Sandgate, Vermont

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CHANGING TIMES

          The early 1800's saw an exodus of many families from Sandgate to New York State; among them were some of the Hurd families and their relatives, who settled in the Genesee Valley, starting new developments there. They could sell their established farms in Sandgate at a profit, for more people were coming into the new State of Vermont. Now newcomers could be housed -- inns were operating. Innkeepers had to be licensed, and the records of 1801 showed Sandgate with four inns.

          Besides the sawmill, gristmill, and fulling mill, there was a Still House with two stills for extracting the juice from spruce trees; a tan works; Col. Hazletine's blacksmith shop in Beartown; another blacksmith shop in the center of Sandgate, and one in West Sandgate; a lime kiln on Hopper Brook; a shoemaker's shop; a clothing shop: and Asa N. Randall's trip hammer works.

          According to the census of 1810, the population of Sandgate had risen to 1187. This was the town's highest census figure.

          The year of 1816 was known as the "Famine Year" of crop failures. By this time the raising of sheep was so well established that reference is made, in one deed on record, to "Col. Gray's lamb farm."

          In his History of Vermont Ira Allen referred to sheep as the most useful of domestic animals. Concerning Vermont sheep he wrote "The breed is good -- they are remarkably prolific, the mutton sweet and the wool generally fine and good." Sheep were kept principally for production of wool, mutton was not very profitable. Shortly before 1810 Merino sheep were introduced into Vermont; in 1814 a number were brought from Watertown, Connecticut, by Chief Justice Skinner, and their descendants later passed into the hands of Hon. J. S. Pettibone of Manchester. In 1822 Judge Pettibone bought 20 full-blooded Merino ewes. The produce of these, together with those of his earlier flock, laid the foundation of the large flock Judge Pettibone bred many years with credit and profit. 26

          The Merino was the sheep of the hills and the mountains; in hilly and mountainous country they proved susceptible of the highest development and reached their highest grade of improvement. They developed a strong, well-knit frame and "vigorous constitution. When Merino sheep were first introduced into Vermont, and for several years after, there was a home market for all that could be raised -- the fine wool industry grew rapidly from 1810 to 1840. Merino wool was best because of its fineness, evenness, thickness, and strength. The fleece was brook washed, and sheared 6 - 8 days after. The average growth of fleece was about a year, yielding approximately 3 1/2 pounds cleansed wool per animal in 1850; by 1860 the yield had increased to slightly over 4 pounds; by 1870, 5 1/3 pounds. The ewes produced one or two lambs per year.

          When a country is new, land is cheap, population sparse, and bounds unlimited, the woolgrower can prosper. Vermont reached its highest limit of production in 1840. Thereafter as the state became settled and tillable lands became valuable, the woolgrowers could not compete with cheaper lands in the new states and territories. Western New York opened up a good field for Merinos. Later western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan were rich fields for surplus sheep. 27

          In 1840 Vermont had 1,681,819 sheep, a large proportion being fine-wooled sheep. However, by 1880 the number had dropped to 439,870. Statistics for the town of Sandgate showed the changing trend --

1840
1850
1860
8437 sheep
5647
4883
17029 lb. wool
14588
13664

          Sandgate's population in 1860 was 805.

          Eli Peck, who had moved from Sandgate to Geneva, Illinois, established a flock of pure-blood Merino sheep in 1866, of choice selections from Vermont studs. He latex' reinforced this flock by equally fine drafts from Vermont, New York, Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri, and bred with scrupulous care and skill along blood lines and with an eye to the double purpose of dense heavy fleeces and strong, vigorous bodies.

          With his four sons, George, Albert, Seth, and Frank, the business became known as E. Peck & Sons. After Eli Peck's death (about 1891) his four sons continued the business, and in 1898 their combined farms aggregated about 2200 acres of rich, black, rolling prairie, as ferthe as a garden, and improved with fine modern buildings, extensive water mains and lateral pipe lines, water tanks, and a dozen windmills that operated as tubular wells.

