West Brattleboro Common 1785


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William St. John's Map Of West Brattleboro Village

Former Building Sites Superimposed


A History of the Common at West Brattleboro


Which Is of Interest at This Time---

Something About the One at the East Village.


The history of the early commons of this town is somewhat interesting. The first was on meeting-house hill south of the cemetery, and was reserved there on the plan of the town.


That at West Brattleboro came from five sources, at five different times; from Capt. John Houghton in 1785, from Benjamin Pratt in 1802, from Dr. Russell Fitch in 1806, from the estate of Benjamin Wheaton in 1811, and from John Noyes in 1822; and all were by deed to the selectmen of the town and their successors, except that from Noyes, which was to Brattleboro academy.


The main road, at first, went straight out to where the seminary buildings now are, and Simpson Ellas then lived, and then straight down to the brook; the meeting-house and the houses and yards east of it extended into where this road was; and where the road now goes in front of the stores and houses down about to the foot of the hill and out to that road was a part of the common.


Capt. Houghton gave that part of this land extending from the Stockwell store southeastward, to set the meeting-house upon. The west line of this land went from the southwest corner of the Stockwell store lot, six rods southwest across what is now the common to that road, and Capt. Houghton lived just west of that line.


Benjamin Pratt sold that in front of the Stockwell store for $30, "to be appropriated to the use of said town as a common ground in addition to the ground now laid common in said town, bounded east on the west line of the common ground on which the meeting-house in said Brattleboro now stands."


Dr. Fitch, who lived where Herbert Clark now lives, gave that where the road turns down from the Guilford road, and northwardly in front of Mr. Clark's twelve rods, the deed reading that the premises "shall be forever used, occupied and improved as a highway or common land for the benefit of the inhabitants of the town of Brattleboro aforesaid and of the Public in General, and the said selectmen and their successors shall never allow or suffer any enclosure to be made around the said premises, nor any buildings, timber or stones to be set, placed or laid thereon, excepting ornamental trees."


Dr. Fitch, as administrator of the Benjamin Wheaton estate, sold that northward of what he had given himself and in front now of Miss Susan Clark's, being about half an acre, for $51, "to be used by the town of Brattleboro forever as a road, common or green, and for no other purpose."


When the first academy was built in 1802, Mr. Noyes owned the land under and about the east side of it, and subscribed $60, payable in land, for it. Before he deeded to the academy Moses Van Doorn had become the owner of the land east of it. When Mr. Noyes's deed was made it read:


"And it is further provided that the corporation of Brattleboro academy shall never erect any buildings, incumbrances or nuisances to remain on that part of said granted premises situated eastwardly of the academy building and those lying in front of Moses Van Doorn's land so as to derogate from the privileges of said Van Doorn otherwise that if his land in that place fronted on the road."


This land, which was so to be kept clear and open like a road, thus became a part of the common.


These common grounds remained open until 1860, when Hiram Orcutt, who had leased the academy for ten years and was establishing Glenwood seminary, proposed to enclose a part of the common with the seminary grounds. About 50 made opposition to this in writing to the selectmen; but he made a been and gave a supper to which they were invited, and went.


Many of them took their names from the paper, and he was suffered to enclose with a costly fence, 78 square rods in semicircular form, where the evergreens are in front of the seminary, and to put in it an expensive fountain, walks and shrubbery, which after some years were removed.


His enclosure included a part of that given by Capt. Houghton, a part of that given by Dr. Fitch, a part of that conveyed by Mr. Noyes, and a part of the first road. The selectmen have power to take care of, improve and keep clear such commons for the public use, but have no power or authority to grant them for any other purpose, and any permission from them for any other use would be wholly void.


Perhaps this occupation was long enough continued to gain a right by possession to continue it longer, had the land been private property; but such rights cannot, especially since 1858, be gained in public property like this. The right to it remains in the public the same as before, subject only to control of it for public purposes by the selectmen, as a part of the commons and common highways of the town.


The common in Brattleboro village came from Grindal R. Ellis in 1814. A history of it has been brought into that of the present times as a part of the trolley war. It remains, nevertheless, like that at West Brattleboro, a part of the common highways of the town. For a common is a highway upon which everyone has a right to go, everyway; and as such it is to be cared for by the selectmen, as officers of the town, having charge of it, for that purpose.


The old common on the hill ceased long ago to be wanted for any public use; the roads which ran across it were given up and it has been left to become a part of the field of the surrounding land owner.


