The Southern Kingdom Byway Side Trip

While not a formal part of the recognized Byway, we have developed four side trip itineraries for those looking to extend their travels and venture off the main corridor. They are the Southern Kingdom Side Trip, the Central Kingdom Side Trip, the Northwestern Kingdom Side Trip, and the Northeastern Kingdom Side Trip.

The Southern Kingdom Side Trip is the first of these side trips as you travel south to north. It branches off from St. Johnsbury and goes through Danville, Walden, Cabot, Marshfield, Groton, Ryegate, Barnet and Peacham.

Danville

Danville was chartered in 1786 and has a population of over 2,100.  It was one of the last towns created in CaledoniaCounty.   The town was named for the 18th-century French cartographer Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville. Danville is the birth­place of one of our country’s most noted statesman—Thaddeus Stevens.  General Asa Peabody Blunt was born in Danville, Vermont in 1826 and distinguished himself in the 1862 Civil War battles at Lee’s Mill and Savage’s Station in Virginia.

The town’s first post office opened in 1799 at the village called Danville, often called Danville Green. The second post office opened in North Danville in 1834 and closed in 1906. The next post office opened in 1853 at West Danville. In 1886 an office was opened in the village now known as South Danville. In 1889 the name was changed to Harvey’s Hollow and although the office closed in 1911, the village is still known by the name Harvey’s Hollow. The offices in Danville and West Danville are still open.

The Danville Methodist Game Supper, begun in 1921, is not only the oldest game supper in Vermont, but considered by many to be one of the finest in the region. Once featured in Yankee Magazine’s “Book of Special New England Days,” the game supper takes place on the Thursday before Thanksgiving at the Danville United Methodist Church on the southwest corner of the Green. Meat pies are featured, typically venison, moose, bear, coon, beaver, rabbit, and chicken. The tables groan with side dishes, squash, potato, glazed carrots, green beans, cranberry sauce, coleslaw, and pickles, topped off with dinner rolls, coffee, and homemade dessert pies.

Walden

Walden was chartered in 1781 to Moses Robinson and 64 others.  The population is just over 900.  Walden was named after an officer in General Moses Hazen’s command, who was left in charge of the blockhouse on the Bayley-Hazen Military Road in Walden in the winter of 1779-1780.

Indian Joe was hired by General Jacob Bayley, who was commanding the northern frontier forces, protecting New England from Canada.  Joe was sent out on many dangerous missions with the rangers to guide them on trails unknown to white men.  It is a common belief that Joe was the scout for the original mapping out of the Bayley-Hazen   Military Road.  It closely followed Indian trails in as straight a line as possible, at times going up and down hills, but always going around swamps.   The road work was discontinued before it reached its destination.  Perhaps it was feared if our troops could easily reach Canada by road, it would be just as easy for the British to invade Vermont via the same road.    After the Revolution ended, Indian Joe received a letter of appreciation from General George Washington himself.  He is buried in Oxbow Cemetery, Newbury, next to General Bayley. His monument says “Erected in Memory of Old Joe, the Friendly Indian Guide.”

Early Walden consisted of several small communities including Noyesville which had a store, school, sawmill, blacksmith shop, feather duster shop, a lumber dressing and gristmill, a factory which manufactured potato starch, several dwellings and a Methodist Church built in 1856. Walden Four Corners, in the center of town, was at one time a post village with a store, mill, school and dwellings along the County Road toward North Walden. South Walden included Houston Hill and Taylorville. The Bayley-Hazen Road ran through much of South Walden. The old stage coach inn was located at the crossroads, and there was a school, store, creamery, blacksmith’s shop, several dwellings and the first church built in 1825 as a Christian Union Society Meeting House, now known as the South Walden United Methodist Church. In Taylorville there were a gristmill, a sawmill and a carriage shop. Walden Heights, the townfolks’ name for the area where there was once a railroad station, a store, a school and a post office, is now the location of the fire department, the town clerk’s office and a school.

The first permanent settlement in Walden was that of Nathaniel Perkins, who came from Northfield, N.H., with his wife, Martha, and two children, Jonathan and Betsy, in 1789.  They were the only family here for about three years before others began to arrive.

Cabot

Cabot was chartered in 1780 and has a population of over 1400.  The town was named by settler Lyman Hitchcock for his intended bride, Miss Sophia Cabot.  The town has been successively part of the Vermont counties of Cumberland, Orange, Caledonia and, since 1855, Washington.  It contains the unincorporated villages of Cabot Village, Cabot Plains, South Cabot, East Cabot, Molly’s Pond, and Lower Cabot.

The first Cabot settler was Benjamin Webster, an uncle of Daniel Webster. In 1783 Webster made a little clearing and built a log cabin on the Bayley-Hazen Road near what is now the Walden line. In March the family snowshoed in from New Hampshire on a hand sled with the baby daughter riding in a wooden washtub.

