Vernon is the very southeastern corner town of Vermont, and the smallest in Windham County. Its size was determined by the action of Benning Wentworth, New Hampshire’s first royal governor. His was a determined course of granting “cookie-cutter” six-mile square towns from the Atlantic shore to the New York border. On reaching this locality, the square town, named Hinsdale, was split diagonally by the Connecticut River.
Wentworth’s land grabbing did not sit well with Provincial Governor Tryon of New York, who had already made grants of his own for some of the same territory, east of the river. Plus, even earlier, the Massachusetts Bay Colony had “bought” land from the native population, laying out townships along the river, including Vernon.
The turmoil set the stage for Vermont’s hero, Ethan Allen, and his “Green Mountain Boys” to free the disputed land of all claims. Thus, the Republic of Vermont was born, holding that distinction until 1791, when it was accepted into the union as the 14th state.
However, the confusion did not end there. Even after statehood, the town kept its name of Hinsdale, like its “half-sister” town across the river in New Hampshire.
Finally, at the Town Meeting of 1802, the Vermonters suggested that their town be named “Huntstown”, honoring a distinguished resident, Lieutenant Governor Jonathan Hunt. His wife Lavinia, however, suggested it be called Vernon, after the British Admiral Edward Vernon, friend of the George Washington family, and for whom Mount Vernon was named. Thus, we became the only town in Vermont named by a woman!
Written by Barbara Moseley