The life of multifaceted Vermont resident Aro Phineas Slayton is examined today, and during his eighty years of life this oddly named character found prominence as a Civil War veteran, lumberman, bridge designer and state legislator.
Born in the town of Calais, Vermont on September 16, 1818, Aro P. Slayton was one of eight children born to Bucklin (1784-1858) and Sallie Willis Slayton (1783-1879), both residents of Washington County. Nothing is known of Aro's early life or education, and he married on July 22, 1846, to Ms. Lucy White (1827-1902), and the couple later became the parents of nine children over twenty-two years time. They are listed as follows in order of birth: Florence Melissa (1848-1883), Kate Ella (1851-1885), Frank Leroy (born 1853), Herbert Alverton (born 1855), Clara Irene (born 1858), Calvin Aro (born 1862), Lucy Maria (born 1865), Orrin (born 1868) and William Taft (born 1870).
In August of 1862, Slayton joined Company H of the 13th Regiment Vermont Volunteers and became a First Lieutenant. He saw action at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 and is remarked by the Vermont Historical Gazetteer, Vol. 4 as being "in command of his regiment through that battle" and was later promoted to Captain of this regiment. He was later mustered out at Brattleboro in July 1863. The Gazetteer of Washington County further notes that Slayton "came home without a wound or scratch" but did suffer from "impaired health" due to his army service. The below portrait (found via the 1910 Pictorial History Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers) was taken during his military service and stands as one of two available portraits of him.
Following his return from the war, Slayton and his family removed from Calais to the town of Elmore, Vermont and it was here that he established a saw-mill, with which he built up a prosperous lumber business. Slayton also found prominence as a bridge designer and road builder during his post-war life, helping to design and construct over seventy-five bridges throughout Vermont, and was justly acknowledged as an "authority on bridge building" by many sources of the time.
While still engaged with his lumber and bridge building interests, Slayton was elected to a seat in the Vermont State House of Representatives from the town of Elmore and served in the legislative session of 1868-69. In 1885 he and his family removed from Elmore back to Calais, where he purchased a farm; later being named as a Justice of the Peace for the town during the early 1890s. He removed once again in 1892 to the village of Hyde Park, Vermont and died here on December 11, 1899, at age 81. The cause of death is recorded as "organic heart and liver trouble" which was acquired during his military service thirty years previously. Slayton was interred at the Village Cemetery in Hyde Park and was survived by several of his children as well as his wife Lucy, who died in 1902 at age 75.