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Cavendish, Vermont and Founders

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  • Susannah Coffeen (1732 - 1826)
    family tradition says... her mother died on the ocean crossing and was buried at sea, she and her sister saw sharks come for the body. Family tree notation, her mother was a Gideon.*Middletown Vital Re...
  • Salmon Dutton (1744 - 1824)
    Dutton: In 1781 Salmon Dutton moved to Cavendish from Massachusetts. Dutton worked as a road surveyor, a justice of the peace, and the treasurer of the town ..Cavendish was originally named Duttonville...
  • Isaac Parker (1760 - 1825)
  • Redfield Proctor, Governor, U.S. Senator and Secretary of War (1831 - 1908)
    Redfield Proctor served as the 37th Governor of Vermont from 1878 to 1880, as Secretary of War from 1889 to 1891, and as a United States Senator for Vermont from 1891 to 1908. He was a Republican.Proct...
  • John Russell (1751 - 1836)
    From Cavendish Genealogist Linda Welch Source: Family The following is from Linda Welch, the CHS genealogist. Rev. John Russell (5) { Noadiah (4), Noadiah (3), Noadiah (2), William (1)}, was born in Ch...

Cavendish, Vermont This project will collect information about the beginning of Cavendish and the founders.


The charter for Cavendish was issued by New Hampshire on October 12, 1761 and the Town was rechartered by New York on June 16, 1762. Cavendish was most likely named for William Cavendish, the fourth Duke of Devonshire.

The first settlers in Cavendish, John and Susanna Coffeen and their children, arrived in 1769. Salmon Dutton, who came in 1781, founded what is today known as the village of Cavendish, while Leonard Proctor arrived in 1782, developing what is now called the village of Proctorsville.

The original size of Cavendish was seven miles square. On October 19, 1793, the southeast corner of Cavendish was organized into a Town by the name of Baltimore. The main reason behind this division was that communication with Town officials was very difficult for those who lived south of Hawks Mountain. Cavendish lost 3,000 acres to Baltimore. In 1841, by legislative decree, Cavendish lost an additional 2,000 acres of its southern border to the Town of Chester. Therefore, a total of 5,000 acres of Cavendish was lost from its original charter.

The first highway through Cavendish was the Crown Point Road, begun in 1759 at Fort No. 4 in Charlestown, N.H., and passed through Vermont to its terminus at Crown Point, New York. This road was built by the order of General Amherst, the British General of all armies of North America during the French and Indian War. The road was needed to facilitate transportation of supplies and communications between New York forts and New Hampshire's Fort No. 4. The Crown Point Road went through the Township of Cavendish from the southeast corner to the northwest corner.

In June of 1769 Captain Coffeen came to Cavendish from Rindge, New Hampshire to become the town's first settler. He established his home near the Crown Point Road in the northwest part of town. In 1771 two more families arrived, the Russells and the Gilberts. At the start of the Revolutionary War there were five families residing in Cavendish. By 1790 the population was 491 and in 1870, the Town recorded its highest population ever with 1,823 residents. In 2010, The United States Census reported Cavendish's residential population to be 1,370.

The Town's first settlers established their homes in the hills, because it was easier and faster to clear land. Once the land had been cleared, the settlers started to raise agricultural crops such as wheat and corn. The first major type of farming was raising sheep for wool, which was sold to local markets. Sheep farming ended with the coming of the railroads, which allowed for importation of cheaper wool from larger sheep ranches in the West. At this point farmers turned to raising crops that could be sold to markets in the cities. Dairy farming became the next main occupation for farmers. At one time, there were approximately 36 active dairy farms in Cavendish.

In the early 1800s there were three gristmills, eight saw mills, four pulping mills, three carding machines, two woolen factories, one nail factory, three tanneries, one tinware and stove factory, one hat factory, and several other businesses in Cavendish. By 1869 there were factories producing woodenwares, lead pipes, pumps, edge tools, starch, saddlery and harnesses, and rake and tool handles.

From 1870 to 1880, Cavendish lost over five hundred residents due to westward expansion and younger people moving to cities in search of higher wages. The Town population continued to decline in 1880s, reaching a low of 1,172 people, the lowest level from 1810 to the present.

Up until 1875, Cavendish had three major textile mills: one in Cavendish Village; one in Proctorsville Village and one in what were then known as Fittonsville, a commercially oriented hamlet a short distance downstream on the Black River to the southwest of Cavendish Village.

In 1875 a catastrophic fire of suspicious origin wiped out almost the entire Fittonsville complex and it was not rebuilt. This left the mills in Proctorsville and Cavendish villages to provide the major influences in the development of the town and became the Town's major employer. The mills eventually closed; the Proctorsville mill in 1937, followed by the Cavendish mill in 1957. Mack Molding Company, a plastics manufacturing firm, became the next occupant of the Cavendish mill and continues to operate today. The mill in Proctorsville was occupied by several small businesses for a number of years until it was destroyed by fire in 1982.

In 1914, an important asset for the town was created,Proctor Piper State Forest, with the donation of 424 acres. A second gift from Leon S. Gay in the mid-30s added 300 acres, and additional purchases of property added another 700 acres. The property today is host to a wide variety of wildlife and recreational activities of fishing, snowmobiling, hunting, and trapping.

Over the years, Cavendish has survived a number of natural disasters. A devastating flood occurred in 1927. During that flood, the Black River's waters spilled over its banks, washing out lower Cavendish Village and creating a large gully. The waters took seven houses, ten barns, four garages, and eight automobiles. In 1938 a major hurricane struck the Town. The winds blew down thousands of trees, blocking nearly every road. In 1973, Cavendish again experienced a severe flood that washed out many roads and bridges. On July 21, 2003, a ferocious storm with heavy rain, lightning and very severe winds roared through town. Classified as a tornado, the storm destroyed one mobile home (while occupied), blew apart several outbuildings, damaged several other homes and lay flat acres of forest.

