Early History
Click On Photos For Larger Images   Mount Equinox, which towers to the west directly above the charming little village of Manchester, Vermont , is one of the highest mountains in southern Vermont, if not in all of southern New England. Certainly , it is at least the highest mountain accessible by automobile in this region.

There are many legends concerning the name “Equinox”. The one commonly accepted states that a certain Captain Partridge, at the time Director of the mellifluously entitled “ American Literary Scientific and Military Academy,” led a troop of cadets who Mountainscape marched from Norwich, Vermont, to what is now Manchester and ascended the mountain on September 19, 1823, for the purpose of making some barometric observations. Captain Partridge fixed the altitude of the mountain at 3,807 feet above sea level which was surprisingly accurate for the times, the present altitude being 3,848 feet. The story goes that since the ascent of the mountain was made at approximately the time of the autumnal equinox, the mountain was thereafter referred to as “Equinox Mountain”.

With the anecdote concerning Captain Partridge exploded, some research was attempted on the origin of the word “Equinox”, The answer finally seems to be that it is truly a corruption either of the Indian word “Akwanok” or “Ekwanok”. These words can be freely translated to mean the top or the place where the very top is - an appropriate name in either case.

Since Equinox was the highest mountain overlooking the Vermont valley that extends from Bennington to Rutland , it was naturally the object of much attention on the part of the early settlers. In fact, that section of the valley where the towns of Manchester and Arlington are now located was known as the “Seven Mile Swamp”. Therefore, the early roads from Bennington to Rutland kept well up on the slope of the foothills in order to avoid the marshy land and many brooks they would otherwise have to cross down in the valley , and most of the early settlers laid out their pastures and holdings on the slope of the mountains; first, to avoid the Indians who never went up on the high mountains; secondly to avoid malaria which they knew to be associated with swampy lands.

At a very early date, roads were built through the gaps on the south and north sides of Equinox, the former being known as “Southeast Corners” and the latter as “ Beartown”, names they retain to this day. It was not until sometime toward the middle of the last century that a wagon road was built to higher altitudes, when along about 1860 or 1870 Frank Orvis and a group of Manchester residents built a road from Beartown Gap to Lookout Rock directly above Manchester. This road , which did not start from the bottom of the mountain nor reach the top, was approximately 1,600 feet in altitude.

The actual summit could be reached from the end of the road by a trail about 3/4 of a mile long, but since there already was a splendid view from Lookout Rock therefore the road was never extended beyond the rock to the summit. A small structure known as the “Mountain House” was built and used as a shelter for many years. Because of the costly maintenance and the roads unsuitability to more modern traffic , this road became obsolete in the early 1900’s and has long since fallen into disuse although its route still can be readily discerned by foot.