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History of Ryegate, Vermont
Chapter XV


SOCIAL CONDITIONS IN EARLY DAYS.

PRICES OF FARM PRODTJCTS.—CLOTH AND rrs MANUFACTURE.—LUMBER.—RIVER TRAFFIC .—TAVERNS.—STAGE AND POSTAL ROUTES.—PASSUMPSIC TURNPIKE.—THE BOSTON AND MONTREAL TURNPIKE.

THE conditions of life in Ryegate in the earlier days will be better understood if we learn what people received for what they had to sell; the prices they paid for what they must buy; what were the most profitable products of the farms; how, and at what cost these products went to market; the facilities and gradual improvement of the means of transportation both of merchandise and persons, and the transmission of intelligence.

We must remember that in those days there was little local demand for what the farmer had to sell; he might exchange, to a very limited extent, his potatoes, his wheat, or his butter, for the labor, in his own craft, of the blacksmith, the carpenter or the shoemaker, but there were only a very few articles for which cash was paid near home. In 1795, and for some years before and after, Col. Wm. Wallace advertised in Spooner’s Vt. Journal that he would pay cash—hard money—at his store in Newbury, for furs, gensing root, pot and pearl ashes. These latter were commonly called "salts," and their manufacture has been discontinued so long that few are living who can tell how it was conducted. Yet the records of a boating company, which operated a century age between Wells River and Hartford, show that a large part of its downward freight was pot and pearl ashes. They began to be made soon after the settlement of the town, and there was a steady demand for them, mainly for export.’

We must also remember that for the first sixty years after settlement began there were few large towns in the country and those were widely apart, and the immediate vicinity of each could supply its demands.

Consequently the people found it for their advantage to raise such articles as were in demand for the export trade, then rapidly increasing. At that time, what are now the great grain producing states of the west, had not begun to be settled, and all the grain produced for export was drawn from a section of the country which now produces no wheat at all, and its raising was very profitable even in towns as remote from the seacoast as Ryegate. James Johnston paid for a farm with the wheat grown upon it in a single season.

During the wars of Napoleon wheat and flour were in such demand that four dollars a bushel was paid at Salem, then the great shipping port of New England.

The farmer usually went to market with his wheat and such other articles as pork, butter, lard, hides and the like, in winter when the roads were at their best, with a kind of sleigh called a "pung," of which a few survive. They were solidly constructed and had a marvelous capacity for storage.

With the opening of the western country, and the rise of the great manufacturing towns, the production of butter and cheese with the raising of cattle and sheep for market, completely superseded the raising of wheat.

Cloth, both linen and woolen, was in constant demand, and the settlers of Ryegate brought from Scotland some new ideas about their manufacture, especially the coloring of woolen yarn, which caused the cloth made here to be much sought after. Before the invention of the power loom and the spinning frame, everything in the process of converting a pound of wool into its equivalent in cloth was done by hand, and "fulled cloth," as the finished product of woolen goods for men’s wear was called, brought, in 1810, from $2.50 to $3.00 per yard, and inferior cloth, or that requiring less skill in its manufacture, in proportion. Consequently it paid to work up into cloth all the wool produced on the farm, and thus employment was provided for all the family. Even a very little child could wind quills, the older girls were skillful spinners, the matrons plied the shuttle, and in many homes the spinning wheel and the loom were hardly silent from Monday morning till Saturday at e’en. Satinett, a kind of fancy cloth, made with cotton warp and woolen filling, brought from $2.75 to $3.25 per yard. A suit of clothes in those days cost much more than one does now, but its wearing quality was of a sort wholly unknown to the present generation. We have before spoken of the manufacture of tow and linen cloth. Some old account books show that at Haverhill Corner, in 1800, tow cloth brought about 37 cents per yard, while of linen the price paid varied from thirty cents to a dollar, according to its quality.

An account book of a store kept by Thomas Barstow, in 1814, in the "Franconia House" at Wells River, which appears to have been well patronized by Ryegate people, gives the cost of many articles in use at that time, and the prices paid for produce brought in for exchange. A careful study of its items makes one doubt if the common idea that a dollar would go further then than two dollars will go now, is strictly true. Mr. Barstow dealt in dry goods, groceries, drugs, books and ardent spirits—very much indeed of the latter.