The Town of Cavendish was home to U.S.S.R. dissident and author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn from 1977 to 1994. The Nobel Laureate called Cavendish home because it was a place where he could find sanctuary and a quiet atmosphere in which to write. Once Communist rule in Russia was over, he decided to return to Russia. To mark his departure, he was presented a plaque from the town as a token of esteem at the Cavendish Town Meeting on February 28, 1994. When Solzhenitsyn died in 2008, the town gathered to remember their neighbor.

In the last decade much work has been done to improve and revitalize the village centers, especially Proctorsville. In the late 1990's the Town of Cavendish applied for and received several important grants for revitalizing Proctorsville. With matching funds and in-kind matches provided by the Town and the private sector, the Town was able to change the vacant Proctorsville mill site into a handsome, well-designed village green with recreational space and with affordable housing strategically placed adjacent to the green.

In recent years, the Town of Cavendish has felt the influence of Okemo Mountain Resort, in Ludlow in a variety of ways, including housing, employment, tourism, traffic and population.

There has also been a rebirth of community spirit in the 2000s. There has been a renewal in community interest and ongoing town activities. There have been summer concerts on the Proctorsville Green, a community holiday affair in November, the creation of the Cavendish Players that offer a play in August, as well as other cultural and arts activities. There has been a revitalized interest in maintaining existing community institutions and creating new community organizations to enhance community and cultural life of the town.

At one time, there were ten small schools, with grades one through eight, scattered throughout the Town. At present, the Town has one elementary school serving grades kindergarten through six, which is located in Proctorsville. Cavendish students travel to Chester for grades 7-12 at the Green Mountain Union High School. The Cavendish School is a vital community center, providing a forum for town meetings and other functions. The community library was also moved to be co-located at the school in 1990. The town citizens came together in 1995 to build a playground behind the school. And in 2004, the school underwent a major reconstruction project to improve and enhance the facilities.

Today, in many ways, Cavendish has returned to its roots. With the arrival of the internet age, there has been a blossoming of small home-based businesses. While the early settlers produced items that were needed locally and in surrounding towns, thanks to the web, many of our current businesses sell products and services all over the world There is a growing artist community as well as a return to small farming. Once again cows and sheep dot the Cavendish landscape.

Cavendish was chartered as a town in 1761 to Amos Kimball and associates by Benning Wentworth, the Colonial Governor of New Hampshire (Aldrich and Holmes 1891). The proprietors surveyed and allotted shares in 1762, but disputes postponed the process until it was settled in 1769 (Child 1884). In 1764 the area was declared by England to be part of New York, and a new charter was obtained in June of 1772 (Aldrich and Holmes 1891). The majority of the earliest settlers in Cavendish were from Massachusetts (Aldrich and Holmes 1891). Captain John Coffeen, the first settler in the town, provided his farm in the northern part of the town for shelter for American soldiers marching from Charlestown to Lake Champlain during the Revolutionary War (Child 1884). Settlement was sparse until after the war, and the first recorded town meeting was in 1782. The first road was laid out in 1784 by Salmon Dutton, one of the earliest settlers. By 1787 three school districts were laid out; in 1791 the population had grown to 491 and a fourth school district was added in 1793 (Aldrich and Holmes 1891). By 1800, the population was 921 (CHS 2009). During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, periodic epidemic diseases such as spotted fever (typhus), cholera, and small pox swept through New England, often decimating the populations of small towns. Cultural Context PAL Report No. 2437.03 43 One response was the creation of pest houses, where infected people were quarantined. Pesthouses generally also had associated cemeteries for the burial of those who succumbed. A pesthouse cemetery is documented in Cavendish, within the K-31 Line corridor portion of the Project APE, on what was known locally as the “old Saunders Farm” off Town Farm or South Reading Road. The cemetery is surrounded by a rectangular stone wall and contains one extant headstone for “Jotham Wheelock/Born August 26, 1763/Died April 27, 1831.” The monument reportedly was erected by one of Wheelock’s descendants many years after his death (see further discussion below). The early economy of Cavendish was primarily agricultural; however, potash was also produced and exported to England (CHS 2009). The first grist mill was built on the Black River in the late eighteenth century about a mile east of Cavendish village on the Black River (Child 1884) and a second mill was constructed about 1800. The village of Proctorsville developed into a nineteenth-century industrial center (Figure 4-3). A saw mill and grist mill were built there, and were replaced by a woolen mill in 1836. In Cavendish Village, the Black River Canal and Manufacturing Company, a cloth factory, was built in 1832 (Aldrich and Holmes 1891). Whiteseville, a hamlet on the Black River to the north of Cavendish Village, also became a concentration of manufacturing, with “a grist-mill, saw mill, bobbin factor and about a dozen dwellings” (Child 1884:104). The K-31 Line corridor traverses through the approximate center of the town, north of both Cavendish Village and Proctorsville. Historically, the K-31 Line corridor was situated in less populated areas that were settled as outlying farms. During the Civil War, the town began to incur debt with the expense of raising the Cavendish Light Infantry – 187 volunteers fought in the war (Aldrich and Holmes 1891). Cavendish also participated in the underground railroad (CHS 2009). After the war, industries in the town began to struggle. The woolen mill in Proctorsville changed hands several times before it was bought by the Hayward, Taft and Company in 1877. The company also purchased a chair factory west of Proctorsville and “converted it into a shoddy and flock factory and a box shop” (Aldrich and Holmes 1891:517). In Cavendish, fires destroyed the Black River Canal and Manufacturing Company in 1873 and a tannery in 1880 (Aldrich and Holmes 1891). By 1891, manufacturing was reduced to a single mill, The Gay Brothers Mill, which produced satinet. Transportation to the town was facilitated by the opening of the Rutland and Burlington Railroad in 1850 (Rutland and Burlington Railroad Company 1850). The company was reorganized in 1869 and merged with the Vermont Central Railroad. The railroad ran along the Black River to Cavendish Village center and then turned south to continue into Bellows Falls. A station was constructed at Proctorsville in the west and at Cavendish Village near the Black River. By 1880, the population of Cavendish had reached 1,276 (Child 1884) and in 1889 there were 11 school districts. By 1891, there were “two churches, two stores, a national bank, a hotel, a school building, a woolen mill, and about sixty dwellings” in Proctorsville (Aldrich and Holmes 1891; Wheeler 1952). Industry revived with World War I, and the population increased to 1,319 in 1920 (Cavendish Historical Society 2009). Cavendish suffered great damage from the 1927 flood which cut a quarter-mile gully through Main Street (CHS 2009; Hurd 1978). Many residents lost their farms in the Depression, and a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp was established in Proctorsville (CHS 2009). During World War II, the Gay Brothers Mill produced wool blankets and other goods for the war effort. However, the mill was sold and eventually closed in 1957; population decreased to 1,223 by 1960 (CHS 2009). Today, the rural town of Cavendish has a population of approximately 1,400 (US Census Bureau 2000). Economic activities include several construction companies, a few small farms, and a variety of different businesses. Tourism has also been stimulated by the nearby Okemo Mountain ski resort (CHS 2009)


