‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 10

By Barbara Emery Moseley

The first child of Jonathan and Levinah Hunt was born August 12, 1780, ad name for his father. However, the infant died at three-and-one-half months. Following the custom of the day, the name of a baby boy who did not live to be a year old was given to the next male born to the family. Consequently, the Hunts’ fourth child, born May 12, 1787, was named Jonathan. He became politically prominent, like his father, and established a distinguished family of his own.

Two girls, Ellen and Fanny, followed, in 1781 and 1783, then the “second” Jonathan and, lastly, Arad.

Ellen and Fanny were known as great beauties, in their day. In 1801, when she was twenty, Ellen married the Hon. Lewis R. Morris, congressman from Vermont. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 9

By Barbara Emery Moseley

At last, the handsome house built near the river and set on hundreds of acres was finished. Jonathan and his bride Levinah were married July 15, 1779. They were among about 100 townspeople at the time, who lived in much simpler farmhouses, mostly scattered along the river valley.

Accompanying the newlyweds was Anna, Hunt’s daughter by a previous marriage. Her mother’s name is unknown, and quite likely she died from complications of childbirth, the common fate of many women at the time. Anna’s name, however, became well-known and is recognized still in Brattleboro, and Vernon.

In 1797, she married Dr. Perley Marsh of Hinsdale. Her dowry was “one good horse, three cows, and good household furniture which amounted to $600.” She and her husband soon moved into a large frame house (on today’s Brattleboro Road, Hinsdale) that rivaled in elegance the one she had left.

At the time, the insane were shut away, sometimes in dungeons or caves, or tied into chairs in their homes. Anna and Dr. Marsh deplored shut inhumane treatment. After her death in 1834, her will provided a sum of $10,000, “to be given for the purpose of erecting and support of a hospital for the insane in Windham County.” It was built and known as the Vermont Asylum for the Insane. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 8

By Barbara Emery Moseley

In the 1700s, on seeing a bareheaded man, people would assume that either he had lost his hat or his mind! The almost universal headgear was the three-cornered hat, which could be plain, or embellished with braids and cockades, and was easily tucked under an arm.

Made of felt, it was produced through a tedious process of treating beaver fur. Indeed, Fort Dummer, built in 1724, near the northwest corner of what was to become Vernon, traded briskly with the Native Americans for beaver pelts. Hats could be felted from any soft fur, but beaver was preferred because of its soft sheen. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 7

By Barbara Emery Moseley

Here comes the bride—but is it Levina, Lovinah, Lavinia, or Levinah Swan who will glide into matrimony with Jonathan Hunt on July 14, 1779? All these versions of her name appear in various references. Lovinah is on her tombstone in Vernon’s North (Hunt) Cemetery, but, although “written in stone,” it is incorrect. However, the Vermont Historical Society has in its archives an 1831 letter written from Vernon to her son, U.S. Senator Jonathan Hunt, in Washington, DC. It closes with: “I hope I shall see you all again in good health is the daly [sic] prayer of your aff’nt Mother Levinah Hunt.”

Her great-great grandfather Thomas was the first of the Swan family to arrive in this country, about 1648. He was a doctor, born in Scotland, and educated in England. Settling in Roxbury, a section of Boston, he soon met and married Mary Lamb.

On July 11, 1681, his house was “set on fire” by Maria, a black servant, and “burned with some in it.” For this crime, Maria was sentenced to be burned at the stake. The barbaric punishment was carried out on Boston Common, September 22, 1681. (more…)

Historians annual town meeting day food sale

The Vernon Historians will be on hand during town elections, Tuesday, March 1 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., downstairs in the town office building.

In addition to baked goods and food items, they are selling the “History Tour of Vernon” DVD, Pine Top Ski Area posters, the “Vernon Voices” and “Wise Old Sayings” booklets.

Members and non-member supporters are asked to drop off their contributions of baked goods and food items between 6:45 a.m. and 10 a.m.

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 6

By Barbara Emery Moseley

No doubt Jonathan Hunt, early on, had built a rough, cabin-like dwelling on his many riverside acres in Vernon. It was likely that it became attached , on the east side, to other sheds and barns. That was a practical New England style that allowed settlers access to their stored firewood and provisions, and to attend to the farm animals in all kinds of weather. His bride, however, would expect a more comfortable home.

Jonathan had the means to hire a master builder. Also, there was close access to a sawmill built several years earlier by his father. It was located on Lower Salmon Brook, near today’s Post Office Plaza (George’s Mill). (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 5

By Barbara Emery Moseley

The recapture of a Yorker’s cow in Guilford, coupled with another power play by New York sympathizers in Vernon, likely precipitated Jonathan Hunt’s resignation as Sheriff. Still, he would have been watchful of the following incident.

