Windham county, and on the west by Arlington. The original grantees were sixty-four in number, Isaac Series being the first mentioned. The surface of the land in Sunderland is quite similar to that in Glastenbury and the other towns that lie almost wholly within the Green Mountain chain, but there is more tillable land in Sunderland than in Glastenbury, and this is on the west side next to the Arlington line. The Battenkill River crosses the northwest corner of the town, and in its course receives the waters of the lesser streams, Mill Brook and Roaring Branch, and others of still less note. There is probably no town in the county that possesses better water-power facilities, if properly controlled, than does this, and it is equally true that there is no town in the county in which this natural power is less utilized than in Sunderland. However much this may seem as an uncomplimentary statement, it is nevertheless true. The town has abundant resources but they are not properly developed. Industries have been here but are now gone, and the old buildings are deserted. Sunderland can never become an extensive agricultural town as nature has not endowed it with the essential characteristics, but a manufacturing community can be built up here with proper energy. Something has already been done in this direction but it should not have been suffered to decline.

      The most interesting of Sunderland's history is to be found in a narrative of the events occurring within its boundaries during the years prior to 1800. The town was chartered, as has been stated, in 1761, but its organization did not take place until July 7, 1763, and that meeting was held in Pownal. Isaac SERLES was chosen moderator, and George GARDNER, clerk. At a subsequent meeting, July 11th, Samuel ROBINSON was elected treasurer, Isaac SERLES collector, and Samuel ROBINSON, George GARDNER and Isaac SERLES a committee to run the town lines. On May 15, 1764, the third proprietors' meeting was held, at which Samuel ROBINSON was chosen moderator, and Jabez WARREN, clerk. The fourth and fifth meetings were held at Jabez WARREN's house in Sunderland, and the sixth also at the same place; and at this last meeting, which occurred November 28th, Jedidiah HURD, Gideon WARREN, and Timothy BROWNSON were chosen a committee to surperintend the survey and allotments of the town and lay out the highways.

      The survey and division of town lots, one acre each in size, and sixty-six in number, was made by Samuel ROBINSON of Bennington, his labor being completed in August, 1765; but before this time he had laid out the proprietors' tracts in fifty-acre lots, one to each grantee, and this was finished in June, 1765. Then during the next year or in 1766, settlement in the town commenced, the pioneers in this work being Gideon and Timothy BROWNSON, Joseph BRADLEY, Amos CHIPMAN, Abner and Charles EVERTS, Abner HILL, and Reuben WEBB, all or nearly all of whom were from Connecticut. Following these came others of the BROWNSON family and the AVERILLS, BRADLEYS, DAVIS, COBINS, EVERTS, GRAVES, HILLS, HOYTS, HICKS, COMSTOCKS, TAYLORS and others. The town is believed to have been organized about this time, although no definite information on this point is to be derived from the town records, which are in an exceedingly bad condition. The first discoverable record of a regular freemen's meeting is of that held in 1769, at which time Derrick WEBB was chosen moderator; Gideon BROWNSON, town clerk; Isaac HILL, Zacheus MALLORY, and Thomas BARRING, selectmen; Rozelle HILL, constable; and Ebenezer BARNES, Timothy BROWNSON and Amos CHIPMAN, overseers of highways. In 1770 Isaac HILL was elected moderator; Gideon BROWNSON, town clerk; Joseph BRADLEY, Timothy BROWNSON, and Gideon SERIES, selectmen. Other officers were chosen at the same time, but the worthy town clerk, Gideon BROWNSON, was more of a statesman and leader than penman, and from the records as they now appear, one can only guess at his meaning, and guessing is too liable to lead to error.

