The Emerson Brothers of Norwich Vermont

About the year 1792, Elihu Emerson, just then arrived at his majority, came to Norwich Vermont from Westfield, Massachusetts; followed in 1795 by Joseph and later by Thomas, two younger brothers.

These young men became heads of families, and were prominent residents in town for many years.

Elihu was a blacksmith by trade, and carried on business in a shop that he built a short distance north of his residence on “Norwich Plain”

For his first wife Mr. Emerson married Thankful Grant, and for his second wife Cynthia Brooks. The first wife died in 1834, aged fifty-eight years, and the second wife in 1861, aged eighty years, Mr. Emerson following them in 1873, at the advanced age of over one hundred and two years. He died at his daughter’s in Leicester, Massachusetts, from which place his remains were brought to Norwich and placed in the village cemetery. .

By his first wife Mr. Emerson had three daughters: Charlotte, who married John Milton Partridge of Norwich; Harriet, who married Doctor Austin Flint, of Leicester, Massachusetts; and Julia, who never married.

Mr. Emerson was a very agile man until well along in years, placing his hands on his horse’s back and mounting thereon from the ground on the seventy-first anniversary of his birth.

Joseph and Thomas were inclined towards trade and speculation. Besides occupying the home field in this direction, they had, before 1812, established large stores of general merchandise at Montreal and Detroit, doing a very extensive business. The latter place was, at that period, the general trading post and distributing point for a large portion of the Northwest Territory. They traded with the Indians and furnished the American army under General Hull and other commanders in that vicinity with large quantities of supplies, and did a very lucrative business.

After having sold out there, Joseph Emerson was engaged considerably as a builder. He built both the Norwich University buildings, the “South Barracks” in 1819-1820, and the north building, a boarding house, in 1830-1831, besides many private dwellings in town. He died at Norwich, January, 1857, at the age of eighty-four years. Thomas Emerson continued active in trade at Norwich and other places. He was also prominent in building the new meeting house of the South Congregational Society, at Norwich Plain, in 1817. After 1820 he was actively engaged in politics. He represented the town 1824-1829 as a Jackson Democrat.

During some of these years the contest waxed very hot between the partisans of Mr. Emerson and those of Judge Loveland, who was opposed to him in politics and frequently a candidate for legislative honors. The struggle was made mostly on personal grounds, as far as we have been able to ascertain.

Mr. Emerson was a good representative, in his day and on a small scale, of what has since come to be known as personal politics, and he was a good example of a political “boss.” The scenes that attended electioneering and elections at this time are represented as sufficiently discreditable to the town. Rum flowed as freely as water, and the amount of treating, drunkenness, and disorder was utterly sickening to sober minded people.

He removed to Windsor in 1829 to become president of the Windsor Bank. The bank failed in 1835 or 1836, and after passing through an unpleasant ordeal as a consequence of the failure, Mr. Emerson went west never to return to Vermont. While at Windsor he built himself a costly dwelling house, said to be the finest residence in the state at that time. It is the place owned by Hon. E. W. Stoughton. The brick used in building it was all made at Norwich, and the granite for under-pinning and cellar was quarried here. These were all transported to Windsor by teams on the same day.

Of course large quantities of liquor were consumed and some of the men who went with their teams were said to have been several days in getting home.


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