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Collection: History of Norwich VT

Baxter Family of Norwich Vermont

The Baxters of this town came here from Norwich, Connecticut, a town which their ancestors with others from Norwich, England, assisted in founding about the year 1632. Elihu Baxter, with his young wife, Tryphena Taylor, to whom he was married October 24, 1777, arrived in Norwich the same year, and here fifteen children (six daughters and nine sons) were born to them, twelve of whom lived to grow up and have families of their own. Mr. Baxter settled on the farm that subsequently became the home of Hon. Paul Brigham. He later removed to the farm where Orson Sargent lives, and there built himself a frame house, a part of which is now in use by the present owner of the property. Of his children: William Baxter, the eldest, born August 3, 1778, studied law with Hon. Daniel A. Buck of Norwich, and removed to Bennington, Vt., where he soon became the leading lawyer in that part of the state, and received many honors from his town and county. He married Lydia Ashley of Norwich, August 17, 1779, and died at Bennington October 1, 1826, aged forty nine years. Hiram Baxter settled in Bennington a little after 1800. Elihu Baxter, Jr., the third child, born in 1781, died at Portland, Me., in 1863, where he had been in the practice of medicine for many years. Chester Baxter, born in...

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Free Masonry in Norwich Vermont

It does not appear that any Masonic Lodge has ever existed in Norwich. Quite a number of our citizens, however, as might be expected, have at different times belonged to lodges in adjacent towns. In the list of members of Franklin Lodge, established at Hanover, N. H., in 1796, we find the names of the following Norwich men, with the year of their admission: Reuben Hatch, Freegrace Leavitt (1798), William Sumner (1799), Thomas Brigham, Erastus Leavitt, and Moses Hayward (1800), Reuben Partridge, Andrew Dewey, William Little, Levi Richards, Aaron West (1801-1807), Lyman Lewis, Elijah Slafter, Simon Baldwin, Enos Lewis, Jasper Johnson, Noah Lewis (1808), Charles Hutchins, Sewell Gleason (1809), Ephraim Hall, George Olds, Jr., and Pierce Burton (1810), Manly G. Woodbury, Silas Morse, Ammi B. Allen, and Barzilla Bush, Jr. (1813-1820). The roll probably bears other Norwich names that we do not now recognize. The Franklin Lodge was moved to Lebanon in 1821, where it still flourishes. In 1807 and 1808, Doctor Thomas Brigham of Norwich was master of the lodge, who, on his sudden departure from town and abandonment of his family, was promptly expelled therefrom by notice published in the Vermont Journal at Windsor, in April, 1809, ”for immoral conduct unworthy a Mason and a gentleman.” Other Norwich Masons of that time, not of the Franklin Lodge, were Captain Calvin Seaver, Jeremiah Bissell, Ebenezer Spear, 2nd, Lyman...

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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...

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History of the Industries of Norwich VT

Although the products of the industries in Norwich have not been of great magnitude they have been quite varied in character. Such information in regard to these callings as we have been able to obtain we will present to our readers, though not in strict chronological order. Among the earliest establishments coming under this head was a grist mill established as early as 1770, by Hatch and Babcock on Blood Brook, on or near the site of the grist mill now operated by J. E. Willard, a short distance up the stream from where it empties into the Connecticut...

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Geographical Names of the Norwich VT Locality

Of the little settlements in the township of Norwich which seem to be existing in the sunset of their former glory, may be mentioned Beaver Meadow, or West Norwich. This place presents a notable instance of that decline in population and decay of business interests in a rural community, of which Vermont affords many examples since the advent of railroads and the fever of western emigration set in. For more than thirty years population, wealth, and enterprise have been drifting away from that section of the town. Probably the settlement reached the height of its prosperity previous to 1840. During the decade that preceded this date two churches were built here, a Baptist church in 1835, and Methodist church about two years later. Regular meetings were held, and full congregations gathered from the immediate neighborhood. Large families of children filled the schools, to the number of sixty pupils of a winter, sometimes. The village had for many years its well-stocked country store, and a variety of mechanics’ shops. Intelligent and thrifty farmers cultivated the productive farms. Before 1850 the exodus commenced. The Baptist society had its last settled minister in 1869, and a few years later, the church having become nearly extinct, the meeting house was taken down, and the lumber used to build a parsonage for the Baptist church in Sharon village. Four years earlier the Methodists had...

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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...

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Postmasters and Postal Service in Norwich Vermont

It was fifteen years after the admission of Vermont into the Federal Union, and forty years after the settlement of the town, before Norwich had a post office. The first post office was established at Norwich Plain, July 1, 1805, and Jacob Burton was appointed postmaster. Postmaster Burton kept the office in his harness shop on the main street of the village, nearly opposite the present residence of Mrs. William E. Lewis. Probably the duties of the office were not so great as to interfere much with the prosecution of his trade. It is doubtful if Mr. Burton had...

