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The Hoosac Valley, its legends and its history online

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veteran commanders and soldiers in the French and Indian
War, who rocked the cradles of the Revolutionary "Sons
of Freedom" in Fort Massachusetts and Fort Hoosac.
Bennington proved the first town chartered in the Green
Mountain region, west of the Connecticut River. It was
planned by Col. William Williams, the "Father of Pitts-
field," Theodore Atkinson, Foster Wentworth, and sur-
veyed by Matthew Clyfton nine months before Adams and
Williamstown. Gov. Penning Wentworth signed and sealed
the charter, January 3, 1749, although the town was not
settled until twelve years later.

The southwest comer of Bennington was located on the
Twenty-Mile Line of New York by beginning the survey at

'Henry Morton Dexter, "The First American to Visit Scrooby, 1851,"
New Eng. Mag., Oct., 1890.



2o6 The Hoosac Valley

a hemlock tree marked " W. W.," six miles north of a "White
Oak Tree marked M. C. I. T." on Hazen's Line of Massa-
chusetts Bay, twenty-four miles east of Hudson River.
The survey continued four miles west to the established
corner of a stake and stones, thence north six miles to the
present marble marker half a mile south of Tory Matthew's
State Line Tavern, now known as Charles B. Allen's residence,
thence east six miles, thence south six miles, and west two
miles to the hemlock tree marked "W. W."

Bennington and Pownal are types of all the towns granted
in the Green Mountain State by Governor Went worth.
Each charter contained a clause for education, religion, and
"thrift, thrift — Horatio!" Every proprietor was required
to build a regulation house, clear and cultivate five acres
out of every fifty acres in his possession within five years, and
aid in building mills, a meeting-house, schoolhouses, roads,
and bridges.

The village plot at Bennington Centre contained sixty-
four acre lots, and the rest of the town was divided into
sixty-four equal shares. "One whole Share was reserved
for the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of the
Gospel ; and one Share for a Glebe for the Church of England
as by Law Established, and one Share for the Benefit of a
School"; and a "Tract of Five Hundred Acres, marked 'B.
W.' on the Plan, to His Excellency, Benning Wentworth,
Esq." It was said that in subsequent towns: "If there was
any Land bad enough to be of man and God forsaken, the
guileless grantees so managed that that very Land turned
out to be the 'Governor's Rights.'" A quit-rent of "One
Ear of Indian Com" for each village lot, and one shilling
Proclamation Money for every one hundred acres was
required of the proprietors annually on December 25th.

Among the veterans of the French and Indian War on
the Bennington Plan appear the names of Sir William Pep-




The Walloomsac River above the Old Red Bridge on the Benmnglon and
Manchester Road, at the northern base of Benmngton Hill. The Battle Monu-
ment is reflected in the shallow water of the river. It is probably the only place
where it is reflected in the Walloomsac.



207



208



The Hoosac Valley



perell of Alaine, General of the New England Rangers, who
captured the '^Gibraltar Fortress" of the French in 1745,
and of Capt. Samuel Robinson, Sr., on lot 38; and the names




i\dn oj Ihnnington Township, granted to Cot. William Wuiuims and others by
Gov. Benning Wentworth, January j, I74g.

of Col. William Williams and Col. Israel Williams, nephews
of John Stoddard, Colonel of the Hampshire (Berkshire)
militia until his death in June. 1748, and Capt. Ephraim
WilHams, Jr., of Fort Alassachusetts and his brother, Dr.
Thomas Williams, besides their half brothers, Josiah and
Elijah Williams, and cousin, the Rev. John Williams of



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>'n C'Cvrimom! '^■^'^ucivor'



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Charter oj Bennmgton, the first Township granted in the Green Mountain State
by Gov. Benning Wentworth, January 3, 1749. Settled in April, lydi.



14



209



210 The Hoosac Valley

Deerfield, son of Col. Israel Williams, and several Scotch-
Irish soldiers from Forts Shirley and Pelham. Gov. Ben-
ning Wentworth, John and Foster Wentworth, Theodore
Atkinson, and other members of the Portsmouth Council
of New Hampshire later sold their shares to Massachusetts
and Connecticut proprietors.

