History of Calais by Dorman B. E. Kent.

The town of Calais is situated in latitude 44.20 and longitude 72.30 runs directly through Adamant in the south part and on its way north crosses the farm now owned by Nathan Bancroft on the west shores of Curtiss pond.  The most western towns in Vermont on a direct line with Calais are Shelburne and Charlotte, the most eastern is Waterford, the most northern Jay and the most southern Vernon.

The most northern town in the United States on a line with Calais is Jay, Vt., the most southern, Clinton, Conn., the most eastern is Jonesport, Me., and the most western is Toledo, Oregon.  Going east and west across the continent the line runs through Augusta, Me., itself, Ogdensburg, N.Y., Pierre, South Dakota, and Salem, Oregon, while going east into Europe the line of longitude passes through the sunny south of France, the north of Italy, crossing the city of Geneva and then on into the Black Sea.

Calais is one hundred and twenty miles from the ocean, its nearest point being Portsmouth, N.H.  It is thirty-eight miles from Canada, thirty six miles from Lake Champlain, eighteen miles from New Hampshire and one hundred and eleven miles from Massachusetts.

The township was granted to Col. Jacob Davis, who was the first settler of Montpelier, to Stephen Fay and to sixty-eight other men by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont convening at Arlington on Oct. 1, 1780.  The fee for granting the township was, in our money of today, $5,280.00 and the first public meeting of the proprietors was held November 20, 1780, at the inn of Elisha Freeman in Charlton, Mass., when fifty-eight men were present.  The sum paid by each proprietor for his grant of land was $40.00 in silver money.  Thomas Chittenden at Arlington January 29, 1781 acknowledged the receipt of 1233£ 14s and 6d for the granting of the charter and on September 10th and 28th of that year he receipted for the balance of 246£ 9d.

But [only?] eight of the original proprietors ever permanently settled in town, a thing common with very many early Vermont settlements, men of means in those days "taking a chance," as we call it, and speculating on a future sale to actual settlers of their grants, at an increased figure.

The charter was granted August 15, 1781 which is the real and actual date of the birth of the town of Calais.  In addition to many other curious provisions of the charter, all pine timber suitable for a navy was to be reserved and uncut.  As Calais lies, as the crows fly, one hundred and twenty miles from the nearest ocean shore and as the land was then an unbroken forest and the railroad was a thing undreamed of and highways were most crude, it is extremely difficult at this late day to understand how these hardy pioneers ever suspected much Calais timber would ever be used as spars for warships.

As to the naming of the town, one is at a loss in determining the father of the word.  Col. Jacob Davis of Montpelier was largely instrumental in the settlement of both townships and it is supposed that for some reason he named them for the two cities in France -- Montpelier and Calais -- but he certainly never visited those cities, none of his ancestors were French, neither were any of his wife's and no good proof to my mind has ever thus far been offered that he had anything to do with naming the two towns.

The second meeting of the proprietors of Calais was held at the inn of Salem Town in Charlton, May 18, 1783, and in that summer the survey of the town was commenced.  Colonel Davis, Capt. Samuel Robinson and John Brush, the latter from Bennington, came here into the unbroken forest in June of 1783 and began the work.  Leaving in the fall, they buried two casks of rum at the foot of an enormous maple, whose decayed stump I remember as a lad, in the cove on the Nathan Bancroft shore of Curtiss pond -- on which spot they had camped for some weeks.  The liquor was put in the ground with a great deal of ceremony and it is said many tears were shed, but their grief was brightened with the glorious hope of resurrection.

On Christmas day of 1783 the surveying committee submitted a plan of the township as far as it had then been surveyed and on that day several lots were drawn by the proprietors, not one of whom knew the location or lay of his land.

A formal meeting was held April 26, 1784 at which not much business seems to have been transacted.

On May 29, 1786 a meeting was called at which steps were taken to apply for a warrant to meet in Vermont and on August 15, 1786 the first Proprietor's meeting ever held in the State, convened at Royalton.  It was voted at this meeting that Ebenezer Waters, Capt. Samuel Robinson, Lieut. Jonathan Tucker, Ebenezer Stone and Parley Davis at once make the survey for the second and final division of lots.  They immediately then, proceeded to Calais and their anticipations ran high, at least all the way during the last march from Royalton, in the thought of the taste of the good rum that had now slept in the wood for three long years.  But on arriving and digging their dismay was indeed terrific when they discovered the staves had long since rotted and the rum had become a part of Calais.  They labored, however, all that summer and completing their survey the first meeting ever held in Calais took place at what they called "Grand Camp" on the shores of Curtiss pond September 7, 1786.

