3.  Bennington's First Days of Settlement

 

The early settlers of Bennington suffered great inconvenience for want of roads and bridges, and also for the want of mills.  To overcome these difficulties the proprietors and inhabitants taxed themselves liberally both in money and labor.  Roads were opened to the different parts of the town and bridges built where necessary. 

Samuel Robinson and Joseph Safford built "the Safford Mills" in the east part of the town by the first of September 1762.  These were a sawmill and gristmill, for which they received a bounty of $40 for each mill, the bounty having been previously promised by vote of the proprietors.  A bounty of $40 was also given for erecting a sawmill "on the west side of the town."

On December 2, 1762, a church was organized, which by vote on the same day adopted the Cambridge platform, with the exception of such parts of it as admitted the aid of the civil magistrates in enforcing the support of the ministry, and their coercive power over the church in other matters.  They called themselves Congregationalists, and were such in every respect except in regard to their enlightened notions of religious freedom, which being at the time in advance of the great majority of their brethren, procured for them the temporary name of "Separatists."

In the fall of 1763, the Rev. Jedediah Dewey of Westfield, Mass., in consequence of a call from the church and society of Bennington, moved to this town and became their pastor.  In addition to the encouragement given him by voluntary subscription, the proprietors of the town voted him "the minister's right," which was situated adjoining "the town plat" and was valuable.  Mr. Dewey continued as pastor of the church until his death, Dec.  21, 1778.

The settlement of Pownal, under the New Hampshire charter, was commenced in the spring of 1762, there being at that time four or five Dutch families within the limits of the township claiming under the "Hoosick patent" granted by the government of New York.  This patent was alleged to include a portion of the westerly part of the township.  Among the early settlers of the town were the families of Wright, Gardner, Morgan, Dunham, Card, Noble, Curtis, Watson, and Seelye, though the precise date of their several emigrations to the town has not been determined.

Shaftsbury was settled in 1763 — by Messrs. Cole, Willoughby, Clark, Doolittle, Waldo, and several families of Mattesons.   The families of Carpenter, Buck, Bates, Olin, Cross, Draper, Huntington, and Spencer were also early settlers, though not among the emigrants of the first year.

In Arlington the first settlement was made in 1763 by Doctor Simon Burton, William Searles, and Ebenezer Wallis.  The next year Jehiel Hawley, Josiah Hawley, Remember Baker, and Thomas Peck moved into town; it was subsequently, during the Revolutionary war, the residence of Thomas Chittenden, Ethan and Ira Allen and others distinguished in the annals of Vermont.

Sunderland was first settled in 1765, by Messrs. Brownsons, Bradley, Warren, Everets, Chipman, and Webb, emigrants from Connecticut.

The settlement of Manchester was begun in 1764 — by Samuel Rose and others from Dutchess County, New York.  Among the first settlers were the families of Marsh, French, and Mead, and the families of Purdy, Ormsby, Soper, Weller, Powell, Roberts, Whelpley, and Smith, also came to the town early.

The first settlement of Dorset was made in 1768 — by Felix Powell from Massachusetts, Isaac Lacey from Connecticut, and Benjamin Baldwin, Abraham Underhill, John Manly, and George Gage from New York.  Rupert was settled about the same period.  Landgrove by William Utley in 1769; Peru in 1773; Sandgate and Stamford before the Revolution, and the other towns in the county at later dates.

In addition to the difficulties and dangers naturally attending the transformation of a wilderness into a cultivated country, which had been in some measure foreseen, the settlers of this county were soon called upon to encounter other difficulties which were of so serious and trying a character as to exert an important influence on the progress of the settlements, and on the civil institutions which were formed within the newly acquired territory.

The lands of the settlers had been granted by charters issued in the name of the King of Great Britain, purporting to be by his authority, and evidenced by the signature and seal of the governor of New Hampshire, one of His Majesty's royal provinces; and the farms which they occupied had been fairly purchased and paid for.  It was the doctrine of that day that the ungranted lands of the country belonged to the Crown; and as the lands in question were universally believed to be within the province of New Hampshire, it had not occurred to the purchasers that any question could arise in regard to their titles.

Such question was made, however, and the controversy it produced was of a novel and interesting character.

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