Bellows Falls, Windham Co. VT

Vermont Historical Gazetteer

A Local History of


Civil, Educational, Biographical, Religious and Military

Volume V







Published by




Pages 510-518






Bellows Falls has no separate history such as most villages have. In the light of history the village is a part of the town, and its records are a part of the records of the town. It has been impossible to separate the two so as to make a clear sketch which should contain only Bellows Falls history. Rockingham, the township, is one of the best situated in Vermont. The falls in the river at this point make a water power hard to be equaled, and the junction of the two valleys afford the opportunity for railroad development which has been taken advantage of in the past two decades.

The early settlers were from Massachusetts, and began work in the town of Rockingham as early as 1753, and it is supposed that their first work was done not far from the present site of Bellows Falls village. The records have the deeds recorded near the village at an early date.


The first church organized within the limits of Bellows Falls was Immanuel Episcopal church, founded by Dr. Samuel Cutler and 17 others, in 1798. For many years the society met for worship with only the services of a lay reader, and no record of any clergyman appears previous to 1810. Up to 1816 the meetings were held in the centre of the town, but March 20, 1816, a meeting was held to "Devise means to procure funds for a church building." A committee composed of Dr. Cutler, Edward H. Campbell, and William Atkinson were appointed, and from that time the society has been located in the village. January 15, 1817, the church was named Immanuel church, and Rev. George T. Chapman invited to become its pastor, and a church building was erected. July 1, 1863, it was decided to build a new church, and plans and specifications for a Gothic church of stone to seat about 500 were obtained and work begun. December 25, 1867, the new church was opened for service for the first time. During the winter of 1890 the parish house and Schouler Memorial chapel, given by Mrs. James H. Williams, was dedicated, and now the church has buildings and grounds valued at nearly $75,000.

The Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1836 by Rev. Elijah Mason, the first pastor. It consisted then of 42 members, including persons from Rockingham and Bellows Falls. They built their church the same year, but it was remodeled in 1881. It will now seat 400 people and is valued at $10,000. The society has a bequest of $1500.

John A. Farnsworth


St. Charles Roman Catholic church was organized in 1857, with 100 members. Rev. Charles O'Reilly was the first pastor. They have a beautiful church edifice and a membership of 800 or more. Rev. Edward Reynolds is the present pastor. The First Universalist parish of Bellows Falls was organized in January, 1879, by Rev. J. H. Farnsworth. The growth of the society has been rapid and it now numbers upwards of 100 members. The society owns a beautiful house of worship.


Bellows Falls early acknowledged the need of schools. It is not known just where the first school house was located, nor when founded, but it is safe to say that it was not long after the town itself was founded. There is now a graded school with a high school in connection, where one may fit for college or business. The village has three school buildings and a fourth in the process of erection, and employs 17 teachers.


Bellows Falls has a number of newspapers. Years ago there was the old Bellows Falls Intelligencer, and afterwards the Bellows Falls Argus, and contemporary with that for, at least a portion of the time, the Gazette, published by John W. Moore. The Argus was published by Hiram Atkins, who afterwards founded the Argus and Patriot at Montpelier. In 1856, A. N. Swain founded the Bellows Falls Times. Since then it has been the only paper. Some years ago a rival was started but lived only a short time. The Times has taken a new lease of life under new management and is in a fair way to become as successful as any in the State.


There is an excellent town library containing 4500 well selected volumes on current topics and miscellaneous subjects, free to the people of the town. It was founded by voluntary work in different directions, and now the town makes an annual appropriation for the benefit of the library, considering it a necessity.


Business is what has built up Bellows Falls and it is business which is now sending it ahead in growth faster than most towns in the State. It has unsurpassed transportation facilities. The Connecticut River railroad gives it an outlet to New York and the manufacturing cities south of us in Massachusetts. This road connects at Windsor with the Central Vermont which allows quick and easy passage from the West. The Cheshire division of the Fitchburg is the outlet to Boston, distant only 114 miles. Northward, over the Rutland road, is the tributary country of Vermont.

Paper of various sorts is the great manufacture. It is the one great industry. The Fall Mountain Paper Company is the largest in the world. The company controls immense interests here. Other important firms are John T. Moore & Sons, manufacturers of manillas; Wyman Flint & Sons, manillas; John Robertson & Son, tissues, and others manufacturing various grades of different papers. In all about 1000 men are employed and the yearly output is nearly, if not quite, 100,000 tons.