Two meetings were held by the little party on their return to Massachusetts, one of which was recorded as having taken place at 6.00 a.m., showing plainly that the early men of Calais were up betimes.

The last recorded meeting ever held by the Proprietors in Massachusetts took place May 21, 1787 at Salem Town’s in Charlton and on June 3d of 1788 the last meeting held outside the town limits of Calais occurred at Col. Jacob Davis’ house in Montpelier.

On September 30, 1788 the first meeting held under a roof in Calais was called at Peter Wheelock’s who had erected a house on what has since been known as the Sylvester Fuller farm, at which place the town meetings were held for some years.  On that September 30 a terrific electrical storm ushered in the little meeting of the pioneers of Calais as did that more historic thunder storm in 1777 the birth in Windsor of the Constitution of the State of Vermont.

 

KATURAH FREEMAN picture
Wife of Francis West. 
The first woman to settle in Calas and mother of the 
first child born In town.

 


The first settler of the town of Calais was 
Francis West. He was born in the town 
of Tisbury, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard, 
July 25, 1761, the son of Elisha West and 
Abigail Gibbs. In the early spring of 
1787 he appeared in Montpelier and going 
to the extreme northern boundary com- 
menced his labors in clearing the forest, 
striking the first axe into a tree in the town 
with a view toward settlement. He built 
a rude hut on which spot he afterward 
erected a permanent dwelling on land he 
supposed was in Montpelier, although he 
was well aware that the major portion of 
his pitch laid in Calais. but when the exact

 

boundaries were finally determined his 

 

home was found to be all in the town of 

 

Calais, although removed from the Mont- 
pelier line by only about eight feet. From 
March until late June of 1787 his was the 
only axe of a settler sounding in these for- 
ests and night found him their only human 
occupant. All that spring, summer and 
fall he labored diligently, his season's 
efforts clearing some eight acres of land 
besides erecting his little log cabin.

 


He returned to Rochester, Mass., in the 
late fall and in the spring of 1788 he and 
his newly married wife, Katurah Freeman, 
walked alone two hundred and seventy-five 
miles through the wilderness, often sleeping 
where night overtook them, to the little log 
house he had erected the summer before in 
the forests of Calais. He was at the time 
twenty-seven years of age and his wife was 
not quite fifteen. All that summer this 
slip of a girl was the only woman in town, 
and the two comprised the first and only 
family.

 


In the late fall they went to Middlesex 
where for four or five months he worked 
for a settler, but early spring found them 
once more residents of Calais, and here 
they remained some twelve years.

 


Their son Freeman, born in October of 
1789, was the first child born within the 
limits of the town. He died young as did 
their boy Elisha and one or two unnamed 
infants, all of whom are buried in unmarked 
graves in the little cemetery long since for- 
gotten and forlorn on the Albert Bliss farm.

 


Sarah West, born in 1791, was the only 
child of Francis West who lived to matu- 
rity. She married Lemuel Smith Bennett 
and had Philip Sidney Bennett. whose only 
child was my mother, and I and my two 
small sons are today the only living de- 
scendants of Francis West, the first settler 
in the town.

 


Many things in this account of him were 
taken from a manuscript. meager in detail 
and left by his widow, who died in 1859.

 


On June 19. 1787 Abijah, Asa and 
Peter Wheelock arrived in Calais from 
Charlton, Mass., and all that summer they 
cleared the forests, returning to Massachu- 
setts in October. In 1788 Abijah and 
Peter returned with Moses Stone and built 
log houses and in March of 1789 Abijah 
Wheelock and family, Moses Stone and 
Samuel Twiss and wife arrived in Calais 
and commenced their part in the perma- 
nent settlement of the town. Samuel

 

166
Twiss and wife later removed to Canada, 
and Moses Stone did not, I believe, long 
reside here, but the Wheelocks remained 
and raised large families. They were hard 
working, honest men. Their descendants 
are numerous and, like their progenitors, 
have ever been citizens respected in the 
community.

 


Here follows a list of 179 of the first set- 
. tiers of Calais down to 1809. Nearly all 
were heads of families, either on their 
arrival or soon after, and most of them 
died in town. Some may have come 
earlier than they are credited here, but 
every one appeared at least as early as the 
year preceding his name and probably 
ninety-five per cent of the settlers of Calais 
during the first twenty-two years of her 
history can be found mentioned below.

 


In 1787 from Rochester, Mass., came 
Francis West and from Charlton, Abijah, 
Asa and Peter Wheelock.

