The Addison County Courthouse is located at 5 Court Street, Middlebury VT 05753; phone: 8022-388-7741.
The County of Addison is situated on the west line of the State and nearly in the centre north and south; between 43° 50' and 44° 10' north latitude. It is bounded on the west by Lake Champlain, the western boundary of the State; on the north by the towns of Charlotte, Hinesburgh and a part of Huntington, in the County of Chittenden; on the north-east by a part of Huntington, and by Fayston, Warren and Roxbury, in the County of Washington; on the south-east by Braintree, in the County of Orange, and Rochester, in the County of Windsor; and on the south by Benson, Sudbury, Brandon and Chittenden, in the County of Rutland.
Addison County formerly embraced an unincorporated tract of land known by the name of Avery's Gore; the east part of which, by act of the Legislature passed November 6, 1833, was added to the town of Kingston, now Granville, and the north part was added to Lincoln, by act of November 12, 1849.
Addison County was established by act of the Legislature October 18, 1785, and the territory which it contained is described in the act as follows: "Beginning at the northwest corner of Orwell, then running eastwardly on the north line of Orwell, Sudbury, Brandon and Philadelphia, and then so far east as to intersect the west line of the first town, that is bounded in its charter, or some town or towns, which are dependent for their original bounds on Connecticut River as aforesaid, to the south line of the Province of Quebec, which is the north line of this State; then westwardly in said line through Missisque Bay, &c., to the centre of the deepest channel of Lake Champlain; then southwardly in the deepest channel of said lake till it intersects the west line from the northwest corner of said Orwell; then east to the bounds begun at; which territory of land shall be known by the name of the County of Addison; and the east line of said County of Addison shall be the west line of the counties of Windsor and Orange, so far as they join."
Addison County by this act embraced the territory to the north line of the State, so far east as to include a large part of the Counties of Washington and Orleans. The town of Kingston, now Granville, not included in the original boundaries, was set off from Orange County to this, by act of the 19th of October, 1787. The act establishing the County of Chittenden was passed on the 22d of October, 1787, making the north line of this County the same as at present, except that it embraced the town of Starksboro, which afterwards by the act of 1797 was included in this County. The town of Warren, which was included in this County, by act of the Legislature in 1829, was annexed to the County of Washington; and the town of Orwell, then in the County of Rutland, was, on the 13th November, 1847, annexed to this County. These constitute all the changes made in the territory of the County since its first establishment, leaving in it the towns above enumerated.
The eastern part of the County extends over the first range of the Green Mountains; and five of the towns are situated on, or among the mountains, and others extend their eastern borders up the western slope. About a quarter of the county is mountainous, or has a soil of similar characteristics. The soil of this tract is generally loam of variable compactness, and some is gravelly or sandy. Some of the hills are so stony or steep as to be better suited for pasture than for tilling. But large portions are not too stony or steep to be excellent tilling lands, and are quite productive of many valuable crops. When opened for a season to the influence of the sun, they produce good crops of corn, spring wheat and other grains, and they are especially valuable for grazing. The alluvial lands on the branches of White River in the eastern towns, and on other streams, are especially valuable for these purposes. The towns west of the mountains are in part very level, and in part, what may be called rolling, with a few hills too prominent to bear that designation. Among which is Snake Mountain, a long ridge of moderately elevated land, lying on the borders of each of the towns of Addison, Weybridge and Bridport. In these towns, the prevailing soil is clay, of different degrees of stiffness, with some loam, gravelly and sandy land, on the more elevated portions, which rise above what is said by geologists, to have been once covered with water.
On the borders of Lake Champlain, especially in the towns of Addison, Panton and Ferrisburgh, are very extensive flat lands, composed of clay, with a mixture of vegetable substances, which were obviously once the bottom of the lake. These lands, when cleared are remarkably productive of grass; but for other crops are too stiff for easy cultivation, and are liable to suffer when the season is too wet or too dry. In this tract are several sluggish streams. One of which especially, being of greater extent than the others, bears the name of Dead Creek. It rises in Bridport, and runs northerly, through Addison and Panton and empties into Otter Creek in Ferrisburgh. This, as well as the others, is supplied to a moderate extent, from small springs at the bottom of the channel, but principally by rain water and melted snow, collected from an extensive surface in small ravines. The stream being nearly on a level with Otter Creek, the water is increased or diminished by the rise or fall of the latter stream, whose waters set up into it. Another called Ward's Creek, also rises in Bridport, and runs through a corner of Addison and empties into the lake about a mile south of Crown Point, and another called Hospital Creek empties into the lake a short distance north of Chimney Point. The quantity of water in these depends on the height of the water in the lake. These sluggish streams afford water for cattle in their neighborhood, through the summer, except in the driest seasons.
Lemon Fair rises in Orwell and runs through the eastern part of Shoreham, southeast part of Bridport, and northwest part of Cornwall, and empties into Otter Creek in Weybridge. In Shoreham there is a considerable water power on this stream, but below that it is very sluggish, and its quantity of water depends much on the height of the water in Otter Creek, in the spring and other freshets. On the borders of this creek are also extensive flat lands, which, have no superior for the production of grass.
On the borders of Otter Creek are also extensive flats, which in the spring and other high freshets are overflowed by the waters of the creek. A part of the tract, especially in Cornwall and Whiting on the west side, and Middlebury and Salisbury on the east side, is so low as to be called a swamp, and, except small patches called islands, consists of vegetable substances to the depth, in some places, of ten feet. These lands when cleared and thoroughly drained become very productive.
The natural growth timber on the flat lands last mentioned, was pine, cedar, tamarack, soft maple, black ash and elm, with an occasional mixture of other trees. And similar timber was the growth of a similar swamp in New Haven, and another in Shoreham. On the flat lands on the border of the lake, the original timber was pine, oak, soft maple, black ash, and some other trees in smaller numbers. On the western slope of the mountain were a few patches of pine, and in other parts of the mountainous region were fine groves of maple, beach, birch, black cherry and hemlock, and a very handsome growth of spruce, which has become an important article for building and for exportation. In other parts west of the mountains were considerable tracts of pine and oak. Besides these the principal trees were maple, beach, ash, basswood, butternut, walnut and hemlock. The large quantities of pine and oak have been so freely used for building and for exportation, that they have already become scarce and high in price.
In the western part of the County, the lands on the borders of the lake, especially in the towns of Bridport, Addison and Panton, are greatly deficient in water. There are no considerable running streams, except the dead streams we have mentioned. The living water from springs is very limited; and some of these are so strongly impregnated with Epsom Salts, that the inhabitants have evaporated the water to procure the salts for medicine. It is said that cattle are fond of the water, and that the springs were much visited by the deer before the settlement of the country. In some parts the inhabitants are obliged to resort, to a great extent, to rain water for family use; and farmers, who live at a distance from the lake and creeks, are much troubled in dry seasons to obtain water for their cattle. Except the limited water power on Lemon Fair in Shoreham, there is none in that town or either of the towns above mentioned of much value. And yet these towns are among the most wealthy agricultural towns in the County.