HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF BRIDPORT.
BRIDPORT lies upon the lake shore, the center one of the county’s western tier of towns. It is bounded on the north by Addison; on the east by Weybridge and Cornwall; south by Shoreham, and west “by the center of the deepest channel of Lake Champlain.” The charter deed which brought the township into existence was signed by Benning Wentworth, the royal governor of New Hampshire under King George III, October 9, 1761, granting to Ebenezer Wiswall and sixty-three others “a tract of land six miles long, from north to south, and seven miles broad from east to west, bounded on the west by the waters of ‘Wood Creek'”; for such was the early name of this part of Lake Champlain. This charter gave these sixty-four grantees, most of whom were residents of Worcester county, Mass., 25,000 acres of land, the same that makes up the area of the Bridport of today, for no material changes have been made in the town’s original boundary lines.
The surface of this tract which England’s erratic king granted to “his loving subjects,” for the “due encouragement of settling a new plantation in our said province,” is generally level, with perhaps just hills and rolling land enough to lend a pleasing landscape contour. The soil is principally a brittle marl, or clay, with loam upon the higher land. The timber in the eastern part of the township is mostly maple and beech, and in the western part oak, with some white and Norway pine along the border of the lake. Few streams or springs of importance are afforded, while the water, except that of a few good wells, is somewhat distasteful for drinking or domestic purposes in some parts of the town on account of a strong impregnation of epsom salts, making it taste brackish; for this reason rain-water is extensively used. The streams are low and sluggish, affording no good mill facilities; on this account manufacturing has never been carried on here, the inhabitants being almost entirely devoted to farming and stock and sheep-raising, the latter occupation latterly, and for many years taking precedence. Lemon Fair River is the largest stream. It crosses a portion of the southeastern part of the town, where it flows through a heavy, swamp and is joined by Birchard’s Creek. It is also swelled by one or two other small tributaries. Two streams rise in the southern part of the town, called East and West Branches, respectively, flowing north into Addison, where they unite to form Dead Creek. These, with the exception of several small brooks which empty into the lake, are the only streams in the township.
Settlement and 0rganization.–The first deed of land recorded in Bridport bears date May 20, 1766. It was given by Colonel Ephraim Doolittle, and reads as follows:
“For six pounds to me in hand paid by Daniel Hemenway, of Shrewsbury, Worcester county, Mass., to six rights of land granted by his Majesty King George III, under seal of the province of New Hampshire, situate on Wood Creek or South Bay Waters, on the east side thereof, near Crown Point and Ticonderoga forts. The rights granted to Nathan Baldwin, Samuel Crawford, Nahum Willard, Samuel Brewer, Noah Jones and Jacob Hemenway, which I, Ephraim Doolittle, have received deeds of release from the original proprietors, which township of lands are now in the province of New York, set my hand and seal, May 20, 1766, in the sixth year of his Majesty’s reign.
- “EPHRAIM DOOLITTLE.”
This deed, it seems, was the initiatory step in a scheme formulated by Colonel Doolittle to colonize the town on something after the co-operative plan. He succeeded in inducing a number to locate in the southwestern part of the town, where they began improvements, holding all things in common, but not bringing their families to the new territory. This plan, however, proved abortive. Fever and ague prevailed extensively, and after a time all had left except the colonel, who spent several seasons in this vicinity and in Shoreham. It will be noticed, also, that in this, the first deed recorded in the newly-granted township, intimation is given of the pending land-title troubles between New York and the “New Hampshire Grants,” or Vermont.
In 1798, two years after the failure of the plan above noted, the first permanent settlement was begun. Philip Stone, afterwards colonel, then twentyone years of age, came from Groton, Mass., and commenced improvements on the lot of land he had purchased. Soon after, two families, Richardson and Smith, settled upon land held under the New York titles, and three, Towner, Chipman and Plumer, under New Hampshire titles.
The second permanent settler was Samuel Smith. In the autumn of 1770 he started from New Jersey with his family and effects in a “Jersey wagon,” drawn by a yoke of oxen. This conveyance they used until they arrived at Skenesboro (now Whitehall, N. Y.), where they disposed of the land-conveyance and took passage in a bateau. Journeying down the lake until they reached the township of Panton, they landed and located upon the land subsequently owned by Nathan Spaulding, November 9, 1770. Here they remained until 1773, when they removed to Bridport.
Not long after Mr. Smith and his family took up their residence here, such uncertainty, disquietude and unsafely arose among the settlers, in consequence of the quarrel between the government of the province of New York and the people of the “Grants,” and especially upon the reception of the news of the approach of Burgoyne’s army, in 1777, that most of the families in the town, especially those who had settled on or near the shore of the lake, left their homes and moved to more quiet localities. A few remained, however, and among the number was the family of Mr. Smith. Although frequently annoyed by the impertinent demands and hostile demonstrations of the “York State men,” they succeeded in maintaining full possession of their domicile, living in peaceful and friendly relations with the Indians, who frequently visited the settlement, until a short time previous to Carleton’s raid in 1778. On receipt of the news of the approach of that irregular and destructive band, Mr. Smith’s family, with the exception of Nathan and Marshall, after selecting what articles could be best carried on their backs and in their arms, the bundles being apportioned according to the age and strength of each, left their home and started through the forest to the stockade forts at Pittsford, in Rutland county. Nathan and Marshall remained for the purpose of securing, if possible, and secreting the fall crops which were then on the ground. The family left in September, though the hostile party did not actually arrive until the 1st of November. On the 4th of that month Nathan and Marshall, with a man by the name of Ward, were captured and taken to Quebec, while improvements and buildings erected in the settlement were destroyed by fire, one dwelling only in town escaping the general disaster. After a weary period of nineteen months’ imprisonment in Canada, the young men succeeded in making their escape, and, after being once recaptured, finally reached the forts at Pittsford. On their long journey thither they stopped one night in Bridport, staying in the abandoned house of Asa Hemenway, the only one that had escaped the ravages of the enemy. Nathan spent some three years in the neighborhood of Tinmouth, and in the spring of 1784 married Mrs. Wait Trask, formerly Miss Wait Allen, and immediately came on and settled upon the farm in Bridport, where he died about fifty years after. Soon after Nathan settled here he invited his father and mother to reside with him, where they remained during their life, the death of the former occurring on the 11th of November, 1798, aged seventy-eight years; and the latter on December 22, 1800, aged seventy-four years.
