Almon Lull

Dr. Almon Lull


Almon Lull was born in Hartland in 1804, and died a millionaire in Glen County, California in 1894. His fortune was made from the goldrush although it was said that he did receive some unsolicited assistance in his rise from rags to riches, that assistance coming from a justice of the peace, a deputy sheriff and several constables from Windsor. It was also claimed that at one time his name was mentioned only in whispers by his Vermont relatives, if his name was even mentioned at all.

Little is known of his early life until the early 1830’s when he graduated from the medical college that flourished at that time in nearby Woodstock. According to family tradition he then served as an instructor in medicine at Dartmouth College although there is no trace of this in their records. Either the story is in error or Dartmouth made haste to erase his name from their records, a distinct possibility in light of subsequent events.

In early 1846 Almon arrived in Windsor accompanied by two medical students. There had been a recent burial at the Old South Church, and the three conspirators proceeded to disinter the body, supposedly for use in medical instruction. The operation however took longer than they expected and it was dawn by the time they had finished exhuming the body. Since they felt that it would unwise to risk loading the body into the wagon in daylight, they hid the body under the steps of the church and departed.

The next night they returned to complete their task, but unfortunately for them, the crime had been discovered and the bushes were alive with sheriffs, constables and irate citizens. All three were arrested. The following day the two students were released but Almon, as the ringleader, was dragged before a local justice of the peace. He was bound over for trial at the next session of the County Court at Woodstock and given the choice of spending the intervening months in the county jail or posting a cash bond of $500. His brother somehow managed to come up with the money and Almon was released. He immediately fled and headed West. He signed on as a surgeon for the assault upon Mexico, and then following the war he joined a wagon train of emigrants to California via the ‘Southern Route’. According to family history he is then recorded as being the first settler in the city of Berkeley (see note below).

The gold rush which began in 1849 soon brought swarms of men to San Francisco and it was this that made Almon his fortune. Whilst he himself never dug an ounce of gold, sickness was almost universal and due to the lack of doctors, a brief professional visit reportedly produced a fee of some $30 for just a 10 minute consultation, payable in gold, on the spot. His fortune grew rapidly and he soon became a great capitalist. At one time he reportedly owned all the ferry boats in the bay, thousands of acres of land, great herds of beef cattle and acres of wheat. He built business blocks in San Francisco and Sacramento. He sent recruiters to Windsor and neighboring areas to enlist young men for his various enterprises and many apparently left Vermont on that account.

Towards the end of his life he did in fact return to Windsor, his sudden departure nearly 50 years before apparently long forgotten by the authorities here. He cut an imposing figure with his silk top hat, elegant clothing and a black cane with an enormous gold head.

Surviving relatives in Hartland hoped to inherit some of Almon’s fortune upon his passing but were sadly disappointed. They received notification that they were to receive something and had visions of inheriting large sums of gold. A parcel duly arrived and the family went to the express office to claim their inheritance. It was something of a shock when they were informed that they had to pay $1.50 for express charges. It was a further shock to find that the long slim package they received contained no gold, but only the famous gold-headed cane. Not only that, but the cane was broken and a cabinet maker in Windsor charged another $1.50 to repair it. There was further disappointment when the ‘gold’ head was examined by a jeweler who informed the family that it was actually made of brass lightly plated with gold. The final let down came when it was discovered that the cane was actually entailed and was to be forever passed down to his brother’s oldest living male descendent. Thus the family’s dreams of a great inheritance were ended.



This story is based on the recollections of Col. Thomas Lull (1883-1960). Dr. Almon Lull was his great uncle. Almon and Thomas’s grandfather Morris were both sons of Titus Lull (1773-1844) who is buried in the Jenneville Cemetery. I believe that Titus may have been a son of Timothy Lull, an early settler in Hartland who gave his name to Lull Brook. Unfortunately I have been unable to verify this information.

