Saturday, April 11, 2015

Searching for the Mills: Captain John Stiles Arrived in 1797

Ice fishing at Stiles Pond, January 2015.
Waterford's own printed history, A Vermont Village, says almost nothing about the Stiles family that settled in the area in 1797. But because Captain John Stiles built a sawmill on the large pond -- now more of a lake, but still called Stiles Pond -- that would become the water source for neighboring St. Johnsbury, his story shows up in Town of St. Johnsbury Vermont. This sizeable tome was written by Edward T. Fairbanks, a member of a family of industrial entrepreneurs who made their fortunes by harnessing the water power of the region and adding a hefty dose of creative invention and steady labor.

Fairbanks notes the military rank of this settler -- most likely a rank gained in a militia company, as he was born in 1774, just before the Revolutionary War. His parents were John Stiles (1749-1818) and Keziah Divoli (1748-1819), and he married Annie Hill in 1802, a few years after he'd arrived in Waterford. Here is the Fairbanks summary of his background and achievements:

Fairbanks goes on to describe how Stiles pond became St. Johnsbury's water source, as follows (note that Summerville was then the name of the east side of St. Johnsbury, at the other side of the Passumpsic River, before the region was adopted into the larger town):

There are no signs of the Stiles millworks today. And of the Stile "mansion" across Route 18, only a stone wall remains along the road. I've searched the records for several months, looking for when the "mansion" was removed, and it looks as though its demise came in the 1930s, as Route 18 was rebuilt and the Depression caused many changes. No photos of the home seem to have survived.

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