First Settlements in Norwich Vermont

Having glanced thus briefly at the action of the Norwich proprietors in opening a way to reach their new township in the wilderness, and in dividing up a portion of its surface into lots suitable to become the homesteads of future settlers, let us pause a moment and see what had meantime been done in the work of actual settlement.

I am indebted to Rev. Edmund F. Slafter of Boston for an interesting account of what was unquestionably the first attempt at settlement made within the limits of the town. I quote from the Slafter Memorial:

“Samuel Slafter [of Mansfield, Connecticut], the father of John Slafter, being an original proprietor, and being at the first meeting chosen treasurer of the corporation, took a deep interest in the settlement of the town. At his suggestion, his son John made a journey through the forests of New Hampshire in 1762, to examine the territory and report upon the advantages it might offer as a place of settlement. He found it pleasantly situated on the western banks of the Connecticut, with a good soil, but for the most part of an uneven, hilly surface. He reported it well watered, not only by the Connecticut but by several small, clear streams, and by one more important one called the Ompompanoosuc, an Indian name signifying ‘the place of very white stones’ whose waters emptied themselves into the Connecticut at the northeastern part of the town. As he was inclined to engage in the settlement of the new town, the next year (June 7, 1763) his father transferred to him as ‘a token of his affection,’ all his rights as proprietor of Norwich. He immediately set out for the new scene of his labors, in company with Mr. Jacob Fenton, his maternal uncle, and Mr. Ebenezar Smith, both of them original proprietors. They took with them a horse and such implements as were indispensable in beginning a settlement. On arriving at their new possessions, they found themselves alone in an unbroken forest, where the echo of the woodsman’s axe had perhaps never yet been heard. He first commenced to fell the trees on the river lot No. 17, which had been assigned to his father’s right, in the division of the proprietors, which was a mile and a quarter north from the southern boundary of the town. This lot, unlike most others, proved to be a high, rocky elevation, reaching to the very shore of the river, difficult of cultivation, unsuitable as a homestead, and was immediately abandoned. A permanent settlement was fixed upon further up the river, opposite the farm of Mr. Timothy Smith in Hanover, about four miles north of the present seat of Dartmouth College, and where the well known rope ferry was for many years maintained. Here the first clearing was commenced, and the first human habitation in the town was constructed. The summer was passed in felling the forest, in burning the wood, and preparing the soil for future cultivation. In the autumn, when the cold season approached, and nothing more could be accomplished, he returned to his home in Connecticut and this was repeated four summers, until he married and brought his young wife to his forest home.”

An incident occurred during the first summer, worthy of record in itself, and important in fixing the date of the first settlement of the town. On Wednesday, the 13th of July, Messrs. Slafter, Fenton, and Smith left their home to lend their services for a few days to some friends who were making a settlement at Lebanon, six or eight miles below. Recent rains had swollen the Connecticut, and Mr. Fenton‘s horse in crossing was compelled to swim a short distance in the deepest part of the river, which was near the shore to which he was approaching. The horse was carried down the current, and passed under the trunk of a tree which had fallen into the river, the roots still clinging to the shore. In passing under the trunk of the tree, while leaning forward to avoid being carried from his seat, his horse rising at the instant, forced him with great violence upon the pommel of the saddle, causing a serious injury of the chest. It was soon found necessary for Mr. Fenton to return, and Mr. Smith and a young Mr. Hovey who had joined them, accompanied him to his camp in Norwich. They remained with him, doing what they could for him, but the injury proved so serious that he died on Friday of the same week. On Saturday the two young men proceeded down the river on the Vermont side, and by hallooing and discharging their muskets, endeavored to attract the attention of their friends at Lebanon, and thus communicate with Mr. Slafter, but in this they were unsuccessful. However, on regaining the camp before nightfall, they found that Mr. Slafter had already returned, and had been apprised of the sad and unexpected event of his uncle’s death. On Sunday morning, assisted by his companions, he proceeded to make preparation for the burial. They peeled the bark from a basswood of suitable size, and with reverent heads and sorrowing hearts placed their companion within its pure, white surface, closing it up and making it fast with thongs twisted from the tough bark of the young elm. On the bank of the Connecticut, near to its quiet waters, they placed him in the clean earth to await the resurrection day. A monument of stone was erected, and an inscription placed upon it by Mr. Slafter. This monument remained in its place about eighty years.1 At length it became broken and somewhat defaced. A portion of it, however, is still preserved, and is now in the possession of one of the grandchildren of Mr. Slafter.

