Brattleboro History

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Noah Bennett, Born In Brattleboro July 6, 1784

Thomas St. John

Brattleboro Post Cards And Photographs

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Civil War Hospital

Officer Of The Guards Quarters, Chapel, Assistant Surgeons' Quarters

Corner Atwood And Sunny Acres, High School Grounds

Civil War Hospital presents extensive photographs and details Brattleboro life during the War of the Rebellion. Here are the barracks, the first winter's mutiny, the quinine in the soup, patient lists, searching for spruce gum, the womens' soldier relief, the military exhibition at the Town Hall, the accidents, the pest house, the backgammon board, the medicinal cherry rum brandy recipe, the postal service, the chapel, the library, the sword presentation to the surgeons, drawings, maps, soldiers' and officers' records and speeches, the Invalid Corps on the Common on the long wooden benches, and the great achievements on "Hospital Hill".

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Seth Smith's House, From The West

Seth Smith's House describes the familiar landmark on Western Avenue, now possibly threatened---and the Smith grist mill, and the first road and bridge across the Whetstone Brook there. Seth Smith was a Minute Man during the Revolution and a Yorkist afterwards. Ethan Allen came this way. Seth Smith's niece was Chloe Smith, Mrs. Rutherford Hayes, the grandmother of President Rutherford Birchard Hayes. Seth Smith's grandson was Jedediah Smith, the famed mountain man and explorer in the West, who was killed by Comanche lances on May 27, 1831.

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Colonel John Hunt Farm, Cotton Mill Hill, Simon Brooks Farm

View From New Hampshire Across Connecticut River

The Fort Dummer Site is a wonderful introduction to how the Fort Dummer area has looked and changed over the years---the artifacts, roads, farms, the detailed maps constructed from the land records.

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Hayes Tavern Sign

Painted By Gravestone Cutter Stephen Risley, Jr. About 1808

The Rutherford Hayes Tavern stood on the old road to Marlboro, with Chloe Smith Hayes as the pious and efficient proprietress. This is the best-known and well-described Colonial house in Brattleboro history---not only because the grandson was President Rutherford B. Hayes.

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Mammoth Tusk describes the discovery of this fossil on what is now called Solar Hill or Harris Hill in September 1865. A reference in the land records to "Blake's pasture", and the presence of white quartz intrusions in the blue limestone on the north of Western Avenue, disproved the notion that this tusk was found in Wilson's Woods near the high school.

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The Brooks Library 1905

The Old Brooks Library is a long pictorial history and virtual tour of the elegant, beloved American library on Main Street that was torn down over forty years ago.

The paintings, antiques, old newspapers, portraits, the old card catalogues, historical documents, letters, furniture, the formerly public, accurate, and protective accession lists, and the statuary represented here have now been greatly vandalized, stolen, scattered, concealed, censored, and outright destroyed by pillaging collectors, by continual "gifting" to the corrupt, predatory chop shop called the "Brattleboro Historical Society", and by covert removals by elite library staff.

The massive damage from this deliberate, ugly attack on Brattleboro's rich historic records in the library, several local church archives, museums, and the Town Clerk's office, by succeeding Marxist administrations, in their violent attempts to purify history through politically correct liquidation, cannot now be repaired.

It is vitally important to remember when Brattleboro once had a popular, beautiful, Christian, honest, and free library that was a genuine source of great pride, a library always supporting other, now also threatened, worthy New England and American traditions in Brattleboro.

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Levi Goodenough Farm

The Levi Goodenough Farm is an architectural treasure on the Goodenough Road in West Brattleboro, built in 1783, and never wired for electricity. Rev. Hosea Ballou, 2d preached sermons in its large attic for the early Brattleboro Universalists. The writer H. P. Lovecraft visited Arthur H. Goodenough there during 1927-1928 and his house was the setting for the classic horror tale "The Whisperer in Darkness".

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Engd by Thos. Chubbuck, Bratto

The Brattleboro Stamp describes Dr. Frederick N. Palmer---music teacher, dentist, bookseller, and Brattleboro postmaster, who invented the famous 1846 provisional stamp, and finally, a life-long homeopathic physician. The scores for five waltzes and one rollicking polka that Frederick N. Palmer composed in Brattleboro, and published in Boston in 1844 are presented here as originally published, and soon orchestrations for piano, organ, and five-piece band will be available, complete with scores and notes, from Lin Barrell of Illinois---

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Polka #6 Score For Piano

Courtesy Of Lin Barrell

William A. Conant Violins concerns the violin maker, master craftsman who lived on Canal Street for so long at his labor, who was taught first by cabinetmaker Anthony Van Doorn, then by John Woodbury, and finally praised by the great Remini, concert violinist. Learn more about William Conant violins and cellos.