The Vermont Farm Machine Company is the largest manufacturers of dairy machinery in the world. They own the patents for the famous Cooley creamer and the machines are all made here. They employ a good number of hands. C. W. Osgood & Son have a large paper-making machine foundry and machine shop so that they can turn out a complete machine. They will occupy their new building soon which is 160 feet long and 60 feet wide. They employ about 100 hands. These are the principal manufactories.

The village has been built up because of the immense power of the river here, which falls 60 feet in a distance of comparatively a few rods - less than half a mile. That power is not yet one-half utilized.


The Young Men's Institute, connected with the Congregational church, is a sort of social club which has a reading room in the vestry of the church and through the winter months has weekly meetings with lectures or talks on different subjects of interest. There is a flourishing lodge of Masons, both camp and canton of Odd Fellows, Golden Cross, Red Men, G. A. R., W. R. C., S. of V., and other social and fraternal orders having a large membership. Beside these there are purely social clubs.


For the following sketch the writer is indebted to professor L. F. Ward of Westminster.

This Seminary was started in 1842, and was furnished with a handsome and convenient building by the citizens of the place, among whom Dr. R. A. Severance, Joseph Leach, Hon. Daniel Kellogg, George Perry, Fletcher Perry, Hon. David Chandler, were early and liberal in their donations.

Rev. D. H. Ranney was the first principal, remaining in charge some two years Miss Margaret Mann, Miss Howlett, and Miss Ellen Gregory were the preceptresses during the same time.

Reuben Hubbard Washburn, the second principal, also remained two years. Miss Gertrude Hyde, now Mrs. N. S. Sharp, Miss Sarah Warren of Ludlow, Miss Whittlesey, and Lucien Sherman of Dover, were Mr. Washburn's able assistants.

Under Rev. D. H. Ranney and Mr. Washburn, the seminary was prosperous. Mr. Colby was the third principal. The fourth was L. F. Ward, who continued the school from 1847 to 1852. His assistants were Miss Marion Ward, Miss Jane Smith, Mrs. Butterfield of Grafton, Miss Fanny Arnold, and Mrs. E. M. Ward.

Rev. J. M. Wilmarth next succeeded as principal, a man noted for his missionary efforts in Europe, for his critical scholarship, especially in the French literature, and as a divine rather than as a teacher. During the next three years the Seminary was in charge of Rev. W. N. Wilbur, and enjoyed a high degree of prosperity. Afterwards it was taught by Mr. Frost, by M. D. L. Collester, now a professor in a college in Minnesota, and by D. L. Aldrich as late as 1866, since which time it has been suspended.

From 1842 to 1854, Hon. Daniel Kellogg was president of the board of trustees.


The first public movement towards the establishment of the Vermont Academy was made at the annual meeting of the Vermont Baptist State convention, held at Windsor, Nov. 10, 1869, when the following resolutions were adopted :

Resolved: That the time has come when the Baptists of Vermont should awake to an increased interest in the subject of general education, and should express that interest by taking immediate steps to secure the establishment and adequate endowment of a first-class Literary and Scientific Institute for the education of our youth of both sexes.

A committee of seven was appointed to take the necessary preliminary measures for carrying the resolution into effect, consisting of the Revs. T. H. Archibald, G. S. Chase, W. L. Palmer, M. A. Willcox, S. F. Brown, Hon. R. J. Jones, William M. Pingry.

Vermont Academy at Saxton's River


During the ensuing year the committee pursued their work with renewed zeal. At the end of the second year they made their final report to the meeting of the convention held at Burlington.

At this meeting, Oct. 4 and 5, 1871, a board of trustees was appointed, consisting of eleven persons, among whose duties, as prescribed by the convention in a resolution, were those of establishing and locating the new institution, of raising an endowment of $100,000, exclusive of grounds, buildings and apparatus, and of securing from the General Assembly of the State an act of incorporation. Judge Wm. M. Pingry of Perkinsville was the first president of the board and continued in office until his death in May, 1885. His successor in office was Col. L. K. Fuller of Brattleboro, who still continues in said office.

