Historical Events

Prehistoric Poultney (8,500 B.C – 1761 A.D)

Before the Governor of New Hampshire, Benning Wentworth, approved the land grant that established the township of Poultney on September 21, 1761, the town of Poultney did not exist. The land that now makes up Poultney, however, has been inhabited for almost 10,500 years. The indigenous people who lived here before the arrival of Europeans did not recognize the arbitrary boundaries that separate Poultney from neighboring townships…

Agriculture (1771–1875)

From the History of Poultney: “Prior to 1825, the farms were not large; from 50 to 100 acres seemed to satisfy nearly all, though a few owned a larger quantity. The lands were then cultivated with far less care and labor than now; yet they produced bountifully. The vegetable mould which had been accumulating for ages from the forests recently cut away was sufficient to bring forth any crop in abundance. The farmers raised all their own bread stuffs; and it is not probable that for the first half century after the settlement, any inhabitant of Poultney ever saw a barrel of flour..

Colonial Times to Independence (1761 – 1777)

Poultney was chartered in 1761 when Royal Governor Benning Wentworth, in the name of King George the Third, granted 61 proprietors equal shares in a township six miles square “for the due encouragement of settling a new plantation within Our said Province (of New Hampshire).” Governor Wentworth had made 16 of these “New Hampshire Grants” in what is now Vermont before 1761…

Independent Republic and Early Statehood (1777 – 1800)

After the battles of Hubbardton and Bennington, Poultney citizens returned to their homes. William Ward represented Poultney at the first Vermont General Assembly in March, 1778. At the town meeting of 1780, it was voted to erect a “meeting house” opposite the entrance to the cemetery, which had been established in 1775. This building was used jointly by the Congregationalists and the Baptists, the first Union Church in the State of Vermont…

Melodeon Manufacturing (1849-1869)

In 1856 the town of East Poultney contained one of the largest companies exclusively producing melodeons outside of New York or Boston. The original firm of Ross & West was established in the spring of 1849 by Paul M. Ross (1800-1870) and Elijah West in a brick building formerly used as a blacksmith’s shop. At first they produced only the casework and bellows, having purchased the reed and keyboard actions from Carhart & Needham of New York. They were successful and soon orders outpaced production.

The Rise of the Village and Downtown Poultney

The 19th century saw the emergence of West Poultney as the center of town. The construction of Green Mountain College, Route 30 and later the railroad from Rutland to Albany assured the rise of the village and downtown area.

The last half the 19th century was a period of economic growth for Poultney spearheading a rise in the town’s population from 2,278 in 1860 to 3,664 in 1910…

The Slate Industry

The slate industry transformed Poultney in the last half of the 19th century. An agrarian community populated principally by Yankees became an industrialized town enriched by a diverse group of immigrants. Allegedly, the slate industry was due to an accidental event. According to an old story, around 1843, a farmer was showing his land to a prospective buyer. The buyer kicked at a mound of soil and looked at the rocks he dislodged. He exclaimed to the farmer “Why that is slate!” The farmer then decided not to sell…