Otis Bardwell and Dan Arms

 

More than twenty-five years ago, while gathering historical facts regarding the vicinity of Bellows Falls, the writer had the following statement from Newman Weeks, then a well known resident and business man of Rutland.

"In regard to my trips by stage in my younger days, some peculiar incidents came under my observation, and they still cling to my memory. The people of Bellows Falls and Brattleboro I knew about, especially the old stage, railroad and military men.

"The Old Cheshire hotel in Keene was the noted stage lodging house from which the four- and sometimes six-horse, 16-passenger coaches left in the morning for Fitchburg and Boston. The stage agent, located at the Cheshire house, was a very large man and as stern and savage as he was large. One very popular stage driver was `Bill Hodgkins.' He always wanted the seats on the box outside to be reserved for the good-looking ladies. The stages in those early days landed at the `Old Stage Tavern,' on the narrow Elm street in Boston, Mass. Time from Rutland, Vt., to Boston was three days, and the fare was $8. The driver expected the cigars and drinks would be free at all the points where horses were exchanged.

"Now for two incidents: In 1848 I was in trade in Clarendon, Vt., with a nephew, D. W. C. Gaskill. He was going to Boston to buy a stock of goods. The cashier of the bank in Rutland asked him to take a package of $5000 to be left at the Suffolk Bank, Boston. To send by express was quite expensive, and they would take the risk. He took a peculiar way that proved safe. He used an old, badly worn sheepskin valise; put the money package in a stocking leg with other stockings, shirts, etc.; put in some old newspapers; had no lock, but fastened it with straps. The old valise was put with many others on top of the stagecoach, and at hotel stopping places over night, it was thrown off and piled with the other baggage in the wide front hall of the hotel. There was no special care taken of the old worn valise, and the cash reached the old Boston bank all right.

"On one of my return trips from Boston, Otis Bardwell was keeping a stage tavern at Walpole. Horses and drivers were changed there. The four-horse coach was driven to the door, and little Dan Arms took the reins and was waiting for the word, `All aboard.' One large, dignified, gray-haired passenger was walking back and forth on the piazza. Mr. Bardwell very politely informed him that the coach was waiting for him. He said, `Where is the driver?' He was informed that the man on the coach was the driver. ` What! That boy is to drive us over the Vermont Mountains to Rutland?' `Yes,' said Mr. Bardwell, `and if he doesn't get you there all right, I will pay all damage on demand.' Little Dan, as a young, single man, was popular because he was so very accommodating. If a good-looking school teacher had a long ways to walk, the stage would wait for her to fix her curls, and get all ready to sit on the box and watch the horses. Little Dan Arms had lots of friends, as stage driver, and, later, as conductor on the railroad."

The Daniel Arms referred to by Mr. Weeks as so popular a stage driver lived many years at Bellows Falls, and was one of the first passenger conductors on the Rutland Railroad. Later, for some years, he was ticket agent at the Bellows Falls Station and died while holding that position.

 

Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.

 

 

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