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Main Street In Autumn 1866

George Harper Houghton

George Harper Houghton's Photograph looks at the wealth of detail and activity seen in this glassplate negative taken from an upper window in the Anthony Van Doorn building.

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Woman In Black At Monument To James Fisk, Jr.

Brattleboro Epitaphs is a collection of over two hundred epitaphs, with their inscriptions, and photographs from the Prospect Hill Cemetery, Locust Ridge, Meetinghouse Hill Cemetery, Glen Street (Old Village), and the Mather Street cemeteries.

Our stonecutters are Ebenezer Soule, Sr. and his son Ivory Soule from Hinsdale, New Hampshire, Henry Ide and George H. Ide, John and Henry Locke, Ebenezer Janes, Stephen Risley, Jr., and Nathaniel Kittredge.

All the inscriptions here are recorded accurately for the first time---the spellings, the precise lining, the chiselling errors, and the superscripts, as, Feby, Esqr, Daur, and ye & the inevitable yt---

In Memory of Mrs
Susanna Butterfield the wife
of Benjamin Butterfield Esqr
She Departed this life Novemr
Ye 29 1776 in the 48th
Year of her Age --
She was born in Sept ye 22d 1729

Winifred Hadley was a well-liked young seamstress who died at age seventeen, of typhoid fever, while attending school in Boston. The Brattleboro monument depicts her sitting pensively over her piecework.

Stephen Risley's Tombstones concerns the stonecutter who came from East Hartford, Connecticut in 1806 with his wife Polly, to conduct an engraving shop on the Turnpike (Western Avenue) at the corner by the North and South Mill-Road (Meadowbrook Road).

The Lost Cemetery On High Street is the account of the 1891 discovery of the abandoned burying ground for the Church and Whipple families.

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The Brattleboro Retreat Cemetery gives the story of Sarah Culy, who died in 1854 after composing an epitaph directed to her husband Hezekiah, based upon verses in the Book of Job, and chiselled into her rare soapstone gravestone. This is the old Asylum Cemetery, seen just before it became the latest victim of the culture wars in Brattleboro.

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The Old Brick Row And The American House In 1907

William Fessenden's Brattleboro Bookstore And Circulating Library follows the large two-and-a-half story brick building from its erection in 1810 on Main Street just north of the former Stephen Greenleaf homestead site and the American House, through its years as the "Brick Row" with its prominent merchant tenants, to its last days as the "Salisbury Block" and its destruction in April 1924.

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Gen. John Wolcott Phelps

Jason W. Prouty Cabinet Card

Gen. John Wolcott Phelps can make any historian ponder "the strange mutability of human affairs". An immensely likable, and equally influential man, John W. Phelps lived in a Greek Revival house, one door north from the High School, which he called "The Lindens". John Phelps sold "The Lindens" on July 13, 1882 to School District No. 2, and it then served as the Intermediate school for eighty or ninety students until it was removed, beginning in May 1884---lock, stock, and barrel---to where it stands today on the south side of Grove Street. Henry Burnham purchased the main parts of the old high school and set them down for a tenement, along the north side of Grove Street.

Rev. Jedediah Stark, the long-time serving pastor for the First Congregational Church in West Brattleboro, spoke with his congregation throughout the 1820's. His entirely forgotten history of the early settlement of Brattleboro begins in 1768 with the description of an Indian dance ring, poles, and fireplaces at a location near Cedar Street.

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Edward Crosby's Flour Mill In Summer 1857

New Connecticut River Bridge Partly Built

Robert Pender's Fort On Wantastiquet Peak

Wantastiquet History And Mine Mountain shows many new sides to that old rocky eminence across the Connecticut River. The furious mash-fed boar that escaped from the Thomas farm out the Putney road that gave the name to the mountain's cascading Hog Brook. The description of Wantastiquet in the summer of 1827 by Temperance Tidy, the seventh daughter of an early settler.

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Brattleboro Reporter February 25. 1803

The John Thomas Farm lay along the Putney Road south from Black Mountain Road. Good English malt brewed here two hundred years ago.

