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Michael Bell
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Posted By Michael Bell

Lt. Spaulding, a veteran of the French and Indian War, settled in Dummerston in 1772. This farmer, carpenter and trader (selling, among other items, sugar, nutmeg, rum, and an occasional “pot of syder”) became the town’s first representative to the state legislature. At this time, families were streaming into Vermont to settle on land that cost next to nothing. But property disputes, with claims and counter claims, were still raging when the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington on April 19, 1775. Were those really the first shots? An early history of the town of Dummerston reported that “Lt. Spaulding was the first man here, to start with his gun for the fight at Westminster, Mar. 13, 1775. He was knocked down and wounded in that skirmish.”

At Westminster, just north of Dummerston, a sheriff’s posse fired on a mob of farmers who were trying to stop the court in that town from doing business. The farmers, many of whom were indebted, believed that the courts were allied with wealthy speculators who were trying to divest them of their land. Although Vermont’s “Westminster Massacre” preceded Lexington by more than a month, it didn’t involve British soldiers per se (though the posse has been characterized as “officers of the crown”).

So, Spaulding, already a war veteran, jumped into the American War for Independence as early as anyone. He fought at the battle of Bennington, close enough to his home that his wife could hear the sounds of battle. It was a stinging defeat for the British, most of whom were either killed or captured. The previous year, Spaulding had been wounded in the thigh at the battle of White Plains. The musket ball “remained in his leg as long as he lived; and was troublesome at times.”

For his service in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, Lt. Spaulding received a grant of land “lying west of Lake Champlain in New York state,” which obviously he was never able to occupy. I noted the irony that a man, though wounded several times, survived terrible battles fighting Indian, French, British and Hessian soldiers, but finally succumbed, in 1788, to a microscopic organism.

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