John Thomas Farm 1798

John Thomas English Malt House, February 25, 1803.jpg

Probably very few of the towns-people are aware of the fact that one John Thomas owned and carried on about 90 years ago an extensive malting business here. The malt-house is supposed to have been located near the site of the old Thomas homestead, over West river.

One of the old residents of Chesterfield recalls the account, as related by his father, of the burning of the malt-house and the escape at the time of a number of hogs, one of which, a large and furious boar, fled to the jungles of old Wantastiquet mountain, and succeeded in hiding from a posse of hunters for several days, although he was finally run down in what is now known as "hog brook," famous for its numerous cascades formed in its precipitous descent from the mountainside.

In the local Reporter of Feb. 28, 1803, John Thomas has this advertisement headed,

"English and American malting. The subscriber takes this method to acquaint his friends and the public in general, that his malt house is now ready for the reception of grain for malting; he intends to make malt in the English or American method. He takes this opportunity to return his most grateful acknowledgments to all who have assisted him in building his malt house and hopes by his care and assiduity in business to meet their further favors."

John Thomas came from London in 1792 and after a year's residence in Boston came here and died in 1805. He was a prominent resident of the town . . .

The same paper has this announcement of "suicide" under date of April 4, 1803:

"In Brattleboro, on the evening of the 23d ult., Elizabeth Thomas, aged 24, daughter of Mr. John Thomas of this place, threw herself into West River and was drowned. The body, after long search, was found in the river on the 27th, about 20 rods above the toll-bridge, near the mouth of the "river."

The following is the verdict of the jury of inquest at the time:

"The jury sworn and charged to inquire for the state, when, how and by what means Elizabeth Thomas came to her death, upon their oaths do say, "that said Elizabeth Thomas being driven into a state of desperation from the imprudent conduct of her father and his family toward her, did voluntarily plunge herself into the river where she was found there, to drown herself."

And so the jurors aforesaid, "upon their oaths aforesaid, do say, that the said Elizabeth Thomas in manner and form aforesaid, then and there voluntarily and feloniously as a felon of herself, did kill and murder herself against the peace and dignity of the state of Vermont."

"As in pursuance of the statute," the paper continues, "this verdict, with a written statement of the evidence addressed to the jury, must be returned to the Honorable Supreme court, at their next session in this county for their consideration, we suspend any remarks upon this unhappy transaction, which has much agitated the good people of this vicinity, and while a possibility of legal prosecution exists, we think all observation upon this melancholy event should be suspended as far as possible. We have laws for the punishment of offenders and to the laws, we should leave those who have offended against them."

It is possible that among the court files may yet be found the testimony taken at the inquest, which will probably show whether "a budget of woman's clothes tied up in a linsley-woolsy apron, with a woman's hat pinned on it," and which Solomon Dunklee picked up near Gardner's Mills were those of the malster's unfortunate daughter, and what the circumstances of the tragedy were.

Letter printed in the Springfield Sunday Republican.

Extract reprinted in the Brattleboro Reformer, January 9, 1891.


John Thomas

John Thomas is buried in the Locust Ridge Cemetery. His gravestone records the death on August 22, 1805, age 51. His wife Eleanor Williams died October 29, 1856, age 88. The Thomas Farm eventually grew to 26½ acres along the west side of the Publick Road to Putney, east of the house of Benjamin Butterfield which lay at the base of Bald Mountain.

The October 5, 1805 estate inventory shows that John Thomas raised corn, rye and flax, and owned an old mare, one colt, one cow, one red cow, a calf, and five swine. In March 1798, Thomas had mortgaged 21½ acres to Rev. William Wells, and discharged this on December 8, 1800.


George Thomas, July 20, 1850 Gray Mare.jpg

From The Semi-Weekly Eagle 1850

George Thomas Farm, Putney Road, Corner Black Mountain Road.jpg

George E. Thomas Farm

George Thomas Farm, Putney Road.jpg









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