The Rev. William Wells Farm is described in detail by a traveller passing by in 1796. The house was built by Colonel Samuel Wells in 1773. It later served as a summer lodging for the Brattleboro Retreat's women patients. The celebrated Cold Spring provided pure water for Rev. Wells' malt distillery.

Old Jimmie Barnes And Sukie and Old Jimmie Barnes' Tale are two accounts, one given by Brattleboro's first popular historian, Henry Burnham, and another by William E. Ryther, Vermont Phoenix editor.

Henry Burnham's original series of twelve articles were published in the Vermont Phoenix starting in March 1866. "Old Jimmie Barnes and Sukie" is half way between Burnham's first lecture in February 1858 for the benefit of the Episcopal Church fund, and his final lively book, "Brattleboro, Windham County, Vermont. Early History, with Biographical Sketches of some of its Citizens" (Brattleboro: Published By D. Leonard, 1880).

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After The Connecticut River Flood In 1869

John L. Putnam's Toll House

Connecticut River Bridge 1804 gathers the scattered sources that describe the first bridge from Brattleboro across to Hinsdale, and its disastrous dedication ceremony, and its speechifying local magnates.

Service For Abraham Lincoln is the complete text for the highly-charged, lyrical service given at the Centre Congregational Church by Rev. George Palmer Tyler for the fallen President, along with articles that describe the cannon-fire, and how Brattleboro looked in mourning that April 1865.

Brattleboro Black History

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Charles H. Eddy, Grocery, Flat Street, June 1906 Advertisement

Orion Clark was the popular long-time barber in Elliot Street, and also an entrepreneur.

Black History In Brattleboro is Anne Dempsey's "Special to the Reformer" series in six parts during February 1994. Here are the forgotten black residents---the first black landowner, fugitive slaves, barbers, the women, the soldiers. There is an array of enjoyable research here.

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Frost Mansion On Flat Street

Charles C. Frost's Shoemaker's Shop And Slave Safe House

Fugitive Slaves On Flat Street concerns the only reliably documented station on the Underground Railroad in Brattleboro. Charles C. Frost sheltered roughly forty fugitive slaves at his house and shoe shop on the south side of Flat Street, successfully concealing his activity even from friends for two decades.

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Vermont Record And Farmer, October 14, 1868.

John G. Sugland worked in Brattleboro as a woodcutter along the railroad tracks after serving with the Massachusetts 54th Infantry (Colored) in the Civil War, helping Gen. William T. Sherman's march through South Carolina. Private Sugland's letter written on May 20, 1864 from Charleston, South Carolina to Addison Whithead in Vernon, Vermont is here.

Jacob Cartledge escaped on the Underground Railroad from cruelty in Georgia, then enlisted for three years as a private in the 43rd Pennsylvania Regiment. Jake came to Brattleboro in 1879, chopped wood, and worked for the Barrows Coal Company.

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Vermont Record And Farmer, May 27, 1870.

"There are few men on the street who will not miss his ready hands and ready wit."

Vermont Phoenix, June 22, 1877.

Andrew Johnson Reed met Col. John S. Tyler and Assistant Surgeon George F. Gale of Brattleboro in Virginia.

Alexander And Sally Turner established his Journey's End homestead after escaping from the Virginia plantation of John Gouldin, serving in the First New Jersey Cavalry as assistant cook and hospital orderly, and raising his great family in Grafton.

Elliot Street Chapel Riot 1837 concerns the disruptions at the Church on the Common chapel which was built three years before, and now stands on Spring Street.

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David Booth, ostler, was the son of Asahel Booth and Catharine Mawl, both from Boston and resident in Colraine, Massachusetts before moving to Guilford and Green River. He worked on Daniel Stewart Pratt's thoroughbred horse farm above Centreville, and at Henry R. Brown's livery stables on Flat Street.

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Vermont Phoenix, May 28, 1869.

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Nathan B. Williston's House

Drawn By Henry E. Brewster On Tuesday, April 30th, 1850

One Door North Of The Williston Stone Building

Main Street, East Side, Looking North-West

The Henry E. Brewster Diary describes Brattleboro during 1850-1851 from the viewpoint of an active and alert youngster. Henry Brewster was the adopted nephew of Caroline Brewster, Mrs. Nathan Birdseye Williston.

