STOWE is situated in the southern part of the county, in lat. 44° 28′, and long. 4° 20,’ bounded northeasterly by Morristown, southeasterly by Worcester, southwesterly by Waterbury, and northwesterly by Cambridge and Underhill. The town originally contained an area of 23,040 acres, chartered by Benning Wentworth, governor of New Hampshire, June 8, 1763, to Joshua Simmons and sixty-three associates, in seventy shares. It was named after a town in England, and originally spelled S-t-o-w, the a having been annexed during the last forty years. In 1848, the legislature passed an act annexing to its territory the town of Mansfield, and in 1855, its area was again increased by the annexation of a portion of the town of Sterling, so that it now has the largest area of any town in the county.
The surface of Stowe is broken and uneven in many places, yet it contains a large amount of level country. Upon the west are the Green Mountains, with Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in the ranges, containing some of the most wild and romantic scenery in the State, and upon the east is the Hogback range, a spur of the former, while between them the country is varied with hills and dales, though there is little that can be called waste land. Many of the hills furnish some of the most valuable and profitable farms in town, and the portions rising still higher and being still more broken, afford the very best pasture land, which farmers have found to be the best paying part of their farms. The largest plot of plain, or tableland, in town, and probably the largest in the county, is on what is called the West Branch of Waterbury river, about two miles from the village of Stowe. The intervale on this river and its tributaries is not surpassed in fertility by any in the State. For grazing purposes, probably there are few towns in the whole State better adapted , and there is at the same time a sufficiency of land suited to the purposes of cultivation and tillage to render most of the considerable farms well balanced in these respects.
The territory is well watered by numerous springs and streams, the principal water-course being the Waterbury river, which has its source at the confluence of two streams, the East and the West branches, uniting at the village of Stowe. The East branch rises in that part of the original town of Sterling which was annexed to Stowe, and, flowing through one-half the southern part of Morristown, enters Stowe about midway between the east and west corners of the original town of Stowe, thence south to its junction with the East branch. Into it flows a considerable stream, which rises in the northeastern corner of the town, and upon which is found Moss Glen Falls. The West branch has its source in the northwestern part of what was the original town of Mansfield, and flows southeast, entering the original town of Stowe at a point midway between the northwest and southwest corners, flowing nearly east to its junction with the East branch. About three and a half miles south of the village it receives Miller brook, a stream having its source in the southwestern corner of the original town of Mansfield. On the east side, the branch also receives a stream called Gold brook, which has its rise in the southeast corner of the original town of Stowe. Numerous other streams abound, Bomb of which afford good mill-sites. The timber of the town is principally hemlock, fir, spruce, beech, birch, and maple, interspersed occasionally with pine.
The rocks that enter into the geological structure of the town are composed almost entirely of the talcosc schist formation, there being, however, a small vein of gneiss in the western portion. Among the minerals that have been discovered are gold, iron, copper, and steatite. None of these minerals, except gold, has there been any attempt to work. Slight traces of the precious metal have been found in several locations throughout the territory, especially on the smaller streams, the most abundant, perhaps, on what is known as Gold brook. In May, 1857, Capt. A. H. Slayton, who had previously had considerable experience in the diggings of California, found some small particles of gold on this brook, upon the farm then owned by Nathaniel Russell. In the following November he purchased the farm and commenced digging , but he soon gave up the enterprise, though he found considerable quantities of the metal, but not enough to pay for the labor expended. Further search and development may some day, however, be rewarded with the discovery of considerable deposits of these minerals.
In 1880. Stowe had a population of x,896, and in 1882, the town was divided into nineteen school districts and contained nineteen common schools,. employing four male and twenty-three female teachers, to whom was paid an aggregate salary of $2,487.47. There were 443 pupils attending common school, while the entire cost of the schools for the year, ending October 31st, was $2,920.39, with Mrs. M. N. Wilkins, superintendent. To the energy and unusual ability of Mrs. Wilkins is attributed, in a great degree, the high grade of proficiency attained by the pupils. She is the wife of Hon. George Wilkins, and is a lady of rare attainments, a fluent speaker, and has had considerable experience as a lecturer and educator. The people of Stowe congratulate themselves in possessing so able and zealous an educator, as is attested by their three successive and unanimous elections of the lady to the position.
