Starting a Town
How do you start a town in a place you've never been before? What natural resources are important for a town?
Look at a map of Vermont with lines around the towns. Many of the towns are square or almost square. When the governor of New Hampshire was starting new towns, he gave out square pieces of land. The governor had never been to the new towns before.
Groups of men joined together to get a grant for the new town. They had to pay money to the governor. The founders of the town are called proprietors(someone who owns property). The governor gave them a charter(a paper that lists the rules for owning the land) that told where the town was.
This is how the new town of Bennington was described: the “Tract(area of land) is to Contain Six Miles Square… Beginning at A Crotched(with branches in the shape of a V) Hemlock Tree Marked W: W: Six miles Due North of A White Oak Tree Standing in the Northern Boundary Line of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.”
Bennington was divided into square lots(pieces of land). One lot was set aside for a minister. Another lot was saved for a school. Governor Benning Wentworth kept two lots for himself. The rest of the lots were divided up and distributed to the proprietors. A section in the middle of the town was saved for the town center.
The charter also said that the settlers had to “Plant and Cultivate(take care of crops) Five Acres of Land” in five years. Some settlers followed this rule and started farms. Other proprietors did not. They wanted to sell the land to make money.
Sometimes the lot was good farm land. Sometimes the lot was on the side of a hill or in a swamp. The new owners would not know what their land looked like until they came to the new town.
Thinking About History
Historians ask questions to think deeply about history.
What natural resources did settlers want for their new farms?
What would you do if your land was not good for farming?
Follow the links below to explore related topics.
Does your town have a Lotting Plans posted on the Vermont State Archives website?
Look through Crafts Book of Plans, a book of Lotting Plans for 48 Northeast Kingdom Towns
Watch the video Dartmouth College Land Grant on This Place in History
Copy and paste this citation to show where you did your research.
Vermont Historical Society. "Starting a Town." Vermont History Explorer. Accessed August 3, 2021. https://vermonthistoryexplorer.org/starting-a-town