The common price of calico was $1.00 per yard, gingham and cotton cloth 56 cents, flannel $1.00 per yard, and cotton yarn the same price by the pound. Tea was $1.00 a pound, "loaf" sugar 44 cents, and brown sugar, and "sap sugar," 20 cents per pound, while molasses was $1.67 per gallon. On the other hand, coffee was cheaper than now, as were boots and shoes, china and earthen ware. Nutmegs were a shilling, or 17 cts. each, a price which must have greatly stimulated their manufacture in Connecticut. Nails were 16 cts. per lb., much lower than formerly, as machine-made nails were beginning to compete with those made by hand. Coarse salt was $2.25 per bushel, and raisins 50 cts. a pound.

The usual price for butter was 9d a pound, or 12½ cts., and for eggs a cent each in summer. There is no mention of any in winter. The prices of all articles are given in shillings and pence, and in dollars and cents as well. Forty years ago the older people "reckoned" in shillings and pence—six shillings to the dollar. The custom died with them, and to the present generation "four and six, half-penny," is as unintelligible as its corresponding designation in Choctaw.

Old account books of early days indicate that only a limited number of articles were kept by country stores. Indeed, but for the trade in ardent spirits, they could hardly have existed at all. In those days farmers produced nearly every article they used. The boots and shoes worn by the family were made from the hides of cattle slaughtered on the farm, converted into leather at the local tannery, and made up by the shoemaker, who traveled from farm to farm for the purpose. When people producd their own flour, their own meat, their own sugar, their clothing and foot wear, they were independent of the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker.

There was a demand for lumber, but at prices which seem ridiclously small, and the fact that so much lumber was cut and sold at such low prices indicates the scarcity of money, when people were willing to work so hard for so little in return. Old growth pine, not now to be had at any price; sold for about $5 per M., when sawed into lumber. Shingles were made by hand, and there were men who made a business of shaving shingles the year round, and these were in demand, both in the town and for export.

But for lumber, both in the log and manufactured, the only road to market was by way of the river. The late Hon. Charles B. Leslie of Wells River thus describes the manner of its transportation.

"The boats once used on Connecticut River would carry about twenty-five tons of merchandise, and they went down the river loaded wiih clapboards, shingles and the like, and brought back heavy goods like iron, salt, rum, molasses and sugar These boats were made for the use of square sails, set in the middle of the boat. They had a crew of seven men to propel them up the river, six spike pole men who worked

three on each side, by placing one end of the pole on the river bottom, the other end against the boatman’s shoulder, and walking back about half the length of the boat, pushing on the pole. The captain steered with a wide bladed oar at the rear. Rafts of lumber were made up here, to be piloted down the river to Hartford, Conn., in boxes sixty feet long and thirteen wide, just the right size to go through the locks at the falls on the river, singly. There was a saw mill at Dodge’s Falls, where timber was sawed and floated down through the narrows to Ingalls eddy, where they put six boxes together, making what was called a ‘division'" [History of Newbury, p. 156]

At the present time when the river is only used for the transportation of saw logs, it is hard to realize that before the railroad was built, a large commerce was carried upon it.

Wells River was the head of navigation, and from there, after canals were constructed around the falls, between here and tide-water, boats could pass to Hartford without breaking bulk, and the river traffic built up the village. The wharves and other landing places were where the freight depot grounds are now, and there were several boat builders, whose yards bordered on the river. Old people can remember seeing fifty loaded teams at a time, two, four and six horse teams, with produce of all kinds, from the north country, along the streets. Much of it was sent down the river, and two classes of boats called, respectively, "pine boats," and "oak boats," were in use. A mast, which could be lowered to pass under bridges, was attached to each, and the white sails rising above the farms, through which the river meanders, formed a picturesque feature in the landscape.

The pine boats, of which we have spoken, were not very substantially built, and were sometimes sold for lumber at the end of the trip. They had no cabin, the crew boarding on shore. In the middle of the boat the sides were raised to the height of a man’s head, and covered with an awning, under which the freight was housed.

