Friday, February 25, 2011

Cavendish Semiquincentennial: First Settlers

Below are two accounts of the first settlers in Cavendish:

The first actual settlement in Cavendish was made in June, 1769, when Captain John Coffin located and built a dwelling in the northern part of the town. His hospitable residence during the Revolution afforded thousands of American soldiers shelter and refreshment while passing from Charlestown, NH, to the military posts on Lake Champlain. IN the northwestern part of the town was another stopping place, known as the Twenty-Mile Encampment. Captain Coffin gained his title during the Revolutionary war, being connected with the militia.

The first settlers of Cavendish were mostly from Massachusetts, and in 1771 Noadiah Russell and Thomas Gilbert joined Captain Coffin, sharing with him the hardships and privations attendant on frontier life. The grinding of a grist of corn involved a journey of sixty miles in those days.

The first deed, recorded March 21, 1781, was from Jesse Reed of Lunenburg, Mass, one of the original patentees, to John Coffin. Ebenezer and John Stone and John Russell settled in the town in 1781. …. As seen by the following in the town in early years grew rapidly in population, but has fallen off in this respect in later years 1791 (491 people); 1800 (921); 1830 (1,498); 1850 (1,576) 1870 (1,823), 1880 (1,276)
. Note that the 2010 Census has a census of 1,367 people. History of Windsor County, Vermont edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich, Frank R. Holmes 1891

On the 10th day of June, 1770 (although some authorities say it was 1769) John Coffeen, with his family, consisting of his wife, eight children, two hired men, )help was plentier than than now), two oxen, two horses and a cow, together with some household effects, arrived in Cavendish and located on what is now E. I. Heald’s farm, on the lot still called the “Coffeen pasture.” The old cellar-hole is still in existence where his first domicile is supposed to have stood. It was some time later that he moved up higher on the hill, nearer the “Ticonderoga Road” to substantially the place where Chas. S. Parker’s house now stands on what is known as the “Gilsonfarm.”

We are told that, owing to high water in the Connecticut river when he arrived at Charlestown, he was compelled to wait some three weeks for the water to subside, but I can not believe that there was a drouth there even then, and I have been much perplexed as to how Coffeen got that wife and eight children across the river. …

For something more than a year Coffeen had no neighbors in town, his nearest neighbors, I think were a family named “Spofford” living near “Greenbush” in Weathersfield, some eight miles distant. It is said that Coffeen, in later years, when joking his wife, who by the way was of very plain features, used to say that “although she was not handsome, still she was once the handsomest woman in town.”

The following year after Coffeen’s coming, Noahdiah Russell settled on what is now known as the “Richard Russell farm” and Thomas Gilbert located on the “Elwin Taylor farm” near Weathersfield line. This brought neighbors within about four and six miles from Coffeen towards Charlestown and life began to be quite social.”
“The 150th Anniversary Celebration of Cavendish,” by Chas. R. Cummings; “The Vermonter August-September 1912.

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