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December 5th, 2016

Senate Report — East Montpelier: The Youngest Town in Washington County

By Sen. Bill Doyle
The land that ultimately was to become East Montpelier was claimed by New York and New Hampshire. The earliest governmental organization was by New York who called the town Kilby. The New York charter, or patent, in 1770 said that “All mines of gold and silver, and also all white or other source of pine trees fit for the masts of the growth of 24 inches diameter and upwards at 12 inches belong to the Royal Navy of Great Britain.” This tract of land that was to become East Montpelier was part of the New York County of Albany. The New York charter spoke to the election of town officials, described methods of filling vacancies, listed requirements of family settlement, and the cultivation of land.

When Vermont became a Republic and declared its independence from New York and Great Britain, the Vermont legislature in order to raise revenue chartered many towns, including that of Montpelier. The Vermont charter required each proprietor to cultivate “five acres of land and build a house at least 18 feet square or have one family settled on each respective right within the term of three years on penalty of forfeiture of each respective right.” The charter was signed by Governor Thomas Chittenden.

East Montpelier is the youngest town in Washington County. It was split off from Montpelier by act of the legislature in 1848 and contains almost 19,000 acres, about 80 percent of the original town of Montpelier. While the legal voters of the village wanted the division, or separation, the division was opposed by the town. The bill for separation was introduced in the Senate on November 6, 1848. Those for the passage of the bill argued “The inhabitants of the village… had a just claim to be set off on account of a hardship of being compelled to travel so far uphill to town meeting, of having been deprived of their fair portion of highway taxes, and thus been subjected to bad streets an roads, an evil to which they would still be exposed while the east part of the town held the balance of power.. that the state had an interest in having good streets in the village where the legislature meet annually, and that it was unreasonable to refuse to place the village in a situation to make the desired improvements.”

Those opposed to the division argued “It was contrary to the precedent established here to divide towns without previous notice and action in town meetings, that it would be hasty legislation, and lead to many evils by way of bad precedent and future calls for divisions of towns without valid reason, and that it would be unjust to the hill portion of the town which had resisted the application to this division.”

According to Ellen Hill and Marilyn Blackwell, authors of “Across the Onion,” the division in the long run worked to the advantage of both town and city. “As time passed, the people of East Montpelier began to realize that there were compensating benefits from being detached from the village (City of Montpelier). The new town still held the majority of the land area, including the prime farm land, and its share of prominent men and leaders. The town could now devote its attention to its own bridges, roads, and schools without having to take into account the needs of the city. Its representatives in the legislature, coming from a farm district, would better serve rural interests. In the next century, the city spent its revenues on paved roads, streetlights, water mains, and sewer systems, projects that the farmers of East Montpelier were certainly not interested in supporting.”

At one time, East Montpelier had 11 school districts. District two, the Cutler School, was off Town Hill Road. School district three, East Hill, was on the Barre Country Club Road and school district four, North Montpelier School, was up the hill from the mill and the post office off Route 14. School district five, Four Corners School, was near the present elementary school; school district six, the Center School, was at the Old Meeting House; and school district eight was at the Horn of the Moon, now a private residence. School district ten, the Peck School, is now a private residence on the road to Adamant. School district 11, the Morse School, was on the west side of County Road, and school district 12, the Cummings School, was on Cummings Road near County Road. School district 14, known as the Nutt School, was established in 1819 near the junction of Murray Road and Town Hill. That district allowed children from both the city and the town to attend. Districts 13, 15 and 16 were part of the City of Montpelier.

In 1839, the Center School ruled that “No scholars out of the district would be admitted to attend schools unless some inhabitants of the district be in want of a boy or girl to do chores for their board.” In 1836, the East Village School voted that the school directors would have the right to receive pupils at “17 cents per week for the winter term and 8 cents per week summer term.”

In 1888, there were 177 pupils who attended the public schools. Of the ten school districts operating at that time, there were one male and 15 female teachers. The weekly salary for the male teacher was $9.41 and the female teachers’ average salary was $4.70.

According to Esther Swift in “Vermont Place Names,” “An old Indian is given credit for the picturesque place name Horn of the Moon. It seems that he once lost his wife, and later found her at the place he called ‘Horn of the Moon.’ A school at the section of two county roads has always been called Horn of the Moon School, and a tiny body of water up in the northwestern corner of the town is called Horn of the Moon Pond.”

Senator Bill Doyle serves on the Senate Education Committee and Senate Economic Affairs Committee. He teaches government history at Johnson State College. He can be reached at 186 Murray Road, Montpelier, VT 05602; e-mail wdoyle@leg.state.vt.us; or call 223-2851.

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