Brigham Academy, named for a famous native son, Peter Bent Brigham, who also founded Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, was a private school that saw students enrolled from throughout the region. It was built in 1879. As the movement toward public schooling grew, enrollment dropped until the academy was forced to close its doors.
At the 1966 Bakersfield Town Meeting it was voted to close Brigham Academy because of the needed repairs and requirements. As a result of this action, the heirs of Sarah B. Jacobs, Sara J. Kendall and Roxanna Hankison, led by Consuelo Northrop Bailey, sued the town for the return of the Brigham funds plus compound interest. By a court order, the town paid eight Brigham heirs the sum of $55,440. The Court also decreed that the interest from the Brigham School Fund belonged to the town for operating town schools.
One newspaper report said in reality it was intended to be closed only one year, to complete "needed repairs and State requirements" but these words were not spelled out in the official town decision.
Efforts to convert the building into town offices and school rooms for Bakersfield Elementary School have been met by stiff opposition, and the future of Brigham Academy remains uncertain.
Directions: From Enosburg Falls, take 108S for 7 miles. You will see signs to Chester Arthur Historic Site at 4 miles. If you want to go directly there, take that right. You will end up bypassing Bakersfield. As you enter Bakersfield, look for Academy Rd. on your right. Brigham Academy will be right there. The interior of the building is not open to the public at this point.
Hours and Contact Info: The inside of the Brigham Academy is not open to the public at this time, but the Bakersfield Historical Society has a great collection of pictures and science equipment from the school.
Bakersfield Historical Society:
Description: The focus of the Bakersfield Historical Society’s summer exhibit is “The Women of Bakersfield”, including Betsey Carroll, Sarah Brigham Jacobs and Elsie Camp Wells. .
Directions: At the intersection of 108 and 36, turn left with the town green and cemetery on your left. The Historical Society is a large red brick building on your right.
Hours and Contact Info: Sundays 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Memorial Day – August or by appt. 827-3042.
Women of Note in Bakersfield
Betsey Carroll (1790-1867)
(from "Bakersfield, Vermont" by Elsie G. Wells)
Betsey Carroll was born in Townsend, Vermont on October 10, 1790, of Thomas and Ruth Carroll Reid, youngest of eleven children. As early as nine years of age, she avoided the public profession of belief in Christ given by her older friends. However, wandering in her father's orchard she felt the peculiar manifestation of the Creator. On December 12, 1808, she was married to Timothy Carroll, who was, she wrote, "a thoughtless, irreligious man," and soon they were joining with others of the same character in mirthful pleasures.
Then spotted fever broke out as a seeming punishment. She was terribly ill and was taken to her father's house where she suffered intensely in body and soul, with thunder, lightning and heavy storms all about her. She thought hell would be her doom when she seemed to see her husband fall dead at her feet.
Prayer came to her rescue and she heard a voice say "Daughter, they sins are all forgiven thee: go in peace and sin no more." She tried in vain, in spite of ridicule, to interest her husband and friends in religion, and so she walked a lonely road. However, in 1812, her husband bought a lot of wild land in Bakersfield, felled a few trees, making a little opening in the forest and erected a small house. Putting all their personal effects on an ox sled, they left her friends and relatives for a wilderness home.
Bakersfield land records show that the lot which Timothy Carroll claimed in 1812 bordered on the Holden Doane farm near the Fletcher line on the Kings Hill road, and this was home for Betsey until old age. She tells in her story about group religious meetings in her house and Methodist classes in homes or schoolhouses, no real church as Betsey saw it.
In 1820, the well on the Common fell in and killed a young man. Was this punishment for sin? The funeral was held near the well and drew a large crowd. Such meeting and revivals provided social life as much as sympathy for the bereaved.
In 1823-24 heavy drinking was recognized as a menace to Christian living and the name "Temperance Society" was invented by abstainers.
In 1826 there was a Freewill Baptist preaching and Betsey was immersed in a nearby stream, but much to her sorrow the doctrine of Universalism came to the area.
