HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF BRISTOL.
THE town of Bristol lies largely upon the mountains, in the northeastern section of the county, and is bounded on the north by Monkton and Starksboro; east by Starksboro and Lincoln; south by Lincoln and Middlebury, and west by New Haven. It was originally granted by Benning Wentworth, the colonial governor of New Hampshire under King George III, “by his excellency’s command with advice of council,” June 26, 1762, to Samuel Averill and sixty-two associates, under the name of Pocock. This name, given in honor of a distinguished English admiral, was retained only a few years, however, and was changed to Bristol by an act of the Legislature passed October 21, 1789. The charter deed contained the usual restrictions incident to the Wentworth grants, and the usual reservation of public lands for the use of schools, propagation of the gospel, etc., and fixed the boundary lines of the new town as follows:
“Beginning at the northeasterly corner of New Haven and thence extending south six miles by New Haven aforesaid to the southeasterly corner there-of; thence turning off and running east four miles and one-half to a marked tree; thence turning off and running north eight miles and a half to another marked tree; thence turning off and running west four miles to the easterly side line of Monkton; thence south by Monkton about half a mile, to an angle thereof; thence west by Monkton aforesaid about two miles to another angle thereof; thence south by Monkton aforesaid four hundred and twenty rods to the northerly side line of New Haven; and thence south seventy degrees east one mile and one hundred and ninety rods by New Haven to the northeasterly corner thereof, the bounds began at.”
This gave the town something more than the area of a full township, or 23,600 acres; but this area was curtailed by the Legislature November 18, 1824, when a portion of land described as follows was set off to the town of Lincoln, viz.:
“Beginning at the southeast corner of the town of Bristol and thence running west one mile to the west line of the second tier of lots; thence north on the west line of said lots six miles and eighty rods, to the north line of lots numbered twenty-two and twenty-three; thence east to Starksboro line; thence south to the northwest corner of Lincoln; and thence south on Lincoln west line to the place of beginning.” This gave to Lincoln a tract of 4,400 acres, leaving the area of Bristol only 19,200 acres, as it exists to-day.
The surface of this territory, as a whole, may be regarded as extremely rough and broken, if not decidedly mountainous, though there are many level tracts. Through nearly the whole length of the town from north to south, there extends a spur of the Green Mountain range. From the north line of the town south to Bristol village, a distance of about four miles, this spur has an elevation of 3,648 feet, unbroken by gorge or stream–crossed not even by a highway. From its peculiar formation it takes the name of Hogback Mountain. Near the village, however, it is broken by “The Notch,” through which flows New Haven River. South of the Notch, which is wide enough to admit not only of the passage of the river, but a good carriage road and some intervale land, the elevation takes the name of South Mountain.
South Mountain continues lofty and unbroken until we reach the “Little Notch,” through which flows O’Brian Brook; south of this it is unbroken until it crosses the southern line of the town. The larger part of these mountains is clothed with vegetation and timber to their summits; but upon South Mountain there is an area of several acres which appears from a distance to be a large smooth rock. A closer inspection, however, resolves it into an area of broken rocks, piled promiscuously together. It bears the name of “Rattlesnake Den,” from the fact that in early days it was the favorite lurking-place of hordes of these reptiles. About two-thirds of the tillable lands of the town lie west of these mountains. Following the course of New Haven River there is a wide tract of level alluvial land, called British Flats, northwest of which the land is moderately level, rising from gentle swells to hills of quite extensive proportions in the extreme northwestern part of tile town. On the north line of the town, extending south on both sides of the mountains, there is a cedar swamp several hundred acres in extent. East of the mountain the land is more broken, a e large part being unfit for purposes of cultivation. The soil of the tillable tracts, though generally very productive, varies largely in different parts of the itown. Bristol Flats, rising little above the level of the river, consists of a fine, deep, fertile alluvial deposit, which was originally covered with a heavy growth of timber, interspersed with a vigorous growth of nettles. On the more elevated plains a harder, compact, gravelly soil is found, but not so much diminished in richness and fertility as one would naturally suppose, and made up largely of loam and clay. Some portions of the still higher elevations are very stony; others are free from these obstructions. The uplands and intervales are capable of producing good crops of Indian corn, rye, oats, peas, beans, buckwheat, flax and potatoes. Formerly much winter wheat was raised. Garden vegetables flourish well, and small fruits are grown successfully. The land vas originally covered with a dense growth of timber notable for its numerous varieties, among which were the following: White, Norway, and pitch pine; sugar, soft, and striped maple; white, red, and black ash; white, blue, and red white, black, and red oak; large white, small white, black, and yellow buttonwood, elm, slippery elm, butternut, hemlock, balsam, fir, tamarack; double and single spruce; basswood, ironwood, mountain ash, red cedar; red, black and choke cherry; black alder, witch hazel, prickly ash, poplar, willow, hickory, and others, many of which varieties are still found in the towns.
The principal stream is New Haven River. It has its source in Ripton and that part of Lincoln formerly known as Avery’s Gore, and after flowing a northerly course through a part of Lincoln, receiving the waters of several small tributaries, it enters Bristol from the east, passing through the deep ravine known as “The Notch,” thence on to a point just west of Bristol village, when it turns abruptly to the south, continuing that course to a point just east of New Haven Mills, where it turns abruptly west again, flowing into New Haven. It affords many good and usually reliable water powers. The stream, however, is subject to frequent and heavy freshets; in 1830 one of these caused great loss of life and property, as will be noted in connection with the history of the town of New Haven.
Baldwin Creek, having its source in Washington county, flows through the southern part of Starksboro into Bristol, and thence by a circuitous route winds its way to New Haven River, which it enters about a mile and a quarter above Bristol Village. Immediately after crossing into Bristol it enters a deep ravine, known as Chase Hollow, which it follows to its debouchure. It is a small stream, though it affords considerable motive power for mills. Many years since there were two forges in operation on this stream.
