Connecticut River Forts


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Fort Sartwell

Engraving From A Drawing By Larkin G. Mead, Jr.


By-Gone Times.

From The Notes Of A Traveller.


Following up my 'antiquarian researches,' on my arrival at Brattleboro', Vt., I rode down the pleasant banks of the Connecticut river, about four miles from that village, to the place where once stood 'Bridgman's Fort.' Custom is arbitrary, as well in establishing and continuing names, as in every thing else; nor would I flatter myself with the idea of promoting the general good by giving any other appellation to objects of 'olden time,' than that which custom has sanctioned. I therefore, with common acceptation, call this a Fort. I do so from respect to its ancient title and from love for the 'antique,' the reader however will not be surprised when he is told that it presents no 'form or feature' of modern fortifications. Historians, if those who have given us detached and disjointed 'accounts of Indian wars,' are entitled to that distinction, have afforded us very little information upon the probable construction of our ancient fortifications and they have been wickedly negligent in pointing out the localities, where occurred many of the most important events which they pretend to detail.


During the year 1744, few depredations were committed by the savages on what were then called the frontier town, which were grants from Massachusetts in retaliation for, or in jealousy of, those made by New Hampshire, encroaching upon those already made by the former. These grants included four towns north of Northfield, which place was, during the whole of the the previous war, the frontier settlement. These towns were granted in 1727, or there-abouts, and were numbered, beginning with Hinsdale. At this time, also, few attacks were made by the Indians, as a peace had been effected by three commissioners the year previous, who had been delegated to Canada for that purpose by the Governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.


War continued, however with little intermission, from the following year to 1744,---the date first mentioned. During that year, as I observed, the Indians were quiet, and the colonial military forces, with the inhabitants acting upon the principle that, 'in time of peace, prepare for war,' proceeded without interruption, in the construction of a line of forts along the Connecticut river. At this time, it may fairly be presumed, was built 'Bridgman's Fort,' and it may have been located on the flat ground, or meadow, below the hill, upon which the last fort, of which I shall soon speak, was built. No remains of the first fort are now to be seen. A writer, on this subject, mentions that the 'fortified house' was situated upon a low piece of ground, in the vicinity of elevated ground, from which an easy view was had into the interior. From this, we may suppose, that he alluded to the first fort, which was destroyed in 1747; or, that he meant the low ground immediately below the mountain, and not the flat meadow ground below the 'elevated ground.' If so, I am induced to think he was mistaken. It is certain that the last fort was built upon the 'elevated ground,' about twenty rods from what I would call 'the mountain,'and this writer admits that the last fort was built 'in the same place soon after the destruction of the former, in 1747;' although he says it was located 'in Vernon meadows, a short distance below Fort Dummer.' The place, therefore, where these forts actually stood is about four miles below Brattleboro', six rods to the left of the road to Northfield, and on the brow of the hill. It was two and a half miles below the place where stood 'Fort Dummer,' and directly in front of the red farm-house of Mr. Hubbard. The spot is now consecrated as a potato patch, but the apple trees, which are supposed to have surrounded the fort, are still standing. The present proprietor has ploughed up brick and stones, which were evidently used in the construction of the chimney and oven. These he has made use of, for the under-pinning of a small shed. Other articles have also been found on this spot. Immediately in front is a knoll formed by two excavations through the hill, or elevation; these were, without doubt, made at the time the fort was built, for the egress and ingress of its occupants. The regularity and uniform height of the elevation upon which these forts were built, strikes the observer as very remarkable, if it does not induce the conclusion that it is, indeed, the work of art! It sweeps around in an almost uninterrupted curve, of about half a mile in length, to the river, and the enclosed area has often been the scene of cruel and deadly strife.


