Pentagon in shape, Fairfax lies in the southern tier of the county and is bounded north by Fairfield, east by Fletcher, south by Westford in Chittenden County, and west by Georgia. It was granted by New Hampshire to Edward Berling and 62 others, August 18, 1763, entitling them to 23,040.
This tract was duly laid out and surveyed, and retains the same area now, on changes in its boundary lines ever having been made. The usual restrictions and reservations incident to the New Hampshire grants were contained in this charter, though there seems to have been little given to them by the settlers, or by the grantees themselves, none of whom, however, ever located in the town.
Broken and hilly, Fairfax affords excellent pasturage for flocks. None of the hills approach the dignity of mountains, though Buck Hill approaches the nearest to the name. The town is well watered by several good sized streams, the principal one being the Lamoille River, one of the largest in the state. It enters the southern part of the town from Lamoille County and flows across the town, a serpentine course parallel with the southern boundary line.
About midway between the eastern and western lines are falls on this river, where the water descends from 28 feet in a distance of 30 rods, affording some of the best mill privileges in the county. Mill Brook, rising in the northern part of the town, unites with the Lamoille at Fairfax village. Beaver Meadow Brook rises in the northern part of the town, flows a southwesterly course and enters Georgia near the Lamoille. Browns River enters from the south and unites with the Lamoille in the western part of the town.
Fairfax is divided naturally into three separate parts -- the southern part, where the village is located; North Fairfax, including that portion north of Beaver Meadow Brook; and Buck Hollow, closed round by hills, through the center of which flows Mill Brook.
In the year 1880, Fairfax had a population of 1,820, and was divided into 18 school districts and contained 18 common schools, employing three male and 20 female teachers to whom was paid an aggregate salary of $1,752. At this period, W. A. Robinson was school superintendent.
The post village of North Fairfax, located in the northern part of the town, contained about a dozen dwellings in the early days of the town.
The post village of Fairfax, located in the southern part of the town on the Lamoille River, contained two churches (Baptist and Methodist), two hotels, an academy building, two drug stores, one hardware store, one jewelry store, five general stores, one saw mill and between 300 and 400 inhabitants.
The New Hampton Institution, located at Fairfax village, was founded in 1831, at New Hampton, N.H., and was removed to this locality in 1853. The Rev. Eli B. Smith was its first president in its new location -- and under his management the school enjoyed remarkable prosperity, numbering nearly 300 students. The institution was well located, and had a fine library of 2,000 volumes and considerable philosophical apparatus. It was conducted under the successful management of Albert G. Cox, A. M., principal, with Miss E. M. Kidder, assistant. Instruction was given in all branches sufficient to insure admission to any of the New England colleges.
Buck Hollow, (P.O.), a hamlet located in the eastern-central part of the town on Mill Brook contained one church (Episcopal), and a half dozen dwellings.
The Lamoille Mills were located at the Great Fall of Lamoille River, 1 1/2 miles south of the village of Fairfax. The buildings were erected by Samuel N. Gaut, of Boston, Mass., who was the son of William and Hannah Gaut, and was born at Brandon in 1816.
When quite young his parents moved to Middlebury, where they resided nine years. About 1830, they moved to Fairfax, from which place Samuel went to Boston, in 1836. He soon after started a baking business in that city and in 1840, he opened a store on Washington Street. In 1843, he married Susan Elliott Dutton, of Newburyport, Mass. After a while he purchased a farm in Fairfax, half a mile from the site of the Lamoille Mills.
In 1849, Gaut purchased from John Warner of Cambridge, and Mames S. Blin of Shelburne, the water privilege of the great fall on both sides of the river and later 80 acres of land surrounding it. In 1850, he built a brick mill containing four runs of stones for grinding flour.
He erected in 1864, a building for manufacture of woolen goods and in August, 1865, formed a co-partnership with F. W. Shepardson of Fairfax for manufacture of flannels, cashmeres and yarns under the firm name of Gaut & Shepardson retired from the business. Thereafter it was conducted by George S. Minot, Gaut's son-in-law.
