Bennington, Vermont History and Lore
Geographically and historically, Bennington is truly a "special place where Vermont begins." Bennington is surrounded by the lush forested beauty of the Green Mountain and Taconic Mountain ranges, and borders the 350,000-acre Green Mountain National Forest, yet is only a short drive from both New York's Capital District and the cultural Berkshires of Massachusetts.
Bennington has a rich cultural heritage, beginning with the Native Americans drawn by an abundance of fish and game in and along the area's numerous waterways. In 1749, New Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth chartered the first town in the territory now known as Vermont, and named it Bennington, in honor of himself. The town's original settlement was formed in the area known today as Old Bennington in 1761 by Congregational Separatists from Connecticut and Massachusetts.
The independent spirit of these early settlers was reflected in their overt resistance to land claims from New York colony and eventually led to the formation of a local citizen militia headed by Ethan Allen, which came to be known as the Green Mountain Boys. This militia later played a crucial role at the Battle of Bennington on August 16, 1777. That battle was a prelude to the surrender of British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga, which led directly to the success of the Revolution.
The population of Bennington shifted downhill and downtown Bennington began developing in the early 1800's. There are three National Register Historic Districts within the town, one in each of its historic village centers: Old Bennington, Downtown Bennington and North Bennington.
Bennington's long tradition of manufacturing was stimulated by a ready availability of both water power and natural resources. Among the earliest industries in town were a sawmill, a grist mill, and a paper mill. The quality of pottery, iron, and textiles produced in Bennington came to be nationally-recognized. Some of the mills which housed these industries have now been adapted for modern uses.
Visitors may gain a better appreciation of Bennington's rich heritage by visiting a number of places within the town such as the Bennington Battle Monument, the Old First Church, the Bennington Museum, the Park-McCullough House, Bennington College, Southern Vermont College and three covered bridges.