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Olcott Family of Norwich Vermont

Hon. Peter Olcott was born at Bolton, Connecticut, April 25, 1733; married Sarah, daughter of Peletiah Mills, Esq., of Windsor, Conn., October 11, 1759, and removed to that place in 1772. That year or the following one he came to Norwich, Vermont. He was the oldest of his parents’ four children (two sons and two daughters), and the only one of them to come to Norwich to reside. Mr. Olcott‘s name first appears in the town records of Norwich in 1773, when he was chosen one of the overseers of the poor, at the annual March meeting. He early took a leading part in public affairs in his new home. He was elected to the most important town offices, and soon came to be regarded as one of the leading men of the place. It is probable that he was a man of considerable means when he came to Norwich, which, united with his superior talents, gave him a commanding influence in the community. The next year (1774) the annual town meeting was held at his house, and such meetings continued to be so held until 1779, after which they were held at the meeting house, except in severe winter weather. Probably his influence was potent in fixing the location of the first meeting house very near to his residence and upon land which he gave for a site. He also gave the land for the old burying ground adjoining. Mr. Olcott was the first justice of the peace in town, being chosen to that office at a special town meeting called for that purpose April 7, 1778. In...

Murdock Family of Norwich Vermont

Hon. Thomas Murdock removed to Norwich from Preston, Connecticut, as early as 1767 (in which year he was recorded a voter in town), and located on the farm a little north of Norwich Plain and subsequently occupied by Jared Goodell, George Blanchard, Harvey Knights, and now by Judd Leonard. He married Elizabeth Hatch (sister of John and Joseph Hatch, early settlers in Norwich), to whom were born: Asahel, Constant, Jasper, Thomas, Jr., Anna, who became the wife of Ebenezer Brown, Esq., the first lawyer to locate in Norwich, and Margaret, who married Elisha Partridge, November 14, 1765. Mr. Murdock was prominent in both state and local matters, the offices held by him being noticed in other chapters of this book. He died Dec. 5, 1803, followed by his wife in 1814. Asahel, the eldest son, was a voter in Norwich as early as 1782. He married Elizabeth Starkweather in 1779, and they became the parents of six children. He returned to Connecticut in 1800. Constant was a voter in Norwich as early as 1784. By his first wife, Sarah Jewett, he had one child, and by his second wife, Lucy Riley, he had eight children. His home was in the fine residence now occupied by Albert Davis, on the hill a little north of Norwich village. He died in Norwich in 1828, aged 67 years. His first wife died in 1790, aged 22 years, and his second wife in 1825, aged 48 years. Jasper was born October 5, 1759. It is likely that he came to Norwich with his father. He erected at Norwich Plain an elegant private residence...

Biography of John Hatch, Esq.

The elder of the brothers, John and Joseph Hatch, was born at Preston, Connecticut, June 9, 1727; came to Norwich Vermont in the earliest days of its settlement and founded his home on the hill farm owned and occupied at a later day by Deacon John Dutton. At a proprietors’ meeting at Mansfield, Connecticut, in 1766, Mr. Hatch was elected one of the selectmen of Norwich; at a town meeting at the latter place, held in 1769, he was elected selectman, town clerk and one of a committee of five to lay out highways “where they shall think needful.” He held the office of town clerk continuously until 1780, except for the year 1766, when it was filled by Peter Olcott. Mr. Hatch was a practical surveyor of land, and his services were much in request for that purpose. He made the survey of Norwich into lots in 1766, and laid out in person most of the highways in town during the first twenty-five years after its settlement. In 1778 he was employed to make a survey of the town of Hartford into lots, under the direction of Benajah Strong and Israel Gillett, a committee of that town. At that time he held the office of county surveyor of Cumberland County, by the appointment of the Governor and Council of Vermont. April 10, 1772, he was commissioned a justice of the peace for Gloucester County by William Tryon, the royal governor of New York, he executed the duties of this office for several years, probably until the establishment of state government by Vermont in 1778. Mr. Hatch married Sarah...

