Cavendish, VT is located about seven miles east of Vermont's Green Mountains and about 13 miles west of the Connecticut River. The Black River winds through the Township, from west to east.
With evidence of Paleo Indians dating back 11,000 years ago, the Crown Point Road, ran through Cavendish, providing a critical path during the French and Indian War. However, it wasn’t until 1761 that Cavendish, Vermont was incorporated as a town.
Cavendish was originally seven miles square. Hawks Mountain made it difficult for residents on that side of the mountain to communicate with the town office located in what is today Cavendish village. Consequently, the township of Baltimore, was formed in the southeast corner of Cavendish in 1793, reducing the town by 3,000 acres. An additional 2,000 acres of its southern border was lost to the Town of Chester in 1841. Consequently, Cavendish today has 5,000 acres less than in its original charter.
In June of 1769 Captain Coffeen came to Cavendish from Rindge, New Hampshire to become the town's first settler. He established an inn, which doubled as his home, near the Crown Point Road in the northwest part of town, in the hopes of attracting customers. While subsequent settlers wanted to be near the Black River, the earliest ones established their homes in the hills, because it was easier and faster to clear land. Once cleared, the settlers started to raise agricultural crops such as wheat and corn.
Two villages sprang up, Duttonsville (today called Cavendish) started by Salmon Dutton who moved here in 1781 and Proctorsville founded by Leonard Proctor , who came with his family in 1782. These two families would eventually be joined by marriage resulting in three Vermont governors and a United States Senator.
The theme of “sanctuary” runs throughout Cavendish history, from the first settler, John Coffeen and his family looking for a place where they could practice religion as they saw fit, right into the 20th century, when the Soviet dissident and Nobel Laureate in Literature Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn made Cavendish his home (1976-1994).
When Cavendish began, it was a town of family farms-dairy and sheep. Small businesses thrived as they provided services to the farming community. The woolen mills made Cavendish a “company town” for a while, but by the 1950s, they were closing and the family farm was rapidly disappearing. Around this time, many people started looking elsewhere for work.
Today, in many ways, Cavendish has returned to its roots. With the arrival of the Internet, there has been a blossoming of small home-based businesses. While the early settlers produced items that were needed locally and in surrounding towns, thanks to the web, many of our current businesses sell products and services all over the world There is a growing artist community as well as a return to small farming. Once again cows and sheep dot the Cavendish landscape.