MORRISTOWN VERMONT, an irregularly outlined town in the central part of the county, lies in latitude 44 32′, and longitude 4° 20′, bounded north easterly by Hyde Park, southeasterly by Elmore, southwesterly by Stowe, and northwesterly by Johnson and Cambridge. It was granted November 6, 1780, and chartered to Moses Morse and sixty-four associates, August 24, 1781, containing 23,040 acres, until November 14, 1855, when a portion of Sterling was annexed to its territory. Sterling was a township chartered February 25, 1782, and settlement commenced therein in 1792. The people, however, soon grew tired of a separate organization. The first division of the township was made October 30, 1828, when, by an act of the legislature, two miles from the western part of the township were set to Cambridge. This was a mountainous part of the town, and included Smuggler’s Notch. November 14, 1855, the remainder of the town was divided between and annexed to Johnson, Morristown and Stowe. When the town voted to divide and annex to other towns, the vote stood forty for and ten against, so the town surrendered its organization, and all its records were left in the Morristown archives.
In surface Morristown is moderately uneven, except in the western part, the portion annexed from Sterling, where it is quite uneven. The soil is of good quality and easily cultivated, rendering the town, in point of agricultural products, second to none in the county. The timber is principally maple, beech, birch, hemlock, etc. The territory is well watered by numerous streams, the principal water-course being the Lamoille river. It enters the town near the eastern corner, passing by Morristown and Cady’s Falls, and after running four miles in the northeastern past of the town, again returns into Hyde Park. Along this river are some excellent tracts of intervale. Several good mill-sites are found throughout the town. In the southeastern part of the town are two ponds, Mott’s and Joe’s. The latter is a pretty little sheet of water, and rendered of considerable importance, in an historical point of view, from the fact that upon its shores once dwelt the old Indian, Joe, after whom the pond was named. A few words in reference to the old Redman, “the last of Coossucks,” may prove of interest :
” Captain Joe was born,” says Thompson’s Gazetteer, in Nova Scotia, but upon the overthrow of the eastern Indians, he, while quite young, went to St. Francis. His wife was called Molly. Joe was mild and inoffensive in his disposition, and used to boast that he had never pointed a gun at a man.
He had a strong antipathy to the English, who had killed his friends in Nova Scotia, and during the Revolution was a warm friend to the American cause. He and Molly once visited and shook hands with Gen. Washington, at his headquarters on the Hudson river, and ate at the General’s table after the officers had dined. After the war, such was his dislike to the king of England, he would never enter his domains, though strongly urged by the Indians to return to St. Francis. Having followed a moose two days, on one occasion, and finding at length that it had crossed the line into Canada, he stopped short and said, “Good bye, Mr. Moose,” and relinquished the pursuit. He spent his time principally in hunting through all the northwestern parts of the State, and many anecdotes are related respecting his encounters with the wild beasts of the forest. Joe survived Molly many years. When he became old and unable to support himself, the legislature of Vermont granted him an annual pension of seventy dollars. He died at Newbury, February 19, 1819, aged about eighty years. His gun was found loaded, and was discharged over his grave.”
The geological structure of the town consists of an immense bed of talcose schist, cut, in the eastern part, by a long, narrow bed of clay slate. These formations, however, are modified by the several rocks that usually enter into this strata.
In 1880, Morristown had a population of 2,099, and in 1882 was divided into fourteen school districts and contained fourteen common schools, employing one male and thirty-six female teachers, to whom was paid an aggregate salary of $3,477.68. There were 559 pupils attending common school, while the entire cost of the schools for the year, ending October 31st, was $4,052.22, with I. N. LeBaron, superintendent.
Morrisville, a post village located in the northern part of the town on the Lamoille river, and also a station on the St. J. & L. C. R. R., which crosses the northern part of the township, is one of the most thriving little villages in the State. The country surrounding the village abounds in exquisite scenery, rendering drives and strolls, in any direction that fancy may direct, most delightful. A few rods west of the village the picturesque Lamoille trembles on the brink of a precipice twenty feet deep and thirty broad, then dashes itself over, in a beautiful sheet of water, to the channel below. This channel the early settlers denominated the “pulpit,” from the resemblance of a rock at the north end of the chasm. The foundations of this rock, however, the action of the waters gradually weakened, until finally, a few years since, it tottered and fell, so the resemblance is not as apparent as it once was. On the west side of the chasm the rocks rise perpendicularly to the height of thirty feet, and the beholder, while standing on the edge of this precipice, sees the whole body of the river plunged down at his feet into this boiling caldron, from which it escapes through a channel at the south end, and immediately spreading itself out, encircles numerous islands, whose high, jagged points are covered with a thick growth of cedar and fir, and altogether presents a Scene of grandeur and beauty Seldom surpassed. The rocks at the foot of the falls present many curious Specimens of the wonder-working power of water, there being large pot-holes worn in the solid rock, Some of which are nearly eight feet deep and four feet in diameter. These falls not only form a sublime picture of nature, but they afford one of the best mill powers in the State. This natural facility long since was utilized, and the hum of machinery in several busy manufactories of various kinds is constantly heard. The first mill in the town was built here in 1798, by Capt. John Safford, who came here from Windsor, Massachusetts. He also built the first frame house. In 18 12, he built the first grist-mill. The post office was established here April I, 1834, with Levi B. Vilas, postmaster. The village now has, aside from its manufacturing interests, four churches, (Methodist, Congregational, Universalist and Christian,) an academy and graded school, two hotels, twelve or fifteen stores of various kinds, and a thrifty population of about one thousand.