The date of 1763 is so far preserved as to be clearly identified. The 1 is complete, the upper part of the 7 is gone, so is likewise the perpendicular part of the 6, but the 3 is as distinct as when it was first chiseled upon the stone. This monument still bears testimony to the year in which this death occurred. But if this evidence were wanting, there is yet another record made at the time, which establishes the date of this occurrence beyond the possibility of a doubt. In the book of records of births and deaths in the town of Mansfield, Connecticut, is the following entry: “Mr. Jacob Fenton of Mansfield, departed this life at Norwich, in New Hampshire, on ye 15th day of July A. D. 1763”

“Mr. Slafter was married at Mansfield, Connecticut, in the spring of 1767, and a month later departed with his young wife to his home in the New Hampshire Grants. A journey from Connecticut, with a family, was at that time an undertaking of no small moment. The distance was 150 miles, mostly through the primitive forest, and the road, for fifty miles at least, was scarcely passable except for footmen and pack-horses. Several families from the same neighborhood were at this time emigrating to the Coos Country, and they accordingly joined together and ‘made up a pleasant party.’ It was decided to navigate the Connecticut rather than to encounter the difficulties of an over-land route. Having provided themselves with log canoes, they embarked with their ‘goods’ probably at Windsor, Conn. They left Mansfield on Thursday, the 23rd of April, and arrived at their home in Norwich on the 10th of May. Against the current of the river, which was very strong at that period of the year, they were not able to make more than eight or nine miles a day. In several places in the river the rapids, or falls, could not be passed, and they were obliged to unship their goods and carry them and their boats around, and reload, ‘before they could pursue their journey. It was, as we may well imagine, a joyful moment when they arrived at their destination, and were at home in their rude habitations. These were the same as had served during the preceding summers. But preparations had already been made, and before the frosts of winter approached, Mr. Slafter had built, on the banks of the Connecticut, a comfortable and substantial dwelling. As mills for sawing lumber had not then been erected within practical distance, the material was fashioned by the axe, without the use of plane or jointer. Small trees, of not more than a foot in diameter, were carefully hewed, halved together at the intersections, and placed upon a foundation, and tier upon tier added, until a suitable height had been attained for receiving the roof. This was formed by placing upon proper rafters, bound together at frequent intervals by ribs or small beams, the thick, impervious bark of the hemlock and other trees. In this way a covering was made, giving complete protection from the rains of summer and snows of winter. The floors were formed of plank, hewed and fitted with the axe alone. Their furniture was of the modest kind. Their tables and chairs were puncheons of basswood, a split log having its faces a little smoothed with an axe, with legs inserted of suitable length. Such was the rude abode of the pioneer.”

The Genealogy of the Mann Family contains an account of a wedding trip made by John Mann and wife of Hebron, Conn., who emigrated to Orford, N. H., in the fall of 1765, which illustrates some of the infelicities of a journey to the new settlements, by the pioneers who took the land route.

