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Somerset

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The Reservoir
Photo by Malcolm Fowler

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About Somerset, Vermont
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Windham County
Chartered: September 9, 1761 (New Hampshire Grant)
Area: 17,603 Acres = 27.5 Square Miles [ Size Rank: 208* ]
Coordinates (Geographic Center): N 42° 58' W 72°58'
Altitude: 2,000 feet ASL
Population (US Census, 2010): 3 [ Population Rank: 252* ]
Population Density (persons per square mile): 0.1 [ Density Rank: 252* ]
Census Info: County  State

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

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Somerset was granted to 62 people, but it seems highly unlikely that any of the grantees could have known much about the territory he was buying. The town is perched on the Green Mountains in rough country that, then even more than now, must have seemed a long way from Bennington on the west and Brattleboro on the east. Today only a secondary road into the town from the south gives access to Somerset Reservoir and a few summer camps.

The origin of the name is uncertain. There were two English families whom Benning Wentworth might have wanted to honor with the name, but both were at low ebb of power in government when he granted the town. There was the Somerset family which had held at different times the Earldom of Worcester and the Dukedom of Beaufort; by 1761, however, the fifth Duke of Beaufort, Henry Somerset, was a youth of seventeen and still at Oxford. There was Edward Seymour, the ninth Duke of Somerset, who was probably the only undistinguished member of his ancient and large family, having succeeded to the Dukedom in 1757. The most noteworthy thing about him is that he lived in terror of contracting smallpox from those who had been inoculated against the disease. Hence, he rarely left his country seats and carried no political weight, even though he was a member of the Privy Council for years.

It seems most probable that Wentworth had in mind either the county of Somerset in England or the old town of Somerset, Massachusetts.

Although the town of Somerset acquired some residents fairly early in its history and had over 300 people in 1850, it never had a village or any real center of population. In 1937 the Vermont Legislature disenfranchised Somerset (see also Averill, Ferdinand, Glastenbury and Lewis), making it an official wilderness.

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

Historical Society of Windham County

Contact Info
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Emergency Services (Statewide): 911
Supervisor:  George Kuusela 504 Saxtons River Road Bellows Falls, VT 05010
 802-463-4762
 

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").

Sunderland Stratton
Somerset
Glastenbury Dover
Woodford Searsburg Wilmington

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May 25, 2013