Marlborough at age 20. WHITNEY, Capt. Nathaniel (s. of Samuel,
of Shrewsbury, Mass.), when a young man 20 years of age, with his
brother, Samuel, Jr., several years older than himself, was induced
by the invitation of Col. William Williams to visit Marlborough for
the first time, in Nov., 1769. After spending a few days in the examination
of the place, he returned to his parents, arriving at home on Thanksgiving
Day. There for the first time he made acquaintance with the young
lady to whom he was afterwards married, with whom he lived in harmony
and affection for more than half a century, and from whom he was
separated only by death, leaving her a widow well provided for, who
survived him several years.
In March, 1770, their father carried his sons, Samuel, Jr.,
and Nathaniel, to Marlborougb, left them, and returned with his sleigh
and horses to Shrewsbury, Mass. That spring, on land in the easterly part
of the town, they made their first attempt at making maple sugar,
and were quite successful in the enterprise. In the same spring,
on the 4th of April, 1770, these two brothers, Samuel, Jr., and Nathaniel
Whitney, purchased of "Charles Phelps, Esq., of New Marlboro, in the County
of Cumberland, and Province of New York, for fifty-five pounds lawful money,
the whole of Right No. 21, drawn to the Right of Gov. Wentworth."
Samuel was to have the north half of the Right, and Nathaniel the
south half, which embraced the land on which the first Congregational
meeting house was built, and which has since been called the Granger
Lot. It was on this last mentioned part of his purchase, that Capt.
Nathaniel Whitney put him up a log camp in the woods and commenced
clearing his new farm. In this camp he spent the next two summers,
ambitious and toilsome in his new field of labor. At his request,
Mrs. Col. Williams cooked for him a week's provision at a time, and he
returned to his camp and spent the week in hard labor upon its nourishment.
His principal living was pork and peas and beans, with a comfortable
supply of bread, and occasionally with the additional luxury of trout
and wild game. For his bread he brought the meal upon his back from
Brattleboro, Colerain, or Greenfield, distances of 10,15, and 20 miles.
home, forced to sell and start over. On these premises, Captain
Whitney built the first framed dwelling house erected in town, which he
occupied for a few years, and then sold his possessions for continental
paper money which depreciated so much in value that he suffered
almost a total 1088 of his sale. In this impoverished condition he began
anew by purchasing of Charles Phelps, Esq., the whole of Right No.
23, which is marked on the town plot as the original Right of Job Strong,
and contained by measurement 472 1/2 acres of land, the deed of which
is dated the 28th of March, 1777. It is supposed he sold the western half
of this purchase to his brother Eliphalet, retained the eastern half of
the Right to himself, and added thereto lands adjoining, purchased
of Perez Stockwell, by deed bearing date the 12th day of June, 1777.
On these last purchases he commenced anew, again settled, became
a thriving farmer and an influential and highly esteemed citizen. Here
he spent the remainder of his days.
Exploits. In the adventures of Capt. Whitney as one of the
early settlers of the town there are incidents not wholly devoid
of interest, which may justify a brief notice. As a hunter, no one in town
excelled him. As a trapper, he was artful, and seldom failed of success.
As an angler, he was sly and not unfrequently would find himself heavily
laden with a fine string of trout. With his gun he was cautious, and with
untiring patience would he pursue game with his dogs to a favorable issue.
We mention an instance as taken from notes penned some 40 years ago,
of one of his adventures as then narrated by himself. His statement was
nearly as follows: "In the autumn of 1773," he said "brother Samuel
and myself agreed to go out a hunting at the first suitable fall of snow.
In the month of November a few inches of snow had fallen, when I
repaired to my brothers and found him very unwell, feeling himself
too feeble to engage in the chase. In the morning I took my brother's dog
with my own, and went into the woods. Bear tracks were plenty;
the dogs took one. But at night I returned to my brother, and found him
more unwell. In the morning I again took his dog and entered the forest.
At that time all was a howling wilderness to the west and northwest as
far as the western base of the Green Mountains, without a single
settler. I took a westerly course and saw a monstrous track of a bear,
larger than I ever before saw. I returned to the house and persuaded brother
Samuel to go and see it. We were both exceedingly surprised. We pursued
it nearly to the top of the hill in the west part of the town near Wilmington
line. I let the dogs go. In a few minutes they entered a thicket and roared
tremendously. I flung off my pack and pursued with all speed down the hill,
near Wilmington pond to Deerfield River. The bear and dogs had crossed.