Mr. Mann was married to Lydia Porter in October, 1765, and the same month set out with his young bride to take possession of a lot in Orford given him by his father. They left Hebron, a few miles to the southwest of Mansfield, October 16th, on horseback, both riding on one horse as far as Charlestown, and reached Orford October 24th, after a journey of nine days, exactly one-half the time occupied by Mr. Slafter and his party, by way of the river, a year and a half later. Mr. Mann‘s route lay up the east side of Connecticut River. At Charlestown he dismounted, and having procured a bushel of oats for his horse and some luncheon for himself and wife, set forward into the wilderness, Mr. Mann on foot, Mrs. Mann, with such supply of clothing and household goods as they had, packed upon horseback. In some of the towns along the way there were two or three families with whom they stayed at night, who cordially received them and welcomed then with homely fare. Claremont then contained two families, Cornish one, Plainfield one, Lebanon three, Hanover one, and Lyme three. Beyond Charlestown the road at that time was nothing but a crooked bridle path obstructed by fallen trees and with no bridges across the streams. The difficulty of passing some of the larger trees that lay athwart their path was most readily surmounted by urging the horse into a brisk pace, and thus crossing them by a flying leap. So frequent had this become that ere long the wise old steed, realizing the situation, no longer waited for a hint, but soon as ever he neared such an obstacle would plunge forward, and refusing all control, clear it with a bound. In one instance of this kind, the poor beast, miscalculating the distance or failing of a sure foothold, was thrown at full length to the earth, scattering his living and other freight upon the ground in a fine state of disorder. Fortunately, no serious damage was sustained, and the two wayfarers gathered up their effects and proceeded, Mr. Mann the remainder of the journey keeping ahead of the horse, where he might be in a situation to moderate the spirit of the animal and protect his precious freight.

About the same time and by the same route traveled by Mr. Mann, John Hutchinson, from Ashford, Conn., brought his wife and one or two small children into Norwich, in the autumn of 1765. Mr. Hutchinson brought with him a horse, upon which rode wife and babes, some clothing, bedding, etc., and also another necessary animal to a growing family, a cow. A log canoe conveyed the family safely across the river from the Hanover side, but the animals were compelled to swim, and Jerome Hutchinson, the oldest child, then less than three years of age, was fond of relating when an old man his distinct remembrance of the appearance presented of the old white-faced cow as she struggled bravely to keep her head above water while swimming the river. Mr. Hutchinson had not brought his family into the wilderness at an inclement season of the year without making some provision for their support during the winter. Early the preceding summer, in company with his father, Samuel Hutchinson, Sr., he had come to Norwich, and they had felled the trees on a small island in the Connecticut opposite the farm of John W. Loveland, which trees the spring floods subsequently carried into the stream. This island they had then planted to corn, with seed brought from Charlestown, N. H. The first planting failed by reason of bad seed, and John returned on foot to Charlestown for a fresh supply, which was attended with success. When the growing corn no longer required their care, they both returned to Connecticut, and now the young man, accompanied by his family, repaired to the scene of his previous labors in time to secure the crop of corn, whatever it might be, and to make such arrangements as were practicable for a permanent home. The ensuing winter they passed in a log hut erected on the meadow now belonging to E. M. Lewis, and not far from the western end of the present bridge Connecting Norwich and Hanover. This hut they occupied with another family, by the name of Messenger, that had come to Norwich about the same time or a little earlier than Mr. Hutchinson, and these two families were undoubtedly the first white people who ever wintered in Norwich (winter of 1765-66). Although they had chosen as sunny and sheltered a spot probably for a dwelling as could be found in town, that winter must have been dreary and cheerless enough to them in their solitary habitation in the woods. Game from the surrounding forest and fish from adjacent brook and river must have been their chief reliance for food. Mr. Messenger, it is related, was a professional hunter or sportsman, and not long after lost his life while fishing on the river, in this manner: His canoe, it appeared, went adrift while he was asleep in it, and he was carried down with the current until upset and drowned at the falls, Olcott’s Falls, some distance below.

In the absence of any precise knowledge of the manner of life pursued by our Norwich pioneers during that first winter, we will quote once more from the Mann Genealogy a few sentences descriptive of the circumstances under which Mr. John Mann and his wife passed the same period at Orford, N. H., but a few miles away and amid surroundings very similar:

“Removed as they were from all places for obtaining the conveniences and comforts of life, they had to rely upon their own efforts to obtain only a small portion of what was needed. A few chairs and a bedstead, and something for a table, were indispensable articles. An abundance of timber was everywhere around them, but no sawmill to convert it into lumber. No wagon roads were constructed on which articles for housekeeping could be transported. No canals were cut around the numerous falls in the river, for the ascent of water craft.”

