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Plymouth, Vermont Place Names

This information is quoted from Vermont Place Names: Footprints of History, by Esther Munroe Swift, published in 1977 by the S. Greene Press of Brattleboro, Vermont.

The old name, Saltash, derived from the municipal borough of Saltash in Cornwall, England. According to English place-name authorities, the name of that community originally was merely Ash, and derived from the presence of ash trees; then in the 13th or 14th Century Salt was added, probably to note either the presence of a salt works or the fact that the community was located on the estuary of the River Tamar, where the water is salt.... It is not known why the people of Saltash in Vermont wanted their town renamed.... It is quite probable that the Vermonters who changed the name of their town to Plymouth were thinking of Plymouth, Massachusetts, and their Pilgrim ancestors. However, they obviously knew their English geography, too, because Plymouth in England is directly across the Tamar estuary from Saltash. The only place in Plymouth, Vermont, where the Saltash name has survived is in the name of the town's highest peak, Saltash Mountain, which is well over 3,000 feet high....

The chief village of Plymouth got its post office in 1809. The office is still in operation. Plymouth Union achieved its own office in 1875; it closed in the early 1970s. The latter village originally was known simply as Unionville, but changed to Plymouth Union when the post office was opened. According to Child's Gazetteer for Windsor County, the village derived its name from a union store - a kind of early cooperative - which once was located there.... In 1840 a post office was opened at what was then known as Tyson Furnace. In 1885 the name was changed to just Tyson, and in 1943 the office was closed for lack of business.

The name Tyson Furnace derived from the iron works, which in turn got their name from Isaac Tyson Jr. Born of wealthy Quaker parents at Baltimore, Maryland, in 1791, Tyson was shipwrecked on the coast of France. While awaiting transportation, he visited an iron mill and became interested in metal smelting. Back home, he discovered iron in Maryland, and later patented a process for smelting copper. In 1829 Tyson began producing copper at Strafford, Vermont; in 1835 he discovered iron at Plymouth, and established his iron-smelting and forging works at what is now Tyson. The works were closed in 1855, when he retired, and were reopened in the early 1860s by a Boston firm. Iron from Tyson was used in the construction of the famed iron-clad Monitor of the Civil War.

When the iron works were at their peak of production, Tyson Furnace was a self-contained world, with a company store, hotel, boarding house and places of amusement. A large percentage of the workers were Irish and their particular settlement was known as Dublin. Until a few years ago it was possible to see remnants of the sod houses some of the poorer workers had built against the hillside overlooking Echo Lake.

At the beginning of the chapter on Windsor county, Swift also discusses the names of the rivers and streams that flow through the county. Of Plymouth's main stream, she says:
The Black River is less rapid than the White, and even today is overhung by forested slopes which make it look very dark. M'kazawitego, one of several Abnaki names for the river, meant "black river"; sometimes the name was rendered as M'kazawi sebo, but the meaning was the same. Another Abnaki name for the river was Kaskactcliawack, "at or near the mountains with steep sides," which is descriptive of the terrain about much of the stream. A third Abnaki name for the river was Aiskacliewack, "at the great pile of shells," probably referring to a campsite on the bank where the Indians had left piles of freshwater mussel shells.
This site maintained by Nancy Wygant of Philadelphia, PA. Last updated 16 March 2002.


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