STOWE, a post village located near the central part of the town, on the Waterbury river, contains three churches, (Congregational, Methodist and Union,) a graded school, the Mt. Mansfield hotel, three dry goods stores, a drug store, hardware store, three grocery stores, a millinery and fancy goods store, shoe shop, harness shop, and about six hundred inhabitants. The village is neatly laid out, beautifully located, and during the summer months is a favorite resort for summer sojourners, so much so that it has been called the “Saratoga of Vermont.” About half a mile south of the village, on the main road, is a suburb called the Lower village, which contains a butter-tub manufactory, tannery, shoe shop, grocery, free library, hotel, and about two hundred inhabitants.
The Mt. Mansfield Hotel, located at Stowe village, is a large and elegant structure, 300 feet long, and four and one-half stories high, with two wings in the rear, forty-five by ninety feet, and a broad piazza running nearly the entire length of the front. The hotel has rooms for 450 guests. They are large, high, light and cheerful, and are furnished in suits or in private parlors, as may be desired. The spacious dining hall, forty-five by ninety feet, is on the first floor, and directly over it is a fine, large hall, for dancing and other entertainments. All the rooms are finely furnished, lighted with gas, and each floor is supplied with bath-rooms, and with pure spring water, brought in iron pipes from the surrounding hills. In addition to this building there is another, a summer hotel, on the summit of Mansfield mountain, called the Summit House, and another at Smuggler’s Notch, called the Notch House. The hotel was built by a stock company, organized June 24,1864. In 1869, the property was sold at auction for $110,000.00, the purchasers being a party of five gentlemen, who built the wings at an additional cost of $50,000.00. The property is now owned and managed by Mr. E. C. Bailey, who conducts it in a business-like and desirable manner. The magnificent view afforded from the summit of Mt. Mansfield, and the romantic scenery of Smuggler’s Notch, have already been mentioned on page 30. One other local attraction is Moss Glen Falls. They are situated on one of the lower ridges, on the northeastern slope of Worcester mountain, in a ravine of most singular formation, four miles distant from the hotel. The source of the stream is a small pond on the table-land above the bluff, which is about 200 feet in height. The solid cliff seems to have been cleft asunder, and the perpendicular walls are left standing in their majesty, down which the water dashes in a spray of unrivaled beauty. The first view of the falls is attained about fifty feet up the cliff, on the side nearest the highway.
The Stowe Free Library is kept at the store of George W. Jenney, the librarian. It contains about 1,500 volumes, which are loaned, free of charge, to all residents of the town.
Moscow is a hamlet located in the southern part of the town: It received its name from the following circumstance : In 1839, a school meeting was called there, when an old circular saw, suspended at the end of a string, was used in place of a bell, which the people facetiously designated as the “bell of Moscow;” hence the name.
Mt. Mansfield tannery, located at the Lower village, was erected in 1882, upon the site of an old tannery which was destroyed by fire November 18, 1881. Mr. Webster, the proprietor, employs ten men, and the tannery has the capacity for turning out about 70,000 calf skins per annum.
Pike & Robinson’s butter tub factory and saw-mill, at Stowe, was erected in 1881-’82. The works give employment to ten men, and manufacture 500,000 feet of lumber and 30,000 butter-tubs per annum.
Eugene K. Seaver’s broom-handle manufactory, located at Moscow, manufactures about 25,000 handles per year. The factory was moved from Stowe village to its present location in the spring of 1883.
Thomas A. Straw’s grist-mill, located at Stowe village, was built by the Raymond Mill Co., in 1823, and was purchased by the present proprietor in 1860. In 1890, he added a shop, 24 by 60 feet, for dressing lumber and the manufacture of sash, doors and blinds.
Smith & Faunce’s carriage shop, located at Stowe village, has been occupied by Mr. Smith about eight years. In the autumn of 1881, he associated with himself in the business Mr. Francis, and the firm now does a good business in the manufacture of all kinds of carriages, wagons, and sleighs.
Lemuel B. Smith’s saw-mill, on Waterbury river, cuts about 200,000 feet of lumber per year.
Wm. H. Anderson’s steam shingle-mill, located on road 44, is operated by a twenty-five horse-power engine, and manufactures 10,000 shingles per day.
James E. Houston’s butter-tub and shingle manufactory, located on road 29, is operated by both steam and water-power, and manufactures about 30,000 tubs and 100,000 shingles per year, employing twelve men.
