RUTLAND VERMONT -- from The New England Magazine, April, 1898: by Julia C. Dorr
MANY years ago -- so many that the boys who were playing in the streets of Rutland that summer evening are the busy fathers of today -- I stood with a friend on a hill-top overlooking the town. He had traveled in many lands, and knew well the varied beauties of earth and sea and sky; but this fair scene was quite new to him. At last, "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem!" he said under his breath -- and then was silent, gazing from north to south, from east to west, in speechless admiration. Far to the south Mount Tabor lifted its rounded head like a gray shadow, and White Rock gleamed like ivory in the sunset light. Then in long and stately procession came low-browed Saltash, Bald Mountain, Round Hill and Medway, with the loftier heights soaring beyond them -- Shrewsbury in the middle distance, and Killington and Pico towering to the stars, with clouds about their foreheads and the splendor of purple and gold clothing them like unto Solomon in all (bottom p. 1)
his glory. Farther to the north beautiful Nickwacket lifted its proud head above the hills that clustered around it; while at the west rose Belgo and Bird's Eye and the blue mists of the Taconic range.
In the heart of this majestic cordon, at the feet of Killington and Pico, nestled the village of Rutland. For this was in the early sixties, long before the unpretentious country town thought of putting on airs and calling itself a city. Perhaps some of us wish it had never grown worldly-wise and aspired to new dignities. Perhaps some of us, if we could have had our way, would have chosen to live in one of New England's largest villages rather than in one of its smaller cities. But never mind that! It has extended its borders since then. There are more tapering spires, more turrets and towers and rounded domes, more stately mansions and more quiet, comfortable homes catching and reflecting the golden light as the sun goes down. But the town still lies in the embrace of the mountains, bearing its humble part:...
"in all the pomp that fills
The circuit of the summer hills."
Fortunately, or unfortunately, one cannot be original in writing history. Facts are facts, not to be altered or gainsaid. Few
of us can delve for ourselves in the dust and debris of the past, uncovering for the first time the priceless nuggets of truth that may be hidden there. We can only reap where others have sown. Let me say, once for all, that for a great part of the historical matter in this paper I am indebted to the researches of Mr. Henry Hall, an old resident of Rutland, to whom historic study was at once the delight and the labor of a lifetime.
On the 7th of September, 1761, Col. Josiah Willard of Winchester, N. H., procured the charter of Rutland. The document is still extant. It is stated that its original price was £20. Long previous to the granting of this charter, however, long before Rutland existed even as the daydream of a pioneer, its site was the centre of Indian travel, Vermont water-courses furnishing the most direct and convenient route to Lake Champlain. In 1730 James Coss and twelve Caughnawaga Indians encamped here, coming from Fort Dummer, on the southern border, by way of Black River, Plymouth Pond, and Cold River. In his journal Coss alluded to the two waterfalls he found here, and to the nature of the soil. This is the first recorded.visit of any white man to this vicinity. Only one hundred and sixty-eight years ago -- a period of time that in the history of European nations seems but as a day! Yet when our beautiful Otter first caught the accents of the English tongue, the French fleur-de-lis floated supreme over Lake Champlain and claimed jurisdiction over all its' tributaries. Years came and went,
and by the fortunes of war the early settlers of Rutland owed allegiance to England, and proudly bore the lion and the unicorn on their banners. Loyal subjects they were, moreover, if we may judge from the closing stanzas of a "copy of verses" by a local poet, one Thomas Rowley, who is a somewhat conspicuous figure in the annals of the day. After urging all the world to come hither and settle in Rutland, he sings:
"The pope's supremacy
We utterly defy-
And Louis we deny,
We're George's men.
In George we will rejoice,
He is our King:
We will o'bey his voice
There we his servants stand
Upon his conquered land-
Good Lord, may he defend
Our property! "
Notwithstanding this burst of loyalty, which no doubt found an echo in all hearts, it was not very long before Vermont stood solitary and alone with enemies on the right hand and on the left. For thirteen years the Green Mountain Boys rendered fealty to her only, and to the pine tree emblazoned on her shield.