O’Brian Brook, so named in honor of the O’Brians, who built the first grist mill in Bristol on this stream, has its source in a small pond in the western part of the town, flows south and west through “Little Notch,” uniting with New Haven River about where that stream turns west into New Haven. This is a smaller stream than Baldwin Creek, and is not so valuable for the water power it affords, although at one time it turned the wheels of four saw-mills.
Beaver Brook is a small stream flowing along the eastern base of Hogback Mountain, entering Baldwin Brook. There are several other small and unimportant brooks, and springs are abundant.
Bristol Pond, about a mile and a half in length and three-quarters of a mile in width, lies in the northern part of the town, at the western base of Hogback Mountain, extending upon Monkton line. It is shallow and muddy and partially surrounded by extensive marshes. The only other pond is that which we have spoken of as the source of O’Brian Brook, in the eastern part of the town. It covers an area of only about ten acres.
Proprietors’ Meetings.–There is strong presumptive evidence extant tending to prove that proprietors’ meetings were held, and some measures taken towards allotting the lands in Pocock, previous to those appearing in the proprietors’ record-book. It is generally believed by authorities that, as early as 1784, John Willard, of Middlebury, Hon. Jonathan Hoyt, of St. Albans, and Captain Miles Bradley, of New Haven, at a meeting held in Canaan, Litchfield county, Conn., were appointed a committee to survey and allot the land in Pocock, though no record of such an event has been found. But deeds from the proprietors recorded in the Rutland county clerk’s office, to which county Pocock then belonged, speak of the “first division lots,” and describes them as numbered, and containing one hundred and twenty acres each. In the files of the Vermont Gazette, printed at Bennington, may also be found an article warning a meeting of the proprietors to convene “at the house of Benjamin Payn, in Addison, on the second Tuesday in May, 1788.” This warning proves that at least the third division had been made, for the fourth article reads: “To see if they [the proprietors] will proceed to lay out the fourth division, and lay roads.”
The same paper also states that, “on the second Tuesday of May, 1788, the proprietors, in pursuance of the foregoing notice, held a meeting at the time and place appointed, and chose Justin Allen, moderator, and Henry McLaughlin, clerk; and without doing any other business adjourned.”
There was also a meeting held, it appears, on the same day and at the same place, “by adjournment from Pocock,” at which one item of business brought up was, “to see if the proprietors will accept of the surveys, or divisions of land that have been made, or whether they will make surveys or divisions of land in said town; also to choose a committee for that purpose.” With reference to this it was found that “no legal” survey of a first division of land had been made, and that they proceed to make a first division of “ninety acres to each right.”
Thus it seems that the business of all previous meetings was practically annulled, and that the first division finally contained instead of one hundred and twenty acres, only ninety acres, which was really the fact. The second division contained one hundred and ten; the third, one hundred; the fourth, fifty; and fifth, twenty acres.
The first proprietors’ meeting which appears on the records met at the house of Benjamin Griswold, in Pocock, March 3, 1788, in pursuance to a warning published in the Vermont Gazette. Captain Miles Bradley was chosen moderator, and Henry McLaughlin, clerk. A tax of $2.00 was laid on each proprietor’s right to defray the expense of the survey, and clearing highways, building bridges, etc. A committee, consisting of Timothy Rogers, Miles Bradley, Justin-Allen, Cyprian Eastman and Henry McLaughlin, was appointed to attend to said business, and the meeting was adjourned to meet in Addison, as we have noted. From this time forward the meetings were held in Pocock, or Bristol, as it soon became, and the business transacted related most entirely to division of lands, levying taxes, etc., and hence would prove uninteresting to the general reader.
Early Settlements–The first permanent settlement was not begun in the present town of Bristol till the summer of 1786, twenty-four years after the charter was granted. (note 1)
Early in June Samuel Stewart and Eden Johnson, who married sisters, started out from Skenesboro (now Whitehall), N. Y., for the wilderness land of Pocock; Johnson traveling by land to drive their cattle, while Stewart took passage by boat up the lake with their household effects, his wife, Mrs. Johnson and her two children, and his own child, Chauncey A. Stewart. On the third day he and his party arrived at Vergennes, where he procured horses to convey them and their effects to their destination-the farm now owned and occupied by Joel B. Barlow. Here they were joined by Johnson, and together they built a small log house, to serve as their dwelling in common, the first erected in Bristol. In the autumn Mr. Stewart built a house for himself, where Perez Hubbard used to reside. About eighteen months later he purchased a cabin on the north side of the river, and built a log house near the stream and directly east of the junction of the road which leads to New Haven Mills, which he occupied until 1797. His daughter Polly was the first child born in the town. In 1817 he moved with his family to Ohio. Johnson resided in the town only a few years, when he removed to Plattsburgh, N. Y., and from thence to Canada, where he was drowned, November 4, 1809. Not long after Stewart and Johnson began their settlement here they were joined by Benjamin Griswold, Cyprian Eastman, Robert Dunshee, John Arnold, Justin Allen, Henry McLaughlin, Gurdon Munsill, Samuel Brooks, Amos Scott and Elijah Thomas, the last four arriving on the same day; while Benjamin Clapp, Samuel Renne, Samuel P. Hull, Dan Miller, Adam Getman, Daniel Thomas, Ezekiel Dunton, Amasa Ives and Nathan Corey were here previous to 1790.
According to the town records these were added to, from time to time, by the arrival of the following, about in the order named: As early as September 4, 1792, Phinehas Rugg, Ellis Maxham, Calvin Eastman, Asa Smith, Elisha Andrews and Anthony Field; in 1793, Robert Sutton, Henry Franklin, Matthew Franklin, Benjamin Sutton, Benjamin Bartholomew and Oliver Scott; in 1794, Nahum Smith, Hezekiah Murdock, Asa Freeman, Moses Wheeler, Ephraim Munson, jr., Jedediah Keeler, Nathan Brown, Chauncey Ellsworth, and Peter Renne; in 1795, John Ketcham, Truman Allen, Silas Hewett, Asa Hitchcock, William Day and Jeremiah Frazer; in 1796, Robert Holley and Ephraim Raymond; in 1797-98, Justin Eastman, Noah Holcomb, Johnson Allen, John Jewell and Stephen Scott; in 1799, Oliver Drake, John Bunn, Obadiah Beal, David Copeland and Samuel Murdock; and in 1800 by Asaph Parmelee, David Isham, Sylvester Scott, Reuben Abram, Luther Eastman, Jonathan Allard, James McAllister, Abraham Wiley, James Ketch, Isaac Isham, Josiah Field, Andrew Tubbs, Benjamin Freelove, George Blanchard, Elisha Freeman, Jesse Hanford, Artemas Parmelee, Richard Andrews, Gershom Hall, James Douglass, Joseph Myrrick, Eleazur Richardson, Enos Soper, Henry Soper, A. B. Sumner and Paris Miller, and doubtless others.
