The Northwestern 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 Northwestern Kingdom Side Trip begins in Newport and goes through the towns of Troy, North Troy, Jay, MontgomeryCenter, Lowell and Westfield.

Troy & North Troy

Troy was chartered in 1792 and has a population of over 1,600. Troy contains two villages: the unincorporated village of Troy, and the incorporated village of North Troy.  Troy was chartered as “Missisquoi.” It once produced over 400 tons of cast iron annually. The name was changed to Troy in 1803.

Several families moved into Troy in 1799, and by 1800, a small party of Indians, of whom the chief man was Capt. Susap, joined the colonists, built their camps on the river, and wintered near them. These Indians were represented as being in a necessitous and almost starving condition, which probably arose from the moose and deer (which formerly abounded here) being destroyed by the settlers. Their principal employment was making baskets, birch-bark cups and pails, and other Indian trinkets. They left in the spring and never returned.

Some of the stakes which mark the US/Canada border were made of Troy Iron, smelted in the tiny village of Troy Furnace, so named for the iron smelting furnace built there in the 1830′s to process the ore mined just east of the Missisquoi River. Despite the high quality of the iron, the business was never profitable: several companies failed financially in the effort.

During the 1940’s North Troy was known for hosting winter carnivals, dog sled races, and ski jumping contests.  Some of these events drew up to 4,000 people.

Jay

Jay was chartered in 1792 and has a population of almost 600.   The Town of Jay was originally known by two different names. The Wyllis family, had petitioned Vermont for a northern land grant. The petition was honored by the legislature in March of 1780 for a town to be called Wyllis. This grant was forfeited in 1782 for reasons unknown, although historical sources suggest that the locale was a bit too northerly and remote for the owners. The second more popular name was Carthage, “a good classical name that in ancient times had meant a new city”.  The boundary of Carthage was designated by “a birch tree, two pines and a fir tree”. It contained an area of 23,000 acres bounded on the north by Canada, east by Troy, south by Westfield and west by Richford.

On November 7, 1792 one third of the territory known as Cartage  was granted to Governor Thomas Chittenden in lieu of 350 pounds the state owed him for back salary.  On December 28, 1792 the legislature decided that” the tract of land known as Carthage was an uncommonly good one” and the remaining two thirds were granted to John Jay, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and renamed Jay.

Early settlers experienced all of the hardships typical of frontier life, and suffered the usual disadvantages of poor roads (or none at all), long distances from the mill and market and the entire lack of social education and religious privilege. Hence, the population increased very slowly.

The town was organized and the first Town Meeting was held on March 29, 1828.  Eli Hunt kept the first school in the winter of 1823 in a log house and the first frame schoolhouse was built in the center of town on 1831, which is the current site of the Jay municipal building.  In 1937 the building burnt down to the ground and the building as it looks now was built. The new building served as a school and meeting house and was used for both town and school purposes which did not change until the towns of Jay and Westfield came together to build the Jay-Westfield Elementary school in 1993 situated on Revoir Flats. The building now houses municipal offices and Community Food Shelf.

The burgeoning logging industry drew the population to Jay, with the Jay Brook presenting sites for saw mills. There was a vast amount of spruce and hardwood timber on the sides of the mountain and a considerable amount of pine timber in the Town. The first saw mill was built in 1822 by Solomon Wolcott, was succeeded by new mills featuring circular saws, plainers and a shingle mill and by 1883 the mill owned by B.F. Paine was cutting about 4,000,000 feet of lumber.  As the town grew, other businesses were being established: a forge for manufacturing iron, starch factory, tannery, general repair shop, wheelwright, cabinet maker, coffin maker, and a grinder for provender and corn.

Between the turn of the century and the present time there has been little written about the Town of Jay. The large population of 1880 from the “hay day” of logging has steadily declined after the collapse of the logging industry. Businesses failed and people moved elsewere. The population has remained small (less than 500 people) despite the development of Jay Peak.

