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History of Community (brief version)

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Before the first European settlers arrived in Williston in the late 1700’s  the Abenakis lived here. The Abenaki people tended to live along waterways, such as the Winooski River, Allen Brook, and Muddy Brook. Higher evaluations such as Five Tree Hill were used as lookouts to site herds of caribou or deer. Wetlands and ponds, like Mud Pond and Lake Iroquois, were rich with wildlife and served as hunting grounds. Much of what we know about the Abenaki culture was learned through Williston’s rich collection of archeological artifacts dating back to 8,000 B.C.
European settlement began in the early 1770’s. One of Williston’s earliest and most famous settlers was Thomas Chittenden, Vermont’s first governor. Chittenden lived on what is now Governor Chittenden Road.  According to local legend, the Vermont State Seal illustrates the view from Chittenden’s house, overlooking the Winooski River Valley. While his house is no longer standing, several homes that he build for his sons remain, including Giles Chittenden House (entered on t he National Register of Historic Places in 1993).

Williston was from the beginning an agricultural town. The earliest farms were subsistent farms: that is, residents grew only what they needed for their own household. Some owned a horse or an ox, maybe a cow, a pig, ducks, geese and chickens. By 1830 farming became more specialized with many area farmers raising sheep to supply area woolen mills. After the railroad came to Williston in 1850, the market broadened and emphasis shifted to dairy and poultry products. North Williston grew up around the railroad and machine shops, grist mills, a cold storage plant, a poultry warehouse, and a cheese factory and creameries – all of which provided a link between Williston’s agricultural base and distant markets accessible through the railroad.
Today, dairy farming along with a strong commercial and industrial base remain the key to the local economy. Williston’s proximity to Burlington International Airport and I-89 make it an attractive location for a number of businesses. At the same time, the area’s  rich historical and natural resources, the Town’s commitment to quality education and recreation opportunities and the Williston plain old “neighborliness” are all woven together to create the fabric of Williston.

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