Benjamin Griswold came with his family to the town from the State of New York in 1787, locating on Bristol Flats, upon a part of the late Morgan estate. He remained only a few years, when he removed to Cambridge, Vt. His son Horace was the second child born in the township. Captain Cyprian Eastman was born in Norwich, Conn., in 1749, and removed with his father to Beckett, and subsequently to Bennington county, where he married Rosannah Nehon, and soon after, in 1787, removed to this town, locating on the flats. He was chosen one of the first selectmen of the town, and at the organization of a militia company, in June, 1791, was chosen its captain, and was also one of the committee elected to lay out the first division lots and survey highways. He died of small-pox May 23,1798, aged forty-nine years, leaving a family of ten children. Robert Dunshee came from New Hampshire in 1787. He first located in the southern part of the town, but soon after removed to a part of the late Morgan estate, on the flats, where he erected a two-story house. Here he carried on the business of a saddler and harness-maker several years, then sold his house to Lewis Miller and removed to the mountain road, near the “Little Notch.” At the organization of the town he was chosen one of its selectmen. He resided here until his death, of cancer, at an advanced age.
Henry McLaughlin, who figured extensively in the early transactions of the settlers, was born in Ireland, and came to America with Burgoyne, serving as drummer boy, and remaining with the army till it marched from Ticonderoga. For a few years following he engaged in teaching school at Williamstown, Mass. He married Mary Dunton, of Dorset, Vt., sister of Ezekiel Dunton, and soon after, in March, 1787, came to Bristol, and located upon the farm now owned by Dorus S. Parmelee. He was the first proprietors’ clerk, first town clerk, and one of the committee for laying out the first division, moderator of the first town meeting, and represented the town in the Legislature of 1793, ’94 and ’97. In 1800 he built the first brick house erected in the town, about a mile west of the village, which he kept for a time as a public house, and in which, in 1803, was opened the first post-office. In the spring of 1805 he re moved to St. Lawrence county, N. Y., though both he and his wife died in Bristol, while on a visit in 1813.
Captain Gurdon Munsill was born in Windsor, Conn., October 26, 1760, served all through the Revolutionary War, and soon after its close married Olive Carver, of Bolton, Conn., and came to Bristol with his wife and two children, arriving March 21, 1789. He had been in town the previous year, made some improvements and built a log house on his farm, purchased of Timothy Rogers, and now owned by E. C. Powell. He was appointed by the Legislature a collector of the first land tax in Bristol, was a selectman of the town seven years, a justice of the peace two years, and represented the town in the Legislature of 1796. He died on the old homestead November 15, 1807. Judge Harvey Munsill, one of his eight children, long and favorably known in Bristol as a man of honor and ability, received his education in the district schools of Bristol, and at the Addison County Grammar School at Middlebury, and studied law with Hon. Daniel Chipman, of that town. Although reared a farmer, he inclined to the study and use of books. He succeeded to the ownership of the homestead, which he retained until about 1840. After the year 1820 he became prominently identified with the public affairs of the town, and his career as a public officer continued uninterruptedly from that date to a short time previous to his death. He was judge of probate for the New Haven district from 1836 to 1870; justice of the peace for over thirty years; trustee of the United States deposit money from 1838 to 1852; State senator for the years 1842 and ’43; deputy sheriff eight years, and county commissioner four years; represented the town in the General Assembly for the years 1829 and ’31; served as selectman three years; town clerk six months; constable two years; overseer of the poor one year; town agent thirteen years, and moderator of town meetings eleven years. He was appointed a captain in the First Brigade, Third Division, Vermont militia. As a Mason he was master of Libanus Lodge, No. 47, from 1828 to 1866, and held the charter during the anti-Masonic movement. He was a man of strong political convictions, always founded upon a basis of what in his best judgment seemed just and for the public good, and was not an ultra partisan; a frequent presider at political conventions, both Whig and Republican, and was active in matters of reform, especially temperance. He married Laura, daughter of Ziller Stickney, of Weybridge, Vt., March 10, 1818, and Harvey C. Munsill, of Bristol, is their only son. Judge Munsill never united with any church, but inclined to and supoorted the Congregational creed, and was a member of that society. In the observance of all the proprieties of life he was a noble and impressive example. He died April 11, 1876, full of years and covered with honor.
Harvey C. Munsill was born in Bristol June 22, 1824. He hired his father’s estate, and has been somewhat prominently identified with the civil affairs and business growth of the town. He married, October 1, 1851, Charlotte M. Holley, daughter of John D. Holley, of Bristol, and they have three children: Newcomb H., born July 14, 1852, fitted for college at Bristol Academy, entered Middlebury College, and graduated from that institution in the class of 1877, taught in the graded school of Wallingford, Vt., four terms, studied law with Veazey & Dunton, of Rutland, later with Judge Albert Hobbs, of Malone, Franklin county, N. Y., and was admitted to the bar of the State of New York, and is now a member of the firm of Beeman & Munsill, of Malone, N. Y. He married, in 1880, Mary, daughter of Orrin Moses, of Malone, and they have two children, Arthur H. and Edith.
Seraph L, the only daughter of Harvey C., was born May 17, 1863, and died August 20, 1865. Charles E. Munsill, the third and youngest of the family, was born May 27, 1867, and is now attending the Albany Business College. Mr. Munsill has been for the past four years town treasurer of Bristol; has held the office of deputy sheriff from 1851 to 1855; justice of the peace several years; moderator of town meetings several years; grand juror, and agent for the Vermont Mutual Insurance Company for twenty-six years past. He has dealt extensively in real estate and has made several creditable additions to the village plot of Bristol.
