P U T N E Y  V E R M O N T
Municipal Site

127 Main Street, P.O. Box 233, Putney, VT 05346
History Timeline   1500s-2004 - Putney Historical Society Website
Date Historical Event             

  
1500s

Estimated there were at least 10,000 Native people living in what is now Vermont. Most likely descended from the Algonquin and Iroquoian peoples, known as Western Abenaki.
1500-1760
Plagues and wars decimated the Native American Nations. First contact period with French, English, Dutch, and other European peoples.
1715 First land survey on Putney soil was ordered by Massachusetts in the Fall of 1715 and included much of nearby Dummerston and Brattleboro. The crew included skilled surveyors, helpers, and Abenaki who were familiar with the area.
1733 First cutting and forwarding of mast timber for the British Royal Navy began on the Great Meadows in East Putney.
1734

September 12, 1734, Ompawmet presented a land claim for the Great Meadows to the English at Ft. Dummer. A note in the Acts and Resolves of the Province of Massachusetts records the following transaction, "Ordered 120 pounds to John Stoddard, Esq. And Captain Israel Williams to be by them paid and delivered to Ompomac Indian upon executing before as many Indian witnesses as may be, a deed of conveyance of his right and title [of the Great Meadow, part of the Equivalent Land.]"

1736 The General Court of Massachusetts voted to lay out four townships. Those on the west side of the river (VT) were numbered in order coming down the stream: No. 1, Westminster; No. 2, Putney; No. 3, Dummerston; No. 4, Brattleboro. Those on the east side of the river (NH) were numbered in order going up the stream: No. 1, ---; No. 2, Westmoreland; No. 3, ----; No.4, Charlestown.
 1740 Colonists built Putney's first fort by 1740 in the clearing on the Great Meadows, with 10 men sent to accompany them for the purposes of scouting and guarding. This fort and others like it served as outpost stations for British exploration, conquest, and colonization of the Connecticut River Valley.
 1745 Nehemiah How taken captive on the Great Meadow by Abenaki from St. Francis, October 11, 1745. Probably the first Connecticut Valley captive of King George's War (1744-48), How died of fever in a French prison in Quebec on May 24, 1747.
 1752 First ferry established near Putney station in Dummerston by Captain John Kathan, connecting the two towns with Westmoreland, NH and the services provided down river, like grain grinding. The East Putney, or Britton ferry was established soon after near River View Farm.
 1753 Josiah Willard (1716-1796) led a proprietors' petition for a Putney charter and on December 26, 1753, the town received its first charter, issued by Governor Benning Wentworth of the New Hampshire Grants under King George II of England.
 1755 To protect themselves, settlers from Putney, joined by those across the river in Westmoreland, NH, built a second fort at the Great Meadows. They remained near to its confines until about 1760, just after the British victory in Quebec City on the Plains of Abraham in 1759.
 1761 Putney proprietors met at Josiah Willard’s house in Wincester, NH to discuss the town layout.
 1765 Deacon Minott built the first grist mill, located in the eastern part of town (Minotts Brook, now East Putney Brook) and with that begins a small mill industry in East Putney.
 1765-
 1766
Before the proprietors could implement their new plan, colonial governance switched by royal proclamation in 1765 from New Hampshire to New York. Josiah Williard led the request and Governor Moore of the Province of New York issued a confirmatory charter on November 6, 1766 under King George III.
 1769 Jonathan Houghton built the second grist mill, located a little below the current village center on Sacketts Brook and a small mill industry begins there as well.
  1770 On May 8, 1770, Putney organized as a town and elected its first town officials. Putney had attracted fifty families, yielding a town population of approximately 300. That year, eligible male voters held the first town meeting in Putney, Cumberland County, Province of New York.
 1779-  1780 The Vermont legislature enacted a law in 1779 declaring that all persons in the republic were forbidden to hold any office except a Vermont office. Despite these actions, the town of Putney maintained a New York system of governance. In 1779 and 1780 the town held two town meetings, a March meeting for Vermont and a May meeting for New York, with two town clerks, two sets of constables, and so forth.
  1781 Putney officially became part of Windham County, Vermont.
  1791 Vermont became the fourteenth state. Putney reached a population peak of 1,848 with development along the Connecticut River, Sacketts Brook near what was to become the village center, West Hill, and "The Street" (the area of town near Putney Central School). The town established 12 school districts, close enough for neighborhood children to walk to school. Many of these small villages within the town also housed conveniently located taverns, stores, and churches.
1793 Putney's first library established.
  1800

Population figure stablized at approximately 1,500 people, although the people themselves are entering and leaving town with few families remaining for more than one or two decades. Itinerant population provides a pool of labor, necessary for a mill economy to thrive.

