Canaan lies in the extreme Northeast corner of Vermont. It borders Quebec, Canada and New Hampshire and consists of 18,700 acres of land. It was chartered by the state of Vermont to John Wheeler and forty-three associates on February 25, 1782. Early settlers included John Hugh, 1785, Samuel Beach, 1796, John Dunning, 1799, Nathan Beecher, 1802, and Samuel Weeks, 1804.
During the 1800’s, people began migrating to Canaan as it was strategically located on the border with Canada and New Hampshire. The boundary line between Vermont and New Hampshire was not finally established until 1934 and between Vermont and Canada until 1925. Until the lines were firmly drawn, a number of border skirmishes took place.
In 1880 Canaan’s population was 637. These early settlers lived difficult lives as articles not obtained from the wilderness, soil or lakes and rivers had to be transported from seaports great distances away. Many of these individuals lived “off the land” on family farms and relied on each other for moral support, social interactions and economic assistance.
Click on image to enlarge July 4th, 1900
Although Indians never settled in the area, they used it for hunting, fishing and travel. Early settlers had to be on guard at all times as many of these Indians were not friendly. As natural resources were plentiful many settlers relied on farming and logging to earn a living.
During the 1900’s many people immigrated to Canaan from Quebec, Canada. Today there are a number of French Canadian families living in the area and French is spoken at many social gatherings. This “French connection” enhances the cultural diversity of Canaan and benefits the local economy by promoting trade and commerce with Quebec, our neighbor to the North.
The town of Canaan consists of many subdivisions such as Beecher Falls, two miles North of the village; Wallace Pond (also knows as Lake Wallis), five miles West; South Canaan, four miles Southeast; and Canaan Hill, five miles South. These communities were settled in the late 1800's, had their own schools and post offices, which no longer exist, and contributed greatly to the growth and economy of the town.
Fletcher Park, which is located in the center of the village, was given to the town by Charles Fletcher in the late 1800's.
Click on image to enlarge Fletcher Park 1903
The iron fence, in the photo was removed around 1918 due to the frequency with which automobiles were hitting it after failing to negotiate the turn from Route 114 onto 102. The fountain continues to occupy a place of prominence in the park.
Monuments in honor of soldiers from Canaan who served in the World Wars and Vietnam and Korean conflicts are located in Fletcher Park. Many events (Sugar on Snow Social, Band Concerts, Art Exhibits, Flea Markets, etc.) are held in the park, which remains a gathering place for residents.
The Alice M. Ward library (reputed to be the oldest building in Canaan) was home of Dr. Artemus Ward from 1885 into the 1930's when it was given to the town to be used as library. It is rumored that the building was part of the underground railroad and served as a refuge for slaves during the Civil War.
Over the years, Canaan has endured a number of fires and the great hurricane of 1938, which did much damage to woodlands and blew down elm trees along Gale Street. Fires destroyed the school in 1944 and the great fire of 1936 destroyed a number of buildings, including the New Canaan House.