At the opening of the Revolutionary War there were some seven families living within the boundaries of Cavendish. Late in 1775, the militia in Cumberland County of the New Hampshire Grants was organized and John Coffeen was commissioned a Captain of the Cavendish Company on Aug. 3, 1775. His unit was a part of the Upper Regiment commanded by Col. Joseph Marsh. They were involved in garrison duty, serving to transport prisoners to Canada for exchange.

The first 'town meeting' in Cavendish took place on March 13, 1778 in Capt. John‘s home. He was chosen Chairman of a committee to ascertain the boundaries of Cavendish. He was also chosen as the first Representative from Cavendish to the State Legislature. He held many town offices throughout his life at Cavendish.

Susanna Coffeen (wife of Capt. John Coffeen):  During the Revolutionary war years 1775-1783, Susanna was the only woman that remained in Cavendish. In 1777, Coffeen’s grain and grass fields, as well as fledgling young orchard, were destroyed when 300 New England troops were stationed on his farm, while working on the Crown Point Road. Later in the year, after the surrender of Crown Point and Ticonderoga, militia, whose terms had expired or where discharged for misconduct, again encamped at Coffeen’s as they made their way home. The tavern house, which Coffeen had established, was immediately filled to overflowing. Those who could not get lodging inside, built fires with the boards that Capt. Coffeen had procured for building a large barn and house. They stripped his home of nearly everything it contained and the turned their horses into his grain. They justified their actions by declaring that the enemy would do it themselves within 48 hours. Capt. Coffeen’s sent his family to relatives in Rindge, NH. For the remainder of the summer, his house became a camp for the vagrant soldiery, several of whom died under his roof.

In this same year, Coffeen was chosen to represent Vermont at the Windsor Convention to form a Constitution for the new State of Vermont in June of that year.

source for above:


Cavendish Semiquincentennial: Whose Buried in the Revolutionary Cemetery? This past week, Carmine Guica dropped off some of his binders at the Cavendish Historical Society Museum. Among them were the stories and genealogies of those buried in the various town cemeteries.

About the Revolutionary Cemetery, off of Brook Road in Cavendish, Guica notes, “The reason why it is so rough and little knolls and no grave stones, especially on the lower end is that years back a lot of the families dug up their dead either on account of religion or they wanted them moved to the new cemeteries. This has come to me by word of mouth, one generation to the next.”

While a number of Revolutionary soldiers are buried in the Cemetery, he pointed out the story of Thomas Gleason who was born before 1758 at Worcester, Mass and died at Cavendish in 1830/31. He was a Revolution soldier. The following is from “The Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society” in 1935. “Gleason could of told much more about his Military Service. As a matter of fact, he had been a deserter repeatedly and was probably a bounty-jumper. When not in uniform, he was in trouble with the civil authorities. He was brought to trial in his native Town of Worcester in 1779, charged with passing counterfeit bills. He pled guilty and was committed to jail for two months.

Following this imprisonment he re-enlisted in the Army, but soon showed in Worcester, an alleged deserter and was then in trouble over counterfeit bills. After another enlistment and desertion, he appears before the Superior Court in Cambridge charged with obtaining fraudulently a note of hand but was given “the leave of Court to depart.”

The following year, 1791, he was found guilty of burglary and put away for five years at Castle Island. Described as a man 5 and one half feet in height, dark complexion, born in Worcester, Mass 1758 ‘much given to vice and immorality, (testified his Uncle) not to be depended on because he would rather lie then tell the truth.’ He must nevertheless be put down as a Veteran and Pensioner of the Revolution.”

The oldest grave stone is for Henry Proctor (born 3/15/1729, died 6/19/1778). It is the only stone facing east. “It was believed by some at that time that the Spirit will rise from the east.”

Source for above:


Kilns once doted the Vermont landscape as these were used to make a white powder derived from limestone. For at least 7,000 years humans have used this process to hardened pottery or smelted ore, and most commonly, to create mortar for construction. This would have been used between the layers for Cavendish's stone houses and church.

During the height of the lime kilns, forests and mountainsides were stripped of their trees to keep them operating.

On Sept ember 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. Miraculously he survived his injury and lived 12 more years, becoming the first well documented case of traumatic brain injury in medicine. On Sept ember 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. Miraculously he survived his injury and lived 12 more years, becoming the first well documented case of traumatic brain injury in medicine.

In 1936, Walton H. Green relayed information given to him 30 years prior by Christopher Goodrich, the ox-cart driver who drove Gage to his boarding house. Goodrich was 82 at the time. Green said, “The accident took place at the second cut south of Cavendish …near where Roswell Downer built his lime kiln later.” The accident took place 0.75 miles south of Cavendish along the track of the Old Rutland and Burlington Rail Road (Cavendish Gulf Rd). There is a 21.7 marker on tracks, which can be seen from the road. If you look across the tracks, you will see the remains of a limekiln.



First marriage recorded Michael Coffeen and Sarah Preston on 14 April, 1778

Second marriage recorded Rev. John Russell and Lucretia Preston Russell Family: The following is from Linda Welch, the CHS genealogist.