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Political Parties in Norwich Vermont

The strength of the great political parties that have divided the suffrages of the country almost since the union of the States under the Constitution has usually been pretty evenly balanced in Norwich. Elections have been sharply contested, and party feeling has frequently run high. Up to the formation of the Republican Party (1854 or 1855) a majority of the voters in town generally ranged themselves with the political disciples of Jefferson and Jackson, though on several occasions, notably in the Harrison campaign of 1840, their ascendancy was successfully contested by the Whigs. In the state election of 1854, the Democrats lost the hold upon the town which they had maintained with few interruptions for almost a quarter of a century. During the years that have succeeded, they have never, at any state or general election, succeeded in rallying a majority to the support of their candidates for office. Inasmuch as the history of a town, in the larger forms of governmental action, unites and blends with that of the State and nation, we give a brief survey of the changes of political opinion in Norwich, as shown by the votes of the freemen at successive elections. During the presidency of John Adams the old Federal and Republican parties took their definite shape. At this time, and until the second term of Jefferson’s administration the political bias of the...

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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...

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American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy

Among the well known educational institutions in our land during the early part of the past century, was the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy, the forerunner of Norwich University, founded by the late Capt. Alden Partridge in 1819, in Norwich, his native town. The corner-stone of the Academy building 1This building was constructed of brick, was four stories high and forty-seven by one hundred feet on the ground, and was situated just south of the present high school building, and near the east end of the now vacant lot opposite the residence of Mrs. William E. Lewis. was placed August 4, 1819, and September 20th of the following year the institution was opened for the reception of cadets. From Captain Partridge‘s knowledge of the system of education in force in the higher seminaries of learning in our country, he was convinced that no truly American system of education, such as was designed to meet the needs of the large majority of the young men of the country, was within their reach. It was with a view to remedy that defect that he established this institution, which during the first year of its existence had an attendance of one hundred pupils, and thereafter, until 1825 the annual attendance rapidly increased, at one time being nearly two hundred. The character of the patronage accorded to this newly launched academy was...

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A Brief History of Norwich University

In 1835, the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy became “Norwich University,” by virtue of an act of incorporation granted by the legislature of Vermont the previous year. Captain Alden Partridge remained at the head of the institution until 1843, and soon after sold the buildings and grounds to the Trustees of the University. There was one feature in the scheme of education established at Norwich University which honorably distinguished it from nearly all other similar institutions of its time in New England. From the first it was wholly free from sectarian influence. This principle was prominently set forth...

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Norwich Vermont in the Civil War

During the four years of war for the suppression of the Rebellion, Norwich furnished 178 different men for the armies of the Union. There were seven re-enlistments, making the whole number of soldiers credited to the town 185. By the census of 1860, the number of inhabitants was 1759. It appears, therefore, that the town sent to the seat of war rather more than one in ten of its entire population, during the four years’ continuance of hostilities. About the same proportion holds good for the state at large, Vermont contributing, out of an aggregate population of 315,116, soldiers to the number of 34,555 for the defense of the Union. Of the 178 men enlisting from Norwich, twenty-seven laid down their young lives in the service of the country. The soil of every southern state, from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, was moistened by the blood or supplied a grave to one or more of these. The town paid the larger part of these men liberal bounties, amounting to about $32,000, in addition to their state and government pay. All calls for men upon the town by the national authorities were promptly and fully met. The patriotic response of our people to the expenses and sacrifices of the war was, in general, hearty and emphatic; and yet candor and the truth of history compels us to confess that...

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Norwich Vermont in the War of 1812

In the spring of 1812, war with Great Britain again seemed imminent. Causes of complaint against the aggressions of the British government had existed for a long time, and the irritation was now increasing on all sides. It did not seem possible that actual war could much longer be postponed, although public opinion in the United States was still far from unanimous for an immediate appeal to arms. Norwich, as had been her wont in Revolutionary times, again let her voice be heard when great public and national interests were being agitated before the people. At the close of a town meeting held June 18, 1812, a paper was presented to the meeting containing the preamble and resolutions which we copy below. On account of the great length of the preamble, we are obliged to abridge it considerably. The document was obviously drawn up with much care by some person familiar with the political history of the country. After some debate the clerk was directed to read the paper. A spirited discussion ensued, and the preamble and resolutions were finally adopted by a large majority, as true in their statement of facts and expressive of the sense of the town on the question at issue. It was voted that the same be put* on record in the town clerk’s office. A final clause appended to the fourth resolution denouncing...

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Norwich Soldiers in War with Mexico

Names of soldiers from Norwich Vermont in the War with Mexico T. B. Ransom, Colonel 9th United States Infantry. Killed at Chapultepec, September 13, 1847. Henry O. Brigham, Drummer 9th United States Infantry. Died at Detroit, Mich. James Crangle, Hudson Kimball, Oramell Chamberlain, Ezekiel V. Hatch, George Hatch, Rowell, Elijah Hatch. Died at Tunbridge, Vt. Frederick K. Spear. Died at West Point, N....

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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. 1Governor and Council, Vol. I, p. 47. 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...

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