I can find no mention of Almon being associated with Berkeley. However there is a link close to home. According to the Centennial Record of the University of California, “In 1866…at Founders’ Rock, a group of College of California men watched two ships standing out to sea through the Golden Gate. One of them, Frederick Billings, thought of the lines of the Anglo-Irish Anglican Bishop George Berkeley, ‘westward the course of empire takes its way,’ and suggested that the town and college site be named for the eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish philosopher.”  Although the philosopher’s name is pronounced “bark-lee”, the pronunciation of the city’s name has evolved to suit American English as “burk-lee”. Frederick Billings is of course associated with Woodstock.

In some versions of the history of Princeton, California it reads –

 “Almon Lull, MD, is credited with naming the town and applying for the post office there. He had about fifty     signatures on the petition he circulated. Throughout local history writings, it is said Dr. Lull graduated from Princeton University and thus the name. This is not proven, and it doesn’t appear that he attended Princeton or even lived in New Jersey.”

Damon Hall Dedication

Hartland’s Big Day – Damon Hall Dedication

On December 2, 1915, The Honorary Clark C. Fitts of Brattleboro spoke at length about the importance of community life and how it forms a town’s character. “You of Hartland, with this beautiful building, are far richer than if mere money had been given, for here is great opportunity for the best community life. This building should be a center of the very best social life in the community and of the highest intellectual life as well.”

Mr. Fitts commented on civic life: “The trend of the times is radicalism. The referendum and recall are put out as remedies. Now the very essence of democracy is in getting together the men of the town in such community centers as this for a meeting of the minds and discussion.”

The dedication exercises closed with a medley of patriotic airs by a chorus, ending with “America” by the chorus, orchestra, and audience. After the program, all were invited to inspect the hall, and supper was served in the new dining room. Townspeople provided the food for what was probably the most notable meal ever served in Hartland. Six-hundred people enjoyed the bounty of the town. At eight o’clock, the orchestra played for a dance, preceded by a grand march with 87 couples. The hall may have been too crowded for comfortable dancing, but everyone seemed to have a lovely time. Supper was served until 10:30, and dancing went on until 1:30 a.m.

Damon Hall was a gift to the town from Mrs. William Emerson Damon, the children of Urias and Harriet Cotton Damon, the children of John and Lucy Damon Lamb, and the children of Merit and Lavinia Damon Penniman.

The Damons

Damon Hall is a memorial to Luther and Betsey Thayer Damon and their children, especially William Emerson Damon, through whose generosity the gift of the building was made possible. The Damon family in Hartland dates back to 1805, when they came from Peabody, Massachusetts (the Damon farm was just south of the present I-91 interchange.). Luther Damon became a farmer, and also drove freight to and from Boston with a team of six gray horses. The railroad, then being extended up the Connecticut River Valley, arrived in Hartland in 1849. Realizing he would lose his freight business, Luther contracted to help build the railroad. His youngest son, William Emerson Damon, was born in Windsor in 1838. He graduated from Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire. William married Alma Otis of Windsor. Thereafter, the couple joined the mid-nineteenth century tide of emigration from Vermont. William for many years was Superintendent of the Credit Department at Tiffany’s in New York. He was also instrumental in establishing the New York Aquarium. As an assistant to P. T. Barnum, he sailed to Bermuda during the Civil War to catch and bring back 600 live fish. He was the authority on transporting live fish and maintaining freshwater and saltwater aquariums. He traveled often from New York to his farm in Hartland. Mr. Damon died in 1911.

Damon Hall’s 100th Anniversary Celebration

September 26 & 27, 2015

Before Damon Hall

Damon Hall is turning one hundred, but the site it occupies has been the center of activity in Hartland for well over two hundred years. The first recorded building on that site was a hotel. It is not known when the hotel was built, but the land on which it stood was deeded to Isaac Stevens by William S. Ashley in 1774. Stevens built a square building with a high roof. There was a line of sheds on the north side and two barns on the south side. There was no road on the south side of the hotel until the “new road” (now Route 12) was built in 1835. The land west of the hotel was wooded.
It was no trick to make money with a hotel in those days, as freight was moved to and from Boston with six- and eight-horse teams. The horse barns were full every night. Weary travelers arriving by stagecoach could get a room, and enjoy rum in the bar and a meal in the dining room. The upper floor of what was known as the Pavillion House (later Hotel Hartland) was divided into a large hall and sleeping rooms. The hall hosted meetings, suppers, and dances. In the 1830s, Stephen D. Marcy built a wing with a spring dance floor that was said to have no equal in Vermont. On the ground floor were a store and post office.


