This Place in History: Groton Forest Lumber Mills

Vermont Historical Society

GROTON, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History’ we’re in the Groton State Forest with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“We’re exploring history right where it is, as we normally do on this show. But, it’s something that the general public can come to visit. We’re standing on a rail line, which is now a multi-use trail, in a state park with this beautiful pond that’s open for everybody to see,” began Perkins.

“Right when the American Revolution ended, this area opened up for English settlements. And one of the first people to move into this area was a Captain Edmund Morse. And he built a sawmill. This is back in the 1700s, right where we’re standing here at the foot of Ricker Pond, which flows south to the Wells River. He ran that saw mill until he sold it to a man named Ricker, hence Ricker Pond. You can see there’s a Ricker Mill Road, too. That mill stayed in the family until 1960,” continued Perkins.

“The land around here is just so rough and [was] inaccessible for trains, automobiles and even horses with sleighs. So, it stayed pretty rugged in this area. By the end of the 19th Century, the Montpelier to Wells River Railroad went in here. That railroad connected through what’s now the Groton State Forest. There were no roads here at all. It allowed all of these small lumber operators to just explode. There were mills up and down this railroad. What’s now the State Forest Road roughly follows the railroad. And along every body of water, Groton Pond, Ricker Pond, even up to Osmore and on the hills above Kettle Pond, there were sawmills. They pumped I don’t know how many thousands of board feet of lumber onto those trains and away.”

“The bulk of lumber from the United States, of course, it had been sawn into boards, was delivered to the Port of Burlington. At one point, Burlington was one of the largest lumber ports in the world,” explained Perkins.

“At the end of this lumbering craze, they ran out of wood. They didn’t have anything to do. This land was wide open. So the lumber company started selling all the acreage they owned for timber to the state of Vermont. And this started about 1919. Over time, the state of Vermont added about 26,000 acres to their holdings in this area. It’s the second-largest holding for the state of Vermont here in the Groton State Forest. And then, it’s used for recreation. And obviously, the timber has started to grow back.”

“Go to our website VermontHistory.org and we have a page called ‘History Outside’ for everybody to get out this summer and visit Vermont. There are all sorts of resources there and one of them is a guide to the Groton State Forest,” concluded Perkins.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic site markers, click here.

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