The First Settlement
of Pawlet, Vermont
Originally Part of New Hampshire Colony
The town was granted to Jonathan Willard
and sixty-seven others by Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire,
in a charter bearing date August 26, 1761. It was substantially a
free gift, being coupled only with the following easy conditions, to
wit: "That each proprietor should plant and cultivate five
acres for each fifty acres he may hold within five years from the date
of the charter on penalty of forfeiture of his right. That before
any division of Land was made among the grantees a tract of sixty-eight
acres for town lots, as near the centre of the town as possible, should
be reserved, and one acre should be allotted to each grantee; the rent
of which should be one ear of Indian corn annually at Christmas.
After the expiration of ten years each proprietor was to pay the Crown
one shilling, proclamation money, annually, for each hundred acres he
might hold, or in that proportion, forever."
The following reservations were also
made: "To his Excellency Benning Wentworth a tract of land
containing five hundred acres, marked B. W. in the plan; one share for
the incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreigh
Parts; one share for a Glebe for the Church of England; one share for
the first settled Minister of the Gospel, and one share for the benefit
of schools in said town."
Also there was a provision that all white
and other pine trees suitable for "masting the Royal Navy"
should be reserved for that use.
The revolution which took place soon
after the settlement of the town nullified all these provisions of the
charter, but did not have the effect to deprive the grantees of their
But few of the grantees ever settled in
town or even visited it. Jonathan Willard came here in 1761 or
1762 and made some clearings. The proprietors in 1768 donate
fifty acres to Simon Burton as first settler, and thirty acres to
William Fairfield second settler, and twenty acres to ____________ as
third settler. The earliest records now known bear date July 29,
1768, but they refer to prior records. At that meeting Reuben
Harmon was moderator and Simon Burton, clerk. The first allotment
of land was fifty acres to each proprietor. This was followed in a
few years by another and still another allotment until all desirable
land was appropriated. There seems to have been no regular system
of surveys, hence a great many gores and parcels were left out to be
afterwards appropriated by him who should first locate them. We
find no record of the location of the sixty-eight town lots.
The peculiar circumstances attending the
settlement and proprietorship of the town gave rise to a class of
speculators or land-jobbers, who buying of the original grantees, many
times for a nominal sum, sold out to actual settlers at a heavy
advance. In fact the wild lands in this town cost the settler an
immoderate price, which being bought mostly on time weighed heavily
against the prosperity of the town for many years. The average
price was about ten dollars per acre, but in some instances thirty
dollars were paid. We must bear in mind that money was not then
plentiful and was worth three times as much as at the present time
(1867). A large share of the town was settled in forty acre lots.
The troubles in New York was another
hindrance to the settlement of the town. As there were double
claimants to the title to the soil timid buyers hesitated to invest.
In 1770 there were but nine families in town and the progress of
settlement was slow until after Burgoyne was defeated at Saratoga, and
what was left of the British forces were driven south of the Hudson.
This together with the resolute stand taken by Ethan
Allen in withstanding the claims of New York encouraged settlement
and the town rapidly filled up. Many soldiers of the revolution who
in the course of their service had visited the town, were so pleased with
it, that on their release from the army they came directly here.
Source: Pawlet One Hundred Years by
Hiel Hollister 1867, J. Munsell, Albany, NY.