Fort Dummer Site

Fort Dummer

David A. Henry, Stereoview From Hinsdale Toward Brattleboro.jpg

David A. Henry Photograph In 1860's

Fort Dummer Site

Fort Dummer Site, Clay Pipe.jpg

Walter Harrington's Fort Dummer Excavation Collection

One of our most interesting finds within the compass of Fort Dummer itself was a circular bowl or depression about 8 feet across, 18 inches deep in the center, laid up with a double layer of flat stones and completely covered with 6 to 8 inches of ashes. Obviously there were large fires here for long periods of time.

Fort Dummer Site, Field Stone Foundation, Ashes.jpg

Walter Harrington, "Fort Dummer: An Archaeological Investigation of the First Permanent English Settlement in Vermont". New England Historical Archaeology, Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife Annual Procedings. (Boston: Boston University Press, 1977), ps. 86-94.

Fort Dummer, After A Sketch By Charles J. Brasor.jpg

Fort Dummer Excavation Map 1976.jpg

The Physiognomy Of Fort Dumer.jpg

Description Of Artifacts

These are the remains of clay pipes made in England and Scotland and used by both the Indian and white man. They were a popular trade item at Fort Dummer. On some of the pipes you will see the maker's marks stamped into the side or foot of the bowl.

This is a "footed" bowl, the only one of this style I have found to date at the Fort Dummer site.

Apparently most of the pipes found had never been smoked. This bowl does show the absorption of tobacco tar from a long period of use.

Shards of various types of pottery from the Fort Dummer site.

Pieces of old glass from the site.

Trade knives. These were large folding knives.

Parts of two crossbelt buckles. Crossbelts were the heavy belts worn diagonally across the body to carry the heavy ammunition pouch.

Small, crude buckle -- use unknown.

Small, ornate buckle, made of pewter, decorated with crowns and fleur-de-lis -- probably a knee buckle.

Spoon handle of pewter, "rat tail" design. So called because a reinforcing rib of metal ran the length of the handle and under the bowl.

Spoon handle, handmade of brass, lobe-end style.

Spoon handle, pewter, trefoil pattern. Cross and crown mark on the reverse.

These are 3 Hibernia half-pennies, dated 1723. Hibernia is the ancient name for Ireland and these coins were struck in 1722, 23, and 24 for use in Ireland. These coins were unpopular in Ireland, so most of them were sent to the American colonies.

This is a King George I half-penny. 1722

King George II half-penny. Struck from 1727-1760. 1740

Buttons made of brass.

Oval cufflink.

Buttons made of pewter.

These are the remains of two Jew's harps. The frame of one is intact, while the other has been bent open and broken. The vibrating tongues were of steel, and have long since rusted away, but the frames are of brass and remain unchanged. Jew's harps were small, durable, inexpensive and easy to play, so were probably one of the few musical instruments carried by the early settlers.

The shaft of this key is hollow at the end to fit on a pin. Probably from the lock on a chest.

Small wedge used to tighten the heads of axes and hammers.

Tool used for boring holes in wood. Used in a bit-brace.

Horse-shoe nails. These have a long tapered head which wedges up into the horse shoe, and does not wear away quickly as a flat head would. After they are driven up through the shoe and hoof, the excess is cut off flush to the hoof.

Nails. These are found in many sizes and styles. All are handmade, beaten out on the anvil by the blacksmith.

This is one of the two brackets used to hold the handle on a large brass kettle. It was cast in a handmade sand mold. Note that the shape is not symetrical. Note, too, the texture left by the coarse sand of the mold. It is made of brass and the rivets are copper.

This is part of a whetstone made of a local stone. One side is quite rough, but the other side is as smooth as glass.

Part of a horse bit.

Miscellaneous pieces of tools and hardware, etc.

One half of a heavy door hinge.

Irregular pieces of lead, probably spillage from a casting which ran into the ground and hardened.

Remains of links from different sized chains.

Two flints used in the flint-lock weapons of the Fort Dummer period.

Cannon ball believed to be for the "great gun" of Fort Dummer. It is 3-3/4 inches in diameter and weighs 3 pounds, 12 ounces. Before its many years of rusting it was probably a "four pounder".

Lead balls of many sizes, such as these, were used in muskets and pistols. Sometimes several of the smaller sizes were loaded into the rifle at one time, shotgun style.

This is a perfect half of a lead ball with no marks from a cutting tool on it. This was a puzzle to me until I learned that these clever people sometimes slipped a piece of stiff paper into the bullet mold before casting; in effect, splitting the ball except for one edge. This ball was loaded as usual, but when fired split into two and flew in slightly different trajectories.