Oak boats were more substantially built, and were provided with a cabin, and bunks for the crew. It took about twenty-five days for a boat to go from Wells River to Hartford and return. In addition to the wages of the men, there was a charge of about $4.00 per ton for tolls at the various canals. In 1823, seven dollars per ton was charged by a boating company from Concord via, the Middlesex Canal to Boston, and ten dollars per ton from Boston to Concord.

These figures show why so many farmers went to market with their own produce—it was the cheapest way to get it there, and in good sleighing hundreds of teams from the north country, passed down the Merrimae valley every day. It will be seen that it cost much more to bring goods here than it does now. In 1816, a merchant at Danville stated in the N. H. Patriot, that the freight on his merchandise cost him $32 per ton. Various schemes for improving the navigation of the Connecticut, by means of canals, and the construction of a canal from the Merrimack valley, occupied public attention for some years. In 1831, a steamboat, called the Adam Duncan, was built at Wells River, just above the mouth of the river of the same name. It was sixty feet in length, on the keel, with a breadth of twelve feet, the guards projecting over the sides to an entire width of nineteen and one-half feet. It drew twenty-two inches of water, cost $4,700, and great things were expected of it, but it came to grief on the second trip. The year before a small steamboat came up to Wells River, intending to run to Barnet. It was taken through the "Narrows," but, even with the help of a crowd of men hauling at a long rope, it was unable to cross the bar. The boat went down the river, and never came back. In 1832, the steamboat company failed, and, soon after, people began to talk about railroads, on which it was thought that trains might run at the rate of six miles an hour, in good weather.

In those days, when people went to market with their own teams; when merchants kept teams of their own constantly on the road; when there were men engaged in teaming, the year round, with their own horses; in short, the "old stage times," taverns were frequent along the most traveled roads, and there were several in Ryegate on the "county road." Inn keepers were, in those days, men of good standing and wide acquaintance, who, owning good farms, provided for themselves a market for all they could raise. Of course each tavern had a bar, and ardent spirits were sold, the bar-room being the general resort of the neighborhood. Mr. Miller says that the first tavern in town was built by Dea. Andrew Brock, a little north of the brick house at the Corner, but he may have meant that it was the first house built for a tavern, Mr. Mason says that John Gray kept for some years the only tavern in town, the only one between Newbury and Canada.

In 1796, the town "approbated" for tavern keepers, Josiah Page Esq., Andrew Brock, Samuel and Hugh Johnson, and Capt. John Gray. In 1797, Nathan Barker Page is first mentioned as an inn-keeper, Jabez Bigelow in 1798. In 1800, Alexander McDonald was, for the first time, "approbated" to keep a place of public entertainment, James Esden in 1803, Eri Chamberlin in 1805, Robert Brock in 1808, Nathaniel Smith in 1810. It appears that, a century ago, there were six taverns in Ryegate.

The earlier taverns were along the "county road," as the main road from Newbury to Danville was called. Until 1792, Orange county embraced all the state north of Windsor county, and east of the Green Mountains. In that year Caledonia County was organized, and Danville made the county seat, making it for many years the most important place between Haverhill and Canada, and the stage center for a large

section of country, so that most of the business and travel was along this road. There was no road along the river above Barnet till some years after the revolutionary war, but a road was made from the "Harvey tract," north of Harvey’s Mountain, and the north end of the lake to the center of the town, thence down Joe’s Brook to its junction with the Passumpsic, and afterwards extended up the river as settlements advanced. Consequently the Hazen road, as we prefer to call it, was the main highway of travel and business, numbers of loaded teams passed along it daily, and, according to old people, at one period, there were seven inns along that road in this town.

Mr. Miller says that the first tavern at the Corner was built by Dea. Andrew Brock, and its site is marked by its cellar, a little above the brick house and on the same side of the road. It was called the "Old Red House," and had a large patronage. In the course of years several barns and other outbuildings were added, which have long disappeared.

Mr. J. M. Goodwin, whose memory goes back to 1825, says that Samuel Peters kept that tavern during many years, succeeding Jabez Bigelow. After Peter’s time it was let to William Morrill and Joshua Bailey, when it was burned.

