The mass of rock that rises abruptly from the east bank of the Connecticut at Bellows Falls was early known as “Falls Mountain,” later, “Fall Mountain,” and it was not until Tuesday, September 23, 1856, that it received its present name, “Mount Kilburn.”
The class of ’57 of Amherst College, to the number of twenty-nine, came here on the noon train of that day, and early in the afternoon were joined by fifteen members of the class of ’57 of Middlebury College, and five or six seniors from Dartmouth. All were guests of the Amherst class, which had inaugurated the movement and were the principals in the exercises, aided by Dr. Stearn, president of Amherst, and the elder Dr. Hitchcock, also of Amherst, one of the most noted geologists of that time. An invitation had been extended to the senior class of Dartmouth to be present, also as guests of Amherst, but President Lord had declined to accept.
After dinner, at the Island house, the Bellows Falls band headed a procession consisting of the students and a number of local invited guests which marched across the river and to the top of the mountain, Professor Hitchcock calling the attention of those present to certain interesting geological formations during the ascent. After reaching the summit and admiring the beautiful view of the valley from that point, a selection was rendered by the band, and Dr. Stearn, in a few words, stated the object of the gathering, and introduced J. H. Boalt, a member of the Amherst class, as the orator chosen to perform the christening rites. Mr. Boalt began speaking from a granite platform, when he was accosted by a student purporting to be a New Hampshire man, who objected to the naming of the mountain by those from Massachusetts, giving his reasons therefore. He was followed by another student representing the Vermont people, who gave reasons why such an act as the christening of the mountain should not be done without due regard to Vermonters.
Another in the garb of the Irishman, and imitating well his brogue, expressed great indignation that they should think of “takin’ way his mountin.” He had squatted on it and the ” praste ” had told him that this was a free country, and that whoever squatted on any part of it could claim it as his own. Being told that the “praste” had given his consent, Patrick waives his claim and tells them “to take the mountin and along wid ye.” D. H. Rogan, of the Amherst class, represented Texas’ objections to the ceremony, closing his speech with a tribute to the red man.
I. C. Clapp, also of the class, came forward, clothed from head to foot in Indian costume, representing himself to be the only survivor of a numerous tribe that once roved over these hills and valleys. In a simple and interesting manner, he recounted the traditions of his tribe, pointed out their various haunts as seen from the mountain, and in tones of sadness pictured the wrongs that they had suffered at the hands of the paleface. Appealing to the sympathies of his auditors, he asked if it was not his right to affix a name to this mountain, once the free hunting ground of his tribe. All cried out, “Yes, yes, yes, it is the red man’s right.” He only asked that they “give no Indian name to this mountain, for it will only serve to keep in remembrance the wronged red man; soon I shall go where my tribe has already gone, to the land of the Great Spirit; then may we be forgotten.”
Mr. Boalt was then allowed to continue his christening oration. This was followed by the class uniting in singing a song “The Titan’s Workshop.” President Stearn introduced E. G. Cobb, of the class, who delivered a second oration, after which A. L. Frisbee, also of the class, was introduced as the poet of the day. After his poem was recited, the concluding blessing terminated the exercises on the mountain, and invocation for the future pronounced by Dr. Hitchcock in a very impressive manner, as told by those present.
Later in the afternoon, the Amherst students and their guests had a notable banquet at the Island House, then managed by C. R. White. The toastmaster of the occasion was H. W. Jones, of the class, who brought out various responses to sentiments from members of the classes of the two colleges, from Rev. Dr. Clap, rector of Immanuel Church, and Rev. Samuel E. Day, pastor of the local Congregational Church. Also among the speakers were A. N. Swain and Hiram Atkins, the editors of the two Bellows Falls newspapers at that time, and a dozen or more members of the college classes. It was early evening before the party broke up and the college men departed, closing one of the memorable days in the history of Bellows Falls.
Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.