The town of Pownal, south of Bennington, was chartered
by Governor Wentworth January 8, 1760, and named after
Gov. Thomas Pownal of Massachusetts. The first proprietors
included Capt. Seth Hudson, Gent., and several Fort Hoosac
and Fort Massachusetts garrison soldiers, including: John
Lovatt/John Corey, Ezekiel Hinds, Silas Pratt, Abraham
Bass, Ephraim Bassett, Charles Wright, Isaac Charles,
John Horsford, Ephraim Seelye, Sr., Michael Dunning,
Obadiah Dunham, and others.

A proprietors' meeting took place in June, 1760, and it was
voted to give the Dutch burgher, named Kreigger, a "single
right," on account of mill improvements made at the foot of
Kreigger Rocks at North Comers, now North Pownal, where
the first mill in Vermont, west of the Green Mountains,
was built. The first town-meeting was held May 8, 1763,
at Charles Wright's Tavern, later known as Rev. John
M. Bacheldor's Rural School for Boys, now the site of the
Hon, Amasa Thompson's residence in South Pownal. Capt.
Seth Hudson, Gent., was chosen moderator; Asa Alger,
clerk; John Van Arnam, constable; Edmond Town, Asa
Alger, and Jabez Warren, selectmen; and Thomas Juet or
Jewett, justice of the peace. The first Tuesday of January
was set aside for the annual town-meeting.

The Elder, George Gardner, son of Capt. Caleb Gard-
ner of Jericho, now Hancock, Mass., was fourteen days
moving his family and goods to his log parsonage, on the
site of the Frank Paddock homestead at the foot of Car-
penter Hill in Pownal. His daughter Sarah proved to be

' Descendant of Earl of Lovatt.



Samuel Robinson and Historic Bennington 211

the first child bom in the town. Elder Gardner planted
an apple nursery at the age of eighty-five and lived to eat
fruit from the orchard, nineteen years later, at the age of
one hundred and four years. The first log meeting-house
of Pownal was built in the orchard, east of his dwelling.
Elder Gardner was a Tory and after the Battle of Benning-
ton he was hung to a fence stake by his leathern waist-band
until squeezed into a Whig. His grave is marked in the
Gardner burial-field on Kreigger Rock Road.

Pownal was thus settled before Capt. Samuel Robinson,
Sr., from Hardwick, Mass., in April, 1761, set out on horse-
back for Bennington, to build his log house on lot 38. He
remained at Capt. Moses Rice's Inn in Charlemont on April
9th, where he purchased spring wheat, and the next evening
he remained at Benjamin Simonds's Inn at Fort Hoosac Vil-
lage, now Williamstown. He reached the maple grove on
Bennington Hill, April nth, and built his cottage, planted
a garden, and cleared and sowed a field of wheat.

During June, a party of twenty-two souls rode over Hoosac
Mountain Road. It included Leonard and Samuel Robin-
son, Jr.; Peter, Eleazar, and Mary Harwood from Hardwick;
and Samuel and Timothy Pratt from Amherst, Mass. They
remained overnight at Captain Rice's Tavern, June i8th,
and at sunset the next day dismounted on The Square at
Fort Hoosac. Capt. Seth Hudson, Benjamin Simonds,
and Nehemiah Smedley welcomed the pilgrims. The
Smedley cottage, built in 1753, was surrounded by an apple
orchard on lot I . Young Smedley was an awkward bachelor
of twenty-eight when Molly Harwood, just sweet sixteen,
arrived in apple-blossom time. Her brothers, Peter and
Eleazar, must have helped things along in a social way, for
two years after Molly Harwood's ride to Bennington Centre
she became the mistress of Smedley cottage in Williamstown.
Their first child, Levi Smedley, was born October 8, 1764, and



212



The Hoosac Valley



upon his eighth birthday Nehemiah Smedley had a "raising
bee" at which the Harwoods and other Bennington boys




Six Representative Sons of Freedom, five of ivhom were born at Bennington,
New Hampshire Grants, between iy62-i'/yy. Beoinning on left of seated row a*^-
pear: Benjamin Hanvood, first child born in Bennington, January 2, 1/62, d.
January 22, 1851; Abisha Kingsley, born March 18, I/66, died August g, iSjq:
Aaron Robinson, born Alay 4, 1768, died August 10. 184Q; Samuel Safford, born in
Sunderland, Massachusetts, June 24, 1761 , died September 11, iSji. Beginning
on left of standing row appear: David Robinson, born July ij, 1777 , died March
75, i8j8; Samuel Fay, born August 16, 1772, died December 25, 1863. The latter
was five years of age at the time the Battle of Bennington was fought.

hoisted into position the white oak timbers of his Green
River Mansion, ^ now known as the Benjamin Bridges Place.

