The Mountain Times

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From the history books: Killington's own slave trade comes to light

In between the pages of Killington history detailing ordinary Vermont happenings over 100 years old - from fur trapping to sheep ear markings to the path down the old carriage road to the first Killington Hotel to the Bates Farm where the Wobbly Barn now stands - there lies the story of one woman; it's the story of the town's slave trade.

The town of Sherburne's informal history, written by Madeline "Sue" Fleming in 1972, doesn't say how Chloe Tripp came to what is now one of the country's premier ski resort towns.

What the town record does say leads to more answers, but also more mystery.

The details of the black slave are documented in pages of yellowish-brown pieces of paper that nearly fell on the head of the town's librarian Gail Weymouth last October, as she pulled boxes from the basement.

High above her on a shelf was a bound book.

It could have been donated or settled there after the town office's basement was renovated about five years ago.

The basement of the town office acted as somewhat of a museum for town artifacts until it was renovated for a community meeting space, Weymouth said.

The book contained what looked like scraps of paper, detailing the transactions of the town's Board of Selectmen.

There were checks written with quill pens and ink, papers describing the transfer of land, the paving of roads - and the town's Overseer of the Poor trading Chloe.  

Chloe was a black slave, owned by Capt. William Tripp and his family, for about the first 20 years of the 1800s.

The captain, a resident of Sherburne according to the national census at the time, and his wife, owned Chloe until his death in what is estimated to be about 1815.

Chloe's "services," and her son John, were then bid out annually.

"Someone would agree to pay the town a certain amount of money for their upkeep, but no doubt she contributed most with her domestic work," according to some of Fleming's notes she used to compile the history book.

"Between 1817 and 1836 it varied from $20 to $66. This went on for 24 years until she (Chloe) died in 1839 and was buried by the town, location unrecorded."

According to Weymouth, who has now taken on Killington's job of preserving the artifacts she found in the basement, where Chloe is buried and other details of her legacy remain unanswered.

One of Fleming's notes describes Chloe being traded to an "Albro Anthony" in 1820 to "use the minister's right to land" near the Mission Farm Church off what is now Route 4.

With about $2,000 from the town this year, Weymouth will be preserving what she knows and the documents she has recovered.
Yet, questions linger.

"Who are these people (Sherburne's first settlers)?" Weymouth asked in a recent interview at the library.

"What brought them here? Was the captain given land?"

Weymouth said she also inherited "Civil War diaries" from a former resident now in Florida named Nathan Adams. He moved and left the library his grandfather's notes of experiences on the battlefield in Gettysburg as a member of the U.S. Army.

The look, smells and the sounds of shots and death nearly jump from the pages, Weymouth said.

Then there's all the headstones of the town's founding fathers falling to the wayside in the Riverside and Hilltop cemeteries, crumbling into gravel after years of hard winters and lack of attention.

"It is a disservice to the town to brush this stuff under the rug," Weymouth said.

Photo by Cristina Kumka