Edgar A. Pixley’s butter-tub stave manufactory, located on the “forks,’ cuts about eight cords of staves per day.
George G. Foster’s butter-tub manufactory, located on road 24, turns out about 20,000 butter-tubs per annum.
Orlando S. Turner’s saw-mill, located on road 24, was built in 1869, and manufactures 250,000 feet of lumber per year.
Moss Glen saw-mill, Spalding & Langdon, proprietors, is located at Moss Glen falls, on road 13. It turns out about 600,000 feet of lumber per year, giving employment to ten men.
The first settlement was made in 1794, by Oliver Luce, from Hartland, Vt. With an ox-sled and a few articles of furniture Mr. Luce made his way with his family, consisting of his wife and two children, to what is called the Hill place, in Waterbury, in March, where, owing to the impassibility of the roads, he left his family until the 16th of April. He then brought them on to their new home, a little camp of logs sixteen feet square, covered and floored with bark. This was situated on what is now Noah Scribner’s meadow, on the west side of the stage road, just north of the late George Cobb’s shop. In this little cabin, containing but one room, Mrs. Luce did all the cooking and household work for one season. An improvement was then made by adding a bedroom and pantry, made of bark. Yet, it is said, such was the desire to hunt and explore in the town that Mr. Luce’s family was not alone a single night during the first year. Mr. Luce made the first plow and plowed the first furrow in the town, and resided here until the end of his long life, dying at the age of eighty-four years. The town, in honor of his memory as a worthy pioneer, placed an historical monument to mark his last resting place. He was the father of four children, of whom Harry was the first child born in the town. Two of these children, Ruth and Zemah, located here. Ruth became Mrs. Benjamin Alger and settled with her husband upon the farm now owned by their son Oscar, where they resided until their respective deaths. Their children were Lucy S., Seth L., Oscar, Martha, Miranda, and Isaac H. Lucy S. became Mrs. Delevan Luce, and resides in Morristown. Seth L. died while serving in the Union army. Martha, who is now deceased, became the wife of Enoch J. Cleveland. Miranda is the wife of Jesse Town, of Stowe village. Isaac H. resides on road 20, and Oscar as before mentioned. Zemah Lice became Mrs. Allen and located in that part of the town which was then Mansfield. She had but one child, who died some years since.
Capt. Clement Moody made the next settlement, it is said the day following that of Mr. Luce’s. Mr. Kimball and Joel Harris commenced settlements soon after, and Noah Scribner came the year following. In 1798, there were about twenty families in the town, and in 1803, there were ninety resident families.
The first proprietors’ meeting held in the town was on February 2, 1796, at the residence of Lowden Case. On the second Monday in March, 1797, the first town meeting was warned by William Utley, justice of the peace, to be held at the house of Lowden Case, for the purpose of organizing the town. The meeting was held as per warning, when Lowden Case was chosen moderator, Josiah Hurlbut, town clerk, Joel Harris, and Ebenezer Wakefield, selectmen, Clement Moody, treasurer, Lowden Case, first constable, David Moody, second constable, Clement Moody, Joel Harris and Ebenezer Wakefield, listers, Abner Bickford, first grand juror, Lowden Case, pound-keeper, Oliver Luce, William Utley, and John Turner, fence viewers, Clement Moody, Amasa Marshall, and Josiah Dean, surveyors of highways, Amasa Walker, sealer of weights and measures, John Turner, sealer of leather, and John Bryant, tythingman. September 4th, the first freemen’s meeting was held. The first justice was William Utley, in 1796. The first representative was Nathan Robinson, in 1801.
For four years after Mr. Luce settled here all the grain was ground at Waterbury. The first frame house was built by Elias Wilder, on what is now Robert Scribner’s garden. The first brick chimney was built nearly opposite the present site of D. W. Bennett’s corn-barn. The first frame barn was the one now owned by O. Perkins. The first plow was made by Oliver Luce, and the first ground plowed was where Robert Scribner now lives. Asa Raymond held the plow, and Mr. Luce drove the team. The first harrow, furnished with wood teeth, was also used on this ground. Harry Luce, the first male child, was born July 3, 1795. The first female born was Sally, daughter of Francis E. Story, October 14, 1796. The first wedding was that of Noah Churchill and Polly Marshall, May 29, 1798. They were married by William Utley, justice of the peace. According to the custom the impending wedding was published, or cried off, at the raising of James Town’s barn, by Josiah Hurlbut, town clerk, who, standing on one of the plates of the barn, proclaimed: “Here ye ! Hear ye! marriage is intended between Noah Churchill and Polly Marshall. God save the people!” The first death, that of a young son of Luke. J. Town, also occurred on this day.
