One result of having published many Take Me Back articles for The Valley Reporter and a book to raise money for our nonprofit is that people hand me materials that they think might further the cause of showcasing our history. Jeff Myers of Moretown gave me a booklet he and his company published in 1989 on the occasion of the Bicentennial of the town of Waitsfield. It was called “Snapshots: Waitsfield, Vermont 1789-1989 Bicentennial.”




The text was written by Anne Marie Simko (now DeFreest) who came to the Mad River Valley when her parents Jack and Doreen Simko purchased the Joslin Round Barn Farm in 1986. That was the same year that I came to The Valley, and I remember well the excitement stirred up when the news broke that the Simko family was going to renovate both the historic barn and farmhouse. 

After I was given Snapshots, I called Annemarie right away to chat about the booklet. It turned out that she was a journalism major in college and got some impressive professional writing assignments after she graduated. This is why the late Fletcher Joslin turned to her when he wanted something special created for the bicentennial of the town which he said started in 1789. 

My go-to resource book about Valley history is “The History of the Town of Waitsfield” which was published in 1909 by Matt Bushnell Jones. In Chapter One we find, “But with the close of the [American] Revolution,or, rather, upon the cessation of fighting in the North, activity was renewed, and from some 75 townships received their charters from the government of the new republic. Among this number was our little town of Waitsfield, chartered February25, 1782.” So, this history book gives that start of our town date as 1782. 

The Waitsfield Historical Society also took on a project to commemorate the bicentennial—it was the creation of a walking tour flier of the historic town center. But they give the start date as 1791 and printed the flier in 1991. 

I was confused by the disparities and turned to page 1 of Snapshots for clarification. Annemarie wrote, “Waitsfield, Vermont received its official Charter on February 25, 1782, from the State of Vermont. The Charter for the town was issued to the Honorary Roger Enos and Colonel Benjamin Wait and Company, with the first permanent settlement made in 1789, by then General Wait, and his family.



So, it was 1782 Waitsfield got its charter and it was 1789 that the first family, the Waits, built the first permanent dwelling.

More from Annemarie: “Born in Sudbury, Massachusetts, on February 13, 1736, General Wait had forged a soldier’s career for more than 30 years, from the time of the French and Indian Wars, through the American Revolution, when he moved to this area and founded the town of Waitsfield. He arrived in the spring of 1789, along with his children and grandchildren, looking for what most “immigrants” to Waitsfield still hope to find—a better life. To do this, the 53-year-old Wait left his comfortable Windsor, Vermont home, where he held the position of high sheriff and was considered a leader among the famous Green Mountain Boys. General of the Vermont Militia, Wait was also a member of the Vermont Constitutional Convention and a representative for Windsor to the Vermont legislature.

“He was Waitsfield’s first selectman and first representative in the General Assembly. The town’s first church services were held in his barn, and in meetings in his home, voters first provided for Waitsfield schools.” There were 27 legal voters in the town at that time. 

But we still have not settled the mystery of why the Waitsfield Historical Society created a Bicentennial Project that was a pamphlet proclaiming the time was from 1791 to 1991.

One might jump to a conclusion that, quite simply, a mistake was made. If you knew the members of the board at the time of its production you would not think so. Robert Burley, Judy Dodds, Dick Jamieson, Jean Sherman and others could not possibly have made a huge error like getting the dates wrong. 

I looked at the website for the Waitsfield Historical Society and found a section that explains that they prepared a self-guided tour for the Bicentennial and gave the same dates. It was a big project and a big deal. There has to be an explanation and I’m just not smart enough to know what it is.

Lois DeHeerand Shirley Viens are the archivists for the Waitsfield Historical Society. I called Lois. I told her that I couldn’t understand how Snapshots declared 1789 to 1989 to be the bicentennial period and the walking tour 1791 to 1991. She told me she had an idea and to come the next day to the Wait House about two o’clock. When I walked in they were both there prepared.  She opened a folder, handed it to me, and smiled. The paper inside had a letter head that was a beautiful red and blue graphic announcing the 200th Anniversary of Waitsfield from 1789 to 1989 but the subject of the letter read Vermont State Bicentennial Celebration.  I didn’t immediately get the significance of that.  

The body of the letter began, “The Town has recently received the enclosed materials from the Governor’s office concerning the 1991 Vermont Bicentennial. There will need to be a committee organized to plan appropriate local activities. The Selectman would like to ask you to assist...” Mystery solved. There were two different anniversaries. One for the town of Waitsfield and one for the state of Vermont.

But now I have another mystery to solve: How is it that the town of Waitsfield was chartered in 1782 and settled in 1789 when the state of Vermont wasn’t formed until two years later? I guess that will have to be another article. Any readers that have knowledge about this, please write to me at the email address below. If we can’t figure this out I will go back to Lois and Shirley. Thank God for historical societies! [Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield and Warren all need volunteers to help preserve, protect and organize our artifacts. Please give them a call.

Mary Kathleen Mehuron lives in Waitsfield and writes novels. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..