West Bank: Greenfield To Bellows Falls
( Originally Published 1919 )
R. 10 § 4. West Bank: Greenfield to Bellows Falls. 43.0 m.
This route follows State Highways, marked with blue as far as Bernardston, northward across country direct to Brattleboro. The route leaves Greenfield by Federal St. and follows the blue markers, with Fall River on the right, to
6.5 BERNARDSTON. Alt 365 ft. Pop (twp) 741 (1910), 790 (1915). Franklin Co. Settled 1738. Mfg. taps and dies.
This quiet little town, the most northerly in Franklin County, is situated between the Fall and Connecticut rivers. It is primarily an agricultural town, but there are also several good limestone quarries.
The territory was first granted to the heirs of some of the men engaged in the Falls Fight which took place at Turners Falls in 1676, and for many years it was known as Fallstown. It was renamed in honor of Governor Bernard when incorporated in 1762. The first four houses were built of hewn logs, with portholes in the walls as a safeguard against Indian attack. The leading man among the settlers was Major John Burke, whose epitaph says:
"Were I so tall to reach the pole
Note. A detour through Mt. Hermon and Vernon to Brattleboro, five miles longer, follows the blue markers to the right, passing the beautiful grounds of Mount Hermon School (3.0), founded in 1881.
Its most striking feature is the industrial system by which nearly all of the work of the farm and houses is done by the boys. After leaving the school a large proportion of the students engage in mission work. The Memorial Chapel is a conspicuous object for miles up and down the valley; the funds for its erection were raised by the friends of Dwight L. Moody, the famous evangelist of Northfield and founder of the school, on his sixtieth birthday (1897).
At this point the blue-marked road forks to the right, across the Connecticut, to the East Bank Route at Northfield (p 335). We follow the left fork, passing Sawyer and Lily Ponds on the left, and continue through West Northfield. The State line is marked by a granite shaft.
The valley of the Connecticut in Vermont was settled 125 years later than the Massachusetts portion of the river. This was largely because it was nearer to Canada and consequently more exposed to danger from the French and Indians as the main route which the French would take in attempting to reach the lower settlements. Fort Dummer at Brattleboro, the first white outpost in Vermont, was built in 1724.
At South Vernon (7.0), just beyond the State line and opposite Hinsdale, the Connecticut Power Company has built a concrete dam 30 feet high and 650 feet long across the river at an expense of $3,500,000. This is one of the group of power plants in the region, supplying electricity to manufacturing centers. It generates 27,000 h.p.
10.5 VERNON. Alt 310 ft. Pop 606. Windham Co. Settled 1690. Vernon is a quiet village on the level terraces of the river, with the Green Mountains for a background.
The township was a part of the Northfield grant of 1672. Here was the first settlement within the limits of the present State of Vermont. People from Northfield are said to have been here not later than 1660. When Governor Wentworth granted a charter to Hinsdale, N.H., a part of this town was included, and what is now known as Vernon was called Hinsdale till 18o2. Sortwell's Fort, built in 1737, stood here for nearly a century.
Fort Bridgman, a little further south, was attacked and destroyed by the Indians in 1746 and again in 1755. Among the captives were Mrs. Jemima Howe and her seven children, her husband having been killed, and her youngest, a baby, perishing on the trip to Canada. Mrs. Howe, however, survived captivity and three husbands. A son of her third husband died from the effects of inoculation. His tombstone in the Vernon Cemetery has an interesting epitaph written by the Rev. Bunker Gay:
"Here lies cut down, like unripe fruit,
A century or more ago Vernon was notable as a sort of Gretna Green. Here runaway couples were married by Dr. Cyrus Washburn, a Justice of the Peace in Vernon for fifty-six years. During this time he is said to have united 853 couples by many forms of ceremony of his own invention, which included such original verse as:
"Parties and relatives being agreed,
To solemn joyous rites we will proceed."
From Vernon the road continues along the bank of the river at the foot of several hills into Brattleboro (18.0).
From Bernardston the main route passes straight through the village. Just beyond is a bad left curve. Crossing the Vermont line, the road follows the base of East Mountain into
17.5 GUILFORD. Alt 410 ft. Pop 679. Windham Co. Settled 1761. Mfg. slate, flagging, sleds.
General John W. Phelps, who, like Robert Gould Shaw of Boston, organized several colored regiments during the Civil War, was a native and spent most of his life here.
The town was settled in 1761. By the terms of a grant, in 1764 the grantees were accountable only to the British Parliament, so for several years it was virtually a little republic, and it was not until 1776, when the authority of the Continental Congress was recognized, that Guilford became a political part of the colonies. In its early days it was one of the most populous Vermont towns and for several years a bone of contention between New York and Vermont. Two sets of town officers were elected,—one under the authority of each government-In 1773 Vermont ordered General Ethan Allen to call out the militia to suppress an insurrection. Coming from Bennington with a force of one hundred of his Green Mountain Boys he issued the following proclamation: "I, Ethan Allen, declare that unless the people of Guilford peaceably submit to the authority of Vermont the town shall be made as desolate as were the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah." The New York people were driven out and martial law established.