The six pioneer famiHes arrived at Bennington Centre,
June 18, 1 761, and were followed by thirty other families

' See illustration, Chapter VIII.



Samuel Robinson and Historic Bennington 213

before Christmas, including Samuel Robinson, Sr., and John
Fassett from Hardwick; Elisha Field, Samuel Montague,
Experience Richardson, and Jonathan Scott from Sunder-
land; James Breakenridge, Ebenezer Wood, Samuel and
Oliver Scott, Joseph Wickwire, and Samuel At wood from
Ware neighborhood, Mass.; and Joseph Safford, John
Smith, John Bumham, Jr., Benajah Rood from Newint (Old
Norwich) Ct., and others. Benjamin Harwood was the first
child bom in the town, January 2, 1762, and was eighty-
nine years old at the time of his death in 1851.

The first proprietors' meeting took place February 11,
1762, and Capt. Samuel Robinson, Sr., and John Fassett
were respectively chosen moderator and clerk. At an ad-
journed meeting held February 20th, it was voted to lay out
a meeting-house plot of three acres, including a burial-field.
The town records between 1762 and 1794 ^^^ still to be
found on a few yellow pages, eight inches square, in the
first book of Bennington County Clerk's Office,

After the admittance of fifty families, the town-meeting
was held at Landlord John Fassett's Tavern, Wednesday
March 31, 1762. Samuel Montague was chosen moderator;
Moses Robinson, vSr., clerk; Deacon Joseph Safford, treas-
urer; Samuel Montague, Moses Scott, James Breakenridge,
Benajah Rood, and Joseph Wickwire, selectmen; Samuel
Robinson, Jr., and John Smith, Jr., constables; Deacon
Joseph Safford and Elisha Field, tithing-men; Peter Har-
wood and John Smith, Jr., hay-wards; Samuel Atwood and
Samuel Pratt, fence-viewers; Timothy Pratt and Oliver
Scott, deer-rifts.

During June, 1762, it was voted to grant a mill-lot of five
acres and forty dollars to build a grist-mill and saw^-mill,
and Capt. Samuel Robinson, Sr., and Deacon Joseph Safford
agreed to build the mills before January, 1 763. The grist-mill
occupied the east bank of the Walloomsac, near the comer



214 * The Hoosac Valley

of Beech and Main streets; and the saw-mill stood on the
west bank, near the corner of Main and Morgan streets.
The mill-dam on the South Branch of the Walloomsac is
known as Benton Pond to-day. The miller was allowed
three quarts toll for every bushel of com or wheat ground —
a pint more than any other miller of Hoosac Valley was I
allowed. Lieut. William Henry built a grist-mill and store
at "Irish Corners," now Riverside, about 1769; and the
Tory, Joseph Haviland, ran another grist-mill on Haviland '
Brook, now Paran Creek, at North Bennington. During
1775, Eldad Dewey, son of Parson Dewey, built a grist- 1
mill and saw-mill at the junction of Dewey Brook with the
Walloomsac, northwest of Dewey homestead on West Main
Street, east of Bennington Hill.

Deacon Samuel Robinson, Sr., was a large landowner in 1
Pownal and Shaftsbury. He entertained pioneers desiring '
to purchase farms and avoided mixing creeds, the prime
cause that broke up the First Congregational Church of
Adams. He managed to ascertain the religious views of ;
buyers, and if they proved Strict Congregationalists, he
invited them to settle in Bennington; but if they advocated
the Baptist creed of the "Warren Society," he sent them
to Shaftsbury. It was jocosely said that if they expressed
no faith whatever, he advised them to settle in Pownal.

