- Granted: 1780, to Capt. Uriah Seymour, Abraham Sedgwick and associates.
- Chartered: 1781
- Government organized: 1805
- Original name: Westford (There is a town by that name in the Chittenden County.)
- First settled: ca. 1797, by people from Connecticut
- First public road: 1852
- Willoughby Lake lies in Westmore
- There was a sawmill and gristmill operating in 1804. It was abandoned during the year 1812, resettled around 1830.
- The town government was reorganized in 1833.
- Settlement has always been limited by the mountainous landscape. Population 306 in 2003.
- Alonzo Bemis and company built the Lake House hotel at the southern end of the lake in 1852. Peter Gilman built a hotel for travelers on the eastern side of the lake not long afterward.
- Soon after Gilman built the hotel, a small village arose on the east side near the mouth of the mill brook- The brook provided power for the sawmill, bobbin factory, scythe stone factory, and clapboard and shingle machine.
From the Vermont Historical Gazetteer, edited by Abby Maria Hemenway. Orleans County – Westmore Chapter: By Calvin Gibson and Alpha Allyn . Published by Claremont Manufacturing Co, 1877. Pgs 365-373.
This township is situated in the S. E. part of Orleans County and lies principally on the Eastern range of the Green Mountains. The surface is generally moderately uneven and some hilly and there are some pretty high peaks of the Green Mountains in this town.
The soil is generally very good and well adapted to agricultural purposes. Lake Willoughby lies in this town. It is five miles long and about one half-mile wide. It runs north and south and divides the town nearly into two parts. The streams in this town are small, yet sufficient for most mill and manufacturing purposes.
This town was chartered by the authority of the State of Vermont Aug. 17, 1781, and granted to Capt. Uriah Seymour, Abraham Sedgwick and their associates, being 65 persons in all, with the usual reservations and appropriations in Vermont Charters or the grants by the Vermont Legislature. Very few if any of the original grantees or proprietors ever settled on their lands in this town. There is no record of the precise time, nor by whom the first settlement was made. Some six or eight families came to this town from Windsor and Orange counties in the year 1795, and made a settlement, among whom were Jabesh Hunter, Allen Wait, James Lyon, Jeremeel Cummings, Lot F. Woodruff, David Porter and Abel Bugbee. The town had not been allotted at this time and they settled on such lands as best suited them, and others soon came and made a beginning.
The original grantees or proprietors held a meeting at Ryegate, March 7, 1800 and agreed to survey and allot said town and employed John Johnson to make the allotment and survey and he completed the work the following Spring, as far as the first divisions were concerned. Said proprietors held another meeting at Danville Sept. 17, 1800; received and accepted the allotment and survey as by Mr. Johnson, and made a draft of lots and agreed that those that had settled in said town should have the lots on which they lived; also made an offer to David Porter of 200 acres if he would build the first saw-mill and 200 more if he would build the first grist-mill in said town, which offer was accepted and the mills were built and in good running order in the year 1804.
The population gradually increased by immigration, and, March 19, 1805, the town was organized by electing Jabesh Hunter town clerk and all other town officers. The first freemen’s meeting was holden Sept. 3, 1805. The freemen voted for State officers, but concluded not to elect a representative as it exempted from paying a State tax. The early settlers of this town were a hardy and industrious band of pioneers; they had come a long way into the wilderness to make their homes, perhaps their fortunes; they had to encounter many difficulties, their labors were very onerous and their privations many, but the hope of better times coming cheered them on and enabled them to endure the hardships incident to a pioneer life in the State of Vermont. They were prosperous for a while, the soil was rich and very productive and many of them cleared up large farms; built commodious barns and comfortable dwelling houses for those times and no people made more rapid improvements with so little means and although their faith was firm and their hearts were brave yet they were forced to surrender their new made homes and retreat.
The cold seasons came on, the war broke out between the United States and England. They were surrounded by a howling wilderness a long distance from any other settlement, their number few and scattering, the frosts destroyed their crops, and the fear of the British and hostile Indians on the north still filled their hearts at length with dismay; their courage failed: they held a meeting for consultation to see what it was best to do under their perilous situation. They concluded that their means were insufficient to protect them against an expected and much feared attack of the Indians. They decided to surrender at discretion; they all left very soon for some of the lower and more thickly settled towns in the State. Thus this town was left without any human inhabitants, the mills and most of the buildings that had been erected went to ruin. The town was not again very soon settled. The lands that had been cleared lay common for a long time and the inhabitants of Brownington and Derby annually drove large lots of cattle, horses and mules here to pasture.
About the year 1830, the town again began to be settled. Some went on to the old deserted farms, while others commenced new settlements in various parts of the town. The town was again organized in 1833, David Wilson town clerk and John C. Page representative at the General Assembly that year, being the first representative elected in this town. The population increased very slowly.
There was no public road leading through the town and it appeared to be a back and out of-the-way place, but occasionally there was a newcomer. The towns north and south of this town had become much settled and there was a great demand for a highway leading north and south through this town. There was no practicable route except along the eastern shore of Lake Willoughby and there for several miles the land rose so abruptly from the shore and was so rough and rocky, the town was not able to bear the expense of building a road there. But the demand for the road was so great in 1850, the Court by their commissioners appointed for that purpose, laid out the road and assessed some of the towns north and south to help make it. Peter Gilman of this town took the contract to make the road and completed the same in 1852. The opening of the road made new inducements for settlements. The same year, Alonzo Bemis of Lyndon, and company, built an elegant and commodious public house at the south end of Lake Willoughby, known as the Lake House. It commands a splendid view of the Lake and mountains and the scenery is exceedingly picturesque and romantic; in the summer season the climate is very salubrious and many people resort here for health, pleasure and recreation.
