Ep. Miller House

Photograph of Ep. Miller House, before 1883 (brick structure built circa 1816). Collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum.

The sixth spindle acquired by Henry Sheldon was a piece of wood from the building frame of the Epaphras Miller house in Middlebury, Vermont. For Sheldon, the Ep. Miller House was of both historical and emotional significance.[1] Erected in 1811, the original wood building was constructed to be a tavern; however, for Sheldon, it contained family ties, as his uncle was the proprietor of the shop for a short period of time.[2] Throughout the 19th century, the Ep. Miller house, transformed to suit the needs of the Middlebury community, evolving along the way to aid the people of Middlebury, Vermont.


In 1793, the lot on which the Ep. Miller House would come to stand was purchased by Anthony Rhodes, who settled in Middlebury as a merchant.[3] Three years later, Ep. Miller purchased the land east of Otter Creek, and constructed a tannery in which he ran for multiple years.[4] In addition, he cleared way for the Middlebury railroad system and removed a standing property for the creation of the Baptist Church.[5]

In 1816, the Ep. Miller house, along with the surrounding green house, Willard house and Vermont Hotel, burned down in a fire.[6] Subsequently, Ep. Miller reconstructed the tavern inside a newly built brick house, which was kept by Samuel Mattocks, until Nathan Woods overtook the brick building in 1826 and aimed to cater to a more profound community need, public housing.[7] The reconstructed tavern was transformed into the reincarnated Vermont Hotel.[8] Used in this manner for twenty years, the Ep. Miller House evolved. Slowly accumulating more and more temporary residents, the house became a vital part of Middlebury.[9]

Again, in 1883, the house progressed to suit the needs of the community; however, this time, it came in the form of deconstruction.[10] In its final transformation, the Ep. Miller house was taken down in order to construct the Town Hall.[11] More recently, the land previously owned by Rhodes and split in the sale to Ep. Miller was owned by Middlebury College Professor Ezra Brainerd.

The Ep. Miller house continuously changed to fit the needs of the Middlebury community. Evolving from tavern to hotel to Town Hall, the Ep. Miller house served all aspects of the community and lives on in the formation of Middlebury as we know it today.

-Chris Bradbury ’19


[1] Henry Sheldon, “Sheldon’s Log Book,” 1884, Sheldon Museum Archive.

[2] Henry P. Smith and William S. Rann, History of Rutland County, Vermont: with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers (Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., 1886), 324.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] H.P. Smith, History of Addison County, Vermont (Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1886), 276.

[6] Samuel Swift, History of the Town of Middlebury: In the Country of Addison, Vermont (Middlebury: A.H. Copeland, 1859), p. 258.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

Colonel John Chipman’s Barn

A portrait of John Chipman from Henry Sheldon’s portrait scrapbook.

Henry Sheldon’s second spindle in his Windsor chair was procured from the barn of Colonel John Chipman of Middlebury, Vermont. In large part, the significance of the spindle comes from the barn’s owner and his historical impact on the town of Middlebury. Colonel Chipman was born on October 22, 1744 in Salisbury, Connecticut. In the spring of 1766 at age 21, John Chipman set out for Vermont  along with fifteen other men from their homes in Salisbury in search of a homestead.[1] At that point, there wasn’t a single formally constructed house in all of Vermont. When Chipman arrived in the Middlebury area, he decided to stay and begin the process of building a home, while the remaining men pushed on to the area that is Vergennes today. Chipman spent his first summer in Vermont clearing 7-8 acres of land in Middlebury by hand.[2] When the fall of 1766 arrived and Chipman felt underprepared for the harsh Vermont winter, he proceeded to return to his home in Connecticut.[3] Seven years later, Chipman returned to Middlebury in the spring of 1773 to make a permanent home there and formally founded Middlebury, Vermont.[4] Chipman’s role in Middlebury’s history varied over his lifetime. He served as Sheriff of the county from 1789-1801, all the while acting as moderator at town meetings.[5]

At the start of the Revolutionary War, Chipman immediately dropped everything to fight against the British. Colonel Chipman volunteered for the Vermont-centered militia named the “Green Mountain Boys.”[6] The Green Mountain Boys were originally formed in present day Bennington, Vermont as an unofficial militia that was created to protect the property rights of those who were given land grants from New Hampshire.[7] The militia went on to play a significant role in fighting the British in the Revolutionary War. Due to their geographic location, they primarily fought on the Canadian front against British forces penetrating the border.[8] According to Jeremiah Colburn, a Boston-based numismatist, Chipman was designated first lieutenant in a new regiment created by Colonel Seth Warner. The regiment joined the rest of the forces at Ticonderoga in March of 1777.[9]

