Sturges Penfield

Sturges Penfield, the son of John Penfield and Eunice Ogden, was born on September 1, 1780.  He married Laura Giddings on January 12, 1806 in New Fairfield, CT.  He died on April 26, 1866 in Pittsford, VT.

The children of Sturges and Laura were:

Mary

Samuel G.

David Sturges

Laura Ann

Elizabeth Penfield

George Baldwin

Eleanor Burr

Samuel Franklin

John Giddings

Katherine Jane

Sturges Penfield went to Pittsford, Vermont in 1796 with his father and learned the hatters trade with Mr. Butler of Rutland, Vermont. Sturges returned to Sherman where he married Laura Giddings in 1806. After their wedding, she rode on horseback from Sherman to Pittsford, where Sturges and his father had a shop selling hats.  On land at first owned by Sturges’ father in Pittsford, Sturges and Laura lived, labored, cared for their increasing family of children who eventually numbered twelve, prospered well, and devoted their lives to the duties of citizenship and religion.  In 1808, Sturges opened a store at Mill Village, near the junction of the Rutland and Chittenden roads, which he operated for about ten years.  He also built and operated a distillery, an occupation then considered highly respectable, but in later years he grew to think otherwise and abandoned the business, turning the building to other uses.  In 1796 his father, John Penfield, Sr. had bought from Nehemiah Hopkins the grist-mill sawmill on the East Branch.  In 1812, Sturges joined his brother Allen and their father and several other men to form the Pittsford Manufacturing Company, a corporation to manufacture and dress woolen cloth, and to run a factory which had been erected on the river just below the Penfield grist-mill.  In 1820, the company consisted of the three Penfield brothers – Sturges, Allen, and Abel.  In 1827, Sturges became sole proprietor and continued to operate the mill until 1860 when he retired.  The factory carded wool, wove carpets, produced and dressed cloth and employed a goodly number of persons for many years, until the year 1846, when woolen manufacturing in Vermont received a hard economic blow from which Sturges’ mill never really fully recovered, and the old machinery was eventually sold.

Sturges and Laura lived their entire married lives on the home place by the East Branch, now called Furnace Creek, a stone’s throw from his mills.  The creek is one of the tributaries of the Otter Creek which runs many miles through the Otter Creek Valley along the west side of Vermont’s Green Mountains, a beautiful hill country.  After he retired, Sturges retained the home place of about ten acres.  The mills are no longer standing thought vestiges can be seen a the water’s edge.

In 1917, one of his descendants wrote:

“He had a strong constitution, due to his ancestry and the active labors of his early years.  To him, life was intensely practical: work was the normal activity of a human being, and play was to be despised and avoided.  He was a man of strict integrity, of unusual firmness and steadfastness in adhering to his opinions.

He was as staunch supporter of the Congregational church, and he ordered his household after the traditions of the Pilgrims.  From Saturday evening to Sunday sunset, worldly affairs were set aside: only necessary work was done upon the farm, the brick oven had already provided the substantials of the family food, all the children were lined up along the sides of the living room and sound religious instruction impressed upon their youthful minds – lessons which most of them never forgot.

He believed strongly in education, especially for girls, and he sent his daughters to the best schools in the nation that he could afford, including Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts.

Through the many years of agitation which preceded the Civil War, Sturges felt keenly the wrongs inflicted on the negro slaves, and he followed with sympathetic interest the career and activities of his wife Laura’s abolitionist second cousin, Joshua Reed Giddings, a representative to Congress from Ohio.

He died suddenly, at 85, without previous illness, at the home of his long family life, and is buried in the family plot on the hill in Pittsford, Vermont.

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