On the day that Mr. Smith took up his residence in Bridport, November 25, 1773, occurred the first marriage in the township, that of Philip Stone, the early settler, to a Miss Ward, of Addison, whose parents had recently moved into that town from Dover, N. Y. Miss Ward was a brave woman, even if viewed in the light of those heroic times, as was more than once evinced in the following few years of danger and trial. It seems that all the settlers’ families did not suffer the same as that of Mr. Smith from malicious mischief at the hands of predatory bands of savages, and among the unfortunate ones was that of Mr. Stone. At one time Mrs. Stone discovered one of these plundering parties “creeping up the bank towards the house, just in season to throw some things which she knew they would be sure to carry off, if found, out of a back window into the yard, and, concealing some valuables in her bosom, sat down to carding before they came prowling in. The Indians, not satisfied with what they found on the premises, drew near Mrs. Stone, who had been sitting during the visitation with her children around her, carding all the while, apparently as unconcerned as though surrounded by friends, instead of Indians and thieves. One young savage, suspecting she had some things concealed about her person, attempted to run his hand into her bosom, whereupon she so dexterously cuffed him in the face with the teeth-side of her card, that he quickly recoiled from the invasion. Another young Indian flourished his tomahawk over her head; but an old Indian, struck with admiration at the coolness and bravery of the woman, laughing in derision at the defeat of his companion, ejaculated heartily, ‘Good squaw! good squaw!’ when he interfered and led off the predatory party, and Mrs. Stone kept quietly carding on, until quite sure they had made good their departure.”
At another time the house of Mr. Stone was thus visited, giving him just time to escape violence by flying into the woods. The savages first stripped the house of everything of value, then their leader, “Sanhoop,” put on a frock, the best shirt he could find, and led his party to the pig-sty, where he selected the best, and officiated as chief butcher; and while his followers, whooping and dancing, carried off the butchered pig to their canoe, he stood flourishing his bloody sleeves.
In the winter following the marriage of Mr. Stone, a Mr. Victory came into the township with his family and located near the lake shore. The following is a touching account of his death, which occurred soon afterward:
“Taking his son, a lad of fourteen years, with him, he had gone up Lake George in a skiff, where, seized with an inflammatory fever, too sick to lift and ply a homeward oar, he landed on a solitary island, and, alone with this young son, who could only bathe his fever-parched lips with cool water from the lake and sorrowfully hold his dying head, he fainted by the way, was stricken in the wilderness, and died on the lonely isle of the lake. The affectionate son could not leave his dead father, perchance to some beast of prey, but stayed by the lifeless form till providentially a boat came so near he hailed it. The men landed, drew near, and, touched by the sight they saw, buried the body tenderly and decently as they could, without coffin or shroud, and took the fatherless boy off from the island.
In 1775 began in Bridport in earnest the War of the Revolution. “A Tory, who was a tenant in the house of a Mr. Prindle, set fire to the house and left, implicating Mr. Stone in the robbery and burning. Mr. Stone, anticipating mischief, secreted himself among the bushes on the bank near his house, where he was discovered by the British, who fired upon him; but the volley of grape-shot struck among the trees above him. They also fired upon his house and some of the balls entered the room where his family were. They then sent a boat on shore, captured Mr. Stone, and took him to Ticonderoga, where he remained three weeks. Mrs. Stone, expecting he would be sent to Quebec, that she might again see her husband before his departure, shut up her two little children alone in their cabin, bidding the elder, which was but four years of age, to take good care of the baby till mother came back, who was going to take poor papa his clothes, went in a canoe to carry them, a distance of twelve miles, accompanied only by her brother, a lad of ten years. After she arrived, in order to gain admittance to her husband, she must remain over night. The mother thought of her babes alone in the cottage in the woods through all the long night; but could she turn from the door of her husband’s prison, and perhaps see him no more? No, her babes the tender mother committed, in her heart, to the Good Father and tarried till the morning; and upon her return found her little children safe, the elder having understood enough of her directions to feed and take care of the younger.”
After the close of the war in 1781, and the final peace ratification in 1783, immunity against rapine and plunder was once more assured the pioneers of Vermont’s wilderness. In most of the new townships the ruined habitations were once more taking on the garb of civilization, the Green Mountains echoing the strokes of the woodman’s axe. In Bridport the settlers began to arrive in 1783, and it was not long before most of them had rebuilt their homes, and their numbers were augmented by the arrival of others.
During this year (1783) the proprietors of Bridport and Shoreham (nearly the same persons were proprietors of both towns) met at the house of Elisha Smith, esq., in Clarendon, Vt., when Colonel Ephraim Doolittle was chosen moderator; Nathan Smith, clerk; Daniel Hemenway, treasurer; Samuel Benton, Philip Stone and Nathan Manly, assessors; and Marshall Smith, collector of proprietors’ taxes. Their business was to devise means to survey the town, and to raise money for the purpose. The meeting was adjourned to convene at the house of Philip Stone, and from that time forward the meetings were held in Bridport.