More Brattleboro History Links

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West River Bridge, Walk Your Horses

Connecticut River Forts

Arms, Clark & Company, Apothecary

The First Meeting House

Dr. William Wells, His Drowning Sermon In 1797

Samuel Elliot Opposes The War Of 1812

The Old County Road Schoolhouse

Stephen Greenleaf Jr. Describes The Early East Village

Jonathan Dunklee's County Road

The John W. Blake Mansion

The Brattleboro House Arson Fire In 1869

Meeting House Hill Cemetery In 1880

The Mansion "Lindenhurst"

Jason Bushnell's Museum

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Early Stereoview By Delano Dana Dunklee

Looking South On Asylum Street, Now Linden Street

Town Hall Antique Show 1857

Joshua Davis Powder Horn 1776

Valley Fair Antiques Show 1890

Fairbank Moore Powder Horn 1777

Robert Pender's Indian Hatchet

Elizabeth Amanda Miner And Dr. Charles L. Smith

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West River Road

Photograph 1911 By Porter C. Thayer

Used By Permission From Porter Thayer Collection - University Of Vermont

Soldiers' Cemetery On Prospect Hill

John Noyes Mead 1850

John W. Phelps Visits Meeting House Hill

Moses Platts Drowns 1816

Prospect Hill Cemetery 1840

Prospect Hill Cemetery 1844

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C. Barnard's Map No. 5 For The United States Army Corps Of Engineers 1830

Church On The Common 1816

Thanksgiving Sermon 1844

First Catholic Church 1855

Church On The Common 1832

Rev. Thomas P. Tyler Christmas Sermon 1876

John Wolcott Phelps On Connecticut River Fog

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Salisbury's Hotel Restaurant, Charles A. Tripp Watchmaker Jeweller

A. L. Pettee, Dentist, Barber Shop Pole, Thomas Judge House, Gun-Smith

Old Covered Bridge 1903

Boat Club 1860

Connecticut River Flatboat 1814

Steamboat "Greenfield" Explosion 1840

Fred C. Leitsinger's Cornet Boys' Band

John Holbrook's Witch Stairs

July The Fourth Celebrations

Old Mother Honeywell

Major Henry Smith 1845

Elliot Street Arson Fire 1886

Masquerade Ball 1887

An Evening In Brattleboro 1874

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Centre Congregational Church Balcony

Church On The Common Registered Historic Site

Photograph Taken Before Vandalizing

Meteor Shower 1833

Meteor Over Connecticut River 1860

Irish Flag 1873

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Indian Rock, Petroglyphs In Brattleboro

Photograph Taken In 1866, In Detail

Brooks House Party 1896

Thomas Stores 1815

Printer's Devil 1834

Raphael Tapestry 1843

The Harp in the Wall 1851

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James Fisk Jr. Monument

Stella Brazzi

H. M. S. Pinafore 1879

Brattleboro East Village 1753--1795

Enoch Jacobs' Marlboro History 1879

Carriage Before Frank W. Harris Place, Main Street.jpg

Adjusting The Off Wheel

Main Street In Front Of Frank Harris House

Larkin G. Mead's House, Center

Major John Arms 1762

Stephen Greenleaf Senior's Lands

Thomas Brattle 1722

Samuel Wells Land Deed 1770

Town Meeting 1768

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Seventh Vermont Regiment Stacked Muskets, August 26, 1864

Street Boys Help Guard Muskets Outside Town Hall

George Harper Houghton Photograph In Detail

Town Meeting Halls

Early Times In Brattleboro

Daniel Whipple, Vermont Census 1771

Railroad Station, Circa 1908.jpg

Early Town Records 1768

Ebenezer Fisher Arrested 1769

Samuel Elliot On Newfane Hill

Cold Spring

Albert Bennet Farm

Clark Rice Farm 1848

Main Street, Summer Traffic.jpg

Dentist Sign, Irritated Horse

Ginseng Hill 1902

Samuel Briggs 1798

Stephen Greenleaf's Toast 1821

Josiah Arms West River Farm 1804

General John W. Phelps "The Lindens"

Samuel Wells House 1773

The Elliot Street Chapel

Granite Block, Main Street

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Dr. Wesselhoeft in "Rappaccini's Daughter"

Judge Royall Tyler in The House of the Seven Gables

Una Hawthorne in Brown's Woods 1868

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Western Avenue, Baptist Church 1906

