Interesting details of their early history
Suggested by the recent removal of
the Old Brick Schoolhouse in District No. 7---
a List of All the heads of Families in town in 1782.
The removal of the old brick schoolhouse west of West Brattleboro suggests
the early history of the neighborhood. After Judge Wells acquired the New
York title to the town in 1766 he sold and deeded 5400 acres in the west
part of the south half to William Smith, Thomas Smith and Nicholas William
Stuyvesant of the city of New York. This tract extended from near the top
of the hill west of West Brattleboro to Marlboro and from near the centre
line to Guilford. They laid it out into lots covering the lots in the five
ranges in the south half of the town from numbers five to fourteen
inclusive, with a tier of four lots end to end 200 rods long and 50 wide to
the east of and divided the lots among themselves by partition deed.
William Smith was Chief Justice of the Province of New York. No
settlement was made upon the tract, nor in the valley of Whetstone brook
west of where the village of Brattleboro is before 1768. The meeting-house
was built on the hill north of Centreville in that year, and a road ran
from there, passable for horses and carts---wagon were not then in use or
known---through the woods on to Ames hill, where Abel Stockwell then lived in
Marlboro. In that year William Harris from Holden, Mass., bought of Judge
Wells lot No. 3 in the fourth range of orginal lots of 100 acres each which
covered the west part of where West Brattleboro village is. His house stood
on the west side of where the road goes northwardly through the village,
and when the road coming down the hill was laid out it was located five
rods north of it. Reuben Field bought land northeast of the brook in 1769;
and Israel Field west of his, on both sides of the brook, in 1770. In the
latter year John Houghton, afterwards captain, bought of Thomas Smith the
northeast corner lots of the large tract mentioned. Between then and 1774
he must have built a saw-mill and a grist-mill where the mills west of the
schoolhouse now are, for he sold the land and mills in the latter year to
Aaron Nash. This was the first grist-mill west of that built by Gov.
Wentworth near the mouth of Whetstone brook in 1762, and the first saw-mill
west of the one built by Esquire Stephen Greenleaf, where the Estey mill
is, in 1772 or 1773. Esquire Greenleaf bought land and lived on top of the
hill on the north side of the road east of the schoolhouse. He is
understood to have been the first merchant in Brattleboro and in Vermont.
In an article on "Brattleboro in 1771," his store is mentioned as having
been where Brattleboro village is, but further information shows that was
erroneous. Original notes dated in 1777 and and 1778 payable in "good
wheet," at Mr. Nash's mill or Esquire Greenleaf's there," indicate that at
that time he lived at this place and that his store may have been there.
The province of Massachusetts Bay kept a truck house at Fort Dummer a while
for trading with the Indians and soldiers; aside from that probably this
store of Esquire Greenleaf's was the first in the state. The town clerk's
office was kept there many years.
Lieut. Israel Smith came about 1770 from Hadley, Mass., and bought land
adjoining Houghton's. Rutherford Hayes married his daughter Chloe.
William Ellas settled south of where West Brattleboro is in 1772; Samuel
Warriner where Henry Warriner now lives in 1771; Peter Briggs southwest of
where Henry Akley lives in 1775. Daniel Frazer west of the brook beyond the
schoolhouse in 1776; Artemas How southwest of Frazer in 1777; Thomas Akley
where Henry Akley lives in 1780; Peter Houghton on top of the hill south
of West Brattleboro in 1782; John Plummer at the Plummer place and Samuel
Mixer west of him in 1784; Samuel Nobles east of him in 1785; Levi
Goodenough south of Nobles in 1786, and Jonathan Stoddard northeast of
Akley's in 1787. These are names of but part of the settlers. In 1772 or
1773 a road was laid out under acts of the provincial assembly of New York
through Pownal, New Stamford and Readesborough in Albany county, and
Whitingham, Draper, New Marlborough and Brattleborough in Cumberland
county, and all freeholders in the towns through which it passed were by
the law of New York required to work on it three days in each year. Samuel
Anderson of Albany county and John Houghton and Malachi Church of
Brattleborough were commissioners to see to it and alter it as they should
see fit. This resulted in the improvement of the road through Marlborough
past the meeting-house to Connecticut river in Brattleborough. Before
1781 Col. Seth Smith had a grist-mill where the factory is at Centreville,
and a road was built from the meeting-house to it. In that year a road was
built from there near where the road now goes round by Thayer's and Clark's
to the road across cemetery hill.
The town first took action in regard to schools December 4, 1782, by
voting: "2d, to choose a committee to confer with the selectmen in order to
divide the town into districts for the benefit of schools; 3d, to choose a
committee of six men and accordingly chose Lieut. Thomas Sargeant, Lieut.