The first brick house was built by Joseph Benson, and the first bricks were manufactured by Andrew Luce, on Z. W. Bennett’s farm. Maj. Perkins owned the first sleigh and the first buffalo robe. This sleigh is now the property of Andrew Luce, of Morristown, who values it highly as a relic. The first wagon was owned by a Mr. Nichols. Daniel Lathrop was the first tanner and shoemaker. Philip Moody was the first person to bring a newspaper into the town, the Weekly Wanderer, published at Randolph. The first postoffice was established in 1817, with R. Camp, postmaster. The first tavern was kept by Oliver Luce, a short distance from where he first settled. Cooking stoves were first introduced about the year 1820. Maj. Perkins purchased the first one, by exchanging a yoke of oxen for it. The first merchants were Levi Crooks, Amasa Marshall, John Crosby,. Elias Bingham, Bugby & Edgerton, Riverius Camp & Caldwell, and Col. Asahel Raymond. The first school was taught by Thomas B. Downer, in his dwelling, some of his scholars walking a distance of three miles or more. The first schoolhouse, a log structure, was burned in 1803.
It was common among the early settlers for females to work in the field, planting and harvesting. Two of the daughters of the late Nathan Robinson, Martha and Asenath, at one time took quite a job of pulling flax for Oliver Luce. Martha became the wife of Elias Bingham, and Asenath was married to Caleb Marshall.
The following is a list of the officers and privates who volunteered from Stowe during the war of 1812: Nehemiah Perkins, captain, Lewis Patterson, lieutenant , Jonathan Straw, ensign, Nathan Robinson, sergeant-major, Riverius Camp, quartermaster, John McAllister, Uriah Wilkins, Joseph Bennett, Elias Bingham, Aaron Wilkins, Nathan Holmes, Joseph Dake, Daniel Robinson, Ivory Luce, Paul Sanborn, Jonathan Luce, William Kellogg, Joseph Benson, Chester Luce, Joseph Marshall, Samuel R. Smith, Peter C. Lovejoy, S. Rand, Hugh McCutchin, Nathaniel Russell, Ira Cady, Stephen Russell, Andrew Kimball, Isaac Patterson, Warner Luce, William Moody, John B. Harris, Sylvester Wells, Amos Pain, Dexter Parker, Ephraim Ham, Russell Cory, Reuben Wells, Stephen Kellogg, Andrew Luce, Orra Marshall, Orange Luce, Samuel Fuller, and Levi Austin, privates: During the late civil war Stowe furnished 187 enlisted men, twelve of whom were killed, four died of wounds, twenty-two of disease, one in Andersonville, and one committed suicide from derangement owing to disease. The amount expended by the town for bounties and expenses was about $28,000.00, being equal to $13.50 to each man, woman and child in town, according to the census of 1860, and about 500 per cent. of the grand list of the town in 1865.
The First Congregational church of Stowe, located at Stowe village, was organized November 21, 1818, by a council of whom Nathaniel Rawson was moderator, with six members, viz.: Joseph Savage, Daniel B. Dutton, Abner Fuller, Rachel Dutton, Lorania Dutton, and Esther Savage. The first settled pastor was Rolden A. Watkins, in 1826, who retained the pastorate until 1830. Since that time, up to February 1, 1883, when the present minister, Rev. Wilbert L. Anderson was installed, there were but four pastors installed, covering a period of thirty-eight years. The remaining portions of the time it was supplied with various ministers as acting pastors. The church building, a wood structure, was built in 1839, and enlarged and repaired in 1864, so that it is now a comfortable structure, capable of accommodating 300 persons, and valued, including parsonage, at $3,500.00. The society has seventy-eight members.
The Methodist church, located at Stowe village, was organized by Lorenzo Dow, about the year 1800. The church building was erected in 1840, and enlarged and repaired in 1866. Rev. F. W. Lewis is the present pastor of the society.
The Union church, located about two and one-half miles from the central part of the town, on .the Mansfield mountain road, was built in 1836, and is still used by all denominations. It will seat 225 persons, and cost $1,187.00.