Overland Transportation- Post Roads, Turnpikes, Stage Roads, Market Roads (1780-1940)
The earliest roads in what was to become Vermont were cleared along Indian trails and well-defined topographic corridors such as river valleys, mountain passes and hilltop routes connecting early settlements. Military roads were among the first roads constructed. Gradually, newly settled towns began building local roads and bridges. Post roads, over which riders delivered mail, were first constructed in the 1780s under the direction of the General Assembly. By the beginning of the 19th century, a "turnpike craze" had developed. These privately owned toll roads were somewhat better than the locally constructed roads, and greatly increased the overland transportation network. Stage coach lines were organized as soon as the turnpikes were constructed. The stage coach business was in its heyday from 1820-1830, and taverns and inns often served as the stage coach "stations." Many villages grew up at the intersection of major routes, and small neighborhoods developed at the intersections of less-travelled routes. By the middle of the 19th century most turnpikes had been transferred to town ownership, and the coming of the railroad replaced many former stage roads as the primary mail, passenger and freight routes. However, with the arrival of the automobile in the early 20th century Vermont's road system underwent significant improvements and became the focus, once again, of commerce and transportation.
Military Roads: (1759-1781)
Military roads were the first long distance routes of land travel in what was to become Vermont. They are significant both as military highways and as subsequent routes of settlement. The first was the Crown Point Military Road, built by the English during the French and Indian War. Constructed in 1759-60, the road provided the English with a means of land transportation over the Green Mountains between their northernmost fort on the Connecticut River in Charlestown, N.H. and the garrison at Crown Point on Lake Champlain. The second was the Mount Independence-Hubbardton Military Road which was constructed during the American Revolution. It was built in 1776 by the American Army and ran from Mount Independence in Orwell to make the connection with the Crown Point Road at Rutland Falls. The Bayley-Hazen Mililtary Road was also constructed during the American Revolution. Built between 1776-79, it was conceived as an aid to invade Canada by means of an unoccupied and more direct route than the British-controlled Champlain Valley. The road as completed stretched 54 miles over mostly high ground from Wells River to Hazen's Notch. In the course of building these early military roads, blockhouses and forts were built with relative frequency. Stone mile markers were also placed along each of the routes, and major camps were set up at regular intervals. Today, most of these sites remain as potentially valuable archeological sites.
Water Transportation and Commerce: (1790-1940)
Larrabee's Point, Vermont
Vermont's water routes were first used by Native American people as early as 10,500 B.C. when Lake Champlain was still a saltwater sea. With the rapid settlement of the Champlain Valley at the close of the American Revolution the lake became a dominant corridor for transportation and market shipments north to Canada. The Connecticut River was also a major corridor early on to points south, carrying lumber rafts, and flatboats weighted with cargo to New Hampshire and Massachussetts. After the construction of the Bellows Falls (1802) and Champlain (1823) Canals, and the advent of steam-powered boats during the first decade of the 19th century, both water routes bustled with passenger and freight carriers. A number of ports along the Vermont shores of Lake Champlain developed into busy centers of commerce and shipbuilding, and storage depots, shipyards, mills, taverns and hotels were built to accommodate the various kinds of traffic. After 1850 the railroad eclipsed these water corridors as the major transportation routes. By the late 19th century lake commerce had largely given way to pleasure boating and commuter traffic.
South Royalton, Vermont
Although Vermont railroad companies were being chartered as early as 1832, it was not until 1848 that the first tracks were opened by the Vermont Central Railroad from White River to Bethel. By 1855 over 500 miles of track had been constructed. Prior to the Civil War the basic north-south spines of the Vermont railroad network were completed. Railroad construction ceased during the Civil War, then started up again in the 1870s with the construction of east-west lines linking the major routes. At the close of the 19th century Vermont had approximately 1,000 miles of steam rails, and 75 miles of electric rails. Every county had one or more railroads, and of 248 towns and cities in Vermont less than 100 were without rails. The railroad brought dramatic changes to the Vermont landscape. It created new towns, prompted the decline of others, and stimulated the development of key industries such as dairying, stone quarrying, and tourism. The advent of the automobile in the early 20th century eclipsed the role of the railroad, though it continues to be used for freight and limited passenger service to this day.
Automobile Travel: (1890-1940)
In 1899 Mr. Charles Warren of Waterbury became the first Vermonter to own an automobile. Six years later there were 380 registered automobiles in Vermont. "Devil Wagons" were initially regarded with suspicion by many Vermonters and automobile ownership rose slowly at first. The growing acceptance of autmobiles during the 1920s was reflected in the jump in the number of registered vehicles in the State from 30,000 in 1920 to 90,000 in 1929. When the automobile first appeared, Vermont roads were poorly suited to motor travel; however, the combined effects of the 1927 flood, and increased use of autos during the twenties and thirties resulted in the improvement and reconstruction of many of the State's roads and bridges. The automobile not only brought the tourist industry into full swing, but it was also a great boon to the sevice industry as gas stations, roadside restaurants, camp grounds and motor courts began to dot the major routes around the state.
Air Travel: (1920-1940)
The first flight in Vermont was made by Charles F. Willard of New York at the Caledonia County Fairgrounds in St. Johnsbury on September 24, 1910. Nine years later the first air field in the state was built by Governor-to-be James Hartness in Springfield. Hartness was also the first President of the Aero Club of Vermont, organized in 1916. The Vermont Airways Corporation was organized in 1928, probably the first commercial airline company in the state, with headquarters in the Newport/Derby vicinity. In 1929 the Legislature passed an act authorizing towns and villages to operate airports. During the Depression years the W.P.A. built hangars and landing strips for local airports. By 1940 there were at least twenty municipal landing strips in the state of Vermont.
All information and photographs from the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation
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