Henry Burnham "Reminicences" 1866

Helen Hunt Jackson's Sojourn 1865

Rudyard Kipling Memory 1894

Davis Brown "Newfane Hermit" 1872

Louisa Higginson's Railroad Song 1849

Henry David Thoreau's Panther 1856

Emily Dickinson Daguerreotype 1848

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January 1872 Advertisement

Steen's Corner

The Lottery 1827

Granite Block 1840

East Village Common

Edward Crosby Block 1873

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Three Bridges In Summer 1909 After April Flooding By Vernon Dam

Anthony Van Doorn House Fire 1848

Ryther's Arcade 1884

Billiard Saloon 1860

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Octagon House, Rutherford Hayes Tavern

Western Avenue At Greenleaf Street

Main Street 1854

Cannon On The Common 1899

Squabble Hollow 1850

View From Prospect Hill, Circa 1860, Wood Block Engraving.jpg

"History and Description of New England: Vermont"

Austin Jacobs Coolidge and John Brainard Mansfield

Boston: Austin J. Coolidge, 39 Court Street, Press of Geo. C. Rand, 1860.

James Capen Residence

Retaining Wall By Cemetery Before South Main Street Widened

Wesselhoeft Water Cure 1847

Elliot Street Smallpox 1848

Dr. Daniel Gilbert 1846

Brattleboro Retreat X-Ray 1899

Dr. Arms D. Putnam

The Valley Mill, Bridge Street

Charles L. Gunzinger, Artist

William Stow, Hatter

Charles Thompson's Recollections

James Fisk Procession 1858

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North Main Street Area, May 1856

Central School, John Wolcott Phelps House, Ferdinand Tyler House

James H. Capen Telegraph 1851

Brattleboro In 1824

Jacob Estey's Lead Pipes 1835

Arch Street Water Wheel 1840

Village Business Directory 1833

Rufus Pratt Meat Market 1844

West Brattleboro 1870

Franklin H. Wheeler's Reminicences

Horse Railroad 1828

John Gore Steam Wagon 1837

John Burnham Brass Foundry

Seth Wells Cheney, John Cheney

Old Shoe Peg Factory

Caleb Lysander Howe

Harmony Lot

Jonas Putnam

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James Capen House At Left, Prospect Hill Cemetery, 1860 Engraving

Willard H. Alexander

Annie L. Grout

Otis H. Cooley Daguerreotype 1847

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Judge Samuel Wells House, Upper Dummerston Road, Built In 1773

Photograph Taken In 1860

Eliphaz "Old Blind" Johnson

Charles Kellogg Wood, Circus Horseman

Elizabeth Amanda Miner And Dr. Charles L. Smith

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Flora M. Sargent 1895

Gertrude Lucy Miller 1907

Dummerston Courtship 1824

Myra Morgan 1903

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Cutler Block, Main Street, Opposite Elliot Street

Stereoview Taken By Caleb L. Howe In 1879

Tribute To Thomas Judge

Frank Van Doorn

William Gould

Edward Gould

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Hall's Long Building

Rattlesnakes On Wantastiquet

Asa Knight Store 1840

Peregrine Falcon 1858

Hydrophobia 1847

Horses On Main Street 1891

Pike Fishing 1848

Depot, Brattleboro.jpg

Early School Districts

District No. 7 Schoolhouse

West Brattleboro Society

Buffalo Soldiers In Brattleboro 1912

Samuel B. Wells Recollects Anti-Slavery 1889

Theodore H. Taylor Store 1849.jpg

Theodore H. Taylor's Drug-Hardware-Grocery Store

Hall's Long Building 1849

Formerly The Post Office

Old Footpaths In The Village 1850

Elm Street Covered Bridge 1873

Brattleboro House 1870

Creamery Bridge, Lewis R. Brown.jpg

West Brattleboro Common 1785

Old Stagecoach Days

Ancient Highway Surveys

William Harris' Footpads 1817

George Nelson Cass, The Gardiner Path, Wesselhoeft Water Cure, Circa 1850.jpg

George Nelson Cass, The Gardiner Path, Wesselhoeft Water Cure, Circa 1850

Anthony Jones Hotel On Newfane Hill

Vermont House

General John Wolcott Phelps

Capt. Dennie W. Farr, 4th Vermont Regiment

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The Blake Block, Corner Main Street, Elliot Street In 1860

