Town of Orange, is tucked away on a winding highway in the Vermont countryside
surrounded by treed, lush hillsides, neat dairy farms, depicting a time
that has nearly vanished from our way of life. It takes one back
in time. ~
The charter for the Town of Orange
by the State as of the date of
August 11, 1781.
The original charter is framed
According to the account of "Orange" written in 1868 by Carlos Carpenter,
a native of Orange but living in Barre at that time, the first settlement
in the Town was made by Ensign Joseph Williams in September 1793 on the
South line of the Town, a farm owned by Horace P. Gale. Prior to
this time only hunters, trappers, soldiers, and captives had passed through
this land, which was then a wilderness and uninhabited by permanent settlers.
However, following the first settlement, in the next two or three years
there were others who arrived, including Major Joseph Thayer, Christopher
Carey, Humphrey and Ephraim Hunt, Gould Camp, John and Matthew Sloane,
Ezra Paine, Ezra Goodale, Abel Skinner, Jabez Rodgers, and Porter Lord.
The Town was organized as of March 9, 1796 at a meeting, warned by Abel
Skinner, Justice of the Peace, and "holden at the house of Joseph Williams."
The first check list of voters who took the freeman's oath was made on
September 2, 1800 and contained 30 names of men living in the Town.
and in safe-keeping at the Orange
Town Clerk's office.
early records of the Town show that all the governing or overseeing of
land grants and changes were decided by the proprietors of the Township
evidently before many people had even settled in the area. The first hundred
acre divisions for land grants in the Town consisted of 67 original rights
and were recorded in the accounts from the proprietors' Records of Orange,
found in the first book of the Property Records of Orange. These were all
dated at Thetford as of January 5, 1785. Included were grants for College
Right, Grammar School Number 1, English School, Minister Right, and Parsonage.
second hundred acre division included 65 individual rights with five additional
for College, Grammar School, English School, Minister, and Parsonage Rights.
These rights were all dated at Hartford, Windsor County, as of March 6,
1786. All grants were made for 100 acres of land with five percent allowance
for highway. The entire Township was chartered to "Contain (or comprehend)
the Contents Six Miles Square (6 Miles Square)."
the book "Vermont Place Names" by Esther Munroe Swift, she describes Orange
as "largely a farming town," that the top population was reached in 1830
with about 1,000 people and over 5,000 sheep grazing on the hillsides.
Also, "located almost in the middle of town, the village of Orange had
a post office from 1823 until 1921. East Orange, in the extreme southern
corner, had a post office from 1850 until 1908." She also states in her
book that according to U.S. Coast and Geodetic survey Maps the tallest
peaks in town are Knox Mountain and Butterfield Mountain both over 3,000
to Census Bureau figures, the population in Orange was 348 in 1800, so
did have an influx of people up until 1830-1850 when the population dropped
more or less continuously until 1960. Then it began to again climb upward,
to 752 in 1980 and 915 in 1990.
seems that one reason for the decline in population was that the western
United States was made more accessible by means of rivers, roads and railroads,
and with open land available for grazing or farming, many people from the
east left the hilly farmland, such as in Vermont, for more prolific opportunities
in the west.
Perry Merrill's book, "Vermont Under Four Flags", he states that by 1840
about 4,000,000 acres of land had been cleared for agricultural use in
this state. However, from that date until the present time, the forest
area has been increasing, and the picture reversed, as there are about
4,000,000 acres of forest land in Vermont with much less open land for
farming purposes. The situation is apparent in the Town of Orange, as there
are only a few farms remaining and actively farming as of 1992. Much of
the land which formerly made up the acreage for operating a farm has been
sold off in smaller pieces for building of private homes.
to Town records, the meetings of the town people took place in private
homes or at a school house until 1824 when the meeting was held at "the
meeting house in Orange." The records indicate that a meeting house was
built by the religious Society sometime between 1800 and 1824, and that
it was used as a common town meeting house for public meetings for several
years. This was located on the village green which was in the area near
where the Orange Center cemetery is situated. It was purchased by the Town
in 1861 and moved to the Market Road (now Route 302), where it has been
located ever since. It was, however, moved further back from the highway
the early years of the Town, school houses were built in different districts
of the town and families could be changed from one district to another
in order to keep enrollments at a more comparable level. In 1920 there
were seven districts with an enrollment of 312 pupils. The enrollment in
1844 was up to "409 scholars in 13 districts," and the report lists 165
heads of families at that time. In 1905-06, school enrollment is listed
as 122 and in 1930-31 the elementary schools (Orange Center and East Orange)
consisted of 87 pupils, and there were 20 high school pupils enrolled in
five different high schools. In 1948 the consolidation of schools was further
approved which left only the central school of Orange Center and the one-room
school at East Orange. In 1959 the East Orange school was closed, extending
the centralization of all town schools into the Orange Center school. In
1990 the total elementary school enrollment was 125 pupils and the high
school enrollment was 54 students, or a total of 179 from the town.
first meetings for the worship of God were held in the homes of some of
the town residents. In March of 1801 "at a Stated Place for holding public
meetings" it was "voted to form into a religious Society for the purpose
of settling a minister and for supporting the Gospel." The Town Records
indicate that a Meeting House had been built prior to 1824, and it seems
logical that this is the same one where town meetings were held and eventually
purchased by the town, then moved to Market Road.
indicate that a union church was organized for East Orange in 1823, the
first building being erected in 1825 and occupied alternately by Free Will
Baptists and Methodists. This building burned and another church was built
on the same ground in 1850. This church building burned in December 1887.
Construction began in June 1888 on a new church building, which was completed
and dedicated in 1890. Worship services continue to be held here in this
church building which is noted for the beauty of its design and appearance.
are seven cemeteries in the Town, the newest one being "Brook Haven" which
is located near the town hall and clerk's office on Route 302 in the center
the first settlers came to Orange, there were several sawmills and grist
mills established where dams were made in the waterways to provide water
power. As a result of clearing trees from the land for farming purposes,
the industries of making potash, pearl ash, and lye came about. These products
were sold or bartered as needed. In the past, lumbering and local sawmills
were an important industry in Orange, but this work seems to have declined
considerably at the present time. The raising of the sheep was a flourishing
agricultural business from about 1810-1850, but declined rapidly when sheep
herding in the western states became too competitive.
1850-1900 many dairy farms turned to producing butter, eggs, and cheese.
Each family was more or less self supporting with their means of producing
dairy foods, vegetables, to last the year round, and poultry to supply
further means of food. Later on, the sale of fluid milk and cream became
the chief sources of income for the family. With the introduction of motor
transportation the Town has gradually become a bedroom town where the majority
of workers commute to places of employment outside Town boundaries.
industries which were active in the past were a tannery and shoe cobbler,
around 1850; a wheelwright shop and shingle mill, around 1900; a cabinet
and furniture shop, around 1850-1900, and general stores in Orange Center
and East Orange.
Industries listed in 1981 were: a country store, Rt. 302 at junction
of Route 25, an auto body shop, insurance and real estate business, an
antique shop, a used car sales business, firewood and gas product sales,
maple sugar products sales, and about 10 active farms.
social organizations and clubs have been active in the Town and continue
to provide opportunities for social interaction, if desired. These include
Orange Grange No. 492, the Friendly Circle Home Demonstration Club, the
School Improvement Club, a Snowmobile Club, and a Youth Group of the Orange
Alliance Church. The Town Recreation Committee also plans many recreational
activities during each year. A new recreation field has been made with
the help of the Vermont national Guard and is expected to ready for use
of the ~
Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.