Four divisions of land were made in Bridport, in which each proprietor drew by lottery his right or share. The first division was of eighty hundred acre lots. The second division was of two hundred acres to each share, “surveyed adjoining to the aforesaid center lots and with parallel lines with the first division.” In 1783 the third division was made, it being voted “that the common land in said town on the lake shore be laid out into fifty-acre lots, and land laid out back as much as to make up one hundred acres to each number.”
The fourth division was the “village plot,” one hundred acres being divided into sixty-eight acre lots and the “common.” In this year, also, it was voted that “Marshall Smith be appointed a committee to provide for the State surveyor to run the town lines.”
In 1785, on the 28th of March, occurred an important event in the history of Bridport–the legal organization of the town by the election of proper civil officers. The list chosen was as follows: John N. Bennett, clerk; Marshall Smith, constable; and John Barber, Moses Johnson, Daniel Haskins, Isaac Barrows and Marshall Smith, selectmen. A committee was also appointed, consisting of Philip Stone, Nathan Smith and Abijah Dunning, “to lay out a highway through the lake lots, from the north line to the south line of the said town.” This was without doubt the first highway laid out in the township. John Barber, Asa Hemenway and John N. Bennett were also appointed a committee “to lay out a road through the town from east to west.”
In the mean time, while these affairs were in progress, new settlers were constantly arriving. In 1786 fourteen families started out from Morris county, N. J., to make for themselves a new home in the “Hampshire Grants.” Among them were Benjamin Miner and his five sons. He was an ex-soldier of the Revolution, and located upon the farm lately occupied by Champlin C. Miner, where he died in 1835, aged ninety-three years. The eldest of the sons, Benjamin, jr., was destined to take an important part in the administration of the public affairs of the town. He was born in Stonington, Conn., in 1767, and held the office of justice of the peace here from 1809 until his death in 1851. He also represented the town in the General Assembly during the years 1820, 1821, 1822 and 1825, and also in the Constitutional Convention of 1828. In connection with his duties as justice he married nearly one hundred couples, and always made a custom of giving the fee to the bride. He located upon the farm now owned by his grandson, E. Ladd Miner. Benjamin, jr., assisted in clearing away the brush to make way for digging the first grave in the township, in what is now the village cemetery. This was for the burial of Isaac Richman, who died April 28, 1786. About a week later a Mr. Mosher, who died of consumption, was also buried here.
That the reader may gain a more definite conception of the freeholders of the town, and the amount of money on which they were taxed at this time, we have herewith the grand list of 1786, from the original record:
£ s. d. Alexander Osborn.........12 0 0 Marshall Smith...........25 0 0 Phillip Stone............48 0 0 Samuel Smith.............26 0 0 Esril Hucker............. 6 0 0 Isaac Chipman.............9 0 0 Bijah Dunning............18 0 0 John Fisk................31 0 0 ________Rockwood......... 5 0 0 John Nobel Bennett.......27 0 0 Samuel Lewis.............57 10 0 Nathan Smith.............38 0 0 Moses Johnson............32 0 0 James Wilcocks...........11 0 0 Jonathan Viery........... 6 0 0 Nathan Manley.............9 0 0
The above is for improved real estate. On the opposite page of the old record appears the following, which alludes to the personal property and improved land of the persons named:
“Joshua Done, one head, £6 os od; two cows,two three year oalds,£l 0s 0d. Asa Hemenway, one head, £6 0s 0d; two oxen, one horse, two cows, £17 0s 0d; two three year olds. two yearlings, twenty-eight acres of land, £14 0s 0d. Solomon Moss [nearly illegible] one head two three yearlings, two cows, one hog, five acres of land, one hors, £21 10s 0d. John Barber, two heads, one hors, two oxen, three cows, two yearlings, three hogs, seventeen acres of land, £4s 10s 0d. Joel Barber, one head, £6 os od. Isaac Barrows, one head two cows, two two yearlings, six yearlings, three acres of land, £23 10s 0d. Abel Rice, one head, one cow, one acre and half of land, £9 1s 0d. Ephraim Smith, one head, £6 0s 0d. Capt. Benton twelve acres of land,£6 0s 0d. Thaddeous Smith, one head, £6 0s 0d. Elijah Alden, one head, two oxen, one cow, one yearling, two hogs, two acres of land, £22 0s 0d. Elijah Smith, one head, one cow, three acres of land, £11 10s 0d. Solomon How, one head, two oxen, one cow, three acres of land, £19 10s 0d. James Barber, one head, one cow, one yearling, two hogs, seven acres of land, £ 1 s 10s 0d. Edward Lewis, £14 0s 0d. Daniel Haskins, £ 54 0s 0d.”
The spelling of names above, as well as that of other words, is given literally as it appears on the records; it is not the least interesting part of the document. Two years later (1788) the grand list shows one hundred and sixteen names, besides those of the original proprietors named as tax payers, and in the population was four hundred and forty-nine souls.
Among the curious documents of olden times in this town, we must make a place for the following, which comprises a bill presented to the town for the entertainment of the gathering at the installation of a preacher:
- “February 29th, 1794.
“The town of Bridport to Pain Converse, Dr.
“For the entertainment of the Honorable Counsil and others at this installment of the Rev’nd Mr. Graves in said town, is as followeth:
£ s. d. "To forty-six meals of victuals 2 6 0 "To hors batins fourteen........0 5 0 "To hors keeping eight nights...0 6 0 "To two galands brandy..........1 5 0 "To one of rum .................0 9 6 "To one of wine.................0 10 6 "To two quarts of Jinn..........0 5 0 "To two pounds loaf sugar.......0 4 0 "To sider.......................0 7 0 Bridport, March 13th, 1794, Rec'd. the contents of the within acct., pr. Mr. Pain Converse."
They must have had a good time.
