About Fairfield, VT | founded in 1792
Like much of New England, the Fairfield Vermont community has a history that can be traced back to America’s colonial period. One of the few sources on the founding of Fairfield, Vermont was written by a Fairfield (then, Smithfield) resident by the name of Colonel Samuel Perley. Unfortunately Colonel Perley died before his written history was completed. Colonel Perley had moved from Fairfield to Reading, Massachusetts in July 1865, and died at his new home in March 1866. This version of Colonel Perley’s history was abridged for this web site by David Howe in 2012.
A History of the Town of Fairfield.
By Colonel Samuel Perley
On August 18, 1763, Samuel Hungerford of New Fairfield, Connecticut obtained for himself and 64 associates (Thomas Northrup, Albert Stone amongst others), grants for three townships from New Hampshire's Governor Wentworth for land northeast of Lake Champlain. These grants were chartered by the names of Fairfield, Smithfield and Hungerford. ~ read more history ~
The first meeting of the grantees was held at Fairfield, Connecticut on February 16, 1774, at the house of Gershom Bradley with L. C. Osborn acting moderator. At a subsequent meeting, Samuel Hungerford, Capt. Abraham Gould and Daniel Smith were voted to manage the affairs of the township and warn meetings. It was also agreed that a survey was to be conducted in order to “lay out the township”. At a proprietors' meeting in April, 1774, " Azariel Ward of Wellstown, and David Ives of Goshen, were each paid with a quick-claim deed of one-eighth part of a right, “for their trouble for laying out said township.” On August 22, 1774 another proprietor's' meeting was held and it was agreed that Fairfield township was to be laid out into 78 equal shares. On March 14, 1775, George Burr, John Banks and Stephen Hull, were chosen as the first selectmen, with Benjamin Wynkoop as an additional selectman. The first meeting of the proprietors in the State of Vermont was held at Pawlet on September 5, 1783. That meeting adjourned to Pownal, on September 8th, when it was voted to layout one division of land, containing 160 acres, for each proprietor.
On May 17th (1784?) if was agreed that a 2nd division of 100 acres for each proprietor was to be drawn according to the statute laws of the State of Vermont. Beach Tomlinson, Isaiah Hungerford and Hubbard Barlow, were chosen to carry out this second division of land. Following these meetings, the plan was accepted and recorded as follows:
“Pownal, September 6, 1786 the proprietors voted to accept the plan for the 1st and 2nd division exhibited by Capt. Beach Tomlinson and Hubbard Barlow with a recording of the draw for the 1st and 2nd division lots. One draught should answer for both lots as any number that a proprietor draws shall be the number used for both his lots.”
At a meeting in Pawlet, Vermont on February 13, 1787 a committee was selected to layout roads. At a subsequent meeting in Georgia, Vermont on October 2, 1788, it was voted on and passed that a penny and a half per acre was to be accessed for cutting roads.
It appears that one of the first official meetings held in Fairfield proper was at the “dwelling-house of Hubbard Barlow, in the town of Fairfield, County of Chittenden, State of Vermont, April 3, 1789.”
On Sept. 21, 1789 a proprietor meeting was held and it was agreed that a 3rd division of 50 acres, a 4th division of 140 acres and a 5th division of 4 acre lots in the cedar-swamp was to be laid out.
The purpose of this 5th division was to allow each proprietor his share of cedar and pine for fencing. Immense quantities of can be and have been taken from Cedar Swamp annually during the months when the cedar and pine can be “sledded” (the swamp being impassable at any other time.) This tract of land lies in the westerly part of the town, on a stream called Dead Creek, and many an exciting scene has been enacted among the rail-splitters in this dismal swamp during a much earlier time. Hundreds of miles of fence have been made from the rails of this bog. The stage-road now from St. Albans to Bakersfield passes directly through the marsh, and annual calls for road repair severely tries the patience of the Fairfield taxpayers.
Besides the 5th division, there was also "a town-plot" intended for city-lots. The site is a rocky hill about 2 miles southwest of the present center of the town. “The first building has not yet been erected in the nascent city though three-fourths of a century have elapsed.”