At the meeting of the convention at Brattleboro, Oct. 3, 1872, the board of trustees was increased to fifteen, and an act of incorporation was shortly after passed by the General Assembly of the State, which was approved Nov. 26, 1872.

Mr. Charles L. Jones of Cambridge, Mass., a native of Saxtons River, had for some years purposed giving a generous sum of money for the establishment of an academy in that place; he had invited citizens of the place to join him in the enterprise, and his invitation had been cordially accepted and a considerable sum of money had already been pledged.

On the 28th of August, following, the board decided to accept the offer aforesaid and to locate the academy at Saxtons River.

In a circular issued Sept. 11, 1872, the board, through a committee, announced that Mr. Jones had pledged $20,000, citizens of Saxtons River $30,000, and Baptists in other parts of the State $20,000.

In 1876 the school was opened, with Horace Mann Willard, A. M., for principal. He continued in that relation for thirteen years, when he was succeeded by the present principal, George Abner Williams, A. M., Ph. D.

Number of graduates in 12 years, 89 young men, 88 young women.

Graduates of Vermont Academy have studied or are now studying at Yale, Brown, Harvard, Amherst, Middlebury, University of Vermont, Lehigh, Boston University, Wesleyan, Wellesley, Smith, Vassar, Oberlin, University of Michigan, Williams, State University of Colorado, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth, Newton Theological Seminary, Law schools of Harvard, Boston University, Michigan State University, Medical Schools of Vermont University, College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York.

The students of Vermont Academy have come from 18 States and territories, and also from Quebec and Nova Scotia.

The original purchase of land contained 36 acres, embracing a plateau about 30 feet above the village to the north of it ; and a beautiful maple grove. Recently Col. L. K. Fuller, president of the board of trustees, has purchased and presented to the academy 30 acres of land lying immediately north of the original purchase. The buildings already erected are, Jones Hall, Farnsworth Hall, Fuller Hall and Proctor Hall; the Sturtevant House, or the principal's house ; this is built of wood, the others are brick buildings. These buildings, as well as the public rooms, are heated by steam, and they are also supplied by pure spring water.

The location of the school is excellent. Saxtons River is four and a half miles west from Bellows Falls, an important railroad junction.

Pecuniary aid is furnished deserving students from the income of seven scholarships of $1000 each, and from private benevolence. Some of the pupils earn a part of their expenses by work. Opportunity for self-help will be furnished on the new farm. Tuition is free to the children of all pastors and of all deceased pastors of Vermont of whatever denomination.

Theophilus Hoit


was born in Westmoreland, N. H., Feb. 19, 1813, and was the elder of the two sons of Theophilus and Sabrina (Shaw) Hoit. He lived with his parents, assisting on the farm summers until 15 years of age, when he went to Sharon, Vt., to learn the trade of wool carding, cloth shearing and weaving ingrain carpets. Such business was thriving then when every one spun their own wool for cloth yarn. While at Sharon he also learned to manufacture cassimeres, and in April, 1833, he began work for Faulkner & Colony of Keene, N. H., who, at that period, were quite extensive wool carders and cloth dressers. He remained there two years and then moved to Saxtons River in March, 1835, where he manufactured satinets for J. F. Butler, who failed soon after. The business was continued, however, by Ami Smith, who formed a partnership with Wentworth & Bingham, the firm being known as Smith, Wentworth & Bingham. Mr. Hoit stayed with these firms until 1836, when, taking the money he had saved, he started for the West; then, as now, the prospective point of all who hope to improve their financial condition. He worked in Chicago on the streets, drove a freight team, worked as carpenter, farmer, and as clerk in a store in Milwaukee. The Yankee characteristics aided him wonderfully in his plucky fight for fortune. Next he run a saw mill at Niles, Mich., where he invested his money in city lots, and watched it vanish in 1837. In May of 1838, he returned to Saxtons River and went to work for Ami Smith, in the old woolen factory, and stayed until 1846, when he began the manufacture of woolen yarn, but sold out the business the following spring. In April, 1847, Smith's factory was burned, and the following May the property was bought by Mr. Hoit, George Perry and John A. Farnsworth. They built the present woolen factory and began the manufacture of cassimeres under the firm name of George Perry & Co. They had marked success and in February, 1857, extended it by fitting up the old mill at Cambridgeport. In this venture the original firm associated with themselves Fletcher Perry and Benjamin Scofield, but the death of George Perry in 1858 caused a dissolution of the partnership, which finally resulted in Mr. Hoit's continuing the business under the firm name of Farnsworth & Hoit. The firm conducted a prosperous business until August, 1866, when feeble health compelled Mr. Hoit to sell his interest to John F. Alexander, and he has since lived in retirement in a quiet home in Saxtons River, where he has always resided since his marriage to Mary D. Chandler, daughter of Abel Chandler of Petersham, Mass., March 13, 1839. Mr. and Mrs. Hoit have had had two daughters ; Ellen, born November 28, 1839, married to Henry D. Holton, M. D., November 19, 1862, and Abby, born March 14, 1845, married to Charles L. Hubbard, June 4, 1867. Mr. Hoit has been a member of the Baptist church for 35 years. A marked characteristic is conscientiousness, which has given him the strict integrity noticeable throughout his entire business career. His extreme modesty has prevented his acceptance of any office of trust, though frequently urged to do so by his townsmen. His beneficence has been liberal but unostentatious; a few know its extent. He was prominently identified with the enterprise which secured the location of Vermont Academy at Saxtons River, contributing to its funds at one time, five thousand dollars. He is new enjoying the decline of life in a pleasant home, where peacefulness and content reign.

