The Territory of Addison County in Prehistoric Times -- Its Territory Discovered by White Men -- Subject to Five Different Powers -- Division of the State of Vermont into Counties -- Their Names and Extent -- Errors in Dates -- Extent and Boundaries of the Present Addison County -- Division into Towns -- Beginning of its History -- First Courts.
In the annals of a century and a half, by successive deeds of daring, by bloody forays, by the romance of border warfare, by the conflicts of fleets and armies, the waters and shores of Lake Champlain have been consecrated as the classic ground of America.1 This remark by the writer of a popular historical work applies to the district of territory to the history of a portion of which this work is devoted. For how many years the region of which Addison county forms a part, was a favorite resort of the Aborigines before they were rudely supplanted by the Caucasian, is a mooted question. It has never been answered with any degree of assurance, and probably never will be. But the discovery of the county's territory by the whites certainly dates with the advent of Samuel de Champlain upon the waters which perpetuate his name, in July, 1609, and from this event dates the period of its authentic history.
To five different powers has the county's territory been nominally subject, viz.: The Indian, by right of original possession; the French, by right of discovery; the English, by right of conquest and colonization; Vermont, as an independent republic, from her declaration of independence on January 15, 1777, to her admission into the Union March 4, 1791; and to the United States for the last ninety-four years. It has formed a portion, also, of five different counties. The first, Albany county, was erected by New York in 1683,
1 Watson's Pioneer History of The Champlain Valley.
and included within its limits not only all of the present territory of Vermont, but all that part of Massachusetts lying west of the Connecticut River.
page 15 HISTORY OF ADDISON COUNTY
scribing Addison County to the limits of its present northern bounds, except the township of Starksboro, wllich was annexed by an act passed in 1797. No other changes in its area have been made, except that the town of Warren was set off to Washington county in 1829, and November 13, 1847, the Rutland county town of Orwell was annexed to Addison county.
The county thus occupies a position on the western line of the State, between 40 50' and 44 10' north latitude, and between 3 38' and 4 18' east longitude, and is bounded west by Lake Champlain; north by the towns of Charlotte, Hinesburg and a part of Huntington, in Chittenden; northeast by a part of Huntington, and by Warren and Roxbury, in Washington county; southeast by Braintree, in Orange county, and Rochester in Windsor county; and south by Benson, Sudbury, Brandon and Chittenden, in Rutland county. It is nearly thirty miles long from north to south, and thirty-three miles wide from west to east, and contains an area of about seven hundred square miles, divided into the following townships: Addison, Bridport, Bristol, Cornwall, Ferrisburgh, Goshen, Granville, Hancock, Lincoln, Leicester, Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven, Orwell, Panton, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham, Starksboro, Weybridge, Whiting and Waltham, exclusive of the territory occupied by Vergennes, the only incorporated city in Vermont. The population at the census of 1880 was 24,180.
It was at the dawn of a bright era in our history that Addison county began her corporate existence. It was at a time when the people were beginning to look forward with hope from the dark days of the Revolution; when the joys of peace and freedom were just settling upon their hearths, and trade, finance and agriculture were emerging from the chaos formed by a long and bloody war. The act of incorporation provided everything in its power for the immediate establishment of the machinery of civil government, the towns of Addison and Colchester being made half-shires, and the time for holding courts appointed as follows: "At Addison, the first Tuesday of March, and at Colchester the second Tuesday of November, and that of the Supreme Court on the second Tuesday of August, alternately at Addison and Colchester." The first term of court was held at Addison, on the first Tuesday in March, 1786, with John Strong, of Addison, chief judge, and Gamaliel Painter, of Middlebury, and Ira Allen, of Colchester, side or assistant judges. Court continued to be held there, with the exception of the November term of 1786, which was held at Colchester, till the first of April, 1792, when it was transferred to Middlebury, where all of its sessions have since been held.
Such is a brief reference to the subject of this history -- a locality forming no small factor in the grand total of agricultural wealth, of the energy and enterprise of the commonwealth of Vermont.