          The Peck brothers held their rams and wool when they were not in demand, and during 1898 had 140,000 pounds of wool in their storerooms. They had a great flock, embracing 2300 sheep -- 600 rams, 1000 ewes, 700 lambs. At the World's Fair, sheep from this flock won nearly $2000 in cash prizes. 28

          In 1825 Nathan Mears leased land, dwelling, and sawmill, from Timothy and Humphrey Hurd.

          Sandgate's postal service was established in 1828. Mail route contract No. 456 (1823-33) was let to Phineas Longworthy of Greenwich, New York, to carry the mail from Greenwich, New York, (via Battenville, Jackson, and Sandgate) to Arlington, Vermont. [The mode of transportation is not known, but it was undoubtedly by "Pony Express," for Miss Vivian Smith can recall her great-aunt, Ann Peck, and great-uncle, Smith Peck, talking about the "Pony Express," as well as the stage that later carried the mail and passengers, passing through West Sandgate, the Notch, and Sandgate, to Arlington.]

          During 1832-36 the mail route used in carrying mail from Albany, New York, was via Troy, Greenwich, Battenville, Jackson, Shushan, York Line, and Sandgate.

          Postal service was established on November 24, 1828; discontinued on February 27, 1894; reestablished on August 8, 1.894; discontinued on July 15, 1905. The reason for discontinuance in 1894 is not known.

Postmaster
Ethan Bradley
Samuel M. West
Joseph Snow, Jr.
Joseph Turtle
John Hubbard
William D. Smith
Jerome N. B. Thomas
Horace Hurd
Nelson T. Coan
Nathan T. Hurd
Robert M. Provan
Miner Z. Hurd
Timothy Hayes
Miner Z. Hurd
Jerome B. Still
Willis S. Bentley
Sarah M. Randall
Dates of Appointments
November 24, 1828
August 6, 1834
October 9, 1839
August 19, 1841
June 28, 1848
January 19, 1849
May 7, 1852
September 23, 1852
September 16, 1853
April 13, 1861
May 20, 1864
August 30, 1883
April 14, 1888
August 8, 1892
August 8, 1894
August 6, 1896
May 2, 1903 29


          Rural Routes 1 and 2 were established at Arlington, Vermont, on February 1, 1902. After the discontinuance of the post office at Sandgate on July 15, 1905, Rural Route 1 from Arlington served Sandgate. This service still continues. 30

          Rates of postage in 1838, as listed in Walton's Vermont Register and Farmers' Almanac, were-

"On a Single Letter composed of One Piece of Paper --
For any distance not exceeding 30 miles,
Over 30, and not exceeding 80 miles,
Over 80, and not exceeding 150 miles,
Over 150, and not exceeding 400 miles,
Over 400 miles,
  6
10
12 1/2
18 3/4
25
cents
"
"
"
"

          A letter composed of two pieces of paper, is charged with double these rates; of three pieces, with triple; and of four pieces, with quadruple. One or more pieces of paper, mailed as a letter, and weighing one ounce, shall be charged with quadruple postage; and at the same rate, should the weight be greater. 31

          In 1833 Jefferson Hurd sold to Samuel Thomas "Coal, 1000 bu. for $22.32, made and burnt from wood purchased on Hoyt place."

Entry in Land Records by Town Clerk:
          "Remarcable         May 15th, 1834
On Thursday snow fell on the Level at Sandgate Meeting House 13 inches Deep and froze solid ice 2 inches thick the night following.
                          Recorded by me, Walter Randall, T. C."

          A flax mill was operated in 1836 by Zachariah and Hinman Hurd.

          Notices were posted in 1844 at Joseph Tuttle's Inn and John Botsford's Blacksmith Shop for Probate of Estate of James Bristol, deceased.

          By 1850 the midwest was becoming settled, and among the families from Sandgate who heeded the call of the West was that of Aaron Hamilton Smith. His son, Dolphus Skinner Smith later wrote:

"The most that can be said for the old home at Sandgate is 'It was home.' The house was large and rather rough with a large woodshed attached. A creek run close by which had fall enough to turn a waterwheel which was arranged to churn butter, and close by stood a schoolhouse. A large chip yard also formed part of the picture. The farm had been sold by Thomas Peck to his youngest daughter, Mrs. Amarillus Peck Smith and her husband Aaron Hamilton Smith in 1848. Grandfather Thomas Peck made his home with them and remained there for about two years before coming to Wisconsin.

