A Brief History of Morgan


(C) Richard Lafoe, 2005
Selectman, Town of Morgan

The Town of Morgan was chartered by the Republic of Vermont on November 6, 1780 under the name of Caldersburgh to 64 Grantees. On October 19, 1801 the town name was changed to Morgan in honor of John Morgan, Esquire, of Hartford, Connecticut, one of the original proprietors from whom the first settlers purchased their land. It is described as a region of unsurpassed beauty, with fertile soil and a climate that is healthful and invigorating.

General Whitelaw, born in Scotland and a Revolution Officer, surveyed the town and named the lake after Israel Seymour a Grantee of the town. We do not know the Indian names of the town or the lake. None of their names from Memphremagog to the Nulhegan have been preserved excepting Oswegotchie in the neighboring town of Brighton

Nathan Wilcox was the first settler. He came here with his family in 1802 from Killingsworth, Conn. Nathan and his family are worthy of special historical attention inasmuch as they were the only settlers from 1802 to 1805. Nathan and his wife, Rachel Bennet, raised eleven children in Morgan. Their homestead is located on Meade Hill road at the Roland Gonyaw farm. Nathan lived to the age of 84 years. Nathan named Elon Hill in honor of his son.

The second settler was Christopher Bartlett. Christopher arrived in Morgan in 1805 with wife Anna Buck. They reared a family of nine children. Christopher owned and operated the first store in Morgan at the same site as the present day Morgan Country Store.

William Cobb came to Morgan May 7, 1806. The Cobb homestead was located at the site of James Judd residence. During the next two years the following families arrived in Morgan: Ira Levens, Jacob Taylor, David Hamblet, David Morse, William Little, William Wilson, John Whitehill, Ithiel Cargill, Thomas Lord and Samuel Daggett. The descendents of the above names remain in Morgan and/or the surrounding towns.

The early settlers were ashers by trade. Due to world economy, hard wood ashes were in demand for the English wool trade and for the depleted soils of Europe. The new United States Congress imposed a tariff on exported ashes. This was the first tariff collected by the Treasury Dept and the main source of revenue for the newly formed Government. However, England purchased ashes at the Port of Montreal without charging the tax. During the early 50 years, the forest were burned and ash salts exported to Canada. This activity gave the early settlers the only cash money to build houses and barns turning the forest countryside into an agricultural environment. The iron kettle located at the spring along Rte 111 is a potash kettle that was used to make the ash salts for ease of shipping. The kettle was carried from Boston by horse in 1817.

During the War of 1812, many town residents returned to lower New England for fear of an invasion by England into the northern New England states. Others stayed and joined the local militia defending the border from attack.

From the end of the 1812 War to 1860 the town grew at a moderate pace creating farm, business and cultural activities typical of New England during this era. A excerpt from a speech delivered in 1941 on the history of Morgan that gives us a postcard look of how people lived and thought during this time: “The first physician was Dr. Nathaniel J. Ladd. Later he moved to New Hampshire. The second physician was Dr. Leonard Morgan who served here until 1839 when he moved to Georgia. I presume the people were too healthy to support a doctor. There has never been sufficient encouragement for a lawyer to settle here. I presume the people were too honest to support a lawyer. Only one person brought up in the town had a liberal education. Jacob M. Clark was graduated at the University of Vermont in August 1845. Considering the achievements of the early settlers in connection with the fact that there was only one who was liberally educated I cannot help but think that maybe our troubles today are due to over-liberality in education.”

The Canadian Indians made the first roads in this area long before white men visited the territory. A popular route for Indian travel passed through Morgan by way of the Ferren river. This route was from Sherbrooke, up Coaticook river to Norton Lake, down the Ferren river, then down the Nulhegan river to the Connecticut river. The first road that passed through Morgan was build by the early settlers around 1800 known as the Coos Road. The road extended from Newbury, Vt to Stanstead, Canada. The road follow the Connecticut river to Guildhall, through Brunswick and continued on the same route as the present day Route 105 through Island Pond, onto Rte 111 to top of McCabe Hill connecting on to “No Hope Alley” connecting with the “Williams Road” crossing the “Valley Road” to the “Old Blake Road” connecting with the “Hatton Heights Road” and connecting onto the “Meade Hill road” passing through Holland into Stanstead, Quebec. The above mention roads are primary routes for dailey traffic today.

During the Civil War, Morgan furnished a record number of 47 men, of this 13 were killed in action or died of wounds received in action. Most of the men served with Grant in the Overland Campaigned from 1864 to 1865. The head stones in the many town cemeteries tell their heroic story.

In 1880 the population of Morgan was 711; there were 7 common schools, 12 teachers and 138 pupils. Mr. J.C. Cobb was Superintendent of Schools. Business flourished according to the Business Directories: Laborers, Manufacturer of salve, Farmer, Musician, Carpenters and Joiners, Insurance Agent, Manufacturer of sash and doors, General repairer, Advent Minister, Teamster, Lumberman, War Veterans, Hotel proprietors, Manufacturer of course lumber, shingles, lathe and clapboards, Stock grower, Wool grower, Surveyor, Blacksmith, Master builder, Boot and Shoe maker, Stone cutter, Wheelwright, Sawyer, Real Estate dealer, Peddler Commercial traveler, Teacher, Sawmill operator, Cooper, Breeder of Jersey cattle, Manufacturer of hardwood lumber, Tinsmith, Manufacturer and dealer in marble and granite monuments, Starch Manufacturer and manufacturer of Bobbins.

Farming was the primary source of income for Morgan residents during the early years of the Twentieth Century. Dairy, vegetables, beef were small cash crops and used more for a subsistence. The sheep/wool industry was the biggest cash crop for the farmers. Second cash crop was maple sugar. During the 1890’s, the US Government placed a ban on importation of sugar from Cuba. The Governor of Vermont met the challenge of the ban by announcing that Vermont would produce all the sugar the State needed. The challenge was meet with Vermont ingenuity producing more then the State needed in maple sugar and exporting the excess for profit. This continued well into middle of the Twentieth Century. Today maple syrup is measured and paid by the pound; eleven pounds to a gallon.

During the 1960’s, the Vermont State Legislature passed a Bill that required all dairy farms to install refrigerated bulk tanks for storage of daily milk produced. The small farms could not afford the added expense and sold the farms and land. This made a big impact on life in the rural towns. Morgan was especially hit because of the many small hillside Jersey farms. At this time, the use of Seymour Lake changed from a place to fish and draw water for the cattle on dry summer days or to cut ice blocks for refrigeration to a vacation spot. Interesting after 200 years people are lured to Morgan for “unsurpassed beauty, with fertile soil and a climate that is healthful and invigorating”.