This is a flat sheet of lead which has been folded and hit with a small shot which was still embedded when found. A little target practice, perhaps?

Tumblers from an early musket. The tumbler is a notched cam to which the hammer of the rifle is directly attached. There are two notches, one for half-cock and one for full-cock.

Part of the trigger guard of a French musket.

Part of the side-plate of a musket, dragon pattern. Note the beaked head of the dragon.

Part of the side-plate of a musket, serpent pattern. Note the scales in the design.

A sheet of lead folded into a tube; use unknown.

Pieces of iron pots of various sizes.

Part of a large iron cauldron including one of the three legs which supported it.

Part of a small iron pot, including the hole for the handle.

Parts of a flat-iron. The iron itself was made of sheet steel in the shape of one of those plastic boxes used to carry pie in a lunch pail. It had a handle on top and near the rear wall (opposite the point) had a sliding door. One of the wedge-shaped pieces shown here was heated and placed inside. The iron was used until it began to lose heat then the wedge was dumped out and another inserted.

Made of brass; probably knee buckles.

Pewter spoon handle; wreath around bust design.

Fort Dummer, Fieldstone Foundation, 1724, Northwest Corner, 1976 Excavation.jpg

Fort Dummer Site, Fieldstone Foundation, Northwest Corner

Walter Harrington Excavation At Low Water


Indian Rock, Petroglyphs In Brattleboro.jpg

Indian Rock, Petroglyphs In Brattleboro

This photograph was taken during a visit by geologist Professor Charles Henry Hitchcock of Amherst College on Wednesday, June 13, 1866. The Vermont Phoenix for June 15, 1866 reports that---

Personal. -- Prof. Hitchcock, of Amherst College, visited this place on Wednesday, and examined the rude cuttings in the rocks near the mouth of West river. He expressed the opinion that they were of sufficient age and had every other evidence of genuine hieroglyphics, as left in numerous places by the Indians who once inhabited this locality.

John L. Lovell most likely took this photograph. Lovell was the finest professional photographer in Brattleboro until his removal to Amherst in 1856, and he also later photographed Orra White Hitchcock, the professor's mother, about 1860. His interest in scientific photography and Connecticut River geological features was lifelong.

This photograph was first published in Charles Clark Willoughby's "Antiquities of the New England Indians; with Notes on the Ancient Cultures of the Adjacent Territory" (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cosmos Press, The Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 1935) Page 169.

Indian Rock.jpg


Fort Dummer Before 1740 Improvements, Engraving By J. S. Conway & Co., Boston.jpg

Fort Dummer Before 1740 Improvements

Engraving By J. S. Conway & Co., Boston

Fort Dummer.

It Probably Stood Until 1771----

Other Facts Anent Its History.

Where so much has been so well said and done about Fort Dummer more might seem out of place; still a few additional things may be mentioned perhaps with propriety. No one has told how long the fort stood, and probably no one can tell exactly. It appears to have been standing in 1770, for a deed of a part of the land of Col. Hunt dated April 10 in that year bounds it, "beginning at the foot of the hill at the lane west of Fort Dummer."

This was at the cascade, and the lane came across the north end of where Col. Hunt's garden is, and went up the hill on the south side of the brook. It was the scout path to the fort at Colrain. William King was surveyor of it as a highway in 1771 from the "County road to Dummer," and to Guilford.

The fort probably was not standing in 1772, for in a deed of the land where that garden is, dated May 9 in that year, the lane is described as "leading from the main road to Connecticut river," instead of to the fort.

The main road, sometimes called the county road, then came along under where Col. Hunt's buildings are and on the west side of where the garden is. The lane crossed it near the northwest corner of the garden, making four corners there.

In a petition dated Jan. 2, 1786, James Hubbard, who lived just on the east side, asked the legislature of New Hampshire for the grant of a ferry, "over Connecticut river against where the Fort called Dummer formerly stood;" it was granted in June after. The driveway down to this ferry is there now, and is against where Mr. Hines has located the fort.

In a deed dated Feb. 16, 1786, the description reads: "Beginning at the Old Well on the Bank of the River where the Old Fort Dummer stood." These expressions show that the fort had been down some time before 1786, and that probably it was taken down in 1771.

It was built in the spring of 1724 of timber cut there, hewn square and laid up. In 1831 a barn was moved there, and a piece of square timber was noticed which Ebenezer Howe, sen., of Vernon, who could well remember about it, said was one of the timbers of the fort. Canes were made of it, some of which are in existence, and one is owned by Mr. Hines now.

