Remarkable Deaths in Barre, Vermont from its Settlement until 1826

Contributed by C. Horton


Barre, March 8, 1826

Mr. Walton - The following account of remarkable deaths , which have occurred in this town, since its settlement Considerable pains have been taken to obtain an accurate account. But this has been found to be impracticable; as in some cases, names and dates and minute circumstances have escaped the memory. If any thing which is here stated is materially incorrect, the writer would be very glad to be corrected, by having the real facts published in your paper. If you think the following statement would be interesting to your readers, you are at liberty, publish it ... J. W. French

Brief chronological history of remarkable deaths which have occurred in the town of Barre, since its settlement The first accidental Death was in the month of April, 1793.

Mr. Goldsbary invited several persons to assist him in cutting down the trees, and in making preparation for the erection of mills, near the place where are the mills now owned by Messrs. John & Joshua Thwing.  Among the number of those present was a young man by the name of John Gould.  While he and Mr Goldsbary were at work somewhere near the water, a tree which some of the others were cutting took an unexpected turn, and appeared to be about fall directly upon them. As soon as this was discovered, greatest possible exertions were made to give them a warning; but all to no purpose.  It was supposed that the noise of the water dashing over the Falls prevented their hearing the loud calls. Just before the tree struck the ground, Mr. Gould turned his head partly up, and the tree struck the side of his head and fractured his skull in such a manner as caused immediate death. Mr. Goldsbary was knocked down by a limb of the tree, but was not materially injured.

About this time, a child of the late Col. Benjamin Walker wandered away from the house to a spring where the family obtained water, fell into it and was drowned. The date and circumstances of this accident, I have not been able to ascertain.

In a singular manner the late Amaziah Peck lost a little girl. She was running from one room to another and in the entry she met an older sister who was carrying a shovel of live coal. She ran her head directly against the shovel and the coals were turned upon her neck and bosom. She lived a number of days and at length languished and died Dec. 1st, 1796.

The next death of this kind was in the month of June, 1797. A young man named Ephraim Patterson was at work with Capt. Joseph Thompson, falling trees. While Patterson was at work among the bushes, a tree which Capt. Thomson [sic] was cutting, accidentally fell upon him. He languished for a dew days and then expired.

On the 15th Dec. 1799 a child of Capt. Timothy Waters received a mortal wound upon the upper and lateral part of the head, by the kick of a horse; the cork perforated the skull and a small portion of the brain escaped at the wound and a very large depression of the skull was produced. The child suffered the operation of trepanning, languished until the 24th and expired.

In the month of April, 1801, a child of Mr. --- Gould found a bottle of spirits, which had been set in the barn floor by his father; of which he drank so freely, that he was senseless until the next day and shortly after he was put into a warm bath , he died. About this time a child of Wm. Gould picked a head of timothy or herd's grass from the coat of his father and swallowed it. It passed into his lungs and the child never was well afterwards; thou I have been told lived more than a year.

On the 7th of Jan. 1804, a man by the name of Runnels was found dead in a well in the north part of this town. He was not an inhabitant of the town, but a stranger. Whether he accidentally fell into the well or being partially insane, threw himself into the well, is not known.

On the 19th of Nov. in the same year Mr. Abijah Keith died. He went into his barn and ascended the scaffold for the purpose of getting some hay. In endeavoring to slide from the top of the hay to the barn floor, he slid upon the handle of the pitch fork, which entered and ran some distance up into his body. He extracted the fork from his body, went into his house and was soon discovered to be in a cold sweat. He lived for a few hours in extreme pain and expired.

Capt. Timothy Waters died, March 20th, 1806. The day before his death, while he was at work in the house of Mr. Joseph Sterlin, he fell suddenly upon the floor as it is  in a fit of apoplexy. the next morning he rose quite early and went out doors. One of his sons in company with Mr. Sterlin went out in search of him and found he had fallen with his face upon the snow lifeless corpse. It is supposed, that he died in a second shock of apoplexy.

