Snowsville to Lost Nation: Vermont Place Names Offer a Glimpse into Local History
November 18, 2022
If you spend enough time in any Vermont town, you’ll likely come across Vermont place names like Maple Corner in Calais, Snowsville in Braintree, and Hortonville in Mount Holly. These places are not official villages but rather unincorporated areas that are deeply rooted in the fabric of these communities.
With a few exceptions, most of Vermont’s place names go back to a town’s early days. Some are named after a person, like Jonesville in Richmond. While other names reflect a geographical feature (in this case, a mountain with lots of bears), like Beartown near Manchester. Others, including Peth in Braintree, have names whose origins remain a mystery.
-Peth Road in Braintree leads to Peth and Mud Pond in Braintree. Main photo: The Braintree Hill Meeting House, home of the Braintree Historical Society’s museum.
Jane Dorney, a geographer, researcher, and placed-based educator, says that Vermont place names are remarkably durable.
Very few places have needed new names since the 1950s, Dorney says. There have been a few, such as the New North End in Burlington, the town of Sherburne changing its name to Killington, and the newly re-named Huzzy Brook in Townshend.
Vermont Place Names in Braintree
In central Vermont, the small town of Braintree has about 1,200 residents. Braintree has several unofficial places in town with names like Snowsville, Mud Pond, Braintree Hill, Peth, Lost Nation, and Quaker Hill.
-The area of Snowsville in Braintree is named after Jeremiah Snow.
Jackson Evans, president of the Braintree Historical Society, has lived in Braintree for over a decade. His mother’s family was connected to some of the town’s early settlers.
“Place names are a real part of the history of any town,” Evans says. “So, when you’re able to talk about those places or remember events that happened or people who lived in those places, it’s a way to connect yourself.”
Some place names in Braintree have been forgotten over time, he says.
“I think these place names evolve,” he says, explaining that some names stick and others fade away, such as places named after a property owner from long ago “It doesn’t exist on a map; it’s really in people’s memory. And unless that memory is being shared, eventually, it’s going to drop off.”
-Snowsville in the early 1900s. Courtesy of the UVM Landscape Change Program.
Learn more about the Braintree Historical Society
Happy Vermont Podcast
Jackson Evans, president of the Braintree Historical Society, has lived in this central Vermont town for more than a decade. He’s a historian, father, and husband who loves exploring Vermont Class 4 dirt roads on his bike. He talks about his love for the town of Braintree, its places, and history. You can find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Pandora, Google Podcasts, and iHeartRadio..