Biography of Abel Curtis

In the abundance of able men that adorned the first twenty-five years of the history of the town, there is no more brilliant name than that of Abel Curtis. He was a son of Simeon Curtis and came with his father from Lebanon, Conn., where he was born June 13, 1755. The son graduated from Dartmouth College in the class of 1776, being the first graduate from this town, one year earlier than the Rev. Asa Burton. Abel Curtis is first mentioned in connection with town affairs in November, 1778, when he was chosen delegate to the Cornish convention of December following, in company with Peter Olcott and Nathaniel Brown. From this time until his death in 1783, a period full of important events shaping the future of state and country, he was prominent in all the transactions of the town, representative for three years in the legislature; serving on many committees; delegate to Congress in 1782, with Ira Allen and Jonas Fay; assistant judge of the county court in 1782; delegate to the Charlestown convention of January, 1781, sitting at Windsor, by the joint action of which with the legislature of Vermont, the second union of New Hampshire towns was effected on the 22nd of February, following; delegate to the Thetford convention of June 1782, by which he was commissioned agent of the towns of Hartford, Norwich, Bradford, and Newbury to carry to the Government of New Hampshire a memorial, drawn up by himself, proposing to place said towns under the jurisdiction of that state, in certain contingencies. The last public service he performed for the state was...

Biography of Prof. George Bush

George Bush, one of the most eminent Biblical scholars and Orientalists of his time in America, was born in Norwich, Vt., June 12, 1796, a son of John and Abigal (Marvin) Bush, and grandson of Capt. Timothy Bush. The boyhood of George Bush was mostly passed in Hanover, New Hampshire, whither his father removed when he was quite young. The son gave early indications of superior intelligence. His eldest sister says “he had a ravishing love of books from her first remembrance of him.” He frequented the College library at Hanover and would bring home ponderous volumes, almost as large as he could carry. Old residents remember him riding to mill on horseback with his face hidden in the pages of an open book that he held before him. At the age of nineteen he entered Dartmouth College, graduating in 1818 with the valedictory and the highest honors of his class, which was of more than average ability, containing among others such scholars as Professor William Chamberlain of Dartmouth College, and the late Professor Thomas C. Upham of Bowdoin College. During a part of his college course, Mr. Bush was a private tutor in the family of Honorable Mills Olcott, and there probably was formed an intimate friendship between himself and Rufus Choate of the class of 1819. The two young men chummed together during the college course, and Mr. Choate ever after kept a high regard for and estimate of his college friend. After teaching one year in the Orange County Grammar School at Randolph, Vt., Mr. Bush commenced the study of theology at Princeton Seminary, where he...

History of the Merchants of Norwich VT

Peter Olcott had a store near his residence at the Center, in the time of the Revolutionary War. Abel Curtis was for a time associated with him in this business. Stephen Burton, eldest son of Elisha Burton and a graduate of Dartmouth College in 1790, was probably the first to open trade at Norwich Plain, prior to the year 1800. Ichabod Marshall of Hanover, also a Dartmouth graduate in 1790, is understood as having been engaged in mercantile business in Norwich (possibly in partnership with Stephen Burton) for several years. Both these young men emigrated to the West early in the century, Burton to central New York where he died in 1812, and Marshall to Ohio in the year 1818. George Woodward kept store before 1799 in the building now occupied by Mrs. Gardner Davis as a dwelling. Oliver Hatch was in trade on the corner where F. W. Hawley is in business. In 1801 or 1802, he was succeeded by William Little, who came from Strafford and bought the store building and prosecuted business there till about 1816, part of the time in company with Jona Lovejoy from Boston. They dissolved partnership in 1809. About this time a store was kept by Charles Hutchins from Concord, N. H., in the building that in later years became the residence of the late Jas. S. Currier, just north of “Newton Inn.” Little and Lovejoy were succeeded by Waterman Ensworth and Rufus Hatch, Cyrus Partridge, not long after, becoming a member in place of Mr. Hatch. Capt. Ethen Burnap was a merchant in Norwich from about 1817 to 1828 or ’29,...

Migration of Families out of Norwich VT

At the first enumeration of the inhabitants of eastern Vermont, as made by the authority of New York in 1771, Norwich was found to be the most populous of all the towns of Windsor County, having forty families and 206 inhabitants. Windsor followed with 203, and Hartford was third with 190. The aggregate population of the county (ten towns reported) was then but 1,205, mostly confined to the first and second tiers of towns west of the Connecticut River. Twenty years later, in 1791, Hartland led all the towns of the county with 1,652 inhabitants, Woodstock and Windsor coming next with 1,605 and 1,542 respectively. Exceptional causes made the little town of Guilford (now numbering scarcely more than one thousand inhabitants), till after the year 1800, the most populous town in the state. In Norwich, the great falling off in the size of families in recent years is seen in the fact, that in the year 1800, the number of children of school age was 604, out of a total population of 1,486, while in 1880 with a nearly equal population (1,471) it was but 390. In the removal of large numbers of the native-born inhabitants by emigration, we must find the principal cause of the decline of our rural population. Preeminently is this true of Norwich. The outflow of people began very early and now for more than a century there has been one unbroken, living stream of emigration pouring over our borders. Several families that had first located here became, before the close of the Revolutionary War, the pioneer settlers of Royalton, Tunbridge, and Randolph. Some of...