Gaut built also a 2 1/2 story brick store and dwelling, where for several years he carried on the sale of general merchandise, under the name of Gaut & Steward. His partner was Hiram Steward. The buildings connected with the mill, beside those heretofore mentioned and consisted of six dwelling houses, three of which Mr. Gaut built.
M. C. & W. B. Shepardson, which was located on Stone's Brook, two miles east of Fairfax, commenced the manufacture of linden feathers, in November 1881, the first manufactory of this kind established in the East. Linden feathers were used for filling beds and lining carpets. The feathers underwent a process of medication whereby they were said to be made vermin proof. Being non-conductors of heat, cold or electricity, and at the same time pliable and elastic, they made an excellent and economical substitute for natural feathers.
At this period, a saw mill located on Road 25 was operated by W. H. Rood. Powered by water, it employed two men and cut 150,000 feet of lumber a year.
A saw and grist mill was owned by Newton D. Kidder, and was located at Fairfax village. Operated by water power, it gave employment to two men, did custom grinding, and cut 200,000 feet of lumber and 75,000 shingles a year.
Edward A. Sowle's tannery manufactured from 5,000 to 9,000 rough deacon skins annually, using about 50 cords of bark.
James Bellows made the first settlement on the farm later owned by his grandson, James.
A native of Connecticut, Francis Story came to Fairfax from Bennington in 1786 and located upon a farm later owned by Owen Campbell. Mr. Story was an early settler in Bennington and was engaged in the battles of Bennington and Plattsburgh. Aaron H., son of Francis, came here with his father, married Cynthia Learned, and had a family of eight children.
Jedediah Beeman came to Fairfax in 1786 from Bennington, in company with his father and four brothers. Here he erected a log house and lived alone for a time eventually becoming convinced that "it is not good for man to be alone," and took to himself a wife. There were three children when she died. He married again and had a family of seven children. He died on the farm upon which he first settled, at the age of 86. Mrs. Beeman died in 1871, at 94.
Hubbard Beeman, who later occupied the farm was born June 11, 1807 and was married to Rhoda Stratton in February 1830. One of their sons was killed in the battle of Gettysburg and two became Methodist ministers. One son, the Rev. J. D. Beeman, became president of the Vermont Methodist Seminary at Montpelier and another became superintendent of the car manufactory of the C.V.R.R. Co., at St. Albans.
Gould Buck, born in New Bedford, Conn., in 1764, removed to Arlington when 12 years old and in 1787, came to Fairfax and settled upon a farm. First barn built in the town was erected by Mr. Buck. His first wife was Hannah Burritt, by whom he had nine children. His second wife was Sarah Ann Hawley, by whom he had two daughters.
In 1789, Jacob Story came to this town from Bennington and made the first settlement on a farm later owned by Perry Cook. His son, Joseph, was the first male child born in the town. Another Bennington son was Hamton Lovegrove. Coming here in 1789, he settled on the farm now owned by R. Stevens.
Samuel Hawley Sr., emigrated from England to Stratford, Conn., in 1666. He had two sons, Samuel, Jr., and Ephraim. The latter settled in Newtown, Conn., and had a family of ten sons and two daughters. One of these, Jehiel, settled in Arlington in 1766, where he organized the first Episcopal Church in the state. Abijah, son of Jehiel came from Arlington to Hinesburgh in 1786 and, in 1789, removed to this town and made the first settlement on the farm later owned by Lyman and Cyrus A. Hawley.
Broadstreet Spafford and his two sons, Nathan and Asa, came into Fairfax from Pieremont, N.H. in 1783, began improvements, and soon after removed their families here, being the first settlers in the town.
A Mr. Eastman started from New Hampshire with them, but died on the road and was buried in a trough on the flats in Johnson.
The Spaffords located on the banks of the Lamoille, in the southeastern part of the town. During the following year, they were joined by Robert and Jose Barnet and, in 1`786, by Thomas Russell, they all being related to each other.
