July 11, 2024
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The History of the Town of Barton, Vermont

Barton Village

Above photo Courtesy of Wikimedia, King of Hearts

The Northeast Kingdom town of Barton, Vermont, is a testament to resilience and community spirit. Established in 1789 and named after Colonel William Barton, the Revolutionary War hero, the town saw early settlers uncover Native American remnants and build crucial infrastructure like the Hinman Settler Road.

Early Settlement and Charter

On October 20, 1789, the town of Barton, Vermont officially took shape with its charter, marking a pivotal moment in the region's transformation from wilderness to settlement. The honor of being named after a notable figure fell to Colonel William Barton, a hero of the Revolutionary War known for capturing British General Prescott in 1777.

This grant of land initially requested by 60 war veterans from Providence, Rhode Island, was first named Providence but later renamed to honor the courageous Colonel Barton.

Early settlers in the area discovered remnants of Native American wigwams, a testament to the region's prior occupation by tribes like the Abenaki, Coosuck, and St. Francis. As the settlers began to lay roots, one notable figure, Timothy Hinman, played a crucial role in the early development of Barton by building the Hinman Settler Road in 1791.

This road opened up the area for further settlement and paved the way for the growth of the local community.

Building Infrastructure

As economic activities flourished, water-powered mills and factories anchored the town's infrastructure, supported by a network of roads, railways, and utilities. These early industrial components were strategically positioned to maximize the potential of the area's water sources.

The placement of the first sawmill, built by William Barton in 1796, was especially significant in setting the stage for commercial expansion. This essential infrastructure not only facilitated the growth of industries but also stabilized the foundation of the town.

Cornerstone educational institutions like Barton Academy further contributed to the town's structural development by attracting residents and fostering a sense of community. Their presence underscored the importance of infrastructure development linked to education. Furthermore, the town's unique geography, with Crystal Lake and various rivers, prompted carefully planned infrastructure to ensure sustainable growth.

These foundational elements were, however, put to the test during the 1927 flood, which inflicted substantial damage on the infrastructure, particularly in Barton Village. Despite such setbacks, the town's ability to maintain and adapt its infrastructure has remained a testament to its resilience and capacity to evolve.

Historical Events and Disasters

Barton's history has been marked by significant natural disasters, such as the Runaway Pond disaster of 1810. This catastrophic event occurred when a natural dam burst, causing massive flooding in the Barton River Valley.

Another natural disaster that had a profound impact on the town was the 1927 flood. It was one of the most devastating natural disasters in Vermont's history, leaving extensive damage in its wake.

Beyond natural disasters, the town has faced challenges from human conflicts and wars. From the War of 1812 to Desert Shield, these conflicts have left their mark on the community.

Runaway Pond at Nearby Glover

In addition to natural and war-related disasters, the town has dealt with man-made incidents like the 1810 Runaway Pond event, which significantly altered the historical landscape.

Furthermore, the town faced significant challenges from severe weather events. The 1938 Hurricane, in particular, had a substantial impact on the town's community and infrastructure.

Through these historical events and disasters, the town has learned to adapt and rebuild, ultimately shaping its resilience and character.

Economic Growth and Development

The town's industrial prowess and strategic infrastructure developments fostered a dynamic economic landscape that shaped the lives of its residents. With the establishment of various mills and factories, including a fulling-mill and whiskey manufacturing industry, Barton thrived. Over time, the town saw significant increases in property values and livestock numbers, reflecting the steady economic growth. The arrival of the railroad in 1858 catapulted Barton's industrial center, Barton Landing, to new heights, further boosting economic activities.

Educational Institutions

Founded in 1852, Barton Academy and Graded School pioneered early education in the town, providing a solid foundation for future generations. This educational institution played a significant role in shaping the community's intellectual landscape. Besides Barton Academy, other schools in the area include Orleans Elementary School and St. Paul's School.

In the early 1800s, the town had nine school districts, with a total enrollment of 354 scholars. The average attendance during that period was 213, indicating a strong commitment to education. Lake Region Union High School, established after Barton Academy, serves students in grades 9-12 today.