Some of the inhabitants thought that Ethan Allen was "more to be feared than death with all its terrors." The township of Bainbridge in New York was almost wholly settled by those who fled from here.
20.0 BRATTLEBORO. Alt 226 ft. Pop 7541. Windham Co. Settled 1762. Mfg. canned corn, cotton goods, extracts, machinery, chemicals, furniture, and marble and granite.
This is a thriving little manufacturing city and one of the first English settlements in Vermont. It is a well built town, picturesquely situated on an undulating plateau above the river, surrounded by an amphitheater of heavily wooded hills.
Main Street, the principal thoroughfare, runs parallel with the river and one hundred feet above it. At the north end of the town is a park on the edge of a plateau which commands a beautiful view of the mountains and the valley below. Be-low the park, in the valley, is the Vermont Asylum for the Insane. In the southern part of the town is Whetstone Brook with its numerous factories, and further south Cemetery Hill from which there is a view of the town. The Vernon dam has backed up the waters of the Connecticut into a twenty-mile lake, on which there is good boating. Island Park, on the river, is an amusement resort. The Country Club borders the river opposite Mt. Wantastiquet.
William Morris Hunt, the artist (see Magnolia, R. 36), an intimate friend of Millet, the great French painter, and Richard M. Hunt, the prominent New York architect, were born here. Larkin G. Mead, the sculptor, began his career in this place: on New Year's Eve in 1856 he made from the snow a statue of the Recording Angel, that attracted widespread attention from the entire country. His sister is the wife of William Dean Howells. His brother, who was born here, was a member of the noted architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White. Here too lived Royal Tyler, a wit and poet, who later became Chief Justice of Vermont, but is more notable as the author of "The Contrast," the first American play to be acted upon a regular stage by an established company of players, per-formed at the Old John Street Theater in New York, 1786.
On a hillside three miles north of the town is Naulahka, the Indian bungalow built by Rudyard Kipling about a splendid Indian carving. It is "a long low two-storied frame bungalow of but a single room in depth, whose dun hues blend and harmonize with those of the hillside." In the smoking room are clever caricatures by `Spy,' where the subject of the artist's humor left them a score of years ago. Kipling has forsaken America for his old home, but the cottage and its splendid site with far-sweeping views of the Connecticut valley and its hill walls testify to Kipling's eye for scenic beauty.
In 1891 Kipling met in London Wolcott Balestier, with whom he afterward collaborated in his story "The Naulahka." The acquaintance resulted in his marrying Balestier's sister, Caroline, Jan. 18, 1892. The Balestiers' old family estate, Beechwood, was at Brattleboro, Vt., where much of Mrs. Kipling's girlhood was passed. A visit with her husband to these scenes of her childhood resulted in the selection of the site for their home among the broad Balestier acres. From August, 1892, to September, 1896, this was Kipling's home. It was in this hillside cottage that two of his children were born, and some of the poems of "The Seven Seas" written, the "Jungle Books" begun, and "Many Inventions" completed. One of the stories in the latter volume is packed with- local allusion and observation. The horses in a Vermont pasture brag in the manner of their masters of their ability to go from Brattleboro to Keene, forty-two miles, in an afternoon. One asserts how "the Deacon, the absolutely steady lady's horse," can keep his feet "through the West River bridge, with the narrer-gauge comin' in on one side an' the Montreal flyer the other, an' the old bridge teeterin' between." The three bridges are there today.
Originally called Fort Dummer, the first outpost in the Vermont part of the Connecticut valley was erected here in 2724 and a trading post established. The site of the fort is marked by a granite monument one mile to the south of the railway station. Brattleboro was perhaps the first organized English settlement in Vermont, as very few pioneers came to this part of New England until the capture of Quebec in 1760 took away the fear of the French and Indians. The town was named for William Brattle, a Massachusetts Loyalist, of the wellknown Brattle family. Here in 1845 was established by Dr. Robert Wesselhoeft, a distinguished German, one of the earliest water cures so popular during the middle of the nineteenth century.
The town is widely known as the home, ever since 1846, of the Estey Organ works, which manufactures reed and pipe organs and pianos; its founder, Jacob Estey, was one of Vermont's first self-made men. Brattleboro is a distributing center for maple sugar, and the home of one of the country's largest chair factories.
30.0 PUTNEY. Alt 320 ft. Pop (twp) 788. Windham Co. Settled 1764. Mfg. paper, lumber, and brick.
This village, high above the river, affords an excellent view of the lake-like defiles and the further side of the valley. The broad meadows are extremely fertile and produce large crops.
In 2744 a fort was built here, but the French-English hostilities forced its abandonment until twenty years later, when the first permanent settlement was made, although in 2755 settlers built several houses in a square and attempted vainly to hold them for England.