On the 20th of July, 1745, six individuals were attacked in this meadow while at work. Two were shot dead, two wounded, and two made prisoners, one of whom was Daniel Howe. The northern settlements on the Connecticut river having been refused the usual number of troops for their defence, during the year 1746, the inhabitants, after concealing many of their effects underground, abandoned their plantations and moved down the river.---The following year, however, many returned and took possession of the forts and houses, which had escaped the destructive ravages of the Indians---among which was 'Bridgman's Fort.' Soon after this, and in the autumn, I find that the fort was destroyed by fire and several people killed. I am compelled to despatch these people with their forts, thus unceremoniously, for the want of facts, either to prolong their existence or to obtain materials for a story, good, bad or indifferent. Phoenix-like, it however soon arose from its ashes and assumed a respectable standing among its neighbors. And here, undisturbed for aught history says, it remained until the summer of 1755, when occurred the principal event in its history and of that year.


L. D. C.

To be continued.


Independent Inquirer, October 12, 1833.


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Lafayette Clark


Lafayette Clark is almost certainly the author of this four-part series---but there is no conclusive proof that he is the initialed "L. D. C.". Clark was the Town Clerk of Brattleboro for years, the son of prominent merchant Samuel Clark. Lafayette Clark lived in West Brattleboro, immediately west of the Common. He was born on June 7, 1801 and died on August 21, 1881. His wife was Mary Fitch.


Lafayette Clark attended the First Congregational Church and befriended Rev. Jedediah L. Stark, who was considerably historically mindful for early Brattleboro settlement---Rev. Stark recorded this early settler's testimony---


I have also been told, that among the broken hills back of where Joseph Goodhue now lives, was to be seen, not long after the commencement of the settlement of this town by civilized people, the remains of an establishment for the Indian dance. A circle trodden hard, so hard that it refused vegetation, was distinctly marked, and a substantial post was standing in the centre, with holes in the earth around it, supposed to be places for fire.


During his boyhood Clark lived in Guilford, close to the sites of Connecticut River forts, and later in Dover, Vermont, where he probably knew descendants of the Howe family of Vernon, famous for the Indian captivity.


Lafayette Clark's series continues---


By-Gone Times.

From The Notes Of A Traveller.


As this fort, or fortified house, stood upon the level ground, but little removed from the 'elevated ground,' the Indians, who were continually scouting and watching the movements of the English, had obtained a view of the interior of the fort from this mountain, ascertained the signal by which those without obtained admittance through its gate, and laid their plans to take it by stratagem. At sunset, watching the return of Mr Caleb Howe, with his two sons Hilkiah Grout and Benjamin Garfield, from their work in a corn-field near the river, about a dozen Indians placed themselves in ambush over the foot-path through a deep gully between the meadow and the road (as it is now seen,) and fired upon the party. Mr. Howe, who was on horseback with his two sons, was shot trrough the thigh, and the horse killed on the spot.*---The Indians immediately rushed upon Mr. Howe, pierced him with their arrows and tore off his scalp. The two lads were made prisoners; but Grout and Garfield escaped. Garfield however, was drowned in attempting to cross the river. On the following morning, Mr. Howe, who had been left for dead, was found by a number of white people still alive; he was removed across the river to 'Fort Hinsdale' but died soon after. The friends of the sufferers had heard the firing, but were ignorant of the fate of their relations, when the Indians presented themselves at the gate, in the dusk of the eventing. The noise, with the usual signal, induced the inmates to open the gate of the fort to receive their anxiously expected friends, when the Indians rushed in upon them, and made the whole prisoners. The unfortunate captives consisted of the three wives of the before-mentioned men, with their eleven children. The fort was now plundered and fired, and the captives were marched off into the woods or, more probably, taken across the river and encamped on the rocks about two miles distant, which place is now pointed out. After eight days of fatigue and suffering they reached Lake Champlain, where the Indians had left their canoes, from whence they were taken to Crown Point, and, after a week's delay, they proceeded up the lake to St. Johns, and eventually to the village of St. Francis, on the river St. Lawrence. Mrs. Howe remained with her master for some time, and after a series of hardships, was purchased by a Frenchman, and was at last, returned home. She left two of her daughters in Canada, where they were placed in a nunnery. One of them she afterwards redeemed, by travelling there for that purpose, and the other went to France with the Governor, where she was married to a respectable French gentleman, named Lewis, who was afterwards a clerk to Count D'Estaing, in his maritime expedition to Boston, in 1778.


