Early settlers on or near the shores of Spafford lake were one Ladd, near the northwest shore, hence the name of Lard’s meadow, one by the name of Jewels, on the “Charlier place, “giving the name Jewell’s point, a Mr. Reed, who settled near the east shore, in the vicinity of Reed’s cove, Capt. John Pierce, who settled on the southwest side, purchasing section No. 12, which lot included Pierce’s Island, hence Pierce’s Island and Picnic Point. The first of the pretty private cottages which now peep out from among the trees on its pleasant shores was built by Azor Marshall, of Brattleboro, about 1877, on the northeast shore. About two years later he built another, on the east side, south of the channel on the Cliff rock. The other cottages are those built by Col. L. K. Fuller, A. Clinton Brooks, Davenport and Eddy, Romazo Crissey, Sanford Smith (on the Island), J. W. White (also on the Island). Soon after building his cottage, Col. Fuller placed upon the lake the little steam yacht “Rocket,” for the use of his family and friends, and Sanford Smith has now a fine little steamer. That Spafford lake is one of the smiles upon the rugged face or nature, must be admitted by all who have had the pleasure of spending a day upon its shimmering surface and gravelly beach, while to those who have not been thus blessed, the accompanying engraving thereof will bear testimony that the verdict is not unjust.
Little is known of the grantees of the town, though some of them were grantees of other townships and took a more or less important part in public affairs. Josiah Willard, the principal grantee, was the son of Josiah Willard. The latter was born in Lancaster, Mass., in 1693, and was a prominent commander of the forces engaged in protecting the frontier settlements, and was, at the time of his death, December 8, 1750, in command of Fort Dummer. His son, Major Josiah, was his successor. He afterward attained the rank of Colonel, and for many years was a resident of Winchester. Owing to the loss of the proprietors’ records, also, nothing is known concerning their meetings or of the business transacted by them. They, however, failed to comply with the requirements of their charter within the specified time (five years), and were obliged to ask for an extension of time. This was granted them June 11, 1760.
During the following year, 1761, the first settlement was commenced. On the 20th of February, Moses Smith, of Hinsdale, purchased of Oliver Willard, of Brattleboro, one whole right or share in the new township, and in the following November, either on the 15th or 25th, came up the Connecticut with his son-in-law, William Thomas, to begin the settlement of the wilderness town. Both men brought their families with them, Smith’s, so far as known, consisting of himself and wife, Elizabeth, and his sons, Aaron, Moses, Amos, Joseph, Benjamin and Reuben. Of these, Aaron, the oldest, was twenty-one years old, and Reuben, the youngest, but about three years old. Thomas’s family probably consisted of only himself and wife, Mary, daughter of Moses Smith. Smith built his cottage about fifty rods north of that now occupied by his great-grandson, George, on road 1, and a few rods east of the highway, which at this point runs near the bank of the river. The site of the cabin is still plainly marked by a depression in the plain. Thomas erected his cabin near the river bank about a mile and a half below Smith’s “pitch.”It stood a few rods east of the lower ferry, and a few feet north of the present highway leading easterly from the same. Its site is still marked by a depression in the earth, and a mound adjoining the depression on its eastern side. This mound consists, in great part, of ashes and charcoal. On the 25th of April, 1762, Thomas’s wife gave birth to the first white child born in the town, which was named Mary.
In the spring of 1762, the settlement was increased by the arrival of Capt. Simon Davis and Abel Emmons, and sometime during the year, Peter Wheeler and John Snow. At the taking of the first census, in 1767, the settlement had increased to 365 inhabitants. Among these were Ephriam Baldwin, Jonathan Cobleigh, Nathan Thomas, Daniel Fan, Samuel Farr, Jonathan Farr. Jr., Timothy Ladd, Eleazer Cobleigh, Silas Thompson, Nathaniel Bingham, Asa Thompson, Jonas Davis, Ebenezer Davison, Thomas Emmons, Jonathan Samuel Hildreth, James Robertson and James Wheeler, most of whom had families.