Chipman’s barn was actually involved in the Revolution as well. When the British came into Middlebury during the war, they attempted to burn down the barn.[10] They failed in their attempt because the wood was so newly-harvested that it was still green and would not combust. On top of the British attempting to burn the barn, a local Native American population tried to burn it down as well and also failed. Though Sheldon documented the Native American attempt in his journal of acquisitions, he gave no indication as to when they tried to destroy the barn. Even after the British and Native American attacks, Chipman’s barn outlived his life as he passed away in 1829 at the age of 85.[11] Henry Sheldon managed to procure a piece of the barn for his chair on January 19th, 1883.[12] Being the second spindle and thus the second relic featured, clearly Chipman’s legacy was very important to Sheldon and the rest of the Middlebury community.

Henry Sheldon was able to compile an impressive history of the town of Middlebury and was able to capture what happened throughout its early existence. It only makes sense that Sheldon would decide to include a relic from one of the town’s first free-standing buildings that was built by the founder of the town itself. Sheldon procured the relic of the barn from Peter Goodrich, who donated the sample on January 19, 1884, as recorded in Sheldon’s ledger.

Goodrich was a Vermont-born carpenter who lived from 1821-1892 when he passed away in Middlebury, VT.[13] The Chipman Barn spindle ties the significance of Sheldon’s relic chair back to the town of Middlebury itself in a profound way. Even though the barn currently does not stand, the inclusion of the spindle in Sheldon’s chair ensures the lasting legacy that Chipman had on Middlebury.

-Grayson W. Ahl ‘19.5


[1] Henry Sheldon, “Chipman Biography in Portrait Scrap Book,” 1884, Sheldon Museum Archive.

[2] Jeremiah Colburn, “Biographical Portfolio: Colonel John Chipman,” Flag of our Union, June 13th, 1868.

[3] Henry Sheldon, “Chipman Biography in Face Scrap Book,” 1884, Sheldon Museum Archive.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Samuel Swift, History of the town of Middlebury: In the county of Addison, Vermont (A.H. Copeland, 1859): 194.

[6] Jeremiah Colburn, “Biographical Portfolio: Colonel John Chipman,” Flag of our Union 23 (13 June 1868): 375.

[7] Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, “Green Mountain Boys,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed January 28th, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Green-Mountain-Boys

[8]  Colburn, “Biographical Portfolio: Colonel John Chipman.”

[9] Ibid.

[10] Henry Sheldon, “Sheldon’s Log Book,” 1884, Sheldon Museum Archive.

[11] Henry Sheldon, “Chipman Biography in Face Scrap Book,” 1884, Sheldon Museum Archive.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “Peter Foster Goodrich.” Find a Grave, accessed January 23rd, 2018. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/173458006.

Works Cited

“Green Mountain Boys,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed January 28th, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Green-Mountain-Boys

“Peter Foster Goodrich.” Find a Grave, accessed January 23rd, 2018. https://www.findagra ve.com/memorial/173458006.

Swift, Samuel, “History of the town of Middlebury: In the county of Addison, Vermont.” Page 194. (A.H. Copeland, 1859), Ebook edition.

Colburn, Jeremiah, “Biographical Portfolio: Colonel John Chipman.” Flag of Our Union 23, no. 24 (13 Jun. 1868): 375.

Middlebury Congregational Church


“Congregational Church, Middlebury, Vt.” Averill Collection, Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History

The Middlebury Congregational Church is a valued landmark of Middlebury, VT and has been around for over 200 years.(1) However, the people of Middlebury didn’t always have a permanent place of worship. On September 5, 1790, the Church of Christ in Middlebury was created by a solemn covenant signed by five women and seven men. The church adopted the Covenant, the Confession of Faith, and the Articles of Discipline common to other Congregational churches in the New England area.(2) As an organization, the church needed deacons or ordained ministers of the church. Although Mr. Hale and Mr. Sumner acted as deacons up until 1798, the official deacons that held office after the completion of the church in 1809 were Deacon Seth Storrs and Deacon Ebenezer Sumner. They served until their deaths in 1837 and 1844 respectively. A third deacon, Joseph Kirby, was also elected in 1809 and held office until his death in 1831.(3)

Drawing of Middlebury’s Congregational Church, circa 1860. Collection of Henry Sheldon Museum, via UVM Landscape Change Program.

