Geographic Features of Lamoille

Lamoille county, as now constituted, once formed a part of the original counties of Albany, Charlotte, Bennington, Rutland, Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, Orleans, and Washington. The old Dutch county of Albany, with Albany, N. Y., as its capitol, extended north to the Province line. During the controversy between New York and the New Hampshire grantees, numerous writs of ejectment, executions, and other legal processes were issued out of, and made returnable to the courts at Albany, and were served, or at least were attempted to be served, by the sheriffs of that place. On March 12, 1772, New York, in order “that offenders may be brought to justice, and creditors may recover their just dues,” proceeded to set off from Albany, and erect a new county, called Charlotte, on the western side of the mountains. Skeensboro, now Whitehall, N. Y., was made the shire town, and Philip Skeene appointed chief judge of the court of common pleas. After the organization of the State, however, on February 11, 1779, Vermont was divided into two counties, the Green Mountains forming the dividing line, the portion on the east being called Cumberland, and that on the west Bennington county. Each county was divided into two shires, that on the east into Westminster and Newbury, and Bennington and Rutland, on the west. This division remained till the extra session of the legislature, in February, 1781, when the county of Rutland was incorporated from Bennington, and Windsor and Orange counties were incorporated from Cumberland, and the name of Cumberland altered to Windham. Rutland county in turn extended through to the northern line of the State, for a period of four years, eight months, and five days, during which ‘time courts were held at Tinmouth. The State then, on October 18, 1785, dismembered the old county, incorporating from it a new one, called Addison, and made the towns of Addison and Colchester half shires. Chittenden county was then in turn set off from Addison, October 22, 1787, and November 5, 1792, Franklin and Orleans counties were incorporated. In 1834, Nathan Smilie, Isaac Griswold, Nathaniel Read, John Fassett, R. Read, Joseph Waterman, Thomas Waterman, Joshua Sawyer, W. P. Sawyer, Almon Tinker, Joseph Sears, Thomas Taylor, P. G. Camp, and others, petitioned the legislature for a new county, and the bill passed the house, but was laid over in the council. The next year, however, it passed both branches of the legislature, and Lamoille county was incorporated October 26, 1835. It then embraced twelve towns Eden, Hyde Park, Morristown, and Wolcott, from Orleans county; Belvidere, Cambridge, Johnson, Sterling, and Waterville, from Franklin county; Elmore and Stowe, from Washington county; and Mansfield, from Chittenden county. In 1848, Mansfield was annexed to Stowe, and in 1855, Sterling was divided between Johnson, Morristown, and Stowe, leaving the county with but ten towns.

Lamoille county, next to Grand Isle the smallest in the State, lies north of the central part of the same, between latitude 44° 24′, and 44 46′, and longitude 4° 7′, and 4° 34′, bounded north by Franklin and Orleans counties, east by portions of Orange, Caledonia, and Washington counties, south by Washington county, and west by Franklin and Chittenden counties. Its extent from north to south is about 27 miles, and nearly the same from east to west, thus giving it an area of about 420 square miles, or 268,800 acres, which contains a population of 12,684.

In surface it is varied by all the charms of nature, from towering cloud-capped mountains to the sylvan dales and silvery lakelets that adorn its nestling valleys. Turn which way you will, the lover of the beautiful in nature cannot fail to meet with that which will both charm and captive the senses. Upon the north and west rise Mansfield, Sterling, and White-face mountains in their splendor. Upon the south and east are Hog-back and Elmore mountains, while between them extend broad intervals of excellent farming land.

