Friday, July 29, 2011

Cavendish Semiquincentennial: 18th Century Money

While working on props for the Cavendish Chronicles II (August 27 and 28) the question came up about what the early settlers would have had for money. For a variety of reasons, money was almost always in short supply during the early colonial period. The lack of coins and currency forced the colonists to barter. The English leaders felt that colonial exports, such as animal skins, dried fish, and tobacco, should be paid for in English goods. Colonial exports would be accepted in return for an equal value of such goods as fabrics, window panes, pewter dishes, and mirrors. This barter arrangement - an exchange of goods or services without using money - seemed ideal to the British but was increasingly unpopular with the colonists, who preferred coin for their exports to gain more independence over their buying power. Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

According to Leslie V. Brock There was no colonial coinage nor did the sterling coin of Great Britain circulate in the colonies. Consequently, it was necessary for the colonies to amass a supply of coin through the medium of trade.

The money metal of the eighteenth century was silver, not gold. The chief coin of the colonies was the Spanish milled dollar (piece of eight), worth 4s. 6d. sterling. There were supplementary gold coins in circulation: the Johannes of Portugal, which circulated after 1722 and was worth 36s. sterling, and the Spanish Pistole, which was worth 12s. 2.8d. sterling, and had a substantial circulation in Virginia prior to the French and Indian War. The silver was chiefly derived from the West Indies trade. It was a saying in New England in the early eighteenth century that the "Fishery was then the NE Silver Mine."8 The gold came in as a result of trade with the south of Europe. The colonies retained the British monetary units: pounds, shillings, pence (1£ = 20s.; 1s. = 12d.). The foreign coins in circulation in the colonies had values placed upon them by the several colonial legislatures. They did not, however, long circulate at their sterling values. Either to retain their coin or to draw it from their neighbors, colonies raised the value at which it circulated within their boundaries. An upper limit to these values was set by the Proclamation of Queen Anne of 1704, which placed a maximum of six shillings on the Spanish milled dollar. Gold coins, however, were not within the scope of the proclamation. Throughout the colonial period, specie in the colonies tended to be in short supply.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cavendish Semiquincentennial: Universalists and First Baptist Church

The following information is from The History of Windsor County, Vermont 1891 Edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich and Frank R. Holmes, D. Mason & Co. Publishers

The First Universalist Society of Cavendish. — Among the early settlers of Cavendish were a number of members of the Universalist church. The first to preach this doctrine in the town were Michael, a son of Captain John Coffin, and William Farwell. Salmon Dutton, Captain Leonard Proctor, and James Smith were of this faith. From 1803 to 1809 Father Ballou, of Barnard, preached in the town. About this time a society was formed, and the General Conferences of 1812 and 1828 met at Cavendish. The society included the towns of Cavendish, Plymouth, Ludlow and Reading, and meetings were held once a month until 1827. The Rev. William Skinner preached his first sermon in Cavendish on Christmas Day, 1825. At this time he was a resident of Langdon, N. H., but removed to Proctorsville in May, 1828. He resided at the latter place till his death, excepting the years 1834-35, when he was located at Bennington. The present society was organized March 11, 1837, Samuel Adams being chosen moderator of the meeting, and Thomas Whitcomb, clerk and treasurer. The original members were William Spaulding, Samuel Adams, Asa Spaulding, 2d, Luke Parkhurst, William Smith, John Stearns, James Bryant, Asa Bond, Thaddeus Smith, Jonathan Chapman, Daniel Kendall, jr., Francis A. Foster, G. P. Spaulding, Abel Hill, and Thomas Proctor. The first minister was Rev. Warren Skinner, who continued to preach until March 1, 1845, during which period he took sixty members into the church. For the next two years Rev. G. W. Bailey supplied the church, with William Livingstone and J. Hemphill. In 1844 the present stone chapel was erected. The Rev. W. L, Barber was settled February 13, 1847, ^"<^ the following were his successors : Revs. H. H. Baker, 1852 to 1855 ; J. H. Willis, 1856 to 1859; Harrison Closson, 1861 to 1866; Miss R. A. Damon, 1868 to 1869; R. T. Sawyer, 1870 to 1872 ; John G. Gregory, 1872 to 1874; J. T. Powers, 1874 to 1878; Herbert Whitney, 1878 to 1881 ; W. H. Pratt, 1 88 1 to 1882 ; J. S. Geldhill, 1882 to 1884; A. A. Rice and John P. Eastman, 1884 to 1886. Since that date the society has been supplied by the resident ministers at Ludlow, services, being held in the afternoons.