As there was no land cleared or grain raised in town, Mr. Mann having some tools for cooperage, made pails and tubs and as soon as the river was sufficiently frozen, put them on a hand sled, and drew them to Newbury on the ice and exchanged them for corn with the three families of Johnson, Bagley, and Hazen who had been there three years and raised corn. The distance on the river was about twenty miles. This corn, with or without roasting, was pounded in a mortar; then the finest parts baked into bread, the coarser part was boiled, which was called hominy. The mortar was made of a section of a large hardwood log set up on end and the top hollowed by burning so large and deep as to hold from three to eight quarts. With a pestle the corn was pounded until it was sufficiently fine for use. A son of Mr. Mann gives us an idea of the ‘chores’ required of boys in those days:

“When an auger was wanted to make a bedstead, it was only to step nine miles through the woods to Mr. John Chamberlin in Thetford – known among his townsmen as ‘Quail John’ who was the only person living in that town, and borrow one of him, and when the bedstead and two or three chair frames were put together, just step through the nine miles of woods to return it.” “And,” he adds, “this labor and fatigue was considered as nothing!”

The hardships and privations of the early settlers of Vermont have been so often described, both by those who experienced them and by later writers that it does not seem necessary to enlarge upon the subject here. The pioneers of Norwich probably did not suffer for the necessaries of life to the extent that those of some of the towns back from Connecticut River did, and at a still later day. Settlements were begun at about the same time in all the towns along the river from Charlestown to Newbury, and the river, in the almost universal absence of roads, was not only the best natural channel for supplies from the older settlements at the southward, but also furnished the immigrants a ready means of communicating with and assisting each other in time of need, which was wanting to the more thinly scattered inhabitants of the highlands of the interior. A vivid description of the trials and difficulties that attended the opening up to settlement of some of the towns in the central part of the state, is found in the narrative of Jabez Fitch, from Norwich, Conn., one of the first settlers of the town of Hydepark, about the year 1787-8.2

As late as 1771, Deacon John Burnap emigrated with his family of six children to Norwich from Lebanon, Conn., by the route followed by Messrs. Mann and Hutchinson, as above described. They traveled the whole distance on foot, bearing the family goods in packs upon their backs.

Elijah Burnap, then a boy of fifteen, carried upon his back a weight of thirty pounds through the wilderness, as his proportion of the necessary burden.

They built a log house, and established their new home in the north-eastern part of the town.

Very little can now be ascertained in detail as to the progress of settlement in these earliest years. The tide of immigration did not set very strongly into town before 1767 or 1768. It is doubtful if the fifteen new settlers for whom the proprietors offered liberal bounties in 1763 were actually obtained. For three or four years following 1763, it is probable that several men came on each year, selected lots, passed the summer upon their clearings, and returned back to Connecticut at the approach of winter, as was customary at that time At a proprietors’ meeting held at Mansfield in March, 1765, it was voted, that “any proprietor who goes this year [as a settler] shall choose his 100 acres, and do two months’ work upon his right by the first day of October next.”

