James Otis Follett

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James Otis Follett (May 12, 1842 – February 23, 1911) was a farmer, stonemason, and builder of bridges from Townshend, Vermont. He has been described as "an intuitive engineer, a farmer and mason."[1]

He was born in May 1842 in Jamaica, Vermont.[2][3] He was educated at Yale University,[4] and served in Company D of the 16th Vermont Volunteers during the American Civil War, reaching the rank of corporal.[2]

Negro Brook Stone Arch Bridge, one of four by Follett in Follett Stone Arch Bridge Historic District, in 2016

During the 1890s and 1900s, Follett built as many as 40 bridges and culverts; 11 are known to survive.[4][5][6] An account of Follett's work in the Bennington Banner in 1977 called his bridges "engineering marvels and parts of the scenic landscape of the region" and noted:

"Follett excelled in hand-crafted stone masonry – now practically a lost art. The bridges have no arch supports and contain little or no mortar. They are held together by the critical placement of a 'keystone', plus the force of the weight of the materials above the arch."[7]

Follett was married to Clara E. Kimball in 1864 and died in February 1911 in Townshend, Vermont, as the result of acute dilation of the heart.[8]

A number of his works are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.[9]

In 2005, he was the subject of a theater program the Hooker-Dunham Theater in Brattleboro, Vermont, titled, "Vaulting Achievement - The Remarkable Life of James Otis Follett: Soldier, Farmer and Bridge Builder," by Dan Snow.[10][11]

Works include:


  1. ^ Hugh H. Henry (September 20, 1976). "East Putney Brook Stone Arch Bridge". 
  2. ^ a b Vermont Legislative Directory. Vermont Office of Secretary of State. 1896. p. 385. 
  3. ^ Hugh H. Henry (September 20, 1976). "Sacketts Brook Stone Arch Bridge". 
  4. ^ a b Dan Snow, Peter Mauss (2008). Listening to Stone. Artisan Books. pp. 95–99. ISBN 1579653715. 
  5. ^ Town Historical commission, reported at biggs
  6. ^ Mary Smith (August 5, 1940). "Builder of Men". Daily Boston Globe. p. 10. 
  7. ^ "Story is told of Townshend's historic stone arch bridges". Bennington Banner (Bennington, Vermont). June 6, 1977. (available on-line at newspaperarchive.com)
  8. ^ Death record for James O. Follett, born in Jamaica, Vermont. Ancestry.com. Vermont Death Records, 1909-2008 [database on-line].
  9. ^ a b c d e f National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  10. ^ "Theater program features stone artists". Rutland Herald (VT). April 19, 2005. 
  11. ^ "The art of rock". Brattleboro Reformer (VT). April 21, 2005. 
  12. ^ "Follett Stone Arch Bridge Historic District". Vermont Heritage Network. 
  13. ^ "East Putney Brook Stone Arch Bridge". Connecticut River Joint Commissions. 
  14. ^ "Abandoned Vermont: Putney Stone Arch Bridge". Preservation in Pink. December 2, 2011. 
  15. ^ Donald C. Jackson (1988). Great American Bridges and Dams. John Wiley & Sons. p. 104. 
  16. ^ Patrick Armstrong (October 25, 2001). "Putney seeks state help for stone bridge repairs". Brattleboro Reformer (VT). 
  17. ^ "Sacketts Brook Stone Arch Bridge". Connecticut River Joint Commissions. 

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