The roads crossing the mountain (Routes 242 & 105) were built in the 1950′s enabling the townspeople greater access to the towns on the other side of the mountain as well as affording tourists another means of getting to Jay. The 1960′s also saw the beginning of the now popular Jay Peak Resort.

Of the approximately 380 dwellings in Jay about 230 belong to vacationers: resulting in much of the commerce of the Town being centered around the tourist industry. There are inns, restaurants and stores that cater to the ski crowd; there is an elementary school that serves the population of Jay and its neighboring community of Westfield, a volunteer fire department and a community food shelf.

The evolution of Jay over the last 200 years has seen it go from a logging community to a farming community to a tourist vacation destination. The sound of the saw mill that once was a symbol of prosperity has been replaced by the “woosh” of skis in winter and the “whack” of golf balls in the summer. The brook that was so instrumental in the logging industry is now enjoyed by weary vacationers and avid fisherman.

The one thing that has remained constant is the natural beauty and serenity of the area. The Jay Brook still runs beautiful and clean and the Town is still watched over by the majesty of Jay Peak.

Montgomery & Montgomery Center

Montgomery was chartered in 1780 and has a population of just over 1,200.  The town was chartered to 60 associates, including thirteen ministers, one woman (very unusual) and Ira Allen.   The town was named for General Richard Montgomery (1738-75), who with Benedict Arnold had commanded the Quebec expedition in the late fall and winter of 1775. Ira Allen was one of the two officers who led an attack on CapeDiamond above Quebec at Montgomery’s orders on the last day of the year, just before Montgomery was killed while leading the main attack on the city.  It may have been his suggestion to name the town after General Montgomery.

Montgomery is known as Vermont’s Covered Bridge Town. Its unique geography required many bridges, and as recently as the 1940s there were thirteen covered bridges within the town’s limits. Today there are six covered bridges within town limits, and one which straddles the town line with Enosburg, the most of any town in the country.

Montgomery’s heritage was firmly rooted in farming and the timber industry. Today it is a diverse community with several farms, many small businesses, artists, craftspeople, and a lively citizenry comprised of a mix of full-time and vacation residents. It is also an all season recreation destination.

Lowell

Lowell was chartered in 1791 and has a population of just over 800.  Chartered to New York lawyer John Kelly and originally named Kellyvale, it was one of four grants totaling over 69,000 acres given to Kelly in restitution for an equal amount of land he had held under New York Patents, which had been invalidated by the 1790 settlement between New York and Vermont.

The first settler was Major Caldwell and family from Barre, Massachusetts in 1806. The town was formally organized in 1812, the same year the first school began with twelve students. People came and started families and the town quickly grew, going from 144 people in 1820 to 413 in 1840.

In 1831 the name was changed to Lowell perhaps derived from Lowell, Massachusetts, because many of the people who settled in Kellyvale had come from that area. However, that town had been named Lowell only five years before the Vermont towns’ name change (long after the settlers arrived), honoring Francis Cabot Lowell, the initiator of large-scale cotton textile manufacturing in the US. Vermont’s town is more likely to honor the manufacturer’s father or his brother.

By 1840 Churches had been built and Methodist, Congregational, Baptist and Roman Catholic services were being held.  During the first half of the nineteenth century the population inflow was predominately from other states of the US. In the second half the new arrivals were more often from Ireland or French speaking Canada. By 1870 the population was 944 and it reached its peak in 1890 when it stood at 1,178. Farming and lumber were the main economic base. Lowell lost population throughout the twentieth century, only reversing the trend in the mid 1980’s.

Westfield

Westfield was chartered in 1780 and has a population of just over 500.   It was one of several towns, others being Berkshire, Enosburgh, Montgomery, Richford and Wyllis (now Jay) granted by the fledgling Republic of Vermont as a means of raising money to support her troops since the Continental Congress had refused to help.   The town was   named after Rhode Island general and politician, William West, a supporter of Vermont statehood.  Westfield is home to the Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a contemplative order of women, following the Benedictine rule. Westfield is the least densely populated and most rural town in Orleans County.