The route leaves the river and crosses the hills, bearing right past left fork and then forking left at the top of the grade (32.3). From the hamlet of Putney Falls (33.0) the road crosses the town line and draws nearer the river.
38.0 WESTMINSTER. Alt 300 ft. Pop (twp) 1327. Windham Co. Settled 1751. Mfg. baskets, canned corn, paper, and gasoline engines.
Westminster, a fine old farming town, lies on a tableland considerably elevated above the Connecticut, enclosed by a semicircle of hills. The village consists almost entirely of one broad street laid out during the reign of George II and called the King's Highway. It is the birthplace of Henry A. Willard, the wellknown Washington hotel man.
Westminster is one of the oldest Vermont towns; first settled in 1734 and later abandoned, it was finally established in 1751. It has played a prominent part in history: in 1774 a convention held here resolved that "they would defend their just rights while breath was in their nostrils and blood in their veins." Representatives from the several counties and towns of the New Hampshire Grants, in convention at Westminster, Jan. 15, 1777, resolved, "That we will, at all times hereafter, consider ourselves as a free and independent State." County court was held here under New York authority and Tory influence. The patriots took possession of the court and endeavored to prevent the sitting. They were attacked by the Loyalists; two men were killed and three injured. This precipitated an up-rising, and five hundred men flocked into the town fully armed. The judge and other court officials were taken to Northampton and thrown into jail. A gravestone erected to one of the men killed says:
"Here William French his body lies,
Here the first printing office was established in Vermont, and the first newspaper, "The Vermont Gazette, or Green Mountain Postboy," was printed, on the old Daye press, the first used in North America north of Mexico, and now the choicest possession of the Vermont Historical Society.
The road runs down to the fork just before reaching R.R. station, and there bears left (39.5), paralleling the river and R.R. After crossing Cold River Ravine and the Rockingham town line the road enters
43.0 BELLOWS FALLS. Alt 300 ft. Pop 4883. Windham Co. Settled 1753. Mfg. Paper, carriages, dairy machinery and supplies, and baskets.
Bellows Falls is an important manufacturing town, the business center of Rockingham township, and the second town in population on the Vermont side of the valley. It is located on a bluff above the falls of the Connecticut and opposite the abrupt heights of Kilburn's Peak (828 ft). The streets are wide and tree-shaded, with a number of handsome residences. The famous and fabulously wealthy Hetty Green of New York has a summer residence here. It has recently attained news-paper celebrity as the Gretna Green of New England.
The river here plunges over the rocks and through a gorge with a fall of 52 feet. The great waterpower has been fully utilized in the development of industries;` it is conducted by canals to most of the mills, situated near the foot of the falls. The International Paper Company and some other concerns turn out 1500 tons of finished paper and ship 100 tons of wood pulp each week: fifteen million feet of logs are annually reduced to pulp here; they are floated down the upper Connecticut, and during the months of June and July the drives are a conspicuous feature of river life. The Vermont Farm Machine Co., organized in 1868, has grown from a single room over a livery stable to occupy several factories.
Its great success in the past twenty years has been due to the development of cream separators, one of its chief products.
The Derby & Ball Company is one of the largest concerns in the country manufacturing scythe snaths.
At Saxtons River, a village five miles west of the town, is Vermont Academy, one of the older educational institutions of the State. The Green Mountain Club, an organization devoted to the enthusiastic enjoyment of the Vermont mountains, was founded here by James P. Taylor, who gave himself to the school for several years and fostered outdoor life and winter sports by this means. Out of the club has grown the Greater Vermont Association, to which Mr. Taylor now wholly devotes himself. This latter organization, with headquarters in Burlington, is one of the foremost of sincere community publicity enterprises in the nation.
The early center of population here was at Rockingham Center (R. 33), where there is an old meeting house dating from 1773, now preserved as a historical monument. It was settled in 1753 by men from Massachusetts, and named in honor of the Marquis of Rockingham, a member of the British Ministry. The Falls were so named in honor of Colonel Benjamin Bellows, one of the foremost settlers of this region. The first settlement at the Falls was in 1761. The first bridge to span the Connecticut was built here on the site of the present bridge in 1785. Paper was first manufactured here in 1802.
Early in the nineteenth century a canal was constructed around the Falls by an English corporation to facilitate river navigation, but with the development of railroads this proved a losing enterprise, and in 1857 was sold. In 1871 a majority of the stock was purchased by William A. Russell, who developed waterpower here of nearly 14,000 h.p. by widening the canal to 75 feet and increasing the depth to 17 feet. This power is leased in shares of 85 h.p. each, and at the present time the International Paper Company holds 135 of the 163 shares. The power from the Vernon dam (p 32g) has stimulated further industrial enterprise here.
Four miles above Bellows Falls to the left of the river, near the cut known as Williams Rock, is a stone marker erected by the G.A.R. in 1912 on the spot where the first Protestant sermon in Vermont was delivered by the Rev. John Williams to the Deerfield captives and their Indian captors when they rested here on that Sunday in 1784.