July 13, 2024
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Barnet, Vermont: A Tapestry of Heritage, Natural Beauty, and Historical Preservation

Barnet Vermont

Nestled in the verdant hills of Vermont, Barnet stands as a living testament to Scottish settlement in America. This charming town, founded in 1763, offers visitors a unique blend of rich history, scenic landscapes, and community spirit. From its early Presbyterian roots to its unexpected Buddhist influence, Barnet's story unfolds like a captivating novel, inviting exploration and discovery.

Located in southeastern Caledonia County, Barnet boasts a diverse landscape that's dominated by the 350 acre (plus or minus) Harveys Lake and crisscrossed by numerous streams feeding into the Connecticut River. The town's geography offers a picturesque blend of water features and rolling terrain, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike.

Vermont's Northeast Kingdom Neighboring Towns

Barnet's boundaries touch several neighboring towns, including Waterford, St. Johnsbury, Ryegate, Peacham, and Danville, creating a tapestry of interconnected communities. The Stevens River, flowing from the north end of Harvey's Lake, adds to the town's hydrological richness.

This network of waterways not only enhances Barnet's natural beauty but also plays a crucial role in the region's ecosystem and recreational opportunities. The town's location and diverse landscape contribute significantly to its charm and appeal, making it a unique destination in Vermont.

Scottish Roots and Early Settlement

Chartered in 1763, by Governor Benning Wentworth, Barnet's founding set the stage for a vibrant Scottish community along the Connecticut River. Early proprietors like Alexander Harvey and the Stevens brothers played crucial roles in shaping the town's initial growth.

The arrival of Reverend David Goodwillie in 1790 marked a significant milestone, cementing the Scottish influence that would define Barnet's character for generations to come. Goodwillie's impact extended beyond buildings. He played a crucial role in establishing the Barnet Center Cemetery in 1791, creating a space for remembrance and reflection.

His leadership fostered a strong sense of community among the Scottish settlers, laying the groundwork for Barnet Center's enduring cultural heritage.

Church and Community Evolution

Goodwillie's influence set the stage for Barnet Center's church and community to evolve over the decades, with the United Presbyterian Church at the heart of this transformation. Built in 1849, this post and beam framed structure replaced earlier places of worship, showcasing the growing prosperity and architectural aspirations of the Scottish settlers. The church's eaves entablature and pressed metal ceiling reflect the community's commitment to both tradition and progress.

Alongside the church, the vernacular vestry building, erected in 1898, further expanded the community's gathering spaces. Its Greek Revival style, adorned with a Queen Anne porch, illustrates the blending of architectural influences over time.

The Barnet Center Cemetery, established in 1791, continued to grow, preserving the area's history in stone. These structures, along with the Manse and Goodwillie House, form a cohesive historic district that captures the essence of rural village life and Scottish heritage.

A Landscape of Natural Beauty

Nestled along the beautiful Connecticut River, Barnet's 23,040 acres encompass a rich and diverse tapestry of terrain consisting of hills, intervales, and notable water features. The 7,000-acre Harvey's Lake serves as a centerpiece, while the Passumpsic and Stevens Rivers wind through the town, powering mills and supporting agriculture. Roy Mountain, standing at 2,103 feet, offers sweeping vistas of the surrounding landscape, showcasing the town's natural allure that has attracted visitors for centuries.

Barnet's Geography

The Passumpsic River winds through Barnet, joined by the Stevens River and Joes Brook. These waterways have played a crucial role in the town's development, powering mills and supporting agriculture.

Notable landmarks include Harvey Lake and Warden Pond, which offer scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. The town's topography, characterized by hills, valleys, and forests, has influenced settlement patterns and land use throughout its history.

Barnet's location along major rivers and its varied terrain haven't only shaped its natural beauty but also its economic development and community life.

Joe's Pond and Molly's Pond

In recognition of their significant contributions to early settlers, the Vermont Legislature officially bestowed the names Joe's Pond and Molly's Pond upon two neighboring bodies of water on June 11, 1785. These names honor a Micmac Indian couple, Joe and his wife Molly, who were instrumental in the region's early development.

Joe and Molly's annual routine involved spending summers engaged in hunting and fishing activities around the pond that now bears Joe's name. When winter approached, they typically migrated south to the Ox Bow area in Newbury, joining the Coosuck Indian community there.

Historical accounts suggest that Joe possessed a restless spirit, often embarking on extended hunting expeditions. During the Canadian campaign of 1775-1776, he served as a scout for Generals Jacob Bayley and John Hazen, assisting with the surveying and construction of the military road.

The couple's knowledge of wilderness survival proved invaluable to the area's early settlers, with whom they formed strong friendships. Joe and Molly shared their expertise, helping the newcomers adapt to the challenging environment.

In acknowledgment of Joe's sustained assistance over the years, the Vermont Legislature awarded him a modest pension, further cementing his place in the state's early history.

Notable Historical Events

Barnet's history is punctuated by pivotal events that have shaped the town's character and development over the centuries. The Rogers Rangers Expedition of 1759, led by Major Robert Rogers, stands out as a significant military operation that impacted the region.

Although Lieutenant Samuel Stevens, a future Barnet grantee, failed to meet Rogers' men with supplies at Round Island, this event underscores the town's connection to early American conflicts.

