A March Meeting, Without Even a Ripple of Excitement

Here is an account of Town Meeting in Brattleboro, as reported March 10, 1899 in an article from the Vermont Phoenix.

Read on for the election of our leather inspector, a defeat for increased Memorial day funds, tax exemptions for the new toy company, a discussion of electric lights on Western Ave., debate over school tuition, and more.


Without Even a Ripple of Excitement

The Old Board of Officers Re-Elected — the Regulation Tax Voted — the New S.A. Smith Company Exempted from Taxation by a Unanimous Vote

It was conspicuously a mild-mannered March meeting which the voters of Brattleboro held on Tuesday. Not more than 200 or 300 voters were in the hall when the meeting opened at 9 o’clock. The proceedings occupied less than three hours, including the time taken for a ballot to elect the road commissioner, and at no point did the discussions rise to a point of even mild excitement.

Col. G.W. Hooker, moderator, called to order and read the warrant. Col Haskins moved that the auditors’ report be carried and adopted. This motion was adopted, P.S. Eames having first been allowed to make a personal explanation in regard to a charge that the road commissioner of 1898 had been obliged to pay some $300 or $400 of bills brought over from Mr. Eames’s administration. In point of fact, Mr. Eames said, the amount was only about $100.

The election of officers followed. Col. Hooker accepted his reelection as moderator with the remark that he was glad that the town had returned to its old way in the choice of a moderator: “the time was when every New England town chose its best man for that office.”

There was no essential change in last year’s board of officers. W.D. Stockwell was first reelected a town grand juror, but it is being stated that, being postmaster, he was ineligible, the election was declared void, and H.F. Weatherhead was chosen in his place. There was no contest over the election of any officer except road commissioner. Under the law the vote for this official was by ballot, P.S. Eames contesting the election with E.E. Stockwell, the last year’s incumbent. The boxes were open upward of an hour and both sides made a lively fight. The results stood:

Whole number of votes cast – 674

Necessary to a choice – 338

G.W. Hooker had – 1

P.S. Eames had – 312

E.E. Stockwell – 361

The announcement of Mr. Stockwell’s election was greeted with applause by his adherents.

This was the full list of officers elected:

  • Moderator – G.W. Hooker
  • Town clerk – Wm. S. Newton
  • Selectmen – W.H. Vinton, F.F. Gleason, E.H. Putnam
  • Treasurer – W.H. Brackett
  • Overseer of the poor – J.L. Stockwell
  • Constables – 1st, Thomas Hannon; 2nd, J.L. Stockwell
  • Tax collector – R.E. Gordon
  • Listers – John S. Cutting, H. B. Chamberlain, Azor Marshall, T.J.B. Cudworth, A.J. Carter
  • Auditor – H.B. Chamberlain, T.J.B. Cudworth, C.G. Staples
  • Trustee Public Money – W.S. Newton
  • Fence Viewers – C.L. Stickney, J.D. Whitney, A.W. Roel
  • Town Grand Jurors – W.H. Minor, H.F. Weatherhead
  • Inspector of leather – W.H. Kinson
  • Poundkeeper – Frank S. Brasor
  • Inspector of lumber – W.A. Ramsdell
  • Road Commissioner – E.E. Stockwell
  • Town Agent – F.W. McClare
  • School Director – C.D. Whitman

The election of officers being completed, E.C. Crosby moved, under article three, that 30 cents on the dollar be raised to pay the town expenses. This motion prevailed. Under article four A.C. Davenport, H.D. Holton and F.K. Barrows were elected trustees of the Brattleboro Free library for a term of three years to succeed themselves. C.A. Miles was elected a member to succeed Rev. C.O. Day, removed from town. The usual sum of $1200 was appropriated for the support of the library.

Under article six, for the appropriation of money for Memorial day, Frank Emerson moved that the sum be made $400. When inquiry was made as to why so large an increase over the usual sum was proposed Mr. Emerson answered that the membership of the Grand Army was constantly growing smaller, it was more difficult properly to carry out the observance of Memorial day, and it was felt that more money should be appropriated for this purpose.