Rev. John Russell (5) { Noadiah (4), Noadiah (3), Noadiah (2), William (1)}, was born in Chatham, Connecticut, 14 Dec., 1751. He m. in Cavendish, 10 May, 1778 Lucretia Preston of Ashford, Conn. (b. Ashford, Connecticut, 19 Feb., 1762, dau. of Abial & Mehitable (Smith) Preston)

The marriage of Lucretia and John was the second recorded marriage in Cavendish, the first being that of Michael Coffeen on 14 April, 1778

When John was around 24 years old, he came to Cavendish with his brother, Noadiah. This was in 1771. That same year, John was elected the first town clerk and justice of the peace. With self study, he became an "old fashioned Baptist preacher" and was nicknamed, "John the Baptist." This name stuck with him, even in later years. We have no record that he was formally ordained, but he was well respected.

On 28 Oct., 1781, John Russell purchased Proprietor Mesheck Ware's original Right of Cavendish land, lying in the southeasterly corner of the "Mill Lot," so-called, south to the town line, etc. The seller was Daniel Cheney of Union (Windham Co) Connecticut, who was acting as agent for Mr. Ware. This parcel contained 312 acres of land altogether. (Vol. 1, page 107, Cavendish land records)

Lucretia's parents, the Prestons, had come from Ashford, Connecticut to Cavendish very early, but did most of them did not remain long. A deed dated Charlestown, NH, 29 Jan., 1773, shows Abiel Preston, 'then of Rockingham, Cumberland Co. NY, (which was Windsor Co., Vt.), paying John Church of Charlestown, NH, #11 for securing his hold on a 262 acre parcel of Cavendish land when Church went to NY state to receive a New York charter for Cavendish.

From the HENRY B. ATHERTON PAPERS; MEMORIES OF THE RUSSELL FAMILY, by E. E. Orcutt, Taftsville, Vt., 1879: "John Russell was born in Chatham, now Middletown Connecticut. And through all his long and useful life his advent must have been a reminder of "Merry Christmas," since it has been said of him by his children that he never was known to use a more rude or stern expression than: "It beats all that ever I saw, since the day that I was born." But his gentle manners and genial spirit did not make him shrink when duty called from encountering nature in her primitive wildness, or from successfully grappling with all the trials and difficulties attending the settlement of a new country. Accordingly while yet a young man, he left his native state and joined an older brother, Noadiah Russell, who had already as early as 1771, made Cavendish, Vermont his home. Here John Russell was of great service in forming the society of the new town, holding the offices of Town Clerk and Justice of the Peace for many years. Being as I was told by his son, Deacon Bliss Russell, late of Cavendish, the first town clerk and first justice of the peace. Thompson's Gazetteer to the contrary. And I have now a letter from Thompson saying that if he ever revised his Gazetteer, he would correct the mistake. But Thompson has since died and I take this opportunity to make the corrections that the history of the town of Cavendish may stand corrected. John Russell's higher office of Baptist preacher in those early times, was equally faithfully discharged. And it shows the characteristic activity and energy of those times that while he with his hands cleared the wilderness, planted an orchard and built him a home, his intellectual powers were called into requisition for the benefit of his townsmen; and his spiritual nature lacked not food, which he drew from the world of God for himself and distributed to his neighbors. In 1778 he was married to Lucretia. Her family were connected by marriage with John Coffeen "by whom," says Thompson, "the settlement of Cavendish was commenced in June, 1769, and at whose hospitable dwelling, thousands of our Revolutionary soldiers received refreshments." Mrs. Russell, though ten years younger than her husband, proved herself every way worthy the choice of so excellent a man. John Russell often preached at what was then called "Twenty-Mile Stream" as well as in his own neighborhood, and not long since I had the pleasure of hearing his sermons praised by one of his longtime ago hearers, a nephew of his wife. Esquire Russell was, for a short time, engaged in mercantile business in Cavendish and the "Prices Current" in New York in 1795 show that the wants of the times were then as well as now; "nails and tobacco."

But the cards for carding wool and flax are discarded and the generation is fast passing away that even remembers the day when they were the requisites of every household. It was said of Robert Burns that he was "too good a poet to be a good farmer," and it might equally be said of Esquire Russell that he was too much occupied with the welfare of his town to attend to amassing a fortune for himself, though he always, like Melancthon, kept open doors. And later in life he inherited quite a little patrimony from his father's estate in Connecticut. He was often away from home officiating at weddings and funerals or some difficulty between neighbors for which his quiet manners and good judgment eminently fitted him. He was no partisan. Where duty went, there he went and right was right in his eyes wherever found. He had no sympathy with crowned heads. He remarked when Napoleon Bonaparte was bearing sway, "His name is Bone - a - part, but he needed to bone the whole." History shows how such characters terminate their career, and no talents however brilliant, not enlisted in the cause of human rights, will win for their possessors the love of succeeding generations. John Russell was a man eminently beloved in his community as well as in his family. His children were made his equals in companionship, free and familiar in their happy intercourse with each other; they never feared to ask his advice or tell him their troubles, sure of wise counsel and affectionate sympathy.

Family Letters: Cavendish, 14 Dec., 1831 To: Dr. and Mrs. Gray From: Lucretia Russell My children: I seat myself to write to you but feel myself incapable both in body and mind for my health is poor. I have no reason to expect to stay in this world long. This world is not my home. When I awake in the morning I say "bless the Lord O My Soul" for all His benefits that I am yet in the land of the living. I was glad to see a line from you but it is more agreeable to see ones' dear children face to face. Your sister Polly's health is very poor but we are in hopes her health will be better in the spring. Give my love to all your children. I remain your loving and tender mother -Lucretia Russell.

