Jamaica, Vermont

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Jamaica is a town in Windham County, Vermont, United States. The population was 946 at the 2000 census. Jamaica includes the villages of East Jamaica and Rawsonville.

Its ZIP code is 05343. The town is home to Jamaica State Park, noted for scenic camping spots and various swimming holes, including Hamilton Falls. The nearest large town is Brattleboro.



In the colonial period, what is now Vermont was disputed territory, with land claims from both New York and New Hampshire. The original grants for this area, issued by the Royal Governor of New York in 1767 and 1772, were for two towns. But in 1777, the Republic of Vermont was established. Ignoring the previous grants, it gave charter on November 7, 1780 for “a tract of vacant land within this state which has not heretofore been granted.”

The charter goes on to say “that the same be and is hereby Incorporated into a Township by the name of Jamaica” -- its name from the Natick word for beaver and not the Caribbean island. The grant encompassed forty-two square miles, at an altitude ranging from 688 feet above sea level along the West River to 2,542 feet on The Pinnacle. On the charter were listed sixty-seven grantees, many of whose surnames can be found among residents today.

Earliest settlement of the town was along the West River near the Wardsboro Bridge, now called East Jamaica, where the first school was established in 1791; however, the building of new roads and bridges towards Manchester advanced settlement westward, so that by 1800 the town center was shifting to Jamaica Village. Within the entire forty-two square-mile township developed as many as ten separate hamlets, each surrounded by outlying farms and linked to Jamaica Village by a network of roads. Eventually there were as many as fourteen one-room schools which served the families in the outlying areas.

In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Jamaica Village also assumed increasing importance as a manufacturing center, largely for topographical reasons. Located near the confluence of the West River and Ball Mountain Brook, the area offered a strategic location for bridges, dams and mills. Along Ball Mountain Brook alone there were numerous dams, each providing power for at least one mill. The first store, Noon House, was built in 1803. The popularity of Noon House led to the building in 1814 of Jamaica House, which provided a convenient overnight spot for travelers at the mid-point between Manchester and Brattleboro.[3]

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