The devastating flood of November 1927 left an indelible mark on Barnet and Vermont as a whole. With over 1,200 bridges destroyed across the state, Governor John E. Weeks‘ ambitious goal of full recovery by January 1928 highlighted the resilience of Barnet's community.

These events, along with the town's charter in 1763 by Governor Benning Wentworth, have woven a rich tapestry of historical significance for Barnet.

Architectural Gems and Historical Preservation

The town's commitment to preserving its heritage is evident in its well-maintained historic district. The Reverend Goodwillie House, built in 1790, and the United Presbyterian Church, constructed in 1849, stand as testaments to Barnet's Scottish roots. These structures, along with other architectural treasures, form a cohesive historic area that captures the essence of 19th-century rural village life.

The open fields and wooded areas surrounding the buildings play a crucial role in preserving the district's scenic vistas. This natural setting provides a captivating backdrop of countryside and mountains, enhancing the historic atmosphere.

Ben's Mill: A Community Restoration Success Story

One of Barnet's most remarkable preservation efforts centers around Ben's Mill. Built in 1872 by Scottish immigrant Alexander Jack, this industrial relic has been given new life through community-driven restoration.

Jack's patented improvements in wool dyeing methods in 1874 showcased the mill's role in local industry innovation. Over the decades, the mill adapted to changing needs, housing a sawmill, tannery, and even powering the Barnet Electric Company.

Its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 solidified its importance to the region. Today, Ben's Mill serves as a living museum, offering visitors a glimpse into Vermont's industrial past. Through ongoing restoration efforts and community support, it continues to bridge generations, preserving the legacy of early American ingenuity and craftsmanship.

The mill's deteriorating condition posed a significant hurdle, requiring extensive repairs to the roof and foundation. Despite these obstacles, the community's dedication has yielded impressive results. The mill's addition to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 brought recognition, while Hiram Allen's purchase and subsequent donation to Ben”s Mill Trust, Inc. in 1999 secured its future.

Volunteer Efforts to Preserve Local History

Volunteer efforts have recreated historical features, such as the old cider press, enhancing the mill's educational value. Through grants, partnerships, and community support, Ben's Mill is steadily progressing towards its goal of becoming a fully operational working museum.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, Ben's Mill now serves as a living museum, offering visitors a glimpse into Vermont's industrial past. The annual Rubber Ducky Derby fundraiser and various educational programs ensure its continued operation and relevance to the community.

A Tapestry of Villages and Cultural Diversity

Barnet is composed of five distinct villages: Barnet Village, East Barnet, West Barnet, McIndoe Falls, and Passumpsic. Each settlement contributes to the town's unique character, offering visitors a variety of experiences. From specialty shops to the Karme Choling Shambhala Meditation Center, Barnet embraces both its traditional roots and modern influences, creating a diverse and welcoming community. The Town of Peacham is next door and is also a must-see destination.

Education and Community Engagement

Despite its small size, Barnet offers a range of educational opportunities. Barnet Elementary School serves younger students, while high school students have the flexibility to attend surrounding public schools or approved independent institutions. The town's commitment to lifelong learning is evident in its various community resources and engagement initiatives, fostering a close-knit atmosphere while adapting to modern communication needs.

While the town may be small, it doesn't compromise on educational variety, ensuring residents have access to diverse learning experiences throughout their lives.

Preserving the Past, Embracing the Future

As Barnet moves forward, it carries with it the lessons and legacy of its past. The town's dedication to preserving its Scottish heritage shines through its architectural treasures and community spirit. From the serene shores of Harvey's Lake to the historic buildings dotting the landscape, Barnet presents a wealth of experiences for visitors and residents alike.

Cultural Significance and Connections

Barnet's cultural tapestry is woven from three distinct threads: its rich religious heritage, its connection to notable figures, and its role in Vermont's broader historical narrative. The town's religious diversity, from its Presbyterian roots to the introduction of Buddhism, reflects its evolving spiritual landscape.

Barnet's ties to prominent individuals add depth to its cultural significance. Two Vermont governors hailed from this small town, while Jacques Cousteau‘s formative experiences on Harvey's Lake highlight its natural allure. Even Charles Lindbergh‘s connection to Vermont adds a touch of aviation history to the region.

Barnet's role in Vermont's story is further emphasized by its inclusion in historical guides and literature. The town's oral histories provide invaluable insights into the lives of Vermonters, preserving local traditions and experiences for future generations.

Geographical Features and Climate

Barnet's climate is classified as humid continental, characterized by large seasonal temperature swings. The town experiences an average precipitation of 35.0 inches annually, with snowfall averaging 70.5 inches. Summers are relatively warm, with a mean daily maximum temperature of 71.2°F.

This climate, coupled with Barnet's varied topography, has influenced local agriculture, recreation, and settlement patterns throughout its history.


Barnet, Vermont, stands as a testament to the rich tapestry of American small-town life. Its historical roots, diverse religious landscape, and unique geographical features have shaped a vibrant community that continues to evolve while honoring its past.

Whether you're exploring its natural beauty, delving into its industrial history at Ben's Mill, or simply soaking in the atmosphere of its charming villages, Barnet offers a captivating glimpse into the heart of New England's heritage. As it balances preservation with progress, this hidden gem invites visitors to discover the stories written in its landscapes, buildings, and the warm smiles of its residents.

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