Nestled in the rolling hills of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom lies the charming village of Peacham. This picturesque rural town, known for its photogenic landscapes and spectacular views of the White Mountains (especially from nearby Danville), has a fascinating history and plenty for visitors to explore.
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The Origins of Peacham
Peacham was first chartered in 1763 by Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire, who controlled the land grants for Vermont at the time. The town’s fanciful name likely comes from the character Polly Peachum in the popular 18th-century opera The Beggar’s Opera.
The first settlers arrived in Peacham in 1774 after the end of the French and Indian War opened up new lands to the west. These intrepid pioneers came from towns along the Connecticut River like Newbury, Barnet, and Ryegate to stake their claim on the fertile soils and abundant natural resources of the area.
Early residents, known as “Peachamites,” scraped out a living through subsistence farming and producing potash, whiskey, leather goods, lumber, and more for trade. The town flourished in the early 19th century with over 1,400 residents, but the population steadily declined over the next century as Vermont’s agriculture shifted and young people moved away.
Things to Do in Peacham
Though small in size, Peacham offers numerous ways to experience its natural splendor and small town charm:
- Hike to the summit of Cow Hill – At 2,566 feet, it’s the highest point in Peacham and offers panoramic vistas.
- Paddle Peacham Pond – Rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard and spend the day on this idyllic 331-acre pond.
- Browse the Peacham Library – Founded in 1810, this historic library hosts 9,200 volumes.
- Attend the Peacham Acoustic Music Festival – Every August, musicians converge for tunes in the hills.
- Check out the Peacham Bog – Walk the boardwalks and look for unique carnivorous plants in this special ecosystem.
- Go stargazing – On clear nights, gaze upward at the brilliant dark skies above Peacham.
Peacham’s Peaceful Peace of Mind
With its rolling pastures, unspoiled natural areas, and charming village center, it’s easy to see why Peacham charms residents and visitors alike. The rich history and heritage of this special corner of Vermont shines through and makes the town a wonderful place to get away from it all.
So come breathe in the fresh mountain air, unwind on a hillside, and experience Peacham’s peaceful pace of life. You’ll soon see why Peacham was named “Best New England Village” and understand its enduring appeal.
Film Fame – Movies Filmed in and Around Peacham
This picturesque New England town has served as the backdrop for several major motion pictures over the years. Some of the movies filmed in and around Peacham include:
Ethan Frome (1993) – Peacham filled in as the fictional New England town of Starkfield for this adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel. Various Peacham homes and buildings can be seen in the movie.
Where the Rivers Flow North (1993) – This period drama starring Rip Torn featured scenes shot around Peacham and Walden. The movie was set in 1927 in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.
A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987) – Based on Stephen King’s novel Salem’s Lot, this American vampire film was co-written and directed by Larry Cohen and starring Michael Moriarty, Andrew Duggan, Samuel Fuller, Evelyn Keyes, and June Havoc. Filming took place in Vermont in St. Johnsbury, as well as Newbury and Peacham, in the fall of 1986
The Spitfire Grill (1996) is another film that was shot in and around Peacham, Vermont
The Spitfire Grill starred Alison Elliott, Marcia Gay Harden, and Ellen Burstyn and was directed by Lee David Zlotoff. It’s the story of a woman who moves to a small fictional New England town called Gilead, Vermont and works at the local Spitfire Grill. While set in the fictional Gilead, most of the movie was filmed in Peacham.
Locals were cast as extras. Various Peacham landmarks can be seen in the film like the Congregational Church, the general store, and village homes. The production crew transformed parts of Peacham like painting the church and homes to better match the movie’s autumn setting. The movie won the Audience Award at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival.
After the movie’s success, the actual Peacham Cafe was renamed The Spitfire Grill and movie-themed meals were added to the menu. Despite the name, there wasn’t an actual Spitfire Grill eatery in Peacham prior to the movie. The film made the fictional eatery famous.
So in addition to being the backdrop for Funny Farm, Ethan Frome, and other films, little Peacham, Vermont can also boast about being the setting for The Spitfire Grill’s fictional Gilead. It just shows how perfectly Peacham captures the Vermont small town aesthetic.
Historic Sites in Peacham
Peacham contains several historic buildings and sites that provide a window into the town’s past:
- Peacham Corner Historic District – This area encompasses the original 1774 settlement as well as many well-preserved 18th and 19th century homes, shops, and buildings. Walking tours are available.