 


In 1789 from Rochester came Moses 
Haskell and from Charlton Moses Stone, 
Samuel Twiss, Aaron Lamb and Edward 
Tucker.

 


In 1790 from Charlton came Lyman 
Daggett; from Brookfield, Mass., Bucklin 
Slayton, Jesse Slayton and Elisha Doane 
and from other places, James Jennings and 
Abraham Howland.

 


In 1791 from Swansea came Shubael 
Short and from Charlton Joshua Lilley and 
David Goodell.

 


In 1792 came Rufus Green, but from 
what town I am not certain.

 


In 1793 from Rehoboth came Joshua 
Bliss; from Oxford, Jonathan Pray and 
from Brookfield Phineas Slayton.

 


In 1794 from Charlton came Joel Rob- 
inson; from Rehoboth, David Bliss, Fred- 
erick Bliss and John Emerson; from Brook- 
field, Bemis Hamilton, Simeon Slayton 
and Jason Marsh and from other parts 
came Isaac Wells, Kelso Gray and Spauld- 
ing Pierce.

 


In 1795 from Charlton came Jonas 
Comings, Goddard Wheelock, Jennison 
Wheelock, Jonathan Tucker and Amasa 
Tucker; from Middleboro, Francis Le- 
Barron; from Rehoboth, Backus Pierce, 
Aaron Bliss, Joshua Bliss, Alpheus Bliss, 
Asahel Pierce and Noah Pierce; from 
Bridgewater, Holden Wilbur; from Wood- 
stock, Vt., Simon Davis; from Wards- 
borough, Vt., Zoeth Tobey and from other

 

places Amos Jennings, Jedediah Fay. 

 

Samuel Fay, Samuel Rich, Winslow Pope 
and John Crane.

 


In 1796 from Lebanon, Conn., came 
Solomon Janes; from New Bedford, Silas 
Hathaway and Elnathan Hathaway; from 
Charlton, Moses Blanchard and Nathaniel 
Fisk; from Woodstock, Vt., Oliver Palmer 
and Duncan Young, a former deserter 
from the British army.

 


In 1797 from New Haven, Conn., came 
Ethel Steward: from Hardwick, Mass., 
Edmund Willis; from Brookfield, Sabin 
Ainsworth; from Charlton, Gideon Wheel- 
ock, Salem Wheelock and Elijah White 
and from other parts, Stephen Alvord, 
Phineas Davis,. Samuel White, Levi 
Wright, Noah Clark, Ebenezer Goode- 
nough and Amos Barnes.

 


In 1798 from Rehoboth came Capt. 
Abdiel Bliss, Joshua Bliss, Noah Bliss and 
Remember Kent; from Reading, Isaac 
Kendall; from Charlton, Col. Caleb Cur- 
tiss, David Daggett, David Thayer and 
David Thayer, Jr. and from other places 
John Dickinson and Caleb Mitchell.

 


In 1799 from Brookfield came Moses 
Ainsworth and Reuben Ainsworth and 
from Oxford, Thomas Hathaway.

 


In 1800 from Rehoboth came Daniel 
Carpenter, Caleb Bliss and Lemuel Perry; 
from Taunton, Gideon Hicks: from Biller- 
ica, Samuel Danforth; from Charlton, Ed- 
mund Eddy and Job Merritt: from Roch- 
ester, Prince Sears and from other places 
unknown to the author, William Abbott, 
Joshua Beckwith, Asa Hathaway, Nathan- 
iel Ormsbee, David Tucker, Preserved 
Wright and Oliver Wincher.

 


In 1801 from Charlton came Jacob 
Lamb and Oliver Merritt; from Rehoboth, 
Stephen Pierce; from Middleboro, Isaac 
LeBarron and from other towns came 
Isaac Alvord, Silas Davis, Stephen Kin- 
ney, Ezra Nichols and Seth Tisdale.

 


In 1802 came Amasa Ainsworth from 
Petersham; Parley Ainsworth and Ware- 
ham Ainsworth, from Woodstock, Conn,; 
Welcome Ainsworth, from Brookfield; 
Nathan Janes, from Lebanon, Conn. ; 
George Kelton, James Kelton, Calvin 
Pierce and Joseph Perry, from Rehoboth; 
and from other parts, Joseph Jennings, 
widow Hannah Butterfield, Thomas Has- 
kell, Uriah Johnson, William Thayer, 
Medad Wright, Nathaniel Ormsbee and 
Benjamin Andrews.