More from MEMORIES OF THE RUSSELL FAMILY, by E. E. Orcutt, 1879: "John and Lucretia were the parents of seven children. The first son that bore his father's name, John Jr. died when an infant of 17 months and though the father lived to be an octogenarian, he did not forget this little son ever. I have heard my mother, his youngest daughter [Eunice Gray] says the very last time she ever saw her father he spoke of "the little boy that died." The other six children, three sons and three daughters, lived to maturity; and all early gave their hearts of Jesus and led consistent Christian lives. Though John Russell has been called a "strict Calvinist" by some, he doubtless was. But nevertheless he was not a bigoted sectarian. When his youngest daughter thought proper to unite with the Congregational Church and first consulted her honored father with regard to the propriety of the step, he made no objects. When his second daughter, the present only survivor of the family, was under religious conviction she arose at midnight and expressed her fears to her parents that she had sinned away the day of grace. His reply is worthy of record for the benefit of others in similar doubts. He said, "no my daughter. If you had you would have no concern for yourself." He and his wife arose at that midnight hour and prayed with their daughter and in about one week she found "peace and joy in believing." The next day was Thanksgiving day and the happiest Thanksgiving day of her life. She lately assured me, and though now in her 83rd year, still looks back with thankfulness to the time when Christ spoke pardon to her soul. This faithful discharge of Christian duty on the part of the parents may have been the means God used to bring their children early to find a saving knowledge of Christ. And it is hoped its record may inspire other Christian parents with like faithfulness.

Their eldest daughter born in 1782, became the wife of Levi Jackman, Esq., who was many times the town's representative from Cavendish. After a life of usefulness, she died in Cavendish at the age of 70 years. The death of the eldest son in 1785, age 17 months was a blow to both John and his beloved wife Lucretia. They carried him to the cemetery and bid goodbye to him in body but vowed never to forget him in spirit. Sally Russell married David G. Perkins and at this date (1879) is the only survivor of her father's family. Bliss Russell, named for his grandmother Russell who was a "Bliss" was born in 1788 and many years was deacon of the Baptist Church in Cavendish. He died at the age of 72 years having perfect consciousness of the near close of life and sending loving farewell messages to his friends and family. Eunice Russell married a physician Dr. Gray. Always cheerful, affectionate and discreet, leaving the record of a well spent life, she died in Hartford at the age of 68 years in 1859. John Russell Jr. graduated at Middlebury College in 1817 and was married in 1818. He went West where his literary labors, identified with the development of his adopted state won for him a worthy renown. He died in Bluffdale, Illinois at the age of 69 in 1863. Elias Russell was born 15 May, 1796 in Cavendish. He was twice married and died in his native town, 12 Feb., 1868, age 62 years, the youngest of the band.

I have a few letters that have come down to me from Grandfather and Grandmother Russell, also some of Grandmother Gray's who was sister to the Rev. Aaron Bancroft, father of the historian and diplomat George Bancroft. Also letters from my Mother containing poetic thought and religious counsel and reflection worthy of publication. Also have quite a long correspondence of Uncle Dr. J. Russell's which are literary gems of rare value. Also many letters from his excellent and accomplished wife, and a few precious letters from Aunt Perkins whose husband was related to the distinguished singers of that name, exhibiting literary merit and religious experience. With some sweet mementos of the other members of that rare hospitable and loving Russell family, but the character of your Magazine forbids that I should lengthen this sketch by even brief quotations from the above mentioned sources. I know that a Genealogical record of the Russell family has been compiled in Middletown, Connecticut, and is now ready for the press."

Lucretia died 19 Jan., 1834 (age 72 years). Rev. John died at Cavendish, 1 Aug., 1836 (age 84). ___________________________________________________________________

RELIGION Cavendish Baptist Church I included all the history published in 2009 History

This page of our website is still under construction. Look around and feel free to kibitz with Pastor Abraham.

Except for a few years around 1870, the church records are complete from the original charter in 1803 to the present time. Many curious things are noticed in them, chief of which is the close watch kept over the members. One hundred and seventy-five years ago members were excluded for profanity, too free use of spirituous liquors, too much temper, falsehood, fighting, stealing butter, making cider on the Sabbath and neglecting church services. Every case was investigated by a committee, so that it is no wonder that meetings sometimes lasted from six to eight hours. One of the most interesting cases is that of Bro. Fassett, who was accused of joining the Methodists. The committee “Labored” with him to no avail and he was dismissed in 1808. Sixteen years later he confessed his wrongs in joining them, and asked to be reinstated as a Baptist. He was received again, since, to quote from the records, “by his confession he has given satisfaction to the church.” This is a strange contrast to the vote taken more recently, when open church membership (ie. joining our church from any other Christian church) was adopted by unanimous vote.

A History of Cavendish Baptists Ten years after the Town of Cavendish was chartered in 1761, and two years after John Coffeen made the first settlement, Noadiah Russell journeyed to Cavendish from Middletown, Connecticut, and there made his home. Descendants of this first Baptist pioneer continue to worship here at Cavendish Baptist Church, but the first Baptist church to be founded in this region was established in Chester, VT, in 1789. Salmon Dutton of Cavendish (for whom the town was known as Duttonville, and who latter became a Universalist) is mentioned in the records as being one of the charter members. The records of First Baptist Church of Chester contain the following items from 1794: “Voted to receive Samuel White, Jesse Spaulding, Asaph Fletcher and John Spaulding, of Cavendish, members of the Baptist Church in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, as members of this church.” It was also voted to regard them as a branch of the church, with the privilege of being formed into a separate church, when their numbers were increased to twelve, provided they desired it. Eight years later ten more from Cavendish were added.

In December of 1799, Rev. Aaron Leland of Chester certified the names of nineteen persons as members of the Baptist Church. With the approval of the Chester Church, on August 31, 1803, those members who could best be accommodated in the Cavendish area were dismissed from the mother church.

The Baptist Society worshipped in the Union Church, located near the stone farmhouse on Center Road. Built in 1801, it was paid for by town taxes although many protested against being taxed for such a purpose. But each denomination had the right to occupy the building “for religious worship in proportion as they should stand on the Grand List annually.” A committee was appointed at each Town Meeting to allot dates to the different denomination. There were 43 to 46 Baptists of this region that united to form the Baptist Church of Cavendish and Ludlow, and Elder Gershom Lane and Brother John Russell were requested to supply the church with preaching, each one-half of the time. For about 8 years there was no settled pastor.

