To Chase bio
The imposing Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Lincoln's Second Inaugural.
|The young Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase and Robert Estabrook on Shedd Hill, too.
Yep, history travelled down the Stone Chimney road
In 1995, Oxford University Press published John Niven's Salmon P. Chase: A Biography. Chase (b. 1808 d. 1873) became an active abolitionist, the governor of Ohio, a US senator, a strong-willed Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War, and the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. (Bio here.) My grandmother and mother had in the 1940s told me that Chase in his youth had lived and/or taught school in Reading VT, probably in the now-empty landscape near Chase Four Corners. Thus, I was naturally interested in looking at the relevant pages in Niven biography. I was both disappointed and charmed for, though Niven mentions that Chase had a connection with Reading and describes the events in the town quite touchingly, Niven unfortunately locates the events as occurring in Reading, New Hampshire. For more than one reason, I suspected Nivens reference to New Hampshire to be a mistake and that the biography thus misplaced part of Reading, Vermont's history.
The Niven book opens with a description of Chases birth and boyhood in Cornish NH and (in much reduced circumstances) in Keene NH; his schooling at the academy in Windsor VT; a trip west; his education at Dartmouth; his return to Royalton VT; and his final departure for the West. The paragraph in question (Niven, p.20) describes the young Chase the year after his Dartmouth graduation, as follows:
Thus, he could well have departed (his mothers blessing in his ears!) down the old Stone Chimney Road and past our cabin site, en route to the train at Windsor.
The Niven book also mentions an earlier period of teaching in an unspecified location. In the 1874 history of Reading VT, author Gilbert A. Davis confirms that Chase taught in Reading VT: The late Chief Justice Chase was at one time a teacher of a public school in Dist. No. 7 [the Chase District] in Reading, and many of his pupils are yet living and remember him as a tall and awkward young man, then a student at Dartmouth College. [ Chapter XIII Educational Affairs and Eminent Sons of Reading: on p. 113, Gilbert A. Davis Centennial Celebration together with an Historical Sketch of Reading, Windsor County, Vermont, and its Inhabitants from the first settlement of the town to 1874, Bellows Falls VT: A.N. Swain. 1874 (called Vol. 1)]. Another Chase biography dates his teaching experience as the winter of ca. 1824-25, or the winter which followed his first term at Dartmouth, when he "boarded around." This biography says Chase went back to Hanover with his earnings, proud and happy that he had accomplished something for himself. (p. 19, J.W. Schuckers, The Life and Public service of Salmon Portland Chase, NY:O.Appleton & Co. (1874)
Also the Reading town history confirms that Chase said goodbye to his mother here. The following lively historical poem (of five and one half pages of very small type!) was read by Mrs. Frances Maria Shedd Baker at the Centennial Celebration of Reading, on Aug. 28, 1872:
(Source: Davis, p. 22 (1874). Note that Mrs. Baker was a Shedd, whose ancestral homes were on Shedd Hill along the Stone Chimney Road leading to the Chase District. Its not clear to me, however, whether Mrs. Baker's Homeric reference to a possible Chase birth in Reading VT was just having fun with the rivalry of seven towns to be so recognized, or whether she was seriously advancing Reading as a candidate. In any event, Cornish NH has won the birthplace honors.)
As I was searching for any Reading roots of Mina Keyes Goddard (the Nantucket watercolor artist on this site), I turned a page in the 1903 Reading VT history and read (p. 224) to my astonishment that "about 1780" Thomas Estabrooks's descendents (probably Robert) from Estabrook Woods, Concord MA resettled in Reading, Vermont in the Chase District. This is within a mile of my cabin on Shedd Hill and within a few miles of where some of my forebears have been (in South Woodstock) since they moved there from Groton and Watertown (Waltham) MA in the seventeen hundreds.
Perhaps Chase taught Robert Estabrook's grandkids.
It is unknown why these Estabrooks left Estabrook Woods and why they chose Reading, another out of the way corner of the country. They appear to have left Roberts daughter Rebecca behind in Estabrook. She later married Hugh Cargill and Paul Adams in Concord, and was the last person named Estabrook to live in the Estabrook Woods.
In 1810, shortly after Robert Estabrook died, this Chase school district contained 60 scholars; in about 1824, Salmon P. Chase taught school here, so the area was still inhabited enough to support a school. But by 1903 not a building in the district was standing (Davis, History of Reading, Vol. 2, p.225 ). And that's still true in 2001.