Vermont History and Genealogy

February 13, 2007

History of the Town of Goshen

Filed under: Addison County, Goshen, Vermont Counties, Vermont Towns — thedarwinexception @ 3:20 pm


THE town of Goshen, situated on the southern boundary of Addison county, is bounded on the north by Ripton, on the east by Hancock and Rochester, south by Chittenden, and on the west by Brandon, Leicester and Salisbury. The town was granted by New Hampshire on the 23d of February, 1782, though the charter was not obtained until February 2, 1792. It entitled John Powell, William Douglass and sixty-three others to 13,000 acres. A new charter was granted on the 1st of November, 1798, by which two gores lying in Caledonia county, seventy miles away, containing respectively 2,828 and 7,339 acres, were added to the original territory, thus forming a disunited township containing 23,167 acres. The inhabitants soon began to realize, however, that either of the gores might properly be organized into a separate town and enact proceedings which could not be invalidated. Accordingly, the Legislature soon passed an act legalizing the organization of the 13,000 acres into a township. The gores in Caledonia county nominally belonged to Goshen until 1854, when they were severed from it by the Legislature. On the 9th of November, 1814, eleven thousand acres from the north part of Philadelphia were annexed to Goshen, and on the 1st of November, 1820, the north part of this town was annexed to Ripton. The next and last change was effected on the 10th of November, 1847 by the annexation of a part of this town to Rochester.

The surface of the town is high and rocky, being contained wholly within the bosom of the Green Mountains. The geological formation is principally gneiss and quartz rock, while iron ore and the oxide of manganese exist to some extent. There are, nevertheless, many valleys in Goshen, with alluvial soil easily susceptible of cultivation, on which are raised considerable quantities of wheat, oats, rye, buckwheat, Indian corn, potatoes and hay. The industry of the town is almost wholly agricultural, and is devoted chiefly to the dairy and wool-growing interests. Large quantities of maple sugar are also made annually, the maple having an extensive growth here. The other varieties of timber are pine, hemlock, spruce, oak, beech and birch, the deciduous trees prevailing.

Sucker Brook and Mill Brook constitute the chief drainage, the former rising in the northeastern part of the town and following a westerly course into Salisbury, while the latter rises near the central part and flows northwesterly into the town of Brandon. These streams, with their tributaries, also afford a number of good mill privileges.

Owing to the unpromising nature of the town, and its seemingly inaccessible situation, it was not settled very early. The first settler in that portion annexed from Philadelphia was Phineas Blood, whose arrival is dated the year 1806. The first child born in town was Roswell W. Mason, born March 11, 1811. The first settler on the territory of Goshen as it was originally chartered was Jabesh Olmsted, who located in March, 1807, on lot fifty, one-half of which Nathan Capen afterwards occupied. His wife had been sick for some time, but by reason of his desire to reach the place in sugar time, he brought her to the half-finished log cabin on a bed, with the assistance of three other men. He was soon after arrested and imprisoned in the Middlebury jail for debt, where he died only a day or two after he had expected to rejoin his family.

Jonathan Olmsted, one of his sons, afterwards lived on the farm, which was occupied at a later date by Benjamin Phelps. His other son, Henry, lived on the place now occupied by Barnd Overbeek. Jabesh was an exhorter. His grandson, Wolcott Baird, jr., lives in Goshen at the present time.

The hardships of the first settlers in Goshen exceeded those of nearly every other town in the county. The pioneers were obliged to buy their grain of farmers in adjoining towns, carrying it home on their backs. They usually paid for it in day labor. Joseph Carlisle and William, jr., once traveled three days before they could buy a bushel of grain.

Phineas Blood, before mentioned, was three and a quarter years in the Revolution. After he came to Philadelphia in 1806 he conceived the idea of annexing the north part of Philadelphia to Goshen, when it was organized. He built a log house in each of four different lots and sold them, after which he erected a frame house for himself. All this was accomplished before 1820. He was the second representative of the town in 1815-16, and for five or six years a justice of the peace. He died September 10, 1822; his widow survived until recent years and died in Wisconsin. He lived on the farm now owned by his grandson, Otis Blood, and Jacob Cary, his granddaughter’s husband. Maria, wife of Jacob Cary, and the widow of Silas Gale, are the only descendants now in town. Otis Blood lives with his sister in New Haven. Other descendants are residing in Illinois and Iowa.

Reuben Grandey was an active soldier for seven and a half years in the Revolutionary War. He came to Goshen in 1809 and settled on the place now occupied by John Persons. Numan Allen is his grandson. Reuben Grandoy died April 30, 1819, and was the first person buried in the cemetery now in use here.