Civil War Fiddle 1864

Green Mountain Boys 1775

Brattleboro Light Infantry

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View From The Hinsdale Bridge At Brattleboro, Vermont 1909

Hayes Bigelow's Steam Passenger Launch

Samuel Moore Letter 1810

Converting The Copperheads 1861

Daniel B. Stedman Civil War Letters

Stephen Greenleaf's War Pension 1838

Gettysburg Battlefield Fence Rails

Capt. Robert B. Arms Letter Home July 5, 1863

Peter S. Chase In The Wilderness

Centennial Antiques Show 1876

The First Ballot Box 1759

John Sargeant Family Bible 1752

Cardiff Giant In Revere House 1871

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Revere House


Thomas St. John

Thomas St. John, April 21, 2005.jpg

I have included here the following links to my own writing, because that work is not entirely irrelevant for any resident in Brattleboro---

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Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne created two famous literary villains, both modelled upon two very prominent men resident in Brattleboro, Dr. Robert Wesselhoeft and more importantly, Judge Royall Tyler.

Links to

Nathaniel Hawthorne On Beacon Hill contains an account of the corrupt Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, based upon Judge Royall Tyler, in "The House of the Seven Gables"---Hawthorne's literary reconciliation of crimes committed against his wife Sophia's family.

Dr. Robert Wesselhoeft became the evil figure in the tale "Rappaccini's Daughter" because Hawthorne considered him to be a villain, following an excessively invasive treatment of his wife Sophia. William Wesselhoeft, the hydropath's brother, was the Hawthorne family doctor.

Elizabeth Hunt Palmer, who lived and died here in Brattleboro with her daughter Mary Palmer Tyler, was the model for Nathaniel Hawthorne's character Hepzibah Pyncheon in The House of the Seven Gables.

Una Hawthorne in Brown's Woods recalls Una's visit here in May, 1868, when she was engaged to Storrow Higginson. Una's letter to Storrow is a botanical description of the Rev. Addison Brown's Woods, from Chase Street to the Chestnut Hill pond---following in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau's walk here in 1856.

Hawthorne And Melville is another fine chapter from "Nathaniel Hawthorne: Studies in The House of the Seven Gables".

Indian-Hating In The Wizard Of Oz is probably my best-known work, concerning the political journalist and editor Lyman Frank Baum's invention of racial symbols for his Oz fantasy, following the Wounded Knee massacre when he was living in nearby Aberdeen in the Dakota Territory.

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Dr. John Wilson

T. Covil Daguerreotype About 1842

Owned By Amasa Buckman

Kept Faced Toward A Wall

Dr. John Wilson, Captain Thunderbolt contains research about the reformed highwayman called Captain Thunderbolt, who had a L500 price on his head in Great Britain in the starvation year 1816.

Dr. John Wilson's Round Schoolhouse A pictorial and architectural history of the Brookline, Vermont tourist attraction.

Dr. John Wilson, Probate Records contains the names of creditors and debtors to Dr. Wilson's estate, often with the reason stated, as well as a complete inventory of hundreds of items remaining in the Vernon road house, saw mill, and barn.

Dr. John Wilson's House In Newfane in the village called Williamsville.

Dr. John Wilson, Captain Seth Briggs describes Dr. Wilson's treatments for Capt. Seth Briggs of West Dummerston, including electricity.

Dr. John Wilson, Descriptions, Commentary gathers together the scattered references to the Windham County country doctor.

Dr. John Wilson's Stray Horse concerns the six year old sorrel mare that was last seen at the Fort Bridgman farm in Vernon, owned by Col. Erastus Hubbard.

Dr. John Wilson's Remedy describes the doctor's treatment for Wilder Knight, his indigestion.

Dr. Gardner C. Hill, George Norman Smith, Collections Display, Benjamin A. Crown Photograph.jpg

Folding Abscess Lancet, Foreign Body Eye Spud, Spectacles

Horn Shield Fleam, Tweezers-Ear Scoop, Reading Or Surgical Glass

Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God is the famous "hellfire and brimstone" sermon preached by the Rev. Jonathan Edwards. This jeremiad is a formal execution sermon given for the nineteen black slaves in New York who were burned at the stake during that summer in 1741. Several prominent New York men who were active in "the New York Negro Riots" also purchased land that became Brattleboro.