The First Baptist Church.The town records state that on December 20, 1799, the Rev. Aaron Leland, of Chester, certified that the following persons were members of the Baptist church : Jesse Spaulding, Asaph Fletcher, Robert Davis, Garrabel Gerrald, Obadiah White, Samuel White, Noadiah Russell, Benjamin Lynde, John Russell, Eliphalet Chapman, Stephen Roberts, Frazier Eaton, Levi Manning, John Peck, Reuben Chapman, Perley Fassetts, Joseph Wilkins, Joseph Spaulding and John Spaulding.

A society was organized by Rev. Aaron Leland, in 1803, with forty- six members, and they worshipped in the Union church located in the center of the town. It was not until 181 1 that there was a settled minister, the first being Rev. Jonathan Gowing, jr., who remained five years. He was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Starkweather, and in 1821 the Rev. Ruel Lathrop became the pastor. He was succeeded by Rev. Ariel Kendrick. Down to this time the society embraced Ludlow and Cavendish, but in 1825 it was divided. The first pastor of the Cavendish society was Rev. Joseph Freeman, who remained until 1837, excepting the years 1831 and 1836, when the society was without a pastor. In 1834 the society built a brick church where the town hall now stands. The following ministers have been over the society : Enoch T. Winter, 1837-38 ; Moses Field, 1839; no pastor in 1840; Obed Sperry, 1841 ; Joseph Freeman, 1842; Daniel F. Richardson, 1843-44; Ariel Kendrick, 1845-46 ; Aaron Angier, 1847-49 ; Joseph Freeman, 1850 ; R. M. Ely, 1852-55; no settled minister in 1856-57; S. W. Miles, 1858; no settled minister in 1859; Mylen Merriam, i860; Sem Pierce from 1861- 62; S. F. Brown, from October, 1863, to November, 1875; no settled minister in 1876; L. B. Hibbard, January, 1877, to January, 1880 ; Foster Henry, January, 1880, to January, 1885; S. F. Brown, January, 1885, to June, 1886; George B. Wheeler, acting pastor since August I, 1888.

The society was presented by Benjamin F. White, of Boston, in November, 1850, with a church bell.

The brick church was destroyed by fire in 1875 and in 1878 the present wood building was erected at a cost of $4,500, having a seating capacity of 250. By the will of the Hon. Richard Fletcher, of Boston, the society in 1870 received a parsonage, a pastor's library of two hundred volumes and a fund of $4,000, the interest on $i,000 to be spent annually in increasing the library, and the interest on $3,000 to be spent annually either in repairs upon the parsonage or for the support of preaching. The only conditions attached to these bequests are that the society is never to be without a settled minister for two consecutive years, if so the property is to revert back to the heirs of the donor.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cavendish Semiquincentennial: Early Religious Efforts

The following information is from The History of Windsor County, Vermont 1891 Edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich and Frank R. Holmes, D. Mason & Co. Publishers

Beginning as early as 1782 the usual distracting efforts to fix the center of the town as a site for a church were made, which continued until 1800-OI. Numerous lots were offered, but no satisfactory committee could be secured, and finally in 1801 it was agreed that Jabez Sargeant, of Chester, Squire Stoughton, of Weathersfield, and Squire Bigelow, of Reading, should constitute a committee to locate the center of the town. This was accomplished October 20, 1801.

In the latter part of 1792 the town hired Rev. Abel Wood to preach six months, he to receive twenty shillings a day. A general assessment was levied to pay the salary, and Isaac Parker was appointed collector. The following were exempted from the assessment, for the reason that they were not members of the religious sect to which Mr. Wood be- longed : Salmon Dutton, Thomas Baldwin, John Coffin, Isaac Baldwin, Jonathan Atherton, Eliphalet Kimball, Captain William Chaplin, Abner Preston, and Abel Baldwin.' The momentous question of the church site having been settled, it was voted to build a house 45 x 55 feet and to
complete it by June 20, 1802. The building committee were Abel Baldwin, Jonathan Atherton and Samuel White.

