1855 Windsor County Map

I have many sources I use in researching articles I write. I have many town histories as well as history books written in the early 1800s.

Another valuable resource is Vermont maps and atlases published in the 1800s. The subject of this article is a map Hosea Doton published in 1855 for Windsor County. Doton was a native of Pomfret, Vermont. Below in quotations is a bit of his history I found online.

Doton’s headline Windsor County 1855. Photo provided.

“Hosea Doton (1809-1886), a Vermont educator and mathematician known in the history of cartography for his 1855 Map of Windsor County Vermont from Actual Surveys.

  “After receiving a common school education, he studied by himself, and became one of the best mathematicians in the state. He taught at various places till 1850, when he opened a normal school in his native town, and continued it till 1866. Fully 150 of Mr. Doton’s pupils became successful teachers, and his school was a great aid to the educational system of the state. He also worked as a surveyor, and from 1866 till his death was chief engineer of the Woodstock railroad. His work in determining the altitudes of Vermont mountains is accepted as authority. He made astronomical calculations for the “Vermont Register,” and for eighteen years kept a meteorological record, making full monthly reports to the war department at Washington. He was a member of the state senate in 1865-6, and in the latter year the legislature established his method of computing interest, known as the “Vermont rule.” Mr. Doton received the degree of M. A. from Norwich University, Vermont, in 1845. He published many scientific articles.”

As you can see Doton was an accomplished individual. Doton surveyed every town in Windsor County. This would include all roads, streams and villages. Roads were measured with a wheeled odometer something like a wheelbarrow or perhaps drawn by a horse and buggy. As Doton passed your house he would ask your name and record it on his map. As a result, these maps are a valuable resource for people like me and those who wish to document their house today.

Doton’s complete 18555 map. Photo provided.

Doton’s wall map measures about 56” high x 50” wide. These maps were made in four lithographed sections. Each section was pressed onto an inked soapstone plate with the design engraved in the stone. The sections were then hand-colored to give the maps the colors we see today. It was a time consuming process.

Each lithographed section was made of paper. When all four sections were complete they were glued to a cloth backing for strength and then varnished. A wooden top strip, painted black was added so the map could be hung on the wall. At the bottom of the map is a black painted wooden roller so the map could be   rolled up. These maps cost five dollars in 1855.

The 1850s were the Golden-Age of mapmaking. Mapmakers from Boston and New York sent cartographers to Vermont and other New England states to map each county. It seems the only map Doton produced was Windsor County.

An interesting tidbit of Doton’s maps is as follows: Today we tend to think the earliest version of something like a map or book would be the most valuable. This is a good guideline but not always true as evidenced below.

After Doton published his 1855 map he noticed errors or omissions so in 1856 he published a revised map. Now you would think the 1855 map would be worth more, not true. Doton’s errors and omissions were so minor that few customers bought the 1856 version. For this reason his 1856 maps are rarer and more valuable.

In my collection I have two 1855 maps in nice condition and one 1856 map in poor condition. The photos with this article are the 1855 Doton map in my collection.

Over the years I have owned a number of these maps. In the 1980s my best customers were lawyers in Windsor County. Today historians and genealogists find these historical maps useful.

The next meeting of the Chester Historical Society is Thursday, March 22, upstairs at Chester Town Hall at 7 p.m. The monthly slideshow will be old Londonderry photos to be included in our new pictorial history book to be published this summer. There are some real beauties.

Instead of an old saying I offer this. I remember when I was a kid watching cartoons. I think it was Bugs Bunny who went to a Hollywood movie studio. As he entered the gates to the studio, there was an arched sign overhead that read, “Wonder Studios. If it’s a good movie, it’s a Wonder.”


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