By taking some pains, I found a tree which had fallen across the stream,
on which I found a safe passage, and soon discovered that Samuel's dog
had treed the bear.
I then levelled my gun and fired directly at his head. He dodged
a little, came down, struck brother Samuel's dog with his paw, laid
him stiff, and again ascended the tree. I fired the 2nd time at his
body. He instantly slid down the tree and moved off with two streams
of blood flowing, one on each side. I shot at him the 3rd time and put
the ball through his body. I shot the 4th ball through his middle.
I shot the 5th through his head and the bear then yielded. Enormous Creature!!
The bear was so heavy that in ascending and descending the tree he
tore his nails off to the very quick. The next day I succeeded in
obtaining help in dressing the animal and carrying him home. In
so doing I found an ounce ball which had been hammered--of
such I had none--lodged against the fore shoulder, and the flesh completely
sound about it. After being dressed and carried home, the meat weighed
466 lbs. This was the first bear I ever killed and probably the largest
ever killed in Vermont."
Capt. Whitney continued to cherish his peculiar attachment to the
exciting scenes of the hunter's life, even until his hair was whitened
by the frosts of advanced age. In recounting his success as a sportsman,
he said he thought, but could not tell exactly, that he had killed not
less than 100 bears, 100 deer, 1 moose, and 14 wolves, to say nothing of
the multitude of lighter game.
In 1777, Mr. Gershom C. Lyman, then a candidate for the ministry,
in the vigor of his youthful manhood, accompanied Capt. Whitney on a hunting
excursion and fortunately killed a fawn. Young Lyman started in the morning,
full of life, but before night was much exhausted by his long chase
and the fatigue of the day. The facetious Captain asked his young
minister what is meant in holy writ by a "Cunning hunter?" Mr. Lyman promptly
replied, "he thought it must be one who did not hunt too much."
Capt. Whitney was a staunch whig, and took a decided stand in favor of
the American Revolution. On hearing of the Battle of Lexington, which occurred
on the 19th of April, 1775, Capt. Whitney and Capt. Jonathan Warren
shouldered their muskets and hastened forward to offer their services
as volunteers in defence of the Colonies. Capt. Whitney also reached
Bennington on the eve of Aug. 16, 1777, and was placed as a guard over
the captured enemy. At the close of the campaign he returned to his family
and his farm, a laborious citizen, taking a lively interest in the
growth and prosperity of the town, and in the spiritual advance of the
Congregational Church, of which for many years he was a worthy member.
He reared a large family, whose voices in the choir are long to be remembered.
His family has been widely dispersed, and only a few of their descendants
remain to cherish their memory.
Capt. Nathaniel was born May 30, 1749, married Mary Houghton, of Lancaster,
Mass., Jan. 21, 1771, and moved to Marlborough in the winter of 1772. She
was born June, 1751, died Sept. 27, 1844, aged 93. He died June 4,
1829, aged 80.
Nathaniel, b. in Shrewsbury, Sept. 15, 1771, d. Dec. 1, 1771,
before the removal to Marlborough.
The following were b. in Marlborough, viz.:
Molly, b. Sept. 10, 1772, d. Dec. 10, 1774, and her remains
were the first that were buried in
the grave yard in the woods, noticed in the history as Grave Yard
Dolly, b. July 29, 1774, m. Henry Sawtell, at the age of 15;
Molly, b. March, 1776, d. Sept., 1783, aged 7 yrs.;
Luther, b. Oct. 2, 1777, of whom no recent information has been received;
Nathaniel, Jr., b. May 24, 1779;
Solomon, b. March 7, 1781;
Chloe, b. May 4, 1783, d. Sept. 12, 1803;
Charlotte, b. April 4, 1785, m. (1) Eli Higley, 1806, settled in
Whitingham, and after his death
May 3, 1845, she m. (2) Jabez Smith, of Wilmington;
Rhoda, b. July 9, 1787, m. William-D. Merrill, settled in Burlington,
Zilpah, b. June 8, 1789, m. Elisha Putnam, from Buckland, Mass.,
b. May 18, 1786, d. at Shelburne Falls, Mass., Dec. 24, 1859;
Betsey, b. Aug. 22, 1791, m. Asa Jacobs, of Guilford, and moved
to Norwalk, Ohio;
Clark, b. April 8, 1794, d. Feb. 13, 1814, aged 20.