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BRATTLEBORO IN THE 1880'S AND 1890'S: CABOTS, BALESTIERS, AND KIPLINGS By Howard C. Rice (Brattleboro, Vermont) The first of our observers, Mary Rogers Cabot (1856-1932), whose memoirs form the core of this documentary chronicle, was a person of considerable stature who deserves more than passmg mention. She is oest known as the compüer of Annals of Brattleboro, Vermont, 1681-1895, the two thick volumes which have been quarried and requarried (not always very accurately) by local historians and schoolchildren, columnists and space writers, ever since their publication in 1921-1922 by E. L. HUdreth & Co. of Brattleboro. With no pretensions to "professional" history, Miss Cabot spent many years assembling this massive scrapbook. Its main disadvantage to the more scientifically-minded is that the scraps are often unattributed or undated, so that it is not always easy to determine who said what, and when. Nevertheless, few small towns can boast such a rich compendium of local lore as this great labor of love. The Annals reflect some of Miss Cabot's own values and those of a New England town of her period. It is also a bit of a social register. I recall that there was, at the time of its publication, considerable tongue-wagging, even heart-burning, about which family genealogies were or were not "in Cabot." The first settlers, the honest farmers, ambitious merchants, ministers, educators, doctors, lawyers, aU fared weU at Miss Cabot's hand, as did printers and publishers, as well as those famines who had swarmed to other parts of the nation (or world) while maintaining their cousinships and even summer homes in Brattleboro. As the terminal date for the Annals is 1895, the time had not yet come for talk of "ethnic minorities," nor wUl one find much in Cabot about the potential Kennedys and Spiro Agnews. If there was a "proletariat" in town, little is heard of it. One thing, however, is most evident: Miss Cabot's conviction that Brattleboro was a "cultured community." The writers, the artists, the architects, the musicians, are singled out for generous attention: Royal! Tyler and Thomas Greene Fessenden; WiUiam Morris Hunt, the painter, and his brother, the architect Richard Morris Hunt; WüTiam Rutherford Mead, another architect (Mead, McKim and White), his sister Elinor Mead (Mrs. WiUiam Dean Howells), and their brother, Larkin G. Mead, Jr., the Yankee stonecutter. Younger people of Miss Cabot's own generation also find a place in her Brattleboro Parnassus: Mary Wilkins (later Mrs. Freeman), the writer of New England tales; opera singers like Hattie Brasor (SteUa Brazzi) and Mary Howe (daughter of an outstanding local photographer); the French-trained portrait gainter, Robert Gordon Hardie, Jr. And, of course, Wolcott Balestier and Ludyard Kipling. On the title-page of the second volume of the Annals, Miss Cabot placed KipUng's Unes: "God gave aU men all earth to love, / But, since our hearts are small, / Ordained for each one spot should prove / Beloved over all" ("Sussex"). Mary Cabot's roots lay deep in New England. Her father, Norman Franklin Cabot (1821-1912), was bom in Hartland, Vermont, in sight of Mount Ascutney, some sixty miles up the Connecticut River from Brattleboro. Norman's grandfather was one of the pioneers who had come up the valley from the older settled regions of Massachusetts and Connecticut in the 1760s and 1770s. The Treaty of 150 Paris (1763), concluding the last of the "French and Indian" colonial wars, had released this wüderness frontier area from the perils of raids and counterraids and thus opened it to settlement. In geographical terms it is little more than a hundred miles, as the crow flies, from Boston to Connecticut River VaUey towns Uke Brattleboro or Hartland. Historically speaking, the distance is some one hundred and fifty years. In 1836, at the age of fifteen, Norman Cabot, one of nine chüdren, left the family farm in Hartland to seek his fortune elsewhere. His pilgrim's progress took him south to Georgia and to Alabama, where he established a successful mercantile business at Wetumpka—his headquarters for the next seventeen years. Here he met other New Englanders, including Francis Brooks, with whom he formed a...


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pp. 150-160
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