The village of Island Pond has been the community center and population nucleus of Brighton, since the 1850s when it housed the halfway station between Montreal and Boston on the Grand Trunk Railroad line (See "Railroads" below). Before the 1850s, Brighton relied on its forests for money through the Fitzgerald Land and Lumber Company that in 1899 had been a leading private industry for over a quarter of a century.
With the arrival of the railroad, however, business quickly sprang up around the station. Island Pond's population swelled from 105 in 1830 to 2,000 in 1870 (Time and Change..., p.185). Many of the 600 Irish laborers who worked on the railroads stayed to work in the mills or on farms (Ruth Harvey Kaufman). Brighton's population peaked at 2,500 during World War II. However, with the decline of the railroads and the advent of the Great Depression, the population dwindled steadily to a low of 1,365 residents in 1960.
With the arrival of the Northeast Kingdom Community Church in the 1970s, the population increased as the religious commune settled and gathered members (See "Northeast Kingdom Community Church" below). The population of Brighton today (according to the 1990 Census) remains at 1,562 residents. Island Pond maintains 1,222 or 78.2% of the resident population [Someone should check density figures, in the village and in the surrounding town.] Brighton led Essex County in births with 32, and with 20 deaths in 1992 according to the Health Department. These measures were influenced, no doubt, by the immigration of Church members.
The 1989 median income for residents of Brighton was $22,358 and for Island Pond, $25,227. The majority of families (183) above poverty-level were couples married from six to seventeen years. Those who fell below poverty-level (38 families) were comprised of single females with no husband present. Out of 530 households in Brighton, more than half worked for a wage or salary income; the remainder (220) received no wage or salary. More than half of households are self-employed in non-farming enterprise; those households that do receive a self-employed farming income total at 18. Households receiving public assistance income are 72; those who don't are 458.
Town structures from a century ago included the Green Mountain House ("Up to their doors rolled the four-horse stage coaches then in vogue," wrote GREY BOOK - SPECIAL COLLECTIONS), three hotels, the Island Pond House that served as a hostelry, and the Opera House Block, still in existence, but back then housed a bank, power company, lawyers, a library, stores, offices and the fire department between both. Farms were plentiful with farmers such as S.D. Hobson, William E. Rosebrooke, Elias Bemis, A.J. Lang, M.C. David, and Hiram B. Farmer. (See below under "Built Resources Capital" for more information about Brighton's current physical infrastructures)
Housing units in Brighton total at 883, with 514 of those occupied and 369 unoccupied, according to 1989 Census data. Those units that are farms are 13 and those that are not total at 870. Of the occupied housing units, the majority (177) are owner occupied and are not mortgaged. The average rent for these dwellings is $187 per month. The majority of owners (71) are from 35 to 44 years old; the minority (2) are 15 to 25 years old. Most of these occupied homes have five rooms (208) and the least amount have 1 room (13). The median year in which these structures were built was 1957; in 1939 or earlier, 106 of these units were built.
The area then became "Gilead" in 1780, with a title that captured the Biblical nature of the hills and lookouts. Gilead was a city in ancient Palestine, though in more recent times the name refers to the 4,000 foot Gilead Mountain east of the Jordan River.
While the town waited for a buyer, local dwellers called it simply "Number 31". It was only one of several Northeast Kingdom towns that Vermont was selling to support itself. When Colonel Nightingale bought the town, he named it "Random" after the manner in which they selected "Number 31" for purchase.
Before the turn of the century, the town received its last and final name. The 1832 State Legislature acting upon the advice of the settlers who considered "Random" an unattractive name, renamed the town Brighton. The name had previously been used for several Massachusetts and New York communities that were named after the English resort.
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