The History of Lamoille County Vermont

Taken From "Gazetteer and Business Directory of Lamoille and Orleans Counties, VT. For 1883-84"; Compiles and Published by Hamilton Child, Syracuse, N.Y.; Printed at the Journal Office, July 1883, Page 29-35

Transcribed for Genealogy Trails by Nancy Piper

Lamoille county, as now constituted once formed a part of the original counties of Albany, Charlotte, Bennington, Rutland, Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, Orleans and Washington. The old Dutch county of Albany, with Albany, N.Y., as its capitol, extended north to the Province line. During the controversy between New York and the New Hampshire grantees, numerous writs of ejectment, executions, and other legal processes were issued out of, and made returnable to the courts at Albany, and were served, or at least were attempted to be served, by the sheriffs of that place. On March 12, 1772, New York, in order "that offenders may be brought to justice, and creditors may recover their just dues," proceeded to set off from Albany, and erect a new county, called Charlotte, on the western side of the mountains. Skeensboro, now Whiteball, N.Y., was made the shire town, and Philip Skeene appointed chief judge of the court of common pleas. After the organization of the State, however, on February 11, 1779, Vermont was divided into two counties, the Green Mountains forming the dividing line, the portion on the east being called Cumberland, and that on the west Bennington county. Each county was divided into two shires, that on the east into Westminster and Newbury and Bennington and Rutland, on the west. This division remained till the extra session of the legislature, in February, 1781, when the county of Rutland was incorporated from Bennington, and Windsor and Orange counties were incorporated from Cumberland, and the name of Cumberland altered to Windham. Rutland county in turn extended through to the northern line of the State, for a period of four years, eight months, and five days, during which time courts were held at Tinmouth. The State then, on October 18, 1785, dismembered the old county, incorporating from it a new one, called Addison, and made the towns of Addison and Colchester half shires. Chittenden county was then in turn set off from Addison, October 22, 1787, and November 5, 1792, Franklin and Orleans counties were incorporated. In 1834, Nathan Smilie, Isaac Griswold, Nathaniel Read, John Fassett, R. Read, Joseph Waterman, Thomas Waterman, Joshua Sawyer, W. P. Sawyer, Almon Tinker, Joseph Sears, Thomas Taylor, P. G. Camp and others, petitioned the legislature for a new county, and the bill passed the house, but was laid over in the council. The next year, however, it passed both branches of the legislature, and Lamoille county was incorporated October 26, 1835. It then embraced twelve towns: Eden, Hyde Park, Morristown and Wolcott, from Orleans county; Belvidere, Cambridge, Johnson, Sterling and Waterville from Franklin county; Elmore and Stowe from Washington county; and Manfield from Chittenden county. In 1848 Mansfield was annexed to Stowe, and in 1855, Sterling was divided between Johnson, Morristown, and Stowe, leaving the county with but ten towns.

Lamoille county, next to Grand Isle the smallest in the State, lies north of the central part of the same, between latitude 44º 24' and 44º 46', and longitude 4º 7' and 4º 34', bounded north by Franklin and Orleans counties, east by portions of Orange, Caledonia and Washington counties, south by Washington county and west by Franklin and Chittenden counties. Its extent from north to south is about 27 miles, and nearly the same from east to west, thus giving it an area of about 420 square miles, or 268,800 acres, which contains a population of 12,684.

In surface it is varied by all the charms of nature, from towering cloud-capped Mounties to the sylvan dales and silvery lakelets that adorn its nestling valleys. Turn which way you will, the lover of the beautiful in nature cannot fail to meet with that which will both charm and captive the senses. Upon the north and west rise Mansfield, Sterling, and White-face mountains in their splendor. Upon the south and east are Hog-back and Elmore mountains, while between them extend broad intervales of excellent farming land.

Mount Mansfield, consisting of three distinct peaks, lies in the southern part of Cambridge, extending also into the towns of Underbill and Stowe. Its summit, 4,389 feet above tide water, is the highest point of land in the State. The name Mansfield is derived from the contour resemblance of the mountain to the face of a human being, the three peaks being designated as the Chin, the Nose, and the Lips. The Chin furnishes one of the grandest and most extensive views in New England. Standing upon its summit in a clear day, the observer looks down upon the country extending from the base of the mountain to Lake Champlain as he would upon a map, and beholds in the outspread panorama an agreeable diversity of hills and villages, forests and cultivated fields, villages and streams of water. Further along in the picture may be seen Lake Champlain, which at intervals is observed, far to the north and south, peering out in the blue distance like inlaid masses of highly polished silver, to give light and beauty to the scene. The valley of the lake may be traced its entire length, beyond which arise the majestic and picturesque Adirondacks, which give a romantic beauty to the background of the picture, and terminate the vision in that direction by their numerous pointed summits. Turning to the east, the wavy line of the horizon is broken by the sharp outlines of the White Mountains, which rise up in the dim distance sixty miles off, and form a marked feature in the landscape, while the intervening space is filled with innumerable summits of hills and mountains, with deep extended valleys, lowing the location and courses of the Connecticut, Winooski and Lamoille, and their numerous tributaries. To the north can be seen the wide-spread valley of the St. Lawrence, and by the aid of a glass in a clear day steamers may be seen gliding upon its waters. The well-known figure of Montreal mountain, from which Cartier first looked upon the mountains of Vermont, rises in the hazy distance.

