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16 September 2008

Tuesday Tales From the Road - Dorset, Vermont

CGS member Mary Mettler is still on the road. She's back in Vermont with installment number eight:

Greetings from Dorset, Vermont!

My ancestors from Suffield moved to Dorset and Rupert, Vermont around 1773. Suffield was becoming crowded, and my families seemed to be multiplying rapidly. My principal goal in Dorset is to research Cephas Kent and one of his sons, Cephas Kent, Jr. and their families and the Farnsworth family. Much has been written about Cephas Kent, as his Tavern in Dorset was the site of the first four conventions that ultimately led to the founding of Vermont. Cephas Kent, Jr. is one of my Revolutionary War Patriots and the subject of intriguing Kent family lore.

Cephas Kent Tavern, site of the Dorset Conventions.

All good genealogists should be very skeptical of family stories passed down over the generations. There always seems to be a nugget of truth in them; however, like a snowball rolling down a hill, the story seems to grow bigger as it descends through generations. According to the Kent family tradition, Cephas, Jr. was an Aide de Camp to General Richard Montgomery at the battle of Quebec. General Montgomery supposedly died in his arms. Wow, sounds like a great story, doesn't it? So powerful was this tradition that Tyler Resch included it in his well-researched book on Dorset! But where was the proof? I had stumbled across a footnote in a book that indicated that Cephas, Jr. had kept a diary during the War. It was in private hands in 1908, so I emailed and wrote many of the libraries and historical societies in New England. After two months of searching, Pat Carmichael, a volunteer at the Dorset Historical Society (DHS), found a copy of the diary in an uncataloged envelope! Again, a generous person has come to my aid! She also opened the DHS Library for me for two days that the Library is usually closed.

Pat Carmichael in front of the Dorset Historical Society.

Alas, the tradition is greatly exaggerated. Cephas volunteered as a "waiter" for Major Samuel Safford, the second in command of Lt. Col. Seth Warner's Green Mountain Boys for the campaign that participated in the victory at Montreal. General Montgomery was the commanding officer of the New York, New Hampshire and Vermont troops. As a servant to Major Safford, Cephas, Jr. was occasionally around General Montgomery. He did stop his cooking and rush down to the water at Longueuil to fight with the Green Mountain Boys, who thwarted a crossing by the much superior number of English soldiers. This victory led to Montreal's surrender. However, Seth Warner took the Green Mountain Boys home after Montreal, and they were not at Quebec. In his diary, Cephas, Jr. also reported leaving for home after Montreal fell, so he did not volunteer to stay. If General Montgomery died in anyone's arms, most likely it was his only surviving Aide de Camp, Aaron Burr. Drat! Another good story turns out to be a fable!

Pat had other good materials ready for my arrival, and I found graves, family color and the usual birth, baptism, marriage, death, probate and land records. Again, I can only stress how generous and helpful the volunteers and genealogists are in the New England libraries and historical societies.

I'm off to West Point.

Your Genealogist on the Road,

Photographs courtesy of Mary Mettler.

Read the entire series:
Part One: Salt Lake City
Part Two: Indiana
Part Three: Pennsylvania
Part Four: More From Pennsylvania
Part Five: Washington D.C.
Part Six: Suffield, Connecticut
Part Seven: Vermont
Part Eight: Dorset, Vermont
Part Nine: West Point and Back to Pennsylvania
Part Ten: Some Final Thoughts From Home