Nathaniel Hawthorne: Hepzibah Pyncheon's Execution For A Witch

Inside "The House of the Seven Gables", Nathaniel Hawthorne concealed a short story which shows the persecution, trial, and execution of Hepzibah Pyncheon as a witch. This execution story is broken up into paragraphs, sentences, and phrases, and scattered into the text of the ongoing romance. These scattered pieces are re-assembled here. They reveal the cruel old Salem witchcraft story that Nathaniel Hawthorne wished to conceal from eyes more innocent than his own.

Hawthorne very carefully builds up a demonic aura about Hepzibah: "she expected to minister to the wants of the community, unseen, like a disembodied divinity, or enchantress, holding forth her bargains to the reverential and awe-stricken purchaser, in an invisible hand. . . She now issued forth, as would appear, to defend the entrance, looking, we must needs say, amazingly like the dragon which, in fairy tales, is wont to be the guardian over an enchanted beauty."

Satan calls Hepzibah---"She was suddenly startled by the tinkling alarum---high, sharp, and irregular---of a little bell. The maiden lady arose upon her feet, as pale as a ghost at cock-crow; for she was an enslaved spirit, and this the talisman to which she owed obedience." This "ugly and spiteful little din" betrays the appearance of Satan---

"But, at this instant, the shop-bell, right over her head, tinkled as if it were bewitched. The old gentlewoman's heart seemed to be attached to the same steel-spring; for it went through a series of sharp jerks, in unison with the sound. The door was thrust open, although no human form was perceptible on the other side of the half-window. Hepzibah, nevertheless, stood at a gaze, with her hands clasped, looking very much as if she had summoned up an evil spirit and were afraid, yet resolved, to hazard the encounter."

"Heaven help me! she groaned mentally. Now is my hour of need!"

Satan has come to tempt his servant with the riches of the world, in an American version of the temptation of Christ during his forty days in the Wilderness: "Some malevolent spirit, doing his utmost to drive Hepzibah mad, unrolled before her imagination a kind of panorama, representing the great thoroughfare of a city, all astir with customers. So many and so magnificent shops as there were!" The Pyncheon cent shop is very poor.

Hepzibah has "a sense of inevitable doom" about her nearsighted frown, or scowl, for good reason. This "scowl---a strange contortion of the brow---which, by people who did not know her, would probably have been interpreted as an expression of bitter anger and ill-will" has "done Miss Hepzibah a very ill-office, in establishing her character as an ill-tempered old maid. . .The custom of the shop fell off, because a story got abroad that she soured her small beer and other damageable commodities, by scowling on them." Moreover, in "her great life-trial. . . the testimony in regard to her scowl was frightfully important."

The laboring man Dixey testifies against her in his rough voice, "Why, her face---I've seen it; for I dug her garden for her, one year---her face is enough to frighten Old Nick himself, if he had ever so great a mind to trade with her. People can't stand it, I tell you! She scowls dreadfully, reason or none, out of pure ugliness of temper!"

One Mrs. Gubbins also condemns Hepzibah. Hawthorne describes this demonic neighbor: "there came a fat woman. . . Her face glowed with fire-heat; and, it being a pretty warm morning, she bubbled and hissed, as it were, as if all a-fry with chimney-warmth, and summer-warmth, and the warmth of her own corpulent velocity." She angrily jarred and outraged the shop bell, muttered, "The deuce take Old Maid Pyncheon!" and "took her departure, still brimming over with hot wrath".

Judge Pyncheon tells Hepzibah that he has arranged to have Clifford's "deportment and habits constantly and carefully overlooked"---in order to persecute him more effectively. "The butcher, the baker, the fishmonger, some of the customers of your shop, and many a prying old woman, have told me several of the secrets of your interior."

When both Clifford and the Judge die, in the concealed narrative, these eyewitnesses will accuse Hepzibah. She is accused specifically of the murder of Jaffrey Pyncheon, since the Judge died in her parlor. The "good lady on the opposite side of the street" will be there at the trial to explain that "there's been a quarrel between him and Hepzibah, this many a day, because he won't give her a living. That's the main reason of her setting up a cent-shop."

Dixey will be there to implicate Clifford in the murder as well--- "A certain cousin of his may have been at his old tricks. And Old Maid Pyncheon having got herself in debt by the cent-shop---and the Judge's pocket-book being well-filled---and bad blood amongst them already! Put all these things together, and see what they make!"