Though Rutland obtained her charter in 1761, it was not until 1770 that her first white settler, James Mead, built him a log cabin and removed thither with his house-hold goods, his wife, and ten children. They were three days on the weary journey from Manchester, and it is related that two of the girls, riding on one horse, and one of the boys, who was driving the cows lagged be- hind and. lost their way. Luckily they at length found the house of one Simeon Jenny, a Yorker and a Tory, who put them on the right road. But alas! when, on a stormy fight in March, the tired wayfarers reached their destination, they found the cabin roofless and filled with ice and snow. Imagine how their hearts sank -- the pathless forest around them, and their sole refuge from the night
and the Arctic cold untenantable! Yet the fates were riot utterly unkind; erelong Mead saw smoke ascending from a wigwam not far off, where a group of Caughnawagas were gathered around a blazing fire. He cautiously approached them. Would they give shelter to the women and children?
There was much gesticulating and shaking of heads. Then one who seemed to be in authority arose with outstretched hands, crying, "Welcome ! Welcome !" and with true knightly courtesy the red men gathered up their belongings and departed, leaving the wigwam to the occunancv of the pale-faces Mrs. Mead was a devout woman, and Indians or no Indians, in wigwam or cabin, family prayer was never omitted. The Bible from which she read that night is still in good preservation. In that year three children were born in the settlement, and at the close of the year its population numbered twenty-four. There were no roads, no bridges, no wagons. Whoever wished to cross Otter
Creek at Centre Rutland was "ferried over the ferry" by Mead in his row-boat. Grain was scarce and there was no grist mill nearer than Skenesborough, now Whitehall. Corn was ground for samp in an iron hand mill. Still there was no fear of empty larders. Game abounded. The children whose merry voices made music in the rude log-cabins rejoiced in the finding of treasure trove in the for- ests and on the hills -- berries, wild plums, butternuts by the bushel, to be cracked beside the great fireplaces, and musky fox grapes in the late autumn. And was there not a whole army of stately maple trees waiting to yield up their honeyed sweets? It is pleasant, too, to know that the children had brought with them from their old home two most dear companions, a cat and a little dog, which answered to the name of Fancy.
Three years later the children had other playmates. In 1773 thirty-five families had found -- or made -- homes in Rutland. And now its ecclesiastical history began. As in most New England communities, while distinctly repudiating any connection between church and state, the town officials made haste to build a log church, or "Meetinghouse," just below Pine Hill at Centre
Rutland, on or near the site of what has long been known as the old Gookin house; and the first Congregational church and society was formed, with just fourteen members. On the other side of the road ground was bought for £2 and set apart for a graveyard. In 1775 one lone sleeper rested there, probably the first person who died in the town. No doubt there was a schoolhouse, also; for here as elsewhere church and school went hand in hand. I have failed, however, to find any record thereof. The long strife between Vermont and her neighbors on the right hand and on the left colored the early life of Rutland, and was felt as deeply there as elsewhere. In 1777, dropping the ridiculous name of the New Hampshire Grants, which it had borne for some years, the young commonwealth assumed the name of Vermont, after her own Green Mountains, and declared herself free and independent. She elected a legislature, and made Thomas Chittendon her first governor. Of the Vermont legislature Robinson says it wandered from town to town, a homeless vagrant, until 1808, when it found rest for its feet in the new state house at Montpelier. Several of its sessions were held in Rutland in the old red gambrel-roofed house that still maintains its ground near the head of West street.
Rutland bore her part in the Revolutionary war. Her soldiers were with Ethan Allen at the capture of Ticonderoga, and played their part in the siege of Quebec. She had two forts, and two militia companies, though only a trifle over eighty taxpayers. The first fort built was near the present junction of North and South Main streets, and consisted chiefly of stout maple pickets planted close together.
Within the enclosure thus formed there was a small building for the storing of ammunition and provisions. But this soon became of small account, and the pickets were found by the thrifty housewives of that day very convenient for firewood.