Col. Thomas Hannon said that while he had no personal knowledge on the subject he had seen the statement in the newspapers that it was proposed to turn over the main portion of this sum, if voted, for the benefit of the First Regiment band. He had no objection to this being done, but, in behalf of the Grand Army members he thought that if this was the plan it should be so stated. C.F. Thomson said he believed that the money could not  legally be given to the band, because an article for that purpose had not been placed on the warrant. He was sorry this had not been done. Col. Haskins said he was himself a member of the Grand Army. He was also friendly to the band, but this business should be done “fair and square.” The money could not be appropriated by the town without an article in the warrant. In 1886 the legislature enacted a law enabling cities and incorporated villages to appropriate money to aid local bands by paying them for public concerts, etc. “I hope such action will be taken at the annual village meeting,” he said. Col  Haskins then moved to amend the motion to make the sum appropriated for memorial day $100. Mr. Emerson accepted the amendment and the motion was carried unanimously.

Under article seven it was voted to make the salaries of town officers the same as heretofore. Under article eight it was moved by C.F. Thomson to appropriate $493.30 to pay the excess of expenditures of the road commissioner during the last year, and the motion was carried. It was voted to exempt the polls of the members of Western engine company of West Brattleboro from taxation as usual.

A short discussion arose under article ten to see if the town would authorize the board of school directors of the town school district to pay the tuition of advanced pupils when they desired to attend the schools of the Brattleboro graded school district. Dr. C.S. Clark said the law made full provision on the point and moved to pass over the article. Dr. Clark said that the town school directors had provided a school for the education of their advanced pupils and it was an injustice to that school to weaken it by sending pupils elsewhere. C.D. Whitman made an explanation of the situation which had caused this article to be put on the warrant. He said that the parents of certain pupils living on the edge of the graded district felt that it was an injustice that their children should be compelled to attend the town school, or else pay their tuition in the graded schools. It was to relieve or correct this state of things, if the town so voted, that the article was inserted. Dr. Clark repeated his suggestions and stated them more fully, and it was voted to pass over the article.

Under article eleven, in regard to the exemption of the new S.A. Smith company from taxation, C.F. Thompson offered the following resolution, and it was adopted unanimously with a full chorus of voices:

“That the real and personal property and estate of the S.A.Smith company, a corporation recently chartered by the state of Vermont and about to be reorganized for the manufacture of children’s carriages and toys, and such other articles of manufacture as may hereafter be determined upon, including all capital used in said business, be and hereby is exempted from taxation for the term of five years, commencing on the first day of April, 1899.”

Article twelve and thirteen related to the exemption from taxation of the property and plant of the Snowflake Canning company, and of the canning factory plant held in trust by L.F. Adams, C.W. Dunham and C.O. Robbins. C.C. Fitts made an explanation as to why it was necessary to secure the exemption. He said that the proprietors of the canning factory had proposed to establish their industry here if a building was furnished to them. The Brattleboro board of trade had undertaken to do this and the factory was held in trust by the gentlemen named. The three men would be responsible fo the taxes unless the town voted in favor of exemption. Motions to exempt, for five years, covering both articles, were made and adopted.

Article fourteen related to a proposition to authorize the selectmen to contract with the Brattleboro Gaslight company for electric lights on Western Avenue and in West Brattleboro for a term of five years. C.C. Fitts said this article had been inserted because the town was now paying $90 a year for those lights, but the company would make the price $80 a year if the time were for five years. David T. Perry thought it might be well to go slow, since it was understood that a new company was to be put in operation so that the price might be reduced through competition. The motion introduced by Mr. Fitts authorized the selectmen to make a contract for five years “if they deem it for the best interests of the town to do so.” In this form the motion was carried.

This completed the business of the meeting, and at 11:45 a motion to adjourn prevailed.

(Note: no author was identified with this story…)

Comments | 3

  • Band Aid

    I like that we had an inspector of leather, and also that the state passed a law encouraging towns to aid local bands by hiring them to play. $90 for electric lights does seem a bit high… : )

    Over 600 people participated in this Town Meeting and all business was completed before noon.

    Can any of the school historians out there decipher what the school proposal was? It seems like we had two school systems… “graded” and “town”? (Public and private?)

    • Very Interesting

      I didn’t read every word of this but some things did jump out at me: that two of the prominent Brattleboro citizens of the day displayed their (presumably former) military rank before their names. Is this the long shadow of the Civil War? If you did not serve, you did not rate?

      I like the “Overseer of the poor”.
      They looked after their poor, BUT the “overseer” part is a little ominous. I note also that the office was held by a Stockwell. Isn’t it a Stockwell building in West B that was renovated into low income housing within the last 5 years?

      • Colonels

        Right. We had real, live Colonels walking around town at the turn of the century. It lends support to the argument that the Brattleboro Colonels are named for local colonels.

        You have a good suggestion for a new Selectboard goal for the new year: Establish a new overseer of the poor. Maybe an overseer of the rich, too, would be interesting.

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