The First Church of Bennington was organized from
excommunicants of five "Old Light" churches of Massa-
chusetts and Connecticut. John Montague was deacon of
the First Church of Sunderland, Mass., founded in 181 8.
He preserved a record, dated March 3, 1749, revealing that
several members held the "New Light" Doctrine, and fifteen
of the "New Lights" w^ere excommunicated. Four of those
men, including Samuel Montague, son of Deacon Montague,
moved to Bennington in 1761.

The first log meeting-house built within the limits of



Samuel Robinson and Historic Bennington 215

Bennington was organized by the Rev, Ithamar Hibbard,i
on Hibbard's lot, on the slope of Mount Anthony, during
the spring of 1762. He adopted the "New Light System"
of the Rev. Ebenezer Frothingham of Middletown Church




The First Church of Christ, Bennington Centre, New Hampshire Grants,
now Vermont. It was begun in the spring of lydj and completed interiorly before
the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1J76. The Bennington Strict Con-
gregational Church was organised from five distinct Separatist Churclies from
Massachusetts and Connecticut, December 3, lydz-i^gO.

of Connecticut, advocating the Baptist Creed of the mission-
ary, the Rev. Obed Warren, founder of the "Warren Society"
of Warren, Rhode Island, in 1767.

A later record states that: "The Church of Christ from
Hardwick and the Church of Christ from Sunderland met
together, and after prayers agreed upon and voted: 'That
said Churches join together and become One Body or Church
of Christ in Bennington.' "

' The members of Hibbard's Strict Separatist Church united with Dewey's
Bennington Centre Church in 1796.



2i6 The Hoosac Valley

The meeting-house plot and burial-field of three acres was
laid out, and on May 9, 1763, it was voted to raise a tax of
$6.00 on each settling-lot in town amounting to $384.00, to
build a meeting-house, schoolhouse, mills, roads, and bridges.
The meeting-house stood midway between the site of the
present Congregational Church and Walloomsac Inn. It
was 40 X 50 feet in size, with an added porch twenty feet
square. The second story of the latter was used as a school-
room. The building had three doors; the porch door faced
east and led to the pulpit; and the north and south doors
led to the centre aisle. A tier of square pews was laid out
on each side of the centre aisle, with wall tiers in the rear.
The pulpit was surmounted by an arched sounding board.

Although the meeting-house was begun in the early spring
of 1763, the interior was not completed until previous to
the Declaration of Independence. The first minister. Rev.
Jedidiah Dewey from Westfield, Mass., was installed, August
14, 1763. The members of the Westfield Church and several
Separatists from the Hardwick, Sunderland, and Old Nor-
wich parishes united with the Bennington Church. Parson
Dewey adopted the "New Light System" of Fathers Alex-
ander Miller and Paul Park of the Plainfield and Preston
Separate churches of Connecticut. Fathers Marshall and
Palmer of the Canterbury and Windsor Separate churches
of Connecticut were present at Dewey's installation. The
original fifty-seven members' in 1763 included the names of
thirty-two men and twenty -five women, as follows:

George Abbott Jonathan Eastman

George Abbott, Jr. John Fassett

James Breakenridge Daniel Fay

William Breakenridge James Fay

David Doane James Fay, Jr.

' Isaac Jennings, Memorials of a Century, pp. 33-34.



Samuel Robinson and Historic Bennino;ton 217



Elisha Field
Jacob Fisk
Benjamin Harwood
Eleazar Harwood
Zachariah Harwood
Aaron Leonard
Samuel Montague
Samuel Pratt
Jedidiah Rice
Oliver Rice
John Roberts

Martha Abbott
Rebecca Abbott
Pearce Atwood
Bethial Burnham
Elizabeth Fay
Lydia Fay
Mehitable Fay
Elizabeth Fisk
Bridget Harwood
Elizabeth Harwood
Martha Montague
Mercy Newton

Martha



Samuel Robinson
Silas Robinson
Joseph Safford
Simeon Sears
Jonathan Scott
Jonathan Scott, Jr.
Elijah Story
Stephen Story
Samuel Tubbs
Benjamin Whipple
Ichobod Stratton