In March, 1778, it was resolved to make Rutland the headquarters of the state troops, and a large, substantial fort of unhewn hemlock logs, sunk in a deep trench, was built on the hill just east of the waterfall at Centre Rutland, and christened Fort Ranger. It was the lucky possessor of one cannon of nine pounds calibre, and twelve cannon cartridges.
Under the circumstances it is perhaps fortunate that while serving its purpose as headquarters and giving some sense of protection to the townspeople, who were often alarmed by threatened inroads of Indians, it was never actually attacked. Situated near the geographical centre of the town, it seems to have been also a sort of local club-house, the rendezvous of "all sorts and conditions or
men" who wished to talk over the newest bit of gossip, the price of pork and potatoes, Parson Roots' last sermon, or the latest news from the army.
The following short letter from the redoubtable Ethan Allen may be read with a smile, but it shows the interest the great man took in the fire-arms of his "warriors."
Sir:-- The bearer, Mr. Wm. Stewart, one of the old Green Mountain "Core," having an action at Rutland Superior Court in June instant, respecting the title of his Gun, which I am very certain he has a right to, and as he is a poor man, I desire you to plead his case and charge it to me. My Warriors must not be cheated out of their Fire-arms.
I am in haste your Friend and very Humble servant Ethan Allen.
Stephen R. Bradley, 8th June, 1778. The Rev. Benajah Roots, the first settled minister, lived in a log house near the site of the brick "Avery Billings house" on the Creek road, about a mile above Dorr Bridge. One evening in September, 1776, a weary traveler, pallid with sickness and half fainting with fatigue, pulled the latch string of the Rev. Benajah, and received cordial welcome. The unexpected guest was the Rev. William Emerson of Concord, Massachusetts, the grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was a young man, only thirty-four, with a young wife and children. But when "the shot heard round the world" was fired from Concord bridge, he left his pulpit and entered the army as chaplain under General Gates at Ticonderoga, where he soon became so ill that he was ordered home by his physician, and had got as far as Rutland when he grew worse and was unable to go on. He was faithfully nursed by the pastor and his family, but to no avail; he died on Sunday morning, October 20. The next day the funeral service was performed by Mr. Roots at his own house, and soldiers with muffled music led the way to a grave in that first graveyard under the hill, and fired a volley over it.
Fourteen years afterward the grave was opened by Mr. Emerson's son William, who identified the remains and re-interred them.
On the day of the funeral Mr. Roots wrote to the church in Concord a very long letter couched in the stilted phraseology of his time. This letter was in the possession of Mr. Emerson's illustrious grandson, who kindly loaned it that a copy might be made; and from that copy I extract the first paragraph and the postscript: "To the Church and people of God at Concord -- Men and Brethren;-- "Having with mine own hand at five o'clock in the
morning, Oct. 20, closed the eyes of your dear and greatly beloved pastor (who I trust has fallen asleep in Jesus) after a long illness with ye billious fever attended with a tedious diarrhea of which he died. And Divine Providence so ordered it that he took his flight from this world of sin and sorrow to the realms of light and Regions of Eternal Day on the same day of the week that the Sun of Righteousness arose from the dark mansions of the grave; and probably the same hour of the day, too -- yea, the same day in which he ascended to his meridian (I mean the highest heavens) where this bright star (or little Sun) we trust has followed his glorious head and begun his eternal sabbath early on the Lord's Day Morning."
Then followed several pages of pious condolence and instruction. Signed: "BENAJAH ROOTS. "Rutland, on Otter Creek, Oct. 21, 1776. "P. S.-- This 21st Oct., 1776, the Rev. Wm. Emerson of Concord was decently interred in this place with the honors of war by a detachment from Col. Vandyke's Regimint commanded by Major Shepherdson, who died of a billious on Lord's Day Morning 5 o'clock, Oct. 20, in ye 34th year of his age, after a long illness of about five weeks."
One may be pardoned for wondering whether it was Mr. Emerson or Major Shepherdson who "died of a billious." We can but hope that the good man's pulpit utterances were less involved than his correspondence. It would seem that no stone was raised; for when Mr. R. W. Emerson was a guest at The Maples about 1867, he was unable to identify the grave.