"Father's father, Levi Smith, was accidently killed when a well he had been repairing caved in. Father (Aaron Hamilton Smith) being the oldest child was given to Dr. Tucker and remained with him until he was a man grown. When a young man, he earned money by burning charcoal and grafting fruit trees. He thus made enough to purchase the farm in Vermont with mother's interest in the estate of Grandfather Thomas Peck.

"Father had made a trip to Wisconsin before he was married, which gave him an idea of the West. When letters came from relatives about 1853 urging them to come West, father sold the farm in Sandgate.

Among the articles they took with them were: a wagon gear, red churn, barrel and pounder for washing clothes, chest of drawers, trunks, elevated oven, home made cradle, a spinning wheel, and clothing.

"They boarded train at Albany, N. Y., and landed in Chicago in the fall of 1853. D. S. Smith was about 7 years old, Charles 5, Frank 2, and Phoebe Ann a baby. On arrival at the hotel, Charles was in his stocking feet -- his new red boots were gone. Father set off, with lantern in hand, to find the boots. He found them in the mud where Charles had stepped out of them, there being no sidewalks in Chicago at that time.

"Father raised wheat in large quantities when the country was first settled. In the sixties and early seventies chinch bugs became such a pest that farmers gave up wheat raising and turned to stock raising." 32

          In June 1855, a disastrous tornado, accompanied by thunder, rain, and hail, passed through Sandgate toward Rupert, uprooting orchards, unroofing and demolishing buildings, and twisting and breaking off the largest forest trees. It is said to have cut a swath from half a mile to a mile and a half wide. 33

          By this time, besides the general store and gristmill, there was a chair manufacturing factory, a peg factory, and clothespin factory; three blacksmith shops, and four sawmills. Two physicians served the town; Dr. Tucker in West Sandgate; and Dr. Turner in East Sandgate.

          During the Civil War, Sandgate furnished 60 men from April, 1861, to September 30, 1865; 57 men were enrolled, 3 "surplus." The names of 104 men, between the ages of 18 and 45, are listed in Sandgate's "Militia" record book. The "Record of the amount paid by the Town of Sandgate for the Support of the War for the Union" as recorded January 9, 1866, by W. B. Randall, Town Clerk, was $18,198.95, of which bounties for volunteers amounted to 17,925.00.

          In 1869 Sandgate had two stores, a clothespin factory, a brush back factory, an oyster keg factory, two sawmills, two blacksmith shops. The gristmill was still operating. 34

          A cheese factory was operated by Hurd-Hadaway in Kent Hollow, West Rupert, Vermont, from 1876 to 1880. It secured a large supply of milk from Sandgate farmers.

          In 1876 Mr. L. A. Bennett, who had improved his hall in West Sandgate, gave a party on the anniversary of the Battle of Bennington. Burt's Quadrille Band furnished the music.

          April, 1877, showed the best run of maple sap for years. In 1879 the clothespin factory owned by Hurd & Hoyt was destroyed by fire. The premises had been leased to Stickle Brothers, who manufactured pitch fork handles.

          John Barber, who supplied the lumber for construction of the Methodist Church, made extensive repairs to his sawmill in Beartown in 1879. He also erected a new dry house and blacksmith shop.

          Because the mountains at Beartown formed a circle like a spider (skillet) the cleared area was called that. There were three farms in the spider. The road leading up to the cleared area ran through the woods for a mile and a half. This was called "the handle" because it was like the handle of the spider. Six families lived near the mill, the men cut the trees and drew them to the mill. 35

          Mr. Barber's son Richard, when about twelve years of age, caught trout in Sandgate streams. At one time he furnished Mr. IL T. Hurd, who had a store in West Arlington, with 500 live trout to stock his pond. 36