      Sunderland, from its close proximity to Arlington, became more or less involved in the exciting events that preceded the Revolution; and while the more important events transpired in Arlington, the town of Sunderland was not wholly free from the troublous element usually called Tories, and one in particular of these was Benjamin HOUGH, concerning whose exploits and final punishment much is said in the general history of this region, and to be found in the earlier part of this work. HOUGH came to reside in the town sometime about 1737 or 1774, and was clothed with all the power and authority that could be derived from the office of justice of the peace under the jurisdiction of New York, but this the doughty settlers in this vicinity failed to recognize, so HOUGH naturally got into trouble. But HOUGH was as obstinate as the other settlers were determined, and used his greatest endeavors in sowing the seeds of Toryism throughout the vicinity; indeed, so open and notorious did his inimical conduct become that he at length fell into the custody of the Committee of Safety, before whom he was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to "be taken from the bar of this Committee of Safety, and be tied to a tree, and there on his back receive two hundred stripes; his back being dressed he should depart out of the district, and on return without special leave of the convention to suffer death." On the 30th of May, 16i5 this sentence was extended and the prisoner given a safe passport beyond the Vermont line, to which he did not return. This punishment inflicted on HOUGH had a most salutary influence upon those in this region who were disposed to share his sentiments, and subsequent cases of a similar character were few indeed.

      The first mention made of the town of Sunderland in connection with the general events of the region is found in the proceedings of the celebrated Dorset Convention of July 26, 1775, when, upon the verge of the Revolution, the local authorities were organizing the military forces of the State for future operations. Of the companies then organized fifty were raised in Sunderland and its vicinity, and Captain Gideon BROWNSON was placed in command, while Jellis BLAKELEY and Philo HARD were respectively chosen first and second lieutenants. At this time Gideon BROWNSON was unquestionably the foremost man in the town or its vicinity. He served through the war, having been promoted to the rank of major in the Continental service, and afterward general in the Vermont militia. J. A. GRAHAM said: "General BROWNSON was a violent politician in the late war; and that as a proof of his valiant conduct, he now (1797) carries in his body eighteen pieces of lead, which lie received during that fatal contest."

      In the Dorset Convention of J my 24, 1776 the town of Sunderland was represented by Joseph BRADLEY, and he too was prominently connected with both the civil and military affairs of the State, holding in the former many positions of trust, and in the latter being an officer of rank. He and Colonel Timothy BROWNSON were delegates from the town to the Dorset Convention held in September, 1776; and at the famous Windsor Convention June 4, 1777, Lieutenant BRADLEY represented the town, his associate at that time being Eli BROWN -- also of Sunderland.

     "Colonel Timothy BROWNSON," says a contemporaneous writer, "was among the first permanent settlers of Sunderland in 1766, but in 1764 he had been one of the committee appointed to settle with the collector of the grantees, superintend the allotments, and survey and lay out the roads in that town. He was from New Framingham, Conn. He was a prominent man in the civil affairs of the State, one of the most trusted and confidential advisers of Governor CHITTENDEN, a delegate in the conventions of January 16 and September 25, 1776, and was one of the twelve advisers appointed to attend the next convention. He was also a member of the convention which adopted the constitution, and councilor for 1778-84 and 1787-94. He was one of the eight persons named by Governor CHITTENDEN as having been cognizant of the Haldimand negotiation, and a member of the convention of 1791, which adopted the constitution of the United States."
      In this connection it will be proper to mention as among the prominent early residents of Sunderland General Ethan ALLEN and his brother, Ira ALLEN, although neither can be said be said to have been permanent residents of the town. Ethan ALLEN was probably induced to take up his abode temporarily in the town through the influence of his wife, whose maiden name was Mary BROWNSON, and to whom he was married in 1762, at Roxbury. She died at Sunderland early in the year 1783, and was buried in the north cemetery in Sunderland, which had been deeded to the town by Ira ALLEN. The two brothers ALLEN lived in the northwest part of the town near the banks of the Battenkill, and here Ethan built a house in which he lived, and which remained standing until about 1845, when it was taken down. Ira ALLEN also built a house, barn and office building in the same section, and these too remained standing for many years. But Ira ALLEN, at least, was but a temporary resident of the town, his home being in Colchester, but his high civil and military offices calling him so frequently to this region, he transferred his residence for the time to Sunderland, that being a central point from which he could operate easily.