In this same "town-acre," or God's acre, is the unmarked grave also of Capt. Joseph Bowker, perhaps the most notable man in Rutland during the Revolutionary period and the years immediately following. Judge, captain, president of most of the state conventions, justice of the peace, and assistant treasurer, he seems to have been a many-sided public functionary, and, to quote from one of his many business partners, "the most considerable man in town." Henry Hall styles him the "John Hancock of Vermont." Yet, alas for the brevity of human fame, "no man knoweth his sepulchre."
In 1787 the town was divided into two parishes -- the west parish and the east. In fact, the town itself was now known as East Rutland, Mead's Falls, now Centre Rutland, and West Rutland, and its inhabitants were too widely scattered to form one church family. The little log church under the hill was set off to the west parish; and during the next year a new church in the east parish was established with thirty-four members. Before the regular
organization, however, the Rev. Augustine Hibbard was engaged to preach by the society, and it was voted "to raise £50 lawful money for his compensation, to be paid in beef, pork, butter, cheese, flour, or any sort of merchantable grain." But at the end of the year the Rev. Samuel Williams, LL. D., Harvard professor, scholar and gentleman, was employed, and filled the pulpit for seven years, though for some reason that has not come down to us he was never regularly installed as pastor.
The new church building was on the west side of Main street, now North Main, just south of the old burial ground where, to the reproach of their descendants be it said, so many of early Rutland's worthiest children sleep in neglected graves. It was a plain, barn- like structure, with no bell to call the people together, nor stove to make them comfortable if they obeyed. But we read that, happily, the parish was mindful of deaf ears. Else why should it have voted that "the two fore seats in front of the square body in the lower part of the meeting-house be reserved and appropriated to the use and benefit of elderly gentlemen and ladies and they are hereby desired to make use of them accordingly." Poor souls! What benighted creatures these early fathers were, to be sure! They actually spoke of ladies and gentlemen and were appallingly ignorant of the fact
that is being impressed on this generation -- that it is "bad form" to use those good old words. But, whatever they were called, it is to be hoped that the elderly churchgoers availed themselves of this courtesy, for it must have removed them to a goodly distance from the front door, under which the winter snows were wont to drift when the east winds blew down from the mountains.
Dr. Williams, in his wig and knee breeches, would have been a notable man anywhere. He had been part and parcel of the most cultivated society that the new world afforded.
He was known, too, in the old world. The University of Edinburgh had made him' an LL. D. at a time when such honors were seldom conferred on Americans; and he was a member of important scientific societies on both sides of the Atlantic. Just what induced him to take up his abode in the Rutland of that day will probably never be known, His letters to his wife show vividly the striking contrast he must have been perpetually drawing between the old life and the new -- scholarly ease, refinement and even luxury on the one hand, and toil and privation on the other. It is certain he did not confine his labors wholly to the pulpit, but was a man of affairs; for in 1794 he founded the Rutland Herald, a journal that has kept the even tenor of its way from that day to this, and is still young and flourishing. The doctor died suddenly as late as 1817 and was buried in the North Main street burial ground, where his wife lies by his side. His son, Charles Kilbourne Williams, was governor of the state in 1850-2, and at his retirement closed an honorable public career of forty years. It was he who built the old Williams mansion, still in fine preservation and owned by F. G. Swinington, Esq. Dr. Samuel Williams lived further down the street, in the house now occupied by Mrs. Kilburn.
We are told that Rutland was not renowned for piety or virtue in those days. Only one name was added to the church roll during the ministry of Dr. Williams. During the reign of his successor, the first regularly installed pastor, Dr. Hernan Ball, there was a large increase in the membership, and the old house of worship was found to have outlived its usefulness. A large brick church was built a little lower down on the other side of the street.
This, too, was outgrown after the lapse of forty years, and during the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Aiken, of blessed memory, the present church with its beautiful spire, a landmark for all the country side, became the permanent home of the Congregational church of Rut- land. The church prides itself not a little that during its long life of one hundred and nine years, it has had but seven pastors.
