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Ryegate
05042

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Ticklenaked Pond
Photo by Matt Wills

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About Ryegate, Vermont
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Caledonia County
Chartered: September 8, 1763 (New Hampshire Grant)
Area: 23,595 Acres = 36.87 Square Miles [ Size Rank: 167* ]
Coordinates (Geographic Center): N 44° 13' W 72°06'
Altitude: 1,060 feet ASL
Population (US Census, 2010): 1,174 [ Population Rank: 139* ]
Population Density (persons per square mile): 31.8 [ Density Rank: 134* ]
Full Census Info: Town
  County  State

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

One of only three towns in what is now Caledonia County granted by Benning Wentworth.

The unusually large list of 94 grantees was headed by Richard Jenness (also Jennes or Jennis). Also listed were nine other members of the same family, including two more Richards, a son and a grandson. The eldest Richard, identified in the charter as "Esquire", was a grantee of four other Wentworth towns, including the oldest one, Bennington. He was a very wealthy man who had considerable influence on colonial New Hampshire affairs; he also was a close friend of the Wentworth family.

Two different stories have been told about the origin of the town's name, both of which are wrong. The first says the name was given by Scottish settlers in the town for their home city of Rye. Not possible, because the Scots did not enter the Ryegate picture until ten years after the town was granted and named. The second account says it was because the grantees lived in and around Rye, New Hampshire, and the new town's name was constructed from that. The grantees did live in and near Rye, but neither is that the origin of the name.

The Jenness genealogy discloses the true origin of the Vermont town's name: the family originally came from Reigate in Surrey, England, where the name means "roe-deer gate," or a town near which roe-deer are found. Some of the early maps of Ryegate in Vermont show the Reigate spelling, which would seem to indicate that the early settlers did know the true origin of the name.

Apparently very few of the original grantees kept title to their lands, because in 1773 the Reverend John Witherspoon, then president of what is now Princeton University, owned most of the town. That same year the Scots-American Company of Farmers in Renfrew and Lanark, Scotland, sent James Whitelaw and David Allen to find land in America. After looking at land in many other places, Whitelaw and Allen bought the southern half of Ryegate from Dr. Witherspoon. According to Whitelaw (who later became Vermont's second Surveyor General), they chose Ryegate for these reasons: it was the best land they had seen; it was near a place where they could buy provisions; it was only six miles from a gristmill, two from a sawmill; the town had fine water privileges for mills; and it was within six miles of "a good Presbyterian meeting."

South of Ryegate Corner, just off the route of the Bayley-Hazen Military Road is Ticklenaked Pond. Various explanations for this odd and humorous name have been offered; the late Dr. John C. Huden, who spent most of his life studying place-names derived from Indian words, said it may be a modified Delaware Indian word meaning "beaver kittens here."

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 Ryegate
Calendar of Events provided by the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing.

Ryegate Historical Society

Contact Info
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Emergency Services (Statewide): 911
Hospital: Cottage Hospital (Woodsville, NH) 603-747-9000
Town Clerk:  Marsha Nelson PO Box 332 Ryegate, VT 05042
 802-584-3880
 M-W 1-5; F 9-1; Sat by appt.

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").

Peacham Barnet
Ryegate
Groton New Hampshire
Topsham Newbury

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).
    Electric Green Mountain Power 888-835-4672
    Electric Washington Electric Co-op 800-932-5245
    Telephone Fairpoint 866-984-2001
    Telephone Fairpoint 866-984-2001

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    May 25, 2013