Death in Early Cabot

Nathaniel West was the first to die in the early settlement of Cabot.  He was crushed by a birch log while working, in the winter of 1786, to clear land, owned by Benjamin Webster. Webster was the first settler, making his pitch on the Bayley-Hazen Road in 1782. Webster moved his family to Cabot in March 1783.

We don't know where Nathaniel West was buried, probably near the Webster homestead. There was no formal cemetery until William Osgood donated one acre of land for a burial ground, in 1799, at the Center of Town . 

Another early death was young Aura Scott, son of Dr. Parley Scott. Aura died at age 19 in 1813. Dr. Scott and his family had a homestead near Webster's. A stone marked Aura's grave, near an east-west line of bushes, in a field, later owned by the Greaves family. Sometime after 1970, the marker, broken off below ground, probably due to weather and freezing, was moved by Mr. Greaves to the edge of the field near a stone wall, on the east side of the Bayley-Hazen Road. The stone disappeared later.  William H. Waite, of Delaware, visited the site several times while the stone remained. In October 1973, he sent us the inscription he recorded:                                                                     
 Aura Scott  died Oct. 2, 1813  AEt  19                     
       God my redeemer lives  And ever from the skies
       Looks down & watches all my dust   Till he shall bid it rise. 
                                                       
Early Cabot settlers used large field stones, like this, as headstones. This plaque honors Nathaniel West and Aura Scott. It  is on the east side of Bayley-Hazen Military Road, at Route 215. Benjamin Webster and Dr. Parley Scott lived there. This is a narrow, old, dirt road that runs from Route 215  to Cabot Plains Road. The marker is about 5 meters from Bayley-Hazen Road. There is an opening, in the hedgerow, next to a large field. That was the site of the original stone;  this marker is just past that. A bit up Bayley-Hazen Road is another marker, on the same side. It is  where the pioneer Webster family settled. There are more markers on Cabot Plains Road, nearer the cemetery.
Early Graves - Early Cabot settlers used large field stones, like this, as headstones. This plaque honors Nathaniel West and Aura Scott. It  is on the east side of Bayley-Hazen Military Road, at Route 215. Benjamin Webster and Dr. Parley Scott lived there. This is a narrow, old, dirt road that runs from Route 215  to Cabot Plains Road. The marker is about 5 meters from Bayley-Hazen Road. There is an opening, in the hedgerow, next to a large field. That was the site of the original stone;  this marker is just past that. A bit up Bayley-Hazen Road is another marker, on the same side. It is  where the pioneer Webster family settled. There are more markers on Cabot Plains Road, nearer the cemetery.

Parley Scott and his wife, Lydia, are buried in the Village Cemetery. They had left the Plains to live in the newly forming village. Dr. Scott died in 1849 at age 85; Lydia died in 1854 at age 85. They had five sons and one daughter.  Parley Cheeney Scott died in 1803, age 3; Aura died in 1813, age 19; Robert L. died in 1832, age 16; William P. died in 1834, age 27; daughter Prudence died in 1848, age 45; and Benjamin F. died in 1881, age 76. Benjamin's wife was Experience A.; she died in 1866, age 58. 

Earliest burials in Vermont were documented in 1962, dating back to circa 1000 B.C., at Isle LaMotte, overlooking Lake Champlain. Native Americans, hunters and gatherers, buried their dead at campsites.  If a member of the tribe died in winter, while hunting, the body was wrapped and put on a scaffold, away from animals. The first by in spring buried the body. Bodies were often cremated. Grave goods, like pottery and weapons, were left with the dead to use in their next life. They buried their dead as soon as possible, so the spirit would depart. Graves might be marked with a tent-like structure of wood or a marker painted with the sign of the deceased. When a chief died, a ring of seedling trees was planted around the grave.

Early Vermont settlers brought customs from Europe, but because of harsh wilderness living, they abandoned many rituals. Bodies were prepared for burial by two people, of the same sex as the deceased.  Muslin shrouds, with a drawstring top, were often used. In earliest times, there were no caskets. The cloth might be soaked with pitch or alum, and placed on a board.  In winter, the body might be stood up or hung in a shed or barn, covered with hay, or sometimes placed in a snowbank until spring. Embalming was little practiced, until after the Civil War.

Early caskets were simple boxes, measured by a local carpenter and made with precise length, width, and depth to accommodate the body. Most were pine or poplar; more expensive ones cherry or walnut.  Early caskets had no handles; they were placed on planks and carried by neighbors. Later, open wagons were used, with straw to cushion the ride. Cabot's first hearse was purchased in 1854, for $100. It had glass in the sides. Wheels were exchanged for runners in the winter. Bodies were kept in a vault at the Village Cemetery to await spring burial.  The "hearse house" garage was near the Village schoolhouse.

Home burials were common in early years. Nathan Wheeler, who died in 1820, was buried on the farm owned by Barbara Carpenter. Several of the Whittier family, including Lt. John Whittier, were buried in a small family graveyard, at their home on Whittier Hill, later owned by William Walker. The Whittier remains were later removed to Durant Cemetery.  The bodies in a small cemetery near the Kimball farm were also moved, mostly to Durant and West Hill cemeteries. When these graves were moved, the field stone markers were replaced with more ornate granite markers, so from time to time, old headstones are given to the historical society, for preservation.

Field stone was often used in the early years. Lettering was carved by a local harness maker or carpenter. Later, when the granite industry began to flourish in Vermont, and families could afford it, slabs of granite, engraved and sometimes ornately carved, marked grave sites. Some crumbling field stone markers were replaced. Field stone markers still dominate the first burying ground at the Center of Town. Weatherization made many inscriptions illegible and those stones are crumbling.

We are indebted to May Wheeler and Laura "Peg" Abbott, two Cabot women who spent several summers recording inscriptions and other information about every marker in each of the town's seven cemeteries.  They finished their work in 1984. Some deaths were not recorded in town records; other burial sites, even some in cemeteries, were unmarked by grave stones. They were not included in the records of Wheeler and Abbott. With their permission, in 1999, the information they collected and more information from town records and other sources, was combined and computerized by then sexton, Velma Smith and volunteer, Jane Brown. Data is kept in the Cabot town offices.