Why does Brattleboro have Representative Town Meeting? Why not a regular, open Town Meeting like the rest of Vermont? These questions led me on a search through old newspapers and town records to look at Brattleboro’s town meetings in the 1950’s to see if there was some obvious answer.
It turns out, there was no single reason that led to the “representative form of government” in Brattleboro. There were many factors, personalities, and coincidences unique to Brattleboro that contributed to its adoption.
Arguments made in favor of representative town meeting were sometimes specific to Brattleboro, such as outgrowing the public meeting hall. Other times they were more lofty, arguing that representative government would be more fair and better able to deal with complex issues, while giving voters a greater say in how the town operates.
Another night has passed, and such a night of storm. It commenced raining about 7 o'clock and rained very hard and snowed all night. This morning it is snowing very fast and thawing. The whole face of the ground is covered with snow and water. No drilling today. It is the best weather to make the sap run I ever saw. Well, I dated my letter wrong, should have been Sunday 6th. It is now Wednesday 9th. I have got in debt to you now two letters certain, one Saturday night, and I was made glad again tonight by another which has reminded me that I must hurry up this. I do not think that I shall hardly get it finished, as I have to go on guard tomorrow and I must get this off by half past 8 o'clock. I go on guard at nine tomorrow morning and come off at nine Friday morning.
Brattleboro, March 7, 1864.
I received your most welcome letter last night. I was in luck for I got a letter from Catherine at the same time. I was glad to hear that you were well, except for that headache. Hope that is no more than a head ache. You cannot know how anxious I am when I get a letter and how quickly I glance over its contents to see that you are all well. I am afraid that you work too hard how does the money hold out If you are like to run short, perhaps I can borrow it and not wait for pay day.
I did intend to have gone to Hinsdale today, but the mud was too deep. There is but little snow here, but plenty of mud and the road to Hinsdale looks long and besides, I wished to fill this sheet of paper with something. Yesterday morning the robins were singing, and it appeared like the right time to tap the sugar place and it was. I hear that most of the sugar places were tapped yesterday and day before and the sap has run very fast and is running now. We had a little rain last night. I felt pretty homesick yesterday morning. I expect to have many such mornings this spring, but you will not pity me I suppose. Well, I do not deserve any, but I am sick of Brattleboro.
It was on this day in 1791 that Vermont became the 14th state to join the Union — the first aside from the original 13 colonies.
It has an eccentric political history. It was an independent nation, the Vermont Republic, for 14 years (1777-1791). It had its own money, sovereign government, and a constitution that explicitly forbade slavery — almost a century before the United States did. It also required government taxes to support public schools.
Brattleboro, Mar. 4, 1864
I have let too long a time elapse without writing to you. I received a letter from Mary Ann last week. The reason that I did not write, I was expecting to go up to Burton to arrest a deserter Saturday. I was ordered to report to Captain Clark and get transportation and to take the five o'clock train and go to Burton. When I told Capt. Jenne that no train left for Burton until Monday morning there was a fix then. I was to go Monday. I told them fairly that I did not believe there was any deserter there, and finally they all came to the same conclusion, but of this you need say nothing, for he may be nabbed yet. I was to have a chance to go home if I went up. Should like to have caught the fellow, but hated to go up and come home without him. It will be no small job for one man to take him. He is a cool, desperate fellow.
Joseph Sullivan, the CEO of Hinsdale Greyhound Park, agreed to be interviewed by a Keene High School student in his corporate office on October 26, 2004. The American Studies assignment required the students to interview various owners of dissimilar businesses located throughout Cheshire County. Their objective was to gain an understanding of the impact these various businesses have on their respective communities from an economic, social, and historical perspective. Upon completion of the class project, the student interviews would be published in the Keene Sentinel which did not happen.
Interviewer [RLElkins]: “Where did you derive your historical knowledge about the origin of the sales tax in Vermont?”
Interviewee [Unidentified]: “As a college intern majoring in political science with unrestricted access to the inner workings of the Vermont Statehouse from 1968 through 1970. Unbeknownst to my legislative benefactors, a detail journal of the briefings, hearings, and confidential discussions in Montpelier, some that the press did not have access too, were dictated into a tape recorder every night and later transcribed onto Eaton Typing Paper for my college thesis.”