Richard Prouty, Lieut. Sam'l Knight, Mr. Wm. Harris, Capt. Artemas Howe and
Mr. Eben'r Hawes committemen for the above purpose." The town was divided
into six districts by heads of families. Those north of West river were
made into District No. 1; those east and south of the meetinghouse into No.
2; those about where this schoolhouse was and south of there to Guilford
into No. 3; those in the southwest part of the town into No. 4; those north
and west of the meeting-house into No. 5; and those in the west part of the
town into No. 6. The names of the heads of families were:
Thos. Sargeant, jr.
Jesse French, jr.
District No. 2
Rev'd Mr. Reeve
District No. 3
Doct'r John Munro
Wm. Harris, jr.
Jabez Wood, jr.
District No. 4
Stephen Greenleaf, jr.
District No. 5
Benj. Butterfield, jr.
Wm. McCune, jr.
District No. 6
Among those in district No. 3 is to be noticed "Doc't" John Munro, not
often mentioned among the early physicians. He was probably the first in
that part of the town.
The schoolhouse in district No. 1 was probably built where the schoolhouse
in that district now is; that in No. 2 at the northwest corner of what is
the common in Brattleboro village; that in No. 3 perhaps where this one
stood; and that in No. 5 where that in district No. 6 now stands. Col John
Sargeant was committee in No. 1; Mr. Asa Putnam in No. 2; Mr. William
Harris in No. 3; Capt. Howe in No. 4; Mr. Noah Bennett in No. 5; and Mr.
Jonathan Salisbury in No. 6, and all were chosen by the town and not by the
No village was situated where West Brattleboro is now, and no road led from
there to where Brattleboro village is till after 1784. At that time
Simpson Ellas lived where the West Brattleboro Academy stood; Lieut. Root
east of the brook; and Josiah Ames had a house and shop near Col. Smith's
mill. In 1785 the road through where West Brattleboro is was built, and
the meeting-house was located on the north side of it nearly opposite to
where the Congregational meeting-house now is and east of where Capt.
Houghton then lived. The village of West Brattleboro then began to grow up
about there. Till then the most of a village in the town was on and about
the hill north of Centreville. One of the centres of business was around
where the old schoolhouse stood. In that year the town took up the subject
of schools again in a general way. The districts were called classes. On
April 20, at an adjourned meeting it
1. Voted to divide the southwest school class in the middle by a north and
south line from the centre line of this town to the north line of Guilford.
2. Voted that Mr. Phillip Wood be the trustee of the school class in the
southwest part of the town.
3. Voted that Mr. John Steward be trustee for the school class next
adjoining the southwest class in this town.
4. Voted to divide the school class in the south east part of the town by
a north and south line running between Peter Covel's farm and Elnathan
Allen's farm, as said line runs north and south from the north end of said
class to Guilford north line.
5. Made choice of Mr. Josiah Arms trustee for the east part of said class
and Mr. Elisha Pierce for the west part.
6. Voted to divide the school class in which the schoolhouse is by Mr. nah
Bennett's as follows: That all the inhabitants west of Mr. Brook's, Capt.
Cook's and Joseph Chamberlain's belong to the west part; and made choice of
Francis Prouty trustee of said west part.
7. Voted that John Carpenter for the future belong to the school class of
which John Steward is trustee.
8. Voted that Mr. Stephen Greenleaf, jr. for the future belong to the
school class of which Mr. William Harris is trustee.
Voted to divide the most westerly district except one in the south part of
Voted to divide said district by a line drawn on the north side of Mr.
Stoddard's land from east to west through said district; that the north
side be annexed to the district in the centre of the south part of the town.
Chose Jabez Wood trustee for the most westerly district except one in the
south west part of the town.
Voted to annex the farms of Daniel Steward, Abner Scovel, Joseph Wells and
Samuel Garnsey in the southwest district to the district next east. That
Samuel Warriner be trustee for said district.
By these votes the principal districts came to be in territory similar to
what they now are, except that the district in which the old brick
schoolhouse stood included nearly what is now districts No. 5 and 7, and
was the centre district in the south part of the town. In November 1787
the town "Voted that the centre school district in the south half of the
town be divided by a line running parallel with the west line of Mr.
William Harris's lot on which he now lives, said line running from north to
south." This divided that district somewhat as those two districts are now
divided, leaving that where the old schoolhouse stood much as it is now.
When the old schoolhouse was taken down it was supposed to be and probably
had long been the oldest schoolhouse in town. When it was built is not
known to the writer hereof, but brick was made in that vicinity as early as
1774, and this schoolhouse may have been built among the very first.
Vermont Phoenix, January 16, 1891.
Article by Hon. Hoyt Henry Wheeler.