Grafton, Vermont and its role in BACK.
Above Photo: The White Church, Grafton (panormio)
The quiet rural town of Grafton, Vermont, plays a significant role in my Vietnam War/Adventure Backpacker crossover novel, BACK. Recently I was asked, out of all the settlements, hamlets, villages and towns of New England, why I’d chosen Grafton, and here’s the answer.
For various reasons, I needed somewhere within striking distance of Albany, New York, and also New York City, but it had to be rural, close to good hunting country and it had to be in New England. The reasons for all of these requirements are explained or apparent in the plot of BACK. (See location map at the end of this article).
I also needed there to be Civil War graves in the local cemetery, and I wanted a small, pleasant, quiet, close-knit town, with a strong sense of community and tradition, in which to set some of the action and base some of the characters in the book. More importantly, it had to be a town where I thought they would still have respect and maintain a memorial for (a fictional) person from the town who was MIA since the Vietnam War.
After a lot of research, I finally hit upon Grafton, and I’m very glad that I did, as it served me well in the novel.
Grafton was originally founded with the name ‘Thomlinson’, but renaming rights were auctioned in 1791. The high bidder, who reportedly offered “five dollars and a jug of rum,” changed the name to Grafton after his home town of Grafton Massacheusetts.
In the early 19th century, sheep raising became popular and woolen mills sprang up along the branches of the Saxtons River. Soapstone was quarried on nearby Bear Mountain. The town became a notable stagecoach hub for traffic across the Green Mountains into Albany, New York. (Meaning I chose this town well for the modern-day too).
One inn from that era, “the Old Tavern,” was founded in 1801, and it remains one of the oldest continually operating hotels in the United States.
Grafton had a population of almost 1,500 just before the American Civil War, during which the town suffered severe losses. Local cemeteries in the village hold many tombstones of casualties from the Battle of Gettysburg.
After the war, the community declined in population. The soapstone quarry became exhausted and closed late in the 19th century. Around the time of the Great Depression, the town’s population was less than 400.
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