Harry Chapman photo walking tour. Now on display in downtown Westminster West are H. L. Chapman’s 100-year-old photos of the village along the roadside. You can compare today’s views to the old photos while the trees are leafless. Below is the first of five waypoints. In the Library entryway, you’ll find a printed copy of the walking tour to take with you as you stroll up the Westminster West Road a quarter mile. You can also download the 2021 Westminster West Historic Chapman Photo Walking Tour Narrative. You can learn more about Harry Chapman in a September 2018 article from Vermont Magazine by Paul Carnahan. More Harry Chapman photos are on the Vermont Historical Society website and these historic photos are all courtesy of the VHS. You can leave comments on our Facebook page or on our Contact page. The Westminster Historical Society is grateful for the assistance of the Vermont Historical Society and Paul Carnahan. The photos will be taken down in May. If there is interest, we will post them again at Thanksgiving for the Craft Tour, when the leaves are mostly off the trees again.
The Westminster Town History makes a great gift. It’s a friendly, thorough collection of our stories. So, you can thumb to any page and learn something remarkable about out town. The story will be delightful or sad or something else, but it’s all about what makes Westminster what it is today. Bluntly, this gift is perfect bathroom reading and not at all like a homework assignment.
New information on our Bradley Family garment collection.
Fashioning Bygone Fashions is now available on the this website. Sonia Scott has carefully documented some of the early 18th Century clothing of the Bradley family. You can see the clothing and even download sewing patterns to replicate these remarkable garments. Sonia is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University. This project was an internship with the Westminster Historical Society. Please leave you comments about the project on our Facebook page.
Westminster is one of Vermont’s oldest and most historic towns, beginning as Township No. 1, or New Taunton, under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1734. There was no permanent settlement until 1751, when a survey placed “No. 1” in the New Hampshire Grants with the name of Westminster. In 1762, when the King decreed that the Connecticut River would be the border between New Hampshire and New York, Westminster became a part of Cumberland County, New York.
The main street in Westminster Village on Route 5 was laid out during the reign of George the Second, and called the King’s Highway. Originally, the right-of-way was ten rods wide, having been designed for use as a training ground for the military company. Today, the house fronts along the King’s Highway are still 165 feet apart.
The County Court House was located in Westminster from 1772 to 1778 and was the scene of many historic meetings and conventions. Perhaps the most unusual was in January 1777, when citizens declared Vermont as a free and independent republic, which lasted until it joined the United States in 1791 and the 14th state.
This same courthouse that was the scene of the Westminster Massacre two years previously, an event considered by many as the first bloodshed in the Revolutionary War, one month before the Battle of Lexington. Tory judges ran the court, but this Loyalist domination proved to be too much for area Colonists, or Patriots. King George’s courts of justice were almost closed in the colonies except in New York, where they continued to refuse to adopt the resolves of the Continental Congress. When they still insisted on holding court, people here rebelled. It was time for a March court session to consider action to collect debts, when a history-making event occurred.
Several men tried, without success, to talk the judge out of opening court. Realizing that they’d have to be inside the building first to be heard, as they wouldn’t be allowed admittance when officials arrived, a group of about 100 citizens entered the courthouse during the afternoon preceding court day, with a plan to remain until the judge heard their complaints. They went into the building armed only with clubs from a neighbor’s woodpile, having been assured by the judge that here would be no bloodshed. While the Patriots were in possession of the building,As a result of this Westminster Massacre, Patriots quickly assembled in Westminster the next day, coming from west of the Green Mountains, the southern part of the county, and from Massachusetts. About 500 men equipped for war were assembled here. The judge and other court officials were taken to prison in Northampton, MA, on a decision made by a committee formed by the crowd. Court was never again held in this county under the rule of Great Britain’s King George. The old court building stood, unoccupied, from 1788, when Newfane became the county seat, until 1806 when it was sold and torn down.
The Town of Westminster has been first in many events, including:
- First Township granted in Vermont, named Township No.1 in 1736. In 1752, the Province of New Hampshire incorporated it as Westminster.
- First State Bank established in 1807.
- First Printing Office established in Vermont by Spooner & Green in 1778.
- First newspaper in Vermont, “The Vermont Gazette” or “Green Mt. Postboy” was printed on the old Day Press, the first used in North America north of Mexico. This press is preserved in the Vermont Historical Museum in Montpelier.