Cady’s Falls, a handsome little post village lying about two miles north-west of Morrisville, on the Lamoille river, is a station on the St. J. & L. C. R. R. It contains one church (Union), a grist, saw, and planing-mill, blacksmith shop, and about a dozen dwellings. The first grist-mill erected here was in 1831, by Cady & Atkins. The church was erected in 1865-’66, at a cost of about $2,000.00. The building has not been used for church purposes during the past year, and is now owned by N. Town and N. Terrill.
Morristown Four Corners
Morristown Four Corners (Morristown p. o.) is a hamlet located a little north of the central part of the town, containing a church (Baptist), and ten or twelve dwellings.
The People’s Academy
The People’s Academy, located at Morrisville, was incorporated in 1847. The land upon which the building is located was donated the previous year by Jedediah Safford, and willing citizens soon contributed money and labor for the erection of the original building, which cost about $1,000.00. School was first opened September 1, 1847, with O. C. Pitkin, A. B., now of Syracuse, New York, as principal, and Miss Julia Bliss and Miss Elizabeth Pitkin, assistants. Mr. Pitkin remained in charge only about two years, since which time there have been many changes. The school was established under most favorable circumstances, there being pupils in attendance from several counties and from Canada during the first term. In 1866, the common school was graded, and the school building moved to the south of the academy. The school was systematically graded, the higher department being called the People’s Academy and Morrisville Graded School, and the lower grades the Primary Department. In 1874, the old academy building was sold and removed, and the present handsome and substantial building erected upon the site, at a cost of about $10,000.00, school in the meantime being held in the town-hall. The academy now has a good library, an extensive philosophical apparatus, together with all the appurtenances of a first-class educational institution, under the charge of H. S. Wilson, A. B., principal.
Manufacturing and Industry in Morristown
J. Safford &’ Son’s saw, and grist-mill, located at Morrisville, was built in 1866. The grist-mill has four runs of stones, and has been operated by the present firm since 1853. In connection with the grist-mill they have machinery for sawing chair stock. They employ eight men, and during the year 1881, dressed 1,000,000 feet of lumber.
E. E. Fosters granite and marble works, located at Morrisville, were established in 1870. Mr. Foster employs eight men, and manufactures all kinds of work.
W. S. Cheney‘s starch factory, located at Morrisville, was built by T. C. Ryder, in 1872. The factory is a large building, 40×60 feet, and four stories in height. Mr. Cheney uses from 10,000 to 15,000 bushels of potatoes per year, and manufactures about seventy-five tons of starch.
The Morrisville foundry was built by E. B. Merriam, in 1872. Mr. H. H. Morgan, the present proprietor, came into possession of the property in 1874. He employs four men in the manufacture of stoves and general job work.
George H Elmore‘s carriage shop, located at Morrisville, was built by the present proprietor in 1876. Mr. Elmore employs six men in the manufacture of all kinds of wagons, carriages, and sleighs.
E. B. Reed‘s planing-mill and job shop, located at Cady’s Falls, came into the hands of the present proprietor in 1867. The building was originally used as a woolen-mill.
Cady’s Falls grist, saw, and carding-mill is owned and operated by N. L. Manning. The grist-mill operates three runs of stones, and the saw-mill has the capacity for sawing 100,000 feet of lumber per annum. The mill has also a tannery connected, and machinery for manufacturing chair stock.
William A. Thayer‘s butter-tub manufactory, located on road 44, was established by Mr. Thayer, in 1864.
W. W. Peck‘s steam saw-mill, located in the western part of the town, on road 46, was built in 1881, and commenced running January 9, 1882. Mr. Peck manufactures about 1,500,000 feet of lumber per year.
J. A. Ferguson‘s saw-mill, located on road 40, came into the possession of the present owner, in 1881. The mill is operated by water-power, furnished with a circular saw, and has the capacity for cutting 1,000 feet of lumber per hour.
James J. Billings‘s clapboard-mill, located in the southwestern part of the town, on road 72, was originally used as a saw-mill, from which it was remodeled to suit the purposes for which it is now used.
Josiah Trow‘s granite manufactory, located at Morrisville, was established by the present proprietor in 1878. He manufactures all kinds of granite and marble work.
H. C. Boardman‘s saw-mill, located on road 361, was built by Mr. Boardman, in 1870. The mill is supplied with shingle, planing, and matching machinery, and has the capacity for cutting 1,000 feet of lumber per hour.
C. F. Whitney‘s saw-mill, located on road 36k, has the capacity for cutting 1,000 feet of lumber per hour, and has a chair-stock and cider-mill attached.