      But loyal to the cause of the people on the grants as the great majority of Sunderland's inhabitants were, there were some at least who had imbibed the sentiments of the notorious HOUGH, and upon whom the official eye was fixed. This is confirmed by the proceedings of the Council of Safety, who were in the habit of watching suspected persons, and keeping them under restraint in certain cases. The committees of safety in the several towns were no less vigilant, and arrested any unknown persons. For these reasons the council gave to suspected persons and to loyal citizens, also, passports that they might be free to go and come without molestation. This is evidenced by the following order made by the council in September, 1777: "The following persons are permitted to pass, viz.: Daniel DORCHY and Sylvenus PERRY from this to Sunderland and return within one month." Also, “Isaac GOODSEL is permitted to pass to Sunderland to take care of his children and return within six days." Here is an old order to the commissioners of sequestration:

"Sir. We are informed that Mr. S. PAYNE, of Sunderland, has in his custody one yoke of oxen the property of this State, which we desire you to take into custody immediately. Mem."
November 18, 1777. 

"John FOOT is permitted to pass from this (Bennington) to Sunderland." 

The following order of council was made January 22, 1778: 

" Permission is hereby given to the bearer, Arad Ivril (AVRILL), to transport five hundred weight of flour out of this State, agreeable to a former contract (certified under oath) made previous to the resolve of the council laying an embargo on wheat, etc."

     When in May, 1778, the governor and council were organizing the Second Regiment of militia, one company was provided to be raised in Sunderland, of which Daniel COMSTOCK was appointed captain and Eli BROWNSON first lieutenant. And during the same year, when justices of the peace were being appointed for the various towns, Colonel Timothy BROWNSON was selected to fill that office for Sunderland. The town officers chosen by the freemen for this year, 1778, were as follows: Moderator, Joseph BRADLEY; town clerk, Abner HILL; selectmen, Benjamin LEWIS and Amos CHIPMAN; constable, Samuel HOYT; committee of safety, Jonathan HOYT and Joseph BRADLEY, (chairman); tithingmen, Amos BROWNSON and Daniel COMSTOCK.

      On the 23d day of December, 1779  it appears that the Board of War held a short session at Sunderland At that time Timothy BROWNSON was chairman of this body, the other members present being Major Benjamin WAIT, Captain Ebenezer ALLEN, Lieutenant Joseph BRADLEY, Captain Joseph BOWKER, and Captain Samuel ROBINSON. Another meeting of the same body was held in the town on August 7, 1780, there being present Timothy BROWNSON, Joseph BOWKER, Joseph BRADLEY and Ira ALLEN, three members being then residents of Sunderland. At this time was passed this resolution: "Resolved to raise by a draft on the militia sixty able-bodied non-commissioned officers and soldiers, every man equipped, to join Maj'r Eben'r ALLEN's detachment of rangers; that they be drafted from the several reg't in the following proportions, (viz.) Col. Samuel HERRICK's Regiment, 24 men; Col. Ira ALLEN's Reg't., 21 men; Col. Eben'r ALLEN's Reg't, 15 men."

      The foregoing narrative contains all the events of importance that occurred during the period of the town's history that was particularly interesting. But during the time in which occurred what is known as "Shay's Rebellion," Ethan ALLEN was a resident of the town, at least he was then there. There is no record of any assembly of the Shay's insurrectionists in Sunderland, but in connection with the events occurring about that time General ALLEN wrote one of his characteristic letters, which having been produced in the town, is deemed worthy of record in these pages, as follows:

"SUNDERLAND, 3d of May, 1787.


      I consider it my duty to inform the Government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay that the malcontents of your State appear to be forming unlawful associations in this State, and that this government are taking the most effectual measures to prevent the mischievous consequences which may be consequent thereon. Your people in the meantime may do well to take care of private murders. You may depend that this government are so alarmed at the present conduct of your insurgents that they will cordially consult any measures with your government, which may be requisite for the mutual peace of both. I desire you would present this Letter with my compliments to the commanding Officer of the troops of Massachusetts in Berkshire County for their information. And I am with respect, Your Humble Servant. ETHAN ALLEN."