From 1790, up until the construction of the Congregational Church structure, the people of Middlebury acted only as a congregation and had worshipped in barns and taverns. A permanent location was desperately needed. In 1794, Gamaliel Painter, agent of the project, selected a site at the head of main street. Construction of the church began in 1806 and was entirely financed by local volunteer donors rather than through taxation.(4) The church spanned a height of 135 feet and included a five-tiered spire, a flexible frame that could withstand strong winds (such as the 1938 and 1950 hurricanes), and ionic column supports. There was also a bell installed in 1821 and then replaced in 1841, as well as a clock which was installed in 1853. The most recent interior renovation occurred in 2001.(5) The building, designed by Lavius Fillmore, was completed in 1809 and ended up costing only $9,000.(6)

Stereoview “Congregational Church, Middlebury, Vt,” 19th century. New York Public Library, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection.

Lavius Fillmore was an early nineteenth century architect in Vermont, also known for designing the first church in Bennington in 1806 and the Monroe House at South Shaftsbury. Fillmore took a unique approach to the Middlebury church design, modeling the tower for the edifice after Joseph Brown’s First Baptist Church in Providence, which was itself inspired by a design completed by architect James Gibbs.(7) Within a couple years of the church’s completion, these “Gibbsian” towers became high fashion in New England. Fillmore’s architectural style led to local businesses advertising larger scale windows, fine hardware, and a variety of paints. Average houses even began displaying elegant doorways, fan windows, and luxurious fireplaces.(8) Fillmore passed away in 1850, having lived in Vermont since 1805. Over the course of his life he took interest in real estate, milling, and bookselling, and he maintained a respected reputation throughout his career.(9)

Since 1809, the church has been very active, reaching its highest membership of 781 people in 1836. Although more members allowed for better representation of the church, more voices also led to different views on how the church should be run. The Manual, published in 1853 and republished multiple times since then, gave a text of 25 standing rules and articles related to religious discipline contributing to the resolution of this issue.(10)

“Aerial View of Middlebury,” seen from the steeple of the Congregational Church, 1988. Henry Sheldon Museum Collections via UVM’s Landscape Change Program

Fortunately, the Middlebury Congregational Church is still standing and operational. The church has nearly 300 members and remains socially active in worship and community service. Aside from being a valued structure in the Middlebury community, the church is also a part of the United Church of Christ (UCC).(11The UCC is only present in the United States with almost one million total members and over 5,000 churches. In the United States, most of the Congregational Christian Churches joined with the Evangelical and Reformed Churches to form the UCC in 1957.(12) Since the early 21st century, the UCC has supported civil rights, abortion rights, sex education and same-sex marriage. This is not at all surprising as the UCC has supported anti-slavery, missionary movements, and progressive social action since its creation.(13) A prime example of the UCC’s involvement in education occurred on December 31, 1824, when the Middlebury Congregational Church established “Bible Classes” for the children of the church between the ages of 12 and 18 once every month.(14)

Circling back to Henry Sheldon’s chair, the spindle was made using timber cut from the flat east of Court Street by Mr. Abril Chalen. The wood specimen was taken from the section of the main spine after being removed to make room for the Town Clock.(15) The first town clock was placed on trial in 1852 at the annual village meeting, where the people voted a tax of eight cents to pay for its addition. The total cost of the clock came out to be $281.40 including cost of labor, fixtures, and the cast iron material. It remained in use for 39 years and was replaced in 1891.(16)

– Lubomir Cuba ’19

1 Stephen A. Freeman and Glenn Andres, “Church History – The Congregational Church, UCC, Middlebury, Vermont,” midducc.org/history/
2 Stephen A. Freeman, The Congregational Church of Middlebury, VT 1790-1990. Middlebury Congregational Church, 1990.
3 Ibid.
4 Glenn M. Andres, “Architectural elegance: Lavius Fillmore’s Refinement of the New England Meeting House,” The Walloomsack Review 2 (October 2009).
5 Freeman and Glenn, “Church History – The Congregational Church, UCC, Middlebury, Vermont,” midducc.org/history/
6 Ibid.
7 Glenn M. Andres, “Architectural elegance: Lavius Fillmore’s Refinement of the New England Meeting House,” The Walloomsack Review 2 (October 2009).
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.
10 Stephen A. Freeman, The Congregational Church of Middlebury, VT 1790-1990. Middlebury Congregational Church, 1990.
11 “Who We Are: Open and Affirming Congregation | The Congregational Church, UCC, Middlebury, Vermont,” midducc.org/who-we-are/
12 Donald K. McKim, “Christianity: United Church of Christ.” Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 1: Religions and Denominations, Gale, 2015, 355-363.
13 McKim, “Christianity: United Church of Christ,” 355-363.
14 Stephen A. Freeman, The Congregational Church of Middlebury, VT 1790-1990. Middlebury CongregationalChurch, 1990.
15 HL Sheldon Papers, Vol 19, Collection of the Henry Sheldom Museum, Middlebury, Vermont
16 Ibid.

