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Bristol Vermont – Proprietors’ Meetings

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There is strong presumptive evidence extant tending to prove that proprietors’ meetings were held, and some measures taken towards allotting the lands in Pocock, previous to those appearing in the proprietors’ record-book. It is generally believed by authorities that, as early as 1784, John Willard, of Middlebury, Hon. Jonathan Hoyt, of St. Albans, and Captain Miles Bradley, of New Haven, at a meeting held in Canaan, Litchfield county, Conn., were appointed a committee to survey and allot the land in Pocock, though no record of such an event has been found. But deeds from the proprietors recorded in the Rutland county clerk’s office, to which county Pocock then belonged, speak of the “first division lots,” and describes them as numbered, and containing one hundred and twenty acres each. In the files of the Vermont Gazette, printed at Bennington, may also be found an article warning a meeting of the proprietors to convene “at the house of Benjamin Payn, in Addison, on the second Tuesday in May, 1788.” This warning proves that at least the third division had been made, for the fourth article reads: “To see if they [the proprietors] will proceed to lay out the fourth division, and lay roads.”

The same paper also states that, “on the second Tuesday of May, 1788, the proprietors, in pursuance of the foregoing notice, held a meeting at the time and place appointed, and chose Justin Allen, moderator, and Henry McLaughlin, clerk; and without doing any other business adjourned.”

There was also a meeting held, it appears, on the same day and at the same place, “by adjournment from Pocock,” at which one item of business brought up was, “to see if the proprietors will accept of the surveys, or divisions of land that have been made, or whether they will make surveys or divisions of land in said town; also to choose a committee for that purpose.” With reference to this it was found that “no legal” survey of a first division of land had been made, and that they proceed to make a first division of “ninety acres to each right.”

Thus it seems that the business of all previous meetings was practically annulled, and that the first division finally contained instead of one hundred and twenty acres, only ninety acres, which was really the fact. The second division contained one hundred and ten; the third, one hundred; the fourth, fifty; and fifth, twenty acres.

The first proprietors’ meeting which appears on the records met at the house of Benjamin Griswold, in Pocock, March 3, 1788, in pursuance to a warning published in the Vermont Gazette. Captain Miles Bradley was chosen moderator, and Henry McLaughlin, clerk. A tax of $2.00 was laid on each proprietor’s right to defray the expense of the survey, and clearing highways, building bridges, etc. A committee, consisting of Timothy Rogers, Miles Bradley, Justin-Allen, Cyprian Eastman and Henry McLaughlin, was appointed to attend to said business, and the meeting was adjourned to meet in Addison, as we have noted. From this time forward the meetings were held in Pocock, or Bristol, as it soon became, and the business transacted related most entirely to division of lands, levying taxes, etc., and hence would prove uninteresting to the general reader.

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