Home Commentary History Corner: Roxbury’s Early Settlers: Independent Women

History Corner: Roxbury’s Early Settlers: Independent Women

Roxbury’s school has been part of the Montpelier school system since a 2017 merger, although Roxbury does not abut Montpelier, being surrounded by Northfield, Brookfield, and Warren. The town is set on the highest point of land on the Central Vermont Railroad, according to Sarah Brigham Mansfield in her “History of Roxbury” section of the Vermont Historical Magazine, edited by Abby Maria Hemenway (1829–1890). 

Samuel Richardson was among the first white settlers. He was a veteran of the Revolutionary War and came to Roxbury from Connecticut after a stopover in Randolph. He was known for the many children he brought to town, in particular, some industrious daughters.

Richardson and his wife Susanna arrived in 1790 and built a log home near where the watch factory was later built. Richardson first came with his son, Uriah. According to Mrs. Mansfield. “After the sugar making was begun, Mr. Richardson returned to Randolph, leaving his son alone in the wilderness for six weeks. No one to speak to, no daily or weekly paper; but the lonesome hoot of an owl, the howling of the hungry wolves about his cabin …” Uriah’s father returned with the rest of the family as soon as the snow was gone. 

Richardson’s eldest daughter, Sarah, married Chester Batchelder on Jan. 27, 1799, the first marriage in town. Another daughter, Hannah, then married Peter Staples, and a third daughter, Lydia, married Charles Cotton. The author notes that Lydia was not young, being a bride of “45 summers.”

His remaining unwed daughters, Susan and Mary, were known to work in the fields, wielding “gleaming sickles” as they “dexterously bound” the golden grain that was “placed in stooks by their deft hands.” Mansfield also notes Susan and Mary sheared their own sheep and cut their own logs.

Mansfield recounts a story of Susan’s bravery. One evening Susan was returning home through the woods from “squire” Robertson’s house when she heard an animal’s distressing cry. As dusk fell it became darker and darker and the sound grew nearer and nearer. She kept on moving as the cry grew closer and sharper. Once out of the woods, she brought her sheep in to make sure they were safe before seeking shelter herself. The next morning she went out and saw the tracks of a catamount “plainly visible in the soft earth” that had followed her through the woods.