Middlebury Old College

The third from the left spindle on the top row of Henry Sheldon’s Relic Chair is made from wood taken from the first Middlebury College building, originally constructed as the Addison County Grammar School. Today, this building is often referred to as the Academy, or the East College. By the 1796 Vermont legislative session, residents of Addison County were “anxious to build” their own Grammar School, seeing clearly the utility of others constructed throughout the state.1 Amos Marsh’s petition to build the Grammar School in Vergennes was deferred to the 1797 session, in which three lawyers residing in Middlebury, Samuel Miller, Daniel Chipman, and Seth Storrs, argued Middlebury was a more “centrally located and healthful” choice. Miller was the first lawyer to settle in Middlebury, and Storrs served as the county attorney. These men, along with Gamaliel Painter, a businessman involved in a variety of industries and “archetypal town founder,” all “epitomized the town booster so characteristic of the American frontier.”2 Miller, Chipman, and Storrs’ petition was accepted during the 1797 legislative session, providing the burgeoning town of Middlebury with the opportunity to house the Addison County Grammar School.

Collection of Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, Middlebury, Vermont

The building that would become Middlebury College was instilled with ambition from its construction. In light of Middlebury’s rapid population growth (a tripling between 1791 and 1800) and selection as the host of the 1800 legislative session, the Addison County Grammar School was constructed to be elegant and impressive. It was a three-story white frame building, 80 feet long and 40 feet wide, with an impressive number of windows. Before the construction had finished, Storrs, Miller, Chipman, and Painter, along with Darius Matthews, a medical doctor and resident of the town, had discussed developing the Grammar School into a college. Due to their ambition, combined with a pessimistic outlook on the future of the University of Vermont, they petitioned the 1798 General Assembly to “establish a college or university at … Middlebury.”3 This assembly was “absorbed in national political disputes,” and high tempers along with opposition from supporters of UVM led to the petition being referred to the Assembly’s 1799 meeting, where the petition was again deferred to the 1800 meeting.4

In the 1800 legislative session, legislators were impressed by development in the town of Middlebury, and granted a charter to Middlebury College. After only five days, Middlebury examined seven students for consideration, admitting them all and obtaining its first students. This building remained the only College building, containing dorms, offices, and classrooms for students and faculty until 1815, when Painter Hall was completed, to be followed by Old Chapel and Starr Hall. Together, these three buildings constitute Old Stone Row, and Painter Hall is the oldest surviving college building in Vermont.

Following the construction of Starr Hall, in 1861, the space provided by the original building was no longer needed. Described by an alumnus as “an unsightly ruin in those days, but glorious with memories” the former Addison County Grammar School was torn down in 1867, making space for the construction of a new building for the local grade school.5 Henry Sheldon himself preserved this fragment of wood from an old timber of the building.

– Colin Flaherty ’20


1. David Mitchell Stameshkin, The Town’s college: Middlebury College, 1800-1915 (Middlebury College Press, 1985): 18.
2. Ibid., 15, 17.
3. Ibid., 24.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid., 150.

Additional Readings
Swift, Samuel.  History of the Town of Middlebury in the County of Addison, Vermont. Middlebury: A.H. Copeland, 1859:  Chapter XXII- “Addison County Grammar School” and chapter XXIII- “Middlebury College”

William Alden House

For the first spindle of his relic chair, Henry Sheldon chose to use wood from the William Alden House in Boston, Massachusetts. Sheldon records the house as being built in 1660 on the corner of Sudbury and Alden Street, before being torn down two centuries later in 1860. The house’s presumed establishment in 1660 makes it the oldest sample in Sheldon’s chair. This longevity is likely responsible for its placement as the first of the 24 spindles, which are generally arranged in chronological order from oldest to newest. In his journal, Sheldon notes that the wood for the spindle was taken from one of the house’s oak mantle beams; however, he makes no further comments on the donor of the wood or how or why he acquired it.(1) To determine the significance of the William Alden house as a component of Sheldon’s relic chair, one must closely examine the genealogical history of the Alden family.