The Morrill tavern stand was south of the Corner, under the great elm, of which there were formerly two. Josiah Page kept tavern there, as did his son, Nathan Barker Page. Ebenezer Morrill came there about 1820, and it was continued by him and his sons during many years. The Morrills were stage owners and mail contractors. Henry F. Slack also kept tavern at the Corner in the ‘40’s and there must have been others whose names are not remembered. Robert Whitelaw kept tavern on his farm many years, only a depression in the ground is all that marks the site of the old stand.

A very interesting and valuable book could be written about stages, inns, post routes and post offices in this part of New England, in days before the railroad came, and the materials for such a work exist. But our narrative must confine itself to those facilities which were available to Ryegate people. It will be understood that in the early years, before 1800, the country was new, and the roads were bad at the best, and

people traveled on foot and on horse back, so it was only the strong and vigorous who could travel at all, except, perhaps, in winter. People generally traveled with their own teams and it was not until about a century ago that roads were good enough for wheeled vehicles, and there began to be a class of people who were willing to pay for being carried from place to place. About 1809, Silas May, who was then the mail carrier between Concord and Haverhill, began to convey it in a wagon, and any chance passenger as well. When Rev. David Sutherland came to Bath in 1803, his diary says that thcy left New York City by stage on Wednesday, spent Sunday in Hartford and reached Hanover on Wednesday, just a week on the road. Hanover was then, and for some years before and after, the head of stage navigation in the Connecticut valley.

The increase of population and wealth in this part of the country is indicated by the improvement of traveling facilities. Haverhill Corner became the great stage centre in this region, and Danville Green, as it was then called, a lesser one. It is not precisely known when the mail carrier between Newbury and Danville began to convey his mail in a wagon, in which he also took a chance traveler, or a bundle, or when that primitive conveyance was superseded by a stage route. In 1810, a line of stages between Boston and Quebec was in operation long enough for the proprietors to discover, to their cost, that they were ahead of the times. But it is certain that as early as 1817, a stage from Danville to Haverhill reached the latter place on Monday evening of each week. It seems strange that the "North Star," then published at Danville, gives us no information about the stage and mail affairs of the time. These old newspapers are invariably silent upon those topics in which we are most interested.

The traveler by the Danville stage in 1820 reached Haverhill Corner after dark on Thursday, resuming his journey at four o’clock in the morning, to reach Concord about six p. m., in the evening. Another long day’s journey took him to Boston.

A graphic picture of old stage times in the north country about 1820 is given by the late Arthur Livermore in some "Recollections of Haverhill Corner," and which we cannot resist the temptation to reproduce.

"The eastern stage left Haverhill on Mondays and Fridays at four o’clock in the morning. Before that hour the driver went through the village to knock at the doors from which the passengers were booked, and with the butt of his great whipstock failed not to waken them, and many of the neighbors as well. But they all knew the cause of the din, and though not without neighborly interest in it, soon composed themselves to sleep again. The coaches used were sundry, of abnormal forms, tentative in the direction of utility and comeliness, rejecting experiments apparently, and therefore adapted to an enterprise which was claimed also an experiment exposed to like failure. But the managers were obliging toward their customers, were persevering and faithful, and so, in the distant end successful.

The coach, starting at four o’clock in the morning with the mail, no larger than could be easily carried upon the driver’s arm, and tossed into its place where he seemed to keep it by sitting upon it, together with the passengers arrived at Morse’s inn in Rumney for a breakfast that seemed late. After which it proceeded by Mayhew’s turnpike and that part of Salisbury now called Franklin, to Concord, which it reached about six in the afternoon, unless retarded by adverse conditions of weather, spring and autumn mud, and the like. We were drawn at successive and interchangeable teams by Smart, May, and Houston.

Smart was accounted the best whip, and proud of the distinction, upset his coach, and was run away with by his horses more frequently than the rest. Col. Silas May was of serious demeanor like a deacon, but not otherwise remarkable, but, finally, to escape trouble in some forgotten form, ran off. But Houston witched the world by means of an immensely long tin horn, which announced the coming of the stage, as it were a band of music.

I shall not forget the gamut of that amazing instrument, the tramp of the four steaming horses, the rattle and creak of the coach, and the jingle of the chains and other gear as the man drove by us boys who had gone out on a summer’s evening to meet it. We had been released from school, had our tea, and the cool and tranquil evening which disposed us often to that quiet pastime, took effect apparently with the older generation that failed not to be represented at the Grafton Hotel."