          Child's Directory, in 1880, listed 94 farmers in Sandgate. The population was 681. There were two churches, one store, two blacksmith shops, two sawmills, a cooper shop, and a peg factory. A large quantity of lumber and shingles were cut each year, but the larger trade was Merino sheep. Business listings were --

Arlington Manufacturing Co., - 4000 acres, Saw Mill, Mfgr Shoe Peg stock
John F. Barber
Nathaniel Conkey
Andrew V. &Wm. Turner
Elisha F. Hoyt
Alphonso D. Kent
Levi Peck
R. M. Provan
Willis S. Bentley
George H. Draper
William Skidmore
Peter Snyder
Crawford R. Woodard
Saw Mill and Table Saws
Blacksmith Shop
Blacksmith Shop
Allopathy physician & Surgeon
Mason
Surveyor
General Merchant, Postmaster
Insurance Agent
Breeder fine sheep
Cider Mill
Cooper
Town Representative. 37

          The Arlington Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Arlington, Vermont, was organized in May, 1879, with capital stock of $200,000; R. T. Hurd, President. The company owned 50,000 acres of timberland and employed 150 men. They manufactured chairs, telegraph pins and brackets, brush backs, and wagon stock in Arlington; lumber and clothespins in Sunderland; shoe peg stock and lumber in Sandgate. 38

          The year 1898 saw another disastrous storm. In December a windstorm blew down part of John Hayes' barn and the hay was swept away; it took part of the roof from M. T. Roberson's barn; it started the roof from a plate on the barn of Jerome Still; it took part of the roof from a barn of Harland Woodcock; overturned two large trees near the home of Hon. W. S. Bentley; partially unroofed a barn of George Draper's; it blew the whole roof from a barn of Abel Bentley, and a part of roof from the barn of William Martin; part of the roof from the barn of George Skidmore was removed; it took a length of fence, blew it into the air, and punched it through the roof of the Skidmore dwelling house; partially unroofed a barn of Zenas Bentley's; any number of fences were scattered to the four winds. 39

          The turn of the century saw the development of the automobile. The improvements made in cars during the following fifty years also necessitated improvements in roads, and rural areas such as Sandgate became easily accessible.

          An article appearing in The Bennington Evening Banner under date of October 19, 1904, stated --

"The Automobile habit is said to include a cap, a long coat, a pair of goggles, and an overdeveloped disregard for the rights of the public."

          The dislike for automobiles prevalent in Vermont at this time is recalled by another Banner article of October 26, 1904. A state senator introduced a bill into the Legislature to prohibit cars from traveling over the state roads from noon to midnight. The bill was defeated. 40

          In 1904 out-of-state hunters had to buy their first nonresident hunting licenses, at $15.00 apiece. Resident hunters needed no license.

          By February 1917, war began to appear inevitable; on April 6, 1917, President Wilson declared a state of war on Germany. Enlistments and the draft called seven men from Sandgate. Food prices began to soar; heavy emphasis was placed on preserving and saving foods; regulations were placed on sale of flour, sugar, and potatoes; pupils from high schools were given leaves of absence for the remainder of the year provided they worked on farms or in gardens; Sunday pleasure rides by automobile were banned; the price of coal was fixed by controls at $9.00 per ton.

          When the great influenza epidemic broke out in September, 1918, all public places, including churches, were ordered closed in Vermont by the State Board of Health. It was a full month before the quarantine was lifted and public assemblies were permitted.

          On November 11, 1918, the Armistice was signed. Throughout the war the people of Sandgate displayed their patriotism in various Liberty Loan and Red Cross drives.

          November 3, 1927, a disastrous flood struck Vermont; brooks and rivers ran rampant. Fields were inundated, bridges damaged or destroyed, and reconstruction costly. So bad were the damages inflicted throughout the state, that a special session of the Vermont General Assembly was called, and emergency appropriations were passed. 41

          Electricity was brought to Sandgate in 1938, and during the years since, lines have been extended, making electricity available to all parts of the town. In thus making available the power for lights, refrigerators, freezers, water systems, and oil burners, electricity has meant a more comfortable living for the residents of a fine rural area. Too, by making it possible to add radio and television to the convenience of the rapid communications services of the telephone, electricity has ended the isolation of rural towns such as Sandgate.