The Rutland Herald of September 30, 1794, had this item of news: "A Protestant Episcopal Church is formed in Rutland and vicinity under the pastoral care of Rev. Mr. Ogden." From that time on there appeared occasionally other items referring to the existence of an Episcopal church; but the parish registers do not confirm them. Church conventions were held in Rutland in 1795, 1802, and 1807, and in the Convention Journal of 1818 three baptisms of adults and sixteen of children are recorded. John A. Graham, a man who seems to have been most strangely compounded of opposite qualities -- "half dandy, half humbug, yet with talent enough to attain notoriety in London and eminence in New York" -- went to the mother country in pursuit of a bishop, and held a long correspondence with his grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury, touching the matter. It is even said that he built, or caused to be built,-- whoever may have footed the bills, -- a four-story house on the east side of the village green for the residence of the Bishop of Vermont -- when there should be one. It would certainly seem that there must have been the inchoate beginnings of an Episcopal church here; but the formal and legal organization did not take place till 1832.
The Rev. Dr. John A. Hicks was the first rector. The church stood on the west side of North Main street, opposite the present residence of John A. Sheldon, and was built of wood with a square tower. With its gallery and organ, its closed pews and its high
pulpit, it was much finer in effect than the first church of the Congregationalists. Forty-four years had not only added to the wealth, but expanded the ideas of the community. Dr. Hicks was greatly beloved, not only by his own people, but by those of other churches. Tall and dignified, yet genial and tender hearted, earnest and scholarly, he moved among the people for more than a quarter of a century, the observed of all observers. There was a strong brotherly intimacy and affection between him, the Rev. Dr. Aiken, and the Rev. Leland Howard of the Baptist church. The presence of three such men was a benediction to the town.
The time came on apace when new conditions required new surroundings. In 1865 the new Trinity church, a beautiful stone building, was consecrated by Bishop Hopkins. One of the last services in the old church, whose bell still calls the faithful to prayer, was held on Easter even, the day of President Lincoln's death.
The Baptists, Methodists, and Universalists of Rutland all have flourishing organizations. The Irish Catholics have a strikingly beautiful stone church -- the life-work, so to speak, of the Rev. Father Boylan, who was loved and honored of all men; and the lately erected church of the French Catholics adds still another to the clusters of turrets and spires that stand out in bold relief against the dark background of the mountains. The earlier life of Rutland, -- by which is meant not so much the life of the pioneer period, as that of the closing years of the last century and the first third of the present -- is a fascinating study. The first sharp struggle for mere existence had passed, the wilderness was giving way before the march of fertile fields. The log cabin had given place to comelier and more convenient dwellings, and in many cases stately and elegant mansions had supplanted both. The village had, strictly speaking, no business centre, though its stores, the court house, the bank, a tavern or two, -- including the famous old Franklin House, formerly known as Gould's tavern, -- together with sundry smithies and saddlers' shops, clustered about the village green. Early in the century stocks and a whipping-post stood in convenient proximity to the court house, to the dismay of all offenders. The jail, a sombre stone building, was farther down the street. The village, in fact, consisted
of Main street, not then divided into north and south, and the upper end of West street. The busy, far-reaching streets lying to-day below or west of these points, were then only a stretch of swampy pasturage. The old West street burial ground, which is now in the heart of the business district, was far out of town. All the social life of the village was on Main street or in its close neighborhood; and if the testimony of the few -- alas, the very few -- who are left to tell the story of those days is to be believed, the life was very delightful. Every one knew every one else; it was all like one great family, and open-handed hospitality reigned from Temple House at the head of the street to the Strong mansion at the southern end. It was a time of comparative leisure, when gentlemen wore ruffled shirts on state occasions, and had time to call on the ladies.
If one of them had business in Albany, he did not fly thither on the wings of steam. A great lumbering stage coach, drawn by four strong steeds, drew up before the Franklin House, where he was in waiting, or picked him up at his own door if he had so directed. This was at six o'clock in the evening, and after prolonged adieus to wife, children and friends, he seated himself in the snuggest available corner, adjusted the strap, drew his cap down over his ears and his coat collar up to meet it, and with a sigh prepared to 18
spend the night on the road, counting himself especially fortunate if he reached his destination in time for next day's dinner.