Other settlers soon followed and by 1787 the town government was organized. They voted to build a school house but times were hard and the school house was not built until 1792 at a cost of $35 in wheat and $5 in cash, nails or glass.

Dr. Gersham Beardsley and his brother Horace of Massachusetts built the Yellow House, a  famous tavern. The Yellow House became a favorite stopping place for travelers. It was torn down in 1855, but the hinges and front latch were retrieved and are now on display in the Cabot Historical Society.

Thomas Lyford built an up-and-down sawmill in 1789 using the Winooski River for water power. Others saw the advantages of water power and set up businesses including a wool-carding and cloth dressing shop, a starch factory, carriage shop, blacksmith shop and small foundry.

As new settlements developed, the town grew and at one time there were 14 school districts.

In 1893, F.A. Messer built a creamery in Cabot Village to manufacture milk into butter.  In 1919 a group of 94 farmers bought the creamery and established the Cabot Farmers Creamery Co. Inc.  Cabot Creamery is now well known for making award winning cheddar cheese and the factory is open for tours.

Marshfield

Marshfield was chartered in 1782 and has a population of over 1,500.  It was named for Isaac Marsh, one year before Vermont became the 14th state to join the United States of America.   The Abenaki were the aboriginal inhabitants of the land that came to be known as Marshfield.  The forced northern retreat of the Abenaki opened the area to settlement by English families from southern New England.  Originally, there were only 172 people in 20 families when the first Marshfield town meeting was organized in 1800. The land’s primary resource was the trees, and the old-growth rock-laden forests were cleared for farmland, fuelwood, potash and lumber.

The Winooski River derives from the Abenaki word, Winooski, meaning ‘onion place’, and the river was known in the earliest days of settlement as the OnionRiver. In the early 19th century, the village center was where the stagecoach roads to Cabot, Danville, and Montpelier converged with the small industries along the Winooski River. A network of roads linked the widely dispersed farms to water-powered grist, saw and wool mills in the village center. Today the course of the river, the floodplain and the natural communities are resources protected by the Marshfield Town Plan.

Marshfield developed into a rural agricultural community by the 19th century and was once home to many small family farms. In 1836, there were over 5,000 sheep on Marshfield farms. In the 1840s farms produced bushels of wheat, barley, oats, rye, buckwheat, corn, and potatoes, as well as hay, wool and maple sugar. A typical livestock inventory in the1850s included sheep, cattle, dairy cows, hogs, oxen, horses and hens. Additional farm products included cheese, apples and honey. Many significant barns were built for livestock and several have survived into the 21st century.  Though there are still many active farms in the area, farming has steadily declined over the years.

The later 19th century also saw the development of churches, one room schoolhouses, civic organizations, and the building of the bandstand on the town common.  Wood or brick houses were built in a variety of architectural styles including Federal, Greek Revival, and French Second Empire. MarshfieldVillage still has many historic houses, stores and churches that retain their historic architectural character. The Martin Covered Bridge, built in 1890, is currently undergoing restoration.  In 1873, the Montpelier and Wells River Railroad reached the WinooskiValley and a station was built on Depot Road near the village.

Today Marshfield remains a small, rural community characterized by a diverse population as well as a rich history still evident in a stroll around the village.   Marshfield is also home to many recreational opportunities and is bordered by the Groton State Forest.

Groton

Groton was chartered in 1789 and has a population of just over 1,000.   It was most likely named for either Groton, MA or Groton, CT,  both of which are named for Groton, Suffolk, England (home of the first Governor of Massachusetts and two Connecticut Governors). It’s most famous resident is William Scott, a Union Army soldier during the American Civil War.  He was the “Sleeping Sentinel” who was pardoned by Abraham Lincoln and memorialized by a poem and then a 1914 silent film.

As early as 1704, Native Americans and the French were using routes through Groton to reach Canada and Massachusetts. Colonists settled this area of Vermont slightly earlier than the rest of the State through the accessible network of waterways.

The rocky, tree covered hillsides were originally cloaked with white pine, spruce, hemlock, beech, maple and birch. These were logged by local farmers for lumber, fuel and potash. The logging industry was large-scale for almost 100 years while the railroad was operating. Today, logging is still a vital industry in the area, but has lost some of its dominance in favor of modern society’s leisure time movement – private cottages/seasonal homes and a variety of outdoor recreation activities.

The biggest attractions in Groton are the Groton State Forest which offers year round recreation including hiking, fishing, beachgoing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing.  Groton State Forest is the second largest state forest in Vermont with over 26,000 acres to explore.

Ryegate

Ryegate was chartered in 1763 and has a population of over 1,100.  One of the New Hampshire grants, it was chartered by Governor Benning Wentworth and granted to Richard Jenness and 93 others. It was named Ryegate, for the town of Reigate in Surrey, England.   Connected in 1847 to the Connecticut & Passumpsic Rivers Railroad, the town by 1859 was noted for producing butter and leather. Wells River supplied water power for one gristmill and five sawmills. In 1873, the Montpelier & Wells River Railroad was completed. In 1890, a big brickyard opened; then in 1906, the Ryegate Paper Company began operation. But the town’s dominant industry was six granite quarries at Blue Mountain.

