The town was organized on the 2d of March, 1784, by the election of the following officers: Moderator, Jeremiah Bingham; town clerk, Joel Linsley; selectmen, Samuel Benton, Jeremiah Bingham, Eldad Andrus; treasurer, Hiland Hall; constable, Barzillai Stickney; listers, Nathan Foot, Roswell Post; highway surveyors, Eldad Andrus, Stephen Tambling, William Jones, Isaac Kellogg.
Other officers were from year to year added to the list, such as deer-rifts or reeves, whose duty it was to protect deer from the hunter from the 10th of January to the 10th of June, when their meat would be of no value; branders of horses, tithingmen, choristers, pound-keepers, etc.
Concerning the setting off to Middlebury of a portion of Cornwall in 1796, further particulars will be found in the chapter on the history of Middlebury.
The early settlers of Cornwall were, almost without exception, men who were inclined by nature to pursuits purely agricultural. The fact of their settling in a town so fertile of soil and poor in water power and shipping facilities sufficiently attests that they hoped to gain a livelihood and more from the tilling of the ground. Communities of men are governed as absolutely by the beneficent and yet inflexible laws of nature’s God as are the inanimate and the inorganic elements of creation. Houses must be built and repaired; boots, shoes and harnesses must be used; horses must be shod, and cloth must be woven and made into garments; consequently carpenters and coopers, shoe-makers and tanners, harness-makers and clothiers and blacksmiths are found among the early settlers of Cornwall, distributed in accordance with the convenience of their patrons. The following list of mechanics is taken from the invaluable History of Cornwall, by Rev. Lyman Matthews: Before 1800– clothier, Harvey Bell; tanners and shoemakers, Abijah Davis, Felix Benton, Elisha Field, Stephen Black, Jeremiah Rockwell; shoemakers, Samuel Peck, Thomas Landon, William Jones, Daniel Samson; cooper and manufacturer of fan-mills, Samuel Ingraham; cooper, Elijah Durfee; joiners, Asahel Phelps, Elizur Newell, Jacob Peck, Thomas Pritchard, Davis & Squier, Daniel Richardson, Ambrose Judd, James Walker; saddler and harness-maker, Abiel Rogers; spinning-wheels, Calvin and Luther Tilden; carpenters and joiners, Sanborn Bean, John Mazuzan, Reuben Peck, Cone Andrus.
Between 1800 and 1860 the following mechanics carried on their respective trades, for a longer or shorter period, in town: Blacksmiths, William Hamilton, Edward Hamilton, William Peck, Shubael Ripley, Stephen Holliday, George Walker; tanners and shoemakers, Asa Bond, Julius Delong, Joseph Myers, Mark W. Mazuzan, Daniel Ford, Daniel Vale and ??? Taylor; wheelwrights, William Hamilton, Waterman Sunderland, David Clark; coopers, Jonathan Perry, Philip Warner; tailors, ??? Brown, H. E. Rust; carpenters and joiners, Salmon North, Matthew Wallace, Nathaniel Wallace, Martin Hopkins, Elijah Foot, Calvin Foot, Isaac Miner, Ebenezer Miner, Luther Balcom, George Balcom, Horace A. Pinney, William Baxter, James Piper, P. N. Cobb, E. C. Crane; spinning-wheels, Benjamin Atwood.
The scanty water power afforded by the sluggish Lemon Fair and the other “thunder shower” streams in town has deterred manufacturers from attempting to build mills of much magnitude. A dam once constructed on land now owned by C. R. Witherell was soon abandoned. A saw-mill was also built at an early day on land formerly owned by Garrison W. Foot, now belonging to A. H. Sperry, and Jared Abernathy and Levi Sperry, with both interested in opening it. About fifty rods below this mill David Pratt built and operated a grist-mill; Levi Sperry also ran it for a time. The only other mill ever built in town was on the brook near the residence of Asa Bond in 1860. Luther Tilden here built a saw-mill and operated also a carding-machine for a short time after 1816 or 1817. It frequently changed owners and has never been a pronounced success.
The first merchants in town were Mr. Ballard and Israel C. Jones. Joshua Stockwell, Josiah Austin, Daniel Campbell, Hosea Brooks, Israel C. Mead, Samuel Everts, William H. Remsen, P. W. Collins, Benjamin F. Haskell, Calvin M. Lewis, Ira Bingham, A. C. Wicker, Daniel Sanford, Joel S. Lane, Sylvester B. Rockwell, and the Cornwall Mercantile Company have carried on business at different periods since the beginning of the century. The only store now in town is kept by Fred S. Haskell. The building is owned by his father, Benjamin F. Haskell, grandson of Joshua Stockwell, who built the rear part before 1820 and kept here for a time in company with Daniel Sanford. B. F. Haskell, sr., followed them about 1825 and traded here for forty years, selling out to Hugh G. Bingham. About 1853 B. F. Haskell, sr., moved the building back and erected the front part as it now stands. Then he and B. F., jr., traded in company for about five years. After Hugh Bingham followed Kirk Bingham, Orren Dalrymple, Harvey Taylor, B. F. Wales, and others. Fred S. Haskell began business here in September, 1878.
The most prominent industry in town, and one for which her people are most widely known, is the raising of sheep. Immediately after the importation of Merino sheep from Spain, by Colonel Humphrey, of Connecticut, and later by Consul Jarvis, of Wethersfield, Vt., some of the farmers of Cornwall procured some of the variety for the purpose of improving their flocks. Merrill and A. L. Bingham have been among the foremost of breeders. They began importing French Merinos about 1846. Hon. Rollin J. Jones, who contributes a valuable portion of our general chapter on sheep raising in the county, has been and still is one of the most prominent breeders and dealers in town, Sylvester B. Rockwell being for some time in company with him in introducing the French Merino in the West. M. B. Williamson, H. F. Dean, Rollin Lane, Henry Lane, J. B. and Ira Hamlin, Henry Robbins, C. H. James, John Towle, Arthur Field, B. S. Field, L. W. Peet, W. H. and T. P. D. Matthews, Edgar Sanford and H. E. Sanford are also at present engaged in the industry.