About Stowe

Stowe was chartered in 1763 and is rich in history. The Stowe Historical Society compiled the following “Brief History of Stowe, Vermont” which we offer here:

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe lies in a broad, fertile valley between Mt. Mansfield and other peaks of the Green Mountains on the west, and the Worcester Range or “Hogback” Mountains on the east. The Waterbury River (or Little River, as it is presently known) with its main East and West branches and various tributaries, flows southward and, above Waterbury Center, empties into the large Reservoir created by the Flood Control Dam. From thence the “Little River” flows southward and empties into the westward flowing Winooski River west of the Village of Waterbury.

Stowe had become a chartered town on June 8, 1763, when governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire designated 64 men as “Proprietors”. None of this original group was settled in the town and no settlement occured until 1793, two years after Vermont, as the fourteenth state joined the original thirteen of the United States of America.

Oliver Luce Family SledThe first settler, Oliver Luce, arrived in Stowe in March of 1793 with his wife and two small daughters. The Luces are recorded as having left most of their belongings at Waterbury Center and coming the balance of the way on foot, pulling a small hand sled loaded with a few household necessities, through almost trackless forest to the one room log cabin Luce had built the previous summer. This sled has been preserved and is on display at the Stowe Historical Society. It was presented to the Stowe Historical Society by Oliver Luce’s great-great-grand-daughter, Mrs. Elsie Alger Page, the first President of the Society.

The first settlement was made about two miles north of the present Village of Stowe where Route 100 curves to the right and the Hill, or Old Stage Coach Road, runs straight to Morristown Corners and Cadys Falls. A stone monument, near the location of this first house in Stowe, and bearing a commemorative bronze tablet, stands in the grass triangle where the two roads meet.

The second settler arrived the next day after Luce. He was Captain Clement Moody who settled south of the Lower Village, on what is now Route 100, near the present site of the Spruce Pond Building. Fifth generation members of this Moody family still live on nearby land. Captain Moody was shortly followed by other families including close relatives of Oliver Luce. Luce Hill to the southwest of the Mountain Road (Route 108) was named after Ivory Luce, a member of this family. Over the succeeding years the town grew rapidly. By 1800 most of the land was sold and the population was 816. This steady growth continued for about fifty years – Stowe sending, for example, 40 men to fight in the War of 1812, and 208 in the Civil War.

In addition to the outlying farms, the early settlers congregated in five distinct locations. The original Upper or North Village was situated in the neighborhood of the first house. The present village was called the Center or Middle Village. Then came the Mill Village directly down stream. Still further down stream there was a settlement called Lower Village. There was a separate hamlet of Moscow, originally called Smith’s Falls, two miles further down the Little River. Over the years Stowe became the largest township in Vermont in area. To its original area of 36 square miles there was added, in 1840, most of the Town of Mansfield and in 1855, a part of the Town of Sterling (which was split between Johnson, Morristown and Stowe). Stowe was originally a part of Chittenden County; later it belonged to Washington County and finally to Lamoille County.

The first problem of the American settler was simply to keep alive. His second was to develop a cash crop with which to purchase the products of the outside world. Like other Vermont towns, such a cash crop in Stowe was potash, leached from the wood-ashes of the hardwood cut and burned in the clearing of the land. Prior to the development of our modern chemical industry, this was the source of the lye used in making soap, tanning leather and for many other purposes. During the War of 1812, this product was embargoed by the British and, as a result, the price doubled and tripled. A thriving contraband trade sprung up across the Canadian border by which this extremely valuable article of commerce was carried illegally into Canada. It is believed that the name “Smugglers’ Notch” originated from this trade, which possibly included other contraband items such as cattle – it makes for a good story.

The first sawmill and gristmill were built in 1796 by Josiah Hurlburt at the falls of the Little River in Mill Village. In 1822 a second dam was built several rods up the river. Water power from these two falls and the falls at Moscow has been used ever since for manifold industries including saw and gristmills, butter tub factories, sash and blind mills, starch and axe factories, furniture and wood-working shops, carding mills and tannery, and a foundry at Moscow. There is a factory on this Mill Village site which until recently was making wooden dishes and similar articles. Such a mill, according to old-time parlance, would be called a “Dish Mill”. Lumber and agriculture have been the essential industries of Stowe over most of its history. In particular, dairy farming has been the principal way in which the cleared land has been used. At first the cash crop was butter, and during this period, many butter tub mills operated along the streams feeding Little River. Later, bulk milk has been produced on most of Stowe’s farms, predominately for sale in the Boston market. The maple sugar industry still brings in considerable cash. But at the present time very few farms are operated in their original capacity, many having been sold for resort development and vacation homes. There are now several working farms while the resident population in the 1980 census is 2,990.

One of the oldest wood-working plants in the Town of Stowe was the C.E. & F.O. Burt Corp., which used to operate a steam-powered sawmill in the present Village. The George F. Adams, Co., still operating, makes a line of wood products. The Little River Wood Products Co. continues to produce wooden handles. These latter two companies are located in the Village of Moscow. Stoware made a variety of wooden products in that Lower Village location on Route 100 until 1973. At one time the Cady Wagon Co., making carriages, wagons and sleighs, provided a thriving industry in Stowe.

Stowe Historical SocietyImmediately after taking care of their bodily needs, the early settlers provided for religion and education. In establishing the government of the State, the Legislature, in 1779, planned that there were to be townships, each six miles square, with 70 “rights”, or lots in each. Five lots in each town were reserved, one for support of a college, another for town schools, one for the “Propogation of the Gospel” (The Church of England – now the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont) and one for the “First Settled Minister”. The fifth lot was designated as the Governor’s Right.

For more information about the history of Stowe, Vermont click Stowe Historical Society.