Among the most interesting animals, with almost human intelligence, which the first settlers of this town found here, were the beavers. They were gathered in villages of their own, in at least two, and possibly more, localities in the town. One was just beyond Saxtons River Village on the road to Westminster West. The first hill one descends in passing out of that village, near the farmhouse recently occupied by Walter W. Barry, has always been known since the town was first inhabited as “Beaver Dam Hill.”
Older residents of the town, as late as 40 years ago, still remembered and gave interesting details of the remains of the large dam built by these industrious workmen. Many indications of the well-constructed houses of these most interesting animals are still to be seen. The dam was on the south side of the road near the foot of the hill, and by its construction the beavers had overflowed the meadow covering about 25 acres. William J. Wright now owns the land. The schoolhouse formerly there, which is now a part of the Barry Dwelling, was always denominated on the town records and elsewhere as the “Beaver Dam Schoolhouse,” and the school district always went by that name.
Another place where the remains of a beaver dam and their houses were visible within the memory of local people living only a few years ago, was upon the Hubbard Davis farm, now owned and occupied by A. Waldo Coolidge, located on high ground about two miles northeast of Saxtons River Village. This pond made by these first hydraulic architects was not as large as the one mentioned, being of only about an acre in size. It was located about 200 rods north of the farm buildings now owned by Mr. Coolidge. The signs of their work have remained longer, and more clearly visible here, than at Beaver Dam Hill.
A much larger pond than either of these, made wholly by the work of beavers, was upon the New Hampshire side of the Connecticut, ten miles north of here and about three miles north of Charlestown Railroad Station. The railroad passes through the great meadow, which was once flooded, and the place has always been known to railroad men and others as “Beaver Meadow.” The dam was on the brook that flows through the meadow, and located within a few rods of the bank of the Connecticut River. The entire meadow of many acres was overflowed, making a sizeable lake, around which the cunning workers had built their curious two-story houses, formerly observed by the river-men in passing up and down the river by boats or rafts.
The nature of these animals was shy and retiring. As soon as man inhabited the vicinity, they retreated, like the Indian, from the haunts of civilization. The south part of the two states being settled first, the animals were found much later in the northern sections.
Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.