William Alden, born on September 10, 1669, was the tenth of eleven children born to parents John Alden and Elizabeth Phillips, and one of 8 boys. However, William was only one of five of these children to live past the age of five.(2) Upon John Alden’s death in 1702, he willed his estate in five parts to his surviving children and their families, one piece of this estate going to William, who was at this point John’s second eldest remaining son.(3) While Henry Sheldon’s records cite William Alden’s house as being built in 1660, various family records report the house as built in 1653, while dendrochronology testing of the houses beams date its construction as closer to the year 1700.(4)

William Alden was married to Mary Drury on May 10, 1691, at the age of 21. The two remained married until William’s death, and together bore seven children over the span of eighteen years. William made his living as an accomplished sailor based out of the Boston area. He was involved in a number of voyages throughout the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Notably, William was a master on the ships Katharine and Content, which both sailed out of his home port of Boston in May 1698, and November 1704,respectively. Alden also piloted the ship Chester on an expedition to Jamaica’s Port Royal in 1710.(5) While it is unclear the purpose of these expeditions, it seems likely that William’s ships followed various trade routes to and from Boston. There is little information available surrounding the remainder of William Alden’s adult and professional life. He passed away in February 1729 at the age of 60.(6)

John Rogers, “Why Don’t You Speak for Yourself, John?”, patented 1885, painted plaster, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Genevieve Wisel in memory of Dan Wisel, 1975.73.

Due to the lack of documentation regarding William Alden’s personal life, it is possible that much of the significance of the William Alden house, and its usage in Sheldon’s relic chair, relates to the story of William’s famous grandparents, John and Priscilla Alden. The love story between John Alden and Priscilla Mullins gained widespread fame following their voyage as Pilgrims on the Mayflower. The famous story is recounted in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1858 poem, “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” The poem is based on historical events, and dramatizes the story of John’s unlikely proposal to Priscilla. Longfellow tells that after the first winter following the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth, Captain Miles Standish called John Alden to inform him that Standish’s wife had died, and he wished to remarry. Standish had chosen Priscilla Mullins as the woman he would like to marry, and he asked Alden to propose to her on Standish’s behalf. Alden was troubled by this request, but obeyed nonetheless. When Alden proposed to Mullins in Standish’s name, Mullins sensed Alden’s true feelings, and replied, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”(7) The two were married soon after in 1622.(8) Besides Longfellow’s poem, this story was further popularized by John Rogers’s mass-produced statuette entitled Why Don’t You Speak for Yourself, John?, which depicts Alden proposing to Mullins while she works at her spinning wheel.(9)    

While it is difficult to conclusively link John and William Alden to Middlebury, their impact on New England is well documented in the works of both Longfellow and Rogers. The historical coverage of the William Alden House is likely overshadowed by the prominence of the neighboring John Alden House, which was once home to John and Priscilla Alden. The house still stands today as a museum shortly outside of Boston and is thought to have possibly used materials from the William Alden house in its construction (McCarthy).(10) Considering this potential link to John Alden’s historic site, the William Alden house secures greater historical weight on a broad scale, and gains additional validity in its selection as part of Sheldon’s relic chair.

– Peter Martin ’19



1. HL Sheldon Papers, Vol 19, Collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum, Middlebury, Vermont.
2. “User Home Page Book: The Ancestors of Robert Cutler Elwell: Ahnentafel Report of Robert Cutler Elwell.” Genealogy.com, www.genealogy.com/ftm/e/l/w/Robert-C-Elwell-MA/BOOK-0001/0002-0054.html.
3. Ebenezer Alden, Memorial of the Descendants of the Hon. John Alden (Randolph, MA: Samuel P. Brown, 1867), pp. 3.
4. Tom McCarthy, Erika K. Martin Seibert; Patty Henry, Edward L. Bell, Betsy Friedberg; Phil Bergen,  “National Historic Landmark Nomination: John and Priscilla Alden Family Sites / Alden House (DUX.38) and Original Alden Homestead Site (aka Alden I Site, DUX-HA-3)” March 2007. National Park Service.
5. Lucy Mary Kellogg, et al, Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Part 1: Family of John Alden (Plymouth, MA: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1975), 93.
6. Alden, 7.
7. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” in The Courtship of Miles Standish and Other Poems (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1858). https://archive.org/details/courtshipofmiles00long10

8. Genealogy.com
9. Rogers, John. “Why Don’t You Speak for Yourself, John?” Smithsonian.com, americanart.si.edu/artwork/why-dont-you-speak-yourself-john-21162.
10. National Park Service 2014

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