General Ezekiel Dunton, from Dorset, settled upon the farm now owned by Ezra Knowles, of New Haven. He held a commission as brigadier-general in the Vermont militia, and was at the battle of Plattsburgh. He served the town for many years as selectman, constable, representative and justice of the peace, and died here February 13, 1824, aged fifty-six years. He left two sons, Thaddeus, who went West, and Ezekiel K., who died September 20, 1837, aged thirty-four years. The latter was the father of Walter C. Dunton, ex-judge of the Supreme Court of Rutland, and William H. Dunton, also of Rutland.
Jonathan Eastman, who came to Bristol from Rupert, Vt., in 179l, was born in Norwich, Conn., in 1753. He removed to Rupert with his father, where he married a Miss Haynes, who bore him a daughter; and for his second wife a Miss Dean, who bore him five children. He was chosen as the town’s first justice of the peace, and first representative, in 1792, holding the former office seventeen years, and was again a representative in 1795; was town clerk eleven years and a selectman four years. He died December 6, 1816. Calvin, Oliver and Amos Eastman, brothers of Jonathan, were all respected residents of Bristol, the latter dying at a very advanced age.
Robert Holley, a native of New London, Conn., came from Hebron, N. Y., in 1795, and located on the east side of the highway, nearly opposite the place now owned by Joel Barlow. In 1808 he removed to the village, where he kept a public house several years. He served the town as constable and collector, represented the town in the General Assembly eight years; was a delegate to the constitutional convention in 1826; was a presidential elector, casting his vote for President Monroe, and was a justice of the peace twenty-eight years. He was the father of eight children, and died April 18, 1836, aged seventy-seven years. Mrs. H. C. Munsill, Mrs. Cornelia Smith, and Mrs. Titus B. Page are his grandchildren. One of his daughters, Samantha, married Dr. Joseph Needham, and several of their descendants now reside in the town. Samuel H., son of Robert, studied at West Point, was a lawyer and assistant judge of the County Court, and occupied the farm now owned by Frank Hines. He died March 21, 1858, aged seventy-five years. Willis R. Peak is a grandson.
Captain Noble Munson, born in Westfield, Mass., in 1770, located upon the farm now owned by Elexice St. George. He was in the battle of Plattsburgh, and served the town for many years as selectman, representative, etc.
Asaph Parmelee, jr., lived in a brick house about a mile south of the village, upon the place now owned by his nephew, Dorus S. Parmelee, where he died October 24, 1854. Daniel E. Parmelee lived on the farm now owned by B. W. Pollard. His son, George W., now lives in the village. Harvey Parmelee, for many years a justice of the peace, occupied the place now owned by his son, Dorus S. Parmelee. He died May 2,1857, aged fifty-four years. Enos Soper, who came here at an early day, moved to the West some time between 1830 and 1840. Henry Soper, who died February 14, 1844, aged sixty-eight years, resided in the village where Colonel Dunshee now lives. Mrs. Dunshee is his granddaughter. Truman Crane, a wealthy farmer, and for a long time grand Juror, occupied the farm now owned by Noble L. Varney. His widow resides in the village. Gershom Hall settled upon the farm now occupied by Albro S. Cummings. Barnes B. Hall, son of John Hall, was a celebrated Methodist Episcopal clergyman and at one time a presiding elder. James Wilder, who served the town as constable about 1830 or 1835, subsequently removed to Euclid, Ohio. None of his descendants resides in the town, but Charles M. Wilds, a lawyer of Middlebury, is a grandson. Josephus Hatch lived upon the farm now owned by Charles C. Dunshee. His son Jerry, a graduate of Middlebury College, became a Mormon priest. Henry G. Sumner lived in the southern part of the town. He was a twin brother of George H. Sumner. Among his descendants in the town is Seneca Sumner. Nathan Hastings at one time resided in the village. He died here June 19, 1858. Rufus H. Barnerd occupied the farm now owned by his son Clinton R. He died September 22, 1842, aged fifty-seven years. David L. Annan lived in the village. He died here November 26, 1846, aged sixty years. John Howden lived on the farm now owned by Joel B. Barlow. He died July 3, 1858, aged seventy-seven years. His son William S. now resides in the village. John Brooks resided upon the farm now owned by Amos E. Hazelton, whose wife was a Miss Brooks. Wolcott Burnham, an Old Revolutionary soldier, lived in the northern part of the village. Thurston Chase, after whom “Chase Hollow” was named, resided upon the farm now owned by Page Colby. His son William S. now lives in the village. Abram Vradenburg, an old soldier of the War of 1812, lived in the eastern part of the town. He died April 12, 1863, aged seventy-five years. John Dunshee lived about a half mile southwest of the village, upon the place now owned by Mrs. Manette Morrison. His son Albert lives on the flats. Ira Tucker lived on the farm now owned by J. W. Rockwood. He died March 13, 1856, aged seventy-seven years. His son Ira is now a resident of the town. Moses Wheeler, an early settler, has no descendants now living in the town; but his son, F. P. Wheeler, is a physician of Burlington, Vt. Oliver Drake, an early settler, was the grandfather of Oliver S. Solomon Drake, who served as town clerk many years, resided in the eastern part of the village. Sylvester Scott settled upon the farm now owned by Enoch Varney, but at the time of his death lived on the farm now owned by Patrick O’Neil. His son, Loren L., now resides in the village. Nathan Rider lived where William C. Rider now resides, in the eastern part of the village. William C. has two sons, James B. and W. W., the latter a lawyer. Paul Raymond located in the eastern part of the town, where he was a resident for many years. Riley Adams lived on the farm now owned by James Jacobs, where he died April 2, 1824, aged seventy-three years. William Buss, who located upon the farm now owned by Patrick O’Neil, died December 25, 1836, aged sixty-three years. Dr. James Day lived and died upon the farm now owned by William D. Battles. John Wilkinson, who located upon the farm now owned by Henry La Varn, moved away about 1830, or earlier. Joseph Berry, who located upon the farm now owned by Joel B. Barlow, moved away at an early date. James Saxton, who was an early settler, died in the village April 18, 1862, aged eighty-two years. His brother Jehiel moved to Ohio at an early day. Seth Peake died in the village January 11, 1827, aged forty-three years. His son Royal W. and his grandson Willis R. reside here. Frederick Peet, a blacksmith in the eastern part of the village, died September 19, 1828, aged thirty-five years. Edward Sweet lived about a mile north of the village, upon the farm now occupied by James T. Tucker. He died November 9, 1851, aged fifty-nine years. Nancy, wife of George W. Parmelee, is a daughter. Dr. Chauncey Moor died July 12, 1837, aged sixty-six years. Reed Rathbun located upon the farm now owned by his son Curtis R., where he died January 14, 1863, aged sixty-one years. Bennet B. Dean, who was overseer of the poor for many years, died on the place now owned by Betsey Durfee. Sidney Moody, afterwards a druggist in Middlebury, went to Vineland, N. J., where he died. Kendrick W. Follett, who lived in the village many years, died December 26, 1861, aged fifty-nine years. His widow still survives him. Benjamin Vinton, eighty years of age, now residing on West street, has been a resident of the village many years. Elisha Briggs, after whom “Briggs Hill,” in the eastern part of the town, was named, still resides here at a very advanced age.