A similar vote was passed in April, 1766. The statement made in Thompson’s Gazetteer of Vermont that “in the summer of 1764, four men moved their families into the township,” has been questioned by Rev. Grant Powers in his “Sketches of the Coos Country,” on the authority of Doctor Asa Burton of Thetford, who affirmed that his fatter, Jacob Burton, came to Norwich from Stonington, Conn., in the summer of that year, “for the purpose of locating himself if he was suited with appearances.” “At that time,” he adds, “there was no inhabitant in town.” As Jacob Burton was again in Norwich in 1765, engaged with others in laying out lots as one of the committee of the proprietors, it is doubtful if any families were permanently established here earlier than the fall of 1765. The first substantial improvements in the southern part of the town were made by Jacob Burton in 1766. In June of that year he made his third visit to Norwich, accompanied by his son Asa and some other hands, by whose assistance he built a saw mill on Blood Brook, at the western outskirts of the present village of Norwich, upon the same site where George Burton‘s saw mill stood previous to the great freshet of 1869, just below the bridge near the tannery of Messenger and Hazen. This mill, probably completed in 1766, was beyond doubt the first sawmill built in Norwich, or within a circuit of many miles. It supplied the necessary lumber for the earliest buildings in the surrounding country. The same or the following year, Mr. Burton built for himself a house a short distance from the mill. This house was located a little west of the dwelling of Azro Turner and very near a large elm tree now standing in the adjacent field. Here on the 28th of July, 1768, was convened the first meeting of the proprietors of Norwich held within the limits of the town. Boards sawed from first growth pine at this mill about this time are still in use. They form part of the outside covering of a barn upon the premises of Deacon Henry Hutchinson, believed to have been built in the year 1767.3 About thirty years ago this barn was re-shingled for the first time. On removing the old shingles, made from pine of the original growth, one especially broad and handsome shingle, was found plainly marked with the figures “1767,” denoting, it is fair to presume, the year it was laid upon the roof. Whether or not this circumstance affords conclusive evidence of the age of the building, no one who has seen it can doubt that it is one of the very oldest buildings now standing in town. Mr. Samuel Hutchinson, Sr., who erected it, was chosen one of the selectmen of the town in March, 1767. The farm that he settled upon and cleared up has ever since been owned and occupied by his descendants.

For several years after the first settlers came in, it is probable that they were obliged to travel a considerable distance to mills, to get their grain ground. John Spafford‘s mill at Charlestown, N. H., and Timothy Lull‘s on Lull’s Brook at Hartland were much resorted to about this time by people living along the Connecticut River as far north as Newbury.

But the proprietors’ records of the year 1770 as already quoted, show that a grist mill was then standing on Blood Brook in Norwich, built by Joseph Hatch and Oliver Babcock. This mill, it is understood, occupied the same site as the present grist mill, operated by D. E. Burbank. It probably did at first only a coarse kind of grinding. As the same early period a saw mill and grist mill had also been built on Pompanoosuc River, at the northeastern part of the town, by Isaac Fellows, as appears from the concession granted him of pitching 74½ acres on said river adjacent to his mills. These mills stood on nearly the same ground as those now owned by L. S. Patterson.

After Jacob Burton‘s, Captain Joseph Hatch doubtless built the first dwelling house on Norwich Plain. This house stood at the southern extremity of the village, nearly opposite the present residence of the widow of Erastus Messenger. In this house the first town meeting in Norwich was held on the second Tuesday of March, 1768. A few years later, by a pretty clear tradition, in 1773, Mr. Hatch built the present Messenger house, which remains to this day without essential change, inside or out, and is now the oldest house in the village, and perhaps in town, occupied as a dwelling. The dwelling of W. S. Hazen, the Deacon John Slafter house built in 1786, and that of Mr. Charles Hazen, near the south line of Norwich in Hartford, somewhat modernized in 1883, are each specimens yet remaining of a similar style of the better farm houses of that day. The house of Charles Hazen is known to date from the year 1775. For more than twenty years afterward, the houses of Joseph Hatch, of Jacob Burton and of Elisha Burton (now D. A. Armstrong‘s) were the only dwellings on Norwich Plain.

As early as 1768, settlers had arrived in considerable numbers, and begun to clear up farms two or three miles back from the Connecticut River. In addition to those already mentioned, the following are ascertained to have arrived and established themselves during or previous to that year: In the south part of the town, Thomas Murdock, John and Joseph Hatch, Samuel Partridge, Sr., Aaron Wright and Ebenezar Ball. These were all men in middle life, with families, and brought with them numerous children, several of whom were grown men and women. The children of each of the above families, except Joseph Hatch‘s, are all believed to have been born in Connecticut. With Jacob Burton came at least six grown up children, four sons and two daughters. His sons, Josiah and Elisha, were then recently married and were already engaged in making themselves homes of their own in town; Thomas Murdock, soon to become a leading citizen of the town, established himself half a mile north of the site of the present village of Norwich. Lieutenant Samuel Partridge with his five sons and two daughters settled where Ambrose Currier now lives. His son, Elisha Partridge, married Margaret Murdock in 1765, located where Charles A. Slack now is.

