Vermont Barn Census

Chittenden County Student Research Project - 2010









Census Records




UVM HP Program

Chittenden County Census

VT Barn Census

Town of Westford


Westford: History

Westford, Vermont was established by a charter from King George III, granting the town to Henry Franklin and sixty-four associates on June 8, 1763. Hezekiah Parmeele, in 1787, was established the first settlement in the town. In 1795, a sawmill at the center of the town was built by Elisha Baker. The sawmill marked the beginning  of the development of Westford and soon after, more utilitarian structures were built. Joshua Stanton also constructed a forge and gristmill in the town center. This employed many residents as the forge required laborers. This forge gave an economic boost the blossoming town:

“It was supplied with ore from Colchester. The iron made from this ore was very soft and malleable and subsequently was much improved by a mixture of mountain ore, brought from York state. About 1809 the ore at Colchester failed and the iron business was suspended.1

The town developed its road systems and the population grew until the mid-1800s, when it slowly started to decline once more. Schools were established near the town center, and three churches were constructed around the town green.  The following population chart demonstrates the rise and decline of the town’s residency. (Year in the top row, population on the bottom).





















In Westford’s history, there are a few notable names within the agricultural realm. One of whom is Alney Stone. Stone was a well respected man in the town. He was elected three times as Westford Selectman. For over fifty years, he served as a justice. He also held positions as town representative to Vermont Legislature and lister. Stone was known for his philanthropy. In order to ensure Westford’s Civil War bonds be paid on time, Stone single handedly raised $2,000. Stone owned a modest farm, valued at $3,000. John Seeley, elected town treasurer and a selectman hosted the first town meeting in his home on March 25, 1793, and it was agreed that a notice board and stocks would be set up “a few rods south of where John Seeley now lives.”

Many large families were established in the town, but not all of them were influential in Westford politics. Nathan Dimick, John Stuart, and George Allen were all farmers in the town and served as selectmen. Selectmen got paid very little, if anything at all. They were given the legal right to sell land owned by the town. They also were associated with other departments of Westford government:

“Selectmen worked with legal counsel to some purpose, for on March 3, 1846, the town voted that ‘the selectmen be authorized to compromise and settle with the individuals who have purchased a part of the town common the south side thereof. To take further counsel if necessary … which they may think the best interest of the town requires.’”2

There are many interesting anomalies in the census data regarding the agriculture in Westford. In looking at the census records from both 1860 and 1880, some general comparisons can be made about the trends in agriculture in Westford. While the amount of land used for farming in the town only increased by a small percentage, many of the production values increased. In 1860, butter production led to 99,595 pounds being created; while in 1880, that number more than doubled to 206,946 pounds. The production of maple sugar had a steep increase from 52,045 pounds to 95,945 pounds. As the number of cows, horses, and swine rose over time, oxen became less popular on the farms. Their numbers fell from 163 in 1860 to 77 in 1880.3 This is most likely due to the fact that technology advanced enough to make working oxen more obsolete. As Westford’s agriculture progressed, it maintained a steady reliance on sheep and their value in wool. Alfred Varney and Irving Huntley were both breeders of Cotswold sheep. These sheep were especially valuable for their wool production and strengths in breeding.

Notable and unusual aspects in Westford agriculture include James Rogers, who set aside two acres of land for growing hops. He produced 500 pounds; A small group of farmers had large herds of sheep on their farms those farmers: Jacob L. Cochran (54 sheep), Alfred M. Blackmer (75 sheep), Lemule H. Irish (60 sheep), and Lansing Farnsworth (70 sheep) made much profit from sale of wool;4 Edgar Grow bred horses, specifically the Morgan breed common to Vermont; Eli Hobart bred Durham Cattle.5

Farmers with milk cows brought their milk and cream to the creameries for processing:
“One, operated by H.W. Belden of Waitsfield and Herbert E. Pierce of Westford was in what is not the town shop – itself a former barn used by Frank Smith when he was road commissioner. It was moved in after the older creamery burned in January 1900.”6

The farmers would return home with tubs of butter created from their product. There was also a creamery near the east end of the covered bridge that was in town.

Nearly every household in town was home to not only the families, but to cows, pigs, and hens. People were aware of the value of these agricultural resources and the benefit to owning animals that produced food sources for the family. The people of Westford worked hard for their lifestyle.  During the winter months, sleighs were the most common mode of transportation as the roads were not navigable by any other means. Individuals gathered ice from the river to stock in their refrigerators. It was hauled back to the house and packed in sawdust.

As time progressed, industrialization took hold in Westford. Today, there are many modern farm buildings established, while the older building have been neglected or demolished. Some still remain as tokens to the past – they function in the realm of their original purpose. Others are merely shadows of what they used to be, calling back to a time when agriculture developed a town.           


1 Look Around Chittenden County Vermont. Lilian Baker Carlisle. Burlington, VT: Chittenden County Historical Society, 1976. (photographs by Samuel J. Hatfield). 39.

2 ibid 79.

3 Allen,Irene E.. Book of the Records of Westford. 1963. 14.

4 U.S. Census Office. State of Vermont. Agricultural Census 1860. Microfilm. And U.S. Census Office. State of Vermont. Agricultural Census 1880. Microfilm.

5 U.S. Census Office. State of Vermont. Agricultural Census 1880. Microfilm.

6 Ibid.

7 Allen,Irene E.. Book of the Records of Westford. 1963. 2.


Funding support for the Vermont Barn Census project has been provided in part by a Preserve America grant through the National Park Service to the State of Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.