A classic, small Upper Valley town, Strafford is located to the north west of Norwich, Vermont in Orange County. Strafford, VT was chartered through the New Hampshire Grants, along with 131 other towns. Strafford is ‘divided’ into two areas, Strafford and South Strafford, also known as “Upper Hollow” and “Lower Hollow”.
The Town of Strafford, Vermont
History of Strafford
Along with many other towns in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont, Strafford was chartered by New Hampshire’s Governor Benning Wentworth in 1761. The town was named after his brother, William Wentworth, who was the Earl of Strafford and served the King and was a member of Parliament in Great Britain.
Before the charter, the town was inhabited by very few people. Some inhabitants were Abenakis Native Americans, which are suspected to be the only people utilizing the land, which they did for thousands of year, until the early 1600s, when the French came down from Montreal to hunt and trap animals for fur.
When chartered, the town was originally just more than six square miles. Over the many years it has transformed and gained land. Now the town of Strafford, Vermont is approximately 44 square miles. The only major waterway in Strafford is a branch of the Ompompanoosuc River, which crosses through town.
Mining in Strafford
In the late 1790s, it was discovered that Strafford was holding a large deposit of copper ore and copperas. This discovery lead to the formation of the Vermont Mineral Company as well as Elizabeth Mine Company, which ended up being the largest mine company in New England at one point in time. The town was in a boom! By 1799 there were eight public schools and the town began construction of it’s famous Strafford Town House.
It’s said that the Strafford Town House is the most photographed building in Vermont and it is still in service today. It’s available for both public and private events, and of course it is utilized for town meetings as it has been every year since the construction was completed in 1801.
Strafford became a hub of activity topping out with a whopping 835 students attending school in the town in the early 1800s. The town center was filled with with businesses to serve the miners, their families and visitors to the town. These businesses included a blacksmith, tannery, carding mill, tavern, general store and even an Inn for visitors to the town.
By the 1830s Strafford began to see a decline in population as more opportunities were available in the west, people gradually moved out of town and even less people were moving in.
Justin Smith Morrill Homestead
One of the most notable people from Strafford is Representative Justin Smith Morrill. He constructed his Gothic Revival home, where he spent his vacation time. He was a Senator in Washington DC for 43 years. Morrill is most well known for his work on the Land Grant Colleges. These grants, through the Morrill Acts of 1860 and 1890, granted federally controlled land to the states, which then could be sold off to fund colleges which focus was on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering.
The Morrill Homestead is open to the public as a historical place of interest. Senator Morrill’s Strafford, Vermont Homestead is a premiere example of Gothic Revival architecture. The homestead is a Vermont State Historic Site, maintained by the Friends of the Morrill Homestead, and is open for the public to visit and explore from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.
Things to do in Strafford, VT
Strafford might be a small, quaint Vermont town, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. You just have to open the doors and find the nooks and crannies of the town. Aside from the above listed things to see, residents and visitors can enjoy the Town Pond for swimming – which the Lions Club operates during the summer or spend an afternoon at the recreation and sports facilities. Discover hiking trails, hit the ski area or just relax on the lawn at the local park.
During the winter, town residents and their guests are invited to hitch a ride on the tow rope at Harrington Hill ski area and be towed up to the top before skiing or boarding back down. The Harrington Hill ski area is also maintained by the Lions Club of Strafford, VT and is located behind Barrett Hall above Route 132 in South Strafford.
Shh… It’s a Secret!
A hidden gem of Strafford is the Old City Falls. This is a 45 foot total drop between the upper and lower waterfall and they contain two refreshing pools, one located at the upper plunge and one located at the lower cascade. The pools are not very deep, but they are deep enough to walk into, splash around and cool off on a hot summer day.
The parking area is a nice place to have a picnic, as there are picnic tables, trash barrels and even a shelter, so don’t be afraid to pack a lunch and enjoy the afternoon at the Old City Falls waterfalls area. From the parking lot, the hike will take you about 15 minutes and it’s moderately difficult. It’s less than 1/2 of a mile to get to the falls. Flip-flops are not encouraged, wear some decent footwear to navigate up to the falls.
The best view of the waterfall can be seen by walking past the end of the trail (there’s a sign that says where the trail ends) and hiking your way to the base of the upper fall. If the conditions allow, you may even be able to climb behind or into the waterfall and enjoy the water spray as it cascades over and splashes down onto you. The falls are located on the Old City Falls Road off of the Justin Smith Morrill Highway. The parking area is well marked.
Calling Strafford Home
The town of Strafford, VT holds on to the character, charm and history that has made the town into hat it is today. Several organizations have moved into the community over the many years and continue to thrive today. Groups like the Strafford Conservation Commission has been established to help with land and nature conservation efforts. They currently maintain 15 miles of trails throughout town. The trails run through locally owned and private land and is open to human powered traffic. Motorized vehicles are not permitted on the trail system.
The is a Strafford Athletic Association is a non-profit organization which maintains the community recreational facilities, The Lions Club is a sponsor of the Town Pond, the Friends of the Morrill Homestead provide care-taking of the estate, the Strafford Historical Society, Harris Library and other organizations provide wonderful community support and programs.
Strafford, Vermont is one of the most beautiful places to call home in the Upper Valley. It has everything from small town charm to rolling hills, pastures and mountain views. The median home value in Strafford is about average for the Upper Valley and homes carry a high value to price ration. You’ll be impressed with what your money can buy in Strafford.
In Strafford, you’re likely to find single family homes on large lots of property. Wooded acreage and rolling fields seem to make up most of the real estate in town. If you’re looking for a place buy a home or build your dream home, Strafford, VT may be the right choice. There is plenty of land, acreage and beautiful homes in Strafford, VT. Off the beaten trail, north of Sharon and west of Thetford in the center of Vermont, Strafford offers quiet, rural town living.