On September 7, 1761 Benning Wentworth, the Royal Governor of New Hampshire, signed a charter for 26,000 acres establishing the Town of Rutland in the name of Kind George III. The current towns of Rutland, West Rutland, Proctor and the City of Rutland were all included in the charter. Governor Wentworth preferred to name towns for prominent people in the hope that they would back his territorial claims on the west side of the Green Mountains over those of the Governor of New York. The town was likely named after the Duke of Rutland or John Murray, from Rutland. Massachusetts. There were 64 original grantees for the charter, each receiving rights to 350 acres. None of the grantees chose to settle in Rutland and each sold their rights to the land.
The first actual settler was Colonel James Mead who purchased 20 rights. which contained most of Center Rutland and nearly all of West Rutland. The other original settlers in West Rutland were farmers and a few tradesmen from Connecticut and Massachusetts. By 1840, there were 20 dwellings in West Rutland.
Growth and Industry
The history of West Rutland was closely tied to the marble industry at the early party of the century. Marble was the first quarried in this vicinity, in Pittsford as early as 1795. William F. Barnes, and innovator in marble quarrying bought land and began quarrying in 1839. Originally the marble was pried loose from the top of the ground. Later, gunpowder loosened the marble from its position, yet there was much marble wasted and destroyed with this process. Mr. Barnes, then discovered the “churn drill” to drill deep grooves around the blocks to be taken out. By the 1850’s the marble industry began to flourish and with it, the Town of West Rutland. Marble companies built houses and tenements for the workers, most of whom were seasonal employees. Between 1870 and 1880 the population began to climb rapidly as the marble industry boomed. In 1870 there were 1,600 people living in West Rutland, but by 1880 there were over 3,000 residents. Consolidation of the marble companies began in 1888 with the Vermont Marble Company Purchasing the Gilson and Albertson Marble Company. The marble industry declined in the mid 20th century and the once powerful Vermont Marble Company’s holdings were sold in 1978.
In the late 1800’s, West Rutland residents began to feel dissatisfied with their representation in local politics and petitioned to separate from East Rutland. The Vermont legislature approved, and on November 19, 1886 West Rutland was incorporated as its own town. At the Time the town was incorporated there were six churches in West Rutland; four Protestant, and two Catholic. The division of Rutland caused some perplexing problems, among them the division of the school fund, ascertaining of the Grand List, the future of the poor farm, the distribution of public money and the public debt, and the value of the old town hall.
The first town meeting was held on March 1, 1887 in Campbell Hall on Marble Street. At this meeting, West Rutland’s civic government was organized and the officers were elected to carry on town business. Subsequent meetings were held here until 1909 when the present town hall was built to become the center of West Rutland civic activities. By 1890, the population was 3,680, comprised mostly of English, Irish, French, Italian, Swedish, Polish and a few Jewish families.
The Town of West Rutland was authorized to set up district schools or “common schools”. Each district had a prudential committee, whose duty it was to select teachers, to oversee the school, levy taxes to support the school, examine teachers, and to grant certificates. The prudential committee in each district also taxed families in the district according to the number of children in school. The first grammar school in West Rutland was built in 1800 on Pleasant Street. In 1810, the West Rutland Academy opened. As the town grew in population, more school districts were built. On September 16, 1881, the West Rutland English and Classical High opened its doors. In 1891, the Vermont legislature passed a new school law abolishing the district school system and established the town school system.
In May of 1886, a new method of transportation was introduced, the Rutland Horse Railway – trolley cars pulled by horses. The tracks following along the Causeway, Main and Marble Streets, to the end of the line at Barnes House, which was the Delaware and Hudson Depot. In the 1890’s, the trolleys were electrified and the use of horses was discontinued. Later the electric railway line was extended to Castleton, Lake Bomoseen, Fair Haven and Poultney. In 1924, the railway tracks were removed as the private automobile made this method of transportation obsolete.
A fire in West Rutland in 1891, led to the formation of a town Fire District. The H. H. Brown Engine and Hose Company was organized with volunteers. A major fire in 1903 destroyed many buildings on lower Marble Street which were rebuilt in the following year. In 1927, the first motorized fire fighting equipment was obtained and in 1928 came the next major fire: the burning of the Main Street Elementary School. This building was restored in 1929, and enlarged to contain the elementary grades and the high shcool.
On August 1, 1891, electric streetlights were turned on for the first time. The West Rutland Coronet Band led a parade through the streets. A cannon was fired and there were fireworks to celebrate the occasion.
Many attempts were amde to provide the town with water. In 1892, Syllier Smith built what became known as “Smith’s Aqueduct” with Mead’s Brook as it source. Pipes were laid down Clarendon Avenue to Ross Street with a watering trough was erected at the foot of Clarendon Avenue. Finally, the West Rutland Water Works Company was organized in 1902 and a reservoir was built. The reservoir supplied the town with water until a well and electrical pumping system was added to supplement the reservoir. The water system was sold to the Fire District #1 on October 1, 1928.
The Town of West Rutland celebrated the centennial anniversary of its incorporation in 1986. Between the Centennial and the Millennium, the town has grown and experienced some important changes. The Highlights of recent events and developments include: the formation of Rutland West Neighborhood Housing Services; completion of the upper Castleton Watershed project; renegotiation of the shared boundary with Rutland Town; the addition of a portion of Marble Street to the National Historic Register; merger of the fire district; and purchase of land for public recreation, among many of the accomplishments. The town has also updated the bylaws, adopted subdivision regulations, continually updated the Town Plan, undergone an extensive reappraisal, completed parcel mapping and worked hard to improved public series such as water, sewer, fire protection, and education.
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