Aaron Wright and his son John (lately married to Olive, daughter of Samuel Partridge,) occupied the 100 acres next north of Lieutenant Partridge. Adjoining the Wright family on the north was John Hatch (where Deacon John Dutton now lives), who had come on from Preston, Conn., with his brother Joseph, the Wrights, Partridges, and Murdocks, and bringing with him a family of eight children, the youngest about three years old. A little farther north were probably already located the Brown family [Samuel and Israel] and the Ball family [Ebenezar, Joseph].

At the north part of the town, besides John Slafter, living at the river (near John A. Sargent‘s), there was Captain Hezekiah Johnson (where Richard Waterman now lives), Daniel and (probably) Samuel Waterman with families from Mansfield, Conn., Daniel Waterman settling where William Waterman now lives, with James Huntington, Peter Thatcher and Medad Benton in the same neighborhood, and Joseph and Francis Smalley and Francis Fenton not far off.

At this time, and still more unmistakably at a later date, we see the tide of immigration into Norwich setting strongly towards the high lands and away from the banks of streams and rivers. Surprise is often expressed that the first settlers in Vermont should almost invariably have made their first clearings and fixed their habitations upon the summits of the highest hills. The prominent cause for this seems to have been that all low ground was then altogether too wet for cultivation. People at the present day have little idea of the extent to which the surface of the ground has become less moist than when it was covered with an unbroken forest. The opening up of the face of the country to the direct contact of sun and wind has wrought a wonderful change in this regard. What are now considered the most valuable lands in town, the clay lands, were almost entirely neglected for many years.

Another cause, based somewhat on sentimental considerations, may have operated to some extent. If the settler pitched his home upon a hill, his situation gave him an outlook and a prospect over the surrounding country, a consideration of no mean importance to the pioneer and his family in their solitary life in the woods. That he was able to look out and see even the smoke from a neighbor’s dwelling, or watch the progress of his work in a distant clearing, must have helped to cheer and support him in his own lonely labors.

But the life of our pioneer settlers, though involving great hardships and self denial, was not altogether isolated and unsocial. Before 1770 a large and steady stream of immigration was pouring into the new towns along Connecticut River. “The woods were full” of new settlers. On foot and on horseback, men, women, and children thronged the rough and narrow roads’ beside the river in the spring of every year. Their canoes and boats dotted the river itself. Late in winter or early spring many came by sleds and sleighs drawn upon the firm ice that bridged the stream from shore to shore. Rev. Mr. Sanderson, in his history of Charlestown, N. H., says that the town was crowded with companies which had come there to take an outlook upon the new lands of which they had heard marvelous tales from the rangers and soldiers who had traversed the region during the French and Indian wars. And it is not strange if the smooth and fertile hillsides and rich intervals of Vermont did seem a veritable land of Canaan to the immigrant accustomed to the stony and sterile fields of eastern Massachusetts and Connecticut. According to Mr. Sanderson, the traffic in supplies for travelers and those newly arrived was a source of much profit to the people of Charlestown. Not only were the inns of the place frequently filled to overflowing, but every private family had all they could victual and lodge.

Early in the history of the town the immigrant population began to be increased by the native born. The first child born within its limits was Lydia Hutchinson, daughter of John Hutchinson, born Oct. 6, 1766. John Slafter‘s daughter Christiana was born Feb. 6, 1768. John Waterman, son of Daniel Waterman, is believed to be the first male child born in town. The town records show the names of children born to other pioneer settlers during these first years, among them two sons of Elisha Partridge (Reuben and Harper), born Sept. 30, 1771, and June, 1769; two sons of Elisha Burton (Levi and Stephen) born in April, 1768, and December, 1769; and two daughters (Zerviah and Lydia) of Josiah Burton, born respectively Sept. 7, 1767, and Aug. 14, 1769. Some of these births, with others on record contemporary with these, doubtless actually occurred in Connecticut.