“What was the title of your college thesis?”
“Vermont Sales Tax – The Dazzling New Legislative Toothpaste for Budget Decay.”
“What grade did you receive?”
Feb. 20. 1864. Yesterday I did not finish this, for I did not get any opportunity to write until evening. Then I had a hard head ache and turned in early. The cold weather hangs on yet, though the morning is most pleasant. I feel first rate. I was bluer yesterday than two whetstones, but my feet, head and heart are light. I feel first rate, but the heart goes out towards another that I should like to feel beating right against my own.
U.S. Barracks, Brattleboro, Feb. 18,
Well, here I am in the old spot all well and sound. Went on guard yesterday morning, it was horrible. The wind blew so that the old guard house cracked. It kept growing colder all day. I slept until half past two, then took charge of the guards until 8, but it was quite different from standing on post. I feel much better doing something than in staying in the office, but I have a nice chance to think sitting up alone. How much I thought of home you may guess. That is a place that is ever present with me. How the heart will yearn to embrace you and the children. I feel great anxiety for you all. I am afraid that your health will suffer taking so close care of the children.
Feb. 14th. I have had a hard spell of the head ache. I have got to go to work. Shall go on dress parade this afternoon and go on guard as corporal of the guard. Shall not have to stand guard. There are two corporals detailed every day and one Sergeant. The corporals have to post the guards, but one is up at a time in the night, so it is not very hard and there is a chance to learn something. I tell you, there is a great deal to learn sometimes. I think I shall never be able to get through with it. There are others that think if they can explain a right face they are ready for an examination, but to go through it in shape will require a great deal of study and pains taking.
U. S. Barracks, Brattleboro, Vt. Feb.
Dearest wife -
I shall endeavor to write you a longer letter than the last, you need not count that anything. Of news I have none. It is very quiet here. The recruits have all left, or nearly all. There are a few for the 9th, 7th, 8th, and the Batteries here. I have not been in town until last night. It is all still and quiet here. I started to go and see Mrs. Richard Chaplin, but she had got better and gone to a Mr. Miller's to board in town. Started to hunt up the place: got into the wrong pew, the wrong Mr. Miller, but it was good luck. They were related to Jesse Miller of Coventry, acquainted with the Wrights, Baldwin's, Berry's, Thrasher's, Flander's, etc. etc.
U.S. Barracks, Brattleboro, Feb. 9,
Dearest wife, -
Here I am well and hearty, not very hearty though, for I have not done duty enough since I came back to
give me a good appetite. I believe that I had rather do duty than not. I feel so uneasy, think of home every minute, think of you all the time. How I wish I was at home tonight, but here I am eating Uncle Sam's bread and cheese and doing nothing. Did I say bread and cheese? No not by a long shot. There is no cheese in the scrape without buying it. They have almost all gone.
Disclaimer: In the interest of historical accuracy, I am submitting these exactly as they were written. However, some comments and words are used that, although common and acceptable in the 1860s, would be considered offensive and politically incorrect today. So don't shoot the messenger!
U.S. Barracks, Brattleboro, Feb. 3, 1864
Probably to Portus Baxter, M.C., Derby Line, Vt.
East Charleston Jan. 18, 1864.
Dear Friend -
I had intended to have gone to Washington, but the detachment did not go Friday, and learned that one of my children was very sick and came this way instead of the other. I got home Saturday, found my youngest child very sick. He appears to be better today. Think he will get along. It was a bad time to come, as I had just been relieved from duty, in order to study. Major Bartlett made an application to Major Austin to get me into the 9th Regt. But the Major could not send me there and thought it not necessary. My furlough is out next Monday. I shall then fit for an examination as quick as possible. All speak encouragingly. I am sometimes fearful. I do not know what I have got to go through. I wish that I could see you before I go on for an examination. I may have a chance to go out as a general.
Alexander Turner Life Story A Slave (1845- 1923)
Naima Wade will present a living history presentation on Thursday, January 16, 7:00 PM, in the library's main room, which retells the Life Story of Alexander Turner (1845- 1923). Turner was enslaved on a Virginia plantation, and a fugitive who fought in the Civil War and eventually ended up in Vermont establishing a homestead. Wade's goal is make sure that the Underground Railroad sites in southern Vermont are documented and preserved for posterity.