Sterling Mountains is about four miles northeast from the chin, in the township of Morristown. Its altitude is a little less than 4,000 feet and were it not for the proximity of Mansfield, would doubtless be regarded as one of the favorite resorts for "sight-seeing," for the same enchanting glories are visible from this peak that meet the eye on Mansfield. Between these tow mountains a deep gorge intervenes, known as Smuggler's Notch, through which, in the early settlement, a bridle road was kept open, and tradition says contraband goods were secreted in and found their way through it; but latterly no one disturbs its solitude, except those seeking an exhibition of nature in her wildest and most romantic haunts.

The country is well watered by numerous ponds and rivers. The Lamoille river froms the principal water-course. It enters in the southeastern part of Wolcott, and receives two sterams from Eden - Wild branch and Green river; thence it flows through Morristown, and receives three other streams from the south; and the Gihon, from Eden, empties into the Lamoille, in Johnson, and at Cambridge, Waterville branch on the north, and Brewster river and Seymour branch on the south. It leaves the county in Cambridge, entering Franklin county. In Johnson and Hyde Park are some large intervales, and the steam moves slowly; in Morristown and Wolcott the meadows are small and the stream is swifter. In Johnson there are two falls in the river. Cady's and Safford falls in Morristown are fine water powers, and there are many small branches that afford good mill-privileges. Waterbury river and its branches water Stowe, and there leaves the county. Ponds are very numerous. Among the most interesting are Bear Head and Lake of the Clouds, on Mt. Mansfield; Sterling, one mile in length by half a mile in width; Elmore, which lies in Elmore, one mile or more in length - on one side a neat village and on the other a craggy mountain; in Belvidere, at the base of Belvidere mountain, a pond a mile and a half in length, and one small pond in the western part of Waterville. In Hyde Park there are twelve ponds, and in Eden there are twenty, large and small.


Nearly the whole county overlies a bed of rocks of the talcose sehist formation. In the western part this bed is cut by a range of gneiss which has an average width of about five miles and extends the whole length of the county. In the eastern part there extends a parallel vein of clay-slate, bearing a mean width of about one mile. Soapstone is found in Waterville, Johnson and near Sterling pond. In Wolcott there is an inexhaustible whetstone ledge. Wolcott and Elmore have a large copper-bed which will be, some day, a great place for mining. Ochre is found in Hyde Park and Cambridge, and near Sterling pong. Lead is also said to have been discovered by the Indians in Belvidere. Veins of gold and silver have also been discovered, but not in quantities sufficient to warrant remunerative working.

Staple Productions

Most of the county is an uncommonly fine farming territory, with a soil varying from clay and gravel to the finest alluvial deposits, and well adapted to grazing purposes and the manufacture of butter and cheese. Considerable attention is also given to raising fine bread horses and cattle. As the soil, ect, will be found more particularly mentioned in connection with the several town sketches, we will, at this point, only give some idea of the extent of the products by the following statistics, taken from the census reports of 1870. During that year there were 106,638 acres of improved land in the county, while the farms were valued at $5,675,180.00 and produced 18,257 bushels of wheat, 2,740 bushels of rye, 61,836 bushels of Indian corn, 168,103 bushels of oats, 2,777 bushels of barley, 20,224 bushels of buckwheat, and 333,185 bushels of potatoes. There were also 2,703 horses, 8,886 milch cows, 1,375 working oxen, 9,377 sheep, and 2,480 hogs. From the milk of the cows was manufactured 984,378 pounds of butter and 39,199 pounds of cheese, while the sheep yielded 50,022 pounds of wool.

Agricultural Society

An Agricultural Society was organized at an early date, and has been continued in various forms since, thouth it has nearly dwindled out several times. In 1872, it was reorganized as the Lamoille Valley Fair Ground Company, with R. R. Waite, of Stowe, president; Alger Jones, of Wolcott, treasurer; and A. A. Niles, of Morrisville, clerk. The fair ground is situated in Morristown, and is one of the best located and finest arranged in the State. The present officers of the society are as follows: Hon. George W. Hendee, of Morrisville, president; W. S. Pond, of Eden, vice-president; H. D.W. Doty, of Hyde Park, treasurer; and A. A. Niles, of Morrisville, clerk.