In the charter of the town, granted Dec. 26, 1753, there was reserved to his majesty, King George II., besides pine trees for masts, "Also his fort Dummer & a Tract of fifty rods square round it, viz., fifty rods West, twenty-five rods south & twenty-five rods North of said Fort."

The state of Vermont succeeded to this title, and would be entitled to this tract now, but for the right gained to it by possession. It is held under Capt. Nathan Willard, the last commander of the fort; and the title acquired by the occupancy of him and those under him is unquestionably good.

Some may have noticed the lone grave stone on the little knoll west of this garden, and perhaps have tried, and been unable, to make out the inscription. It reads, as deciphered some time ago:

Here lies interred
Susan wife to Lieut.
Wilder Willard
who died Nov
20, 1768 in ye 28th
year of her age

Her grave is not there, but over beyond the northeast corner of the garden. A farmer plowed up the stone and threw it away many years ago; another, with more reverence, set it where it stands. The husband had been an officer at the fort. the burying place for the fort was over the river, in sight, northeast of the present Hinsdale road . . .

Vermont Phoenix, August 28, 1896.

Hon. Hoyt Henry Wheeler


Fort Dummer.jpg

Fort Dummer Site Map

William St. John

Map By William St. John.jpg

William St. John, Fort Dummer Map, Roads, Brooks, Farms, Land Record Citations.jpg

William St. John, Fort Dummer Site Map

Showing Farms, Brooks, Roads, Stone Walls

Land Records Citations

William St. John, Fort Dummer Map, David Goodell Farm At Crossroads.jpg

David Goodell Farm At Crossroads

The Cascade Road 1894.jpg

Original Road Up From The Cascade 1894

Old County Road Now Completely Wooded Over

East From The Present Cotton Mill Hill Road

Chase's Cascade, Postmarked July 11, 1908.jpg

Venter's Brook, Chase's Cascade

William St. John, Fort Dummer Site, Old County Road.jpg

William St. John, Fort Dummer Site Map

Old County Road Area


The Hunt Farm, Flood.jpg

The Hunt Farm


Fort Dummer Site Described In 1833

Dummer Farm, February 1833, John Holbrook's Advertisement.jpg

Brattleboro Messenger, February 23, 1833.

John Holbrook Advertisement


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.

L. D. C.

The Independent Inquirer, October 26, 1833.

Article by Lafayette Clark

Old Ferry Landing, Hinsdale, New Hampshire, Looking North.jpg

Old Ferry Landing In Hinsdale, New Hampshire

Simon Brooks Farm, Covered Bridge In Distance


Near The Cascade, Road Bearing Northeasterly 1894.jpg

Old Road East From The Cascade Brook 1894

Northeasterly Past The David Goodell And Simon Brooks Farms


Pigeon Hawk, Merlin, Falco columbarius.jpg

Pigeon Hawk, Falco Columbarius

The Great Hawk Kettle Over Fort Dummer 1756

The writer in Daniel Fowle's "New Hampshire Gazette" for October 14, 1756---the second issue---describes the swirling, circling hawks in a kettle that appeared over Fort Hinsdale and Fort Dummer during the previous September. The migrating hawks search for a new thermal to ride down the broadening Connecticut River Valley---

Boston, October 11, we hear, that about the 20th or 21st Day of September, there was seen near Fort Dummer, the greatest Phenomenon that ever was seen in New England. Two large Companies of Pigeon Hawks, judged to be about 4000 in Number, headed by two large Eagles, one Eagle heading one Company and the other Eagle the other. They found themselves too large for two Companies and so divided themselves into 4 Battalions. They fought over from Fort Hinsdell to Fort Dummer, and fighting and fighting over and under one another from one Fort to the other for the Space of 4 hours, till one Company conquered the other, and chas'd after them. This may be depended on, 20 being present.

Considering the military framework, or perspective that is superimposed on this account, it is possible that the witnesses were New Hampshire or Vermont militiamen resident at the forts.

For the bicentennial of this migration, John B. May, Massachusetts State Ornithologist, published an article concerning these hawks in Nature Magazine for October 1956, Volume 49, Number 8.

In his article "Wings Over Brattleboro" for Yankee Magazine's "Mysterious New England", Harry Goldman implies that the twenty witnesses in 1756 were mistaken in identifying the birds as Pigeon Hawks, or Falco columbarius. On decidedly light evidence, Goldman presents an incredible argument that the birds were really Broad-Winged hawks, Buteo platypterus.


