Newport, VT

 

Town History:

From the Vermont Historical Gazetteer, edited by Abby Maria Hemenway. Orleans County – Newport Chapter: By D. H. Simonds, Esq. Published by Claremont Manufacturing Co, 1877. Pgs 293-294, 304

 

          The town of Newport is very irregular in its outline, having Canada on the N., Lake Memphremagog, Coventry and Irasburgh on the E., Irasburgh and Lowell on the S., and Troy on the W. Its greatest length, from north to south, is nearly 12 miles, and its width is from 2 to 7 miles. It extends along the shore of Lake Memphremagog 7 miles- the lake separating it from Derby. A part of the town, including the present village of Newport, formerly belonged to the town of Salem, and was set off from the latter town about the year 1818.

 

          The soil of the town is mostly a gravelly loam, yet clay abounds in some parts, while the point upon which the village is situated is sandy- the surface of the country is hilly, but most of it is fit for cultivation, and, with proper tillage, affords very good crops. Prospect hill, near the village, affords a fine view of the lake and the surrounding country. The prevailing rock is limestone, yet slate ledges are common, and veins of quartz abound in some places.

 

           Some of the quartz is gold-bearing and some good specimens have been obtained, though no attempt has been made to test its value for mining purposes. Copper veins are plenty and would no doubt pay for working. Splendid specimens of argentiferous [sic] galena have been obtained in the north part of the town. The ore is rich, containing by analysis 23 percent of silver. The existence of this mineral was known to the Indians, who were accustomed to melt it and run into bullets for their rifles. An effort is being made to develop this mine, and if the ore is found in large quantities, it will pay richly for working. The timber is the usual variety of this latitude, hard wood interspersed with hemlock ridges. The sandy land where the village now stands was originally covered with a beautiful growth of large pine trees. These were cut down by the first settlers, and many of them burned up as of no value.

 

          Lake Memphremagog, without a sketch of which a history of Newport would hardly be complete. This beautiful lake is 30 miles long and 1 to 4 wide. Two thirds of it lies in Canada, the remainder between the towns of Newport and Derby, and Coventry and Salem. This lake was a famous fishing ground for the Indians, abounding in salmon, trout and masca lunge. The woods on its banks swarmed with the moose, deer and bear besides the smaller animals. Fur-bearing animals, especially the sable, were plenty.

 

          With the approach of civilization the game has nearly all disappeared and the pickerel has driven the trout from the lake, although the masca lunge is still taken in large quantities.

 

          The lake afforded the Indians a mode of easy communication, between Canada and the colonies, during the French and Indian wars. From the St. Lawrence they would come up the St. Francis and Magog rivers in their canoes, though the lake and up Clyde river to Island Pond. Thence it is only 15 miles through the woods to the Connecticut, which was almost the only portage on the route. Frequent war parties passed the and fro over this route, and very often captives and prisoners were taken to Canada. During the old French war, Stark who commanded our forces at the battle of Bennington, was taken prisoner, and afterwards published a map of the country through which he passed. On that map Memphremagog is called by a different and more outlandish name, but I cannot now recall it.

 

          Although the town was not chartered until the year 1803, yet the first house was built in 1793, by Dea. Martin Adams, on the place now owned by Alfred Himes. Mr. Adams came to Newport from St. Johnsbury. He was soon joined by others, so that in 1800 there were , in town, eleven families, viz. John Prouty, Nathaniel Doggett, Abel Parkhurst, Amos Sawyer, Luther Chapin, James C. Adams, Abraham Horton, Nathaniel Horton, Simon Carpenter, Enos Bartlett and Joseph Page, Martin Adams having, in the meantime, removed to Stanstead, where he resided a few years and then returned to Newport.

 

          It is said that these settlers came down the river from Barton, and were induced to locate on the banks of the lake from the fact that the frost had not destroyed the vegetation here, while on the hills around, every thing had been killed by the cold.

 

          Since the forests have been cut down there is, probably, less difference in this respect than formally, yet, at the present time, frequently heavy frosts do not come until October. In the year 1800, there were but 60 acres of cleared land in the town. There were 6 yoke of oxen and no horses. The early settlers obtained much of their food from the lake and forest. Venison and trout, which are now costly luxuries, were then plenty and would hardly command any price at all. Money was almost unknown, but there was little need for it. The men procured, by their own exertions, food for their family, while the women spun and wove wool and flax for clothing.

 

The Name of the Town

          Originally Duncansboro, it was changed to Newport in the fall of 1816, though why it was called Newport we are uninformed. At or about the same time a part of Coventry called Coventry Leg, extending from Coventry proper to the lake, was annexed, as also that part of Salem which lay on the west side of the lake, in which is now situated Newport Village.

 

Schools

          School district No. 1 was organized Nov. 17, 1807. The first school house was built of “hewed timber, six inches thick, 32 feet long, 18 wide” and the sum appropriated for it was “forty dollars to be paid in labor, boards, shingles, nails, glass, etc.”

          June 1, 1818, voted to raise a tax of fifteen dollars fifty cents to be paid into the treasury in the month of January next in grain, for the purpose of building a stone chimney in the school house in district No. 1. A special town meeting was called Feb 23, 1819, to see if the town would accept the chimney. In 1800, however, the sum of $5.00 was voted “for the use of schooling.” In 1801 and 1802, $10.00 were raised for the support of a school, so that it is probable there was some sort of a school held before the school house was built. The present number of school districts, whole and fractional is sixteen.

 

          The first newspaper here was started. May 20, 1803, by Charles C. Spaulding, who was both editor and publisher. It was called the “Newport News.”

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