A Brief Sketch of Essex County Vermont

Taken From A History of Guildhall, Vt., Containing some account of the place - of its first settlement in 1764, and the principle improvements made, and events which have occurred down to 1886 - a period of one hundred and twenty two years with various genealogical records and biographical sketches of families and individuals some deceased, and others still living together with a brief sketch of Essex County Vermont by Everett Chamberlain Benton, a native of Guildhall, Waverly, Mass: Everett C. Benton, Publisher, 1884, Chapter 14, Pages 194-197

Transcribed for Genealogy Trails by Nancy Piper

Previous to the year 1764 the lands now in the area of Essex County were supposed to be a part of the Province of New Hampshire, and the towns were called New Hampshire Grants. Many towns had been by Benning Wentworth, Governor of New Hampshire, granted charters.

New York, however, counted it among its possessions, in the year above named, and in 1770 that State included this territory in their Gloucester County.

The people of Vermont declared themselves independent in the year 1777, and two years from that time divided the State into two Counties; Essex was then within the limits of Cumberland County. In 1781 this County was divided into 3 Counties, Orange among them, and Essex was in that County. In 1796 Caledonia County was incorporated and that County included all the northeastern part of the State, thereby including Essex. However, in the year 1800 Essex County was organized, and at the October session of the Legislature of that year the County Officers were appointed.

The County is about 45 miles long and 23 wide. It lies between Lat. 44º 20 and 45º, and Lon. 4º 51 and 5º east from Washington.

Guildhall was soon made its shire and thus far it has remained unchanged, although there have been repeated attempts to accomplish this object, but as yet the people of the County are satisfied that all in all Guildhall is the point where the people of the whole County are most conveniently accommodated, and it is the best place for the shire town.

The towns of the County are: Averill, Bloomfield, Brighton, Brunswick, Cansan, Concord, East Haven, Ferdinand, Granby, Guildhall, Lemington, Lewis, Lunenburg, Maidstone, Norton, Victory and three gores: Avery's, Warner's and Warren's.

The first settlement of the County was made in Guildhall, of which we have previously given an account.

The first term of Court was holden at Lunenburg on the 3d, Wednesday of December, 1800. Daniel Dana of Guildhall was Chief Judge; Samuel Phelps of Lunenburg and Mills De Forest of Lemington, were assistant Judges; Joseph Wait of Brunswick, Sheriff; Haynes French of Maidstone, Clerk. Ambros Grow was admitted to the bar as an attorney, and seven cases were entered for jury trial; the first case of John Hugh and Anna Hugh vs., James Lucas and Nancy Lucas, for slander, and was continued: John Mattocks, att'y for pl'ffs and Elijah Foote of Guildhall, for def'ts. The second case was continued, and the third, Woodman vs. Hugh, was the first in which a judgment was rendered - and that by default - by which the plaintiff recovered $46.86 damages, and $8.63 costs; exception was issued thereon January 1st, 1801.

The names of the first jurors were: James Mills, Gideon Bowker, Moses Quimby, Charles Cutler, Simon Howe, Elijah Spofford, Joseph Parker, John Rich, Jr., Jacob Granger, Wm. Rosebrook, Royal Cutler and John Rich.

The second term of the County Court was holden at Brunswick, commencing on the 3d. Monday of June, 1801. Twenty three new entries appear; there was but one jury trial, which was the first case of the previous term, which had been continued, Hugh vs. Lucas, verdict for plff's for $14.41 damages, and $60.70 costs.

The third term was holden at Lunenburg in Dec. 1801. Meantime Guildhall had been made the shire, and the 4th term was holden here on the 3d. Monday of June, 1802.

In Sept. 1797, Eben W. Judd granted to the County land on which to build a Court House, Jail, and for a common.* We have not ascertained in what year the first Court House was built, but probably soon after the selection of the shire town.

*This grant included the hill just north of the common, on which hill the first Court House was built.

For quite a number of years the first jail for the County was the block house, erected by Col. Ward Bailey; this was a substantial structure, and we have yet to learn of anyone escaping from it when placed by authority therein. The first jail was built about 1808, and in 1834 a brick jail was constructed, but this was destroyed by fire Dec. 1864 and rebuilt in 1866, which was burned Dec. 14 1878. The present jail was erected in 1879 and 1880 and enlarged in 1885 so that it is one of the best jails in the State.

In 1831 the Court House was removed to the common in front of the hill upon which it was first erected, and re-built. The present Court House was built in 1850. There has been but one conviction for manslaughter.*

*The case appeared as follows: Two brothers, Stephen and Martin Pellom resided in Guildhill. Stephen went and took a harrow that belonged to Martin and while carrying it away on his back, Martin assaulted him with a club. Stephen thought the treatment a little too harsh, and throwing down the harrow, went in for a regular combat: he also got in possession of a club and struck Martin on the head. The blow was a fatal one, as it hit him on the temple, fracturing his skull, and Martin soon died. This was April 30, 1851, and the authorities arrested Stephen the same day. He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to several years hard labor in the States Prison.

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