George Perry



was one of eight children of Gates Perry, who moved to Rockingham from Antrim, N. H. in 1807. Here the family lived the life of all New England farmers, and the children learned to work and live useful lives. George Perry was born in Rockingham, March 6, 1807. His early life was such as is common to every farmer's son in New England. He received the usual amount of education, snatching it from the usual round of labor. April 2, 1828, the year that he was 21 he married Hannah Chandler, daughter of Abel Chandler, and they settled on a farm, remaining three years. After that he moved to Saxtons River, and in partnership with his brother, Fletcher, began the manufacture of tinware. In 1847 he went in company with John A. Farnsworth and Theophilus Hoit, erecting a large woolen mill and doing an extensive business under the firm name of George Perry & Co. He remained in the business until he died, August 22, 1858. The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Perry was blessed with two children, Solon, born November 12, 1829, now in business in Boston, and Mary P., born September 26, 1839, wife of John A. Alexander of Saxtons River. Mr. Perry was never a member of a church, but always contributed liberally to the support of churches. He was always much interested in the welfare of his town, and especially his home village. He was often called by his fellow men to fill positions of honor and trust, and in 1857 was elected State Senator from Windham county, and would have been re-elected had not failing health prevented a return.


Colonel Asa Wentworth



was born in Alstead, N. H., April 4, 1797, and died in Bellows Falls, August 7, 1882. He represented Alstead in the New Hampshire Legislature in 1828-29, and 1832. After his removal to Bellows Falls he represented Rockingham in the Vermont Legislature in 1838-39-48-49-52-53-56, and was County Senator in 1851-52. He was one of the original incorporators of the Bellows Falls Savings Institution, and at the first election of the stockholders was elected vice-president of the organization, and trustee. He was trustee until 1866 when he resigned because of his election as a director in the Bellows Falls National Bank. He was a director of the old Bellows Falls bank for many years, or up to its re-incorporation under the National Banking Act, when he was elected a director of the new bank as above stated. He held the office up to 1879, when he retired because of his great age and infirmities. He was treasurer of the town of Rockingham from 1846 to 1870, a period of 33 years. He was also treasurer of the Bellows Falls school district for about the same length of time. Soon after his removal to Bellows Falls he became a vestryman in Immanuel church, being first elected in 1839, and he served as a member of the committee who had in charge the erecting of the present beautiful building. His business career in town extended over many years, beginning in company with his brother Merrick, and later his son, under the firm name of A. & J. H. Wentworth. He was an honored member of the F. & A. M. May 1, 1819, he married Lucy Warren of Alstead, who died May 26, 1863. After that he married Caroline L. Chase of Bellows Falls, who died only a few weeks ago. Colonel Wentworth was a man of strong personality and did much for the town of his adoption, not only during his service in the Legislature, but as a faithful and efficient town office.


The establishment of a Congregational church is due to the efforts of Mrs. Mary Walker, wife of Judge Charles Walker of Detroit, Mich., who moved here from Saxtons River in 1848. To them belongs the honor of first moving to establish a Congregational service, which developed into the present church. The enthusiasm manifested attracted the attention of others of that denominational preference, and they soon had assistance in their undertaking.