It was voted to purchase the chosen site of Jedediah Tuttle, the price to be thirty dollars an acre. It was also voted that each person or denomination shall have a right to occupy the house for religious worship in proportion as they stand on each grand list. A tax of four cents on the dollar was voted to build the church. The following, who were of different sentiments from those who voted for the tax, are recorded as dissenting from the action of the town : Salmon Dutton, Amos Pierce, Israel Dwinnell, Salmon Dutton, jr., Clark Aldridge, Samuel Wyman, Joshua Tilden, Asaph Fletcher, jr., James Hall, John Swift, Joseph Page, and William Swift.

A society of Congregationalists was organized in the town at an early day, and continued until about fifty years ago.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cavendish Semiquincentennial: Phineas Gage

On Sunday, July 17, there will be a presentation about Phineas Gage, his importance to the understanding of traumatic brain injury, neuroscience and why he continues to be of interest, at the Cavendish Historical Society Museum at 2 pm in Cavendish. The presentation will be followed by a walking tour of historic spots associated with Gage. FMI: 226-7807 or

On September 13, 1848 Phineas Gage, a foreman, was working with his crew excavating rocks in preparing the bed for the Rutland and Burlington Railroad in Cavendish. An accidental explosion of a charge he had set blew his tamping iron through his head. It entered under the left cheek bone and exited through the top of the head. The rod, covered with brains and blood, was found approximately 30 yards from the site of the accident.

Sitting on the back of an ox cart, Gage was brought to the boarding house where he was staying on Main Street in Cavendish. Dr. John Harlow treated his wounds, along with Dr. Edward H. Williams. The large wound at the top of his head was closed with adhesive straps and a wet compress covered the opening. No surgery was involved.

Within days of the accident, an infection developed and Gage lapsed into a semi comatose state. Fearing that he was about to die, a local carpenter prepared a coffin for him. Two weeks after the accident, Harlow released 8 fluid ounces of pus from an abscess under Gage’s scalp. By January 1, 1849 (approximately 4 months) Gage was functional.

It is remarkable that Gage survived this accident, let alone lived for almost 12 more years. Fortunately Dr. Harlow and Dr. Henry J. Bigelow, a professor of surgery at Harvard University, tracked Gage as much possible, thereby documenting one of the first cases of traumatic brain injury in medical science. It was also the first understanding that different parts of the brain have different functions. With this knowledge, the first brain tumor removal operation became possible in 1885.

According to Gage’s family and friends, his behavior was significantly altered by the accident. In 1868, Harlow wrote in the “Bulletin of the Massachusetts Medical Society” His contractors, who regarded him as the most efficient and capable foreman in their employ previous to his injury, considered the change in his mind so marked that they could not give him his place again. He is fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity (which was not previously his custom), manifesting but little deference for his fellows, impatient of restraint of advice when it conflicts with his desires, at times pertinaciously obstinent, yet capricious and vacillating, devising many plans of future operation, which are no sooner arranged than they are abandoned in turn for others appearing more feasible. In this regard, his mind was radically changed, so decidedly that his friends and acquaintances said he was “no longer Gage.

Not able to work as a foreman, Gage held a variety of jobs. He worked in the livery stable at what is now known as the Hanover Inn in New Hampshire. He drove coaches and cared for horses in Valparaiso, Chile. Around 1859, after his health began to fail he went to San Francisco to live with his mother. While there, he worked on a farm in Santa Clara County. In February 1860, he began to have epileptic seizures and ultimately died May 21, 1860.

Rumors circulated that Gage appeared at Barnum’s American Museum in New York. It would take another Cavendish doctor, Dr. Gene Bont, almost 160 years later to find proof that Gage did in fact promote himself as a curiosity. Bont found a poster advertising Gage’s appearance at Rumford Hall.

One of the least talked about people connected with the Gage accident is Dr. Williams. He was an engineer, who went to medical school when ill health kept him from working outside. Since he did not have a busy medical practice, Williams spent considerable time in various forms of engineering. In fact, he knew Gage prior to his accident. He was the first doctor on the scene but would have differed to Dr. Harlow as he was a surgeon. Not long after the incident, Williams returned to engineering full time and started the oldest engineering society in the United States, Tau Beta Pi.