One of the
pioneer statesmen of Vermont and the founder of the town of Waitsfield
Benjamin Wait was born in Sudbury, Mass., one of seven children. In
1744 his father John moved the family to Brookfield, Mass., where he
opened an inn on the Great Post Road between Boston and Albany.
Benjamin was a "strapping lad", large for his age and with a love for
hunting and outdoor life. At night by the tavern hearth he would listen
to the tales of frontier life and Indian warfare from the many
travelers who passed through Brookfield. At eighteen he enlisted in the
Provincial Army to fight in the French and Indian Wars around Lake
George and Lake Champlain. Known as a successful hunter and scout, it
wasn't long before he was sent to join Rodgers Rangers, made famous in
the novel "Northwest Passage". This was his first taste of the wild and
beautiful country – known as the Hampshire Grants – that was to become
Wait took part in the Revolutionary War along with Ethan Allen and the
Green Mountain Boys. After the war he married and moved his family to
Windsor, Vermont where he became a leader in the fight with New York to
make Vermont a separate state. In 1782 Wait applied for and was granted
a charter to a vacant tract of land in the Mad River Valley. His dream
of founding a town of his own was closer to reality. In 1789, at the
age of fifty-three, General Wait and two of his sons arrived by
horseback in the wilderness that was to become Waitsfield.
When he settled in Waitsfield General Wait built a log cabin, which he
later replaced with a 1-story frame house on the “Loop Road”, now known
as Old County Road. Sometime in the 1830’s the house was moved
to its present site and a second story added. In 1995, the Town of
Waitsfield was awarded a $200,000 grant from the Federal Transportation
Enhancement Fund (ISTEA) for the house to be used as a visitor center.
In addition, the Waitsfield Historical Society raised $50,000 to assist
the town in purchasing the property.
The Burley Partnership, Waitsfield, known for their work with historic
projects, undertook the research and restoration of the General Wait
House. Careful attention was given to original paint colors and
wallpaper samples found during the renovation. In digging out the
foundation, many artifacts were found, some of which are shown in the
exhibit. The ground floor of the house was returned as much as possible
to the original 1793 plan.
see the history of General Wait's Homestead as a slideshow,