In 1792, Smithfield was, by act of the Vermont Legislature, annexed by Fairfield. With this acquisition Fairfield became the largest township in the state by land area.
The surface of the Fairfield Township is generally very uneven, but mostly susceptible to cultivation. The principal stream is Black Creek, which rises in Fletcher, and entering the town at the southeast corner, after a course of several miles in a northwest direction, enters the Missisquoi in the town of Sheldon. Fairfield River is a small stream, which also has its source in the town of Fletcher, and running north through the center of Fairfield, unites with the Black Creek. Dead Creek is a dark, sluggish stream which rises in the Cedar Swamp described before , and running several miles empties into the outlet of Smithfield pond -- a beautiful sheet of water in the N. W. part of the town, whose outlet runs east into Black Creek.
The first deed of any portion of the new town was given January 29, 1765 by Abraham Davenport of Fairfield, Connecticut to Samuel Hungerford of New Fairfield, Connecticut. There does not appear to have been any permanent settler in Fairfield before Joseph Wheeler, in 1787. John Sunderland and John Mitchell appear to have settled in 1788.
Smithfield Beaden was the first child born here in Fairfield (Smithfield). The proprietors made him a present of 100 acres of land.
Several other proprietors' meetings were held up until 1804, when the proprietory form of government seems to have ended.
An academy building was erected and this Institution was incorporated in 1808. The old Academy, which was among the early academic institutions in Vermont, was quite popular, especially under the administration of Ira Hill, a preceptor. During which time the students numbered from 100 to 150. It was a school for both young men and young ladies. Mr. Hill, we understand, was principal for a number of years. After the departure of Mr. Hill, its history is similar to that of most, if not all institutions in the State. It was not founded on a rock of gold, and its glory waned. It is at present, and has been for the last 23 years, unoccupied as an academy.CLOSE
Points of Interest:
Black Creek Covered Bridge
The East Fairfield Bridge is a small queenpost span that crosses Black Creek in the hamlet of East Fairfield. Built in 1865, it once spanned a mill pond created by a dam built to power a grist mill. The mill building foundations can be seen at the south end of the bridge. The dam, sluice, and foundations of a sawmill are visible just upstream. Above the sawmill the old staging area can still be seen next to the creek. Logs were brought here by teams of horses, then rolled into the creek. The logs were pulled into the mill by drag chain. Toward the Bakersfield town line there was a tub factory—where butter tubs, sugar tubs, and watering troughs were made. The bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Looking west down Main Street in East Fairfield, 1913
Not much has changed in East Fairfield in 100 years. The railroad doesn't pass through here any more and the road is paved now, but the village looks pretty much the same.
President Chester A. Arthur's Birthplace
Some mystery surrounds the early years of Chester Arthur. The most frequently asked question is “Where was he born?” The President Arthur State Historic Site is a 1953 recreation of the second house in which Arthur lived as an infant. The confusion stems from the fact that Arthur himself told people that his birth year was 1830 (it was actually 1829). The building in which he was born was actually a primitive cabin hastily erected in the village of Fairfield. The Baptist Congregation later completed the parsonage where the family moved shortly after the birth of the future president. It was this parsonage, which was reconstructed by the State of Vermont.
The granite monument, dedicated in 1903, is situated on a small plot of land presented to the State of Vermont by P.B.B. Northrop. At that time it was believed this was the location of the birthplace of Chester Arthur. In 1950 the State of Vermont purchased the land around the monument and the present building was recreated in 1953 using as a guide an old photograph of the house which stood on this site.
Old Brick Church
A short distance to the northwest of the Chester A. Arthur State Historic Site stands the North Fairfield Baptist Church. At this site, Rev. William Arthur was called to preach shortly before Chester was born. The present brick church, built circa 1840, replaced the earlier church. This church, which has never had electricity, was donated in 1970 to the State of Vermont, through the efforts of Consuelo Northrop Bailey, by the Vermont Baptist State Convention. The Brick Church is built on a ledgy knoll from which is seen a panoramic view of a classic Vermont mountain range. The Brick Church is often used for memorial services and weddings and is open to the public for viewing during the hours the Historic Site is open.