The fathers and grandfathers of many Ryegate people were passengers in these old coaches, under the care of these drivers, ninety years ago.

The first letter received by James Whitelaw, from Scotland, after his arrival in Ryegate, is thus addressed—

Mr. James Whitelaw,

Land Surveyor in North America,

At Ryegate on Connecticut River,

To the care of Capt. Moses Little,

Merchant at Newbury Port,

To be forwarded to the care of Col. William Wallace, Merchant at Newbury, Coos.

During the revolutionary war, letters from Scotland were sent by way of Holland. Those from Ryegate to Scotland were sent from Newburyport as opportunity offered. Letters preserved indicate that about one-half of the former reached their destination, and about one-third of the latter. Letters were also sent from Scotland, by persons coming to join the colony. After the war, correspondence became more frequent, and was less interrupted.

Before the war, all letters were conveyed to this part of the country by private hands, as there were no post offices, or mail carriers, except along the sea coast. In 1776, a post rider was appointed by the Council of Safety to go from Portsmouth to Haverhill, once in two weeks, by way of Plymouth, and return by Hanover and Keene. This service was intended for the conveyance of military information, but the carrier, John Balch, who performed the service faithfully for seven years, was allowed to carry private letters for a small sum. This was the beginning of the Postal service in this part of New England.

At that time, and for some years afterward, it took from three to five days for a letter to come here from Boston, and a week to come from New York. In 1807, it required eight weeks to bring a letter from Ohio. Postage upon letters was very high, a shilling, or 17 cents from Boston, 1s.6d, or 25 cents, from New York. Few letters were prepaid, and men who held much correspondence by mail, often made a written agreement as to how the postage should be divided.

Comparatively few letters passed through the mail, most were sent by private hands, and a man going to any particular place, was expected to let people know before hand, that they might send letters by him. This was illegal, and stringent laws were enacted against the practice, but juries would not convict, and the government could not enforce its laws. About 1820, postage was reduced, so that the lowest rate was six cents; above thirty miles, ten cents, above eighty miles, ninepence, and so on, till letters going over 400 miles paid twenty-five cents. In 1846, postage was reduced to five cents for distances under 300 miles, and ten cents between places more distant. In 1800, and probably for many years afterward, letters from Scotland were prepaid to the American port of landing, and then forwarded, the postage for the balance of the journey being collected at its termination. Most of the letters from Scotland, which are preserved, seem to have been brought by private hands.

In 1785, a mail carrier was appointed by the state to travel from Brattleboro to Newbury once a week, receiving two pence, hard money, per mile, for the service. This route was discontinued north of Hanover in 1791, but one was established by the state of New Hampshire, which extended to Haverhill. In 1795, the federal government assumed control of the mail service, and established post offices at Haverhill and Newbury. The service was a weekly one, and the office at Haverhill was kept by Capt. Joseph Bliss, at his inn, where Dr. Leith now lives, and that at Newbury, by Col. Thomas Johnson, in his house at the Oxbow now the residence of Henry K. Heath.

On Sept. 1, 1799, a mail route went into operation between Newbury and Danville, once a week. Gen. James Whitelaw was the first postmaster in Ryegate, Samuel Goss at Peacham, and David Dunbar at Danville. It was not till 1810, that a post office route was established beyond Danville. Jacob Fowler was the first mail carrier. Robert Whitelaw succeeded his father as postmaster, and kept the office at his house. William Gray was the next incumbent, where G. G. Nelson now lives, and his successors were Alexander Harvey, George Cowles, Alexander Cochran and John A. McLam, all in the store at the Corner.

After the railroad was completed to St. Johnsbury the stage from Wells River to Danville was taken off, and the stage from Wells River to Groton went around by Ryegate Corner, and there was no office at Boltonville. In 1865, the latter office was re-opened, and the Ryegate mail was brought up from Boltonville for some years.

It took people some time to get adjusted to the new way of having a post office in their own town, as witness the following among the Johnson papers at Newbury, from the Ryegate minister :—

Mr. Johnson.

