About Middletown Springs
Our picturesque town was officially founded in 1784 when citizens of the towns of Ira, Poultney, Wells, and Tinmouth petitioned the Vermont legislature to create a new town bounded by the ridges that prevented them from attending meetings and worship services in their original towns. Defined by the encircling mountains, Middletown became one of Vermont’s uniquely shaped communities. At 23 square miles, it is slightly smaller than the average Vermont town, but boasts an enormous sense of community spirit and civic engagement.
Over the years, our population has waxed and waned, and today about 750 residents make up our close-knit rural community. Our rich history as a production center and resort destination continues to lend character to the town. Nearby lakes, rivers, and mountains offer plentiful opportunities for outdoor recreation. Our elementary school, public library, general store, and local eatery provide the perfect venues for casual chats and other activities, from fundraising dinners to deer-hunting pools. It is truly, in the words of one of our town’s prominent historians, a “gem in the hills.”
The Poultney River and its tributaries have been prominent in Middletown Springs’ history. They provided one of the original reasons to settle here; water for agriculture and power for mills. By 1800 the Town had 1,066 people, seven mills, distilleries, clothiers, mechanics’ shops, taverns, and stores. Then in 1811 a heavy downpour caused floods that wiped out all but one of the mills. Jobs perished, commerce declined, and people moved away. For several decades only agriculture remained strong. By 1835 there were 3000 sheep in the Town and in the second half of the century dairy and cheese making thrived. Industry returned when A. W. Gray began manufacturing horsepower treadmills and related agricultural equipment. By 1867 Gray employed 30 men and supported loggers, sawyers, teamsters, and others.
Gray also rediscovered mineral springs that the 1811 flood had buried. Soon Middletown waters were bottled and widely distributed and in 1870 the luxurious Montvert Hotel began catering to visitors to the springs. Perhaps the most important legacy of this golden age is our unique name, in 1885, at the height of the healing springs era, the legislature granted a petition to officially change the town’s name to Middletown Springs, officially setting us apart from so many other early settlement towns called Middletown.
By the early twentieth century the internal combustion engine had largely replaced the Gray horsepower machines and the Montvert Hotel was failing. A disastrous fire in 1920 destroyed four prominent buildings in the center of Town and further demoralized the populace. Again, agriculture sustained the Town. The Buxton and Copeland farms were especially large and modern and in 1940 a creamery was built on the site of the old Gray horsepower factory. The creamery processed milk from as many as 140 Vermont and New York farms but declined as farmers began selling directly to bottlers.
Today we are mainly a bedroom community, with a heaping helping of small businesses and craftspeople dotting the landscape. The town is currently in the process of redefining our village center at the corner of East and South Streets, at the site of Parker’s Service Station lost to fire in (2008) and the devastating 1920 fire. Plans are in progress to erect a new Town Office in this space that will fill the void left by the loss of these local landmarks.