 

167
In 1803 from Rehoboth came William 
Drown and John Martin and from Kent, 
Conn., came Artemas Foster. From 
places uncertain to me in this year came 
Ezra Bliss, James Dawson, John Eddy, 
Joseph W. Gilman. John Ware and Elijah 
Slayton.

 


In 1804 from Norwich, Conn., came 
Eliphalet Huntington and from Rehoboth, 
Enoch Kelton. There came also in 1804 
Chester Clark, Isaac Davis, Nathaniel 
Ladd and James Short.

 


In 1805 from Brookfield came Luther 
Ainsworth and Bucklin Slayton, from Re- 
hoboth, Squire Bullock; from New Boston, 
N. H., Oliver Sheple and from other parts, 
Amasa Bancroft, John Bancroft, Ethan 
Powers, Amos Wheelock, Reuben Wilbur 
and Philip Vincent.

 


In 1806 from Brookfield came Jacob 
Ainsworth; from Petersham, Benjamin 
Bancroft; from Rehoboth, George Ide and 
from other places came George Brown, 
John Goodale, Phineas Goodenough, 
Ebenezer Goodenough, Jr., Ephraim 
Ladd, Richard Pitts, Stephen Olmsted, 
Cyrenus Short and Simeon Garnzey.

 


In 1807 from Barrington, R. I., came 
Vial Allen; from Rehoboth, Charles Bliss 
and David Fuller, Jr., from Lebanon, 
Conn., Pardon Janes; from Martha's Vine- 
yard, Elijah Nye; from Brookfield, Elisha 
Slayton and Phineas Slayton, Jr.; from 
Charlton, Reuben D. Waters and Jared

 


Wheelock; from Vershire, Vt., Charles W. 
Foster; from Fitzwilliam, N. H., Abraham 
Hawkins and from points unknown to me 
came Thomas Anderson, Stephen Bates, 
Henry Fish, Martin Gilbert, Jesse Holmes, 
Samuel Pratt, Uriah Simons, Nathan 
Wheeler, Suel White, Daniel Young, John 
Young and Jsaac Hawkins. .

 


In 1808 from Rehoboth came Galen 
Bliss, Barnabas Kelton, Ebenezer Kelton 
and John Martin, Jr.; from Oblong, N. Y., 
Thomas Foster; from Charlton, Samuel 
Robinson, Isaac Robinson, William Rob- 
inson, Welcome Wheelock and Gload 
Dugar; from Sutton, Jonas Hall; from 
Nottingham, N. H., Samuel Whiting and 
from other places I do not know, in 1808 
came Thomas Andrews, William Crosby, 
William Lougee, John McKenzie, John 
Waugh, Andrew Nealy, Nathaniel Ban- 
croft, John R. Densmore, Jonathan Green, 
Isaac Hawkins, Daniel Nealy, Peley Red- 
way, Oliver Sheple, Jr., Lemuel Tobey 
and Isaac Vincent.

 


This completes a list of 179 men who 
appeared in Calais during the first twenty- 
two years of her history and of these men 
either the birth places or former residences 
of one hundred and twenty-four are here 
given. Of these, thirty-six came from 
Charlton, thirty-three from Rehoboth and 
seventeen from Brookfield, making from 
these three towns, eighty-six men or sev- 
enty per cent. of the total. The early

 

168
settlers of Calais, like all first comers in 
new regions in those times, endured every 
hardship and made many shifts to protect 
their families. Over forty households had 
long been established here in town before 
anything resembling a well-worked high- 
way could be found in Calais. Pleasure 
wagons or well nigh any wagon, except 
the ox cart, were long unknown here, and 
young and old either walked or rode a 
horse when going about, For more than 
ten years grain was carried far to mill, 
many going even to Royalton for the pur- 
pose.

 


The woods and streams were filled with 
game and fish, and moose were more than 
once killed near Kent's Corners. Caleb 
Curtiss contested with the beavers for the 
right to dam the pond that bears his name 
and in 1798 he caught in one day a cart- 
load of trout, one fish of which was put in 
each hill of corn for fertilization and it is 
said in catching them he threw away all 
those under twelve inches in length.

 


My grandfather, Abdiel Kent, told me 
that his father had a sheep pen on the hill 
just south of Kent's Comers and one of 
grandfather's nightly duties as a lad was 
to go up on that hill and make certain the 
enclosure was made fast and secure from 
the wolves that often howled about the 
place at night, That was as late as 1815.

 


The land was new, the summers were 
long and hot, the rainfall was then much 
greater than it is now and every crop that 
can grow in these latitudes came quickly 
to maturity and produced tremendously. 
But it meant, with primitive tools and prim- 
itive methods, hard work all through the 
summer months and in the winter every 
family was for weeks shut in from well nigh 
all the world.

