The observance of the sesquicentennial at Bennington reminded a number of the older residents of Bellows Falls and vicinity of the happenings here locally, and the preparations for the celebration that took place fifty years ago in the observance of the centennial of the battle. Col. George W. Hooker of Brattleboro was the marshal commanding the second division in the parade at Bennington, and had as his aides from here George H. Babbitt, assistant quartermaster; Dr. Frank Whitman, surgeon; B. T. Phelps, assistant provost marshal; and as additional aides Barney Cannon, Jr., Wyman Flint, A. H. Fisher, E. E. Dewey and George K. Russell.
Brigadier General F. G. Butterfield, who was then a merchant in Saxtons River, had the handling of the local Civil War veterans who took so important a part in that celebration. He had over 30 from his section of the town, and with the immediately surrounding towns made an important part of the parade. They marched across the mountain from Brattleboro with the county delegation, and the Boston Journal of the next day gave this account of the trip and their appearance:
“The Windham County Old Soldiers Battalion, uniformed in blue blouses and commanded by Col. George W. Hooker, who had a mounted staff of about fifty men, left Brattleboro at half past eight Monday morning. The command reached Marlboro at noon and took dinner there, then marched on to Wilmington, where they spent the night, and gave a serenade by the Brattleboro Cornet Band; left Wilmington at five o’clock Tuesday morning, and reached the Crawford House, Woodford, in time for dinner, after which the march was resumed toward Bennington, where the veterans arrived at half past four Tuesday afternoon.
“As the column, headed by the various brass bands, marched along, the sidewalks were thronged with spectators, whose huzzas rent the air, while their hearts were stirred at the sight of the empty sleeves of battle-scarred soldiers whose brave deeds are recorded in the history of the Vermont volunteers. At the Putnam House, where the columns passed under the triumphal arch, cheer upon cheer greeted the Green Mountain Boys in Blue, which Col. Hooker acknowledged. The ladies waved their handkerchiefs, and, amid such greetings, the veterans, with steady step moved on, proud of the part they were to take in the festivities of the approaching celebration. All along the route, even to the camp ground, a hearty welcome was extended, and the march of the Veterans from Brattleboro to Bennington will pass into history as one of the principal events of the centennial celebration.”
Another event readily recalled by several local residents was the call here on Saturday of that week of President Hayes, who had been at Bennington and spent Friday at Brattleboro and Fayetteville. He was on his way to Windsor where he was to be the guest of the Hon. Wm. M. Evarts. Here at Bellows Falls, it was known that the special train was scheduled to go through about ten in the forenoon and a great crowd had assembled some hours earlier. When the train arrived, a committee of local citizens waited upon him and asked that he speak to the crowd, which he did briefly, closing by quoting from Lincoln when urgently called to speak during that historic ride to Washington in 1861: “I suppose you are here to see me, and I am here to see you, and I have to inform you that I think I have the best of the bar-gain.” With the President and Mrs. Hayes were Birchard and Webb Hayes and several state officials.
During the entire week of that centennial, there were run three special trains daily between Bellows Falls and Bennington. Such important changes have come in methods of transportation in the 50 years that, while the crowds there were probably larger, and also a greater number from Bellows Falls, no increased railroad facilities were required this week. It is pretty certain that fewer people “marched” across the mountain, however.
Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.