Then, Rev. Jonathan Goings, Jr. , the first settled minister, came in 1811, and remained five years. He was ordained in Cavendish on May 9, 1811, and 10 people were baptized the first Sunday he was pastor. He held meetings far and near in houses, schoolhouses, and barns. Frequent mention is made in the records of meetings in the Center schoolhouse, Cavendish Academy, schoolhouse in “Proctor’s village” and Ludlow. A favorite spot was at a point where the towns of Andover, Cavendish, Chester and Ludlow corner, where stood a barn, which for those days was very spacious and convenient for meetings. Eighty-three were received into the church during this five-year pastorate, bringing the total membership to 138. On October 29, 1815, he asked to be dismissed from his pastorate on account of lack of “pecuniary support.” The church did not wish him to go, but finally released him on November 25, 1815, when he took up a pastorate in Worcester, Massachusetts. It would be from this pulpit that he would play significantly in the founding of Worcester Academy, Newton Theological Institution, Amherst College, Granville College, and later the Baptist Home Mission Society. This important Baptist got his start in Cavendish.

Samuel White was chosen to be the first Deacon and one of his first official acts was to present a Bible to the church. It was printed by Matthew Carey of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1811. The flyleaf reads as follows:

This Bible was bestowed as a Donation to the Baptist Church of Cavendish, by Samuel White, Esq., first Deacon of said Church, on 13 November, 1811, to be for the use and benefit of the same, in whatever Meeting house they may agree to convene for public worship. Any other Denomination assembling where this Bible may be, shall have free use of the same in such meetings. It is devoutly wished by the Donor of this Book, that large portions of the Old and New Testaments might be read publicly on Sabbath mornings at least, as part of the Divine Service.

This bible continues to have a place of honor and use on the altar table to this day.

On February 26, 1825 it was voted “That the brethren in the town of Ludlow have leave to form into a church by themselves.” Therefore 46 withdrew from the local organization to form the present Ludlow Baptist Church. This meant that the Church in Cavendish was a unit unto itself. After the division, Rev. Joseph Freeman became pastor, and with the exception of two years, remained until 1837.

On the sixteenth day of February, 1833, certain inhabitants of Cavendish and vicinity “did associate themselves together and form a Corporation by the name of the Baptist Society of Cavendish and Vicinity, for the purpose of building a meeting house, and keeping the same in suitable repair.” This was accomplished when in 1834 a meeting house was built in “the lower village”

The building was made of brick with a slate roof and was financed through the sale of pews. The members believed in “paying as you go,” for there was but $70.00 debt when the building was finished and this was promptly removed by taxing members pro rata in accordance with their ability to pay. The society was presented with a church bell in 1850 by Benjamin F. White of Boston.

It is interesting to note that the first signs of musical instruments in the church was in 1861 when $50.00 was raised to buy a melodian. This was purchased from Messers. B.F. White and Fletcher of Boston, who furnished the balance of the funds necessary to buy it. The salary paid to the pastor at this time was $300.00, which is nearly double that paid in 1826 — “$165.00 a year plus one-half horse keep.”

In 1868 it was voted to raise $200.00 for repairing the church by taxing the pews. This sum was increased by subscription to $215.00 and extensive repairs were made. After the repairs were completed in 1874, the church entertained the Vermont Sunday School Association when 96 delegates and pastors from 39 towns were registered besides the visitors. These guests were given their meals in the old mill boarding house, now the the former Black River Health Center building.

In 1870 by the will of Hon. Richard Fletcher of Boston, the church received a parsonage, a pastor’s library of 200 volumes, and a fund of $4,000, the interest of $1,000 to be spent in in-creasing the library and the interest of $3,000 to be spent on repairs to the parsonage and for the support of the preacher. In the year of 1874 the number of church members was 102 with 72 enrolled in Sunday School with an average attendance of 27. In the same year the church gave $10 for home missions, $42 for foreign missions, $22 for State convention and $100 for miscellaneous gifts, a total of $174.

It was a tragedy to the community that within less than a year after the extensive repairs, on April 27, 1875, the building caught fire from a burning shop located near the canal floodgates. There was no fire fighting apparatus at hand, and it was but a short time before the building was a mass of ruins. Only by the hasty action of the people were the pews and pulpit set saved. These are still in use in the present Baptist Church. Plans were immediately made to build a new church. The ruins of the old building were sold to the town for $500. The gutted building was rebuilt for use as the Town Hall and used as such until 1957, then it was conveyed to the Cavendish Historical Society and is currently used for their museum. The lot on which the present New England style wood church stands was purchased from the estate of Ryland Fletcher for $250. A building committee composed of Geo. F. Davis, D.W. Hesselton and F. W. Ely were appointed. Collections were made from the pew holders and this money together with $800 obtained from the State Baptist Convention on a mortgage, financed the building.

From 1875 to 1877 there was no settled minister. There was apparently some discouragement during this period, since in the old records statements are made to the effect that “the Church still exists,” but “the organization of the society appear to be broken” so a reorganization meeting was held on January 15, 1876, with the name of the Baptist Society of Cavendish and Vicinity kept, and the purpose of building a meeting house, and keeping it in repair was reaffirmed. The original Constitution was kept, and the old vigor and spirit rekindled.

Rev. L. B. Hibbard was pastor from 1877 to January of 1880, and much was accomplished during his term here. The edifice we are now using was completed in 1878, and was dedicated on May 28 of that same year. The greatest difficulty in building the church was in erecting the steeple. This was solved by building it down in the church, and pushing it up into place, with all the men in town, and several teams of oxen, assisting in the job. The cost of the new edifice was $4,500, and is said to have a seating capacity of 250. The bell now in use was presented by Mrs. Roxanne Bailey in 1888, to take the place of the old bell, which was ruined in the fire. A debt of $1,088.05 which the church seemed unable to meet was carried for five years. Meeting after meeting was held and the matter of the debt passed over. Finally the pastor took two weeks off and raised the money, a considerable amount coming from former residents of the town. About 50 contributed, among these being Hon. Redfield Proctor, Ryland Fletcher, Stillman Proctor, Otis Robbins, Geo. Davis, C.W. Goodrich and Dr. Harlow. The Ladies Society distinguished themselves by raising a total of $325.56. The records tell us “This business has been brought to a happy close after a struggle not so happy. Every subscription was paid to a cent — a rare thing.”