 


To leave the well tilled farms and in 
many cases the thickly settled villages of 
Massachusetts and Connecticut and push 
far into the wilderness in this northland 
and here to remain, required a sort of 
courage and determination I am absolutely 
certain I do not possess, at least. But 
they did it, and they not only cleared the 
forests and raised their large families under 
the severest of obstacles, but they provided 
as well for a new government and a new 
social life and all the while they worshipped 
their God as do few of us today.

 


Nearly all were poor, in fact probably 
only one settler of Calais prior to 1809

 

possessed enough of this world's goods to 
be called "well off." That man was Capt. 
Abdiel Bliss, a fighter at Bunker Hill and 
Lexington and long a commissioned officer 
in the Revolutionary army who, coming to 
Calais from Rehoboth, Mass., in 1798, 
cleared in seven years seven farms which 
he gave to his seven sons and daughters. 
He was a leading man of Calais as he had 
been of Rehoboth and his remains lie buried 
in the West Church burying ground, a 
large field boulder with a bronze tablet 
marking the spot.

 


On March 23. 1795 the first regular 
town meeting ever held in the town of 
Calais was called at Peter Wheelock's.

 


In 1797 it was voted at a regular town 
meeting. that the legislature be petitioned 
to change the name of the town to Mt. 
Vernon, in honor of the home oi Washing- 
ton, and although a majority of the free 
holders favored it I cannot learn that the 
legislature was called to act upon the res- 
olution.

 


The town meetings were held at the 
homes of Peter Wheelock, Gideon Wheel- 
ock, Asa Wheelock, Abdiel Bliss, Alpheus 
Bliss and Isaac Kendall and at the center 
school house for forty-two years and on 
September 5, 1837 the first town meeting 
took place in the town house on what has 
been known as the Harrison Bancroft place 
in the center of the town. The meetings 
were held in this town house for thirty 
years, or until 1868, and since that time 
they have been held in the basement of 
the Davis church, the town owning and 
maintaining the basement and the church 
society owning the second story and roof.

 


The first action of the town in regard to 
schools was in 1796 and from this date the 
youth of Calais commenced to receive their 
educations.

 


In I812 there were exactly one hundred 
families in town and among these families 
appear three hundred and twenty-nine 
children. Of these families sixteen had 
one each, twenty-five had two each, eight- 
een had three each, fourteen had four each, 
fourteen had five each, ten had six each, 
Jason Marsh had seven and Isaac Wells 
and Frederic Bliss had eight each.

 


The population of Calais since its settle- 
ment has been as follows: In 1791, 45; in 
1800. 443; in 1810, 841; in 1820, 1111; 
in 1830, 1539; in 1840, 1709; in 1850,

 

169
1410; in 1860, 1409; in 1870, 1309; in 
1880, 1253; in 1890, 1082; in 1900, 
1101 and in 1910, 1042. It will be 
noted that in 1840 the town had seven- 
teen hundred and nine residents, or six 
hundred and sixty-seven more than in 
1910.  In other words, Calais had 
seventy-eight years ago a trifle more 
than three people living within her 
boundaries, where two people live today. 
The same condition prevails 
however, in too large a num- 
ber of small towns in Vermont, 
other than Calais.

 

The first town clerk was Peter 
Wheelock, who held the office 
until 1802. From 1802 to 1810 
came Gideon Hicks. From 1810 
to 1815 another Gideon held 
sway in the person of Gideon 
Wheelock. In 1816 came Lem- 
uel Perry, 1817 Jedediah Fay 
and from 1818 to 1848 Gideon 
Hicks again.

 

From 1848 to 1864 came Nel- 
son A. Chase, one of the finest 
and ablest men who ever lived 
in town, but I have found to my 
sorrow that from 1848 to 1857, 
when the legislature compelled 
him and all other town clerks to 
do differently, the vital records 
were kept very loosely.

 

In 1865 Alonzo D. Pierce was 
clerk, from 1861 to and including 
1874. Marcus Ide; from 1875 to 
1896 Samuel O. Robinson, 1897

 

to and including 1900, O. H. Kent, 
1900 to 1904 George Kent and since 
1904 Clarence R. Dwinell, the present 
incumbent.

 

I wish here to pay an humble tribute 
of respect to the honored memory of 
Samuel O. Robinson. For 22 years he was 
the town clerk and for 21 years the town 
treasurer of Calais. He almost never 
missed a vital record, his books when 
audited were ever found marvels of correct- 
ness, his penmanship was as correct as was 
the record it perpetuated, his personality 
was always genial, his smile always merry, 
his whole life was honorable and his name 
should always be held in the highest of 
respect by every citizen of the town in 
which he long served so well.

