I was updating our Day in History listings and came across something that might astound and amaze you.
In 1875, according to the Vermont Phoenix, Brattleboro's total expenses for the year were estimated at about $7,000. To compare, in 2015 our expenses are projected to be just under $17 million.
To be fair, they had just added a major expense to the Brattleboro budget in 1875 - streetlights, at a cost of $1,000 per year. Without them, the amount spent would have been lower.
Residents at the time voted to lay a tax of 40 cents on the dollar of the grand list to cover the cost of running the town.
Brattleboro, Vt. Dec. 8th,
Dearest wife -
I have but a little time and you will have to put up with a short letter this time. The box came safely to hand. I found that it was at the express office and asked for a pass. Capt. Brannon says “write one”. It is signed in a minute (That is the way I get them now) got a wheel barrow and trotted off, brought it up all right. That cheese will be good. It will be first rate. Our bread is nice now. I have eaten beans until I have had enough of them but still they come. There was one parcel that had not been opened, directed to you. When I opened it, Lo and behold: there was 1 pair of mittens two pair of socks and two pair of little mittens. Well, I tell you I thought of the little hands they were made to cover. The things were all right. What shall I do with the little mittens? Shall I send them by mail, or wait until I get a chance to send them up with some person coming down.
Brattleboro, December 4th,
Dearest wife -
I have today the finest chance in the world to write you a good, nice warm room and a desk and nothing to do although I have had enough work yesterday and this forenoon. Day before yesterday I was detailed to assist in making out rolls in Mr. Mead's office. He is superintendent of recruits. Commenced work yesterday, and have had to work pretty hard until a short time since, that job is done. How long I am to remain here I know not. I am here now, and shall improve it writing to you. I was rejoiced to receive a letter from you. It appears that we both had a letter in the road at the same time. You will find that I sent twenty dollars instead of fifteen. Well, I could not get the bill changed in camp and let it all slide. I suppose we shall get our bounty sometime if we do not get it, another pay day will come on some time or another.
Brattleboro, Nov. 27th,
Dearest wife -
I improve the present moment in writing. I should have done so two days sooner but could not. Was paid two months pay Monday. I shall send you twenty dollars. Day before yesterday was on guard; took my ink and paper with me to the guard house thinking to write to you between the reliefes, but such a time to be on guard! Soldiers just paid off, and Thanksgiving so close at hand.
Brattleboro, Nov. 17th, 1863.
Dear wife -
It rains and has rained all night, no drill and not on guard, so have a good time to write. I did not go over to Hinsdale Sunday. It rained all night Saturday and all day Sunday. Monday it was warm and pleasant, but commenced raining when we were on dress parade, and has rained ever since I commenced this morning, but there has been so much card playing around my bunk that I had to give up writing. After dinner they took their places again with a new reinforcement. I told them to leave, or I would send their cards into the stove and a pack of fools after them, took it in good and evacuated. I have a pretty good place to write. My bunk is by a window, and the boys thought that the had got a fine place for Euchre, but they must keep clear, or I shall send them kiteing. The boys are a pretty good set, but the everlasting Euchre, I am so sick of it that I wish that I had every card in the world, that they would find the fire pretty quick.
Brattleboro, Oct. 29th, 1863
Dear Abiah, -
I wrote to you last Saturday, and promised in that to write you Monday but I did not keep my promise. I could not get a chance to write. I wrote to Mr. Cole, but I had to write with a pencil, but today I have a chance and mean to improve it. I went to Hinsdale Sunday found Mary Ann better but Susan's little girl very sick. Poor little thing she suffered very much. She died Sunday night about 6 o'clock. Mr. Ballard came over Monday and told me yesterday. I got a pass and went to the funeral. It was at the house at 10 o'clock. I got leave to stop until after dress parade. I staid until evening. Fred came and brought me over to the Camp. I like him very much. He is a quiet, social intelligent man. he is heartily sick of farming. Is determined to sell his farm. He now thinks of getting some business near home where he can go home Saturday nights.
"Wealthy eccentric" Fred Koch of Guilford, tired of "cotch" pronunciation, legally changes name to "Coke-is-it."
I remember this guy getting into the papers every so often for erratic behavior. One time, if I remember correctly, he was arrested for giving away $20 bills on Main Street. When he got before the Judge, the Judge scolded the cop with some pithy remarks.
Brattleboro, Vt. Nov. 13. 1863.