Sir: I have been astonished why my newspapers did not come forward regularly since I came here, as they came regularly in the other parts of the Union. I begin now to conceive it is because that when I did not know that the Post went further than Newbury, I directed them sent to the care of Mr. Wallace, as the place whence I could expect them most regularly. but as there is now a Post Office in this township, you will oblige me much if you send them forward to Mr. Whitelaw’s until I shall be writing to Philadelphia, and I shall order them to be directed to myself. I expect, Sir, you will be so kind as to send them right forward by Mr. Fowler to me for the future and oblige your Humb’l. Serv’t.,

WM. GIBSON.

Ryegate, July 18, 1800.

Newspaper postage was very high. In 1799, the postage on the Portsmouth Chronicle to Ryegate was $1.75 per annum, on the Connecticut Courant 85 cents, and on the Boston Centinel $1.50. In 1798, Col. Asa Porter of Haverhill paid $2.60 postage on the General Advertiser, printed twice each week at Philadelphia. As late as 1817, Rev. Mr. Lambert of Newbury had to pay 78 cents postage on the Boston Recorder. The lowest rate of postage on newspapers was one cent on each copy, for distances less than 100 miles.

When it cost eight cents or more to send a letter, and only one cent to send a newspaper, people contrived to communicate with each other at small expense, by sending a paper in which letters and words were marked, which read consecutively, made sentences.

The first newspaper printed in this part of the Connecticut valley was the Orange Nightingale and Newbury Morning Star, which was published for a few months in 1796, by Nathaniel Coverly, Jr. No complete copy of a single number is known to be in existence, but part of a single number, for Aug. 25, is preserved. The enterprise was short-lived, and the type and fixtures were sold to Parley & Goss of Peacham, and used in the publication of the first paper in Caledonia County, called the "Green Mountain Post." This paper was also short-lived, and the materials were taken to Danville, and used in starting the "North Star," in 1804.

The postage on newspapers was so high that country editors found it for their advantage to have their papers distributed by private carriers, and the fragment of the Newbury paper, owned by the library at that place, contains the following notice:

NEW POST.

Phillip Rawlins proposes riding as Post thro the towns of Reigate, Barnet and Peacham, in each of which towns any person who wishes to become a subscriber for the Orange Nightingale will be supplied at the moderate price of ten shillings per annum. In Duesburg, (Danville) Cabot, Walden arid Hardwick at Twelve Shillings, and through Greens-borough and Craftsborough for Fourteen Shillings per annum. Those persons who will please to favor him with their commissions may depend on having their business strictly attended to. Newbury, Aug. 25, 1796.

The last sentence means that the post rider also executed commissions, carried letters and parcels, and as this was three years before there was any post office or mail route north of Newbury, Phillip Rawlin’s service, however brief, was the beginning of postal service in the north part of the state. For many years after its establishment the Danville North Star was distributed by carriers.

In the last decade of the 18th century the rapid development of the towns in the valley above Barnet demanded better facilities for transportation through that town and Ryegate, to the head of water navigation at Wells River. The unwillingness of both towns to tax themselves for the building and maintenance of expensive roads, mainly for the benefit of other towns, and the outcome of certain suits at law, for damages resulting from bad roads, led to the formation of the Passunipsic Turnpike Company, and the building of the Passumpsic Turnpike, an enterprise considered in its day almost as great as was the building of the Passumpsic Railroad, forty-five years later.

That was the age of turnpikes, enterprises which sought to provide a way of transportation at the expense of those who availed themselves of it.

The company was chartered by the General Assembly. in 1805, and consisted of James Whitelaw of Ryegate, Timothy Haseltine, Enos Stevens and Roman Fyler of Barnet, Azarias Williams of Lyndon, Luther Jewett and Joseph Lord of St. Johnsbury, Benjamin Porter and Asa Tenney of Newbury. They were given authority to construct and maintain the road, for which service they were to receive tolls for each person, animal, or vehicle, passing over it, and to maintain toll gates at which such tolls were to be collected.

Certain specified persons were exempt from toll—physicians, residents whose dwellings lay upon the road, persons on their way to or from church, grist or saw mill, or to do military duty. Later, residents of both towns were exempt from toll.

The charter was for a turnpike from the mouth of Wells River "as far as the house of Deacon Twaddle, in Barnet," and to be not less than 18 feet in width.