An account of Mrs. Howe's adventures and sufferings may be found in Dr. Belknap's History of New-Hampshire, from which it has been copied into the American Preceptor, a common school book, to either of which the reader is referred, if desirous of further information upon the subject of her captivity.


The destruction of Bridgman's Fort at this time by fire, with the death of Messrs. Howe and Garfield, completes its tragic history. It appears that this fort was, as before suggested, a stockaded block-house, or dwelling, and, as these generally bore the names of the resident families, it is presumed that a person by the name of Bridgman was the principal builder and occupant of the first fort, and that the second, also took its name from him. It is a matter of some surprise, perhaps, to the inquisitive observer, that this, as well as most of the fortified houses on Connecticut river, were situated upon low ground and near an elevation, so as to have been overlooked from surrounding heights. This fort was contructed, as near as I can learn, with a single stockade, and without ditches or flanking ports. It was, consequently, not capable of resisting the lightest artillery, or the effects of rifle batteries. This house was biilt, without doubt, very much like the old house, which stood on the road about half a mile above the former residence of Mrs. Howe, (who was captured at the fort I have just mentioned,) was once occupied by her son, and is now by her grandson, Mr. Ebenezer Howe. The reader will, therefore, obtain a correct idea of the house part of the fort by viewing this.+ It may be well to observe, perhaps, that on expressing some surprise at the situation of Bridgman's Fort, the present proprietor of the land upon which it was located, informed me that it was in the vicinity of several valuable springs of water, and that the banks of the river, near by, had afforded productive fishing grounds for salmon, shad, &c., which circumstances alone, might have determined its location.


L. D. C.


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* I am assured by Mr. Howe who obtained his information from the grandmother, that the Indians when they fired upon the party did not intend to kill Mr. Howe, as they actually did, but only his horse. That they wished to take him alive as well as the other prisoners, would appear probable, from the fact of his having been wounded only, and from the desire of obtaining the reward which was offered them by the French for their captives.


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+ Mr. Howe intends, as I understood, soon to destroy this antique building and to erect in its place, one more congenial to his wishes, and better adapted to the convenience of his family, not to say more fashionable. I could wish, however, that he would forego his desire to imitate the improvements of the age, and permit the hand of time only, to touch these sacred remains.


To be continued.


Independent Inquirer, October 19, 1833.


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By-Gone Times.

From The Notes Of A Traveller.


'The old house,' which has been before mentioned, is about three and a half miles from Brattleboro', on the road to Northfield, on the west side of the river. This house is commonly called 'the Fort' by those who have not taken the trouble to inform themselves respecting its history, having mistaken it for Bridgman's Fort. I had supposed that this house was built contemporaneously with that fort, but, from information obtained from Mr. Howe, the present occupant, I am induced to believe that it was built a few years before. It is quite certain however, that it was built in 1739, and that therefore it is now 94 years old. It is equally certain that the house was never considered a fort.---Had it been encompassed by palisadoes, trenches or flanking ports, it would have assumed the character of a fortification, but, as this was not the fort and as it has never been assaulted by the Indians, its history has not the charm of story to immortalize it. No violence is observed to have been committed upon it, nor is a bullet hole to be seen except the few which Mr. Howe himself has made.


The singular construction of the house is worthy the observation of the curious. It is one story high with an ordinary roof, and is about 30 feet long and 18 feet wide. The logs of which it is built are securely matched at their ends and are very large. At the height of six feet they project six or eight inches but this projection does not afford the opportunity of firing down upon an enemy. Half way from the base of the house to this projection were holes of about a foot square, to which were adapted blocks of wood of corresponding size. These were fitted to their places during the night or on the approach of danger. There were six of these holes, two on each side, and one at each end. Above the projection and on a line with the holes, are loop-holes, about two and half inches square, which were evidently intended for the purpose of firing on an enemy. They have been since enlarged and modern windows inserted in their place, though in other respects the house retains its original appearance. The chimney is built of stone, in the centre of the house, in rather an uncouth style. The main part of the building has been little affected by time, but the roof is somewhat decayed and inclines towards the road. The door is massy, and hung upon large and heavy hinges. On the whole, this spot is well worthy the notice of intelligent travellers, as the relentless hand of time is fast sweeping from our land those memorials of historic interest, on which oblivion has not already set its effacing seal.