 

The first postoffice established in town 
was at the center and Gideon Wheelock

 


was its incumbent from 1823 to 1830. In 
1830 Jonas Hall became the only post- 
master and he held and operated the office 
in the brick house, now occupied by Frank 
Goodell, from 1830 to 1850, when the 
office was removed to Kent's Corners and 
Ira Kent was made postmaster. He held 
the office until 1865. being succeeded by 
Alfred Goodenough, 1865-1867; Benjamin 
P. White, 1868-1873; Leroy A. Kent

 

[picture] ABDlEL KENT'S RESIDENCE IN 1877

 

1874-1882; George W. S. Ide, 1883-1887:

 

Leroy A. Kent again 1888-1896; O. H. 
Kent 1897-1900; George Kent 1901-1904; 
Herbert A. Kent in 1905 and since 1906 
the office has been maintained at Maple 
Corners by George Elgin Mann until his 
going away and since then by Mrs. Mann. 
The second postoffice in town was estab- 
lished at East Calais in 1830 and from then 
until 1857, a space of twenty-seven years, 
Asa Alden was the incumbent. In 1857- 
1859 came Zepaniah G. Pierce; 1860-1861 
J. Harvey Cole; 1862-1869 Alonzo D. 
Pierce again; 1870-1873 Frank A. Dwinell; 
1874- 1884 Clarence R. Dwinell; 1885-1889 
Benjamin P. White; 1890-1892 Alonzo D. 
Pierce; 1893-1896 Walter L. Pierce; 1897- 
1910 Clarence R. Dwinell and 1911-19I4 
Walter J. Coates.

 

The postoffice at North Calais was not 
established until 1880 and Shubael B. Fair,

 

170
its first incumbent, held the office until 
1893. Since that year E. D. Haskell, 
S. B. Fair again, Charles H. Burnap and 
Edith L. Beard have been in charge of the 
office.

 


The postoffice at Adamant in the south 
part of the town, was started in 1895 and 
its incumbents have been several, and per- 
haps all too recent to need mention here.

 


. Calais has had in its entire history hut 
two senators and there are few towns of its 
size and age in Vermont that have not had 
more. These two were Nathaniel Eaton 
in 1840-1841 and Albert Dwinell from 
1878 to 1881.

 


The town has had Shubael Wheeler. 
Pliny Curtiss, Alonzo Pierce, Ira S. Dwi- 
.nell and Mahlon S. Hathaway as Assistant 
Judges of Washington County Court.

 


In 1810 Gershom Palmer was Judge of 
Probate and in 1868 and 1869 Nelson A. 
Chase held the same office.

 


Shubael Wheeler was clerk of Washing- 
ton County Court from 1844 to 1848.

 

He was a most excellent penman and many 

 

are the tales told of his ability in this line. 
Hon. J. A. Wing, father of George W. 
Wing, now State Librarian, was a friend 
of Wheeler and the latter once sent Wing 
a letter which contained on the outside of 
the envelope done in vari-colored inks, a 
large blue jay and a separate wing of the 
blue jay and with the words "Barrister. 
Plainfield, Vt." It was delivered to J. A. 
Wing without delay.

 


The Honorable Wing, a man of re- 
sources and not easily outwitted, soon sent 
a letter himself on which appeared a shoe, 
a bell, a wheel and the exclamation "Ah!" 
It is said that without further address it 
went at once to Shubael Wheeler, Clerk 
of Washington County Court.

 


Calais sent its first representative to the 
legislature in the person of Peter Wheelock 
and during the one hundred and nine years 
that have since elapsed she has sent fifty- 
one different men and in 1832 and 1870 
and 1871 she was not represented.

 


The first selectmen of Calais were elected 
at its town meeting in 1795 and with the 
exception of 1805 three men have been 
elected annually for one hundred and ten 
years.

 


Three listers have held the office in each 
year since 1795. except the years 1800 to

 

1803 inclusive when five seemed necessary 
for the purpose.

 


Since 1849 for sixty-five years the town 
has annually elected either six or seven, 
generally seven, Justices of the Peace. 
Prior to that time the town increased its 
Justices from one, in the person of Peter 
Wheelock in 1795, to twenty-seven differ- 
ent men in 1849. Although the names 
appearing in 1849 were those of solid, sub- 
stantial and representative citizens, it would 
seem that the office became overloaded, in 
fact it would appear that it was thought in 
those days that all the leading men in 
every town must often be Justices of the 
Peace.

