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History Corner: The First Money Makers in the Settlement

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The first merchant in Montpelier, according to Daniel P. Thompson’s “History of Montpelier” was a man called Dr. Frye, although he was not a medical doctor. He ran a store out of his house in 1791 where he sold salt, rum, and nails, and a small amount of other things deemed indispensable by those in the settlement. Frye “yielded his occupation” as merchant in 1794 to Col. Joseph Hutchins, who built a small house and store room. Hutchins sold a wider variety of items than Frye. But, after running the store for two years, in 1796 Hutchins turned the operation over to his two sons, William and Joseph. Joseph continued to run the store while William built a tavern attached to the store. The first tavern in town, however, was built by Col. Davis in 1793.

The first carpenter/millwright/bridge builder was Larnerd Lamb. Lamb built Col. Davis’s frame house and tavern, and he helped frame the first Statehouse. (The first Statehouse was built in 1808, the second in 1838, and the third in 1857, according to bgs.vermont.gov). Lamb also helped build the first bridge connecting Montpelier to Berlin. 

Other “first” professionals flocked to the settlement. The first blacksmith to open a shop in Montpelier’s village was Jonathon Shepherd, the first brick maker was Paul Knapp, and the first clothier was David Tolman. And several medical doctors established themselves in town, with Dr. Spaulding Pierce being the first in 1790, according to Thompson’s account under the heading “professional men.” But, he notes, the most popular doctor in town was not a man. “While, during that whole time, Mrs. Parley (Rebecca) Davis was often sought out in preference to them all, in cases especially of dislocated bones, contracted sinews, and injured limbs of longstanding.”

Thompson also writes that the first lawyer, Charles Bulkly, arrived in 1797, and the first permanent ministers began arriving around 1799. Thompson notes how quickly Montpelier “grew” and “improved” with these “hardy, resolute, and enterprising band of settlers.” 

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Writer, photographer and editor with The Bridge on and off since 2014. Managing editor of The Bridge from 2014 to 2017. Writer and editor for the Caledonian Record. Correspondent and contributing writer for The Barre Montpelier Times Argus, Burlington Free Press, Green Mountain Trading Post, North Star Monthly, Science Magazine, Country Woman, Vermont Magazine, The Northland Journal, and other publications. English teacher and Interventionist in the Montpelier Roxbury School district. Born in Montpelier.