Baty Pratt
Elizabeth Pratt
Hannah Rice
Experience Richardson
Elizabeth Roberts
Mercy Robinson
Ann Safford
Elizabeth Scott
Eleanor Smith
Sarah Story
Hepzibah Whipple
Prudence Whipple
Wickwire



After the outbreak of the Revolution the military line
separating the district of Capt. Elijah Dewey's West Com-
pany from that of Capt. Samuel Robinson's East Company
ran north and south over Bennington Hill, Among the
old historic homesteads of these districts may be mentioned
Parson Dewey's Parsonage at the Centre, built in 1763,
known to-day as the "E. H. Swift Place," the birthplace of
Mrs. E. H. Swift in March, 181 8. The Eldad Dewey
Mansion, built in 1775 on West Main Street in Bennington,
proved a refuge for settlers fleeing ahead of Burgoyne's



i



2i8 The Hoosac Valley

army on the rainy night of August 15, 1777, before the Battle
of Bennington. One woman begged her husband to flee
for safety, but he heroically replied that "she and his children
would be better off if he were slain on the field than to have
a coward for a husband and father." The reverse was also
overheard when a man complained of a severe colic to his
wife. Her woman's wit told her that it was not so much
colic as cowardice, and she urged him bravely forward.

The Elnathan Hubbell Mansion was built in 1769. After
the raising of the huge timbers, Parson Dewey proposed a
wedding, and Joseph Rudd and Sarah Story knelt at the
rude altar and were pronounced one. The Nathaniel Fill-
more house stood near Hubbell homestead, where Nathaniel
Fillmore, Jr., was bom. He migrated to western New York
in 1800 and became the father of Millard Fillmore, President
of the United States in 1 850. The Joseph Wickwire house
stood on the site of the lodge house of James Colgate Park ;
the Phineas Scott house, built in 1776, still stands a mile
west of the Battle Monument, occupied by the venerable
granddaughters of the builder. The "Crosier Place," once
the Benjamin Fay homestead, is now marked by poplar
trees; and Lieut. Samuel Safford's homestead on Main
Street in East Bennington is the residence of William R.
Morgan, a lineal descendant of Deacon Joseph Safford of
Bennington, Parson Cotton Mather of Boston, and Col.
William Williams, "Father of Pittsfield" and founder ot
Bennington.

Isaac Tichenor of Newark, N.J. built his mansion on Mount
Anthony Road, west of Capt. Elijah Dewey's Walloomsac
Inn, in 1792, and his portrait still graces its parlor wall. He
was graduated from Princeton College in 1775, and was, in
1777, Deputy Commissary of the Provincial Army under
Capt. Jedidiah Williams of Williamstown, Mass. Owing
to his elegant manners and fluent speech, he was known by



Samuel Robinson and Historic Bennington 219

the Green Mountain Boys as the "Jersey Shck." He
became a lawyer and was subsequently Governor of Vermont
for ten successive years, dying in 1838 at the age of eighty-
four. The bell in the old Congregational Church tower
was presented in memory of Parson Absalom Peters, ''Father
of Home Missions," by the venerable Governor Tichenor
before his death.

Gen. David Robinson's homestead, at the head of the
Parade, was built in 1796, and descended to the late George
Wadsworth Robinson — now the residence of his son and
daughter. The mansion contains an invaluable collection
of Revolutionary relics, including Col. Frederick Baum's
sword and camp-kettle, together with the sword and con-
tinental hat worn by Gen. David Robinson during the Battle
of Bennington.

Three out-lying districts in Bennington were settled pre-
vious to 1777, including "Irish Corners," now Riverside, at
Henry's Bridge; Haviland's Mills, known later as "Sage's
City," now North Bennington; and Safford's Mills, known
later as Algiers and "Crow Town," now Bennington Village.