There was then no hurrying to catch the morning mail, or to run one's eye over the headlines of a dozen daily papers. No heart beat heavily at the sound of the postman's knock. The quiet yet spirited dames who held sway in those old houses -- not old then -- had no clubs, and knew nothing of federations. They had leisure for long, neighborly chats, while shining needles flew in and out, setting innumerable tiny stitches in dainty little garments -- stitches that are the despair of their great-granddaughters to-day. They had time to read, and re-read, ponder over and digest the books in each other's libraries. Good books they were, too. A new Waverley was the delight of a whole winter. They had time to write long letters, that are vivid pictures of the life of the day, and are still treasured in their yellow mustiness. Letters counted when postage was twenty-five cents a sheet!
The writer of this sketch was a mere child when she slept in Rutland for the first time -- in the old Franklin House, where handsome Landlord Beaman graciously welcomed the newcomers. Let it not be thought that she makes invidious distinctions if she ventures to call the roll of Main street as it was then, naming only those of whom she has herself some personal memory, or association. Beginning at the head of the street, there were the Temples, the Williams, the Daniels, the Foots, the Hodges, the Pierpoints, the Butlers, the Halls, the Barretts, the Fays, the Goves, the Edgertons, the Cheneys, the Burts, the Pages, the Porters, the Hopkins, the Ormsbees, the Royces, the Strongs, -- and no doubt many other households concerning which her memory has grown cloudy. Some of these honored names are with us still; but for the most part they can be found only on tombstones -- and in our hearts. The "oldest inhabitant" is fast vanishing; but there are still some left who recall with pride and loving admiration the group of noble, intellectual, dignified and graceful women who made the social life of Rutland beautiful more than half a century ago.
Main street is rich in relics of that and a much remoter life. At a luncheon given not long ago in one of these same old houses, a Copley looked down on us from the wall of the dining-room -- the portrait of a fair-haired young naval officer in a blue uniform, who was drowned in Boston Harbor about the time of the famous tea-party. The ebony and gilt frame was made by one Paul Revere; and we sipped our coffee from teaspoons bearing the hall-mark (if that is the proper term) of the same skilled artisan. There was not a cup nor a plate nor a bit of glass that was not more than a century old, and the whole outfit belonged to our hostess.
In this connection it may not be amiss to say that when the families named above might have answered adsum to the roll-call, at the Centre there were the Gookins, the Baileys, the Ripleys, the Hosfords, the Ralph Pages, the Wells Brothers, the Griggs, the Chattertons, the Smiths, the Kelleys, the Thralls, the Graves, and the Billings. At West Rutland were the Meads, the Blanehards, the Sheldons, the Harmons, the Gilmours, the Boardmans, the Smiths, the Liscombs, and, at a later day, the Clements. But time and memory fail me. I have only attempted to put on record some of 20
the names that were most familiar to my ears in that far-away time; and it will not be strange if I have forgotten or overlooked some that should be added to the roster.
As years went on, the marble quarries were developed, Rutland became a railroad centre; new enterprises and new interests sprang into being; the old repose changed to modem stir and bustle; the town crept slowly down the hill by way of Centre and Washington streets, and spread hither and yon in all directions till it bore small resemblance to the village of its youth. West Rutland and Sutherland's Falls, places that had been mainly farming communities, found themselves possessors of mines of wealth that were hidden in the heart of their mountains, and sent their marbles to the ends of the earth.
Then came the low muttering thunder that preceded the outbreak of the civil war and the swift uprising of the North when the crash came. It was young Rutland that rushed to the field, instanter. Old Rutland cheered and raised flags, smiling proudly the while, till the drums ceased to beat and its soldiers departed, leaving the hills and valleys to breathless silence. Then it turned to its work again, to dig and delve, and raise money to supply the sinews of war, to scrape lint and roll bandages, to knit stockings, and dry fruit, and make barrels of blackberry jelly to send to the "948" boys who had gone to the front. How many of them went forth gaily as to a banquet, and came not back -- or were brought back on their shields -- I have not been able to ascertain.