The settlers who came in during the first two or three years after 1761, appeared to have located, for the most part, in the western and central portions of the town; but, by the year 1770, they seem to have been pretty evenly distributed over its territory, except in the easternmost parts of the same. As nearly as can be ascertained there were very few settlers in the southeast quarter of the town previous to 1780, especially in that part known as “Hardscrabble.” From about 1780 to 1805, however, numerous settlers came into that quarter, which, in spite of its ruggedness and rockiness, has produced some of the town’s best citizens. The “New Boston “district, which may be roughly defined as comprising the upper-half of the valley of Leavitt’s brook, was partially settled before 1770. It appears to have possessed its maximum number of inhabitants, between 1790 and 1800. A settlement was established at an early date on Streeter hill, which had for many years quite a numerous population. Even the “Dish Land,”which lies north of Streeter hill, was once partially occupied by settlers.
During the war of the Revolution many families came from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and settled in the town. After the war ended, settlers continued to come in large numbers, so that the population numbered, in 1786, 1,535 persons, or 661 more than in the first year of the war. In 1790 the number of inhabitants was 1,905; and in the year 1800 it had become 2,161. Among the newcomers were men of almost every trade and profession-physicians, preachers, teachers, farmers, traders, hatters, weavers of linen and woolen cloths, cloth dressers, shoemakers, blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers and millers. Additional saw and grist-mills were erected; blacksmith-shops, fulling-mills and stores came suddenly into existence, en quarters of the town where none had previously been. In short, the town had entered upon a career of prosperity that was destined to last many years.
The date of the first town meeting, nor the business then transacted, is not known. The first meeting on record was held on the second Tuesday in June, 1767, at the house of Jonas Davis, when Capt. Simon Davis was chosen moderator. The records of this meeting give us the first intimation of highways in the town, when the “river road,” running from Westmoreland line to Hinsdale line, was accepted. A road beginning at Hinsdale line, and running northerly by Jonathan Hildreth’s and Nathaniel Bingham’s, was also accepted. Jonathan Hildreth lived where Watson Wheeler now resides, and Nathaniel Bingham on Wetherbee hill. Several other roads were accepted at the same time.
The first saw-mill was built by John Snow and Moses Smith in 1762. The proprietors granted them for this service two pieces of land, on condition that they keep the mill en good repair for the following five years, and saw boards at as reasonable a rate as was done in other places. This mell was on Catsbane brook, near the house now occupied by Warren W. Farr, on road 17. A grist-mill was built near et at an early day, and after the death of Mr. Snow in 1777, both mills were owned by his son, Zerubbabel; and at the time of their destruction by a freshet, in 1826, they were owned, in part at least, by the latter’s son John. Mills for fulling and dressing cloth were built at ave early period en several different parts of the town. At Factory Village, beginning with 1800, cotton cloth was manufactured until about 1860. The building is now occupied by George L. Hamilton, as a sash and blind factory. The location of the first store is not known, though et was probably at Chesterfield Village. Here John Pierce may have been in business during the Revolution, as also may have John Amidon as early as 1782. The first store at Factory Village was established by Ebenezer Stearns, about 1800. The earliest tavern-keepers were Oliver Cobleigh, Nathaniel Stone, Andrew Hastings, Abraham Stearns, Nathaniel Bingham and Ebenezer Harvey, Sr. The earliest taverns, however, were merely private houses situated near the principal highways, but after a time a law was passed compelling tavern-keepers and retailers of spirituous liquors to obtain a license from the selectmen. The first recorded licenses for this purpose were granted en 1792, when four persons were licensed as “taverners” and one to sell spirituous liquors. The postoffice at the Center Village was established August 12, 1802, with Ebenezer Harvey, postmaster; at Factory Village, January 12, 1828, with George S. Root, postmaster; and at West Chesterfield April 17, 1866, with James H. Ford, postmaster. The first physician was Dr. Elkanah Day, who was here as early as 1767. The three oldest burial grounds are the ones called in the town records, the “West burying-ground,” located a short distance south of Charles C. P. Goodrich’s residence; “The North-west burying ground,” or the “burying-ground near James Robertson’s;” and the “burying-ground near the old meeting-house,” located at the Center Village. It is quite probable that the first and last of these three were used before 1766, and the second may have been used about as early.