Pavillion House



The Gallup Family

The Gallup family are linked to the story of the slave Derrick Oxford.


In 1630 John Gollop (sic) arrived from England and settled in the Boston area where he became a trader and navigator. He reportedly took part in the unsuccessful attempt to capture the pirate ‘Dixie Bull’ who was famed for his brazen attack on the settlement of Pemaquid (now known as Bristol, Maine) in 1632. In 1633 John sent for his wife, Christobel, and four children who had remained behind in England. The family became members of the First Church (the Old South) and in his will John made a generous contribution to the building fund. John, along with his sons John and William, assisted in the capture of John Oldham’s vessel off Block Island in 1636 after Oldham had been murdered and his ship looted by Narragansett-allied Native Americans. According to a history of Block Island “in 1636, John Gallup came across the boat of trader John Oldham…..’,  The death of John Oldham is considered one of the reasons for the Pequot War (1636-1637).

The oldest of John Gollop’s sons, born around 1615 and also named John, married Hannah Lake in 1643 and they moved to Stonington, Connecticut. It was around this time that the surname Gollop became Americanized as Gallup. According to a history of the Gallup family, John was responsible for building the Whitehall Mansion in Stonington, a house that still exists, currently run as a hotel. (Other sources, however, say that the mansion was built by a Dr. Dudley Woodbridge on land that he purchased from John Gallup). The mansion was actually moved in the 1960’s when a road development threatened the need for demolition.

John served as a captain of the 1st Company in the Connecticut Regiment during King Philip’s War. He died in 1675 during the Narragansett Swamp Fight (Great Swamp Massacre) in Rhode Island.

John and Hannah’s fourth child, Benadam, was the grandfather of the Gallups that so influenced Hartland. He and his wife Esther Prentice had five daughters and two sons. One of these sons, Joseph, born in 1695, married Eunice Williams in 1720. They had four sons and four daughters and it was two of these sons, William and Elisha, that settled in Hartland.

William and his wife Lucy arrived here with their seven children in 1775 and built a house on the land opposite what is now White’s Dairy Supplies on Rt.5 in N. Hartland. There they went on to have another four children. William’s brother Elisha came to Hartland in 1778 with his wife Marcy and their ten children. They built a house in the Weed district. Both William and Elisha served the town in various official capacities.

Whilst some of their children moved away from this area, others remained. William’s eldest son Oliver became a lawyer. He too settled in Hartland and served in various official roles. William’s son Joseph became a doctor in 1790 and was reportedly the first to use Jenner’s smallpox vaccination. He also founded a medical school in Woodstock. Joseph married Abigail Willard from Hartland and they spent much of their lives residing in Woodstock. Another son, Elias, studied law and worked in British Guinana (sic). William’s 2nd son, Perez, settled in N. Hartland and was responsible for building the Sumner Falls canal and sawmill both of which were later sold to David Sumner.

One of Elsiha’s great grandchildren was to become the grandmother of Max Crosby. Another of his great grandchildren, James Gallup Morgan, owned ‘Appledore’. Elisha’s 4th daughter Eunice married John Dunbar in 1783. According to the Gallup family history John Dunbar was the first recorded owner of Garvin Hill, the highest point in Hartland. John and Eunice’s son Joseph had two sons, Norman and Henry. Both Norman and Henry settled on farms in N. Hartland. According to a family history Henry invented air brakes for locomotives (although I was unable to confirm this). An engineer, Henry also had the round barn built on his farm in N.Hartland.