On the 16th July, 1807, a little boy named Charles Killum was drowned in the brook which crosses the road near Thwings' mills. He was going to school and it is thought that he stooped down over the log which lay upon the bridge and accidentally slipped in the water.

On the 31st of August 1807, a child of Mr. -- Goldsbary was sent to carry some victuals to his father. who was at work, cutting off a tree which had been turned up by the roots. The father supposing the lad had returned home continued hi work, cut the tree off and the root back. When he returned home at night, inquiry was made respecting the child. He was missing and could not be found. At length, the father thought it possible that he might be under the roots of the tree. With much labor the roots of the stump were cut off and removed and the child was found crushed to death.

On the 25th Feb. 1808, Mr. Ezekiel D. Wheeler, committed suicide. He had been an active man of business for a number of years. For some time previous to his death, he was in a state of mental depression and some fears were entertained that he might be tempted to take his life. On the morning of the day in which he perpetrated the act, he was sitting in a room with his wife, preparing his razor for the purpose of shaving himself. Information was given that the breakfast was ready - he observed to his wife that he did not whish to eat ant breakfast and that she had better go out. She arose and went out of the room; but immediately returned. As she entered the room, he was standing before the glass with the blood gushing from his throat, which he cut with the razor. He immediately fell to the floor and died.

-- Article ends with (To be continued) [Vermont Watchman and State Gazette, (Montpelier, VT) Tues., March 21, 1826]

-- Conclude in the Vermont Watchman and State Gazette (Montpelier, VT) Tues., June 06, 1826

On the 28th June 1808, the gist mill owned by Mr. Ira Day, in consequence of rain which had previously fallen was swept away by the flood. Several men were in the mill at the time. Such was the overwhelming; power of the accumulated waters, that the mill was overturned and swept down the stream. Some of the men were in the mill leaped upon a t???K by the side of the stream and escaped unhurt. Others were carried some distance down stream and were taken out much injured. Mr. John Herrick was so severely bruised by the logs or timber in the stream, that he lived only till the 23d of the following month.

In the year 1810, a child of Mr. Dean, who was then living in town, but now residing in Boston went into the yard of Mr. Chafee where chips???? had been burnt and others where still burning and unobserved by any one stepped or fell into the host ashes or embers and crept on its hands and feet through the place where the chips had been burnt and was first observed standing by the side of the fence, which separated the yard from the road. The skin and flesh on its hands and feet all came off, and left nothing but the naked bones. He lived about three weeks after the accident happened, and then expired on the 23d day of July.

On the 10th day of May 1814, Enos B. Averill, a boy who lived with Mr. Allen Towne, went into the barn where a horse had been tied, slipped his head into the halter which had been around the horse and suspended himself in this manner, until he was dead. - What seems very remarkable in this accident is , that the halter was by no means close about his neck; that his head might with all ease have been slipped out of it; that his feet touched the floor; and that he kept perfectly balanced; for if he had turned either to the right or left, he would not probably have been strangled.

On the 5th day of Feb. 1815, a child of Capt. Wm. Ripley went to the fire, where a tea kettle was hanging upon the crane and put its mouth to the spout of the kettle and sipped a little, either of the steam or water down its throat. It was in great distress for a few hours then died.

In the month of July, in the same year a child of Mr. Josiah Allen, fell from a bridge into the water and was drowned.

On the 23d of Sept., 1816, a girl, named Deborah Patterson, in company with several others, was in pursuit of a hare. She ran some distance through the field, and dropped upon the ground, as though she were dead. Those who saw her supposed she had fainted; and running immediately to her, found she was unable to walk or to speak. They brought her into the house, and sent for medical aid; but she died on the 25th. It is supposed that her backbone, or the bone in the lower part of her neck was broken.

On the 7th day of July, 1817 a child of Mr. Heary Hunter, wandered away from the house down to the river; fell from the bank into the river and was drowned.  This boy in company with an elder brother had been to the same place a short time previously in search of a bird's nest. It is thought that the boy came to this place and in his attempts to get at the nest fell into the water.

