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Pownal
05261

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The Valley From Old Route 7
Photo by Jes Dennett

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About Pownal, Vermont
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Click for Pownal, Vermont Forecast

Bennington County
Chartered: January 8, 1760 (New Hampshire Grant)
Area: 30,338 Acres = 47.4 Square Miles [ Size Rank: 47* ]
Coordinates (Geographic Center): N 42° 46' W 73°14'
Altitude: 385 feet ASL
Population (US Census, 2010): 3,527 [ Population Rank: 45* ]
Population Density (persons per square mile): 74.4 [ Density Rank: 57* ]
Full Census Info: Town
  County  State

*Area, Population and Density rankings refer to Pownal's relative position among Vermont's 255 civic entities (9 cities, 242 towns, 4 gores and grants). Complete rankings are here.

Pownal was the first town Benning Wentworth granted after the French and Indian wars, during which he had not granted anything in what was to become Vermont. Brothers John and Thomas Pownall are both listed in the charter and are thus unquestionably the source of the name: Wentworth left off the final l from both their names and that of the town in the charter.

Younger brother Thomas was often called Governor Pownall, having been lieutenant governor of the New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts Bay colonies, later governor of South Carolina. He was considered to have been one of England's best professional administrators; after his return to England, he tried to achieve a moderation in colonial policy. He authored twenty-five books, chiefly on politics and economics, the best known of which was The Administration of the Colonies (1764). He advocated making concessions to the colonies in the interest of achieving peace, but in the end supported Lord North's ministry, which to a large extent was responsible for precipitating the Revolution. Throughout the war he constantly opposed using Natives against the colonials.

At the time of the grant, elder brother John was Secretary of the Board of Trade and Plantations. Wentworth probably hoped to curry favor in the dispute over whether he had the authority to grant lands west of the Connecticut River. Like his brother, he sided with Lord North when conciliation with the colonies was put to the vote in Parliament.

Pownal was the site of Vermont's only racetrack, which at one time was nearly as controversial as one of the state's few witchcraft trials, which also happened in Pownal. The Widow Gregor was accused of having unspecified "extraordinary powers." A committee of townspeople deemed that, if she sank when placed in a hole cut in the river ice, she was innocent; if she floated, she must be supported by the Devil and thus guilty. The widow sank like a stone, and it was only with great difficulty that she was saved from drowning, that she might enjoy her acquittal. The racetrack, by the way, was a horse track until 1976, when they switched to greyhounds; it closed entirely in 1992. There have been some proposals for making use of the facilities, but the buildings just rot along Route 7 as you enter Vermont from Williamstown, Massachusetts.

In their younger days, two American presidents, James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur taught school here at what was called "The Academy," in the basement of the Congregational Church in North Pownal. Their common experience is said to have been one of the reasons Garfield asked Arthur to be his running mate in the 1880 election.

Material excerpted or adapted from Esther Munroe Swift's
Vermont Place-Names: Footprints of History
with the author's permission

Activities & Points of Interest
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Goings-on in and near Pownal
Calendar of Events provided by the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing.

Pownal's 250th Anniversary
Follow what's going on in preparation for the 250th anniversary of Pownal's charter

Pownal Historical Society

Contact Info
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Emergency Services (Statewide): 911
Hospital: Southwestern Medical Center (Bennington) 802-442-6361
Town Clerk:  Karen Burrington PO Box 411 Pownal, VT 05261
 802-823-7757
 M W Th F 9-2; T 9-4; and by appt.

Churches, Ministries, Charitables
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Congregational : North Pownal Congregational Church (North Pownal) 802-823-7930
Nondenominational : Faith Christian Fellowship 802-823-7828
Roman Catholic : Our Lady of Lourdes
United Methodist : Pownal UMC 518-663-8206

Schools
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Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union 802-447-7501
Pownal Elementary School 802-823-7333

Neighboring Towns
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This is a basic geographic reference, intended to show relative location of adjacent towns. Directional accuracy is limited to 16 compass points. There isn't even the slightest suggestion that one can necessarily travel directly from one town to the next (as in "You can't get there from here").

Bennington Woodford
Pownal
New York Stamford
Massachusetts

Utilities
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Notes about utilities:

  • One electric or phone company indicates that company serves the entire town. More than one of either indicates each serves different areas of town.
  • A listed cable company MIGHT mean the entire town is covered, but not necessarily. More than one listed indicates each serves different areas of town.
  • Unless your area is one served by Vermont's only gas utility, your only option is bottled gas (any dealer).
    Cable Comcast 800-266-2278
    Electric Green Mountain Power 888-835-4672
    Telephone Fairpoint 866-984-2001

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    May 25, 2013