Barton Town, located in Orleans County, at approximately 44 degrees 45' latitude and 72 degrees 10' longitude, is bordered on the northeast by Brownington, on the southeast by Westmore and Sutton, on the southwest by Sheffield and Glover, and on the northwest side by Irasburg and Albany. It is approximately 30 miles north of St. Johnsbury and 15 miles south of Newport City. Similar to many Vermont towns, Barton encompasses about 36 square miles, or 29,120 acres. It is about 931 feet above sea level. The 1990 U.S. census lists a population of 2967 for the town of Barton, ranking it the 53rd largest community in Vermont.
The Town of Barton was first granted by the legislature in response to a petition from some sixty Revolutionary War veterans in 1781 under the name "Providence" after their home town in Rhode Island, but was not chartered until October 20, 1789. In the intervening years, the number of grantees dropped to only 29, one of whom was Ira Allen, who was assigned 19/70 of the whole town. Another grantee was the first American naval hero, John Paul Jones, although he never took up residence in Barton. At the time of the charter, the town was named Barton most likely after one of the original grantees, Gen. William Barton, who apparently did settle in this new town, but did not bring his family to live with him. It is thought that he moved there to speculate land. His family remained in Rhode Island and he eventually returned there for the last years of his life. The first permanent settler was Asa Kimball who came alone to Barton in 1794 to make a clearing and then brought his family the next summer, whereon he raised about fifty bushels of grain, the first harvest ever in Barton. He opened a public house (pub) soon after his arrival and ran it the whole time that he lived there. Apparently, Kimball had the urge of a wanderer because he later moved to New York state and finally on to Ohio, where he died in the 1820's. (Child)
There are now two incorporated villages in the Town of Barton. Barton Village was incorporated on November 21, 1874. (Baldwin, 1921) It is located at the outlet of Crystal Lake a little bit south of the central part of the town's boundary. The second is Orleans Village, found at the northern corner of the town on Barton River incorporated in the first half of the 19th century. (Child, 1883) Before 1810 much of the land area that is now Orleans was part of a pond now called Runaway Pond, that broke unexpectedly and flooded areas to the north. (See Section B. Natural Resources, Bodies of Water)Originally called Barton Landing because of its location on the river (a spot that was used during smuggling in the early 1900's and previously by people of the St. Francis, Coosuck, and Abenaki tribes as an encampment along a migration route through New England), the name was changed to Orleans Village in 1908. The issue of the name came about when the Boston and Maine Railroad management suggested through an article in the Monitor, the local newspaper, that the name was confusing for train dispatchers because there were also stops in Barton and South Barton. Letters to the editor suggested names like Indian Landing, because of the origin of the name Barton Landing, or Chandler, which was the family name of the original founders of the lumber company that helped make the village so prosperous. After some months of private and public discussion the villagers approved the name Orleans, the same name as the county. The village voted in the new name of Orleans on December 11, 1908, and the village of Barton Landing officially became the village of Orleans on January 1, 1909.
A third settlement occurred in the southeasterly portion of Barton. Originally known as South Barton, it has gone by the names Willoughby, Kimball, and Jacksville as well. (See History Built Resources Capital; Post Offices)
Swift reports that Barton is a common place name in England. In Old English, Barton meant, "a grain or corn farm" and gradually came to be used to mean an outlying grange, or kind of demesne farm, often belonging to a monastery. Barton, Vermont is named for Colonel (later General) William Barton, best known for having captured the British commanding General Robert Prescott, at Prescott's Rhode Island headquarters in 1777. Prescott's capture lessened the pressure on American General George Washington's forces in New Jersey. Barton's namesake, General William Barton, later spent fourteen years in jail in Vermont for refusing to pay a public fine, although people that knew him believed he could have easily paid for it.