Fort Dummer Site, Colonel John Hunt Farm, Cotton Mill Hill, Simon Brooks Farm.jpg

Colonel John Hunt Farm, Cotton Mill Hill, Simon Brooks Farm

View From New Hampshire Across Connecticut River

The Dummer Farm Fire 1903

Simon Brooks Farm Fire, Windham County Reformer, April 24, 1903.jpg

Windham County Reformer, Friday, April 24, 1903.

The expression "the old buildings connected with the fort" may indicate that the owners of the Dummer Farm before Samuel M. Brooks took timbers from the ruined fort after 1771 for their own building construction. Not all was lost when Fort Dummer fell into disuse.

The Vermont Record and Farmer reported on January 31, 1873 that "a bit brace, used in the construction of Fort Dummer" was on display in the extensive relics collection at the Sedgewick Post No. 8 annual festival.


Royal G. Wood's Recollections

His memory of the olden times and of the progress which has marked the 70 years since his childhood days was vivid and accurate. It was a pleasure to hear his accounts of the surroundings and events of his youth, told in his own original way, with many a sharp thrust of fun and sly humor.

In those days a district schoolhouse stood on what is now the Hunt farm. The school building had been a cooper's shop. It was not very warm in winter, and when the weather was severe the 40 pupils used to gather with their books in front of the big fireplace, in which four-foot green logs were burned.

Fort Dummer had disappeared when the Wood family moved down from the West village, but Mr. Wood could recall one of the two smaller forts, or blockhouses, then in a state of ruin, which stood two miles below. He had plowed up many arrowheads and other Indian relics on his farm.

[This account was written earlier, then reprinted in the Vermont Phoenix for February 26, 1897 as part of his obituary. Royal G. Wood was born on March 17, 1807. His father was Philip Wood. His maternal grandfather was Deacon Jonathan Pierce, who owned land a short distance northwest from Fort Dummer, along the old road from the fort to East Guilford.]


Ferry At Fort Dummer, Vermont.jpg

Ferry At Fort Dummer Site

A Short Chapter of Ferry History.

The having a ferry by Mr. Brown at the Brooks place is going back to old times. That has been a crossing place since 1723, when Col. John Stoddard and Lieut. Timothy Dwight came to locate and build Fort Dummer. They came by way of Northfield and crossed the river on the ice.

The principal travel up the river came that way afterwards, and there was much passing between Shattuck's fort on the meadow, Hinsdale's fort at the Liscum place, and Fort Dummer after they were built about 1735.

Such a ferry right with the privilege of taking toll is a franchise, and to be well founded must be granted by the sovereign power, which at that place, as the river is all in New Hampshire, has, since the Revolution, been the legislature of that state. Before that it was the King of Great Britain through the Royal Governor.

Jan. 2, 1786, James Hubbard made a petition for a ferry "over Connecticut river against where the Fort called Dummer formerly stood." That was at this place.

In the petition he set forth that he owned the land, and had a dwelling house about eight rods from the ferry landing on the east side of the river, which was the only house within half a mile of there. The right was granted at the June session of the legislature in 1786 . . . .

Vermont Phoenix, August 14, 1903.

Connecticut River Ferry To Hinsdale, New Hampshire, 1894.jpg

Hinsdale Ferry From Fort Dummer Site 1894



Road Through Pines North From Cascade Brook

Post Card

John Hunt Farm, Called Dummer Farm, Built By Sylvanus Sartwell.jpg

Col. John Hunt's Farm

Called Dummer Farm, Built By Sylvanus Sartwell

Orchard Far Left, Man Standing On Porch Far Right


Flooding From The Vernon Dam In April 1909


Fort Dummer Monument.jpg

Fort Dummer Monument

On The Original Site Before Flooding By Vernon Dam

Fort Dummer Site Monument Plaque 1901.jpg

Fort Dummer, Excavation At Northwest Corner 1976.jpg

An Ancient Letter.

About the Province of Massachusetts Bay and Old Fort Dummer.

Mr. A. K. Jones, the long-time bellringer of Harvard college, has presented to the Brooks library an autograph letter relating to Fort Dummer, which is very interesting on account of its age and its contents. It is dated May 24, 1745.

The Province of Massachusetts Bay was at first granted to extend from three miles south of the Charles river to three miles north of the Merrimac river, and to carry that breadth throughout to the Pacific ocean.

