Vermont Barn Census

Preliminary Research - 2009


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An Agricultural History of Hinesburg, Vermont

Hinesburg, Vermont was established on June 24, 1762 under a charter granted to sixty-five individuals, including Abel Hine, the proprietor’s clerk, for whom the town is named.  The charter, granted by the Province of New Hampshire, detailed a “new plantation” founded upon the development of farming:

“As soon as there shall be fifty families residing…every Grantee his hers and assigns, shall plant and cultivate five acres of land within the term of five years for every fifty acres contained in his or their share…Yielding and paying therefore to us, the rent of one ear of Indian corn only, on the 25th day of December.” [1]

The town is located in Chittenden County and bounded to the north by the towns of Shelburne, St. George, Williston, and Richmond; to the east by Huntington and Starksboro; to the south by Monkton and to the west by Charlotte.  The landscape combines rolling hills and leveled pastures.  The La Platte River enters the town from the western border, discontinuing in South Hinesburg.  Running from La Platte, Patrick Brook feeds into Lower Pond and then the Iroquois River at the north boundary (Figure 3).  In 1868, The Vermont Historical Gazetteer discusses the state of the land, identifying the eastern section of town as maintaining arable soil, which makes for profitable dairy farms.[2]  Despite the affluent soil in the east, at the time farms were scattered evenly throughout the town.[3]
From 1791 to 1800, out of seventeen towns in the county, Hinesburg maintained the second highest population, closely following Charlotte.  By 1810, although increasing in population, Hinesburg was succeeded the population of three towns. [4]  By 1853, innovative methods of preserving produce were exercised in the town.  The Hinesburg Potato Factory initiated the process, advertising the “imperishable potato.” An editorial in The Daily Free Press exposes the procedure, advocating the production of a higher quality, long-lasting fruits, vegetables and meats.  Due to this scientific advancement, the Hinesburg Potato Factory, ran by a Mr. Binsden, served as one of the largest exports in town.[5]

After the Civil War, 14 of the 17 towns in Chittenden County dropped in population.  At this time, only three towns grew – Essex, Colchester, and Burlington.  By 1870, the town lost 7% of its population and dropped another 15% in 1880.[6]  The turn in population was contributed by economical trouble.  In 1887, an article in the Burlington Free Press and Times discusses an alarming emigration of Hinesburg residents emigrating westward due to a lack of employment:“Is it for their interest to have our rural towns reduced to broad farms of fairy grass fields and pastures, run by machinery?”[7]

At the same time, cheese factories, owned by stock companies, were developing in town. The Valley Cheese Factory was the first factory of its kind in the county, established in 1866.  The factory sought out management from New York.[8] A second company, The Union Cheese Factory, was built in 1871.  As of 1882, The Valley Cheese Factory received milk from 300 cows, manufacturing 60,000 lbs. of cheese annually.[9]  The Union Cheese Factory manufactured cheese from the milk of 250 cows.[10]

United States Agricultural Census from 1850 to 1880 detailed milk, butter and cheese as three major products in Hinesburg.  The 1880 census queries altered slightly to coordinate with the increasing factories developing in the state.  A new column was added to list the amount of milk produced for the purpose of sending to factories for production of cheese and butter.  Similarly, the data for cheese produced in-house decreased accordingly with the rise of factories.  A second alteration in the 1880 census is the separation of individuals who conduct farm procedures into categories of owners, those who rent for a fixed cost, and those who rent for shares of the product.  In 1880, 11% of the individuals rented for a fixed cost and 31% rented for shares of the product.  In 1850, the number of farmers participating in the census numbered 124.  In 1860, the number rose to 163.  In 1870, the number hit 182 and in 1880 farmers numbered at 200.  The evolving dairy industry that has sustained through the Hinesburg’s history has dissipated in the past few years, with the prominence of maple sugar processing.


[1] New Hampshire (Colony) Probate Court, Charter Records: Hinesburgh, Provincial and State Papers (1895),

[2] Rev. C.E. Ferrin, Hinesburgh, The Vermont Historical Gazetteer (Burlington: A.M. Hemenway, 1868),

[3] Hamilton Child, Town of Hinesburgh, Gazetteer and Business Directory of Chittenden County, for
      1882-1883 (Syracuse: Hamilton Child, 1882-1883), 317-328.

[4] Erastus Bostwick, 1861 History and Tales of Hinesburgh, Vermont, (Hinesburg: Erastus Bostwick 1861;
      reprint, Hinesburg: Hinesburg Bicentennial Committee, 1976), p.27.

[5] “Hinesburgh ‘Imperishable Potato’ Factory.” The (Burlington) Daily Free Press. 11 June, 1853, p. 2

[6] Bostwick, 1861 History and Tales of Hinesburgh, Vermont, p. 27.

[7] “Hinesburgh,” Burlington Free Press and Times, 3 May 1877, p. 3.

[8] “Hinesburgh Cheese Factory.” The Daily Free Press. 11 June 1866, pg. 4.

[9] Child, Gazetteer and Business Directory of Chittenden County, 206.

[10] Ibid, 204.


Franklin, VTDerby, VTBrownington, VTHinesburg, VTHuntington, VTRichmond, VTNorwich, VTHartford, VTDorset, VTManchester, VTTownshend, VTGrafton, VT

This preliminary research about barns and farm buildings in thirteen Vermont towns is offered as a public service to assist local volunteers with their efforts to learn more about the agricultural heritage of these communities. It is hoped that additional information on the history and features of these barns will be submitted by volunteers through the Vermont Barn Census project. The historical research and preliminary field documentation was conducted during the fall 2009 semester by graduate students enrolled in the Researching Historic Structures and Sites course at University of Vermont Historic Preservation Program with the assistance of local volunteers as part of the Vermont Barn Census, a statewide project of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, the University of Vermont Historic Preservation Program, Historic Windsor’s Preservation Education Institute, Save Vermont Barns, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and the Preservation Trust of Vermont. Funding support provided in part by a Preserve America grant through the National Park Service to the State of Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.