Another Hotel was soon built on the East side of the Lake for the accommodation of the traveling public, by Peter Gilman. A little village soon sprung up on the east side of the Lake near the mouth of mill brook, a small stream that affords a very good water-power.
There is a saw-mill, clapboard and shingle-machine, starch factory and a bobbin factory, and a manufactory of scythe-stones where they manufacture annually large quantities of scythe-stones of a very excellent quality.
There was a Freewill Baptist church organized in this town and Mark A. Amsden was ordained and settled as a minister of the Gospel. There is no meeting house in this town. The meetings are usually held in the school-houses.
There were two Westfords in Vermont for a time; but at length Westford in Orleans county was changed in name to Westmore. The first settlers, the Porters and some others, were from Connecticut. Benj. Varnum and Eber Robinson, Esq., might be called as good honest democrats as Mical Bly, an honest federal smuggler.
About 1818, a Mr. Holt of Holland was shepherd for Robert Ramsey, and took care of about 1000 sheep through the summer in Westmore, putting up sheep-barns. In 1823, Joseph Gray and family, and two sons-in-law, lived in town. The story of there being 18 persons (as Thompson states) in town in 1820, the writer doubts. The present road from Lyndon, past West Burke to Willoughby lake, is much used.
The first settlers of Westmore are thought to have been the most resolute men of any that settled in Orleans County. In 1823, there was to be seen in Westmore some of the largest two story framed barns in the county-and that they could be seen showed signs of a set of brave men. There was a road called the old Westmore County Road. This came up 2 miles past Burke Hollow, towards Newark, past old deacon Wellman’s house then turned westwardly through the corner of Sutton, over the hills from Burke Hollow, down to Willoughby lake, at what was called Mill-brook, heading in Long Pond, and running into said lake. There was a saw-mill, and a plenty of sucker and other fish in the lake.
The County road did not follow the stream down to Brownington and Derby, but followed north-westwardly, through Charleston Centre and west of Echo pond and Seymore [sic] lake in Morgan, past Morgan Four Corners. The first settlements were made from the said mill to Charleston line; and the farms made narrow on said County road, and settled each way from said road. They had another hill road to Brownington, and the settlement of East Brownington was made so as to help Westmore settlement by the influence of Judge Strong of Brownington and old Col. Eaton, one of the first settlers of Westmore, a leading man in town. Beaver-brook headed in the easterly corner of Brownington near Westmore, running a short distance from the water that runs into Clyde river through Toad pond in Charleston. In high water some part of the water ofBeaver-brook runs into Clyde river. The main part of Beaver-brook runs into Willoughby river and Willoughby river into Barton river, and Barton river into Magog Lake: here it joins with the waters of Clyde river. A proper deep ditch on the Winslow land would turn the water of Beaver-brook through Toad pond into Clyde river.
The Passumpsic road was not made here on the straight line to Derby, past West Charleston Village, but the main road from Lyndon past the east side of the lake into the side of the mountain was made by different towns, according to their interest; and this road past West Charleston village to Derby; and after this road was made it was the main stage-road from Lyndon to Derby Line, till the cars came to Barton, and is now called the main road through the town. There is now a road from the outlet of the lake to the south side of Barton mountain, of some importance. There is some excitement about having the road from Barton extended through this town and East Charleston and Brighton, to Island Pond depot. This road, when made, will make a stage-road from theLake House in this town to Island Pond depot, and also make a stage-road from Barton depot to Island Pond depot.
This township was granted Nov. 7, 1780- chartered Aug. 17, 1781-containing 23,040 acres. Willoughby Lake is about 6 miles long and 11/2 miles wide: its waters are discharged by Willoughby river into Barton river. Some of the head branches of the Clyde and Passumpsic rivers rise in this township. The population in 1820 was 18. The settlement began before 1803-probably about1797, the year the land-tax was granted by the State, in Westmore. The first settlement of this township was abandoned about 1813.
Finally Mical Bly, one of the last settlers of East Brownington, a salts maker, moved to Westmore and made many tons of salts of lye. He was an honest man, a federal smuggler of salts. He was rough in his manners and said Tom Jefferson’s mean embargo robbed him of his hard earnings. He had, at different times, had three good wives, and a respectable family of children. He endured the hardships of living in the new settlements of Brownington and Westmore and Charleston. He died in Derby, leaving his third wife a widow. Two of his sons are now residents of Charleston.
The most of the names, of the first settlers, and the history of them is known by the town clerk, and the present settlers of Westmore know the old clearings by the names of the men that cleared them. A part of these are what is known as the old Westmore commons; but a share of these farms are grown up to a second growth of timber. Many acres of fine second growth timber stand where this Mr. Mical Bly and sons, and hired help, made salts-of-lye. This is a good town yet for new settlers, as this township is mostly wild land yet, and the part adjoining Charleston is excellent good land for hominy.