Town Meeting Activity

Fairlee Town Meeting Record

Find the answers to the questions below by reviewing the town record. you can confirm the answer by clicking on the arrow at the beginning of each question.

When and where was this town meeting to take place?

This town meeting took place at the house of Mr. Asa Asronwall in March. Fairlee did not have a meeting house or church in 1785. Town meeting day is still in March.

Who was eligible to vote?

If a man had reached the age of 21, was quiet and peaceable, and had lived in Vermont for one year, he could vote after taking the Freeman’s oath. Voters still have to take the Freeman’s Oath ( now called the Voter’s Oath) before being eligible to vote.

“I _________ ___________ solemnly swear, by the ever living God (or affirm in the presence of Almighty God that whenever I am called to give my vote or suffrage, touching any matter that concerns the State of Vermont, I will do it so, as in my conscience, I shall judge will most conduce to the best good of the same, as established by the constitution, without fear or favor of any man.”

See Vermont’s 1777 Constitution, Chapter 2, Section 6

What five decisions did the town need to make?

1) Choose a moderator
2) Elect the town officers for the year
3) See if the town would pay for preaching
4) See if the town would support the gospel and build a meeting house
5) Decide where to hold town meetings

List the 12 town offices that needed to be filled:

Town Clerk
Town Treasurer
Sealor of Leather
Pound Keeper
Grand Jureymen
Surveyors of Highways
Fence Viewers
Petit Jureymen

Describe four of the officials’ duties

The Listers assessed property in order to compute the taxes.

The Sealor of Leather inspected all the leather goods that were made in town. If the leather was properly tanned, he would mark it with a seal.

The Tythingmen were responsible for the community’s morals. They made sure that the Sabbath was observed and inspected taverns for liquor licenses. Although Church and State were supposedly separate, in fact towns were often built around the church (meetinghouse), and taxpayers supported the “gospell” financially until early in the nineteenth century.

The Fence Viewers were very important in early agricultural communities. They made sure that fences were well built and maintained. The owner of the field was responsible for keeping his crops safe from wandering animals with solid fences. If an animal broke through a legal fence, the owner of the animal was responsible for any lost crops.

For more descriptions of early town officers see:

Can you find any issues on the warrant that might have led to debate?

Fairlee is divided by a large lake and high terrain. It was so difficult to find a central meeting place that the town eventually split into two. Choosing where to hold town meetings and where to build the meetinghouse may have been contentious.

Did the town make any decisions on these issues?

They moved the town meeting to the house of Solomon Morey. They skipped any decisions having to do with building a meetinghouse which would have been used for both town meeting and Sunday church services.

From the Town Meeting records, what would you say are the responsibilities of the town to its residents? What responsibilities do the residents have to the town and each other?

Citizens had the responsibility to attend and participate in town meeting. Because there were so many needs, they also had the responsibility to take on town duties. Town duties were almost a part of daily life because there was much work to be done, from surveying and laying out roads to ensuring that business was conducted fairly.

The town had obligations to the citizens as well, such as caring for the poor and providing schools, roads, and meeting places.