It was John Ide Jr. who made the first settlement west of the Barton river at
what would become the center in 1803. As new settlers arrived they clustered
around his 2 lots and by 1820 with the addition of a schoolhouse it seemed that
this might be where a village would originate. But the waterpower available at
the falls on the Black river made it a natural sight for a town. When the Harmon
brothers began to develop there, the center was destined to take a back seat to
By 1835, the focus of Coventry's development had shifted from the original settler farmers on the eastside to the merchants and industrialists in the village. But at "the center" there remained a small population of residents who constituted the "other" village in town.
Early Days At Coventry Center(As described by Chas Jones and H.W.Root at the Annual Meeting of the Orleans Historical Society at Coventry Center 1889)
In 1835 there were five framed dwelling houses at Coventry Center, one shoe- maker's shop, one blacksmith shop, one merchant, one church, one school house, one Minister and one doctor. Mr. Root, was a shoe maker and lived on the Northeast corner of the cross roads; Peleg Redfield lived in the house on the Southeast corner of the cross road, South of Dr. Redfields's house stood the brick church. On the northwest corner stood the Deacon Baldwin house, in which Elder Davison, Baptist Clergyman lived. South of Elder Davison's stood the house occupied by Benjamin Baldwin, merchant, his store was in the house. South of the latter house stood Mr. Root's shoemakers shop and the next was the blacksmith shop owned by Benjamin Thrasher. Next south of the shop stood the Brick School House near the brook.
The school districts, with houses on South Hill and one in the North Neighborhood, were united and the Brick School House erected just across the road from the present building, at about the same time as the Brick Church was built (1830-31). Town meetings, excepting the first, were held here in school and private house till 1827, thence for ten years alternately here and at the village. Under the old militia system, June trainings were held here.
The first store, a very humble affair, was the ell of Dr. Redfield's house. Later Benjamin Baldwin kept a store, Benjamin and Holland Thrasher, a blacksmith shop, and Capt. Plastridge a public house. (The buildings of the latter were burned in 1870.) The lack of water power on Barton River and its vicinity with the excellent falls on the Black River soon evidenced the fact, so often true, that "westward the star of empire takes its way," and the village at the center soon gave way to the village at the Falls.
Approximate locations of early center dwellings - From Wallings Map(1)
When the church building at the Center was first projected, it was proposed to locate
it on "Beech Knoll" near the Gorham farm, to accomodate the entire town. At successive
meetings the location was changed, each time nearer to the Center, until it was finally
fixed at the present site, just north of the center cemetery. The brick were made just
west of the Station, where the road turns to Newport, by a half-breed Indian named
Richards. They were laid by a man named Cook. The house was finished by Philip Flanders
and plastered by Isaac Parker and others. The pews were owned by Baptists, with some
Congregationalists and Methodists, and a few of liberal faith. All had the rights of
representation in the pulpit. The building was taken down in 1873 and the proceeds
divided amonng the owners. The erection of a church at the station was several times
projected, but never came about.
No sketch of this locality can be complete, which omits the name of Isaac Parker. Born in Cavendish, Vt. in 1780, of distinguished and Revloutionary stock, he moved to Coventry in 1808, making his home with Dr. Redfield. He was the first male teacher in town. A log building near the Miller farm was his first school house. While teaching he improved his time in private study and attended Peacham academy. His journeys to Peacham and Middlebury were made on foot, easily walking to Peacham in a single day. In 1818 he married Arabella Cobb, a former pupil, a daughter of the first settler. He was the first postmaster in town, appointed in 1821, and held the office till 1828 when it was moved to the village. In 1863 a post office was established at East Coventry with his son, Isaac Parker, Jr. as postmaster and he held office till the fall of 1888 when he resigned in favor of his son John Parker.
Bits and Pieces of Coventry's History
1. Map of the Counties of Orleans Lamoille and Essex Vermont, H.F. Walling, 1859