Town Organization, etc.–In the issue of the Vermont Gazette for February 14, 1789, the following notification, or warning for the first town meeting in Pocock, or Bristol, was published:
“These are to warn the inhabitants of Pocock to meet at the dwelling house of Justin Allen, in said Pocock, on the first Monday of March next, at 10 o’clock A. M., to act as follows: 1st, to choose a moderator to govern said meeting; 2d, to choose a town clerk; 3d, to choose selectmen; 4th, to choose a town treasurer; 5th, to choose a constable; 6th, to do any other business thought proper to do on said day. ELIJAH FOOT, J. P.
New Haven, February 14, 1789.”
Allen’s house was located about a third of the way up the steep hill, on the old Thomas Sumner place. Here the freemen of the town assembled at the appointed hour, and the legal organization of the town was effected by choosing Henry McLaughlin moderator, and then proceeding to elect the following town officers: Henry McLaughlin, clerk; Cyprian Eastman, Samuel Stewart and Robert Dunshee, selectmen; Amos Scott, treasurer; and Justin Allen, Constable. From this time down to 1854 the town meetings were held on the first Monday in March, annually, and since then upon the first Tuesday of that month. The second meeting, according to the records, was held at the house of Benjamin Griswold, and then for two years in a log house in the “Center District.” At a meeting held at the latter place on March 1, 1792, it was “Voted, that two bushels of wheat be taken out of the town treasury to pay town expenses.” Also, “Voted, that Jerusha D_____ shall be carried off by the selectmen, firstly to her parents, and if she return from them, then carry her to the last place where they have gained a residence, and if there is no place where they have gained a residence, then carry her to the place of her nativity.”
From the school-house the place of holding meetings was removed to the dwelling of Henry McLaughlin, which was the meeting place till 1797. After this meetings were held as follows: The house of John Ketcham till 1804; Noble Munson’s till 1808; Oliver Eastman’s till 1810; Robert Holley’s till 1831; Methodist chapel till 1834; at the public house till 1848; school-house in Bristol village till September 3l,1857; and then the meeting was adjourned to meet in a room in the academy building in the village, the town having paid $600 towards the erection of the building for the “privilege of holding town and freemen’s meetings therein.” Here the meetings were held until “Holley Hall” was built, in 1884, at a cost of $11,300. The site for this fine structure was donated by Winter Holley and his daughter, Cornelia Smith, widow of Oliver A., a son of Charles L. Smith.
Early Manufactures.–The first grist-mill built in the town was put up by James, William and John O’Brian about the year 1792. It was located west of South Mountain, upon the brook which still bears the builders’ name.
This mill was a small affair, and was in use but a short time, though it was very valuable to the early settlers, until a more pretentious structure was built at New Haven Mills. Subsequently, in 1805, a grist-mill was built at Bristol village by Enos Soper, and which did service until September, 1849, when it was destroyed by fire. Henry and Enos Soper and Uriah Arnold next erected a stone mill in the eastern part of the village. Soon after the first gristmill was built, Amos Scott put up a saw-mill in the western part of the town, on New Haven River.
At an early day the attention of the inhabitants was directed towards the practicability of manufacturing their own iron, from the ore afforded in the township. This idea was carried out, and in 1791 Amos Scott, Captain Gurdon Munsill and Cyprian and Amos Eastman built a forge near where Scott erected the first saw-mill. This enterprise, though continued but a comparatively short time, proved of great importance, not only to Bristol but to neighboring towns.
Subsequently there were six other forges erected, as follows: The second, by Amos and Ebenezer Scott, near where the old John Dunshee trip-hammer shop stood. The iron made here soon began to find its way to Troy, N. Y., in payment for goods. The third, built by Joshua Franklin, jr., Henry Franklin, John Arnold and Nehemiah Hobert, in 1802, was located on the north side of the river, in what is now Bristol village. This forge did a good business for many years, manufacturing bar iron. In June, 1809, it was burned, rebuilt, and again burned in 1816, rebuilt, and destroyed by fire again in 1823, when it was rebuilt, to be finally destroyed by the great freshet of 1830. The fourth forge was built in 1832 by Thurston and James Chase, Nathaniel Drake and George C. Dayfoot, on Baldwin Creek. It was allowed to go to ruin many years since. The fifth was located on the north side of the river, just east of the village, and as late as about 1855 was operated by Winter H. Holley. The sixth, located on the north side of Baldwin Creek, was built by Oliver W. Burnham, and had a brief existence. The seventh and last was built by Luman Munson, Bennet B. Dean and D. R. Gaige, near the old John Dunshee triphammer shop. The business was discontinued between 1850 and 1860.
