History of the Brattleboro History Books | Community-News

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One hundred years ago a local history, the “Annals of Brattleboro” was printed. The Vermont Phoenix said the post was “by far the most important Brattleboro story ever published.” The “Annals of Brattleboro” is a 1,100 page two-volume book set that encompasses the history of Brattleboro through the 1800s. The first volume was published in late 1921 and the second volume came out early from 1922.

In 1922, HS Wardner, a reviewer of the ‘Annals’ wrote:’ In this beautiful two-volume publication from the press of EL Hildreth & Company of Brattleboro, abundantly enriched with illustrations, Miss Mary R. Cabot has revealed a great deal part of the nicer and gentler side of Vermont life from the days of Fort Dummer to the late 19th century.

“Of particular interest is the fact that Brattleboro is the oldest of Vermont’s towns in terms of population. In and around the fort or blockhouse called Fort Dummer, within the current city limits, Vermont’s first permanent European settlement began.

The critic went on to say, “Brattleboro has become a conservative town. This statement alone is enough to generate interest. The average person assumes that Vermont contained only loyal revolutionaries. Brattleboro was unusual because men of prestige and influence preferred allegiance to the Crown over American independence. Later, many Brattleboro residents preferred to join New York rather than the state of Vermont.

Finally, HS Wardner wrote in “Vermonter” magazine that “The Annals of Brattleboro belong to all public libraries in Vermont and to the private libraries of all who love Vermont history.” These days, if you want to read the “Annals of Brattleboro,” you can find a free digital copy online at Google Books. The Brattleboro Historical Society also has bound copies of the book for sale in its research room.

In 1921 EL Hildreth created a pamphlet to advertise the publication of the “Annals”. The brochure stated that “The Annals are published to allow easy access to the original sources of information regarding Brattleboro, from the land taking under the Indian Act of 1681 to the modern city of 1895.” According to the brochure, Brattleboro “Had no part in the formation of the state of Vermont and was without political significance until after the War of Independence.” The publisher went on to point out that there is only one Brattleboro and that the city started out as a unique and contrary settlement.

Another review of the “Annals” can be found on the Kipling Society website. Mary Cabot was a good friend of the Rudyard Kipling family when they lived here in the 1890s and the Kipling Society has documented the relationship. The Society claims that the two volumes of Cabot’s “Annals” present a fair history of early Brattleboro and focus heavily on local writers, artists, architects and musicians. The website also points out that the story contains a lot of information about prominent Brattleboro families, but does not record much of the history of the working class, immigrants, or minorities.

In the preface to the first volume, Mary Cabot acknowledges the sources she used to compile her “Annals of Brattleboro”. Hall’s “History of Eastern Vermont,” Burnham’s “History of Brattleboro,” and Grout’s many publications have been used extensively to piece together the early history of the community. Cabot lists over 30 sources for the information it presents in the “Annals”.

In 1856, Mary Cabot was born into a prominent family in Brattleboro. She was the oldest of three children who survived to adulthood. A brother died at the age of three. Her father was Norman Cabot. He ran the Vermont Savings Bank for decades and his mother, Lucy Brooks Cabot, was the sister of George Brooks, famous for the Brooks House and the Brooks Memorial Library.

Mary received her formal education at a small private school on North Street. She grew up on Terrace Street, in the same neighborhood as the school. There does not appear to be any evidence that Mary continued at Brattleboro High School or Glenwood Ladies Seminary. Her family and close friends called her “Molly”.

Mary Cabot never married and lived with her parents until their death. For many years she compiled her “Annals of Brattleboro” but never claimed to be a historian herself. She loved to share the local history she gathered with friends and neighborhood kids. Its goal was to bring together the many stories from the history of Brattleboro shared in multiple publications and place them into one set of books for easy access.

After the publication of her two-volume story, Mary continued to collect Brattleboro stories. She died in 1932 and in 1938, as part of a Works Progress Administration project during the Great Depression, her notes were typed and bound into a 307 page 3rd volume of the “Annals of Brattleboro”. An extremely rare copy of Volume 3 can be seen in the Brattleboro Historical Society Research Room at the Civic Center.

Mary Cabot was also president of the Mutual Aid Association, a local health care organization, from its inception in 1907 until her death. According to the Kipling Society website, Mary was not a lonely old maid like those depicted in contemporary novels written by Mary Wilkens Freeman of Brattleboro. Instead, she was a “Brattleboro socialite” who in her later years spent the summer in Brattleboro and spent her winters in Boston or traveling to warmer climates with friends and relatives. One year, she traveled with her nephew to Egypt.

The “Annals of Brattleboro” is a good source of information regarding Fort Dummer, early town developments, water cures, Estey’s organ, organized religion, the advent of the railroad, the industrial development along local waterways, early retirement, significant family genealogies, and community involvement in the wars of the 1700s and 1800s.

We would like to thank BAMS students Myah Waite, Addison Corbeil and Kyla Thomas for helping with this week’s local history research.

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