Forest had been clear cut to such an extent that fire wood is hard to come by within Putney's borders.

  1810 Putney economy developed. Residents operated 6 sawmills, 4 grist mills, 1 carding mill, 2 fulling mills, 1 brick yard, 1 slate quarry, 2 tanneries, at least two inns, and 5 stores. In addition, a lot of professional people lived in town, especially considering the size of the population. These included 3 lawyers, 4 doctors, and 2 ministers.
  1812 The War of 1812 brought continued economic prosperity to Putney due to the war time demand for agricultural products and manufactured goods. Many of the town's large and elegant houses were built with money earned during this period.
  1818 In 1818 or 1819, Solomon Stimson, Lawson Green, and Ebenezer Fairbanks built the first Putney paper mill. The owners reported an employment of 4 men, 3 women, and 2 boys with an output of 2,425 reams, valued at $5,000 to the 1820 census enumerator.
  1825 George Robertson purchased the paper mill and created a family business that lasted for more than half of the century.
  1820s-
1870s
Putney maintained a portion of its economy based on sheep, wool, and textiles. David Crawford was one of the early, successful sheep breeders in the country. The Crawford farms yielded 6 pounds of wool per sheep decades before it became the norm. The Putney Woolen Mill manufactured cloth and maintained a dye room and weaving and finishing buildings.
  1830s-
1840s
John Humphrey Noyes and the Putney Perfectionists operated a church and several small businesses including a grist mill, print shop, and general store. Noyes established a "Bible family" in which all should be perfectly equal, worldly goods should be held in common, and those who were married should renounce their marriage ties and a "complex marriage" should be set up. In 1847 Noyes was arrested for the high misdemeanor of adultery and bonded to appear for trial at the superior court. Upon release, he immediately left the state, forfeiting his bail bond. Noyes went on to lead America’s first communal society – the Oneida Community.
1851 Railroad station opened on June 1st for the Vermont Valley Railroad (Boston & Maine) route which ran from Brattleboro to Bellows Falls. Built with the aid of Irish emigrants from 1849-1850. Some of the Irish builders then settled in Putney.
  1861-
1865
Putney participated in the United States Civil War. Enlistees served in all the major battles of the war and many were wounded, losing limbs and suffering gun shot injuries to the hips, thighs, legs, and arms that would last the rest of their lives.
  1866 Charles Houghton, a 43 year-old Boston lawyer, established a small herd of registered Holstein cattle on his family's Putney farm, the first such herd in Vermont and the second in the country. He and William Cheney of Massachusetts, a pioneer importer of the breed, started a Holstein breeders association in 1870 that, along with another group, began the Holstein-Friesian Association.
  1890 Population decreased from 1167 in 1870 to 1075 in 1890. Farms continue to be abandoned.
  1897 New England Telephone and Telegram installed Putney's first switchboard. Fred O'Neill held the longest tenure as operator and worked from 1916 until 1954.
  1914

Electric streetlights came to Putney village.

George Aiken established his first raspberry fields on West Hill. Green Mountain Orchards begun.

1920

Page 15 of the 1918-1947 Town Record Book listed the first women in Putney to take the Freeman’s Oath, beginning with Sophia E. White and including 91 year old Dr. Laura M. Plantz and a young Beatrice Aiken.

Putney reaches a population low of 760 people.

 1922 Electrical service reached West Hill.
 1931 George Aiken entered politics. Over the next fifty years he was to become Vermont's governor and US Senator. Jeffords described Aiken as "the essence of Vermont." Aiken helped establish the food stamp program and the Post World War II "Food for Peace" programs, helped set up the Farmer’s Home Administration, the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, and the Rural Electrification Administration. He also played a key role in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Rural Development Act and federal control of commercial nuclear power plants. Aiken dubbed Putney "the world's best known small town."