Soon after the year 1800 Elisha Fuller purchased of James Hair a site in Bristol village and erected thereon buildings for carrying on the business of cloth dressing. Subsequently machinery for carding wool was added, and the business was conducted by different parties down to 1830, when the great freshet swept everything off, and the mill was not rebuilt.
Military.–There were few among the early male population of Bristol that had not served in some capacity in the continental ranks. But as a town, it of course has no Revolutionary history. On the 7th of June, 1791, the first militia company was organized here, the “Tenth Company, Second Regiment, Sixth Brigade Vermont Infantry” Cyprian Eastman was elected captain and Benjamin Clapp lieutenant, positions of no little honor in those days. Another company, the “Light Infantry,” was organized June 1, 1808, which elected John Hilborn captain, and Jehial Saxton lieutenant.
At the invasion of Plattsburgh, in September, 1814, sixty-six volunteers were present from Bristol. Fifty-one of these served in Captain Jehiel Saxton’s company, under command of General Strong. Ten were in Captain Jewett’s company, of New Haven. Ezekiel Dunton, who was then a brigadier general, took command of a small company as their captain, and John Howden, who was the general’s aid-de-camp, served in his company as a private. Robert Holley and Henry Getman served in a company from Charlotte, and Oliver W. Burnham served in Captain John Moulton’s company.
In the late great war the town also bore an honorable part. The following list from the State records gives the names of all who went out from the town to serve in Vermont regiments:
Volunteers for three years credited previous to call for 300,000 volunteers of October 17, 1863:
J. M. Bacon, A. F. Baker, E. R. Bancroft, C. L. Bartlett, H. R. Beckwith, R. A. Bird, H. Bowers, H. Brooks, W. Brooks, N. Bush, M. Bushee, A. Butler, E. D. Chase, E. D. Chillson, H. Cook, A. Danforth, G. E. Drake, O. B. Drake, W. B. Dunshee, E. J. Foster, A. N. Gauthier, C. Grimes, B. J. Grinnell, J. Hagan, D. Hamblin, J. B. Hastings, B. F. Hickin, J. Hines, A. A. Leland, J. McVar, H. C. Myers, J. Moody, S. S. Morgan, F. Mullings, G. Mullens, R. Munroe, C. R. Myers, W. W. Needham, H. Noland, J. Oakes, C. O’Brian, H. O’Brian, L. Orcutt, H. L. Prime, D. C. Quimby, J. B. Quimby, C. J. S. Randall, H. Robbins, J. Scarborough, J. W. Shadrick, R. Sharlow, B. Sheldon, J. Sheldon, E. Tart, N. Tart, D. R. Thompson, N. C. Thompson, E. Vradenburgh, C. B. Warner, C. E. P. Wheeler, E. C. Wright.
Credits under call of October 17, 1863, for 300,000 volunteers, and subsequent calls: .
Volunteers for three years.–A. Bezner, J. Bezner, W. E. Bicknell, C. Bowers, H. Brooks, G. H. Bunker, F. Daniel, C. E. Dushon, D. K. Hamblin, E. R. Jacobs, U. D. Jacobs, H. D. May, C. E. Nelson, A. A. Peters, P. Phinney, S. Preston, C. Prince, W. T. Richardson, M. Roberts, J. Shadick, W. Shadick, L. Steady, jr., J. Weaver.
Volunteers for one year.–E. D. Chase, F. M. Dwyer, L. C. Finch, G. W. Green, N. McIntyre, D. Munroe, H. C. Myers, F. Strait, L. S. Walker, L. F. Weaver, E. Whittemore, G. Whittemore.
Volunteers re-enlisted.–J. M. Bacon, E. R. Bancroft, H. Bowers, M. Bushee, J. S. Chandler, E. D. Chillson, A. Danforth, C. Grimes, B. J. Grinnell, J. W. Hilton, L. Orcutt, I. B. Quimby, D. R. Thompson.
Not credited by name.–Two men.
Volunteers for nine months.–E. D. Barnes, R. C. Brown, H. Butler, M. Calihan, J. Clapper, N. F. Dunshee, N. Gravel, F. W. Grinnell, A. E. Manum, N. McIntyre, M. Melian, S. W. Palmer, D. Patno, I. Plain, H. C. Powers, E. Tatro, S. Vradenburgh, D. Whitmore, jr., C. Yattaw.
Furnished under draft.–Paid commutation, C. C. Abbott, W. T. Drake, C. Kendall. Procured substitute, N. Crozier, T. Rockwood. Entered service, S. Crozier, G. Q. Day.
Present Town Officers.-The present board of officers for the town is as follows: E. M. Kent, clerk; H. C. Munsill, treasurer; H. S. Sumner, W. R. Peake, and P. W. Chase, selectmen; E. S. Farr, constable; A. D. Searls, superintendent of schools; W. W. Needham, N. J. Hill, and C. W. Norton, listers; R. A. Young, overseer of the poor; and W. W. Rider, town agent.
Population Statistics.–The following figures from the tables of the United States census reports show the population of the town to have fluctuated little, but rather to have been steadily increasing since the taking of the first census in 1791: 1791, 211; 1800, 665; 1810, 1,179; 1820, 1,051; 1830, 1,274; 1840, 1,233; 1850, 1,344; 1860, 1,355; 1870, 1,365; 1880, 1,579.
Bristol village occupies a commanding site upon an elevated plain- about one hundred and twenty feet above the bed of New Haven River, just after that stream leaves the wild ravine known as “The Notch.” Lying thus at the very base of Hogback Mountain, with South Mountain on the southeast, fine examples of the picturesque wildness of nature, nearly approaching grandeur, are ever present to the beholder, and in rare contrast to the fertile plains north and south, and the broad view sweeping westward to the Adirondacks of Northern New York.
The village itself lies principally upon four streets, North, South, East, and West streets, respectively, extending in the direction their names would suggest. Near the center of the village they intersect, at which point is enclosed a fine park. The good water power afforded by the river here is utilized by several manufacturing interests, so that the village is equally renowned for its business capacity, beauty, and the fine view it commands. It has about twenty stores, four churches (Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Adventist, and Roman Catholic), one hotel, a printing-office, coffin and casket manufactory, a photograph gallery, two harness shops, grist-mill, etc., an elegant town hall graded school, six physicians, two dentists, and about eight hundred inhabitants.
