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A common story

Rev. Sidney King's destroyed house

The Daily Times and Chronicle, Tuesday, March 10, 1981

Burlington Past and Present, by John E. Fogelberg
(Article # 090)

A common story

Almost every New England town has its church or its town hall, or both, facing what is called the common, an early English reference to common land, a carryover from the system by which land in England was cultivated during the Middle Ages. Each village or town then consisted of a cluster of houses around a common farm.

Likewise, our common was  a village center with houses all along the perimeter. It may be hard to picture the common with houses on it, but it did indeed include the Symmes house and barn, the Rogan house, the blackshop and Bill Pollacks house, the Alley house and barn, the big barn belonging to the Wood Tavern, the Bennett-Simonds house, the Gen. Walker house, the Rogan barn, the Marion Tavern, the blacksmith’s house, the Pound and the town scales. Burlington was given title to all the land on the Common over a period of years through the will of Marshall Simonds. Marshall, who died in 1905.

  • The Pearsons house, or Symmes house, stood on the corner of Bedford and Cambridge Streets.
  • The Rogan house, opposite the post office. It was built by Humphrey Prescott in 1842. It was moved to 36 Bedford Street, where it still sits. McKinnon sold to a Kiley later.
  • On the corner opposite the old Union School once stood the blacksmith shop. A going concern for a hundred years before Burlington’s incorporation, it was run for years by the family Trull, whose Solomon Trull was not only a good blacksmith but keeper of the Town Pound. His home, and old saltbox, stood on the grounds of the Union School. After Alley died in 1890, the shop was run by a Henry Cox who also made wagon wheels there. Frank Dockendorff was the blacksmith at the turn of the century and for a number of years thereafter. He built himself a little house. Bill was tax collector of the town from 1923 to 1949, but he did no blacksmithing and turned the shop into a garage. The Simonds Trustees bought the property in 1951, tore down the shop, sold the house to Harrison Graham, and turned the grounds over to the town in 1953. Graham had the house moved to 19 Bedford Street, just downhill from the church. It’s still there.
  • The fourth on the common was the Parsonage of the Church of Christ Congregational. Built in 1847 by Humphrey Prescott, it stood opposite Town Hall. The property was bought by the Simonds Trustees in 1944, but it continued to be used as a parsonage for another dozen years. Then the church acquired a lot on the corner of Bedford Street and Church Lane upon which the little house was to be placed. The house was lifted from its foundation and started on its short journey across the field. Then, disaster! The carriage hit a soft spot or maybe an old well, causing the house to tip and slide off the carrier. When one corner hit the ground, the whole house collapsed. Rev. Sidney King lost much of his belongings at the time, for he had been assured that the move was an easy one and his furniture could remain within.

Today the only building standing in Burlington’s common is the Murray bandstand around which hundreds of people, young and old, gather to listen to concerts in the summertime when the air is balmy and the grass is green and the flowers in bloom. Here, too, stand Burlington’s war memorials and a relic of the past, the little Walker cannon. The common is especially beautiful during the Christmas season when thousands of colored lights decorate the trees and shrubs to help emphasize the town’s Christian heritage. And if there is snow on the ground, the picture presented is twice as lovely.

But there are no cows at any time.