General Benjamin Wait: 1736 -1822

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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 Vermont.

Benjamin 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.

To see the history of General Wait's Homestead as a slideshow,
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Waitsfield Historical Society, PO Box 816, Waitsfield VT 05673