Apart from the expected sawmill, public house, and harvesting, etc. business in the late 1700's and early 1800's included smuggling. An estimated nine out of ten settlers took part in this illegal activity. As a result of the Embargo Act of 1808 which restricted trade with Quebec and closed Atlantic ports, many Vermont settlers took part in the business of illegally importing and exporting such things as salt and peerlashes via the rivers in the area. A spot known as the Indian Landing and Barton Landing at the junction of the Barton and Willoughby Rivers was a main area of rest for both the natives of the area and later for the smugglers. A rock with the inscription "Indian and Pioneer Landing, Dedicated Aug. 27, 1892" was placed at the spot. (Orleans, 1820-1920)
In the Orleans section of Barton town, the business district developed around Post Office Square, now called Memorial Square. The earliest building in Orleans was a sawmill built by Roger Enos in 1820. Jesse Cook bought the mill in 1830 and used it also for weaving cloth. It became John Little's pudding mill (grain mill) in 1839. Many fires took their toll on the original buildings. The last original building still standing is Howard Bartlett's house, built in 1839.
With the coming of railroads to Barton in 1863, industries began to thrive. In 1869, the pudding mill became a board mill operated by Lovinas Chandler. This business expanded under E.L.Chandler in the 1890's.
The most rapid growth in the village as a whole was experienced between 1890 and 1920. Business in the mills increased as the population of the village expanded. The Parker Young Company bought the E.L. Chandler Company and greatly augmented it. The Company built twenty-five houses around this time. Sidewalks, new homes, electricity, telephones, and new streets and bridges for automobiles added to the growth that was steady and clearly apparent. The November 1927 flood that hit Vermont caused damage to stocks of goods and the cost of repairs on buildings was great, however the paving of several streets prevented their being undermined. Demand for piano sounding boards, keg bottoms, and veneer declined and the Parker Young Company resold to E.L. Chandler. Ownership of the company changed again: The Sweat-Comings Company, the Vermont American Corporation, and the Baumritter Corporation followed.
The latter expanded its Orleans Furniture Division from a payroll of $120,000 in 1954 to $2,500,000 in 1968. (Orleans, 1820-1970) Now known as Ethan Allen Furniture, the company out of Danbury, Connecticut houses four plants in Vermont, with the largest in Orleans Village in Barton. Ethan Allen, Inc. is now the fifth largest private employer in Vermont. An estimated 2,200 people were employed in Vermont by the company in 1987. The Orleans plant employed about 550 workers at that time. They mainly made dining room furnishings, including tables, chairs, buffets, and similar pieces. The Barton Village area of the town experienced similar development patterns. Crystal Lake Falls, a series of small waterfalls on the outlet of Crystal Lake, was a tourist attraction as well as the source of power for the industries of Barton Village. The falls were developed as a power source soon after Barton was settled in 1796. Early industries here included saw, grist, fulling, and carding mills, as well as a potashery. With the arrival of the Connecticut and Passumpsic River Railroad in 1858, Barton had access to major markets on the east coast and in Quebec. New factories soon thrived, and Barton became well known for its wood products (which included chair parts, shingles, window sashes, doors, blinds, carriages, and bowling pins) and its cotton undergarments, piano actions, and machinery such as cider presses, drills, spool machines, and candy making machines. The Depression and some major fires led to the decline of these important industries by WWII. The remains of the factory buildings, as well as the other structures still standing in the area, now referred to as the "Brick Kingdom", provide eloquent testimony to the significance of the once bustling industrial center. The water falls and the ruins are part of a district protected by the National Register Listing. The nomination of the area by the Crystal Lake Falls Historical Association under the direction of Robin Tenny became the first National Register Listing in Barton town.
As a culmination of the Take Charge and Recharge efforts in Barton, and largely due to work begun in the 1980's and finishing with the nomination of the Crystal Falls area to the National Registry of Historic Places, the Village of Barton will receive funding from the Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP), to undertake a feasibility study of improving a designated target area of the village. As a part of this effort, a Visual Analysis was completed by Jane Petrillo, Diane Gayer and others out of the Community Development and Applied Economics Department at UVM which was meant to identify improvements to the visual character of the Village of Barton.
The Connecticut and Passumpsic River Railroad were finished to Barton in 1858 although no trains came until 1863, and as a result new and enlarged businesses brought development. Much of this industrial area is now a historic district under the National Register Listing. (See Built Natural Resources, Businesses)
In 1831 a road, called the River Road, was built between Barton Village and Barton Landing along with a bridge using log abutments. In 1833 a road was built from Barton Landing to Brownington, creating greater access to resources. (Locke, 1920) Presently, Barton has routes 58, 5, and 16 as well as interstate 91 running through it.
Barton has its own municipal utility, an electric department, which, with eight other municipal utilities has worked out a way to return power in exchange for money to Hydro Quebec. (See Mace, "Northfield" TA, 10/25/95:1&8)