On the 3d day of August 1818, Mr. Zenas Keyes while wrestling or as it is commonly called scuffling, with another man in a barn yard, was thrown down and being unable to rise was taken up and carried into the nearest house , where he shortly after expired. It is remarkable that this accident should have happened in a yard which was covered with straw and where the fall could not have been hard.

On the 18th day of Sept. 1818, a child of Mr. Joseph Belnap unfortunately took a quantity of the Oil or Essence of Cedar, which proved fatal in a very short space of time.

In the month of Feb. 1820, Enos Deniah, while watching a Coal Pit was burnt to death. He was seen in the evening lying upon the side of the pit and was admonished of his danger; but he persisted in his determination to sleep upon the side of the pit. In the morning the pit was discovered to be on fire and Deniah was no where to be found. Upon looking into the pit, some of his bones where discovered, which where not consumed.

On the 18th day of April in the same year, a Frenchman, named Joseph Blanchard, was killed in consequence of having drunk to copiously of spirituous liquor, it appears from the accounts given of this affair, that there was an attempt made to get him as completely intoxicated as he could be. It is probable there was no design to take his life, but such was the fact. After he had drunk the liquor, he went, or was carried to his shop, where he soon fell into asleep, which proved to be the sleep of death.

On the 25th day of Feb. 1822, Capt. Apollos Hale just at evening took a pail and went down to the river near his house for the purpose of bringing in some water. As he was descending the bank which was quite steep, it is supposed that he slipped, or stumbled and fell into the water. Some suppose that the violence of the fall occasioned his death; others, that he drowned in the water. What was matter of fact, it is impossible to determine. In a few moments he was taken up dead.

In the month of Oct. 1822, a child of Mr. Samuel French, while at play with a piece of pewter in his month, accidentally suffered the pewter to pass down his throat. It lodged in his wind pipe.

On the 20th day of Jan. 1823, the wife of Mr. Reuben Nickels rose from bed in the morning usual health, went to the fire and while in the act of dressing her babe fell upon the floor, gasped twice and expired.

On the 2d day of Sept. 1823, Mr. Amziah Peck and David Ingraham where launched into eternity from the bottom of a well. ... A young man called to Ingrahma and requested him to descend by a windlass to the bottom of the well and bring up a drill which had been used there the day before. He immediately came and put himself in a situation to descend. the young man named Buck, who turned the windlass, told him that if he felt unpleasantly, to speak to him and he would draw him back. He was let down to the bottom of the well and very soon after he left the ladder, as it it supposed, for the purpose of picking up the drill., but he was heard to cry. This alarmed the man; Mr. Peck and his son soon spoken to and were present in a moment. the lad was heard to groan and it was presumed that he was dying. Buck was requested to go down; but refused; Mr. Peck then declared that he would go; his son seized hold of him, and told him that he should not; but persisting in his determination they finally tuned the windlass, and let him down, strictly charging him to call, if he was unable to descend. After he descended a part of the way, he called Ingraham two or three times by name. This gave those who turned the windless reason to believe that he experienced no ill effect. They let him down to the bottom and then called to him, but he gave no response, immediately they began to draw him back. After they had drawn him back 10 or 12 feet, the top of the ladder, upon which he stood struck the side of the well and in their endeavors to extricate, Mr. Peck fell to the bottom. They called to him repeatedly, but he gave no answer. All was silent as the grave and solemn as eternity. In the space of 10 or 12 moments from the time they first went down, it is probable that both of them gave up the ghost in the bottom of the well.

There have been two other cases of accidental death in this town, which have been named to me, since the preceding facts were collected; the names, dates and circumstances of which I am not able to state. I have been credibly informed that there have been several instances in town, in which persons have been well at night and found dead in the morning; that others have passed from perfect health; into eternity, within the space of 24 hours.

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