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.
Later, its name change to the Brattleboro Retreat, and so did its size and mission. Currently, there are more than 800 employees, 122 inpatient beds for children and adults, a school, and an intensive outpatient program. Reflecting today’s society, there is a strong opiate/alcohol addiction treatment plan, as well as a uniformed service program for emergency and military personnel.
Vernon was also remembered in the Will of Anna Hunt Marsh. She left $2,000, the interest of which is to be appropriated annually for the “Preaching of the Gospel in said Town.” Each year, a committee is chosen at the Annual Town Meeting for disbursement of the fund. Reputedly, her bequest was prompted by the fact that from her Hinsdale home, she could look across the river and observe “the heathen of Vernon working in their fields on the Sabbath.”
Finally, as recently as February of this year, concern has again been expressed about the deteriorated condition of the two bridges connecting Brattleboro to Hinsdale. The first is known as the Anna Hunt Marsh Bridge. The other is the Charles Dana Bridge, named for the Hinsdale man who was the Assistant Secretary of War under Abraham Lincoln, and later became a journalist and editor of the old New York Sun.
So, Anna Hunt Marsh gained prominence, and so will the children born to Jonathan and Levinah.