Bridport Vermont- Early Business Interests
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The population of Bridport has always been strictly of an agricultural character. Its tradesmen and mechanics have almost invariably devoted their energies exclusively to supplying the home demand. The dearth of manufactures is attributed to the absence, as we have previously noted, of adequate water power.
At an early day, when the settlers were clearing their lands and wood ashes were plentiful, Bridport, in common with other towns, did considerable business in the manufacture of potash, which found a market in Troy, Albany, and sometimes Quebec. In this manufacture Samuel Buck was pioneer. His works were located near the present village, upon what is still known as “Potash Hill.” After the lands were cleared the first general product was wheat. This was taken to Troy and exchanged for goods, cash rarely entering into the transaction. The currency system was “exchange of commodities,” and of course no great debates over the “silver question” are handed down to us. This trade with Troy was continued until about 1813, when the business of raising sheep, cattle and horses was ushered in. This interest developed rapidly and extensively, and the town is still noted for its fine live stock The celebrated horse “Black Hawk” had his home here, whither he was brought by David Hill. Allen Smith was a large stock dealer. Among the principal stock and sheep growers of to-day are H. C. Burwell, J. J. Crane, E. H. and H. E. Merrill, C. H. Smith, E. D. Wilcox, F. G. Converse, and many others. Before the days of the railroad, when all the commerce was conducted through the medium of the lake, several ferry lines sprang up and the business of the town naturally drifted to the lake front. The persons early receiving license to carry on the ferry business were as follows: John Rogers, in 1811; B. Pickett, in 1812; Samuel Renne, 1820; Alinda Wells, 1820; and John Rogers, 1820. The ferries now in operation are as follows: Port Franklin Ferry, by Lewis Wilkinson; Witherell Ferry, by John Witherell; and Brooks Ferry, by J. D. Brooks. The latter is located at West Bridport.
Although the town is well wooded, little lumbering is carried on. There is now only one saw-mill in the town. About 1820 Daniel Haskins had a hotel and store near Mr. Smith’s on the lake road, where was also kept a postoffice. He sold to Hiram Smith in 1821.