The Poultney Area Jewish Community

Organized in 1870 by the Jewish families in the area, Poultney’s community was composed of merchants, tailors and pack peddlers from Poultney, Granville, Middle Granville and Fair Haven.

As more and more people arrived from Eastern Europe, some were advised to seek their fortunes in the country. At that time the area had many small isolated farms in the back country, which is now overgrown with bush and trees. Then, open fields and clean fence lines covered our hills, brushy fields and over grown fence lines were the sign of a poor farmer. “Homely as a hedge row fence” was not only applied to the unfortunate maidens.

To these isolated farms, the peddler, whether on foot or wagon, brought merchandise to those who could not easily get to town to shop. They also brought news of the area to those who lived lives remote from the beaten path.

Here there was a ready market and the Jews were encouraged to come here because Mr. Mannes, who occupied the store at 84 Main Street in the West Village, was in the position to supply them with the merchandise for their packs from his store. He, of course, could order from metropolitan areas via the new rail road to replenish his supply.

There were five or six Jewish families here during the War Between the States but the community was not formed until 1870 with State incorporation in 1875. Solomon Cane came into possession of the Pine Tree House* which was used as a meeting place because of its unique position to the points of the compass. A second floor room on the east end was used for services.

The peddlers would arrive for Sabbath services on Friday evening, remain through Saturday which was their day of rest, and leave Saturday night with their religious obligations satisfied “their packs full for their route” returning the following evening.

When the men could afford to settle down, marry and open a shop, it was to the larger towns that they migrated and opened their businesses.

In 1876 the first burial was made in the cemetery which they purchased just east of the site of the Union Church and across from the old burial ground on East Main Street (the old road leading from Eagle Tavern to Middletown). The graves are few, but this is an interesting site to visit.

*The Pine Tree House was purchased in 1872 and sold to Solomon Cain 1874 who sold it in 1892 ending the active Jewish community in Poultney and the first such community in Vermont.

Source: Reflections on Poultney’s Past, Vol. 2, Charles L. Parker 1989