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Vermont's Bayley-Hazen Military Road

 


Within the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont are remnants of a Revolutionary War era military road which later served as a road that brought settlers into northern Vermont. This road is the Bayley-Hazen Military Road, one the oldest thoroughfares in the Northeast Kingdom, and traces of the road can be explored today. The trip travels diagonally towards the northwest and is about 48 miles long, depending on which route you take, and takes you through quiet and scenic parts of the Northeast Kingdom. The road, which became known as the Bayley-Hazen Road, was first proposed in 1776 by Colonel Jacob Bayley and construction began the same year. Road construction had later been halted as the military need became unwarranted, but later continued in 1779 and was later abandoned by General Moses Hazen. The old military road and what remains of it, extends from Wells River in a northwesterly direction through towns such as Peacham and Craftsbury, ending in Westfield at a location that is now known as Hazen’s Notch.

The history of the Bayley-Hazen Military Road begins with the military campaign of 1775 and 1776 during which Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery attempted to capture Canada. The Continental Army urgently needed reinforcements and supplies to continue the siege of Quebec. Colonel Jacob Bayley, head of the frontier militia and a resident of Newbury, Vermont, repeatedly wrote to General George Washington, urging upon him the importance of constructing a new road that would shorten existing supply routes. Washington, determined to act without the approval of Congress, approved construction of the road on April 29, 1776, aware of the critical situation at Quebec, while also being aware that a road to Canada could just as easily facilitate an attack by British troops from the north.

In the middle of 1776, the campaign in Canada foundered and Washington instructed Bayley to abandon the work on the road after 26 miles of construction, when it had reached a point about six miles north of Elkins Place in Peacham. Then, construction had laid dormant until April 1779, when General Moses Hazen of Haverhill, Massachusetts had received orders to complete the road in anticipation of another Canadian campaign. Hazen's men built a blockhouse on Cabot Plains and as the road progressed, they built another blockhouse six miles farther north to Walden. As the work party reached Caspian Lake in Greensboro, they built another blockhouse, providing a network of security as part of the military project. By late summer of 1779, Hazen had reached the notch that now bears his name in the Green Mountains near Westfield, Vermont. At that point, work was halted still some forty miles short of the road's intended destination of St. John's, Canada (now Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec), where it is said that Moses Hazen owned some land.

As a military achievement, the Bayley-Hazen Military Road was not very successful. Instead, it was seen to become more of an irritation to the early settlers in Peacham, Ryegate and Newbury. This was because the road could be traveled both directions as anticipated by George Washington, and as suspected, the British conducted raids down the road from time to time. In September 1781, two members by the names of Constant Bliss and Moses Sleeper of an American scouting party were killed near the blockhouse along Caspian Lake. A memorial monument of this tragic event was placed and it can be seen today as you traverse the Bayley-Hazen Road.

Much of the original route of the Bayley-Hazen can be followed using existing roads through Wells River, West Danville, Peacham, Greensboro, Craftsbury, Albany, Irasburg, and Westfield. You can travel the Bayley-Hazen Road by car, although if you're looking to locate small details and monuments of the road's history, exploring on bicycle or by foot are also options. It is not a heavily traveled road, so taking a hike along the old Bayley-Hazen Road is possible. For those who are interested in following the Bayley-Hazen Road, there are a number of signs along the road that mark the old military route, and even some roads that retain the name of Bayley-Hazen today. The name of Bayley-Hazen also lends itself to the name of a locally produced cheese called Bayley-Hazen blue cheese, which is made at the Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vermont. There is also a great guide to following the Bayley-Hazen Road as published by the Northeastern Vermont Development Association, which I've used to help guide some of my own travels along the Bayley-Hazen Road.

Historical marker about the Bayley-Hazen Military Road found at the Oxbow Cemetery north of Newbury, Vermont. A number of people involved in the road's construction are buried here.

Historical plaque at the southern end of the Bayley-Hazen Military Road in Wells River.

Monument honoring the memory of Constant Bliss and Moses Sleeper, who were killed guarding the old blockhouse along the Bayley-Hazen Road in Greensboro. I believe that is Caspian Lake located in the distance behind this monument.

Another monument to the Bayley-Hazen Road, or just Hazen Road as this monument says.

Peacham Congregational Church in Peacham, one of the towns you'll pass along the old Bayley-Hazen Military Road. Peacham was first settled in 1776, at the same time the Bayley-Hazen Road was being built.

Peacham Store in Peacham, located along the Bayley-Hazen Road.

All roads lead to Peacham.

I'm pretty sure the Bayley-Hazen Road saw some carriage traffic back in the day.

The Bayley-Hazen Road was built with plenty of straightaways, which also means plenty of hills.

The Elkins Way, an alignment of the old Bayley-Hazen Road in Peacham.

The Bayley-Hazen Road is surrounded by farm fields, hills and forests.

Ryegate Presbyterian Church along the Bayley-Hazen Road in Ryegate.

The Bayley-Hazen Road passes by Ticklenaked Pond in Ryegate.


The Bayley-Hazen Road is scenic in all seasons.

Some of the dirt road sections along the old Bayley-Hazen Road are more primitive than others...

While you'll find a handful of old embossed Bayley-Hazen Road signs along the old road, you'll also find these Bayley-Hazen Military Road at some crossroads along the old road.

Some of the northernmost miles of the Bayley-Hazen Military Road are on modern day VT 58. The old military road connects with the modern route in Lowell, around the junction of VT 58 and VT 100.

VT 58 is one of a couple of unpaved state routes in Vermont. The other is VT 121, located in the southeastern part of the Green Mountain State.

This route shield is almost as old as the Bayley-Hazen Military Road itself.

VY 58 ascends towards Hazens Notch, which is where the Bayley-Hazen Military Roads meets its end.


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Sources and Links:
Alps' Roads - Bayley-Hazen Road
Cabot Historical Society - Bayley-Hazen Military Road
RootsWeb.com - The Hazen Military Road
Happy Vermont - Why Bayley-Hazen is One of Vermont’s Most Historic Dirt Roads
Northeastern Vermont Development Association - In Search of Bayley-Hazen (PDF)
Motorcycle-Vermont - Vermont Bucket List Checkmark: Ride the Bayley-Hazen Military Road
Green Mountain Gravel - The Bayley Hazen Military Road - Exploring Vermont's History by Gravel Bike (YouTube)

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