Vermont Phoenix, August 30, 1895.


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Feb. 14th. I have had a hard spell of the head ache. I have got to go to work. Shall go on dress parade this afternoon and go on guard as corporal of the guard. Shall not have to stand guard. There are two corporals detailed every day and one Sergeant. The corporals have to post the guards, but one is up at a time in the night, so it is not very hard and there is a chance to learn something. I tell you, there is a great deal to learn sometimes. I think I shall never be able to get through with it. There are others that think if they can explain a right face they are ready for an examination, but to go through it in shape will require a great deal of study and pains taking.

How I wish that I could be at home today, tomorrow and next day and day after day. I fear that you will get sick taking care of the baby, and I feel all the time such an anxiety about all of you that I can take no quiet, but keep all the time a kind of fear in me. Try to still my-self, knowing that it will make no difference with you, whether I fret myself or not, but I cannot help it. The weather here is mild. There is but little cnow, though there is an appearance of snow now. The sleighing is pretty fair.

I am sorry to hear that Jacob is sick again, though if it is the varioloid he will come round all right. There was a report yesterday that there was a case of small pox at the hospital. It will go through all the hospitals as the sick come on through Washington. There are some deaths occurring in the hospital, most of them from measles that get up and take cold and away they go. One man from Company A died this morning. There are none from our company that have died, though there is one that has had the typhoid fever and the measles that is not expected to live.

I am sorry for Loella. Hope Baker will bring her up all right yet. I should like to write to them, but it has been as much as I can do to write to you. I have not written to either Jacob or Zopher yet. I had a chance to send to Zopher last Wednesday by Orderly Sergeant White Company H. Zopher stopped in the same barracks with him here. How do they feel up in Charleston about the draft? I do not know but it is wrong, but there are some of those that are so fond of paying large bounties to save their own dear selves from the draft, but have not one spark of patriotism about them or desire to pay anyone that is in, that I should not be sorry to see come marching on, the Provost Marshall at their head. Some my grumble at the new call, but that is the way to finish up the war. 8 or 900,000 will do the thing up, but the war is not to be closed without hard fighting.

I am perfectly ashamed of the 9th Regt. Or of the officers in command there, to let a force of 15,000 men to come up on them in the manner they did there, all scattered round as they were. The enemy had nothing to do but to pick them up. They were as careless as they would be in time of peace. There is no safety in this manner of doing business. I am afraid there is too much of this carelessness in our army. I shall watch closely to see what is done by the forces that have been sent East from the mississippi River. If they have good success it will help along the thing mightily. If they push out and do but little then comes the tug of war in Tennessee. I think the object is to draw away the force the traitors have in Northern Georgia, then Grant will strike upon them. If Grant is successful, then Longstreet must give up Eastern Tennessee.

In the meantime, Longstreet striving hard to take Knoxville before Grant can strike upon Johnson's army in Northern Georgia, or Longstreet is striving to weaken Grant and Sherman's force is striving to weaken Johnson's. Look on the map and you will see that a force if coming from the West would be upon Johnson's army on its left flank or side. He and Grant now face one another and Johnson must change front and face them, or they will get in his rear, etc. etc. If Longstreet takes Knoxville, then he can take Grant in the flank and he would be in a bad fix and have to fall back from Chattanooga. I hope that the Union army in East Tennessee is strong enough to hold Longstreet at bay, but I have some fears of it, but you have probably got enough of this, but the newspapers speculate and so can I.

You see where the ink has a different shade, well some one told me that we were going to have beans for dinner and Warren was in the office and told me to go and have dinner with him. So off I went and have a good dinner, had some good doughnuts, etc. etc. I made quite a visit. It is now almost time for dress parade, and am going out ans see how many blunders I make. Well, I have been up to the barracks and there came up a little rain and no dress parade. They have just found out that I was Corporal. That is getting up pretty high, aint it. Well, I must creep before I can walk. There is a good chance to learn as a corporal. When I found that I could not write to you I sent to town and got a paper and sent that, that you might get something from me.

It is now cold and the wind blows hard. How I wish that I was at home tonight. I would sleep close enough to keep you warm. Don't you know that the time is nearly a sixth gone since I was mustered? Well, let it slip. If I ever get by you again I am there until life shall end, whether I ever wear shoulder straps or not. They are nothing, to life with you. I hope the war will end before three years have passed from the 27th Day of August 1863. Kiss all the children for me, and accept a thousand for yourself. If I were with you you would get them.

Yours in love,

Charles.

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