William Cahoon of Lyndon, Presbury West of St. Johnsbury, Joseph Armington of Waterford, James Whitelaw of Ryegate, and Thomas Johnson of Newbury, were the committee appointed to locate the road, which was surveyed by Andrew Lockie. The distance from Newbury line to Barnet line was seven miles, 121 rods, 15 links. The construction of the road began in 1807, near the month of Joe’s brook in Barnet, and about a mile was constructed in that year. In 1808 the road was completed to the Ryegate line, when a special act of the legislature granted the privilege of taking half toll. Later the road was extended, a few miles at a time, to Wells River. It is understood that about $26,000 was spent on the road at the outset, and, later, alterations costing about $7,000 were made in Ryegate and Barnet. These alterations amounted to nearly seven miles, and the result was to give the region a better road than it had ever known before. Such portions of the roads already existing as could be utilized, were surrendered to the company, and new locations were made where they would be an improvement. Part of the road in Ryegate was built by James Beattie, and the huge wooden plow used in its construction is preserved in the Fairbanks Museum at St. Johnsbury.

Mr. A. J. Finlay gives the location of the turnpike in Ryegate thus:

"It was the same as now traveled from Barnet village to the Ryegate line, north of the railroad crossing. It ran over the Mclndoe hill by Hazen Burbank’s log house, through the Moore farm, by a house owned by Mr. Moore, but not by the buildings where the Moores now live. It then ran by the McCole’s, where Elmer Chamberlin now lives, then by the Pollard’s, where Horace Chamberlin lives, then through the Gibson and Beattie farms (the latter now owned by Wm. J. Smith), passing the buildings some distance back from where they are now.

It then passed the Manchester buildings, through the Nelson farm, now owned by Charles M. Wallace, and then by the Henderson buildings on the farm now owned by Martin Gibson. It then passed by the place where the Page’s now live, and by the brick house built and used as a tavern by Andrew Warden, where A. A. Miller has long lived; thence to Wells River."

Mr. James Gilfillan says that the first toll gate was on the Beattie farm, later moved to the place now owned by Martin Turner, between Mclndoes and Barnet. After a time, and for the last time, it was located just south of Mr. Finlay’s house at Mclndoes. A small brick house stood there which was occupied by a Scotchman by name of Monteith, who wove stockings and took tolls.

The location of the other toll gates cannot be given. The rates of toll were changed from time to time, and it is not necessary to follow them.

James Whitelaw was the first clerk and treasurer, and after him Robert Whitelaw held the same offices. Several notices of assessments upon the stock of the company are preserved, and later notices of dividends, which show that the enterprise did something more than pay expenses. Taverns were opened along the turnpike by Thomas Nelson and Andrew Warden, and perhaps others.

But turnpikes were never popular, and there was always more or less friction between the towns and the company. Ryegate and Barnet people considered that the road was managed for the benefit of people in the towns above them, while the latter seriously objected to paying tolls, and wanted a road built and maintained by the towns through which it passed. In 1824, on petition, a committee was appointed by the Supreme Court to layout a new road from Wells River to Barnet line, which would be made and maintained by the town, a free road. Archibald Park was appointed to lay a remonstrance before the court. The towns having either to pay tolls on the turnpike, or build a new road, instructed the selectmen to make the best bargain they could with the turnpike corporation, desiring that Ryegate people should pass the gate free of toll, the town assisting in its maintenance. At the same time the town contrived to evade the building of the new road, and in 1826, Judge Cameron was appointed to appear before the legislature with counsel, and have the Supreme Court report set aside, and the selectmen made a compromise with the directors of the turnpike. The legislature authorized the purchase by the town of shares in the turnpike stock, and thus secured a voice in its management, and the freedom of the road to Ryegate people.

Some years later, a long and costly suit by the town of Barnet, to recover the cost of building about a mile of highway, upon which, after its completion, the turnpike company had been allowed to relay its own road, was decided against the town by the Supreme Court, reversing the decision of the lower courts. This tended to further increase the unpopularity of the turnpike.