Mrs. Howe, by whose father this house was built, was only eighteen years of age at the time of its erection. Mr. Howe was her third husband, with whom she removed to Bridgman's Fort with her family, sometime previous to her captivity, for greater security from the attacks of Indians. Mr. Ebenezer Howe who has resided in this house during his whole life-time, is the grandson of the Mr. Howe who was so barbarously murdered, and son to the eldest of the lads, then seven years of age, who at the time his father was killed, was carried with his mother into captivity. He is now sixty years of age, and communicates many interesting incidents of olden times with good-natured cheerfulness.


As the traveller approaches Brattleboro', his curiousity is awakened by a singular elevation of ground upon the right side of the road. Conjecture is easily set afloat by the regularity, the uniform height and peculiar formation of this ground; and there is little probability that it will escape the eye of the traveller, whose love of the curious may prompt him to researches in this part of the country. The base of this elevation occupies a space of about three acres, from which there is a smooth and regular ascent, at an angle of 45 degrees, to the top. This mound is 60 feet high and its summit is perfectly level. Not less remarkable, perhaps, are four angular mounds, which project at about equal distances, are of similar shape and extent, and slope down to their bases at the same angle of declination with each other and the other parts of the elevation. A careful survey of the whold brings me to the conclusion that it may be the work of art, and however improbable this hypothesis may appear, it is not more so, perhaps, than those thrown out with regard to the celebrated mounds in Circleville, Ohio. Like those, this has no other facts, upon which to predicate a theory, in regard to its origin; still, if investigations are elicited by his remarks, the writer will not have indulged his fancy in vain, in whatever way inquiries may terminate. There are several other elevations no less singular, near the banks of the Connecticut river, and which will furnish matter for future speculations to the geologist and antiquarian.


Near Brattleboro', upon the western banks of the river, were seen, until lately, the remains of the celebrated Fort Dummer. This, next to Fort Massachusetts, was the most important post and the strongest fortification on our northern frontiers, during the whole of the Indian wars. It was the principal depot and trading establishment on the Connecticut river, or in this country, at that time. It was situated upon what is now called 'Dummer's Farm,' and directly upon the spot where now stands the dwelling and out-houses of Mr. Brooks. It is said to have comprised an area of about four acres; present appearances, however, indicate its enclosure to have been much larger. The embankments and flanking ports are observable, though now much diminished. Around and upon these may be supposed to have been the outer stockade, sweeping in a semicircle from the river, some distance from Mr. Brooks' house to within six rods of the side of the road, and terminating also upon the river at a still greater distance from the house. The depredations and cruel barbarities of the Indians having been pushed to an alarming extent during the year 1722, instigated, as they were, by the notorious Jesuit, Father Ralle, the people of Massachusetts were aroused to a sense of their increasing danger, and formally declared war against the Indians in July of that year. During the following year Fort Dummer was built and furnished with a strong garrison. It was named after Lieut. Governor Dummer. Several people, during this and the following year (1723-24), on account of the protection afforded them by Fort Dummer, settled in and about the place now called Brattleboro,' which was the first settlement made in Vermont.


L. D. C.


To be continued.


Independent Inquirer, October 26, 1833.


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By-Gone Times.

From The Notes Of A Traveller.


On the eleventh of October, 1723, Fort Dummer was attacked by a party of seventy Indians, and four or five of the people were killed. It is probable that the Fort was not, at that time, entirely completed, or that the garrison had not been established, as Col. Stoddart, of Northampton, to whom the Fort had been intrusted, arrived with fifty men at this junction, but the Indians escaped. Nothing deserving notice occurred at this Fort from this time, until the year 1737. During this interim, and soon after the peace of 1726, Massachusetts furnished the trading house at Fort Dummer with great varieties of goods, which were exchanged with the Indians for furs brought down the river. There were established also at this Fort a blacksmith's shop, and many other useful arts. The business transactions were conducted by Capt. Joseph Kellog, who had become a good interpreter by his residence among the Indians from the time of his capture at Deerfield in 1704. Goods were sold at this station, at the same price they were at Boston, and much lower than at the French stations; the Indians, therefore, resorted hither in great numbers. Laws were passed prohibiting private trades on the frontier; Dummer's Fort therefore, became the only trading house in this section of the country, and, although the business transacted here was not very profitable, it produced a happy effect in conciliating the Indians, and in continuing the truce with them during many years.