Barton Academy's historical significance extends beyond its role in education. The first religious meeting in the town took place in 1803 or 1804, culminating in the organization of the Congregational Church in 1807. This early spiritual foundation complemented the town's emerging educational system, creating a well-rounded environment for its residents.

The town's commitment to education continues, with these institutions serving as a testament to its enduring dedication to the well-being of its people.

Community Life and Culture

Beneath its educational landscape, community life in Barton thrives through an array of cultural and recreational events that both honor its history and captivate its residents.

On 17 August 2011, the town became famous for the largest Cadillac parade, which set a Guinness World Record, attracting visitors from far and wide. The Cadillac parade consisted of 298 Cadillac cars at the Orleans County Fair in Barton, Vermont. The parade was held in honor of Barton, VT native, Henry M. Leland, inventor of both the Cadillac and Lincoln cars.

The Barton Fair

Another notable event is the Barton Fair, a major attraction that showcases the town's unique charm. The town also hosts various activities that highlight its history and local culture, providing opportunities for residents and visitors to engage in memorable experiences.

These events not only foster a sense of community but also create a vibrant atmosphere, drawing visitors from near and far. Publications regularly highlight the town's unique events and attractions, emphasizing the richness of Barton's cultural life.

Through these activities, the town successfully balances its historical heritage with modern-day entertainment, ensuring that both residents and visitors can enjoy the diverse attractions the Barton area has to offer.

Local Government and Services

Barton's local government, comprising a town moderator, selectmen, and a town clerk, plays a crucial role in managing the town's operations. This governing body oversees various aspects of town management, including budgeting for essential services.

In 2008, the town's selectmen budget stood at $310,100, while the highway budget was $441,900. The town's financial management also extends to educational services, as Barton is part of the Orleans Central Supervisory Union. This collaboration enables the efficient allocation of resources for local education.

Notably, in 2007, the town's spending per pupil was slightly below the state average, indicating a focus on resource optimization. Overall, Barton's government plays a vital role in maintaining the town's infrastructure and providing essential services to its residents.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia – King of Hearts

Natural Features and Ecology

Crystal Lake, a striking three-mile long and one-mile wide body of water, dominates the town's landscape, influencing the local ecosystem and providing a hub for recreational activities.

The town's geography is shaped by two significant rivers: the Barton River and the Willoughby River. These water bodies powerfully contribute to the area's ecosystem, offering ample water power that historically supported local mills and factories.

The diverse flora and fauna thrive due to the presence of lakes, rivers, and varying elevations, creating a rich tapestry of natural wealth. This ecological landscape not only adds to the town's charm but also provides numerous recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike.

From boating to fishing, hiking to biking, the natural features of Barton offer a range of activities that enhance the quality of life in the area. This interconnection of natural and recreational elements contributes significantly to the town's unique identity.

Notable Figures and Legacy

Beyond its natural beauty, Barton's rich history is also marked by the remarkable individuals who've left an indelible mark on the town. One such notable figure is Fred Kimball, who played a key role in assisting refugee slaves on the Underground Railroad. His selfless actions left a lasting legacy in the community.

Additionally, early settlers like Lee Emerson made significant contributions to the town's development. These pioneers not only established public schools but also found wigwams, a testament to the area's Indigenous past. The presence of legal professionals who'd a profound impact on the town also highlights the diverse array of individuals who've shaped Barton.

These notable figures and their legacies are integral to understanding the full extent of Barton's history. From assisting escapees on the Underground Railroad to pioneering educational infrastructure, their collective achievements continue to leave an enduring imprint on the town.

Conclusion

Barton, Vermont's rich history is a testament to its residents' resilience and community spirit. From its early settlers to its present-day vibrancy, the town has weathered natural disasters, human conflicts, and economic shifts.

Today, Barton's diverse industries, educational institutions, and community events continue to shape its cultural legacy, making it a unique and thriving town in the heart of Vermont.

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