History: East Dorset view 1760-1800

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(Editor's note: This column is the first submission of what will be an occasional column on the history of Dorset. If others would like to submit columns on their towns, contact editor Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com.)

In 1760 Vermont was the frontier. The land was claimed by both the colonies of New Hampshire and New York. Motivated by profits and power New Hampshire's Governor Benning Wentworth began issuing grants in 1749 in the uninhabited territory to the west of the Connecticut River.

Dorset was among many that were chartered in 1761. The 6-mile square parcel was Incorporated into a Township by the Name of Dorsett on December 25, 1761.

Sixty four of the grantees of Dorset parcels were listed at the end of the charter although none ever settled in the town. New York suddenly realized there was profit to be made from this lands to the east. In 1765 the first town patented by New York inside "Vermont" was Princetown. Of the irregular shape following the Battenkill Valley its 26,000 acres "overlaid" almost the entire town of Manchester and parts of today's Sunderland and Arlington and the southeast corner of Dorset.

A second planned patent, Chatham, covered most of Wentworth's Dorset although it was never officially granted. However, when tracing back East Dorset land ownership, it is sometimes necessary to search New York records.

Two speculators from New York, James Duane and Major Walter Rutherford came to visit their new possession in 1765. Some relevant excerpts from Duane's journal (his script retained):

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"Several People are beginning their Improvements in our part of Arlington, Sunderland & Manchester-tho theres no Building of value & very little yet cleared. No families were recorded in Dorset."

"From Pownel to Crown Point theres a Road cut. But when it comes to about the Middle of Dorset there's a mountain, which is extremely difficult to pass over with a horse."

On each side of this mountain theres good Land. In or near the North East bounds of Dorset is a large Pond (aka Dorset Pond or Emerald Lake) where theres good fishing; but it is difficult of access. Near this place we suppose is the common source of Batten Kill & Otter Creek, the first emptying itself into Hudson's River at Sarghtoga, the other into Lake Champlain."

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The headwaters of these two rivers begin on the Frost's farm across from from Frost's Well Drilling and Route 7. What is interesting to note is the names of places presumably established before Duane's exploration are still in use today.

The first settler of East Dorset was Zachariah Curtis who arrived in 1769. His land holdings extended a distance of five miles from today's East Dorset Village north up the Route 7 valley.

The D. Curtis Hotel is noted on the 1856 Rice & Harwood map near the entrance to today's Emerald Lake State Park.

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By 1791 when Vermont joined the new American nation as the fourteenth state, marble had been discovered. Isaac Underhill is said to have opened the first marble quarry in 1785 on the eastern slopes of Mount Aeolus, part of the mountain range separating Dorset and East Dorset. The business of quarrying, moving, hauling, finishing and selling marble flourished throughout Dorset.

The early growth and vitality of East Dorset Village is directly connected to the marble industry and the surrounding farms in the valley. The railroad arrived in 1852. The 1869 Beers Atlas locates several mills, a hotel, a train depot, two stores, a lumber operation, a Post Office and two churches among many homes. The village boasted a doctor and an attorney along with many skilled marble mill workers and farmers. During the 1800s, East Dorset Village became the center of industrial activity in Dorset Township. (to be continued).

Pending topics: Marble Industry and its people, Wilson House, Churches, Schools, Tale of Two Stores, Family Connections, Architectural History, RR/Highway/Train Station, Road to Peru, First Kit House.

An application to add East Dorset Village to the State Register of Historic Places is being initiated and coordinated by Dorset Historical Society volunteers and East Dorset residents, Ruth Stewart and Michele Pagan. Many interesting stories about the people, industries, houses, events and history of East Dorset have emerged from the research.

The sources for these articles include the history of Dorset, Dorset. In the shadow of the marble mountain by Tyler Resch, primary documents at the Dorset Historical Society, historic maps, town records, genealogy databases and local interviews. The Manchester Journal is pleased to publish this history of East Dorset.

East Dorset resident, Ruth Stewart is a retired educator, avid birder/naturalist/citizen scientist and long time volunteer for the Dorset Historical Society.


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