 


During the first half of the last century 
it was fully as common in rural communi- 
ties for our grandfathers to be married by 
a Justice as by a minister of the gospel, 
even after the days when church going 
had become a habit and well nigh impera- 
tive. Perhaps the law provided for a 
super-abundance of Justices of the Peace 
in those times from the fact that as free- 
man's meeting drew near, some approach- 
ing . would be bride or groom had a near 
relative or friend whom they wished to 
have tie the great knot and for that reason 
the relatives or friend got public office for 
one year at least.

 


The first physician to settle in Calais was 
Samuel Danforth, in 1800. Prior to that 
time there was not a doctor in town and 
very few died.

 


Some seventy births had been attended 
during the preceding twelve years by mid- 
wives and but one mother died during the 
ordeal. When we consider the great fear 
of infection properly held on such occa- 
sions by people of our generation it would 
seem as if the lack of fear or knowledge of 
such a complication alone accounts for the 
success of those early attendants and their 
primitive methods.

 


Samuel Danforth was here for thirteen 
years. In 1812 and 1813 one Stephen 
Corey was in Calais and in 1812-1814 Jon- 
athan Eaton practiced here. In 1815 came 
John T. Gilman who doctored in town 
until his death in 1824. He was a man of 
large promise and his demise was a dis- 
tinct loss to the community.

 


Charles Clark was a doctor in Calais 
from 1823 to 1836, Pliny Bliss in 1829, 
Tyler Mason in 1837-1839. Ebenezer S. 
Deming 1843-1854. Marcus Ide, 1855-

 

171
1874, George H. Gray 1868-1894 and 
George A. Carter 1890-1893.

 


Other doctors of Calais have been Jacob 
Gleason, William S. Carpenter, Francis 
W. Tilton, Horace Douglass, A. A. Short, 
J. Breen, Cyrus Farnsworth, Elbridge 
Tobey, Nelson Harris, A. H. Wisbart, F. 
J. Gale, W. S. Gillette, E. A. Widber 
and for some time during recent years Dr. 
Wheeler. who lived in North Montpelier.

 


I have waited to mention last the name 
of the Dean of Medicine in Calais, Dr. Asa 
George. Coming here in 1824 for fifty- 
seven long years he rode up and down

 


ASA GEORGE [picture]
A physician In Calais from 1824 to 1880.

 


and to and fro on these country roads by 
day and by night, seeing the new-born 
arrive, the young, middle aged and old in 
all their physical troubles and sitting by 
the bedside times uncounted, watching the 
coming of the last moments of his friends 
and neighbors. Few men in Vermont or 
in New England ever practiced as long in 
one locality and certainly Calais never had 
another man who could have told as much 
of interest concerning her citizens in early 
days as could have Asa George at the 
close of his long and active life.

 

At one time he was accused, and per- 
haps justly, of being too grasping for 
money, but notwithstanding that, there is 
no man who ever lived in Calais and has 
now passed away whose hand I would 
shake more vigorously, could he be called 
back from the beyond, than that of Asa 
George. In 1824 he was present when 
my grandmother was born, in 1849 he was 
present at the birth of her daughter, my 
mother, and in 1875 be officiated at the 
birth of my mother's only child, the author 
of this sentence, and his picture I have 
long counted among my most cherished 
possessions.

 


It is impossible now "to ascertain the 
exact date, or even year when a minister 
of the gospel first preached in Calais, or in 
fact lived in town. It is doubtful if much 
attention was paid to regular public wor- 
ship prior to 1810.

 


We find in 1813 there had accumulated 
in the fund for public worship about $40.00 
and it was given to Elder Benjamin Put- 
nam and in 1815 the amount on hand was 
voted to Elder Benjamin Page. At this 
time there had accumulated from the right 
set aside for the first settled minister 
$628.34. and it would seem that Elder 
Benjamin Page had that honor. He con- 
tinued to preach in Calais until 1840, a 
man of marked piety and strong peculiari- 
ties.

 


It is difficult in going over the old 
church records to make certain whether 
a minister who preached in Calais was 
actually a resident there or lived instead 
in some nearby town.

 


On August 18, 1823 there met at Medad 
Wright's a few men who organized the 
First Meeting House Society and Caleb 
Curtiss, Isaac Davis, Alpheus Bliss, Medad 
Wright and Joel Robinson were made a 
committee to select the site.

 


On August 30 they again met, a site 
had been fixed and the size and architec- 
ture were agreed upon. The church is 
modelled almost exactly like the old 
church at Charlton Four Corners in Charl- 
ton, Mass., in which church so many of 
Calais' early citizens had worshipped as 
boys or young men.