- Bayley-Hazen Military Road – Constructed in 1776, sections of this Revolutionary War military road still exist as trails, including a portion in Peacham.
- Peacham Caledonia County Grammar School – Chartered in 1795, the original school building burned down but was reconstructed in 1957 on the historic site.
- Congregational Church – Built in 1839 in the Greek Revival architectural style. The church’s founding pastor Leonard Worcester was famous for his fiery sermons.
Four Classic New England Seasons
Peacham dazzles year-round with quintessential New England scenery:
- Spring – Watch the maple sap buckets fill as sugaring season arrives. Wildflowers like trillium bloom in the woodlands and frogs start singing again.
- Summer – Warm sunny days are perfect for swimming, boating, fishing, and hiking Peacham’s hills and trails. Area farms produce berries, vegetables, and more.
- Fall – The Green and White Mountains glow red, orange, and yellow during the spectacular fall foliage season. Sample apples and pumpkins at harvest festivals.
- Winter – Snow blankets Peacham in serene white. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating on local ponds become popular pastimes.
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Peacham’s Natural Abundance
In addition to Peacham Pond, the area contains abundant natural beauty:
- Peacham Bog – A unique ecosystem home to rare plants like pitcher plants, sundews, orchids, and bog rosemary.
- Devil’s Hill – Provides panoramic views from its rugged 1,980 foot summit.
- Groton State Forest – Over 20,000 acres of protected forests surround Peacham and offer hiking, camping, and more.
- Wildlife – Deer, black bear, bobcat, moose, foxes, and over 100 bird species inhabit Peacham’s forests and fields.
Small Town Vermont Living
Peacham’s small town way of life harkens back to simpler times:
- Friendly neighbors wave from front porches as you walk by
- Stargaze on a clear night – no light pollution here!
- Attend old-fashioned block parties, potlucks, and town fairs
Peacham residents cherish community, nature, and their shared history. Residents and visitors alike can easily feel at home in this special place in the Northeast Kingdom.
Dowsing and Water Witching in Nearby Danville
The American Society of Dowsers, founded in 1961, is located in Danville, Vermont about 10 miles north of Peacham. Dowsing refers to the practice of using a Y-shaped rod or pendulum to locate underground water, metals, or other hidden objects. This technique is sometimes referred to as “water witching” or “divining.”
The Vermont chapter of the American Society of Dowsers hosts an annual convention in Danville that draws hundreds of attendees. Dowsers come to learn, share stories, and demonstrate their skills.
Dowsing practitioners walk the landscape holding their Y-rods horizontally. When passing over an underground stream or other target, the rod will dip or cross to indicate a find. Skeptics claim dowsing depends on the ideomotor effect, where subtle body movements produce the rod movements. Believers say it amplifies the innate human ability to detect unseen phenomena.
The technique has been used for centuries to locate wells and water sources. Dowsing is still used today by water witchers, miners, archaeologists and others searching for what lies below ground, though its efficacy remains controversial.
The quaint town of Danville embraces its dowsing heritage. Murals painted on local buildings depict the practice. Each summer, dowsers flock to the green hills of Vermont to learn, practice, and witness the mysteries of this age-old divining tradition.
Why Visit Peacham and Danville?
Nestled in Vermont’s rural Northeast Kingdom, Peacham and Danville offer an authentic glimpse of classic small town New England life. The beautiful rolling hills, ponds, and working farms fulfill any idyllic countryside dreams.
Outdoor lovers can hike the hills, paddle the ponds, and bike the backroads. In winter, glide across glistening snowy fields on cross-country skis. Stop by a farmstand for just-picked produce or shop at the nostalgic general store.
History buffs will appreciate the well-preserved historic homes and sites that tell the story of early settlers and Revolutionary era soldiers who passed through. Attend a quilt show, craft fair, or musical performance and experience rural Vermont culture.
While here, be sure to chat with the friendly locals who love sharing the tales of their home. Discover why these charming villages captivated prominent artists, authors, and intellectuals who once made Peacham and Danville their refuge.
With an easygoing pace of life and community spirit, Peacham and Danville offer a taste of quintessential small town New England living at its finest. Meandering down a country road, it’s easy to feel the restorative power of this special region. For a rejuvenating getaway or a glimpse into rural heritage, visiting Peacham and Danville is sure to delight.