The Jefferson-Madison visit remembered, Bennington Banner 8 Jun 1977 p. 4
the O R A T I O N going on York as York the side and of is the of the in it is in the (or made to That from has no is as that a The Jefferson-Madison visit remembered By CHARLES G. BENNETT PartS IN THE last two weÂ«ks we have recounted many of the details of the weekend--June 4, 5 and 6 -- visit to Bennington of Thomas Jefferson, then secretary of State, and James Madison, then a representative to Congress from Virginia. LAST WEEK we noted that Anthony Haswell, publisher of the Vermont Gazette, seemed to detect in his June 13, 1791, account that one of the purposes of the horseback tour of the two officials through several northern states might be political. Indeed it was, as Jefferson was quietly seeking to learn how much support he might count on in the North for founding a new political party. The ceremonial purpose of the trip, however, was to make a survey of Revolutionary War battlefields. Haswell stressed that the two visitors paid "affability and polite attention" to the citizens of Bennington, that they "ingratiated themselves deeply with the discerning" and obtained "unreservedly the sentiments of the people." THESE HASWELL observations open up in a rather fascinating way thoughts as to who among the well-known Bennington figures of Revolutionary and post- Revolutionary times were here in 1791, very likely met the two statesmen and quite possibly exchanged views with them. It seems virtually certain that conspicuous among the Ben- ningtonians who met the two visitors was Capt. Elijah Dewey, keeper of what was later the Walloomsac Inn. Capt. Dewey was known to mingle freely with his guests and to go out of his way to accommodate those of official status. Jefferson's account books show that he had at least one meal at "Dewy's" (or "Dewey's," better known then as the "Dewey House"), so the opportunity for a personal encounter was there. The Dewey Genealogy says: "The ministers and Councils (of Vermont) used to receive accommodations and large hospitalities at Capt. Dewey's. He liked to see all things going on in good order." EARLY SESSIONS of the Vermont Legislature were held Capt. Elijah Dewey in the Ralph Earl portrait in the Roy Williams' painting, commissioned by the Bennington Museum in 1938, depicts the visit of Jefferson and Madison to Bennington in 1791. at the "Dewey House." Apparently in recognition of this hospitality, the legislature voted Capt. Dewey a "gore".-a gore being land at that time not set off to any towns -- in the north part of the state. Ultimately this gore, before it left the captain's hands, became quite valuable and was known as "Deweysburgh." Capt. Dewey played a part in many engagements of the Revolution, the best known probably being his command of one of the two Vermont companies in the Battle of Bennington. Earlier, as a lad Just under 20, he had been a private in the first military company formed in Bennington in October, 1764. --o-A PAINTING by Roy Williams, artist, then living in Weston, Vt., commissioned by the Bennington Museum in 1938, envisions Jefferson and Madison during their 1791 Bennington visit, standing in front of the Catamount Tavern in Old Bennington. Accompanying them are represented to be Elijah Dewey, Representative to Congress (later Governor) Isaac Tichenor and the visitors' host, Gov. Moses Robinson. John Spargo, late curator of the Museum, wrote in a 1937 letter to the artist Williams that the historic stuffed catamount erected over the tavern's sign during the conflict with New York to snarl defiance at the "Yorkers" was undoubtedly still in place in 1791 to be seen by Jefferson and Madison and should be included in the painting. It was. "Jefferson, as you know," Spargo told Williams, "was a very tall man. He was called "Long Tom." He was rawboned, freckled, and had sandy hair. His height was six feet, two and one-half inches; his eyes were gray-hazel. "MADISON WAS quite the opposite," Spargo concluded. "He was a very small man, probably not over five-feet-five. He was so neat in his appearance that he was frequently spoken of as "the dandy." Capt. Dewey was portly and rather tall. I suspect that Elijah Dewey was not much below six feet." THERE WERE others of Bennington's Revolutionary era. still living and in this area in 1791, whose position in the community could qualify them to meet Jefferson and Madison. There was Col. Nathaniel Brush (died 1804), brilliant officer of the Revolution, who married Semantha Dewey, sister of Capt. Elijah. Brush was a grantee of the towns of Brookfield, Cambridge, Fletcher and Grand Isle. Vermont records make frequent mention of him as a strong leader of the state. Others included Moses Hurd (died 1836), soldier-of-fortune from .Connecticut who came here and married Bennington's Eunice Scott; Simeon Hathaway (d. 1804), Samuel Safford (d. 1813), Ebenezer Walbridge (d. 1819), Aaron Hubbell (d. 1844), Benjamin Fassett (d. 1816), Nathan Clark (d. 1792), Hopestill Armstrong (d. 1806), and Moses Sage (d. 1816). Still another could have been Joseph Rudd (d. 1818), participant in the Battle of Bennington, who 10 days after that conflict wrote the now well- known letter to his father describing the action. IN OUR concluding article next week, with the guidance of Samuel Eliot Morison, historian, we will take a look the profound effect Jefferson's decision to establish a new political party, no doubt largely influenced by his horseback tour of northern states in 1791, has had on the governmental and political development of the United States throughout the country's history.