In 1800 this site was almost an unbroken wilderness, there not being a framed house here and scarcely a barn. A few rude log houses were all that were to be found. But here manufacturing establishments began to spring up, as we have detailed on a previous page, bringing workmen to the scene, and in their wake came shops, stores, etc., which, with the central location to give them permanency, made the village, as it now is, the metropolis of the township
The following sketch of the village as it was in 1840 will give some idea of its growth: W. H. Hawley kept a store where the town hall now stands. Henry Spaulding had a store in the old brick building now occupied by Emerson W. Smith, which was built three years previous. Hezekiah Foster was located as a merchant where the O’Neil block now stands. Henry Gale was located where W. H. Miller now is. Abram B. Huntley, now living in Whiting, had a store where Willis Peak’s house stands, which he built in 1836. About the same time, also, Pier & Chilson built a store on the north side of East street, which they conducted several years, and which was finally destroyed by fire. Philo S. Warner and Loyal Downing were shoemakers, the former having located here as early as 1825, and the latter occupying the building now used by Mr. Eastman for his harness shop. Deacon Amasa Grinnell, a Mr. Dexter, and Andrew Santee (colored) were blacksmiths. John Dunshee and William Perry had wagon shops here. Albert, son of the former, is now a resident on the flats. The hotel, “Bristol House,” was kept by Samuel Eddy. Aside from these were the forge, grist-mill, saw-mill and clothdressing works we have previously mentioned.
Post office.–A post-office was first established in Bristol in 1803, with Thaddeus McLaughlin postmaster. The office was located in the first brick building erected in the town, by the father of Thaddeus, Henry McLaughlin, in 1800, and located about a mile west of the present village. Previous to this the mail matter for Bristol, consisting of a few letters and the Middlebury Mercury, was brought from Middlebury each week by the settlers themselves, who alternately shared in the task. In 1804 Jacob Cadwell was appointed postmaster, and the following year was succeeded by Isaac Cadwell, who retained the office until 1815, when he in turn was succeeded by Joseph Otis. Both Jacob and Isaac Cadwell kept the office in their house, a log structure used as a hotel, about four miles northeast from the village, on the Starksboro road. When Joseph Otis took the office in 1815, however, he removed it to the village, where it has been retained since. Fred Landon is the present postmaster.
Manufacturing Interests.–At the head of the manufacturing interests of Bristol is the Bristol Manufacturing Company, which was originally established under the firm name of Howden, Daniels & Co., for the purpose of manufacturing coffins and caskets in a small way. This limited business steadily increased, and in 1867 the firm name was changed to Howden, Bosworth & Co., and on January 1, 1877, a stock company was formed under the title of the Bristol Manufacturing Company, with W. S. Howden, president, and D. Beckwith, secretary and treasurer. The original capital of $25,000 was subsequently increased to $46,000, while to the original business was added that of manufacturing sash, doors and blinds and general jobbing. The company has a fine water power and four buildings, with sheds, etc., embracing a sawmill, wood-factory, two finishing shops, dry-house, office, storage rooms, etc. The works employ from fifty to sixty hands, and the annual sales amount to about $66,000, and are constantly increasing. The goods are sold principally in New York and New England.
R. D. Stewart’s grist-mill on South street, operated by W. I. Rider, has three run of stones and all modern improvements. The mill was partially destroyed by the freshet of 1869, a short time previous to which it became Mr. Stewart’s property, and he rebuilt it soon after.
F. Greenough, blacksmith and wagon-maker, began business here in 1878. Octave Cushman, blacksmith and wheelwright, has been in business here about twenty years. N. McIntyre, blacksmith and wagon-maker, has been here since 1867. J. H. Wright, carriage-maker, has been here since 1850. Ira T. Eastman and William Battles are harness-makers, the former having been here since 1865.
Mercantile Interests.–W. H. Miller, dealer in clothing and furnishing goods, began business here in the sale of notions in 1876. In 1885 he went into his present business, taking the store then occupied by W. B. Dunshee. F. I. Ward, millinery, fancy goods, etc., began business in the O’Neil block in 1873, and removed to his present location in 1875, which was then built by Drake Farr, & Co.
E. S. & S. D. Farr, stoves and hardware, began business in 1878, succeeding the old firm of Drake, Farr & Co. who built the the block.
J. J. Dumas, dealer in sash, doors and blinds, etc., began business in 1881.
Ridley & Varney are undertakers. In 1876 M. P. Varney began the business and J. J. Ridley became a partner in 1882.
Bush & Patterson, dealers in groceries and provisions, crockery, notions, etc., became a firm in 1878, Edward B. Patterson buying the interest of H. C. Barnes, C. P. Bush’s partner. About two years the former partnership had existed where William E. Dunshee now is. The block they now occupy was built by Mr. Patterson in 1878.
W. E. Dunshee, who began his mercantile career here in 1856, deals in groceries and provisions, though he formerly kept a general store.
F. W. Nash began the boot and shoe business in the spring of 1884, as successor to M. S. Wilds, who had carried on the business over thirty years, and who built the block. Mr. Nash also carries on the dry goods and fancy goods trade in the same block, in which he succeeded G. P. Phalen in 1884.
N. F. Dunshee began the dry goods business in W. E. Dunshee’s block in 1883. In company with Willis Peak he formerly carried on the same business where W. H. Miller now is.
C. S. Bristol, jewelry and boots and shoes, began business in 1872 upon the opposite side of the street from his present location, to which he moved in 1873.
E. C. Dike, hardware, stoves, tinware, etc., began business here in 1869 as Dike, Bixby & Co.; he became sole proprietor in 1880.
S. W. Hatch, undertaking, furniture and carpets, began business in 1870.
C. P. Abernethy, grocery and market, began at his present location in 1884.
D. M. Strong, grocery and market, began business in his present store in 1883.
Dr. D. A. Bisbee, proprietor of the “Village Drug Store,” bought out Hiram Shattuck in 1880, who had been in the business here a number of years.