Abiathar Pollard, another Revolutionary soldier, took part in the battle of Red Bank, and was one of the four hundred men under Colonel Greene who  defended Fort Mercer and fired sixty rounds of cartridge before the enemy retired. He died in December, 1813, at the house of Nathan Capen, and was the first adult who died in town. He was buried near the west line of lot number fifty, by the roadside. No headstone marks his burial place. He was related to the Grandeys.

James Cowen, who had served for a time in the Revolution, came to Goshen in 1823. He was a man of piety and of wonderful memory. It has been said that he could repeat the texts of every sermon he had heard for forty years, and could repeat vebatim a discourse two days after its delivery. He was in religious belief a Restorationist. His death occurred on the 13th of May, 1845 at the age of eighty-one. He occupied a piece of land north of the burying ground and across the brook.

Noah Allen came here in 1809 and lived on the place now owned by Burgess Field, though all the buildings have been removed. He was one of the selectmen chosen when the town was organized, and held the office a number of years. He was chiefly remarkable for his generous disposition, which brought him the enviable title of “father of the town.” He and his six sons have been among the foremost men of the town during its entire history. He died on the 20th of May, 1844. Numan Allen, his son, is now a prominent citizen of Goshen.

Griswold Davis came to Goshen in the spring of 1811; was elected first selectman at the first town meeting in 1814: in May of the same year was appointed a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and in September was chosen representative to the General Assembly. In 1815 he removed to Yates, N. Y., where he recently died.

Nathan Capen, from Boone’s Station, Mass., came here December 10, 1810, and settled near Jabesh Olmstead’s place on the town line between Philadelphia and Goshen. At the organization of the town he was elected town clerk, which position was accorded him twenty-eight successive years. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of June 1828; was representative of the town for six years following 1831, and was for years an active justice of the peace. He died much respected on the 12th of March, 1852, aged sixty-six years. The only descendants of Nathan Capen now in town are Nathan, his son, and Minerva, wife of Numan Allen. Charles, another son, lives in Breedville, Mich., and Asenath, a daughter, widow of Justus N. Dart, lives in Monticello, Wis.; John, a son, died in Forestdale in January, 1878, aged fifty-nine years. Nathan Capen, jr., was born in Goshen April 18, 1815. In 1863 he bought his present farm of William Carlisle. On the 14th of March, 1839, he married Rebecca Hooker, and has now a family of three children–Nathan Sidney, Ida Elizabeth and Cornelius R. Ford Capen. Mr. Capen has been town clerk of Goshen for some time, and rendered valuable assistance in the compilation of this chapter.

Abiathar Knapp, the first settled minister in town, came in 1822, and on the 9th of December of that year reorganized the Christian Church here. He preached in Goshen eight years. In September, 1830, he was chosen town representative, but soon after removed to New York. His place of residence was about one-fourth of a mile north of James Cowen. Mary, daughter of Eli Knapp, and wife of Andrew S. Brown, is a granddaughter of Abiathar Knapp and the only one of his descendants in town.

Josiah Brown and Perley Green reached Goshen in 1819 from Brookfield, Vt. Joseph Carlisle, the second settler in town, came in 1808, and lived on part of the place now owned and occupied by John White. He was the son of William Carlisle, and brother of William, jr. He was an honest, hard-working man, and for years was considered the best leader in vocal music in Goshen. He died in Michigan in September, 1859, aged seventy-seven years. His eldest son, Mial, the first male child born in town (spring of 1810), now lives in Rochester, Vt. Another son, Amasa, lives near Ticonderoga, N. Y. No descendants now live in Goshen. His brother, William Carlisle, jr., came in 1816 and succeeded Lemuel Toby in the occupation of the place next north of Abiathar Knapp. He raised a large family. He was remarkable for his power of relating anecdotes. He died May 11, 1858, aged seventy-nine; his wife died three days later, aged seventy-four. His son William, and daughter Deborah Beckhorn, now live in Forestdale. Other descendants are in Wisconsin.

Benjamin Phelps settled in 1813 on the first place west of the Methodist Church, now occupied by James McGibbins. He was a consistent and active Christian; he died July 5, 1857, aged eighty-nine years; his wife died December 25, 1856, aged eighty-seven years. She and Triphenia Shedd were the two oldest persons ever deceased in town. Elmira, widow of Orris Allen, is daughter of Benjamin Phelps and his only descendant in Goshen. James Phelps, his grandson, lives in Brandon.

Lemuel Toby has already been mentioned as the predecessor of William Carlisle, jr., on the farm north of Abiathar Knapp. His daughter Lydia became the wife of Simeon C. Davis.

David Ayer settled west of the place now owned and occupied by Barnd Overbeek Arnold, Hiram and Edward Ayer, his grandsons, are still residents of Goshen.