David Pratt, from Salem, Mass., came to Bridport in 1777, and located upon the farm now owned by Mrs. Edrick Spaulding. He was a carpenter by trade and built most of the early frame buildings in the town. He served as lister in 1800 and has many descendants in town.
Daniel Hemenway, from Shrewsbury, Mass., located in Shoreham in 1783. Four of his eight sons settled in Vermont, and his brother Jacob was one of the original proprietors of Shoreham and Bridport. Daniel, as we have previously shown, served the proprietors as their treasurer, and his son Asa is recorded as their collector and surveyor. Daniel took up land in Shoreham, and built a log shop, which was afterwards used by his son Samuel, who settled there in 1792. Daniel died in 1794. One of his sons, Asa, was born in Shrewsbury, Mass., in 1750, and was present at the battle of Bunker Hill. He was in Bridport and vicinity as early as 1780, and in 1783 began the first settlement upon the farm now owned by Asa Hemenway, jr. He represented the town in the General Assembly at Rutland, Vergennes and Montpelier. After a few years’ residence on the farm above mentioned, he removed to the farm now occupied by Mrs. Robert W. Hemenway, and in 1800 built the homestead thereon, which was the first building in the township to acquire the dignity of papered walls. He married Rebecca Rice first; she died August, 1787; married, second, Sarah Nicholson, 1789, who was the mother of his nine children. He died in 1810. His sons were Jonas end Asa; the latter born in 1800, married January, 1821, and in 1871 appropriately celebrated his golden wedding; also in 1881 their sixty years of wedded life. His only son is Asa, jr. Jacob Hemenway, another of the sons of Daniel, settled in Bridport and his sons were Daniel and Caleb, and six daughters. Polly, daughter of Silas Hemenway, of Shrewsbury, Mass., first came with Daniel, her grandfather, to Vermont to visit her sister. Subsequently, February 17, 1793, she became the wife of Benjamin Miner, jr., a sketch of whom we have already given.
Elijah Grosvenor came to Bridport from New York some time between the years 1780 and 1790, locating upon the place now occupied by Frank P. Wood, where he reared a family. He was a mason by trade, and assisted in the construction of the Middlebury jail. The widow of his son John now resides here, while among the other descendants are Elijah and Edgar, sons of John, and Darwin, son of Edgar.
James Barbour, from Worcester, Mass., located in Bridport in 1782. He made the first thanksgiving party ever held in the town, and to which the whole population were invited, the said population then consisting of six families. Mr Barbour and wife were Christians of the pure old Puritan stock, and consequently very staid and sober. On one occasion Thomas Ormsbee, a lawyer of Shoreham, Vt., reported that he saw Mr. Barbour and his wife out in their yard “pulling hair with all their might, and the old man had a butcher’s knife in his hand.” The church concluded that for so grave an offense they should be called to account. Accordingly they were arraigned before a meeting of the dignitaries, when the testimony developed the fact that it was the hair of a butchered hog they were pulling. Several of Mr. Barbour’s descendants now reside in the town, among whom are M. K. and D. C. Barbour.
David Doty was born in New Providence, N. J., in May, 1758, married Hannah Smith in 1787, and located upon the farm now owned by Sheldon Smith; but not liking the soil of that farm, he removed in 1790 to the farm now owned by his son, Captain David F. Doty, who was born July, 1798. His son, Ira S. Doty, lives with him.
Adonijah Rice, who was claimed the first white male child born in the town of Worcester, Mass., was one of the sixty-four original proprietors of Bridport who received rights of land according to charter, and it is claimed was the only one of the above grantees who passed their last days in town. On a stone in the village cemetery reads, “Adonijah Rice died January 20, 1802, aged eighty-eight years.”
Abel, son of Adonijah, settled in town; died July, 1800, aged forty-nine years. His three sons were Jonas, Joel and Asa. Jonas became owner of the farm where his grandfather Adonijah lived from 1786 to the time of his death. Joel, the next son, was a popular physician many years in town; represented the town many times, also a senator of Addison county. He moved West late in life and died at Madison, Wis. Asa, third son, is now living at the age of eighty-eight years. He always lived at the home where his father lived and died, his son, Jonas R. Rice, living with him. Abel H. Rice owns and lives at the home his father, Jonas, and his great-grandfather, Adonijah, lived and died upon.
Payne Converse, from Thompson, Conn., came to Bridport in 1793 among the early settlers. He brought with him twelve children; nine were sons; only three remained permanently located in town–Gardner, Hamblin and Alfred, all prominent men. Gardner C. was a surveyor, a justice of the peace and town clerk twenty-two years in all. Hamblin C. was prominent in all town affairs, selectman, lister, etc. Alfred C. was a blacksmith. Mrs. W. D. Hindes is a great-granddaughter of Alfred. Payne Converse located just east of the academy upon the farm now owned by E. L. Miner. F. G. Converse is a great-grandson.
Ephraim Stone, from Groton, Mass., made his first settlement upon a farm now owned by Aikin Dukett, in 1787, where he resided until his death in 1841, aged seventy-eight years. His son Philip, born in 1803, died recently, leaving two sons, Charles and Marshall.
Daniel Hamblin came to Bridport from Guilford, Conn., when there were but two families in the township. After the war broke out he returned to Guilford, enlisted in the Continental service and served till the cessation of hostilities, when he soon after returned to Bridport and located upon the farm now owned by J. T. Fletcher. His son Alexander, a noted hunter and trapper, succeeded to the homestead. Hiram E., son of Alexander, now resides in the town.
Isaac Barrows was the first settler upon the farm now owned by F. G. Converse. He came on from Connecticut and boarded for a time with Philip Stone’s family, six miles distant, whither he returned from his work every night. Bears were plentiful in those days, and in these daily journeys he killed several. Rufus Barrows of this town is a descendant.
