Excepting on these unfrequent occasions, Belfield Green is as free from bustle as if it were a hamlet whose name was never seen upon a map. The time has been, however, when it was a busy little mart, the centre of trade for an extensive district. In yonder low-roofed store that stands upon the square, near by the great gambrel-roofed house of which mention has already been made, the second Major Bugbee increased a handsome patrimony till it grew to be a great estate; the share of which that fell to his two eldest sons, the Doctor and his younger brother, James, they in time, by gainful traffic in the same old place, made more than equal to the entire estate, of which a quarter only came to them. Thousands and tens of thousands of tons of golden butter and cheese, hundreds of thousands of bushels of rye, oats, flaxseed, buckwheat, and corn, millions of eggs and skeins of linen and woollen yarn have been bartered at Belfield Green by the country folks, in exchange for rum, molasses, tea, coffee, salt, and codfish, enough to freight the royal navy. Time was when folks came twenty miles to Belfield post-office, and when a dusty miller and his men, at the old red mill standing on the brook at the foot of the valley, took toll from half the grists in Hillsdale County. But that was long ago, when people who lived twenty miles away from Hartford went to the city scarcely twice in a dozen years, — in the good old days of turnpikes, stage-coaches, and wayside taverns, before rail-roads were built to carry all the trade to great, overgrown towns and cities. Now-a-days, as I have said, it is hard to find a village of its size and rank in all the land, which is more quiet, at ordinary times, than Belfield Green.
Every community has its quota of great men; and in this respect a country village is often, in proportion to its numbers, as well endowed as the capital itself. So Belfield has her magnates whom she delights to honor. Chief among them used to be numbered the late Doctor John Bugbee, a worthy gentleman, now gathered to his fathers in the ancient burying-ground behind the meeting-house. He was not, to be sure, esteemed by all, especially the women, to be so great a man as the Reverend Jabez Jaynes, A. M., who, by virtue of his sacred office and academical honors, took formal precedence of every mere layman in the parish.
But with this notable exception, Doctor Bugbee was the peer of every other dignitary, whether civil, military, or ecclesiastical, within the borders of the town. But when I say the Doctor was a great man in Belfield, I do not mean to aver, or to be understood, that, in person, he was of colossal bulk or stature; neither is it true that his intellect was of a quality so far superior to the average of human minds as to make him n giant in that respect. It would be great presumption in so humble a penman as myself to choose, even for the hero of my tale, a man of eminent distinction. So I make haste to confess, that, doubtless, there were at least a score or two of his fellow-townsmen as well endowed by nature as the Doctor. But above many of these persons he was elevated by accidental circumstances and acquired advantages to a position which rendered him a man of greater mark and influence than they. He was descended from a most reputable ancestry, and, being a professional man, of polite address and handsome fortune, it would have been strange indeed, if he had not been highly esteemed in the community where he dwelt. Besides, he was a man of sense and taste, witty, jovial, talkative, and of such extremely easy good-nature, that, if it had not been for the tact and shrewdness of his brother and partner in trade, who managed the business of the firm, the Doctor’s income would have diminished, instead of increasing, as it did, year after year. As it was, his practice as a physician scarcely paid for his horsekeeping and the medicines he dispensed, though for a while he was a favorite physician in all that region; growing in the good-will of the people, until, as a mark of their esteem, he received a nomination to the General Assembly. At first there was such an outcry of dismay from the old ladies of the parish, that the Democrats came near defeating him, though the Whigs had a sure majority for every other name on the ticket. But having triumphed over this outburst of stubborn opposition, the Doctor speedily became the most popular politician in the county, if frequent election to office was a true test of public favor. For it turned out, that, instead of the mortality happening, which the Democrats, and their allies, the old women, had predicted would prevail, there never had been known a healthier season within the memory of man. And always afterwards, whenever the worthy Doctor was chosen to represent the town at Hartford or New Haven, there seemed to be a special interposition of providential mercy, inasmuch as in all his professional round, none ever sickened unto death during his absence; though it sometimes happened that the population of the town would be increased by one or two. In course of time, therefore, his fame as a statesman even rivalled his reputation as physician, and all parties were brought to join in voting for him with the most cordial unanimity.