New Haven

Early Settlement

by Emma Stuhl

In November of 1761, Governor Wentworth of New Hampshire created the charter for New Haven and granted land to John Evarts and 61 other Connecticut residents. Governor Wentworth did not actually have the authority to give away the land, and he eventually resigned in disgrace after an extended conflict with the New York State authorities who were giving away the same land.

Despite Wentworth’s questionable authority, the settlers moved to present-day Vermont and began to clear the land. John Griswold, his five sons, and probably a few men from the Barton and Evarts families, were the first settlers to make the move in the summer of 1769. They worked that summer and in following summers to  prepare the homesteads where their families eventually moved. During those preparatory years, the men spent the winters and springs in Connecticut with their families, helping to plant the fields before heading north to clear more land in Vermont.

Early settlers were largely self-sufficient. They farmed, hunted, and made most of what they needed. Over time, people developed small industries in town. For example, in the mid-1800s, there were four small sawmills, a quarry, an axe factory, and several tanneries in New Haven. In the 1820s, many farmers began to raise sheep commercially, as there was a sizable demand for wool. This demand fluctuated over the following decades, and eventually Vermont farmers couldn’t compete with cheaper wool from the western United States and Australia. By the end of the civil war, many people had turned to dairy farming, which became a long-lasting staple of the town’s economy. Over the next century and a half, dairy farmers shifted from selling butter and cheese to selling liquid milk. Farms grew in size, the number of farmers decreased, and farmers bred cattle to be more productive. Today, a sizable portion of the New Haven landscape is devoted to dairy farming.

To learn more about the cultural history of New Haven, read New Haven in Vermont: 1761-1983 by Harold Farnsworth and Robert Rodgers and Wandering the Corners of Elgin Spring Farm: 2014 by Earl W. Bessette and others. Both books are available for sale at the New Haven town office.

These historical photographs of New Haven are shown with permission from the New Haven Library. Click to view larger sizes. See more photos on their Flickr site.