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.

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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. 1 For nearly a century this division remained intact, or until March 12, 1772, When it was divided into three counties, one of which, Charlotte, embraced within its limits the present territory of Addison county. Bounded on the east by the Green mountains, it extended from the Canada line on the north to the Battenkill and the south line of the New York patent of Princetown on the south, and reached westward beyond Lakes George and Champlain. The organization of this extensive county was completed in the summer of 1773, and a full complement of county officers was appointed to manage its affairs. With the organization of the State government of Vermont, however, in March, 1778, Charlotte county was overthrown. Vermont was divided into two counties, Unity on the east, and Bennington on the west side of the Green Mountain range. In 1780 the name of Washington was given to the territory north of the present Bennington county and west of the mountains; but this act of the General Assembly is reported to have been written only on a slip of paper and never recorded; in any event, on February 13, 1781, Rutland county was incorporated, embracing the territory of Washington county. Finally, October 18, 1785, 2 Rutland county was circumscribed to its present limits by the erection of the territory to the north of it into a new county, which was named in honor of Joseph Addison, the English author-the territory of which we write. <BR> As thus constituted, the county included within its limits all of the present counties of Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle and Lamoille, and nine of Orleans and eight of Washington county's towns, while the town of Kingston (now Granville), not included in the original boundaries, was set off from Orange county to Addison by an act passed October 19, 1787. On the 22d of October, 1787, the act incorporating the county of Chittenden was passed, circum-


1 See act of New York Legislature, October I, 1691, in which the boundaries of Albany county are described as follows: "The manor of Rensellaerwick, Schenectady, and al1 the villages and neighborhoods and Christian plantations on the east side of the Hudson River, as far as Roeloffe Jansen's Creek, and on the west side from Sawyer's Creek to the uttermost end of Saraghtoga." Roeloffe Jansen's Creek empties into the Hudson from the east nearly opposite Kaatskill.

2 Dr. Williams and Prof. Thompson, in their respective histories of Vermont, gave the date of the incorporation of Addison county as February 27, 1787, and of Chittenden county (Thompson) October 22, 1782. These errors have been perpetuated in many local works. Of the error in the case of Addison county, Hon. David Read speaks as follows: "They took the revised act of 1787 as the original act of incorporation. As well might they have given the same date to the counties of Bennington, Windham. Windsor, Orange and Rutland. As to Addison, the error which originated with Dr. Williams doubtless arose from the fact that the act of 1785 did not come to his notice; and he mistook the act of 1787 as the first act incorporating Addison county, whereas it simply modified and defined the boundaries more clearly, and reorganized the counties already formed. Mr. Thompson assumed the data of Mr. Williams as correct, and did not discover the mistake until after the publication of his work. The act of 1787 is drawn up without any express reference to pre-existing counties, and purports to divide the State into six counties, three upon the east and three upon the west side of the mountains; whereas all of said counties had been previously chartered."-Hist. Gaz., 1, 464, 465.


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.