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Saint Johnsbury Town

Caledonia County, Vermont

Saint Johnsbury Town Hall is located at 1187 Main Street, St. Johnsbury VT 05819.
Phone: 802‑748‑3926.

Beginnings [1]

The tract of land on the Passumpsic River, that included the present town of Saint Johnsbury and a portion of the towns of Concord and Waterford, was granted by King George III about 1770, to 39 petitioners, under the leadership of John Woods and William Swan.

It was called Dunmore, in honor of the Earl of Dunmore. There is no record that any permanent settlement was made here until 1785, as the authority of King George was not then recognized as paramount in this region. About this time the Honorable Jonathan Arnold of Rhode Island, and his associates, petitioned Governor Thomas Chittenden of Vermont for a grant of unappropriated land, who granted them a charter for a new township November 1, 1786. The name of Saint Johnsbury was given in honor of St. John De Crevecoeur, the French consul at New York, at the suggestion of his friend, Colonel Ethan Allen, a fitting recognition of a true and distinguished friend of America. Among the grantees were the names of Jonathan Arnold, Samuel Stevens, Ira Allen of Irasburg, Joseph Fay of Bennington, the brothers James and John Clark, James Jonathan, and Jonathan Trescott. Allen and Fay were non-residents holding four shares, and Samuel Stevens held 18 rights, or about 5,400 acres, most of which were subsequently transferred to Dr. Arnold and other actual settlers. Arnold received 3,900 acres in his own right at the date of the charter, about one tenth of the original grant.

The area of the town was estimated at more than 29,000 acres. Provision was made in the charter for education and religion, by the reservation of one seventy-first part for the use of a seminary or college, and the same for the use of county grammar schools in the state, also an equal share for the support of an English school or schools in the township, and for the settlement of ministers of the gospel. Provision was also made for the erection of the first grist and saw mills, out of the proceeds of the public land. The reservations of this charter were: "That each proprietor of the township should plant and cultivate five acres of land, and build a house at least 18 feet square on the floor, or have one family settled on each respective right in said township within the time limited by the law of the state. Also that all pine timber suitable for a navy be reserved for the use and benefit of the free men of the state." The penalty was forfeiture of the land.

The settlement of the town was begun in the latter part of 1786, just before the charter was granted. The pioneers were James Martin, J. C. and Jonathan Adams, who located on the valley near the works of the Northern Lumber Co., and Simeon Cole, who settled on the meadows south of the center village. Later, Benjamin Doolittle, Josiah Nichol, Thomas Todd, Jonathan and William Trescott had all obtained rights as actual settlers. The supplies of the little settlement were all obtained from the stores and grist mills of Barnet, at first transported on the shoulders of the pioneers.

The spring of 1787 brought a notable addition, Jonathan Arnold and 16 others. Dr. Arnold was a man of high character and ability, formerly a member of congress, from Rhode Island.

He settled at the head of Saint Johnsbury Plan, and also owned the district now known as Fairbanks village. During the summer of 1787 he erected the first frame house in Saint Johnsbury. The first town meeting was held in this house in 1790, with Jonathan Arnold, moderator and clerk, Jonathan Adams, treasurer, and Joel Roberts, Joseph Lord, and Martin Adams, selectmen.

  1. Jeffrey, William H., Successful Vermonters: A Modern Gazetteer of Caledonia, Essex and Orleans Counties containing An Historical Review of the Several Towns, The Historical Publishing Company, East Burke VT, 1904.