Dr. E. M. Kent, drugs and medicines, began business in 1872.
Peter H. Lander & Co., cigar-makers and dealers, in business here since October, 1884, employ twenty hands.
C.E. Smith carries on the photograph gallery, and sells picture frames.
J. Miller is a merchant tailor.
M.W., P.P. and J.S. Wilson established the Bristol Herald in May, 1879, under the firm name of Wilson Brothers. The paper is an eight column Republican sheet. They also do job printing.
The Bristol House was bought by Abram Gaige, father to T. B. Gaige, and rebuilt by him about 1820. He continued in the hotel business here until about 1834 or 1835, when he was succeeded by his son, D. R. Gaige, and Luman Munson. Among those who have acted as its landlord may be mentioned Samuel Eddy, William Rutherford, Ransom Taft, Partch & Post, and David Brown, the latter of whom sold to the present proprietor, J. J. Ridley, in February, 1871.
The Professions.–W. W. Rider, the lawyer of Bristol, was born here in 1841. He studied law with Horatio Needham, was admitted to the bar in 1865, and has practiced here since.
Dr. E. G. Prime was born in Bristol in 1843. He graduated from the Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia in 1870, and from the Royal College of Edinburgh, Scotland, in June, 1882. He practiced one year in Glasgow, in Rutland two years, Boston one year, and has been in Bristol since.
Dr. D. A. Bisbee, born in Brandon in 1852, graduated from the Michigan University in 1875, and came here in 1879.
Dr. E. M. Kent, born in Lincoln in 1843, graduated from the University of Vermont in 1866, and has practiced here since.
D. A. A. Dean was born in Monkton in 1857, graduated from the University of New York in 1878, and has practiced here since.
Dr. George O. W. Farnham was born in Shoreham in 1859, graduated from the University of Vermont in 1883, and has been here since.
H. A. Hasseltine studied dentistry with A. A. Rosseter, and began practice here in 1877.
E. W. Shattuck studied in Bristol and at Lowell, Mass., and began the practice of dentistry here in 1881.
The Bristol Baptist Church was organized by Elder Joseph Call, in 1794, with nine members. Rev. Thomas Tuttle was the first settled minister. The church building, erected in 1794, will seat two hundred and fifty persons, and is valued at $4,900, including grounds. The society now has one hundred and two members, with Rev. P. B. Strong, pastor, who was installed August 1, 1885. The present officers of the society are Daniel W. Durfee, Octavius Cushman and William Miller, prudential committee; J. J. Dumas and A. J. Averill, deacons; and Wallace Rider, treasurer.
The Congregational Church was organized July 8, 1805, by Rev. J. Bushnell, of Cornwall, who at an early day occasionally preached here. David Ingraham, first deacon, continued to officiate until he removed from town in 1815. They had no stated preaching for several years, nor house of worship till 1819, when they built a house in connection with the Baptists and Universalists, each denomination to occupy in proportion to the amount paid for its erection. They occupied their share until 1837, when they built the present Congregational Church. Rev. Calvin Butler, ordained February 10, 1842, was the first settled minister, the society at that time having sixty-seven members. The church now has no regular pastor, and the building is leased to the Adventists.
The Methodist Church of Bristol Village was organized in 1813, services being held at the residence of Ebenezer Saxton. Rev. Stephen Scovenberger
preached the first Methodist sermon in Bristol. Services were held in barns and private houses until 1819, when a chapel was built which did service until 1840, when the present church was erected, and is now valued at about $3,000. The society has ninety-five members, with Rev. A. H. Nash, pastor, installed May 1, 1885. The stewards of the society, who are by law of the State ex-officio trustees, are F. Landon, C. W. Smith, F. I. Ward, E. Vilmore, S. B. Searles, B. W. Pollard, F. S. Thompson, A. Ferguson and J. T. Tucker.
The Advent Christian Church held services as early as 1840, a portion of the time in Academy Hall. The society is now organized with nineteen members, holding services in the Congregational Church, which they have leased for a term of years. Rev. Hiland Quimby, the first pastor, was succeeded by the present incumbent, Rev. S. P. Hayward, in 1885. The officers of the society are William Howden and Samuel Stewart, deacons.
Educational.–The Bristol Scientific Institute was established many years ago, and during the late war was changed to the Bristol Academy, which name it retained till March 2, 1881, when it was organized as the Bristol Graded School. The present building, erected in 1855, was removed a hundred rods to its present location about 1876. Mason S. Stone is principal of the academy, assisted by E. A. Hasseltine, Julia Barry, Hattie Bissonette and Miss Spencer. The town has nine school districts.
Secret Societies.–Libanus Lodge No. 47, F. and A. M., was chartered January 13, 1859. It now has seventy-nine members, and meets the second Monday evening of each month. Its officers are as follows: H. S. Sumner, W. M.; S. W. Hatch, S. W.; A. A. Dean, secy.; H. B. Williams, treas.; C. W. Huler, S. D.; W. H. Prime, J. D.; E. A. Hasseltine, chaplain; C. W. Norton, G. W. Flinn, E. W. Smith, finance committee; J. R. Kilborn, 0. C. Crandall, stewards; H. P. Sherwin, tiler, and W. W. Needham, marshal.
Gifford Chapter No. 23 H. C. Munsill, H. P.; M. S. Taylor, K.; H. S. Sumner, S.; S. F. Hasseltine, secy.; H. B. Williams, treas.; W. P. Chase, C. 0. H.; E. A. Hasseltine, P. S.; W. W. Needham, R. A. C.; G. W. Flinn, M. 3d V.; G. W. Smith, M. 2d V.; Jas. Dunton, M. 1st V.; A. E. Munson, E. G. Prine, stewards; W. S. Crampton, tiler. Convocation first Wednesday of each month. Number of members thirty-one.
Munsill Council has fifteen members, with the following officers: E. A. Hasseltine, J. I. M.; S. Brunch, D. M.; A. E. Munson, P. C.; L. S. Crampton, recorder.