 


Caleb Curtiss, Joseph Bliss, Joel Robin- 
son, Remember Kent, Isaac Davis, and 
Joseph Brown had charge of the work in 
the construction of the edifice. The frame 
was prepared and raised in October of

 

172
1823 and Lovell Kelton, a master builder 
of those times, had charge of the work.

 


The labor progressed during the sum- 
mers of 1824 and 1825 and the total cost 
was found on completion to have been 
$2005.00, probably a reasonable sum in 
those days, but no more than one-third of 
what it would cost today, certainly were 
such massive timbers to be used in its con- 
struction.

 


In November of 1825 the house was 
dedicated by the Rev. John Bartlett of 
Hartland and the use of the building was 
apportioned among the Universalists, Bap- 
tists, Congregationalists, Free Will Bap- 
tists, Christians and Methodists.

 


There was not a stove in the building 
until 1831 and for six years our sires 
thronged that church on every Sunday in 
both summer and winter without heat in 
the latter season. except what emanated 
from the pulpit. How many now could 
be induced to go to that building on a 
winter's Sunday with the thermometer in- 
side hardly above zero at times and sit for 
two or more hours to hear the word of God?

 


For many years nearly all funerals and 
many weddings occurred within its walls 
and the old mansion is closely interwoven 
with the early life of the town in which it 
stands.

 


Evening services have probably never 
been held, with few exceptions, in this 
church and one of these was on the night 
of December 25, 1836, long called the 
"Great Illumination Meeting," Candle- 
sticks and candles were brought there from 
far and near, the sills of every window were 
lined with them, the long railing in the 
gallery, extending three-fourths of the way 
around the building, was covered with 
them as was the pulpit and every 'pew was 
liberally supplied. The church was filled 
to the doors with young and old, the light 
within could be seen for miles and as the 
meeting drew to a close the entire congre- 
gation stood and sung with fervor "While 
Shepherds Watch Their Flocks by Night."

 


The impressiveness of the entire service 
was never forgotten by those present.

 


All during the year of 1843 many peo- 
ple in Calais became Millerites. William 
Miller, the founder of the sect, had figured 
from the Scriptures with mathematical 
precision that Christ would come again on 
December 31, 1843. the sea and the land 
would then give up their dead, the earth 
would be destroyed and the saved would

 

from that moment enter into the joy of 
their Lord.

 


The sect in the United States and Can- 
ada numbered some fifty thousand and 
Calais furnished her full quota, many of 
whom were among her very best citizens.

 


In the fall of that year crops were left 
standing to rot in the fields as there would 
be no need of food when the earth was 
split in twain and consumed, meetings 
were frequently held in the Calais church 
and excitement was at a high pitch.

 


On the last night of 1843 the Millerites 
assembled at the church to await the com- 
ing of the Lord. They all appeared in 
white ascension robes and few among them 
when leaving their homes had the slightest 
idea they would ever see them again. A 
goodly number of heathens or unbelievers 
turned out also and occupied back seats in 
the meeting house and to their credit it is 
said they paid quiet and respectful attention.

 


A large tall clock was carried into the 
church and stood near the pulpit and as 
the hour of twelve drew nigh the excite- 
ment became intense. Elder Shipman, 
who led the meeting, publicly thanked his 
God that he should so soon be allowed to 
meet face to face his ancestors "risen from 
their coffins."

 


At five minutes before midnight the en- 
tire congregation arose and sang "Nearer 
My God to Thee," and then in breathless 
silence awaited the dissolution of the world.

 


As the tall clock struck the first note of 
twelve several women screamed and one 
or two fell in a faint.

 


But nothing happened.

 


First one would leave and then another 
and in ten minutes it is said the church 
was empty and Millerism was dead.

 


The old church was used constantly 
during the first thirty-five years of its ex- 
istence, then for some twenty-five years 
services were held with considerable regu- 
larity, but now for nearly thirty years. 
with the exception of a few Sundays in the 
summer, no preaching is heard within its 
walls. It has, however, been exception- 
ally well cared for and is visited with re- 
spectful curiosity by scores of the men and 
women who pass it in the summer months.

 


The words over the pulpit are peculiarly 
appropriate in a church as dignified and 
honored as is the old West Church of 
Calais. They are, "Remove not the 
ancient landmark which thy fathers have 
built."

 

(Source: The Vermonter -- The State Magazine, Vol. 19, Nos. 10-11, Oct.-Nov., 1814, pp. 163-172.)