Deacon Lamond Gray was a descendant of Scotch ancestors who, in 1612, settled in the north of Ireland, near Londonderry. In 1718 the family of which John Gray was the head, with some forty other families, emigrated through Boston to Worcester, Mass. In 1743 the family settled in Pelham, Mass., where Lamond was born in 1753, the son of Daniel Gray. He was well educated, and for a time taught school in that vicinity. May 26, 1778, he was married to Isabel Hamilton, widow of Lieutenant Robert Hamilton, by whom he had two children, Robert and Isabel, the latter afterwards becoming the wife of Captain Jeremiah Lee, of Bridport. After his marriage Mr. Gray remained in Pelham about ten years, when he came to Bridport and purchased two tracts of land of one hundred acres each. One of the tracts so purchased included the land now owned by P. Elitharp, about a mile south of the village, and ran eastward to the wooded hill. The other hundred acres included the farm where Edward Shacket now lives. Thus Lamond Gray became one of the early settlers of Bridport, where he continued to dwell till his death in 1812, aged fifty-nine years. Being a scholarly man and a good penman, he was elected town clerk in 1790, and held the position many years, and was also a deacon of the Congregational Church. He had a family of three children, Joel, Daniel and Mary. Daniel graduated from Middlebury College in 1805, and soon after married Susannah Rice, by whom he had one child, Ozro P., born in 1806. Ozro learned the tanner’s trade when eighteen years of age, which business he subsequently carried on at Crown Point for a period of thirty three years, when he returned to Bridport, in 1865, locating where his widow still resides. In 1809 Daniel’s wife died, and in 1811 he married Amy Bosworth, by whom he had sons as follows: Rev. Edgar H., now of California; Melvin L., of St. Louis, Mo.; Daniel Manlius, of Columbus, Ohio; Fabius C., who died at Gallatin, Tenn., in 1847; Oscar B., of New York city, and Amander Gray, who died near San Antonio, Texas, in May, 1859. Daniel died in 1823, aged thirty-seven years.
Joseph Williams came into town about 1785; first settled on the farm now owned by Rodbert Hutchingson, where he carried on the clothiers’ trade by coloring and dressing home-made woolen cloth. He subsequently gave this business to his son Amasa, and bought the place where his grandson, F. A. Williams now resides, where helived many yers and died in 1847, aged eighty-one years.
Jeremiah Lee was an early settler in town; had a family of eight children. Two only were sons, Prosper and Gay W. He was a farmer; also a constable and collector of taxes many years. He lived on the place his grandson, Wilber Hamilton, now occupies. Mrs. Sarah Lee Hemenway is also a descendant. Captain Lee died in 1843, aged seventy-one years.
Jesse and Asa Crane, brothers, came into town from Connecticut at an early date; both had large families, and some of their descendants are now prominently known as enterprising farmers and stock raisers, among whom are Julius J., Joseph R., Cassius P. and Byron W. Philip Searl came into town about 1791; was a farmer and lived where Oscar Kitchel now lives; was many years deacon of the Congregational Church, and reared a family of many children; died in 1852, aged eighty-four years. His son Gordon was at one time one of the leading merchants, and also a deacon of the same church as his father. He died in 1867, aged sixty-six years, and his son Charles the following year. D. C. Barbour is a descendant.
Artemas Wheeler was a settler in town, coming on from Worcester county, Mass., at an early date, with his family. His son Leonard lived many years in town near the village, where his son, E. M. Wheeler, now lives. Leonard died in 1872, aged eight-nine years. He was lawfully married five times. His last wife died some years previous to his death. In his younger days he was a shoemaker.
Zoroaster Fitch was an early pioneer, coming into town when all here was a wilderness. He selected one of the most desirable locations in town for his home, about a mile west of the village. He died in 1835, aged seventy-six years. A widow of his grandson now lives at the home and another grandson, William H., lives in town.
Ebenezer Allen was one of the old and respected citizens of this town, coming here at an early date from Tinmouth, Vt., and was married to a daughter of the noted Philip Stone. The name of “Allen” has passed away. He claimed to be a relative of Vermont’s hero, Ethan Allen. G. R. and S. Z. Walker are his grandsons. He was a stanch Mason, and died in 1875, aged eighty-seven years.
William Russell, an early inhabitant, located upon the farm now owned by his grandson, N. W. Russell, and raised a large family of children; only one is now living, Mrs. B. J. Myrick, who resides in town. But his descendants are numerous–probably would take the prize, if such was offered, for the greatest number. He died in 1829.
William, Barnabas and Zenas Myrick, the three brothers, were early prominent business men in town. William served as town clerk many years; represented the town in the State Legislature six sessions; was a judge, etc. Barnabas served the town as selectman, and in numerous other offices. He was killed by the fall of a tree in 1823. B. J. Myrick, in town, was his son. Zenas was a carpenter by trade; he also represented the town in 1828 and 1829. William M. and Charles H. Grandoy, of this town, were grandsons of Judge William Myrick.
John, Plinney and Ira Wicker, three brothers, came into town at a later date, perhaps in 1814. They were all mechanics and farmers. They built the house where F. G. Converse now lives, and kept a hotel, taking their turn in the management of the house, working the farm and working at their trades. John was the father of Mrs. A. H. Rice. The widow of Ira resides in town, a lady past eighty years. Roswell Mosley was an early settler in town, first commencing on the farm where F. D. Williams now resides, and subsequently removing into the south part of the town on the farm now occupied by his son, Royal Mosley. Stephen Baldwin, from New Jersey, came to Bridport at an early date. His three sons, Martin, Stephen, jr., and Obadiah, served in the War of 1812. Two of the children of Stephen, jr., now reside here–Elizabeth and Abigail.
