Vermont History and Genealogy

February 10, 2007

Men of Vermont – Benjamin Carpenter

Filed under: Benjamin Carpenter, Famous Vermont Residents — thedarwinexception @ 3:02 pm

Men of Vermont: An Illustrated Biographical History of Vermonters and Sons of Vermont.

Carpenter, Benjamin.–Colonel in the Revolutionary service, Lieutenant-Governor, 1779-’81, among the foremost of the early patriots of the state, and a character whose steady strength of principle makes one of the most interesting figures of Thompson’s romance, was born in Swanzey, Mass., May 17, 1725, the son of Edward and Elizabeth (Wilson) Carpenter. He had only a common school education, yet he was evidently a man of prominence before he came to Vermont, for the famous inscription on his tombstone at Guilford states that he was a magistrate in Rhode Island in 1764. He appeared on the Grants and settled in Guilford in 1770, and he was the first delegate from Guilford to a Vermont convention and one of the very few on the east side of the state that had any part in the early struggles against New York. He was in the Westminister convention of April 11, 1775, which condemned the New York government for the Westminster massacre, in the Dorsetand Westminster conventions of 1776, and in the Windsor convention that framed the constitution of the state. An incident in this connection, given on the authority of the late Rev. Mark Carpenter, shows a creditable freedom on his part from the greed for land speculation which was so mixed up with the Vermont patriotism of those days. The Legislature, which consisted largely of the men who had framed the constitution, voted to themselves several townships of land as “compensation for their long and self-sacrificing services.” Colonel Carpenter voted against the measure, denounced it as detracting from the dignity of the work, and to his dying day persisted in never touching what the town voted to him, (Barre), or in taking any compensation for his public services.

In the heated politics of Guilford, going far beyond what was ever known elsewhere in the state, the New York adherents got atop in 1778 and ruled the town for the next thirteen years; but Colonel Carpenter fought them uncompromisingly and at much risk and sacrifice, as it is recorded that in December, 1783, he was taken prisoner by the Yorkers and carried away “to his great damage.”
He was a leader among the patriots as soon as the Revolution broke out, being chairman of the Cumberland county committee of safety Feb. 1, 1776, and by that body was nominated lieutenant-colonel of militia and the appointment confirmed by New York authority. He was a member of [p.64] the Council of Safety which managed the 1777 campaign so efficiently, building out of disaster and disorganization the victory at Bennington and the eventual capture of Burgoyne. With pack and cane he went afoot from his Guilford home, thirty miles through the woods by his line of marked trees, to attend the meeting of the Council that took the decisive measures of confiscating Tory estates to raise money, and stimulating enlistments by the promise of a township of land for each company. So important were his services recognized to be, that at the second election of the new state in 1779, he was chosen Lieutenant-Governor and re-elected in 1780. In the later politics of the state he was a staunch Jeffersonian; in the words on the tombstone: “A public leader of righteousness, an able advocate to his last for Democracy and the equal rights of man.” His last office was that in the Council of Censors in 1783.  

He was a deacon in the Baptist church, of which he was for fifty years a member, influential throughout the denomination in New England, and occasionally preaching himself.

He died March 29, 1804, at the age of nearly seventy-nine, and leaving one hundred and forty-six persons of lineal posterity. His wife was a fourth cousin, Annie, daughter of Abial and Prudence Carpenter, whom he married at Providence, R. I., Oct. 3, 1745.

Colonel Carpenter was a man of impressive presence, being over six feet tall and weighing two hundred. Thompson’s History of Vermont truly says that he “deservedly holds a conspicuous place in the early history of the state.”

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