In 1787, Levi Farnsworth made the first settlement on the Plain. He came from Charlestown, N.H. bringing only his gun and an axe. In the autumn he returned to New Hampshire and in 1790 moved his family to their new home. They came by way of Williston and then cut their road to Cambridge Borough, there crossed the Lamoille and proceeded down its north bank, by the road of Capt. Spafford. After fording the river again just below the falls, they cut a road to their new home about a mile distant. He soon was followed by his brothers and friends, Jasper Farnsworth Sr., Jasper Farnsworth Jr., Oliver Farnsworth and Joseph Farnsworth, all of whom settled on the Plain.
The first settlement made in North Fairfax was by Joseph Beeman Sr., and Joseph Beeman Jr. They came from Bennington in 1786, on foot, carrying upon their backs their provisions and utensils for opening their farms.
They built a house of logs, covered it with elm bark, and floored it with basswood, cleared a small space for corn and turnips and returned to Bennington in the autumn. The next year they moved their kin here. Mr. Beeman drove a cow, which was their main dependence for food. He brought his flour from Bennington, of which the first year he had some 300 or 400 pounds. At this time he raised a patch of turnips and a small quantity of corn. The next year his sons, Joseph Jr., and Beriah, came on, and became permanent settlers in the town. Numerous descendants of this family resided here, and some still are to be found in Fairfax.
The following season Hampton Lovegrove and Jacob Story boarded with Mr. Beeman, while they commenced settlements in the town. The settlement thus begun soon increased by arrival of Gideon Orton, Aaron Hastings, Shores Ufford and others.
Historians record the first settlement in Buck Hollow as begun by Gould Buck and Abigail Hawley, who came from Arlington in 1791. They settled on land purchased by Lemuel Buck, of Arlington, of Elias Jackson and Eleazer Marble, of Salisbury, Litchfield Conn. This tract contained 1,400 acres. The original rights of John Christopher, James Viner and William Legraft were purchased for $500 and comprised the territory now known as Buck Hollow. They were followed the next year by Jesse, George, Nathan, Zadock and Joseph Buck.
First improvements made where the village now stands were by a man named Joseph Belcher, about 1787. In 1789, William Maxfield, Lester Grosevenor and John Andros made a permanent settlement here. Stephen England came in 1788, and located on the so-called Belcher claim, where he soon after opened a hotel, the first in the village. He subsequently sold to Hampton Lovegrove.
At the first town meeting, 1787, Capt. Spafford was elected moderator; Thomas Russell, town clerk; Nathan Spafford, constable, and Broadstreet Spafford, Robert Barnet and Thomas Russell, selectmen.
Thomas Farnsworth came to Fairfax from Charlestown, N.H., at an early date and settled upon the farm later owned by Mrs. Mary A. Weaver. Arriving at Burlington, he there learned something of the Lamoille River and directed his journey in search of it, accompanied by his dog. He struck the river at its mouth and followed its banks until he arrived at Fairfax Plain, where he located.
Pleased with the location, he immediately commenced improvements. To his new home he brought his gun, axe, a small quantity of flour and a little bag of salt, relying for sustenance mainly upon the wild game and fish which was abundant in the vicinity. Here he remained alone with his dog from May until October (clearing his land).
Toward fall he was surprised by a visit from Tisdale Spafford, who called at his clearing while on his way from Cambridge to Burlington to procure seed-wheat. Mr. Farnsworth accompanied him on his journey and, being a man of great muscular power, brought back with him two bushels of wheat on his shoulder. This he sowed, then returned to his old home in New Hampshire, where he remained for the winter.
Accompanied by his brother, Oliver, he returned in the spring, bringing with him a horse laden with supplies. With the re-enforcement he was enabled to make much larger improvements so that he soon had his farm cleared upon which to continue to reside until his death in 1814. He married Chloe Balch and was the father of seven children, all of whom remained in Fairfax until they became adults.
James Farnsworth, a lieutenant in the Revolution, came from Connecticut and made the first settlement on the farm later owned by Henry Hull, where he died in 1800 at 72. Oliver Farnsworth and his son, Asa, both Revolutionary soldiers, also were early settlers.
On December 22, 1771, Joseph D. Farnsworth first saw the light of day at Middletown, Conn. At the age of six he removed to Bennington with his father. By sixteen he was ready for college and commenced the study of medicine. In the autumn of 1789 he received a diploma, then being but 18 years old. He located at Addison, Vt., and commenced the practice of his profession.