As good fortune will have it, I have plenty of time to write. I was one of the guards and one of the number is detailed to act as orderly for the officer of the day, so that relieved me from all duty, except such as the officer of the day may require of me, and so far it has been but little. I can sleep tonight. Am relieved from guard duty. Have no dirty gun to clean in the morning and no drill tomorrow in the forenoon, and no police duty Sunday morning. It is the first breathing spell I have had since I have been here.
The guards have to keep their guns loaded, and when they are relieved by the new guard in the morning, they are marched out one side of the camp ground and fire off their guns. That leaves them dirty, besides the night air affects them and it takes about two hours work to get them clean. The guns must be so clean that they must not soil the cleanest white glove. The barrel must be so clean that the head of the runner, after taking it from the barrel will not soil the glove, if rubbed upon the glove, so you can see that it is something to keep clean here.
While walking my dog, I spotted an unusual shard of newspaper floating across the parking lot. Unusual, in that it was sort of pinkish yellow and that it seemed bigger than a modern newspaper.
It turned out to be a section of the “New York Sun” dated Wednesday, August 15, 1945, which is the date that Japan surrendered to the Allies after almost six years of war. (AKA V - J Day). (The New York Sun was an evening daily newspaper published from 1833 to 1950).
Brattleboro, Nov. 9th, 1863.
I received a long letter from you last week. It was good. I commenced to answer Friday night, but had
occasion to leave the barracks, and when I returned some of our card players had stolen my candle and tipped over the ink upon the letter and spoiled that. This is the reason of my not writing sooner, and for writing upon such a soiled sheet as I now do. I went on guard Saturday morning. I am well except a slight cold that I took when on guard a week Sunday. It is slight but it hangs to me. I have been on since, without increasing it.
We are to have a better place to sleep when on guard duty than we have had. The building is cold as any barn, no place to sleep but on the floor, dare not take blankets for vermin abound there. Hope they will freeze out soon. There are nothing of the sort in the company barracks. I have seen the animals. They are monsters, no mistake. I have not been in Hinsdale since I went to the funeral. It has been my misfortune to be on some duty every Sunday morning since then. Yesterday in the afternoon was the first time that I have been to church since I came here.
Brattleboro, Oct. 28th, 1863
Mr. Cole, Sir:
My opportunity for writing is not very good, but I will take my pencil and make the best of it. With regard to that house I wish you and my wife to do what you think is best. I do not know how cold it is up there and I do not know the cost of moving the house and should think that it was too late to undertake moving and digging a new cellar. We shall probably be mustered for pay next Saturday and shall be paid next week or week after.
Brattleboro, Oct. 24th, 1863
Dear wife -
I received your most welcome letter last night, and night before last I received Mr. Martin's letter. It is strange that letters are so much delayed on the way. I have not much time tonight, but I will improve the time I have in writing to you. I do not mean to let you get the start of me. I am on guard tomorrow. I shall come off Sunday morning at nine o'clock and shall then try and get a pass to go over and see Susan and Mary Ann. I had a letter from Mary Ann tonight. Susan's youngest child is very sick with the dysentery. I will enclose Mary Ann's letter and let her tell her own story. I guess that she is homesick, she felt very well when I was over there.
Camp Austine, Oct. 14th, 1863
Dear wife -
I now seat myself to write you. Since Saturday I have been hard at work. I had a gun to clean and more brass to fix up than I wish to see again. Sunday was cold and unpleasant. I got a pass and went over to see Susan. Found them all well. Mary Ann commences her school next Monday. She teaches 13 weeks at $3. per week and boards herself. She is going to board with Susan. I enjoyed the visit much. We had a grand good dinner of boiled victuals, and Susan filled my haversack with apples. The battery M boys have left Monday. There were a lot of prisoners sent off yesterday, the Captain of Company A, a corporal and four men with them as guard. There are a few left in the guard house.
Slaughter Mountain, Va.
Oct. 10th, 1863
Mr. Charles Blake,
Your favor of Sept. 26th was duly received, and in accordance with your directions I forwarded $5.15 to your wife – the amount of my own and Charles Smith's indebtedness to you as soon as we were paid off, directing her to write to my brother acknowledging its receipt, as I did not know where I should be at that time. I had some hesitation about sending it by mail, but the sum was so small that I did no think it was worth while to send it by express.
Brattleboro, Vt. Oct. 10th, 1863
Dear wife -
I have delayed writing until the present moment, that I might tell you where I was to remain. I suppose that my place is Company B, Capt Brannon. I have been trotting from Company A to Company B and from Company B to Company A without a musket or clothing. This morning I have come to Company B and expect to remain.