There was noticed at the Centennial Exhibition of last week in this village, a Bible 145 years old, belonging to C. C. Frost, containing in the record two items of history not very well known, and as having taken place in old times in this vicinity. The first is the record of the birth and marriage of Col. John Sargeant, the first white male citizen born in Vermont. John Sargeant, the father of Col. John, and his brother, James, as tradition says, (the latter the father of Thomas Sargeant who was the father of Elihu, Calvin, Thomas, Luther, &c., whom many will remember, the two former living and dying at West River not many years ago,), purchased all the land between West and Connecticut rivers to Dummerston line, or what is now called West River. On account of the hostility of the Indians, it was not deemed prudent to build and occupy, so they with their families took refuge in Fort Dummer, which was on the site of the present residence of Simon Brooks. At this place Col. John Sargeant was born in the year 1732. On the 16th of December, 1760, he married Mary Kathan, whose parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Kathan, with four sons and three daughters, as record reads: "Came Jan. 5, 1752, to settle at Bemas' rock on Conicut river in ye government of Newhampshir eight miles from Fort Dummer." The place they came from is not recorded. This rock, which is near Putney depot, was named probably for Joseph Bemis, a rather noted individual in that region, and from whom sprang numerous families of that name, who have lived and died in that region. The place is now called Kathan's ferry. The naming of these rocks on the shores of the river, (and all have their names,) appears for two objects. One as points for surveys of land, as deeds are in existence making these rocks as boundaries. The other as points or stopping places in voyages on the river to different military posts. The Stevens' rock just east of Walnut St. was named for Phineas Stevens, an officer who commanded Post No. 4, now Charlestown, N. H.
It appears that at the time of the marriage of Col. John Sargeant, he built a large two-story gambrel-roof house on the site of the present residence of James. H. Sargeant of West River, which became a noted rendezvous for the neighborhood, and also for the entertainment of travelers and officers of military posts up and down the river. They were greatly annoyed by the Indians, and the inhabitants had many dangers and hair-breadth escapes to relate. Mr. Sargeant was a distant relative of Mrs. Howe, who was captured by the Indians July 27, 1755. He had two sons, Eli and Levi, who lived to a great age, and died on farms comprised in the above purchase, and also a maiden daughter who lived and died on the homestead. Mr. Sargeant died at West River and was buried in the cemetery at that place, and on the stone at the head of his grave it read thus :
Col. John Sargeant,
who departed this life July 30, 1798,
in the 66th year of his age,
who now lies in the same town in which he was
born, and was the first white man born
in the State of Vermont.
The other item is recorded thus: "Monday, March ye 6, 1758, Capt. Moor, with his son Benjamin, were killed, and Ben's wife and two children were taken captives by the Indians." Ben's wife was sister to the wife of Col. Sargeant, and his children must have been very young as they had been married but a few years. It seems she soon regained her liberty for we read it in the same record, "Jan. 26, 1764, the widow Marget Moor was married to Moses Johnson by the reverent Mr. Gay of Hinsdell." This Capt. Moor, or Fairbanks Moor, was brother to Mrs. Kathan, the mother of the wife of Col. John Sargeant. He and his son Benjamin lived at that time, and were first proprietors on the farm comprising the meadows now owned by the Insane Asylum, just north of that institution. They were killed in a skirmish, and also many Indians, whose bones which have been exhumed from time to time by plowing or digging on these premises, are supposed to be their remains. This farm and the adjoining ones, which were owned by Thomas Sargeant, the father of Elihu, &c., as above stated, his house being on the meadow just east of the late Capt. Wells' residence and Benj. Gorton, (who was the father of Mrs. Eli Sargeant,) were then considered one neighborhood with West river, as the bridge then crossed the river near the dwelling of Mr. Gorton, just below where Luther Weld now resides. The road from the bridge connected with the now West river road in the little valley just south of Geo. Thomas' house. After the death of Capt. Moor, the above farm was purchased by Major John Arms, and his house was the first inn in this place. It was a favorite stopping-place for Ethan Allen, Gov. Carpenter, the Bradleys and other prominent persons in this part of the State. This is the inn spoken of by Thompson in his "Rangers and the Tory's Daughter." After the death of Major Arms, which was occasioned by a kick from a horse, his son, Josiah, kept the inn afterwards for a short time. Josiah was the father of Capt. John Arms, who once lived in the house now enlarged, repaired and used by the Insane Asylum, on the west side of the road, whose children, Josiah, John, Alfred, William and Hinsdale, many of us knew. He was also the father of the late Dr. Willard Arms of West Brattleboro, and of William Arms, now of Dummerston. After the failure of Josiah, the farm was purchased by Peleg Kingsley, and after his death it fell into the hands of Joseph Goodhue, and so on to the present proprietors.
Also printed in the Vermont Phoenix March 31, 1876.
Article by Charles C. Frost.
Stevens' Rock in the Connecticut River, east from present Walnut Street, was named for Phineas Stevens, the commanding officer of Post No. 4, which fort stood at present day Charlestown, New Hampshire.
When the United States Army Corps of Engineers surveyed Brattleboro in 1830---locating possible sites for a canal---"Steven's Bar" was clearly noted on the map drawn by C. Barnard in that year. Steven's Bar comprised an area in the river at the head of the seventeen acre Chapin's Island. Barnard's map, called "Proposed Canal Past Brattleboro", is now in the National Archives---Map No. 5, Connecticut River Canal, Experimental Line.
Barnard's 1830 map may be seen in David Allen's "Early Maps Of Brattleboro Vermont 1745--1912 With a Narrative History". (West Chesterfield, New Hampshire: Old Maps, 2003), pages 18-19. Also see David Allen's website at old-maps.com.