The Lamolle Valley pulp-mill, located at Morrisville, was established in 1881. The firm employs eight men, and manufactures five tons of pulp per day.
Clark and Daniel‘s butter-tub factory, located at Morrisville, employs ten hands and has the capacity for manufacturing 300 butter-tubs per day.
Early Settles of Morristown
Settlement was commenced in Morristown during the spring of 1790, by Jacob Walker, who came from Bennington, accompanied by his brother, who shortly after returned. Mr. Walker remained here during the summer, making his home at the house of John McDaniel, in Hyde Park, to which place he returned on Saturday night, going out again on Monday, with provisions sufficient to last him through the week. In this way he labored through the summer, and in the fall he returned, to Bennington. In the spring of 1791, Mr. Walker brought his family here, and continued through the summer, and in the fall again returned to Bennington. In the spring of 1792, Mr. Walker and his family came to the town, accompanied by Mr. Olds and his family.
They built a camp, in which Mr. Walker and wife, Mr. Olds and wife, and two hired men, lived two months, during which time Gov. Butler, of Waterbury, paid them a visit. At the end of two months a house had been erected, into which they all moved. In the fall, Mr. Walker removed to Fairfax, leaving Mr. Olds and family here alone. Mrs. Olds was the first woman who wintered in the town. Their nearest neighbors, 0n the south, were at Waterbury, fourteen miles distant, and no road. The nearest mill was at Cambridge, twenty miles distant. Settlers soon began to come in, however, so that the census reports for 1800, show the town to have had a population of 144.
The town was organized in 1796, with Comfort Olds, town clerk. As the records are missing it is impossible to state who constituted the remaining list. As near as can be ascertained, however, the first selectmen were Comfort Olds, Nathaniel Goodale, and Crispus Shaw. John Shaw was probably the first constable. The first justice was Micajah Dunham, in 1796. Elisha Boardman was the first representative, in 1804.
The meeting of the proprietors of Morristown was called at Pownal, May 19, 1784, when Nathaniel Morse served as moderator, and Joseph Hinsdale, clerk. At this meeting it was voted to lay out the first division, January 17, 1787, 105 acres to each proprietor’s right. Joseph Hinsdale, of Bennington, was elected surveyor of the first and second divisions. The second division was made in 1787, and the third in 1794, the latter being made by Micajah Dunham, of Morristown. The first road was laid out June 1800. The first transfer of proprietor’s rights was that of two shares, for the consideration of £36, by Daniel Kinne, of Partridgeville, Massachusetts, to Ezekiel Williams, of Weathersfield, Connecticut, April 1, 1781. The first frame buildings in the town were erected by Capt. John Safford and his son, Jedediah, in 1798. They consisted of a dwelling and corn barn, The latter is still in a good state of preservation, and is used as a horse barn by Dexter Place. The first funeral was held in this building, that of Mrs. Daniel Fletcher, a daughter of Capt. Safford. The first school was kept by Martha Brigham, afterwards the wife of Nathan Gates, Jr., in a barn owned by judge Samuel Cook. The first physician to locate here was Ralph Tinker, about 1802. The first settled minister was Rev. Daniel Rockwell, a Congregationalist. The first church building was a two-story brick structure, 40×60 feet, erected in 1824, by the Congregationalist and Calvinist Baptist, by whom it was used for many years. The first birth in the town was September 14, 1792, a daughter of Jacob Walker, named Lemira. The first death was that of Lydia Fletcher, wife of Daniel Fletcher, and daughter of John Safford, July 10, 1799, aged thirty-one years.
In the war of 1812, Jonathan Cook, Harvey Olds, and six others enlisted for six months. Joseph Burke, Adam Sumner, and Clement and Thompson Stoddard, also enlisted during the war. During the civil war Morrisville furnished 164 enlisted men, twenty-six of whom were killed in battle, or died from the effects of wounds received, or diseases contracted while in the service.
The First Congregational Church
The First Congregational Church of Morristown, located at Morrisville, was organized July 14, 1807, by Rev. Jonathan Hovey, the meeting being held in Jacob Walker‘s barn. No house of worship, for any denomination, was built until 1823, when a large brick house was erected at the Four Corners, by the Congregational and Baptist societies. In 1839-’40, the wood structure at Morrisville was built, and enlarged and improved in 1857, and again in 1873, so that it is now a neat building, capable of comfortably seating 300 persons, and valued at $8,000.00. The first settled pastor was Rev. Daniel Rockwell, in 1824. The society now has 125 members, with Rev. William A. Bushee, pastor.
The Christian Church
The Christian Church of Morristown, was organized November 13, 1828, by Jabez Newland, John Orcott, and Royal Haskell, with nineteen members. The society is now in a prosperous condition, with Rev. E. W. West, pastor.
The Free Will Baptist Church
The Free Will Baptist Church, located at Morristown Four Corners, has a church building capable of seating 200 persons, valued $,200.00, with Rev. L. Sargent, pastor.
The Methodist Church
The Methodist Church, located at Morrisville, has a flourishing society, with Rev. Clark Wedgeworth, pastor.