In January, 1795, he removed to Fairfield. In 1801, he was elected to the Legislature and in 1807one of the judges of the county. He became chief judge in 1808, a position he held until 1824, when he left the county, not returning until 1836. He died at Fairfax, September 9, 1857, when 86. His son, James H. Farnsworth, was born in Fairfield April 16, 1809. When quite young in years he commenced reading medicine with his father and was graduated from the medical department of UVM at the age of 19, in the Class of 1828. On April 5, 1830, he married Caroline Martin of Ferrisburg, who died October 17, 1874. Soon after his marriage he settled in Fairfax village, where he practiced medicine for many years, served the town as representative in both branches of the Legislature. He died August 26, 1878.
Samuel Alfred was born in Springfield, Mass., in 1804. In 1824 he settled in Lansingburgh, N.Y., where he married Miss Sally Willard. She died in 1828, leaving two children. About 1831, he removed to Berkshire, where, in 1832, he married Miss Polly Smith, the union being blessed with 10 children - six sons and four daughters. In 1842, Mr. Alfred came to Fairfax and engaged in mercantile pursuits until 1868 when he sold out to his son, J. B. Alfred. He was a liberal supporter of education and used his means and influence towards establishing the New Hampton Institution in this village.
Other early settlers in Fairfax were Gideon Orton, who came from Tyringham, Mass., about 1790. Gen. Josiah Grout came from Massachusetts and made the first settlement on the farm later owned by Uzeb White, in 1790. He served as a general in the War of 1812. Shores Ufford, born in Litchfield, Conn., in 1756, came to Fairfax in 1791, and settled upon a farm. His son Samuel, came with him and represented the town in 1813.
Stephen England, a Revolutionary soldier, born in the Bay State, came to Fairfax in 1794 and made the first settlement upon the farm later owned by Isaac Wilson. He built and kept the first hotel in Fairfax village in 1800 and died in 1810.
From Castleton, Vt., came Josiah Brush, who made the first settlement upon the farm later owned by Perry Cook, where he kept a hotel 30 years.
Another early settler was Asa Wilkins, who, with his son, Asa Jr., came here from Reading, Vt., in 1797. Ansel Shepardson came from Middletown, Conn., and made the first settlement on the farm later owned by Curtis Wilson. His family numbered eight children.
Abram Rugg, builder of the first saw mill in the northern part of town, came here with his son, Alexander Rugg, from Whitingham, Vt., in 1800. Here he settled on the farm later occupied by William Buck. Alexander made the first settlement on the farm later owned by E. G. Rugg, where he died in 1874. He served as a captain during the War of 1812. His son, B. F. Rugg, was a prominent citizen of St. Albans.
Nathaniel Gove was born in Preston, Conn., and came to Rutland, Vt., when quite young and from there to Fairfax, in 1800, where he made the first settlement upon the farm later owned by Charles Brush. He kept a public house here for many years.
Isaac Webster, a Revolutionary soldier, made the first settlement upon the farm later owned by Joseph Story, about 1800.
The Rev. Ephraim Butler came to Fairfax in 1800. He was the first Baptist missionary who ever traveled in Vermont. He died in 1861, at 78.
Born in Connecticut in 1779, Joseph Learned married Lydia Powell of Milton, in 1808 and the next spring removed to this town and located upon the farm where he spent the remainder of his life, passing away in 1867, when 89. His family numbered seven children and during his life he served his townsmen in most of the town offices.
Coming to Bakersfield when but 15 years old, Hilkiah Pierce lived there ten years and then came to Fairfax and located upon the farm later owned by his son, S. A. Pierce. Hilkiah was born at Bennington in 1787.
Other early settlers were William Clark and William Barrett. Mr. lark came from Reading, Vt., in 1821, and located upon the farm his son, Marshall, later owned. His life came to an end in 1880, when he was 87. Mr. Barrett was born in Williamstown, Mass., and came here in 1816. His farm later came into possession of Alfred Abels.