But of these last were Col. George T. Roberts, who fell at Baton Rouge, Lieut. Col. Charles P. Dudley, Capt. Edward F. Reynolds, and Lieut. John T. Sennott. Among those who returned bringing their sheaves with them -- sometimes in the shape of honorable scars -- were Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Alvord, Admiral William G. Temple, Col. William T. Nichols, Lieut. Col. William Y. W. Ripley, who was so severely wounded at Malvern Hill that he was unable to remain in service, though in recognition of his gallantry on that bloody field he was offered a brigadier general's commission, which he was compelled to decline, -- Lieut. Col. Charles H. Joyce, Bvt. Brig. Gen. Edward H. Ripley, and Maj.
Levi G. Kingsley. The latter was in command of the first brigade of Union troops that entered Richmond, and was military commandant for many weeks. In the fine memorial hall erected a few years ago as a monument to Rutland soldiers may be seen the great key of Libby Prison, which he brought thence, together with the flag of the prison, its order book, and one of the very few copies extant of the great seal of the Confederacy.
While for many years immediately following the war they were residents of Rutland, neither Col. W. G. Veazey of Gettysburg fame, Capt. S. E. Burnham, nor Col. Redfield Proctor, late Secretary of War, went from this town to the front. They were enrolled elsewhere.
After the close of the contest there followed a long season of business prosperity, and the population of Rutland increased steadily, if not rapidly. Indeed, the remark was often made that it was more like a Western than a New England town, in that it was still growing, still enlarging its borders. In 1878 the Howe Scale Company's shops were removed from Brandon, Vt., to Rutland, where large buildings were erected, covering nearly ten acres, and giving employment to a small army of men. This company, with its fourteen distributing stores, constitutes by far the largest single industry of the city, and is one of the most successful corporations of its kind in the country.
Yet it was the marble quarries that gave the town a unique position and earned for it, long before it put on civic dignities, the cognomen of The Marble City.
"Such extravagance I never saw in all my life," remarked a stranger who was taking a drive through the town. "Marble gate posts, marble doorsteps, marble sidewalks, and even marble underpinning to your houses -- to say nothing of marble tomb- stones and monuments." It did not seem necessary to explain to this good-natured cynic that the marble sidewalks proved anything but acceptable in their dazzling whiteness, and were being exchanged as fast as possible for humble concrete. But it is true that, if it had not been for the cost of working, Rutland could have "dwelt in marble halls" as cheaply as in frame houses.
The Rutland Institute and Business College is a young but very successful school occupying a large building on North Main street, and having a yearly enrollment of over two hundred pupils. In the academic department young men and women are fitted for college or professional schools. The business college department is the largest and most complete in the state.
It is needless to say the town has its graded schools, its water works, its trolley cars, its electric lights, and other concomitants of modem civilization. But in one respect it has been less fortunate than some of its smaller neighbors, to say nothing of its beautiful sister city, Burlington. Very many Vermont towns have had gift after gift, endowment after endowment, from some who, having drifted out into the great world and made their fortunes, have tenderly remembered their old homes and showered benefactions upon them in the shape of libraries, hospitals, art galleries, theatres, school buildings, parks and fountains. I doubt whether Rutland has ever received a penny from any such source. Whatever it possesses it has earned by the sweat of its brow. Neither has it had resident citizens of great wealth to "remember it" in their wills -- or during their lifetimes, for the matter of that. The wealth of the town is rather evenly distributed, the great majority of its inhabitants having neither poverty nor riches. A happy state of things, surely, yet, perhaps, not conducive to the rearing of exceptionally fine public buildings.
For a long time Rutland had been talking about one great need of the town -- a public library. Once in a while somebody would "call a meeting," and after the usual preambles and whereases, it would be "resolved" that we must, could, would and should have a library. There would be a little stir and talk for a time, a trifling sum of money would be raised and deposited in the savings bank, and that would be the end of it. Meanwhile the need was growing greater year by year. In January, 1886, sixty of the leading women of the town met at the house of Miss Mary Daniels to see what could be done. What was done was this: The Rutland Free Library Association was formed on the spot, and officers chosen, most of whom have served ever since. A loan exhibition was planned and held within a fortnight.
