History of the Colonel Williams Inn, Part 1

The Foundation Built

In the mid-18th century, the land of Marlboro (and everywhere else in southern Vermont) was a dense forest of fir, birch, oak, pine, hemlock, oak, and (later, the most important) maple trees. The area was untouched and unsettled, used mainly as hunting and gathering grounds for the Western Abenaki people.

In 1751, Benning Wentworth, the Governor of the Province of New Hampshire, chartered what were called the New Hampshire Land Grants: an attempt by New Hampshire to claim land west of the Connecticut River, which was strongly contested by the state of New York, who felt they had claim to that land. On April 29th, 1751, the first round of the charter granted the tract of land known as ‘Marleborough’ to Timothy Dwight and his associates from the Massachusetts Colony. They laid the boundaries of the town, but were unable to bring settlers to farm due to fear of the local Native American population.

Fun Fact: The well-known Green Mountain Boys, led by Ethan Allen, were a militia formed to fight New York’s control over the area in 1770. Our very own Colonel Williams was a member of the Green Mountain Boys!

Once the French and Indian War had ended, Governor Wentworth re-chartered the land and re-granted it to Timothy Dwight on the 21st of September, 1761, much to the dismay of the New York government. The third (and final) grand of this parcel of land was given to Charles Phelps and his associates on the 17th of April, 1764. This time around, the tract of land was called ‘New Marlborough,’ but the ‘New’ was never popular, and after the consent of most of the area’s inhabitants, it was dropped, and the town became ‘Marlborough.’

In 1769, just before the Green Mountain Boys were formed during the height of New York’s strong-armed control of the area, Captain William Williams became one of the first settlers in the area. He purchased the property from one of the original recipients of the New Hampshire Grants, and on the 11th of June, 1770, the purchase was recorded in the first book of the Marlboro town property records.

The signature of Colonel William Williams

William Williams

“As an officer, he was brave, energetic, skilful[sic], and humane[;] as a citizen, enterprising, active, and progressive[;] as a neighbor, kind, polite, and attentive. The elegance and symmetry of his form were as perfect as his manners were agreeable. He was held in high estimation by the inhabitants of the various towns in which he dwelt at different times, and though of a wandering disposition, could easily accommodate himself to any circumstances in which he might be placed.”

                                                -Benjamin H. Hall, History of Eastern Vermont, 1858

Along with his wife, Zilpha, and their two infant daughters, Phoebe and Zipporah, he moved from Northboro, MA and built a small, log cabin on the property where his permanent home still stands today. His next step was to build the first framed building in town: the large barn that is still in use on the property today; it has been everything from a dairy barn to an antique store to a theatre to a wedding venue!

Fun Fact: The very first recorded marriage in Marlboro was between Dinah Fay, who traveled from Northboro to Marlboro with the Williams family, and Perez Stockwell, another Marlboro resident.

Although he didn’t reside in Marlboro for a significant amount of time, Captain William Williams (he would later become a Colonel in the Revolutionary War) was a highly influential and well-regarded citizen of the budding town. He was active in pursuing the town’s interests, and worked hard to improve his new home. He convinced others, such as Captain Nathaniel Whitney and his brothers, to visit and then permanently move to the area, thus bringing in even more influential citizens.

Williams had one hundred acres of property, packed with dense forests and other natural amenities. He took advantage of these resources and built a sawmill in 1772. Between 1772 and 1773, he used wood from his mill and hand-hewn beams (which you can still see today) to build his family’s home. His home still stands to this day, and serves as the main entrance to the Colonel Williams Inn, as well as the lobby, and rooms 1-4. Despite the effort it must have taken to build both the large barn and the house, Williams and his family only lived in Marlboro for a couple of years. In 1773, Williams sold the house to the Marlboro Town Clerk, William Mather, and moved to Wilmington, VT.

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