At that time the Merrimac river was not known to come down from the north and to turn east to the Atlantic ocean, but was supposed to come from the west to the Atlantic ocean, and so the grant was supposed to give Massachusetts about the breadth it has now.

When the true course of the Merrimac from the north became known Massachusetts was made so wide and New Hampshire so narrow that the line was corrected, and put where it is now in 1741.

This letter refers to this correction and to the amount of land gained thereby:

Thus which is a Vast and very Valuable tract of Land being about forty Miles wide from North to South and will Carry that breadth throughout the provinces. The Question then is whether New Hampshire who now has that Land to be Disposed of by the Governor and Council to and among the Inhabitants of the province as by the Governors Commission which you have Lately Seen Plainly Appears and this Vast Tract of Land till it gets above Sixty Miles from the State to be granted Clear of any Quit rent except a Peppercorn for a Township and all above Sixty Miles to pay only one Shilling for one hundred Acres a year, the payment to begin at the end of Ten years from the Grant.

Massachusetts granted the land before the line was straightened as far north as Westminster and claimed far beyond, and this letter shows that New Hampshire was intended by the home government in England and the governments here to extend west of the Connecticut river, and to include Fort Dummer. Of the old fort it says:

The exact Charge of Supporting fort Dummer as it is now garrisoned by the Massachusetts which I have from a Certificate under Secretary Willards hand -- thus the Capt. 20 shillings per month, the Lieut. 18 shillings, one Ser gent, 13 shillings sixpence, one Corporal, 12 shillings, Sixteen Centenalls at 10 shillings each the whole of this for wages is Ten pounds Nineteen Shillings they valued themselves at 8 shillings a man per month which is £8 So that the whole Expense is Eighteen pounds Nineteen Shillings and for these wages, and this subsistence there are Persons enough from Connecticut Government and that part of Massachusetts that will Inlist.

The letter itself is placed in a document file at the library and put upon the catalogue and so is made readily accessible there.

Vermont Phoenix, August 25, 1899.

After more than one hundred years in the Brattleboro Free Library, this Fort Dummer letter was taken covertly from the Brooks Memorial Library during the extensive breaking up of the historical collections there, an inheritance that has been unwisely entrusted to false guardians.

Jones, The Bell Ringer

Austin K. Jones, who was born in Brattleboro April 24, 1826, was the bell ringer in Harvard Hall for fifty years. Never once missing pealing the bell in all that time, "Only by the excercise of the utmost care and the practice of wily strategy was Mr. Jones able always to ring the bell on time. Countless students have tried to foil him in the performance of his duty -- and none ever succeeded."

Vermont Phoenix, April 10, 1914.


Fort Dummer White Pine.jpg

Research By Thomas St. John

September 15, 2014


John Alexander's Cow Bell And Powder Horn

John Alexander died in Marlboro, July 8, 1828, supposed to be 90 years of age. At the time Bridgman's Fort was burned by the Indians---the site of which is now in Vernon, and a short distance from Fort Dummer---where Mrs. Howe and others were made captive by said Indians, John Alexander was a lad 10 [sic] years old, and then in the woods after the cows belonging to the fort; being thus in the woods he escaped captivity.

The following year he gave proof of a daring spirit for a boy of only eleven years. He discovered a bear and two cubs a short distance from his residence. His father being absent, he, fearless of consequences, repaired to the house, took down a loaded gun, and with a well directed shot killed the old bear on the spot. He then, with a lad of similar age, caught and secured both of the cubs.

Henry Burnham, Brattleboro, Windham County, Vermont; Early History, with Biographical Sketches of some of its Citizens. (Brattleboro, Vermont: Published by D. Leonard, 1880).

The Brattleboro newspaper, Vermont Record and Farmer, for March 24, 1876 reports on the Centennial Exhibition antique show, which included relics owned by Phebe M. Denison and her sister Sarah E. Denison, from Mystic, Connecticut, with relations living in Guilford, Vermont.

John Alexander's powder horn used at Fort Dummer
cow bell from Fort Dummer

John Alexander, Sr. was born on November 15, 1709 in either Northfield, or Deerfield, Massachusetts, became a tailor by trade, and was a soldier under Capt. Kellogg and Capt. Josiah Willard at Fort Dummer. He moved his family to Fort Dummer in 1733.

John Alexander was out with a work party to cut poles when he was killed and scalped by Indians near Fort Hinsdale, New Hampshire on July 22, 1755. His family at that time lived near Fort Bridgman in present Vernon, Vermont, and his son, also named John, who was born in 1738 at Fort Dummer, was about seventeen years old when his father died.







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