In October, 1737, Massachusetts appointed commissioners to meet Ontausoogee, with other distinguished sachems, at Fort Dummer, where a council was held in which both sides made many friendly speeches. Ontausoogee delivered a speech of great eloquence, and one which would put to blush the speech-makers of later days. Though brief, I have not room to give this pungent oration, having already continued my remarks to a greater length than may be found pleasing to many of my readers. The field into which I have, however, merely entered, admits of the most extensive and valuable researches. It embraces, indeed, all those scenes which should be dear to the memory of every New-Englander, and which tell us, in language not to be misunderstood, of the sufferings and perils of our ancestors.


The treaty made with Ontausoogee in 1737, was not however preserved for a great length of time, inviolate. Small bodies of the English were frequently attacked as they passed to and from Fort Hinsdale. A party of whites, who had stopped to shoot salmon in the West River, while returning from an expedition up the Connecticut, were surprised by a party of Indians. The men were all murdered, save one individual, who alone escaped to tell of the butchery of his friends.*


The war which broke out in 1764 between the French and English, caused frequent skirmishes, between the settlers and the Indians.---A party from Fort Dummer who had ventured a short distance into the woods, in rear of the Fort, were attacked, and the commander, Lieut. John Sargeant, was mortally wounded and scalped. His son also, who was of the party, and several others, were made prisoners. The peace of Aix La Chapelle having been concluded in the following year, the troops were withdrawn from all the frontiers, except a part of those stationed at Fort Dummer. In 1750, intelligence being received at Boston, that an attack was contemplated on Fort Dummer as well as on the entire cordon of forts on the Western frontier; this fort, with Fort Massachusetts, was strongly garrisoned, and furnished (for the first time) with a battery of light artillery.---From 1750 to 1763, when a general peace was concluded, there is no further mention made, by the early historians, of this Fort. It has, therefore, passed down almost to the present time, gradually disappearing, until the last traces have entirely disappeared from view. "Fort Hinsdale," stood opposite Bridgman's Fort, on the east side of the Connecticut river, and figured largely in the bloody drama which was so fearfully enacted during the early history of our frontier settlements; its history may be made the subject of a future communication.


L. D. C.


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* This happened at the place where now stands the bridge which crosses West River at Fayetteville, just before you ascend the hill on entering the town.


Independent Inquirer, November 2, 1833.


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Old Bob Howe


But come up to the Green Mountains. We will introduce you to Old Bob Howe, who lives in a "log-hut," very near the spot where his grandfather was shot by the Indians, and his grandmother, Mrs. Howe, carried away into captivity. He will tell you some stories about our old Indian warfares, that will make your hair stand on end; for, let me tell you, the gash from an Indian tomhawk was not so easily sewed-up as would be a hole in your fashionable pantaloons. Mr. Howe will sell you a couple of excellent rifles for twenty dollars a-piece, and will teach you how to use them against the wild-cats, foxes and wolves of the Green Mountains. And, young gentlemen, when you can grapple a Green Mountain bear without mittens, and tear his tongue out by the roots, you will be able to shine in the drawing-rooms of Franklin-Street, without shivering and shaking for a couple of hours, in the fogs of Rhode Island, with a pair of three-inch pop-guns pointed at each other's breasts---to show your courage, or rather I ought to say, your lamentable want of it.


Independent Inquirer, February 8, 1834.


An extract from the article reprinted from a Boston newspaper, "Silly Business.---An Affair Of Dishonor. R. C. Hooper vs. a Mr. Jones".


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Larkin Goldsmith Mead's drawing of Fort Sartwell was engraved for Benjamin H. Hall's
History of Eastern Vermont, From its Earliest Settlement to the Close of the Eighteenth Century. With a Biographical Chapter and Appendixes (1857), page 26. Mead was likely twenty-one years old when he composed this representation of Fort Sartwell.


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Fort Bridgman


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