" N. B. Should it be policy for the Government of your State to publish the foregoing letter at anytime after the 10th instant, I have no objection. E. A."

This letter was addressed to Colonel Benjamin SIMMONS.

      From the year 1791, and even before that time, the growth of the town of Sunderland has been steady and healthful, so that at the present time its population is probably greater than ever before, and this respect is an exception to the condition of many other towns of the county that enjoy a more favorable situation. In 1791, the year of the first census enumeration of the towns, Sunderland had a population of 414, a less number than shown by any subsequent census. Ten years later, or in 1800, it had 557; in 1810, 576; in 1820, 496; in 1830, 463; in 1840, 437; in 1850, 479 ; in 1860, 567; in 1870, S53; in 188o, 654. The increase shown between the years 185o and 186o is undoubtedly due in a great measure to the construction through the northwest part of the town of the Bennington and Rutland Railroad, as it is now known, but which formerly was called the "Western Vermont" road. The building of this road opened to the townspeople a way of transporting their products of agriculture and manufacture to profitable markets. The admirable water-ways of the town furnished excellent power, and manufacture became one of the leading industries of the locality; but this seems to have had its best days, at least judging from the idle factory buildings now standing in the town, especially in the locality of Chiselville.

      This little hamlet, the one that has for years rejoiced in the name of "Chiselville," is situate in the central part of the inhabited portion of the town, and derives its name from extensive manufacturing interests that once flourished there, and was known as the Arlington Edge Tool Company; but this manufacture has now practically ceased, therefore Chiselville is in a condition of desuetude. The water-power here, on Roaring Branch, is not to be excelled in the State.

      Mount Pleasant is a small hamlet still further south than Chiselville, and contains a dozen houses, perhaps, and has, or had formerly, one or two industries of no special importance. The people here are engaged in agriculture and lumbering.

      The principal trading and manufacturing point within the township is at Sunderland, a small station on the Bennington and Rutland Railroad, a few miles northeast from Arlington. This is a pleasantly situated little hamlet of small population, on the Battenkill River, having all necessary stores and other interests to attract trade from the north part of this town, and some from the south part of Manchester. The leading industry here is the manufacture of veneering, which was established in 1871; and in connection with this the proprietor, Mr. BACON, also has a lumber-mill and box factory. Other industries of the place are BACON's feed and grist-mill, and saw-mill. These comprise the chief industries of the locality, while there may be some others of less note.

      The township of Sunderland, like the majority, perhaps, of those that comprise the county, has a bonded indebtedness, but not to so large an amount by far as some others. The taxpayers of this town annually pay interest on the sum of seventeen thousand dollars, besides raising the necessary funds for current expenses, such as payment of officers' fees, maintenance of the poor and supporting the schools, of the last named, there being four in the town. The greater part of the town's indebtedness was created by bonding for the railroad, which crosses the extreme northwest corner, and is of no practical or substantial benefit to the people of the south part except as they reach, the station at Arlington, some two or three miles distant; but whether of benefit or not, the indebtedness is there.

      The officers of Sunderland, chosen at the town meeting in March, 1888, are as follows: Moderator, Samuel H. CRUM; town clerk and treasurer, Henry S. BURT; selectmen, Edward G. BACON, Samuel CRUM and Arnold WEBB; overseer of the poor, E. A. GRAVES; constable and collector, E. J. BROWN; listers, Abel STILLSON, Albert P. BROWN, and O. E. DWINELLE; auditors, James GRAVES, H. N. BUCK and J. W. HULETT; grand jurors, David SNYDER and Reuben WEBB; inspectors of leather, A. R. STILLSON and A. R. WEBB; pound keepers, Julius HILL and John MARBLE.

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 XXIX. Page 468-475.

Transcribed by Karima, 2004 
Material provided by Ray Brown