September 23rd, 2019


How Towns Were Named in Washington County


Washington County was originally named Jefferson County but President Jefferson’s Embargo, which banned trade with Canada – our biggest economic partner at the time, was so unpopular that the legislature changed the name to Washington in honor of George Washington.

Barre was named to honor Colonel Isaac Barre, who played an important role in our fight for independence. The town was originally called Wildersburg but the town petitioned the legislature to change the town to Barre. Barre City received its charter from the General Assembly in 1894. Some historians say Berlin was named for the German city of Berlin, which was Frederick the Great’s capital. Another explanation for the origin of the name Berlin came from Massachusetts, where Worcester and Berlin are neighboring towns. Cabot is perhaps the only town in Vermont whose name came as a result of a romantic attachment. The name came from a grantee, Lyman Hitchcock, to honor his fiancée, Miss Cabot of Connecticut, who was a descendant of the famous sailor Sebastian Cabot.

Colonel Jacob Davis played a major role in the chartering of the town of Calais. One day earlier he had been active in chartering Montpelier. It is thought that Davis chose the names of the two towns because our country was enthusiastic to France coming to our aid in the Revolutionary War a few years earlier. It is thought that Davis named Calais after a port city in France of the same name and he named Montpelier for the French city of Montpellier in southern France. Duxbury was named for the town of Duxbury, Massachusetts. That town was settled by William Brewster, Miles Standish, and John Alden and was incorporated in 1637 as Duxborough. East Montpelier is the youngest town in Washington County and was separated from Montpelier by act of the legislature in 1848.

The town of Fayston was name after the Fay family, who were prominent in the Revolutionary War and in Vermont government afterward. Jonas Fay was physician for the Green Mountain Boys and Joseph Fay clerked for the Council of Censors and also represented the Republic of Vermont, along with Ethan Allen before the Continental Congress and later to the U.S. Congress. Together, they lobbied for Vermont’s admission to the Union. The action of Vermont of granting Marshfield to the Stockbridge Native Americans was yet another attempt on the part of Vermont to gain acceptance as a state. Middlesex was named because it was the middle town between Waterbury and Worcester. One day earlier, Waterbury had been granted, and Worcester was granted on the same day as Middlesex in 1763.

The general speculation on the origin of Moretown’s name centers around the Morehouse family, who were among the original grantees. Daniel and James Morehouse apparently wanted the town to become Morhousetown; however, Wentworth instead chose the name Moretown. Northfield was named for Northfield, Massachusetts because it was the northern-most town in that colony. The name Plainfield originated from John Chapman. Chapman lived in Montpelier but didn’t like the original name, St. Andrews. So he bought the town a set of record books in return for choosing the name of the town.

Waitsfield was named for Benjamin Wait. Wait fought in the Revolutionary War and played an active role in the town of Waitsfield for over three decades. Warren was named for Dr. Joseph Warren, the first American who died at Bunker Hill. Dr. Warren was well known in New England and was the major general of the militia and President Pro Tem of the U.S. Congress. Waterbury was named because many of the original proprietors came from Waterbury, Connecticut.

Roxbury probably came from Connecticut where a Roxbury had been founded in 1783. Another possibility was that some Vermonters had served at Roxbury, Massachusetts under George Washington. The Town of Woodbury was granted to Colonel Ebeneezer Wood and others and many feel this was the origin of the, name of the town of Woodbury. However, ten other states have a Woodbury, including Connecticut, and another theory suggests that the origin.


Senator Bill Doyle serves on the Senate Education Committee and Senate Economic Affairs Committee, and is the Senate Assistant Minority Leader. 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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