Letter to the editor: Chipman, not Battell, responsible for Route 125

I am responding to the recent story in the Addison Independent: “Ripton streambed is getting major work.” I am a Ripton resident of Old Town Road and was gratified to learn from Laurie Cox that the reason a large excavator was sitting unused for several months at Potash Bridge was due to the need to acquire environmentally compliant boulders to fortify the river’s bank.

It was also good to hear from Laurie that Ripton’s goal continues to be the improvement of Old Town Road to make it passable for emergency vehicles all the way from the bridge to Upper Plains Road in case other routes are compromised by future weather events, like Irene.

As a Ripton historian I would like to dispel a myth, which has persisted for at least a century: Joseph Battell did not construct the road (Route 125) along the river! That accomplishment was due to another prominent Ripton resident, Daniel Chipman. As an owner of the Center Turnpike Company, Chipman made the road along the river when Battell was only 14 years old and about 40 years before Battell’s first Ripton overnight at the Atwood farmhouse whose framework is now imbedded in Bread Loaf Inn.

We can thank Samuel Damon for putting the history of the road’s construction straight. Damon was Ripton’s Town Clerk in 1859 when he submitted Ripton’s history for Abby Maria Hemenway’s history of Addison County (The Vermont Historical Gazetteer, Vol. 1 (1867), 85-88.)

In his three-page submission, Damon dated the year the turnpike was built and when the river route was made as follows:  “About 1803-1804, the centre turnpike was made, which passed through the southwest corner of what was then Ripton. A part of the turnpike was then located not where it now is, but southwardly, on a hill; but afterwards, in 1825, was made down on the river.”

Chipman was probably the most influential of the Center Turnpike Company’s owners, had accumulated thousands of acres in Ripton, had a particular interest in the road’s river route, and had a vision for a village where he owned all the land. In 1828, only three years after the road’s relocation along the river, Chipman built the first house (now Chipman Inn) alongside it and became the first resident of Ripton village.

Charles Billings, Ripton

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