In 1929, a Thomas Davidson, professing to be a millennium preacher, came to the neighborhood. Betsey believed his eloquent preaching that Christ would soon come to earth and reign with his saints for a thousand years. He taught that believers would be able to cast out devils, cure the sick, and possess other strange powers. Some believers were crazed by his teachings and eventually a man hung himself because of fear. It was two years before Betsey recovered from the shock.
It is interesting to note that the Miller excitement of 1940, predicting that the end of the world was at hand, did not affect Betsey's religious feelings. By 1854 she and her husband, converted some years before, were quite prosperous and their church was progressing.
Alas! Within two years, her husband died of cancer and she was left alone for a few years except for Timothy Davis, but that is another story. Betsey finally went t live with neighbor Asahel Wells, who edited and had published the journal she had prepared. This little book is included in the Massachusetts Historical Genealogical publications by permission of Asahel Well's nephew, Arthur C. Wells."
Betsey was also the author of a pamphlet, "Piety in Humble Life," which is housed in the collection of the Vermont Historical Society.
Sarah Brigham Jacobs
In 1797, Uriah Brigham left Marlboro, Massachusetts, drove an ox team with a loaded wagon up the Connecticut River Valley, across the Green Mountains, following the Lamoille River, and north 11 miles to an area known as Knowlton's Gore. In the wagon with their belongings were his wife, Elizabeth Fay Brigham, and their four small children. The oldest, about four years old, was a daughter, Mary. They joined an uncle, Jonas Brigham, and his family, settling along what is now Enosburg Road, north of the small village.
We know that at least two more children were born to Uriah and Elizabeth- Peter in 1807 and Sarah in 1809. Uriah died in 1818 when Peter was eleven years old. When Peter was seventeen, he left his mother and young Sarah, and returned to Massachusetts, where he became a successful hotelier and restaurateur. When he died, he bequeathed $40,000 to the village of Bakersfield. $10,000 was identified to maintain the cemetery where his parents were buried and $30,000 for educational purposes.
Sarah married James B. Jacobs and moved to Massachusetts, where she remained after his death. Sarah died in 1891, leaving almost her entire estate, over $100,000, to the town of Bakersfield. Mrs. Jacobs also gave funds to the University of Vermont to provide scholarships for the graduates of Brigham Academy. The Jacobs library also was given to the school. Many other furnishings and paintings also came from the Brigham-Jacobs home near Beacon Hill. The huge punch bowl which was used at prom time was once part of the Jacobs' dining room.
Prior to her death, Sarah and her nieces Mrs. Roxanna B. Hankinson and Mrs. S. Jane Kendall bought a large piece of land in the center of the village. They built and equipped a large brick school and presented it to the town of Bakersfield. Another niece, Mrs. Jonathan Northrop, gave the clock and bell tower which can be seen on the present Brigham Academy. These nieces are believed to be the daughters of Mary Brigham.
This article was prepared using information from documents belonging to the Bakersfield Historical Society, 2005.
Elsie Camp Wells (1887-1987)
Originally from East Randolph, Elsie came to Bakersfield after graduating from Boston University (1913) to teach at Brigham Academy. Here she met Arthur Wells, local postmaster and harness dealer. They married a year after her arrival and had three children. She assisted her husband with postal clerk duties, local committee work, starting a local library and many church activities.
But it was her storytelling skill for which she is remembered today. She accumulated folk tales from her husband, whose family was long standing in the community. She became widely known for her ability to relate oral history Elsie also recorded these as printed information on Methodist Church history, history of local postal service, and local committee efforts as well as "Houses in Bakersfield Village".
Her talent as a prolific author culminated in a Bicentennial Year project (1975) for the town in the form of a book titled "Bakersfield, Vermont- The Way It Was, The Way It Is". The 1000 copy out-of-print book was written somewhat as a very enjoyable monologue, pointing out both fact and "tall" tales. The book is a fairly complete summary of the town's history and, in fact, the only one. It includes a section of historic pictures, several maps from Gazetteers, and a chronology of the town's events.