Samuel Buck was born in Milford, Conn., October 29, 1767, and came to Bridport in 1790, locating upon the farm now owned by Joseph R. Crane, and afterwards kept a store where A. A. Fletcher’s house now stands. Mr. Buck, though possessed of considerable intelligence, had never been fortunate enough to have any educational advantages, and knew nothing of the science of penmanship. In making entries upon his books he used hieroglyphics of his own manufacture instead of English letters. One of his customers, it is related, upon settlement for goods, found himself charged with a cheese, which he denied having bought. Mr. Buck was obstinate, but when the customer mentioned the purchase of a grind-stone he exclaimed, “Oh! yes, that’s so. You see this ring here! Well, I put that down for a grind-stone, but forgot to put the hole in it.”
David Burwell, from New Jersey, came to Bridport in 1791, locating upon the farm now owned by J. T. Fletcher. He was a weaver by trade, which occupation he followed as long as age permitted him to labor.
Thomas Baldwin, also from New Jersey, located in 1788 upon the farm now owned by H. C. Burwell, a son of Allen.
Jakamiah Johnson came from the same place as above, 1794, locating upon the farm now owned by his son, Lyman H. Johnson. His widow, Anna, died in 1885, the oldest person then in the township, aged ninety-two years. Mitchell Kingman came from Canaan, Conn., about 1795, and located upon the farm now owned by J. C. S. Hamilton. Rev. Phineas Randall, a Congregational minister from Stowe, Mass., located in Bridport in 1795. He preached here and in adjoining towns several years, then removed to Weybridge, where he married Phoebe Goodyear, in 1798. His son Joel also settled in town. Henry Hall, from Rhode Island, came to Bridport in 1790, locating as the first settler upon the farm now occupied by Henry F. Hall. James Hamilton was born in Barre, Mass., and came to Bridport in 1795, locating upon the farm now owned by his son, Amos Hamilton, and the house he now occupies was built the first year of his father’s residence here. Michael and John Hamilton, brothers of James, came during the same year. Michael settled upon the farm now owned by Charles A. Landers; John upon the one now in the hands of his son, J. O. Hamilton. In 1804 John built a portion of the house now occupied by J. O., and which is still in very fair condition.
Isaac Pettibone, with his father, emigrated from Norwalk, Conn., to the eastern part of Middlebury, and subsequently, in 1795, removed to Bridport, settling upon the farm now owned by E. Jewett. Isaac was a hatter by trade, which occupation he followed here many years. His sons were Charles C. and Edwin S.; both have died and their widows have homes in town.
Rev. Increase Graves was the first settled minister and received the ministerial lot allowed by charter, the same being the farm now occupied by H. N. Sollace. Calvin Sollace, born in Walpole, N. H., was a graduate of Middlebury College, studied law in Middlebury, and commenced practice in Bridport in 1814, and subsequently served as judge six years.
Jacob Stiles, from New Jersey, made the first settlement on the farm now owned by Mrs. Marion A. Pettibone.
Samuel Bixby came to this town from Thompson, Conn., in 1792, and settled upon the farm now owned by Elmer H. Bixby.
Nathaniel Elitharp was the first settler on the farm now owned by J. D. Brooks, locating here about the year 1791. Prosper and Halsey C. are his descendants.
William Braisted, from Sussex county, N. J., in 1786 first located upon the farm now owned by his grandson, William R. Braisted, a farmer who has represented the town in the Legislature, and held other town offices.
Phineas Kitchel, born in Hanover in October, 1763, removed to Bridport in 1798, locating upon the farm now owned by John Melvin. Here he carried on his trade as weaver, to which he finally added blacksmithing and carriagemaking. He died in 1853, aged ninety years. Joseph, son of Phineas, born in 1794, died in 1852. Oscar F. Kitchel is a descendant.
Benjamin A. Skiff, whose grandfather came from Sharon, Conn., in 1805, purchased the farm now owned by his son, Abel P. Here he kept a hotel perhaps twenty years; he died in 1815. Abel P., who is now eighty-five years of age, devotes his time to the culture of peaches, quinces, and pears.
Paris Fletcher was born in Woodstock, Vt., March 21, 1794, and at the age of sixteen years came to Bridport, and engaged with his brother James, who came here two years previous, in the saddle and harness-making business. Young Fletcher’s inclinations, however, were towards a more active and speculative life, and he soon became a general merchant, in which vocation he displayed the same ability and energy that characterized him in all ventures of his life, from shop-boy to bank president. Mr. Fletcher was held in the highest esteem by his townsmen, whom he served in most of the important town offfices.
In financial circles his wealth and ability as a financier made him conspicuous. He was one of the original directors of the Rutland and Burlington Railroad, and held the offices of director or president of the Middlebury Bank for fifty years, or until advancing age compelled him to resign the position in 1877. He married Anna Miner, daughter of Benjamin Miner, in 1817, and Albert Fletcher, now of Middlebury, is a son. His latter years were spent in retirement in Bridport. He left the town substantial testimonials of his love and regard for it. He died February 27, 1880, in the eighty-sixth year of his age. Ira D. Fletcher, a merchant of Bridport, and J. T. Fletcher, are sons of James, who died here in 1881, aged ninety-one years. Thomas W. Fletcher is a grandson of Paris, and occupies the homestead.
James Wilcox, who was at Ticonderoga with Ethan Allen, located on the lake shore where E. H. Merrill now lives. Among his sons were Abner, Vilroy, Henry, and Anson. E. D. and Arthur Wilcox are sons of Abner.
Arunah Huntington, the donor of the munificent sum of $200,000 for the benefit of the common schools of Vermont, learned his trade in this town, as a shoemaker and a worker in leather, of Matthew Nobles during the years 1821 to 1825. Being an industrious, prudent young man, he taught school winters during his stay in town, where a few still retain his memory as being among his small scholars in their younger days. At this date, April, 1886, Bridport has living, in a population, of 1,168, twenty persons who are octogenarians, and one, Lyman Pease, has passed ninety years.