As one of the Judge's spies, the butcher assaults the House of the Seven Gables, prying about "every accessible door" and the window in his attempts to get a glimpse of Clifford. He sees the Judge himself sitting in the parlor---dead---and thinks that it is Clifford, whom he curses as "Old Maid Pyncheon's bloody brother."

Hawthorne's literary duplicity here convinces the unwary reader that the butcher's motive is his desire to please Hepzibah with "his sweetbread of lamb". In Hawthorne's concealed story, however, Clifford is the lamb sacrificed to the spying butcher's greed for Judge Pyncheon's bribe money.

The chapter called "The Flight of Two Owls" is filled with allusions to death and mortality. It records Hepzibah's sensations on her way to the place of execution and to that "gimlet-eyed" gentleman who will kill her. This acerbic old gentleman thinks that the newly invented telegraph is a great thing, "particularly as regards the detection of bank-robbers and murderers. . ." Hawthorne describes his gimlet eye, which traditionally could bore into a person to cause paralysis or death.

There was "a moral sensation, mingling itself with the physical chill, and causing her to shake more in spirit than in body" and "the wretched consciousness of being adrift. She had lost the faculty of self-guidance". As they went on, the feeling of indistinctness and unreality kept dimly hovering roundabout her, and so diffusing itself into her system that one of her hands was hardly palpable to the touch of the other". She whispered to herself, again and again---"Am I awake?---Am I awake?"

And "the bell rang out its hasty peal, so well expressing the brief summons which life vouchsafes to us, in its hurried career. . .At a little distance stood a wooden church, black with age, and in a dismal state of ruin and decay, with broken windows, a great rift through the main-body of the edifice, and a rafter dangling from the top of the square tower". Hepzibah Pyncheon will be executed as a witch near Salem's Gallows Hill.

The final scene is a deliberate parallel to the execution of Matthew Maule at the beginning of The House of the Seven Gables. Unlike Maule, Hepzibah does not curse the Pyncheons. Still, it is very difficult for Hepzibah to pray---"she lifted her eyes---scowling, poor, dim-sighted Hepzibah, in the face of Heaven!---and strove hard to send up a prayer through the dense, gray pavement of clouds."

"Those mists had gathered, as if to symbolize a great, brooding mass of human trouble, doubt, confusion, and chill indifference. . . Her faith was too weak; the prayer too heavy to be thus uplifted. It fell back, a lump of lead, upon her heart". Hepzibah's prayer on the isolated railroad platform at the end of the familiar version of "The Flight of Two Owls" is, in reality, her final petition---

"She knelt down upon the platform where they were standing, and lifted her clasped hands to the sky. The dull, gray weight of clouds made it invisible; but it was no hour for disbelief; ---no juncture this, to question that there was a sky above, and an Almighty Father looking down from it!"

"Oh, God!"---ejaculated poor, gaunt Hepzibah---then paused a moment, to consider what her prayer should be---"Oh, God---our Father---are we not thy children? Have mercy on us!"

Then "the signal was given;" and suffering "short, quick breaths". . ."With all her might, she had staggered onward beneath the burden. . . Indeed, she had not energy to fling it down, but only ceased to uphold it, and suffered it to press her to the earth".

Hepzibah Pyncheon's execution seems to be a literary description of carrying a cross, combined with suffering the "peine forte et dure"---pressing under planks with stones piled on gradually. This punishment was intended not to kill, but to extract a pleading, or possibly a confession. But beyond a certain weight, the crushing caused a lingering death.

The hidden and scattered quotations that are re-assembled here, may be found in The House of the Seven Gables, Volume 2 of "The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne", Edited by William Charvat, Roy Harvey Pearce, and Claude Simpson (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1965). See pages 33-4, 40, 41, 42, 47, 48-9, 126, 223-4, 236, 245, 253, 255, 256, 264, 266, 267, 288-9, 291-2, and 296.

The concealed narrative causes the smooth surface line of Hawthorne's romance to lurch sometimes, and there are occasionally strange descriptions, and unaccountably awkward juxtapositions of sentences. One critic notes that "there are gaps in the plot through which a herd of rhinos could comfortably graze. . .". Hawthorne is so skilled in anticipating his readers' innocent expectations, that his true story remains hidden. The unwary reader sees only the charming, sunny, "blue-eyed" Nathaniel Hawthorne, casting his curiously "happy ending" over "The House of the Seven Gables".

















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