Wallingford

by Susan Abbott
Paul Harris, who founded the International Rotarians, was brought up here in Wallingford by his grandparents, later moving to Chicago, where in a casual inspiration one day he founded the organization which has become so widespread...Charles Edward Crane


Wallingford was a pleasant surprise--in fact, I hadn't heard of the town until I saw its sign on Route 7 (which says more about my ignorance than Wallingford's obscurity). Though it's considered part of the Rutland "metro area", it feels very much like its own distinct place rather than an example of urban sprawl. The town is nice and compact, reflecting its original design: "six miles square was chosen because from anywhere within that area the distance to market, to church, or to town meeting could be traveled between morning and evening chores."


On the ever-amazing internet I found a 210 page history of Wallingford written in 1911, and even a quick perusal of this tome (I'll have to curl up in bed with my warm laptop on a chilly evening to read the rest) revealed the rich industrial and social past that seems to be the norm of even small Vermont towns. For example, in the early 19th century Wallingford was the home of the country's first fork (the kind used on hay, rather than on ham) factory. This very successful farm implement company was eventually bought out by True Temper, and their tools’ ash handles are still produced locally.

The prosperous founder of the original Wallingford farm tool company was a businessman "characterized by fairness, honesty and integrity, whose word was as good as his bond" (take note, 21st century scions of Wall Street!) Like so many other Vermonters, this Mr. Batcheller was also a staunch abolitionist who was willing to risk his own security by making his home a stop on the underground railway. And like most Vermont towns during the Great Rebellion, Wallingford answered the call of Lincoln with "far more than its proportional share" of soldiers and taxes.

Besides the extremely successful farm tool company, Wallingford was home to a grist mill, creamery and cheese factory that created "value added" products (shipped to Boston and also enjoyed locally) from surrounding farms' grain and milk.

Main Street, with its distinctive red brick town hall, and unusual multi-steepled church, is graceful and and antique enough to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as is an entire zone of nearby Otter Valley farm land. In my quick trip through I missed seeing that area, as well as the distinct villages of East and South Wallingford, so I definitely need to find my way back down Route 7 before the snow flies again.