Ryegate is known by some for a uniquely named pond.  South of Ryegate Corner, just off the route of the Bayley-Hazen Military Road is Ticklenaked Pond. Various explanations for this odd and humorous name have been offered; the late Dr. John C. Huden, who spent most of his life studying place-names derived from Indian words, said it may be a modified Delaware Indian word meaning “beaver kittens here.”

Barnet

Barnet was chartered in 1763 and has a population of just over 1,700.  The town originally took its name from the town of Barnet, England, which in the eighteenth century was in the county of Hertfordshire but is now part of North London. In September 1763, the town of Barnet received its charter from the royal governor of New Hampshire, Benning Wentworth.

The first European descendants to work the land and stay in Barnet were three brothers, Daniel, Jacob, and Elijah Hall, along with Jonathan Fowler. Their homestead was built along the Connecticut River and to the north near McIndoe Falls. Elijah Hall built the first house in CaledoniaCounty in Barnet, near the base of StevensFalls. Colonel Alexander Harvey came from Dundee, Scotland for those in the town who wished to find new land in the American colonies. Despite losing contact with almost all of them after the American Revolution broke out, he decided to stay, claiming 7,000 acres of land and a lake, now known as Harvey’s Lake.

Two governors of the state of Vermont were from Barnet: Erastus Fairbanks, who served two terms from 1852–1853 and 1860–1861, and his son, Horace Fairbanks, who served from 1876 to 1878. Horace Fairbanks is also known for manufacturing the first platform scale.

Ocean explorer and SCUBA inventor Jacques Cousteau had influential experiences on Harvey’s Lake as a young boy in the early 1920′s. While attending a summer camp he experimented with staying underwater by breathing through hollow reeds found in the lake shallows. Though he could not yet swim well, this allowed him to stay underwater for extended periods.

In addition to Harvey’s Lake, Barnet is also known as the home of a Buddhist teaching center.   In 1970, upon his arrival in North America, Chogyam Trungpa established the teaching center “Tail of the Tiger” (now called Karmê Chöling).

Peacham

Peacham was chartered in 1763 and has a population of just over 700.   There are actually four possibilities as to how the town was named:  1. A misspelling of the name of Meecham, one of the grantees. 2.  For the author Henry Peacham. His book, The Compleat Gentleman, was reprinted several times and widely read in the Colonies.  3.  After one of two villages in Kent, England: Peckham and West Peckham (pronounced “Peacham”).

In 1775, settlers, mainly from Connecticut and Massachusetts, bought lots and built homes, developing the land for agriculture.  Nine years later, records show a population of approximately 200 people. The first recorded town meeting took place in 1784. Peacham was early on presented with a choice of having either the county courthouse or the county school and the residents voted for the school.  In 1795 the Caledonia County Grammar School received its charter, and the first school was established in a log structure on the Bayley   Hazen Road, halfway between Peacham Corner and South Peacham.

A congregational church was founded in 1794 – the first pastor, Leonard Worcester, was well known for his fiery sermons. His son, Samuel Worcester, later went on to be an important missionary to the Cherokee, creating a Cherokee alphabet and gaining lasting fame as the plaintiff in the supreme court case Worcester v. Georgia.

Early residents, who came to be known as Peachamites, traded butter, eggs, and wheat for goods which they could not make at home, and also relied on cash crops such as whiskey and potash to help augment the relatively poor harvests. Almost from the beginning various trades and industries flourished. Lumbering, coopering, milling, butter making, tin ware, tanneries and leather goods provided goods for local consumption. From 1800 to 1830, sheep farming flourished as a more profitable endeavor than growing crops. In 1840, the town reached its greatest population of 1,443. From that date on, census numbers steadily declined. Farming methods changed and dairy farming came to replace sheep. Even the larger more advanced farms of the late 1800′s could not support the large families, and youth began to leave home.

In the 20th century, the population continued to decline to a low in the mid 600s. Farming also became less common due to competition with larger dairy farms in the West, and many farms either consolidated or went under. Tourism became important during the 1900s as people opened their homes to visitors.  With the advent of the railroad in Barnet and then motor vehicles, Peacham became a popular location for summer residents, some of whom were educators’ from Boston and New York. In the second half of the 20th century Peacham became a popular vacation spot and retirement home for prominent intellectuals and liberal thinkers – individuals like David Dellinger, William Lederer, Roman Jakobson, and the historian Shepard Clough all owned houses in town. Their interests and stimulation enhanced the cultural interests of the town.

It has been said that Peacham is the most photographed town in New England. In its September 2005 issue, Yankee Magazine designated Peacham as the best village in New England. “Of all the villages in New England, Peacham is unsurpassed.”