Rev. Daniel Woodbury Lyman was the pastor of the Cavendish Baptist Church from 1897 to 1900. He was born in Royalton, VT, in 1869. His father, J.F. Lyman, was a lumber manufacturer, and later moved to Hartland, VT, where Daniel attended the village schools. He was fitted for college at Windsor High School and took an elective course and his theological training at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, from which he graduated in 1895. His first settlement was in Middlebury, VT, and he enjoyed two years of valuable experience in this seat of learning. In 1897 he married Miss Mary Graves and they had an infant son, Paul Kendall. Mr. Lyman came to Cavendish in 1897 and labored with enthusiasm, adding twenty-one to the church membership. During his pastorate, extensive alterations were made on the building. A new ceiling was installed, a new stone walk was laid with the year inscribed along with the word “Welcome”, and the whole building was redecorated.

During the pastorate of Rev. W.E. Baker, 1908 to 1912, the cellar basement was remodeled to include a kitchen and dining hall arrangement. Upon the death of Mrs. Redfield Proctor, a fund of $1,000 was left to the church, the income of which is to be forever used for the support of preaching. Ralph N. Allen was ordained in this church on December 12, 1918. He served from 1919 to 1923.

Under the leadership of Rev. John O. Long, 1926 to 1934, the church made splendid progress, fifty-seven members having been added by baptism and thirteen by letter. The unselfish labors of this pastor throughout the whole community greatly increased the influence of the church in town and made it what it should be — a real community center. Rev. Long was a Methodist minister and lived in the Methodist parsonage in Proctorsville. He served both churches as pastor.

Extensive alterations were made in 1929 at a cost of $7,500. New stained glass windows were installed throughout, among them being memorials to “Our former Pastors, Alice Hubbard Gay, Joseph Stearns Gay, Mr. And Mrs. Oliver D. Moore, Mrs. Emma Belknap, Mrs. Eliza Tarbell, Miriam Fullerton Weaver and Miss Susan Saunders.” Further improvements included a new hard wood floor; the old pulpit changed to a choir loft with organ in the rear; a new pulpit platform built in front of the choir loft; new wall decorations carried out in soft shades of grey green and cream blending beautifully with the new windows; a new plaster centerpiece in gilt in the center of the ceiling; a new electric blower for the organ; the pews were rearranged with two side aisles instead of three; new carpet runners and choir railing draperies in mulberry tones; rear stairs for the pulpit; lavatory; enlarged kitchen and fresh painting throughout the rest of the building. The outside of the parsonage was also repainted. The Helping Hand Class, the ladies group, paid for the redecorating and changing over of the kitchen. The church was now a place of restful beauty and one of which any community may well be proud.

The Rededication Program was held on May 18, 1930 with the Church Family Service at 11:15 a.m.; a Vesper Service, a Musicale at 4:00 p.m.; a Complementary Luncheon at 5:30 p.m.; and the Rededication Service at 7:30 p.m., with the sermon by Hon. John E. Weeks, then the governor of Vermont.

In 1937, during the pastorate of W. Gordon Poole (1935 to 1938), at a special meeting, it was voted to buy a Hammond Organ, and build a new sound chamber in back of the pulpit. On November 6, 1938, it was voted to dedicate the organ to the loving memory of Mrs. W. D. Moore, and to have a suitable marker attached. Mr. Owen Roundy made a music cabinet for the church at this time.

In 1942, during the pastorate of Rev. M. Everett Corbett, the Church and parsonage were painted on the outside and the porch was removed from two sides of the parsonage. The horse sheds were torn down between 1950 and 1957, and given to the Town toward the Town Library. On February 3, 1957 the new Baptistry was dedicated. Gifts from Mr. James Gay and Mrs. Helen Swan nearly paid the total cost.

The Sesquicentennial (150 years) Celebration Services was held on August 29 & 30, 1953. A Union Anniversary Service was held “in the Mother Church” – the First Baptist Church of Chester on Saturday, August 29 at 8:00 p.m. Greetings were brought by Mr. Ernest Hathaway, President of the Vermont Baptist State Convention and Rev. A. Robert Harrison, President of Black River County Council of Churches. Mr. Leon S. Gay, Historian of the Vermont Baptist State Convention and President of the Vermont Historical Society, gave the Historical Address. A Fellowship Hour followed the Service. Our Church held two services on Sunday, August 30. The first was at 11:00 a.m. and featured Rev. George Pomfrey as Guest Preacher. It was followed by a fellowship luncheon. At 7:45 p.m. the second service was held with Miss Vernice Gay presenting an organ recital followed by Greetings from Rev. Homer C. Bryant. Guest Preacher at this service was Rev. Joseph C. Robbins, D.D., former Secretary of American Baptist Foreign Mission Society and President of American Baptist Convention. This was during the pastorate of Rev. Robert J. Bracey (1950 – 1957).

The Church sanctuary was repainted in 1958 with the same colors used as were used in 1930. The work was beautifully done by Carl Rhoades. In April of 1964 the outside floodlighting of the church was given by the Helping Hand Class as a memorial for Mrs. May Atkinson, who had been a loyal member of the church. The beautiful picture of Christ knocking at the heart’s door was presented to the church by Charles and Pauline Brooks before they moved away. Mr. Brooks had been the Church Clerk for many years and they had both been dear members of the church family.

We hired our first woman minister, Rev. Katie J. MacNeill. in June of 1965. The Bible we have opened each week on the Communion table was given on Easter Sunday in 1966, in memory of Mrs. Jesse Belknap by her husband, Mr. Don Belknap for their family. When it was given in 1966 it was used on the pulpit.

A Communion Flagon (circa 1920) was presented to the church by Mr. Leon Gay in loving memory of his wife, Mrs. Una Hadley Gay in 1968. Also an original pen and ink drawing of the church, made about 1930, by Miss Skells of Rutland, a print of which was used on the rededication program in 1930. It is agreed that the flagon will remain in the church as long as the church stands. It is a part of our church history since is has been used by our church for over one hundred years.