Early Business Interests, etc.–The population of Bridport has always been strictly of an agricultural character. Its tradesmen and mechanics have almost invariably devoted their energies exclusively to supplying the home demand. The dearth of manufactures is attributed to the absence, as we have previously noted, of adequate water power.
At an early day, when the settlers were clearing their lands and wood ashes were plentiful, Bridport, in common with other towns, did considerable business in the manufacture of potash, which found a market in Troy, Albany, and sometimes Quebec. In this manufacture Samuel Buck was pioneer. His works were located near the present village, upon what is still known as “Potash Hill.” After the lands were cleared the first general product was wheat. This was taken to Troy and exchanged for goods, cash rarely entering into the transaction. The currency system was “exchange of commodities,” and of course no great debates over the “silver question” are handed down to us. This trade with Troy was continued until about 1813, when the business of raising sheep, cattle and horses was ushered in. This interest developed rapidly and extensively, and the town is still noted for its fine live stock The celebrated horse “Black Hawk” had his home here, whither he was brought by David Hill. Allen Smith was a large stock dealer. Among the principal stock and sheep growers of to-day are H. C. Burwell, J. J. Crane, E. H. and H. E. Merrill, C. H. Smith, E. D. Wilcox, F. G. Converse, and many others. Before the days of the railroad, when all the commerce was conducted through the medium of the lake, several ferry lines sprang up and the business of the town naturally drifted to the lake front. The persons early receiving license to carry on the ferry business were as follows: John Rogers, in 1811; B. Pickett, in 1812; Samuel Renne, 1820; Alinda Wells, 1820; and John Rogers, 1820. The ferries now in operation are as follows: Port Franklin Ferry, by Lewis Wilkinson; Witherell Ferry, by John Witherell; and Brooks Ferry, by J. D. Brooks. The latter is located at West Bridport.
Although the town is well wooded, little lumbering is carried on. There is now only one saw-mill in the town. About 1820 Daniel Haskins had a hotel and store near Mr. Smith’s on the lake road, where was also kept a postoffice. He sold to Hiram Smith in 1821.
A lamentable accident occurred here in 1834, which it may not be out of place to record at this point. A boat containing eleven persons, who were on a blackberrying excursion, was capsized just off the Addison line, nine of whom were drowned. Seven were members of Allen Smith’s household, and two were daughters of Joseph Eldridge. When the tide of internal war swept over the country and calls were made by the government for volunteers to aid in preserving the Union, this town responded with the same alacrity and patriotism that characterized all New England communities. The following list gives the names of those who enlisted from Bridport in Vermont organizations, as compiled in the adjutant general’s report:
Volunteers for three years, credited previous to call for 300,000 volunteers of October 17, 1863: W. Allen, W. Baldwin, E. Barry, F. A. Brainard, A. Bristol, H. H. Burge, D. Carpenter, jr., J. Carpenter, E. D. Carrier, O. F. Cheney, J. Clair, J. M. Clinton, A. A. Crane, C. R. Crane, G. W. Crane, J. Duckett, A. C. Fisher, G. S. Gale, A. H. Hamilton, F. H. Hathorn, W. W. Hathorn, H. Heitman, N. Herbert, F. H. Holdredge, J. Howe, J. Kennedy, H. Kerner, A. P. Legier, C. A. Lamos, C. N. Lapham, J. F. Lapham, J. Laverty, F. Little, N. B. Lucia, G. Macha, G. Madigan, J. L. Martin, J. McCormick, C. B. Myrick, P. M. Myrick, G. E. Norton, J. F. Olmstead, J. B. Rice, J. Ross, J. F. Russell, L. Russell, S. Smith, R. W. Swinton, C. H. Taylor, H. Towle, F. Tremble, J. Tremble, Z. B. Wickwire, A. H. Wilcox.
Credits under call of October 17, 1863, for 300,000 volunteers and subsequent calls:
Volunteers for three years.–H. H. Alden, W. Baker, W. C. Braisted, M. Brannan, P. Canada, C. W. Corey, G. H. Corey, R. F. Crossman, G. D. S. Drew, J. Dukett, J. Fernett, W. Fernett, H. A. Fields, T. Foy, E. Godon, E. Hayes, G. A. Holmes, J. H. Lucia, N. B. Phelps, G. W. Pratt, J. Sproule, H. Taylor, F. R. Tremble, O. Trickay.
Volunteers for one year.–S. Buffum, W. Buffum.
Volunteers re-enlisted.–O. F. Cheney, F. H. Hathorn, F. H. Holdredge, R. Hudson, J. Kennedy, J. McCormick, C. R. Shambo, W. E. Taylor.
Enlisted men who furnished substitutes.-A. A. Fletcher, J. O. Hamilton. Not credited by name.-Three men.
Volunteers for nine months.–H. Austin, L. S. Buzwell, C. W. Corey, B. W. Crane, H. P. Elitharp, N. V. Elitharp, G. B. Grovener, F. C. Howe, J. Kennedy, A. La Point, jr., H. G. Lawrence, J. H. Lucia, J. E. Moriarty, M. Randall, P. J. Shumway, J. J. Sprowl, A. A. Walker.
Furnished under draft.–Paid commutation, F. A. Brainerd, S. E. Cook, W. M. Grandy. Procured substitute, O. P. Lee. Entered service, P. Dakin, W. Hammett.
The comparative growth of the town and its fluctuations in population may be seen by the following table, compiled from the census reports for each decade since 1791: 1791, 449; 1800, 1,124; 1810, 1,520; 1820, 1,511; 1830, 1,774; 1840, 1,480 ; 1850, 1,393; 1860, 1,298 ; 1870, 1,171; 1880, 1,167.