The first manufacturing in the county was purely domestic. It was in the early days when the beautiful spring weather always found the men busy at the "break and swingle-board," and within doors the busy hum of hetcheling, carding, and spinning, was constantly heard. The early settlers were obliged to raise their flax and manufacture their own wearing apparel, for it must be remembered it then required sixty-four bushels of barley to buy one yard of broadcloth, and one bushel of wheat to purchase a yard of calico. The first general business and article of commerce was potash or salts of lye, which was manufactured in every town. Following this, as grain became more abundant, was the manufacture of distilled liquors. This business was carried on quite extensively, there being at one time ten distilleries in the town of Cambridge alone. The great mart for this article was at Montreal. Next came the hemp trade. A large manufactory for dressing the hemp for market was erected in Waterville; but this soon died out and the factory was converted into a woolen-mill. The manufacture of starch has also been conducted quite extensively, and is carried on to a considerable degree at the present time. All through this period, however, as is common in all timbered districts, the manufacturing of lumber has received great attention. The principal manufacturing interests of today are lumber, in its various branches, starch, woolen goods, butter, cheese, etc., all of which will be found noted in connection with the sketches of the several towns wherein they are conducted.

Courts and County Buildings

The act of the legislature incorporating the county provided that when some town should erect a suitable court house and jail, the county should be deemed organized. This of course gave rise to much competition, as each town would naturally wish to secure to itself the advantages and dignity appertaining to the county seat. The lower portion of the county considered it the most advantageous to have Johnson made the shire town, while the northern portion wished to have it vested in Morristown. Finally the mooted question was left for a committee to settle, and Joshua Sawyer, a member of the bar, who exerted a great influence in public matters, secured the county seat for Hyde Park, and the buildings were erected there. The town bore the expense of erecting the buildings, and the court house was built, and the county courts held there in December, 1836, where the supreme court now meets on the third Tuesday in August, and the county court on the fourth Tuesday in April, and first Tuesday in December. The building is a wood structure, containing a convenient court-room, jury room, etc., and the county clerk's office, and office of the probate judge. In 1875, an addition of twenty-five feet was made to the length of the building.

The first county officers were as follows: Judges, Jonathan Bridges, Morristown; Joseph Waterman, Johnson; State's attorney, O. W. Butler, Stowe; judge of probate, Daniel Dodge, Johnson; sheriff, Almerin Tinker, Morristown; bailiff, Luther H. Brown, Eden; clerk, Philo G. Camp, Hyde Park. The other chief county officers, since its organization, have been as follows:

Chief Judges

Stephen Royce 1836-50

Milo L. Bennet 1850-51

Asahel Peck 1851-57

John Pierpoint May term, 1862

William C. Wilson 1865-70

Timothy P. Redfield 1870-74

Jonathan Ross Dec. term, 1874

H. Henry Powers 1875

Assistant Judges

Jonathan Bridge 1836-38

Joseph Waterman 1836-38

Isaac Pennock 1838-40

Gardner Gates 1838-40

David P. Noyes 1840-42

Nathan H. Thomas 1840-42

John Warner 1842-44

Calvin Burnett 1842-44

Nathaniel Jones 1844-46

Moses Fisk 1844-46

Vernon W. Waterman 1846-48

Alpheus Morse 1846-48

John West 1848-49

John C. Bryant 1848-49

Henry Stowell 1849-51

John Meigs 1849-51

James M. Hotchkiss 1851-53

Giles A. Barber 1851-53

Nathan Foster 1853-55

Samuel Pennock 1853-55

Alger Jones 1855-57

Eli Hinds 1855-57

John C. Page 1857-59

Eli N. Bennett 1857-59

Samuel M. Pennock 1859-61

Norman Atwood 1859-61

Jerome B. Slayton 1861-63

William C. Atwell 1861-62

Samuel Plumley 1862-64

Thaddeus Hubbell 1863-65

Lyman B. Sherwin 1864-66

Lyman W. Holmes 1865-67

Russell S. Page 1866-68

Charles S. Parker 1867-69

Farwell Wetherby 1868-70

Thomas Potter 1869-72

Prince A. Stevens 1870-72

Amasa Stevens 1872-74

James T. Parish 1872-74

Allen B. Smith 1874-76

Albert M. Woodbury 1874-76

James W. Stiles 1876-78

John H. Page 1876-78

Leander S. Small 1878-82

Edwin H. Shattuck 1878-80

Chester W. Ward 1880-81

Reuben A. Savage 1881

Horace Wait 1882

Court Auditors

David P. Noyes

Vernon P. Noyes

Vernon W. Waterman 1850-80

State's Attorneys

Orion W. Butler 1836-38

Solomon Wires 1838-40

Harlow P. Smith 1840-42

W. H. H. Bingham 1842-44, 1849-51

Luke P. Poland 1844-46

William W. White 1846-48

Whitman G. Ferrin 1848-49

George Wilkins 1851-53

Thomas Gleed 1853-55

John A. Childs 1855-57

George W. Hendee 1857-59

Reuben C. Benton 1859-61

H. Henry Powers 1861-63

Philip K. Gleed* 1863-65

*Also appointed by the assistant judges of the Lamoille county court, October, 1869 to fill a vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Charles J. Lewis.

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