Pawlet was chartered in 1761 and probably named after the Paulet family in England, the first settlers arrived one year later. By 1768, a gristmill turned on Flower Brook, a tributary of the Mettawee, and Pawlet grew around the mill.
Two additional villages developed within the town boundaries: North Pawlet and West Pawlet, which sits right on the New York border adjacent to Granville. Nine families lived in Pawlet when it organized in 1769.
Pawlet also played a part in the American Revolution.
After the Americans evacuated Mount Independence, fought at Hubbardton and abandoned Skenesborough (Whitehall), British General Burgoyne's army continued southward.
Pawlet's location served as a perfect rendezvous for American forces that pestered the British left flank and attacked supply lines. Many ex-soldiers returned to Pawlet after the war, influenced by the rich countryside they observed while stationed in the region.
By the time Vermont became a state in 1791, Pawlet had the second greatest population in Rutland County.
Pawlet's agricultural history passed through several stages. Potash, gained by the burning of timber during the clearing of fields, became the first cash crop. Eventually thousands of sheep dotted the land in the 19th century, but when that craze subsided, dairying took hold.
Both sheep and cows created industry. Factories manufactured wool and dairies managed the raw milk. Consider S. Bardwell opened Vermont's first cheese factory in Vermont in Pawlet in 1864. Prior to that farmers manufactured cheese at home.
Starting in the 1860s Pawlet witnessed further diversification in its economic base. It had centered around agriculture, but the discovery of a rich slate belt running through the western part of town changed that region.
Fair Haven tapped its slate resources in 1839, however, it took several decades more for the slate boom to reach Pawlet. Quarries opened in West Pawlet in the 1860s and roofing slates were the prime manufactured product. Dillingham, Rising & Nelson, Hugh W. Hughes and Brownell Slate & Flagging represented some of the firms.
The domination of this industry is still apparent by the large waste piles that remain near working or abandoned quarries and the numerous slate roofs found on local houses. The Rising & Nelson Company still operates.
The Rutland & Washington Railroad that passed through West Pawlet made transportation of this product more manageable and assisted in bringing experienced Welsh immigrant quarry workers.
Before becoming known as West Pawlet, the village had the name of Mark's Crossing because of the railroad.
The Delaware & Hudson Railroad eventually purchased the Rutland & Washington. Trains ran on the line until its abandonment in the 1980s. The stretch from West Pawlet to Rupert has been converted to a recreational path for four-season enjoyment.
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