Note: There are some fascinating documents in the Yale Indian Papers Project which are written or signed by various members of the Gallup family. These include ‘Grand Jury Indictment against Cuppocosson’ from 1705 signed by John Gallup, a ‘Deposition of John Gallup and John Stanton’ from 1669, and the ‘Indenture of Abraham Mazzean’ signed by Benadam Gallup in 1762. Both the original documents and transcripts can be viewed online.


Derrick Oxford – the story

This story is courtesy of Jane Stephenson from Plainfield Historical Society

Plainfield town history states that Benjamin Cutler owned two slaves, one named Darok, who had served in the Revolutionary War, and that his slaves are buried in unmarked graves in the Cutler (now Coryville) cemetery.  In May of 2017, after finding the graves, we began to research Darok/Derrick in an effort to obtain a headstone from the VA. We uncovered a fascinating history. 

In the spring of 1775, William Gallup and his wife, Lucy Denison, and seven children ages 1 month to 13, made the 190 mile journey from Stonington, CT to Hartland, Vermont. They likely traveled first by sail, and then flatboat, up the Connecticut River. With them was at least one slave, a man named Darok/Derrick, but there were likely more slaves with the family.

New London County CT had the largest proportion of slaves to whites of any place in New England. The largest and most prominent Stonington families—the Wheelers, Williams and Gallups owned dozens of slaves. Darok/Derrick is first mentioned in the 1737 will of Isaac Wheeler, then again in the 1755 will of his son in law John Williams, who was the grandfather of William Gallup. Derrick is listed in each will as part of a family group that includes his wife Jenny, and daughters Jenny and Kate.

In May of 1777, “Negro Darok” enlisted for three years in the Revolutionary War from Plainfield, perhaps because the Plainfield selectmen were offering an enlistment bonus. He-fought at Ticonderoga and Saratoga, was injured or became ill and was left at Albany. A certificate dated Sept 20, 1781, and signed by the Hartland selectmen, including William Gallup, reads as follows: This may certify that Derrick Oxford, a Negro slave to Mr. William Gallup….enlisted in ye three years service and continued til he obtained a furlow home to his master near one year and then returned to said service.” He served until July 1780 in the First NH Regiment. He immediately enlisted as a private for militia service in the new state of Vermont on August 1, 1780 and served until the end of 1781. He was one of the highest paid soldiers, except for some officers. After the war, he apparently returned to live with his master William Gallup. In June of 1784 Gallup petitioned the NH government for money due him for Derrick Oxford’s service.

But at some point, Darok/Derrick Oxford, apparently came to live with Benjamin Cutler. Cutler’s farm in Plainfield is less than four miles from Gallup’s farm in North Hartland, and ferries crossing the river made it an easy trip. Was Derrick actually sold to Cutler, or simply bound out?

Why, after a lifetime of service in the Wheeler/Williams/Gallup extended families, would he have come to live with Cutler?  One possibility is that since slavery had technically been illegal since the VT constitution was signed in 1777 Gallup, who had served as a selectman, and then in the VT legislature, felt compelled to sell him out of state, as other slave owners in VT did. There are very few emancipation records in Vermont, so no record that he was emancipated. Could Derrick have known the Cutler men from his RW service?

In the 1790 census for Plainfield, Cutler is enumerated as having two “free persons of color” (FPOC) in his household, and Gallup still had one person. By 1800 neither household had any FPOC, so we presume Derrick and the other person in Cutler’s household died between 1790-1800.


Derrick Oxford

Derrick Oxford

Derrick was a slave of William Gallup of N.Hartland. He enlisted in the Revolutionary War. His grave was recently located and the VA provided a headstone. There was a short dedication service at Coryville Cemetery (Ladieu Rd) in Plainfield, NH on May 19th 2018. Members of the First NH Regiment re-enactment group fired a musket salute. Descendents of both Derrick Oxford and William Gallup attended.