In marked contrast with that motley population of mixed nationalities which now pours constantly into the new states and territories west of the Mississippi, was the uniform character of the early settlers of the towns in the upper valley of the Connecticut. Never was a tract of country colonized and settled by a more homogeneous people. On both sides of the river, nearly all were emigrants from Connecticut, and from that portion of Connecticut lying east of the great river. By far the greater part came from a small group of towns lying around Mansfield and Lebanon. A radius of twenty miles extended in every direction from the present town of Willimantic would cover pretty much the whole ground. As regards Norwich, considerable research among the oldest families has not revealed the first one among the inhabitants of the town previous to the year 1790 (then numbering more than 1,000 souls) that in coming here did not leave a home in eastern Connecticut. Norwich and Hanover were largely settled by emigrants from Mansfield; Hartford, Lebanon and Piermont from Lebanon, Conn.; Thetford, Orford and Fairlee from Hebron; and Strafford and Sharon from Hebron and Goshen. Most of these towns received their first inhabitants in 1765, Thetford, Hartford and Lebanon may have had each one or two families a single year earlier. Of Norwich itself, after Mansfield and Preston, Tolland, Lebanon, Hebron, Willington and Coventry were the principal mother towns. From Mansfield, as we have seen, came the pioneer families of John Slafter and Capt. Hezekiah Johnson, with the Waterman, Fenton, Huntington, Sargent, and Hovey families. From Tolland came the Benton, Newton, Nye, Stimson, Yeomans and West families. From Hebron came Buck, Sawyer and the Wrights. From Lebanon, Burnap, Curtis, Lyman, Thatcher, Cushman. From Bolton, Olcott, Fellows and Boardman. From Norwich, Coit, Baxter and Waterman. From Weathersfield, Goodrich and Loveland. From Wellington, the Cushmans (except Capt. Solomon) and the most numerous branch of the Johnsons. From Franklin, the Armstrongs. From Ashford, the Hutchinsons. From Lyme, Lewis. From Coventry, Brigham, Hibbard and Spear. From Preston, the Browns, Partridges and Burtons, with the Hatch brothers and Thomas Murdock.

As the Puritan founders of Massachusetts and Connecticut gave to their first plantations in the new world the names of the dear old English towns they had left behind, so we find the names of Connecticut towns reappearing in large numbers in the Connecticut valley towns of Vermont and New Hampshire. Norwich, Hartford, Lebanon, Lyme, Plainfield, Enfield, Windsor and Woodstock are examples that readily suggest themselves in this immediate neighborhood. Fifty-five towns in Vermont, it is said, are the namesakes of Connecticut towns.

“Here fond remembrance fixed her much-loved names.”

Vermont has been called the child of Connecticut. The men who shaped her early history and molded her constitution and laws were chiefly Connecticut men. With few exceptions, they were natives of Connecticut who filled the important offices of the new state for the first half century after settlement, the governors, the judges, legislators, congressmen and soldiers, who made the name of “Green Mountain Boys” famous in American history.4 Our staunch yeomanry were of the same stuff, of the same resolute, enterprising and hardy race that about the same time settled, amid many tribulations, the Wyoming valley in Pennsylvania, and a few years later, in successive migrations, swept into western New York and the Western Reserve of Ohio carrying with them everywhere the common school, the town meeting, and an educated ministry, secured the great Northwest to freedom, and so firmly fixed the character of the institutions that dominate today in America. Virginia has been honored as “the mother of presidents,” to Connecticut belongs the more honorable title of mother of free states and her first-born was Vermont.

Footnotes

  1. The site of this monument was in the meadow. 

  2. See Vermont Historical Gazetteer, Vol. II. pp. 640-652

  3. Since the above was written, this barn has been demolished to give place to a handsome building on the same site, with modern conveniences and improvements. 

  4. Seven of the ten first governors, and five of the nine first lieutenant governors of Vermont were natives of Connecticut, as were eleven of the sixteen first judges of the Supreme Court whose place is known. So were two-thirds of all the higher officers of the State during the first fifty years of its history.  



MLA Source Citation:

AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 17 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/vermont/first-settlements-norwich-vermont.htm - Last updated on Jan 29th, 2014

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