A goodly sum was raised thereby, to which some personal gifts were added. Five thousand books were selected with great care; convenient rooms were hired and shelved; a thoroughly skilled and devoted librarian was found, and on the following Fourth of July the Rutland Free Library was declared open. From that moment its success has been beyond all hope and expectation. Its circulation is shown by actual statistics to be larger than of any other library on record in proportion to the number of books and the size of the town. Last year it reached 63,243. Two years after its establishment the library was in one sense adopted by the town.
Rooms were offered it in the then new Memorial Hall, and a tax voted for its support and enlargement. It is a steadily growing power in the community, and Rutland is justly proud of it.
A very beautiful building is the H. H. Baxter Memorial Library, the building of which was completed in 1892 by the widow and son of Gen. Baxter, with its collection of choice books, some of them rare specimens of the arts of printing, binding and engraving. This is not a public library, though it is open to the public under certain conditions. The books are for reference solely, not for circulation; and it and the Free Library supplement each other.
Long before the club epidemic broke out, Rutland had her clubs which, with one exception, to be spoken of hereafter, she did not call clubs, but societies. No one thought of referring to women's clubs, unless it might be in the case of Sorosis, or the New England Women's Club. Friends in Council and the Fort-
nightly led the way, but were followed by the St. Theresa Society, the Unity, the Progressives, the Isabella, the Philharmonic and circle after circle of Chautauquans. The Daughters of the American Revolution have a large chapter, and a convenient room in Memorial Hall is set apart for their use. These clubs, if we must call them so, have added very greatly to the culture and higher life of the town. The only possible fault to be found with them is that they do lessen in a very appreciable degree the occasions on which, in the older life of the town, men and women met in friendly and companionable social intercourse. Being a so-called "club woman" myself, I can venture to say this. There is less time for hospitality since we women have given so much strength, thought and nervous force to club work and study and it is greatly to be regretted.
But Rutland had for many years one club to which this slight criticism does not apply. In 1873 -- twenty-five years ago -- a Shakespeare Club was organized by Mr. Edward Lowe 26 Temple, and it lived and flourished continuously, without a change of leadership, until two years ago. Never was there such a har- monious autocracy, never was a club conducted with less regard for red tape, and never was there more loyal cordiality. It was really what it professed to be, a club for the study of the great master, and of him alone; and of his spirit and genius, rather than his grammar. If it were still alive, how it would exult in John Fiske's "Forty Years of the Bacon-Shakespeare Folly" in the recent Atlantic!
Its membership numbered seventy-five. There were no dues. There was no vice-president, no board of directors, no formula of admission. "How can one get into the Shakespeare Club?" was often asked; and the answer was invariably -- "Wait till the President asks you."
The president made out the casts and the rest of us obeyed, reading Hamlet or Imogene, if we were bidden, at one meeting, and at the next taking the role of clown or messenger. The reading was slightly dramatic, i. e., instead of sitting round a table there were entrances and exits, and on some occasions a little costuming; as to the latter one could do precisely as one chose. After the reading there was a social hour, with slight refreshments. For nearly a quarter of a century the Shakespeare Club was, perhaps, the most delightful feature of the literary and social life of Rutland.
But as the years went on, inevitable changes came. There were marriages, and removals and deaths. It was found impossible to create a new club out of the remains of the old one; and at length on one April evening we were called together to attend its obsequies. Peace to its ashes!
The time came at last when the large town of entire Rutland found the machinery by which its affairs were conducted, growing unwieldy. Both East and West Rutland had each their separate interests. Still another quarter of the town, Sutherland Falls, with its immense marble business, had aspirations of its own. An ami- cable separation was brought about, and in 1887 the twin brothers who had held the homestead in common, divided their goods and
chattels and each set up housekeeping for himself. At the same lime, a new town, to which was given the name of Proctor, was formed from Sutherland's Falls and a slice from the adjoining town of Pittsford. In 1893 Rutland became a city.