James Fitts was an early resident on the place where John White now lives. One son and a daughter now reside in Salisbury.

Anthony Baker originally located on the place now occupied by Albia Ayer, the “Martin Allen” place. He afterward bought out John Naples in the north part of the town. His son, Loren H. Baker, is the present town clerk of Ripton He has also two sons in Forestdale and other descendants in the West.

William Jones was an early settler in that part of the town afterward set off to Rochester, where his son Lynn now lives.

William Robbins and Jonathan Kendall lived on the east side of the mountain. Kendall built and for a time operated a forge there, but became heavily involved and was compelled, it is said, to leave.

Daniel Hooker was an early settler on the place now owned by Riley Blodgett and Thomas J. Hooker. He died December 6, 1860, leaving descendants surviving as follows: Thomas J. Hooker and Joseph Hooker, of Goshen, sons; Jane, wife of Riley Blodgett; Rebecca, wife of Nathan Capen, and Susan, wife of James Washburn, of Goshen; Mary, wife of John Kenna; Sally, wife of Noah E. Bisbee, of Brandon, and Lavina, wife of S. Jones, in Missouri.

Jonathan Bagley lived on the place now owned by Nathan Capen, on the old mountain road.

Francis Brown came here in 1819 and settled on the farm now owned by Romeo M. Brown, a grandson of Francis’s brother John. Mary, widow of Francis Brown 2d, was daughter of Francis Brown above named, having been married to her cousin. Francis Brown 2d, born in Rochester,.Vt., on the 29th of September, 1797, came to Goshen in 1822 and located on the place now occupied by his widow, Mary Brown, in Goshen South Hollow. He served the town three years as representative and nearly fifty years as justice of the peace. E. J., Andrew S. and Dan B., his sons, now live in town. Francis Brown 2d died February 22, 1883, aged eighty-five years.

Robert Mason settled on the place which still goes by his name, now occupied by Charles Washburn. Samuel Robbins lived on the east side of the mountain.

Nathaniel Belknap, who attained some prominence in the community, lived on the place now owned by Jared L. Snow. Mrs. Almon G. Baker and Mrs. Stephen Salles, of Forestdale, are his daughters.

Amos Sawyer settled on the hill north of Barnd Overbeek’s present residence.

Lazarus Cary, son of Theodore Cary, lived south of the Wolcott Baird place; he went West years ago.

John Coombs lived for a time on the line between lot number fifty and the place now occupied by John Fersons; he was something of a pettifogger, but not owning any real property, and not being considered self-sustaining, he was warned out of town at an early day.

Isaac Gale lived at a very early day on the place west of the farm afterwards occupied by Reuben Allen. The town organization was effected on the 29th of March, 1814, the meeting having been warned by Henry Olin, of Leicester, there being no justice of the peace any nearer, and was held at the house of Simeon C. Davis. The following officers were then chosen: Samuel White, moderator; Nathan Capen, town clerk; Grindal Davis, Noah Allen, and Anthony Baker, selectmen; Joseph Davis, treasurer; Anthony Baker, collector and constable; Joseph Davis, grand juror; Simeon C. Davis and Nathan Capen, fence viewers; Joseph Carlisle, pound-keeper; Mial Carlisle, sealer of weights and measures; Nathan Capen, tithingman; Grindal Davis, James Fitts, Anthony Baker, Hendrick Hyer, surveyors of highways; Henry Olmsted and Lemuel Toby, haywards.

Proceedings were at once set on foot for the purchase of a burying-ground, which culminated in the buying of the one still used by the town, the report of the committee having been accepted on the 10th of June, 1814.

At a meeting held at the house of Simeon C. Davis, on Tuesday, March 31, the following proceedings were enacted: Voted to raise fifteen dollars to defray town charges and one hundred dollars for making and repairing highways.

Among other internal improvements the construction of roads was an important consideration. The road from Philadelphia to Ripton (the original proprietors’ road) had been substantially completed before 1807. The old turnpike past the present residence of Nathan Capen to Rochester was finished in the fall of 1838. The other highways of Goshen were opened at an earlier date.

Thus the settlement and improvement of this little town increased. New arrivals frequently made their homes in town until in 1815 the list of voters was placed on record as follows: Jonathan Olmsted, Lemuel Toby, David Ayer, Joseph Carlisle, Reuben Grandey, Benjamin Phelps, James Fitts, William Carlisle, Anthony Baker, William Jones, Willard Robbins, Jonathan Kendall, Daniel Hooker, Jonathan Bagley, Robert Mason, Samuel Robbins, Henry Olmsted, Nathan Capen, John White, Nathaniel Belknap, Amos Sawyer, Lazarous Cary, Mial Carlisle, John Coombs.