          War clouds again gathered with Germany's attack on Poland in 1939. Then, on December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Eleven men and one woman from Sandgate served in World War II. Tires and gasoline were rationed; War Ration books were issued for food; Bond drives and Red Cross drives were generously supported.

          A land hurricane November 25-26, 1950, did considerable damage; trees were uprooted, electricity curtailed, streams and rivers overran their banks.

          A bituminous surface road project was commenced in 1954, to widen and improve the existing road from the Arlington-Sandgate town line for a distance of nearly two miles. Total cost of construction was about $80,000. One-half the cost was paid by Federal funds, the balance by town and State Aid funds allocated over a period of five years. This is the main road leading into Sandgate.

          Each census shows a decline in small town population in Vermont, and Sandgate is no exception. Many of its hill farms are now summer homes; others have been divided into small acreages, with summer cottages and cabins. The town's population is considerably larger in the summer, but because summer residents have their legal residence elsewhere, they do not appear in the census figures. It has been said that Sandgate at various times had a population of 1400 to 2200, and while these figures may not be excessive during the course of a year, they do not represent the resident population.

          With modern machinery, the few remaining farms can operate with a minimum of farm labor; timber can be cut and taken by truck to large mills with a small crew at work. Lumber is still a productive industry, although there are no longer any sawmills in Sandgate, nor any factories. The general store, which survived the gristmill many years, was torn down in 1944. Known as "Hurd's Store," it had been purchased by Miner Z. Hurd in 1883 from Robert M. Provan, together with 20 acres of land, for $4,000.

          Sandgate still has an "inn" which accommodates many summer vacationers, as well as sportsmen during the fishing and hunting seasons. There is excellent trout fishing, from May through September, and many hunters roam the mountains during deer season in the fall.

          Excellent highways through neighboring states have made automobile travel pleasant and convenient. Sandgate can now be reached by car in four or five hours from parts of New York City that required a day's travel by train, then horse and carriage to destination, forty or fifty years ago.

          Town government, as used in Vermont, dates from Colonial days, and is probably the most democratic form of government in existence. Open town meetings are held annually on the first Tuesday in March; every qualified voter has the right to vote in the election of town officers and on the funds to be raised for town and school expenses. One may take as active a part as he cares to in the proceedings. Become a voter in the community, and you can attend any meeting, talk in your turn, and vote as you wish.

          Biennially, at General Election in November, Sandgate elects a Town Representative and five Justices of the Peace.

          By Act of the General Assembly February 13, 1781, the towns of Bennington and Manchester in Bennington County were declared to be half shires for holding courts in the county, the courts to be held alternately in the two shires. Each of the shires constitutes a probate district. Sandgate is located in the Manchester, or northern shire.


The End


26. Vermont Merino Sheep Breeders' Association, Spanish Merino Sheep, (Rutland, Vt., 1879), Vol. I.
27. Henry Lane & Albro E. Perkins, Sheep Industry in Vermont, (Montpelier, Vt., 1886)
28. American Sheep Breeder & Woolgrowers' Magazine (Chicago, Ill., August, 1898)
29. Letter, National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, Washington, D. C., July 18, 1960.
30. Letter, Federal Records Center General Services Administration, St. Louis, Mo. March 16, 1961.
31. E.P. Walton, Walton's Vermont Register and Farmer's Almanac (Montpelier, Vt., 1838) p. 51.
32. Vivian J. Smith, Family records.
33. Graham, Sandgate notes.
34. F.W. Beers, Atlas o.f Bennington County, Vermont, (New York, 1869), p. 12.
35. Mrs. (1. St. Mary, Letter, 1957.
36. Richard H. Barber, Letter, 1959. Mr. Barber then 90 years of age.
37. Child, pp. 181, 389.
38. Ibid., p. 70.
39. Graham, Sandgate notes.
40. 50th Anniversary Number The Bennington Evening Banner, (Bennington, Vt., December 8, 1953), p. 7.
41. lbid., p. 17.


Printed by
Farnham & Farnham
Shaftsbury, Vermont
1961

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