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Newport City

Orleans County, Vermont

Newport City Hall is located at 222 Main Street, Newport, VT 05855.
Phone: 802‑334‑5136.

Newport, founded in 1793, is located at the southern end of Lake Memphremagog which straddles the U.S./Canadian border. The city, seat of Orleans County, was incorporated in 1815.

Newport as described in 1937 [1]

Newport lies on a sloping promontory that juts across the southern end of Lake Memphremagog, with its outer fringes spread along the irregular hilly shoreline. The only incorporated city in northeastern Vermont, Newport is known as the Border City, and is one of the most popular gateways between Canada and New England. Memphremagog (Indian, meaning Beautiful Waters) was a fishing ground and avenue of travel for the Indians, whose birch canoes skirted the wild, ragged shores long before the white settlers came. In the nineteenth century Newport was the base of operations for a big lumber business, but this fell off with the general slump in lumbering, and today the little city is a vacation resort and trading center. During the summer months heavy traffic between the eastern United States and Montreal flows unceasingly through Newport, impregnating the town with changing life and color. Many travelers, impressed by the cleanliness and beautiful setting of Vermont's northernmost city, stop over here to enjoy the freshness of lake and mountain vistas opening directly from the streets of this modem community.

The sloping breadth of Main Street is lined with up-to-date stores, which serve patrons from all the outlying towns. Residential sections stretch along the waterfront and ascend quiet, shady streets to the hills overlooking the lake. There is a marked contrast between the busy confusion of Main Street and the serene northward sweep of Memphremagog's waters between woodland shores and jagged mountains overshadowed by the rugged bulk of Owl's Head (alt. 3360), named for an Indian chief. The lake is thirty miles long, from one to four miles wide, and its surface is picturesquely broken by forested islands and headlands.

The railroad played a prominent part in the development of the town. A railway junction near the international border; the southern terminus of the Quebec Central Railroad; a Canadian Pacific station on the main line between Montreal and Boston; and an important customs port of entry, Newport is naturally a railroad center. The large yards near the depot, while less active than in the past, are still a busy scene, and ruddy-faced railroad men in blue overalls are familiar figures around the foot of Main Street. Much of the city's industry still hinges upon the waning lumber business, led by the old firm of Prouty and Miller, which once was among the biggest lumber companies east of the Mississippi (headquarters, Taunton, Massachusetts). When lumbering was at its peak, the bay was choked with logs rafted up the lake to the humming saws of the Prouty and Miller plant. The decline in the lumber trade and the railroad business left Newport faced with the necessity of developing its natural advantages as a summer resort. A fashionable colony has grown up around Camp Elizabeth at the pine-shaded Bluffs, north of the city on the eastern lakeshore.

Lake Memphremagog has a charm for sportsmen devoted to boating, swimming, and fishing. Each spring scores of fishermen and spectators crowd the railway platform, and lines are dropped into the bay a scant hundred feet from the traffic of Main Street. Ragged boys with makeshift poles rub shoulders with expensively outfitted anglers from the metropolitan districts, and the spectators cheer when some tousle-headed urchin hauls in the best catch of the day. Summer train passengers may see on one side a car-crammed concrete street, and on the other skilled diving exhibitions by tanned youngsters plunging from the cinder-blackened platform rail into the cool calm water of Magog. This contrast is the secret of Newport's charm.

The first known white visitors here were Rogers' Rangers, returning from a daring and successful offensive against St. Francis village in Canada, in 1759. Major Robert Rogers left Crown Point on September 13 with two hundred riflemen in green buckskin, sailing down to the north end of Lake Champlain, and from there marching through the wilderness. Messengers came to tell him that his boats and supplies, left in Missisquoi Bay, had been taken by the enemy, and that a powerful body was in pursuit of his Rangers. He kept this alarming information from his men, however, and pushed on toward the objective, sending scouts back to Crown Point with the word that his retreat would be down the Connecticut and that he must be met there with provisions. On the night of October 4 they reached St. Francis, where the Indians were holding a great ceremonial dance. Lord Jeffrey Amherst had given orders to fight Indian fashion and show no mercy to the tribe that had so long terrorized the white settlers. At four in the morning, the Rangers attacked the sleeping village. Rogers ordered that women and children be spared, but when the pale morning light fell on hundreds of white scalps hanging from poles above the houses, there was no restraining the inflamed Rangers, who slaughtered men, women, and children indiscriminately and burned the entire village. Two hundred Indians were killed and twenty taken prisoners. The Rangers lost but one man, and had six slightly wounded.

Rogers's plan was to follow the St. Francis and Magog Rivers to Lake Memphremagog, and thence cross to the Connecticut. On the march they were repeatedly harassed by pursuing Indians, but in ten days they reached the southern end of Memphremagog. Here it was voted that they split up into smaller parties, against Rogers's inclination. This was done, and here on the eastern side of the lake one squad was overtaken and wiped out by the enemy. The other parties, suffering from hunger, exposure, and constant strain, made for the Connecticut. Their foraging route through a dense wilderness is paralleled almost exactly by the modern automobile route, US 5. A good description of this expedition is in 'Northwest Passage,' by Kenneth Roberts (1937). The first house in Newport was built by Deacon Martin Adams, who came north from St. Johnsbury in 1793, and by 1800 there were eleven families in the settlement. The charter was granted under the name of Duncansboro, for the chief proprietor, and the present name was adopted in 1816. Two prominent brothers were born here: Charles A. Prouty, longtime member of the Interstate Commerce Commission; and George H. Prouty, Governor of Vermont (1908-1910).

  1. Works Progress Administration, Federal Writers' Project, Vermont: A Guide to the Green Mountain State, American Guide Series, Vermont State Planning Board, 1937.