The industrial occupation of the inhabitants of Goshen from time immemorial having been purely agricultural, nothing can be said concerning the early mills, etc., of the town.

Notwithstanding the sparseness of the population, the town has won an enviable record for unanimous patriotism, as evinced in the wars which have convulsed the country. Settlement had not begun here until years after the closing events of the Revolution had been enacted; but we have seen that a number of those who afterward erected their rude cabins within the limits of Goshen, bore the scars of that terrible struggle for independence. The War of 1812, however, found this town well equipped with men of nerve and daring who were eager to defend the cause of their country against the encroachment of a foreign foe. Asa Grandey, jr., and David Olmsted were killed in battle at French Mills. Jesse White, a much respected citizen, was in the United States service during a greater part of the war, and Sanford Grandey was also in the service, and in the battle of Plattsburgh. Such was the noise of that battle that the guns were heard here. Asa Grandey and his wife walked the road before their house, wringing their hands in an agony of grief, expecting to hear that Sanford was killed, as Asa had been before. When the alarm was given that the British were marching on Plattsburgh and a battle expected, Samuel White, Grindal Davis, Samuel C. Davis, Reuben Allen, David Ayer, jr., Martin Carlisle, Benjamin Phelps, jr., Robert Mason, Henry S. and Jonathan Olmsted, and Leonard Toby took their equipments and started for Plattsburgh. The battle was fought, however, before they arrived. John Ayer and Jesse White also served eighteen months in this war.

“There are two things, at least,” writes one, “of which the people of Goshen are proud. One is, that three presidents, Lincoln, Grant and Hayes, received the unanimous vote of the town. The other is, that during the late rebellion the quota of the town was more than filled.” No higher eulogy can be passed upon the past of the town, and no higher praise bestowed on those who fought in the civil war. The following are the names, so far as they can be ascertained, of those who served in Vermont organizations:

Volunteers for three years credited previous to call for 300,000 volunteers of October 17, 1863:

R. W. Allen, W. F. Allen, E. Ayers, W. Beckhorn, P. Blood, C. F. Brown, M. Courtney, H. M. Ferris, H. A. Hendee, H. Hooker, J. Lovell, J. R. McGibbon, V. D. Salls, A. P. Smith, P. Tyler.

Credits under call of October 17, 1863, for 300,000 volunteers, and subsequent calls:

Volunteers for three years.–H. D. Ayer, P. H. Blood, H. Brown, J. Hogan.

Volunteers for one year.–S. C. Alexander, S. T. Chamberlin, R. Laird.

Volunteers re-enlisted.–J. R. McGibbon, J. W. Pitridge.

Volunteers for nine months.–M. F. Allen, J. Ayers, D. B. Brown, H. S. Brown, J. W. Brown, N. Capen, E. Kelley, J. Washburn, J. S. Wilber.

Furnished under draft.–Paid commutation, A. Ayers, N. J. Phelps, S. H. Washburn. Procured substitute, A. S. Brown, H. J. Hendel.

The only industries in Goshen, aside from the agricultural pursuits of the people, are represented by the saw-mill now owned and operated by Numan Allen, located in the southwestern part of the town, which was built by John Capen about the year 1850. Mr. Allen bought the property in the fall of 1863. Staves, barrel heads, shingles and all kinds of lumber for building purposes are manufactured in this mill. The mill is run by water power and has a capacity for sawing about 10,000 feet of lumber a day. The saw-mill of Turner W. Dutton, the only other mill of any description in town, was built within the past four years and is now operated by steam.

There is no post-office in town, the inhabitants contenting themselves with receiving and sending their mail at Brandon, where they do all their trading.

The population of the town from the beginning of its settlement to the present time is shown by the following figures from the census returns: 1800, 4; 1810, 86; 1820, 290; 1830, 555; 1840, 621; 1850, 486; 1860, 394; 1870, 330; 1880, 326.


The Methodist Episcopal Church, located in the southwestern part of the town, was organized in 1818, with seven members, Rev. Nathaniel Alden being their first pastor. Rev. L. O. Hathaway is their present pastor, with a very sparse membership. The first house of worship was erected in 1831, giving place to the present structure in 1848. The building, which cost $1,000, will accommodate one hundred and fifty persons, and is now valued, including grounds, at $1,500.

The Wesleyan Methodist Church, also located in the southwest part of the town, was organized by Martin Allen in 1848, Rev. Robert H. Ross first pastor. The church building was erected in 1851, with seating capacity for one hundred and fifty persons, at a cost of $500, about its present value. The society has, at present, eight regular members, with Rev. Winfield Hathaway, brother to the pastor of the M. E. Church, in charge of the pastorate.

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