 1933-
1939

Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration provided federal funds for local improvement projects including a cement dam. Funds also went to sponsor local theatrical performances.
 1935

Townwide Fire Department replaced the Village Fire District and services expanded to the entire town.

Carmelita Hinton moved to Elm Lea Farm and established The Putney School, America's first co-educational boarding school. Based on progressive ideas of farm work, academics, travel, and the arts, The Putney School maintains its unique style of education to this day.

 1937

Electrical service installed in East Putney.

Carmelita Hinton convinced Donald Watt to move his family and fledgling organization, The Experiment in International Living, to Putney's West Hill. The move brought an international influence to the area, also called the Invasion of the Eggheads by Jack Wallace (first director of the School for International Training and Putney town moderator for many years).

 1938 Mr. Wojciech Kazmierczak purchased the Putney Paper Mill which had been held by the town in hopes of finding a suitable owner after bankruptcy and fire left it vacant at the beginning of the 1930s. He, his daughter Shirley, and his son-in-law Earl Stockwell would run the mill and provide employment to the town residents until its sale in 1984 to Ashuelot Paper Company.
 1941

Governor George Aiken sworn in as Senator Aiken.

Red Cross nurse Maxine Loomis became Putney's first war casuality on June 26, 1941 when the ship carrying her to England was torpedoed. US entered World War II on December 7th.

Frank Wilson, founder of Basketville, purchased a sawmill, basket and bucket shops from Dwight Smith and Ernest Parker called the West River Basket Company. The name originally derived from the West River in Williamsville, the company’s original location and the new owner retained the original name until 1961 when it was officially changed to Basketville.

The Putney Consumers Cooperative opened its doors in the former M.G. Williams store (14 Kimball Hill Road).

 1945 World War II ends. Soldiers return home with new skills and an exposure to a wider world.
 1951 Walter F. Hendricks founded the Vermont Institute of Special Studies. Initially its primary aim was to orient foreign students to the requirements for attending American colleges and to help them achieve language skills. It was authorized to give a two-year, associate degree. In 1954, the Board of Trustees renamed the institution "Windham College."
 1953 Putney celebrated its 200th anniversary of the signing of the town charter with two-day festival, including a parade, pageant, and exhibits.
 1956 The Hungarian Revolution evoked a strong emotional reaction in the United States because it was one of the first battles in the Cold War. Hungarian refugees placed in homestays in Putney, aided by the Experiement in International Living. Teaching English to the refugees laid a foundation for what would become the School for International Training's English Language programs.
 1958

Santa's Land theme park opened for business on Route 5.

Tourist cabins and roadside stands abounded in the 1950s Putney, prompted by an increase in travel due in part to aggressive regional marketing and in part by the higher disposable incomes of many American families. In the early fifties there were at least five people who owned from four to ten cabins, making a town-wide total of 43.

Putney Central School moved to its current location, vacating the two story building that had served as the town school for the first part of the twentieth century.

 1961 Interstate 91, Exit 4 opened in December. Turnout for the ribbon cutting ceremony was one of the largest that had gathered for a road opening to date.
 1964 The Putney Inn opened as one of the first new Putney businesses to take direct advantage of Interstate travel.
 1968

Windham College was in full swing, bring a population increase of over 500 people, the largest since the 1780s. The college created many community opportunities in visual art, creative writing, music, dance and theater.

Windham music professor David Wells and his wife Janet opened the Yellow Barn Music Festival.

 1971 The Experiment in International Living outgrew its Putney campus altogether and moved to its current location on Kipling Road in Brattleboro.
 1978

Windham College closed its doors, just shy of 25 years of operation.

Putney Crafts and Open Studio tours began and have since developed into an annual Putney Crafts Holiday Tour that occurs each Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving.

 1985 Landmark College welcomed its first group of students, two years after purchasing the former Windham campus.
 1996 The Putney Tavern Building renovations completed, re-establishing a sense of a town center. The building was purchased at auction in 1995 by Peter and Deb Shumlin.
 1998 The Mabel Gray Walk-way stretching from Putney Central to Putney Village is completed, almost 50 years after Inez Harlow first requested such a sidewalk at Town Meeting in 1952.
   
  ???? Do you see events that should be added to the timeline? If so, tell us!