Mount Mansfield, consisting of three distinct peaks, lies in the southern part of Cambridge, extending also into the towns of Underhill and Stowe. Its summit, 4,389 feet above tide water, is the highest point of land in the State. The name Mansfield is derived from the contour resemblance of the mountain to the face of a human being, the three peaks being designated as the Chin, the Nose, and the Lips. The Chin furnishes one of the grandest and most extensive views in New England. Standing upon its summit in a clear day, the observer looks down upon the country extending from the base of the mountain to Lake Champlain as he would upon a map, aid beholds in the outspread panorama an agreeable diversity of hills and villages, forests and cultivated fields, villages and streams of water. Further along in the picture may be seen Lake Champlain, which at intervals is observed, far to the north and south, peering out in the blue distance like inlaid masses of highly polished silver, to give light and beauty to the scene. The valley of the lake may be traced its entire length, beyond which arise the majestic and picturesque Adirondacks, which give a romantic beauty to the background of the picture, and terminate the vision in that direction by their numerous pointed summits. Turning to the east, the wavy line of the horizon is broken by the sharp outlines of the White Mountains, which rise up in the dim distance sixty miles off, and form a marked feature in the landscape, while the intervening space is filled with innumerable summits of hills and mountains, with deep extended valleys, showing the location and courses of the Connecticut, Winooski and Lamoille, and their numerous tributaries. To the north can be seen the wide-spread valley of the St. Lawrence, and by the aid of a glass in a clear day steamers may be seen gliding upon its waters. The well-known figure of Montreal mountain, from which Cartier first looked upon the mountains of Vermont, rises in the hazy distance.

Sterling Mountain is about four miles northeast from the chin, in the township of Morristown. Its altitude is a little less than 4,000 feet, and were it not for the proximity of Mansfield, would doubtless be regarded as one of the favorite resorts for “sight-seeing;” for the same enchanting glories are visible from this peak that meet the eye on Mansfield. Between these two mountains a deep gorge intervenes, known as Smuggler’s Notch, through which, in the early settlement, a bridle road was kept open, and tradition says contraband goods were secreted in and found their way through it; but latterly no one disturbs its solitude, except those seeking an exhibition of nature in her wildest and most romantic haunts.

The country is well watered by numerous ponds and rivers. The Lamoille river forms the principal water-course. It enters in the southeastern part of Wolcott, and receives two streams from Eden-Wild branch and Green river; thence it flows through Morristown, and receives three other streams from the south; and the Gihon, from Eden, empties into the Lamoille, in Johnson, and at Cambridge, Waterville branch on the north, and Brewster river and Seymour branch on the south. It leaves the county in Cambridge, entering Franklin county. In Johnson and Hyde Park are some large intervals, and the stream moves slowly; in Morristown and Wolcott the meadows are small and the stream is swifter. In Johnson there are two falls in the river. Cady’s and Safford falls in Morristown are fine water-powers, and there are many small branches that afford good mill-privileges. Waterbury river and its branches water Stowe, and there leaves the county. Ponds are very numerous. Among the most interesting are Bear Head and Lake of the Clouds, on Mt. Mansfield; Sterling, one mile in length by half a mile in width; Elmore, which lies in Elmore, one mile or more in -length-on one side a neat village, and on the other a craggy mountain; in Belvidere, at the base of Belvidere mountain, a pond a mile and a half in length, and one small pond in the western part of Waterville. In Hyde Park there are twelve ponds, and in Eden there are twenty, large and small.

Geological Features of Lamoille

Nearly the whole county overlies a bed of rocks of the talcose schist formation. In the western part this bed is cut by a range of gneiss which has an average width of about five miles and extends the whole length of the county. In the eastern part there extends a parallel vein of clay slate, bearing a mean width of about one mile. Soapstone is found in Waterville, Johnson, and near Sterling pond. In Wolcott there is an inexhaustible whetstone ledge. Wolcott and Elmore have a large copper-bed which will be, some day, a great place for mining. Ochre is found in Hyde Park and Cambridge, and near Sterling pond. Lead is also said to have been discovered by the Indians in Belvidere. Veins of gold and silver have also been discovered, but not in quantities sufficient to warrant remunerative working.


Child, Hamilton; Gazetteer and business directory of Lamoille and Orleans counties, Vt., for 1883-84; Syracuse, N.Y., H. Child, 1883.

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