"Irish Corners" was settled in 1762 by the grandsons
of the Scotch-Irish pioneers from Coleraine and London-
derry, who landed at Boston in 1718, including Lieut.
William Henry, a kinsman of the patriotic Patrick Henry of
Virginia, Lieut. James Breakenridge, the Hendersons, the
Clarkes, and Col. Seth Warner. The Henry and Warner
homesteads were raised on the same day in 1 769 ; the Henry
house was remodelled during 1797, and the Warner house
burned fifty-four years ago; and Warner's farm is known as
the " Gibbs's Place." The Breakenridge homestead stood
a few rods east of the Warner house and descended to his
grandson, John Breakenridge. He resided there until it
burned, about 1884. The farm is known to-day as the
Michael Leonard Place.



220 The Hoosac Valley

The hamlet of Haviland's Mills was settled by the Tory,
Joseph Haviland. He owned a tract of the Walloomsac
Patent, granted in 1739, which overlapped Bennington on
New Hampshire Grants, considerably east of the Twenty-
Mile Line to Haviland Brook, now Paran Creek in North
Bennington. Haviland's grist-mill stood on the site of the
present Paran Creek grist-mill, and his manorial homestead
occupied the site between the residences of Franklin Scott
and Albert Hathaway. About 1776, Moses Sage, a kinsman
of Russell Sage, the late financier, and James Rogers settled
in the hamlet. Young Sage married the Tory miller's
daughter.

Before the Battle of Bennington, the Council of Safety
sold all of Tory Haviland's manor at auction to Moses
Robinson. He invited settlers after the Revolution, and
sold the land to William Haviland, Moses Sage, and James
Rogers. He signed their deeds "Robinson, Town of Ben-
nington, Province of New York," until the Vermont Line
was confirmed in 18 12. The present Paran Creek grist-
mill was built by Edward Welling in 1833, ^^^ Haviland's
millstone, which on the day and night of August 16, 1777,
was grinding com for Stark's army, is now doing duty as
window-caps on Welling's mill, facing the car line.

Moses Sage founded an iron forge near the site of Lyons's
knitting mills, the first in Vermont, after which the hamlet
of Haviland's Mills became known as "Sage's City." Iron
ore was first mined at the foot of Shaftsbury Mountain.
When this source of supply was exhausted, a new mine was
located in Captain Shields's District in East Bennington and
Woodford, where Moses Sage and his son-in-law, Giles Olin,
set up a blast furnace, about 1804.

Shaftsbury was chartered by Gov. Benning Wentworth to
several Rhode Island settlers in 1761, including Dr. Daniel
Huntington, George Niles, and other staunch Whigs.

' Also Shaftsbury.



Samuel Robinson and Historic Bennington 221

George Niles, parent of the White Creek Niles family, lived
to be one hundred and fourteen years old. Upon his century
birthday he took a scythe and mowed a swath in the meadow,
after which he stood erect and said to his sons : "There, boys,
is a pattern for you!" He was the local historian, and rich
in legends of past generations. He descended from Old
Jonathan and Dame Niles, the parents of fourteen sons, who
Lsettled in Braintree, Mass., in 1636. The Tory Elder,
P)enjamin Hough, first minister of the Shaftsbury Baptist
Church, founded in 1768, was punished with the "Twigs
of the Wilderness" after the Battle of Bennington and
banished.

The First Baptist Church of Pownal Centre was founded
by Rhode Island Whigs, and among the founders were Dr.
Caleb Gibbs, Elder Benajah Grover, and others. Elder
Caleb Nichols of the Exeter Separate Church was installed
first minister in 1 788 ; and Captain Ovitt built the meeting-
house in 1789, remodelled as the Union Church to-day.
Elder Nichols died in 1804, and upon his monument in the
burial-field north of the church is inscribed :

Sacred to the memory of faithful service as a Minister
and Watchman over the First Baptist Church of Pownal.

The Scotch-Irish, led by Elder Freeborn Garretson,
founded the First Methodist Episcopal Society in Benning-
ton in 1792, although their meeting-house was not dedicated
until 1833 by the Rev. Buel Goodsell. During 1834, Strict
Congregationalism was disestablished in New England, and

r Deacon Joseph Hinsdill of the First Church of Bennington
and several members of Calvin's Society separated from the
Old Church and built the First Presbyterian Church at Hins-

[dillville in 1838, now owned by the Methodist Society.

Among the historic tavern stands of Bennington may be
mentioned John Fassett's Tavern, built in 1762. Capt.



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