Stowe Area Association
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Highways, By-Ways, Turnpikes and Tracks - A bit of history

February 5, 2016
Submitted by Barbara Baraw, Stowe Historical Society

From the Duxbury town-line southeast of Waterbury Village to the Morristown line northeast of Stowe Village, the Green Mountain Byway is about 12 miles of Vermont State Route 100.

The Stowe-Waterbury connection has its roots in the 1763 land grants by New Hampshire governor, Benning Wentworth. James Marsh, the first settler in Waterbury built a house near Hope Cemetery, in 1783, and brought his family to live there in 1784. In 1793 Oliver Luce, built a house near the current intersection of Route100 and Stage Coach Road.  Spring 1794, Oliver and his family got as far as the Hill family farm in Waterbury, left some of the belongings and took the rest to Stow (no “e” at the time) on a hand sled that can be seen in the Stowe History Museum.  The route, an uncut track, the Luces took was over Brush Hill, Gregg Hill, crossed the Waterbury River near Moscow and northeast along the west side of the river through the area of the convergence of the “West” and “East Branches” of the River, in which became Stow village, to their new home.

In 1817 Waterbury and Stow became post towns. The first postmaster of Waterbury was Henry Janes, and in Stow Reverius Camp. The postal route was from Montpelier through Waterbury, Stowe, Hyde Park to Johnson with delivery once a week. Prior to then a volunteer went to Montpelier to get the mail for townspeople.

At various times there were four substantial roads between Waterbury and Stowe. In addition to the Brush Hill-Gregg Hill road, the Stowe Hollow – Barnes Hill Road was a High Road (County Road because it was in Lamoille and Washington counties) that  went  from Stow village, through Waterbury Center to Waterbury.   The road from west of Moscow through Rickerville, that followed the Waterbury River to the Winooski River was another.  The most familiar is the current route 100.  From Waterbury Center to Moscow Road, it is the newest highway. Coaches and wagons being bogged down in springtime mud was the impetus to request of the State Legislature the creation of a turnpike between Waterbury, Stowe and north.  In 1850 a Turnpike Company was formed and a plank road was built over Shutesville Hill to near the intersection of Moscow Road.  There was a toll booth near the Gregg Hill Road turn and at Moscow Road.  Because there was little base and the planks make of pine, the road had a short life.  An earlier turnpike was chartered but not built from Cambridge through Stowe, Waterbury and Middlesex Notch to the Winooski River on to Montpelier.

The Central Vermont Railroad opened its primary line from White River to Burlington, through Waterbury in 1849.  Dreams of change and access came along with it. In 1865 the first charter was granted for a railroad from Waterbury through Stowe to Morrisville on the Lamoille River.  It was renewed several times after the Vermont section of the Portland and Ogdensburg railroad was completed from St. Johnsbury through Morrisville to Cambridge Jct. It would have been a great asset to the 300 room Mt. Mansfield Hotel in Stowe village. However, the hotel burned in 1889 and was not rebuilt. The 1894 legislature granted a corporate charter to a group of Waterbury and Stowe businessmen for the construction of a railroad from Waterbury to Morrisville, s titled MOUNT MANSFIELD ELECTRIC RAIL ROAD. It operated from 1897 to March 1932. The route was from the Waterbury RR station, under the Interstate overpass, along sections of Route 100 Stowe Waterbury Road, diverted to Waterbury Center village depot and across an 800 ft. trestle passed the Seminary, back to Route 100, passed the Methodist church, over Shutesville Hill to Stowe Lower Village, behind the hill, through the CE & FO Burt mill yard to the Stowe Depot next to the Green Mountain Inn. It was not completed to Morrisville. A stagecoach left from the Stowe depot to the center of Morrisville.   Models of cars and information about MMER are in the Stowe History Museum and Waterbury Historical Society’s collection. 

Change came in 1932.  The automobile was becoming king.  The state of Vermont created the state highway system. Route 100 was established by connecting former stage roads and other primary roads from Newport near the Canadian border to Stamford on the Massachusetts state line. The MMER ceased and track removed in 8 days.  Most of the track base and the road adjacent became the section of Route 100 we see today.  From approximately Colbyville to Moscow Rd. a concrete road was laid.   Since then asphalt has been used to repair and widen the roadway.  In the late 1970’s a 3ft bicycle lane was added in each direction.