In December 1971, new American and Christian Flags, a silver chalice, and a lamp for the organ were given in loving memory of Mr. Irving Hewey by his family.

In 1972, the church dining room, kitchen, and rest rooms were completely done over. The whole church being held up while the old stone foundations were replaced with cement blocks. A beautiful new kitchen was installed with stainless steel sinks, a Garland stove to more adequately serve the needs for church suppers, and many cabinets which are a joy and beauty were built in. Many thanks go to loyal members who contributed so much labor at the time, and Barry Davis who did so much of the cabinet work. The rest rooms were no small job either since ledges and rock formations made the work difficult.

The lighted picture of Christ by Sallman was given in loving memory of Norman Randall, (6/15/53 – 7/18/75) by his parents, Charles and Elizabeth Randall. and the Schulmerich Carillons were presented to the church in loving memory of little Chadwick James Stockman (8/14/75 – 9/8/76) by his parents, Clyde and Doreen Stockman, and his grandparents, Elsie and James Ballantine, Jr. The chimes played four songs at four times each day — 9:00 a.m., Noon, 3:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. — with Sundays noontime chimes being at 12:15 p.m. Selections were changed with the seasons.

Rev. MacNeill served this church well and faithfully, and was loved by the people of the church and community. She also served the Reading Christian Union Church while she was with us. She involved youth and lay people in worship services and activities. She introduced us to singers, Rev. Cal & Bonnie Witham, and the Gospel group the TNT’s. She was able to be with the people she cherished through Christmas Sunday, December 17, 1978, and was called by her blessed Savior to her eternal reward in the early morning hours of December 18, 1978. Her life was in truth lived for her Christ.

Following Katie’s death, Rev. Jane Buswell, from the Tyson Community Church, served as our interim pastor from December, 1978 to October, 1979. It was during this time that memorial funds were given in loving memory of Mrs. Myra Hewey, and they were used in the renovations at the parsonage. Both Mr. & Mrs. Hewey had been members of this church for many years.

Rev. Greta M. Dow came to us in November of 1979. During 1980 and 1981, work continued on both the church and parsonage. The entire kitchen of the parsonage was dismantled and repaired and a beautiful carpet was installed. Two other floors in the parsonage were in rough shape, and they were renewed and carpeted. Much wallpapering and painting and repairing of plaster was done.

The church building had many improvements, also. The stained glass windows were professionally cleaned and resealed, and protective windows installed. A ramp was added so that the handicapped may have easy access into the sanctuary. The plaster all through the sanctuary, hallways, entryway, chapel and upstairs Sunday School rooms was gone over and repairs were made, and fresh coats of paint went on in all these places, using nearly the same colors with the exception of the pews which are now off white. New inlaid Congoleum was laid in the choir loft, which helps to seal the floor more thoroughly when the baptistry is being used. A new wall to wall carpet was installed in the chapel. The floors in the sanctuary were sanded, resealed and refinished and new runners were laid. The medallion in the ceiling of the sanctuary was also restored and regilded. A Rededication Service was held on Sunday, January 17, 1982, with Dr. Paul Losh, Executive Minister of Vermont Baptist State Convention bringing the sermon.

Rev. Dow served us until her retirement in January of 1990. She was responsible for many new programs, including: the Tape ministry, Christmas Baskets, Canterbury Farm suppers, the Prayer Team and she was an effective counselor. Before Rev. Dow retired, the church was re-painted on the outside and vinyl siding was installed on the parsonage. The Bicentennial of our “roots” was celebrated with a Roll Call Sunday and fellowship dinner on Sunday, August 27, 1989. Rev. Dow was the last President of the Vermont Baptist State Convention and had an active role in naming the new region when Vermont and New Hampshire merged. The region was named the American Baptist Churches of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Rev. George Spencer became our Minister-at-Large on July 1, 1990 and stayed with us through October 21, when he accepted a position as Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Central Square, NY. Scott Secrest came to candidate for us on October 28, and in December of 1990 became our new pastor. Jane Buswell filled in during the month of November. Mr. Secrest was ordained as an American Baptist minister in our church at a 4:00 p.m. Service on May 19, 1991. Pastors from area churches as well as the Southwest Association and the Area Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Vermont and New Hampshire took part in the Celebration. He served us until August of 1996.

In July of 1996, our church was struck by lightning. Apparently something was hit in the steeple and traveled down the wiring and struck the Carillon and continued somehow to the parsonage and out through the water pipes making a large hole in the town water main on The Lane. We had to have the roof repaired, the upstairs Sunday School rooms repainted, and water damage repaired in the sanctuary as a result. The company that we purchased the carillon from said it couldn’t be repaired, but Carl Snyder proved them wrong and fixed it with $53.27 worth of parts. It now only plays 1 song 4 times a day rather than 4 songs each time as when it was originally installed due to some worn parts that cannot be replaced. Repairs were made to the parsonage over the next year.

We had no settled minister from August 1996 until we hired Virginia S. Deyo part-time in August of 1997. She also pastored the St. James Methodist Church in Proctorsville, while attending Yale Divinity School in New Haven, CT, during the week. She was ordained at the Methodist Conference in Poultney, VT, on June 13, 1999. A number from our congregation at-tended the ordination. The following Sunday our church held a special service for her. She graduated from Yale Divinity School in June of 2000 and left us at the end of June for the New Hope United Methodist Church in West Topsham, VT.

Dr. Cathleen R. Narowitz came to us as Minister-at-Large in September of 2000. She was with us until July of 2002. Dr. Cathy had been all over the country doing interim ministry. While she was with us, the wooden Nativity figures were refurbished and put out in front of the church for the first time in many years. Thanks go to Arthur Briggs for building a new stable, to Kenneth Tyrrell, Jr., for cutting out a new donkey, and to Kathy Tyrrell for painting the donkey.

Abraham H. Gross and his wife, Amanda, began their ministry with us on August 4, 2002. We ordained him as our minister at a special service on September 22, 2002.

Posted by preacher on June 10th, 2009 at 12:11 pm