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September 27th, 2016

Town of Marshfield

By Senator Bill Doyle
According to Esther Swift, author of “Vermont Place Names,” the charter of Marshfield in 1782 by the State of Vermont was related to the grand design of the Allen Brothers to have the Republic of Vermont accepted as a state.

Vermont in various ways had attempted to gain the attention of the new nation in order to obtain statehood. The Republic of Vermont had annexed 14 New York towns and in the early 1780s annexed half of New Hampshire. The young republic had declared its independence against New York and Great Britain in 1777, had written a state constitution in the same year and in 1778 elected its first governor and legislature.

In 1775, under Ethan Allen, Vermonters won the first victory of the Revolutionary War, the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, and then sledded heavy military equipment 200 miles to Dorchester Heights, Massachusetts in order to help supply George Washington’s Army. In 1777, Vermonters fought with distinction at the Battle of Bennington which was the prelude to Saratoga, the turning point of the war.

In order to attract additional attention, the Allen Brothers conducted secret negotiations with Canadian officials with the intent that if the new American nation would not accept the Republic, Vermont would join Canada, since most of our trade was conducted with that country.

The action of Vermont granting Marshfield to the Stockbridge Native Americans was yet another attempt on the part of Vermont to gain acceptance as a state.

According to Swift, “The Stockbridge Indians had been converted to Christianity in the 1600’s by John Eliot, and their community in Stockbridge, Massachusetts was one of the earliest of what were referred to as ‘praying towns.’ Having been persuaded that they should foreswear their old ways of life and stop making war on the white man, they were dispossessed from their Massachusetts land rather early.”

The Vermont charter to the Stockbridge Native Americans was very similar to other Vermont charters. Of the 75 lots in Marshfield, one was allocated to a common school, one for church purposes, one for a church parsonage and the settlers had to construct a dwelling 18 feet square.

According to Mrs. H.C. Pitkin, the Marshfield Native Americans “when they secured the grant of Marshfield intended to remove here, and make it their hunting ground, but finding white settlements were beginning to cluster around it, they disposed of it as best they could, and sought the unbroken forests of New York and called their new home (New Stockbridge), in honor of the old one in Massachusetts.”

Several school districts were formed around Marshfield and most of the classes were taught in houses. The first religious meeting was held in August of 1797 and that year a Mr. Gilbert preached at the home of Joshua Pitkin. The first marriage ceremony took place in 1797 when Thomas McLoud of Montpelier married Sally Dodge of Marshfield.

At an early town meeting, one of the old school houses was sold for two and a half bushels of wheat. A table was bought by Joshua Pitkin also for wheat.

According to Swift, many of the mountains and ponds in Marshfield were named for those who had lived in Marshfield for many years, for example Bailey’s and Ladd Ponds, Debbie and Holister Hills, Loveland Ledge, Drew and May’s Mountains. Many of the other geographic names were quite descriptive: Burnt Mountain, Gritt Hill, Hardwood Mountain, Hardwood Ridge and Knob Hill. Other descriptive names were Lord’s Hill and Devil’s Hill.

Sugar Maples were plentiful in Marshfield and the farmers did a thriving business in making maple syrup. In the spring of 1868, 180 sugar orchards produced 70 tons of syrup.

Born in Marshfield was Lindon Bates, a civil engineer who worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad, the Belgian government, and in harbor and river work.

Senator Bill Doyle serves on the Senate Education Committee and Senate Economic Affairs Committee. He teaches government history at Johnson State College. He can be reached at 186 Murray Road, Montpelier, VT 05602; e-mail wdoyle@leg.state.vt.us; or call 223-2851.

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