On May 3, 1778, a mysterious event occurred in Vernon. (Its site roughly encompassed the area between today’s Post Office and the east end of Newton Road.)

On that date, the granary of Ensign Stratton was broken open during the night and a quantity of gunpowder and lead stored there, belonging to Vernon, was stolen. The patriots in the area were alarmed by what appeared to be a threat of British infiltration in the locality.

Guards were placed and an investigation was undertaken. A scouting party that had passed by two nights earlier later found a man asleep against a haystack. He proved to be a Tory, Jonathan Wright, “one inimical to the American cause.” Elijah Elmer, an accomplice, was taken at the same time, but escaped. (Both were descendants of some of Vernon’s earliest settlers.) (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 4 — The shot heard round the world

By Barbara Emery Moseley

The “shot heard ‘round the world,” that launched the American Revolution, echoed in Vermont. On receipt of the news from Concord and Lexington, Vermont farmers left on foot and horseback to join the determined patriots.

Vermont, as a newly formed republic, was in a struggle of its own to divest itself of any further control by the provincial governors of New Hampshire and New York. Many in Guilford, however, were stubbornly loyal to New York’s Governor Tryon. Nor did they recognize the power of the new state to draft men for the Revolution or else require them to secure a substitute.

The Guilford Selectmen at the time were of the Vermont faction and directed Sheriff Jonathan Hunt to levy, in the name of the State, “the sum of 15 pounds in goods,” which the Town had spent securing substitutes for the five who had refused military service. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 3

By Barbara Emery Moseley

Samuel Hunt (1703-1770) was the father of “our” Jonathan, along with six other children. Samuel owned a prosperous tavern on Northfield’s broad Main Street. It also served as an inn and stagecoach stop. Residents, hearing the piercing notes of the coach horn that announced the arrival of the Boston Stage, would gather there. The delivery of mail and newspapers was welcome, but it was the travelers themselves who brought the “late-breaking news” from the city.

After the coach’s pause that allowed its passengers and horses time for food and drink, it continued its northward journey, using the crude road along the east bank of the river. Likely, the next stop was Charleston, NH, where “our” Jonathan’s older brother, Samuel, was also an innkeeper and active In the town and county, including being its first sheriff. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 2

By Barbara Emery Moseley

The Jonathan Hunt who built his impressive “mansion” in Vernon (on the road now named for him) was the great-grandson of another Jonathan who left England in 1637. Landing in Boston, he made his way to the Connecticut River Valley, found a wife in Hartford, and settled in Northampton. (Coincidentally, he had emigrated from Northampton, England, a city known for its making of boots and shoes.)

Two generations later, his descendants were living in the beleaguered settlement of Northfield. Twice it had been attacked, burned, and rebuilt. It was here that “our” Jonathan was born in 1738. (more…)

Where’s downtown Vernon?

By Barbara Emery Moseley, as told to Kathy Korb

How did Vernon go from having three “centers” in the early days of the town to having none today? This is the story of how all three Vernon centers disappeared, leaving the town with no real location which feels like a focal point now.

In the 1800s, when the town was young, it was rich with three centers. Each one was fully functioning with a hotel, a railroad depot, and a post office. Two also had churches, businesses, and stores. The arrival of the railroad in 1849 brought easy access and mass transportation to Vernon. With this came a need for services to meet the needs of the passengers and townspeople, causing the other enterprises to follow. (more…)

Annual meeting of the Vernon Historians

The Vernon Historians Annual Meeting and Program will be held downstairs at the Town Office Building, Tuesday, October 13. There will be no potluck this year. The business meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by the program at 7:00 p.m. by Jim Auchmoody.

Jim will speak on homemade musical stringed instruments of the Depression Era. Because times were tough and poverty prevalent, some very unusual instruments were created. Have you ever heard a bedpan guitar? You will be surprised and amused when you hear some of Jim’s creations and learn about their history. Everyone is welcome.

A glimpse into the past: Vernon’s long grim winters

By Barbara Emery Moseley

A “long, execrable winter is about over,” proclaimed the editor in the March 17 Reformer. Execrable is not an adjective in common usage, but it is derived from the Latin “to curse”, and aptly describes the past months.

The word reminded me of some old-time Vernon winters, stories of which were uncovered in my historical research of our town.

One grim incident was found in the Phoenix of February 18, 1860. (The Phoenix was a weekly newspaper published in Brattleboro, and included items from surrounding towns). (more…)