At the outset, few favored the building of a house of worship, and a proposition was made to establish the service in connection with the Methodists, if such an arrangement were possible, meeting alternate Sundays here and at Rockingham until the growth of the society should warrant the building of a church. A majority, however, finally favored a building of their own.

The organization was effected July 23, 1850. C. J. Walker, C. F. Hall, H. H. Stone, C. F. Pease, A. F. Gibson, H. Albee, George S. Norcross, and presumably others, met at Mr. Walker's office and signed their names to articles of association, according to the provisions of chapter 81 of the Revised Statutes of Vermont, as then existing, to be known as the "First Congregational Society of Bellows Falls." These articles declared the purpose of such association to be, First : " The support of the Gospel and maintenance of public worship according to the policy of the Orthodox Congregational churches of New England." Second : "To procure, hold and keep in repair a. house of public worship."

The first meeting of the society was held at the office of Mr. Walker at 8 o'clock in the evening of the same day, and organized by the choice of H. H. Stone, moderator, and C. J. Walker, clerk.

The church was organized Friday, August 9, 1850, at 10 o'clock, A. M., at the Methodist church, by an ecclesiastical council of 16 members, representing all the surrounding churches in Vermont and New Hampshire. Eight presented satisfactory articles of faith and covenant, and were duly acknowledged a Congregational church by appropriate public exercises.

December 18, 1850, the society, by a unanimous vote, affirmed the expediency of taking immediate measures to erect a house for the society, appointing a committee of five to draw up plans, limiting the cost to $2,000. The lot was bought of Russell Hyde by Mr. Walker for $300. December 3, 1851, a meeting was held in the vestry of the new church, but no record of final completion can be found. The only intimation is found in the record of ordination of J. G. Wilson, December 12, 1851, the early prayer being characterized as "introductory and dedicatory."

The first regular minister was Rev. Joel R. Arnold from Waterbury, Conn., then living at Westminster West. There have been 16 pastors and stated officers, including the present, Rev. J. Ellsworth Fullerton, who came here from Massachusetts, and has been with the church about 14 months. The church has grown, and is now in a very prosperous condition. The average length of pastorate, and stated supplies has been about two and one-half years.


The past and present of Bellows Falls have been fully touched up. The development from a mere country village to a business centre, almost as important as any in Vermont, has been slow, but solid.

There has been no mushroom growth, no undue expansion, but a steady increase in business enterprises, and a corresponding development of water power, and shipping interests. What has been done has been the result of ordinary commercial development, a taking advantage of natural elements which conduce to success in manufacturing, rather than a reaching out for new industries and calling them in by showing their proprietors the opportunities offered. For that reason the foundation of the town's growth has been more solid, more substantial and is now more certain to be permanent. The advantages which nature has lavished upon this town has compelled men, who wished to establish great industries, to come here. They couldn't do otherwise if they followed their business instincts.

Benjaming Scofield


This being the ease with the past it is easy to see what the future will bring. A Board of Trade, comprising in its membership all the active business men of the village, was formed in May, 1891. It took them sometime to get organized and acquire a thorough understanding, not only of their own town, but of the lines of action likely to have the best results. The year 1892 found them equipped for work and looking out for the commercial interests of the village. Success followed their efforts, even sooner than the most sanguine dared anticipate. But their work only began in 1892. With each year that followed, more and more work was laid out for the Board and more commercial problems came up for settlement.

In the hands of an active, judicious Board of Trade, the future of such a village is sure. There can be no question that Bellows Falls, with its mighty water power, its great shipping facilities and its young, active, enthusiastic business men, men who believe in their town and its possibilities, has a future of growth and development before her, which few, even among her most enthusiastic friends, hardly appreciate, as yet. The tide of capital which has flowed West and South so long has stopped. Turned back on itself it needs opportunities for investment which will bring sure, if small, returns. The return of this capital is what is to develop Vermont manufacturing villages, and Bellows Falls, with all her natural and acquired advantages, will be one of the first to feel the quickening hand of applied capital. Manufacturing must increase, if that increases, shipping facilities must be augmented, and Bellows Falls must grow and develop as never before in her history.