Present town officers.–Town clerk, N. S. Bennett; selectmen, J. R. Crane, C. H. Smith, G. R. Walker; town treasurer, D. H. Bennett; overseer of poor, Ira D. Fletcher; constable, C. W. Huntley; listers, J. R. Rice, H. C. Burwell, J. W. Pratt; collector of taxes, J. W. Pratt; auditors, M. K. Barbour, H. C. Burwell, F. A. Williams; town agent (to prosecute and defend), J. J. Crane; trustee United States deposit money, J. J. Crane; fence viewers, J. J. Crane, D. H. Bennett, T. W. Fletcher; sexton, C. B. Fackerel; agent Fletcher cemetery fund, T. W. Fletcher.
Municipal History.–Bridport village, or “The Center,” as it is familiarly known, occupies a beautiful site just east of the center of the town, surrounded by a fine farming district. Like many other Vermont villages, however, it may be said of it, “other days saw it more prosperous.” It does not lack the bustle and enterprise of a township mart, but its business and its population are both smaller than they formerly were. Perhaps the “occidental fever,” which attacks so many of the young men of to-day, may in a large measure account for this decline. The village now has about thirty-five dwellings, two churches, and the usual complement of stores and mechanics’ shops. The following random sketches of the village of 1825 to 1830 may not be uninteresting, especially to those of the younger generation. Mathew Nobles then operated a tannery where Miss Huntley now resides. Among his workmen was Arunah Huntington, before alluded to. The tannery was discontinued about the year 1850. The blacksmiths then were Orville Howe and the two Foster brothers, Albert and Henry, and John Burwell at the Corners. Charles Eager did a large business in the manufacture of carriages and wagons. Where Miss Emeline Brainerd lives Lemuel Derby had a cabinet shop. John Brainerd was the hatter, and Norman Allen the tailor. The merchants were Paris Fletcher, in the brick store; Matthew Chambers, where L. M. Taylor’s dwelling is; Samuel Buck, on the corner where Miss Hattie Goodwin now owns; and J. S. Strong, opposite where Ira D. Fletcher now is. Calvin Sollace, father of Hon. Henry N., was the attorney.
The brick store was built by Paris Fletcher in 1826, who first conducted business in it alone, and then, in 1831, in company with Daniel Miner. He died in 1839, and his son, F. P. Fletcher, succeeded them, and continued the business until his death in January, 1875, and was succeeded by D. H. Bennett, the present proprietor.
A number of years ago J. S. Strong owned the store at the Corners, followed by Gordon Searles & Son; they were succeeded by Kinnor & Spaulding; they by Spaulding & Skiff; they by A. P. & B. A. Skiff; they by Ketch & Brother, until 1881, when Mr. Fletcher became proprietor. Bessette & Brother (Albert and Joseph) are engaged here in blacksmithing and manufacturing wagons, which business they began in 1876. The hotel is kept by Frank A. Nisun. The blacksmiths are W. B. Bristol and George Wisell; and the shoemaker, Louis Giard; saddler and harness shop, Horace Taylor. The present postmaster is Ira D. Fletcher.
West Bridport has a beautiful location on the lake shore. It was originally called Catlin’s Ferry, and subsequently went by the name of Frost’s Landing. There has been a store and settlement here for many years, though the postoffice was not established until recently. The postmaster is Henry E. Merrill.
Physicians.–Dr. H. L. Townsend, born in Plainfield, Vt., August 14, 1860, studied medicine at Burlington, and graduated in 1881.
Dr. E. G. Blaisdell, born in Richford, Vt., December 13, 1846, graduated from the University of Vermont in 1871; has practiced medicine in town about fourteen years.
Morning Sun Lodge, F. & A. M.–Upon petition signed by John Strong, William McKendrick, John N. Bennett, Albion Mann, Daniel Hamblin, Buel Hitchcock, Richard Redfield, John Hall, Aldric Mann, Nathaniel Calender and Joel Barber, “worthy brethren in Masonry, residing at and in the vicinity of Bridport,” the Grand Lodge of Vermont, on October 13, 1800, granted to the said petitioners “a regular lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, under the style and designation of Morning Sun Lodge No. 18” (now No. 5), which has ever since continued to exist and at the present time is in a very thrifty condition. William M. Grandey is now master, this being his third term. The lodge has a very fine room and consists of about one hundred active members.
The Congregational Church of Bridport, located at the village, was organized by Rev. Lemuel Haynes, of West Rutland, June 30, 1790, with twelve members. February 29, 1794, Rev. Increase Graves was installed the first settled minister. The first house of worship was a frame structure, built during the year of organization, which is now a part of the dwelling which is owned and occupied by Miss Mariette Miner and her mother, situated south of the park in Bridport village. The present commodious brick building, capable of seating five hundred and fifty persons, was erected in 1851, costing $9,000. The society is now in a flourishing condition, with one hundred and seventy-eight members, a Sabbath-school numbering one hundred and forty pupils, and owns church property to the amount of $1,800. The present pastor is Rev. F. W. Olmsted, who has had the charge since 1883.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, located at the village, was organized in 1800, and now has about sixty members. The church building was built in 1821 as a union church, and the Masonic society, which has a hall in the upper part of the building, owns an interest in it. The Sabbath-school, with Miss Anna Huntley, superintendent, has about fifty members. The stewards are Martin E. Wheeler, Lucius M. Taylor, John D. Nichols, George H. Burwell, Charles H. Grandey and E. R. Wolcott.
There is a nice little church standing in the west part of Bridport, about a mile from Lake Champlain, which was built by the Baptist society at an early day, which at this date stands empty and has for some sixteen years past, although in good repair and in modern style.