CAVENDISH-A one-of-a-kind letter, addressed to John Redparth, a biographer of antebellum terrorist John Brown-the famous abolitionist who set off the spark that started the Civil War-and penned by Cavendish lawyer Henry Bridge Atherton in 1882, was brought to the Cavendish Historical Society's attention recently.
A copy of the historic local letter, which adds to the knowledge that the Proctorsville-Cavendish are-as well as Vergennes-played an interesting role in the Civil War era, has been released.
Not only was Vermont Gov. Ryland Fletcher, from Cavendish, but he was a staunch abolitionist and sympathized with Brown's viewpoint.
The rare letter indicates that Brown was seeking guns and money to help with his cause, and that he had begun to lay out the plans for the eventual insurrections in Kansas, which led to the death of five people that were pro slavery.
Unfortunately, the last page of the what was most likely a five page letter, is missing.
This text of the letter follows:
Proctorsville, Vt. M. 9th, 1882
(To:) James Redparth Esq.
I have sometimes thought the day would come where your publishers would issue another edition of your "Public Life of John Brown," which was 1st published at Boston in 1860 by Thayer and Eldridge 11 St and 116 Washington St.
I have been recently reading that book, and it occurs to me that, inview of the events following the execution of the old hero-the man-the freedom of the slave, the political results of the execution-and the history of our country in the past quarter of a century-you might perhaps to write that book and, if so, I would want a copy to side by side with the copy I now have in my library.
John Brown and his son, Owen, I think it was, came here in the last days of Dec. 1856 or in the early part of January 1857- and spent some time on those days at my office-boarding at the Village Hotel.
At that time I held the office of Secretary of the Vt. Senate- and our Governor-Hon. Ryland Fletcher, a brother of the late Hon. Richard Fletcher, of Boston, and Judge of Mass. Sup. Court- now my new neighbor.
Our Legislature at the previous Oct. Session at Montpelier had passed an act authorizing Gov. Fletcher, in his discretion to furnish funds to an amount not exceeding twenty thousand dollars-$20,000-for the relief of the suffering citizens of Kansas-as you will find by reference to the session laws of 1856 in the Library-Our state casual care of __ General Gundry of Vergennes, Vt., had on hand quite an amount of guns-out of date & useless to our State. Gundry was authorized to sell or dispose of them. In some way John Brown had learned of these facts-and came here to examine the laws-and to confer with Gov. Fletcher.
The Old man told us that the generosity of the people had so supplied the citizens of Kansas with food and clothing as none of this __ appropriation would be thus needed, least be thought possibly the Gov. might be authorized to let him have some of the old guns from the state Arsenal-He became satisfied on looking at the law, that Gov. Fletcher could not appropriate guns for the Defense of Freedom in the direction indicated. The Old man told us his objectives to enlist young men-pious and patriotic determined young men-not wild and ?? profane ones in his service and that he proposed to rendezvous at Tabor in Iowa-just over the boarders from Kansas and await events. He showed me the enlistment papers as drawn up by him and most neatly executed. He said he expected on the return of Spring in 1857- the Missourians-becoming supplied themselves with a new stock of whiskey, would again invade Kansas-and he wishes to be ready to repel them. He said that courage of those invaders depended very much on the amount of whiskey they had. He was very conscientious-writing at my office table many letters in the time he was here. I offered him paper, envelopes-postage stamps-and he always left the dimes in the box to pay for them. The son was a light complexioned and sandy haired youth as compared with the father-they had the chains with them-that the borders....
To learn more about the letter, contact the Cavenidish Historical Society at 226-7807. The society's museum is located at Route 131 in Cavendish.