Under an act of the legislature of 1839, John Armington and 321 others petitioned the Supreme Court, and a committee was appointed to lay out a public road through Ryegate and Barnet to Wells River, along the line of the turnpike, and the committee awarded the sum of $4,000, to be paid the company, as the value of its franchise. Of this $76.00 was to be paid by Newbury, $2,094 by Ryegate, and $1,830 by Barnet, Henry Stevens of Barnet, president of the company, brought suit to determine the constitutionality of the law, which, being established, the turnpike company ceased to exist.

The decision of the court expressed the situation in these words: "It cannot escape the observation of any one that the lapse of about half a century since the granting of the franchise must have made a considerable difference in the public worth, and the public claims to a free highway."

Another venture, which never got far beyond its organization, was the Boston & Montreal Turnpike Co., which was chartered in 1809, whose incorporators were William Chamberlin and Jonathan Elkins, of Peacham, Benjamin Porter, Asa Tenney and William Wallace of Newbury, Asa Porter of Haverhill, Micah Barron of Bradford, and Samuel C. Crafts of Craftsbury. The men behind this scheme were prominent business men, all the way from Boston to Montreal, who were interested in opening a stage line between these two cities, and the development of the intervening country. Several interesting letters respecting the road, the resources of the northern part of the state and the part of Canada between Montreal and Richford, are among the Johnson and Whitelaw papers. The survey line of the proposed road, by General Whitelaw, beginning at David Johnson’s store at Newbury, and ending at Canada Line in Berkshire, now preserved at Montpelier, is valuable as giving the precise residence of many persons at that time in the northern part of the state, as well as showing the location of the Hazen Road, from which it only varies in short sections. The entire distance was 73 miles, and some of the intervening data are worth preserving. The distances are computed "from the cornerat Mr. Clough’s house" (where Mrs. Erastus Baldwin now lives) in Wells River village, and nine miles and a fraction brings it to Barnet line, "just beyond Hauhilan’s Brook," 10 3/4 miles "to the corner near Peter Buchanan’s," 14 miles to Peacham Corner "where the road from Chelsea to Danville crosses," 20 miles to Cabot line, 281/2 to Lamoille river in Hardwick, 37 to Craftsbury Common, 54 "to Hazen’s Notch at the top in Westfield," from which 15 miles brought the road to Missisquoi river.

But troubles which preceded the breaking out of the war of 1812, the deaths of several who were prominent in the enterprise, together with several successive "bad years," caused its abandonment. In September, 1810, the town was indicted by the grand jury for failure to keep the Hazen Road in repair, and the town had to raise a special tax to meet the cost of the repairs ordered by the committee. In 1821, an act of the legislature declared the road from Wells River through the center of Ryegate, (the Hazen Road), to be part of a "Market Road" from Canada, and in 1824, on petition of some inhabitants of towns north of it, a committee was appointed by the court to alter the road in certain places, and assess one-half the cost upon the town.

Before the Passumpsic Turnpike Company passed out of existence. people had for several years discussed the project of building a railroad up the Connecticut and Passumpsic valleys to Canada, and a charter was granted Nov. 10, 1835, for a railroad from Massachusetts line in the town of Vernon to Canada line in the town of Derby. No work was ever done under that charter, which became void. A second charter was granted in 1843, under the name of "The Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers Railroad," and the corporation was organized at Wells River, Jan. 15, 1846, with Erastus Fairbanks of St. Johnsbury as president. The road was completed for business to Wells River, Nov. 6, 1848, and with its opening a new era began for Ryegate and all the north country. The old and slow methods of travel, transportation, and the transmission of intelligence had passed. New York and Boston, only reached before by long and tedious journeys, were now only a day’s ride away. The telegraph which soon followed brought tidings from far distant cities.

The change which had come was not perceived at once. It took people nuch time to adjust themselves to modern ways; meanwhile the change went on. The first locomotive whistle heard in the town was the signal for a new era, and changes, not always for the better, set in.

Work began on the railroad above Wells River, Dec. 17, 1849, trains began to run to Mclndoes, Oct. 7, 1850, and the road was completed to St. Johnsbury on the 23rd of November in that year.

The present Montpelier and Wells River Railroad was chartered in 1867, work was begun upon it in the summer of 1871, and it was cornpleted to Montpelier in 1873. The subsequent history of the railroad is not a part of the annals of the town.


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