History of Norwich Vermont Education

From the town records it appears that the first attempt to divide the town into school districts, was at a town meeting held November 19, 1782, when John Slafter, Elijah Brownson, Ithamar Bartlett, Joseph Loveland, Paul Bingham, Joseph Hatch, Daniel Baldwin, Abel Wilder and Samuel Brown, Jr., were made a committee for that purpose. Soon thereafter the committee reported that they “could effect nothing on the business of their appointment,” and were discharged. No further move in town meeting towards districting the town for school purposes appears to have been made until March 30, 1785, when, on petition of persons residing in the southeastern part of the town, the territory, to be described, was embraced in a district designated as the “First School District: Beginning at the southeast bound of Norwich; thence running on the line between Hartford and Norwich, two miles; thence northerly so wide as to include Benjamin Hatch and Benjamin Burton and Mr. John Knight; thence easterly so as to take into s’d district Nathaniel Brown, Esq., Esquire Elisha Partridge and the Rev. Lyman Potter; thence due east to Connecticut River.” At a town meeting held March 14, 1791, districts Nos. 1 to 12, both inclusive, were established; March 13, 1798, district No. 13 was organized; No. 14 (from the consolidation of districts 9 and 10) in 1818; No. 15 (Bicknell), in 1827; No. 16, March, 1828; No. 17, June, 1828; No. 19, March, 1834; No. 20, Oct. 20, 1834; No. 18 (Podunk), 1841. At a town meeting held in May, 1834, it was “voted to set off Ira Baxter, Isaac Partridge, Cyrus Partridge, and Calvin...

Norwich Vermont in the Revolutionary War

The sources of information in regard to the part taken by the town in the Revolutionary struggle are few and scanty. The earliest allusion in the town records to this important epoch of the country’s history is found in the election of a Committee of Safety at the annual town meeting, March 11, 1777. This committee was five in number: Deacon Joseph Smalley, Samuel Hutchinson, John Hatch, Captain Hezekiah Johnson and John Hopson. There is much reason to believe, however, that this was not the first Committee of Safety that acted for the town; but was a new committee selected to conform to a recommendation made to the towns in Cumberland and Gloucester Counties by the Convention at Westminster which declared the independence of Vermont the preceding January.1 It is pretty certain that a company of militia was organized in Norwich as early as the year 1774 or 1775. Of this company Peter Olcott was chosen Captain and Thomas Murdock, Ensign, doubtless by the votes of the men enrolled in the same. The company was probably a purely voluntary organization of patriotic young men, in Colonel Seth Warner‘s regiment of Rangers in 1775, in the continental service. Colonel Timothy Bedell, of Haverhill, N. H., also raised a regiment the same year for service in Canada. Fresh regiments were enlisted early in the spring of 1776, by both Colonel Bedell and Colonel Warner. Again on the 7th of March Colonel Morey writes to the New Hampshire Committee of Safety: “Some recruiting officers from Colonel Warner‘s party [regiment] have enlisted a considerable number of fine men, they had the money to...

Church History of Norwich Vermont

The great achievement of the first generation of Norwich settlers was the building of a meeting house. More than any other event of the time, with the possible exception of the accomplishment of the national independence, this was an undertaking that enlisted the energies and taxed the resources of our forefathers. The building of a meeting house in a New England frontier settlement a century ago was regarded a matter of public concern, to be supported by the whole community without regard to sect or party, like the opening of roads or any other public charge. In less than ten years from the time the first clearing was made in Norwich, the preliminary steps were taken to provide a meeting house to be used for the accommodation of the whole people in the public worship of God. The question of the location of this building was sharply agitated, re-resulting in a keen competition between different sections of the town for the coveted distinction, inasmuch as the location of the house was supposed to fix the site of a possible future village where much of the business of the town would be transacted. When it became apparent that no agreement could be reached, a locating committee of three men from out of town was chosen and summoned upon the ground to decide where the meeting house should stand. The formal report of this Committee as made at the time has recently been found among the papers of the late W. H. Duncan, Esq., of Hanover, N. H., and by the kindness of Honorable Frederick Chase has been furnished to the...
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