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Middlesex History

Middlesex History

A Few Characteristics

Middlesex Town is located in Washington County at 72 41' W and 44 17' N and at an altitude of 560 feet. Middlesex Town has no identifiable town center. The town is bisected by a mountain, and folks in the Middlesex Village area where the town hall and country store are located are a good 20-minute drive from their neighbors in the Shady Rill and Putnamville areas. The town once had two road commissioners, one for each side of town and two schools. Several decades ago a major fight ensued when residents had to decide where to locate the consolidated Rumney School. After years of contention, townspeople passed a town plan in 1995. (Seidman, Sarah, "Middlesex Video Raises Lots Of Questions", TA, 1/9/96:9&11)

Civic Structure

On June 8, 1763, New Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth chartered a block of 17 towns in Washington and Chittenden counties, one of which was Middlesex. Most of the towns were eventually sold to the Onion River Company. The town was alooted six square miles, or 23,040 acres. Middlesex Village, the largest area of development, grew up around the Winooski River, with the first post office being established there in 1821. It was closed in 1966. Shady Rill, an incorporated village, is located at the junction of three brooks: Herrick, Martins, and Patterson, where they empty into the Winooski River. The incorporated village of Putnamville is located along the Worcester Branch of the Winooski River, near the eastern border. The Putnam family is responsible for much of the development of this center by building grist and sawmills and store and grain businesses. A post office was first established there in 1882 and closed in 1935. A part of Middlesex was known as Beartown due to large population of bears evident during the 1800's. Another part of Middlesex was claimed to be such an awful place to live that it bore the name Skunks Misery.

What's in a Name

It is presumed that the name Middlesex was derived due to the formation of its borders between two other towns, Waterbury and Montpelier. However, several other theories remain, namely the fact that many colonial settlers came from Middlesex, England; towns of the same name in Massachusetts and Connecticut were prosperous; and an English nobleman had Middlesex as one of his titles. Although the nobleman "was a man who had little good sense and less stability" this would not "deter" the Governor Wentworth from using his name, because he may have been "more concerned with potential political support than with character." (Swift, 1977)

Historical Highlights

  • 1782: Thomas Meade is the first settler in Middlesex and in Washington County, settling five miles from Monpelier Village.
  • 1860: A forest fire clears about 30 acres of a mountaintop in Middlesex. The mountain has since been known as Burnt Mountain.
  • 1860s - Railroads come to town.
  • 1927 - Great Flood
  • 1930s - the flooding of the Wrightsville area caused by dams built to protect Montpelier from flooding
  • 1935: Construction begins on Little River Valley Dam, which becomes one of the largest earth-filled dams in New England. Companies based in Camp Meade, near Middlesex, work on channel improvement of the Winooski River.
  • 1960s - construction of the highway bisecting the town.
  • 1988: Republican Peter Smith of Middlesex is elected Vermont's representative to the U.S. House. Middlesex is also home to one of Vermont's U.S. Senators, Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat.

Last modified September 12 2013 02:29 PM

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