Panton Town History
Panton is located on the western shore of Lake Champlain in Addison County between Ferrisburgh on the north and Addison to the south. Sweeping views exist from the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west. Boarding on the east is The Otter Creek and running through the Town is the Dead Creek, both well-known spots for fishing, hunting and birding.
Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire signed the Panton charter of 1761. This original document as well as all of its early records dating back to pre-Revolutionary times exists in the Town’s vault. Panton has a dramatic, if virtually unknown, history that helped to create the very beginning of our country. Benedict Arnold was a hero of the times by delaying the British from taking Lake Champlain. He was acquainted with Peter Ferris of Panton and chose his bay to scuttle his fleet and save them from being captured by the British. It is widely believed that this delay gave the Americans time to regroup and the next year defeat the British at Saratoga. Peter Ferris’s home was a well-known location to the militia, and it is thought that a delegation consisting of Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll commissioned by the Continental Congress spent the night there. Peter Ferris and his wife are buried in Panton. Peter Ferris’s bay is now called Arnold Bay and until recently, artifacts were found there dating to this time. What happened to Peter Ferris after his colobration with the Americans, why Benjamin Franklin slept in Panton, and what happened to Benedict Arnold can be found in the references listed below. In 1783, 500 acres and the settlement at the falls were taken to form the City of Vergennes. Today, Panton consists of 14,272 acres.
Although the major endeavors in the Town is agriculture, there are several small home based businesses, a feed store, and a campground. There has been a general store in the center of Panton since 1908; it has also housed a Doctors office, and post office. There are farms and houses that can document their past to the original settlers. Peter Ferris was granted rights to run a ferry between Arnold’s Bay and Barber’s Point, NY. It was on this ferry that John Brown, a well-known abolitionist before the Civil War, traveled from his farm in North Elba, NY to Vergennes to shop. It was also on this ferry that his body, after his execution for treason, went back to the farm in 1859 in NY for burial.
Panton currently sends all of its students to the Vergennes Union Elementary School and the Vergennes Union High School. However, in 1900 there were 5 schools and 92 students. One of these schoolhouses is now a part of the Basin Harbor Maritime Museum.
There are four cemeteries with several early prominent citizens memorialized there including Peter Ferris and members of his family. There is a Benedict Arnold Marker near the Arnold Bay to mark the importance of the early battle of the Revolutionary War.
1. Panton – Past and Present, Condensed History of the Town of Panton, Vermont, 1761-1991: Compiled by Lois Thurber and Ann Russett, in 1991, from original 1961 edition, by William and Alberta Kent (available for $5 at the Panton Town Hall)
2. Vermont History: Reprinted Through the courtesy of the Vermont Historical Society, Volume 55, Number 2, Spring 1987