Somerset celebrating 250 years - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Somerset celebrating 250 years

Somerset, Vermont - May 19, 2011

A visit to Somerset is like taking a trip in a time machine. As soon you leave the pavement homes disappear, power lines vanish and before you know it, you realize you're on the path to nowhere.

"There's no electricity. There's nothing. It's quiet. And everyone leaves afterward," said Julie Moore of the Wilmington Historical Society.

If you haven't heard of Somerset, you're not alone.

"I don't think there's many places in Vermont like it," said Bob Greene of the Wilmington Historical Society.

In 2000 a whopping five people lived here. And in the 11 years since the town has actually shrunk.

Reporter Keagan Harsha: It's got to be the smallest town in Vermont?

Julie Moore: I would think... two people.

Harsha: They don't stick around?

Bob Greene: Nope.

Harsha: Too remote?

Greene: Maybe.

The town's two year-round residents do have a lot in common. Both are retired bachelors. Both are camera shy. And both don't mind living off the grid.

"One of the reasons they think they don't have any wives is they don't have any telephone in Somerset. I guess they're saying women like to talk on the phone," Moore said.

"There's no electricity. They can't use their hair dryers," said Don Gero of Somerset.

But things haven't always been so lonely here. In its heyday, back in 1880s, 321 people called the area home. Somerset was a logging town.

"They used to put the logs down the river. They'd have a log drive in the spring after the long winters," Moore explained.

The only problem was as the mills continued to grow, supply couldn't keep up with demand. The river would all but dry up in the winter, so a railroad was built so that the mills could operate year-round.

Today the tracks and most of the mills are gone, much of it swallowed up by Somerset Reservoir.

"And it's big," Moore said. "It's 4 to 5 miles long."

The dam was built in 1911 and took three years to complete. As the logging industry started to dry up, developers eyed the valley's power potential. Several hydroelectric power plants were built downstream and the reservoir was created to supply a steady stream of water to keep them running.

"They had a lot of manpower," Moore said. "They'd have 100 men on one site and there'd maybe be 80 more in another area, doing it all by hand."

Aside from the dam little from that era remains, other than Somerset's one-room schoolhouse.

Today the reservoir and the surrounding natural beauty are what bring people to Somerset. The population here swells to more than two dozen people during the summer months, with several camps in the area. And that's about 21 too many visitors as far as Don Gero is concerned.

Harsha: You don't want the people?

Don Gero: That's right, that's right. That's why we live in the boonies.

A place stuck in the past...

"Them were the good ol' days!" Gero said.

...in the back woods of Vermont.

Somerset has had at least one notable resident. Lyman Knapp was born here in 1837. He went on to become the governor of the District of Alaska from 1889 until 1893.

Keagan Harsha - WCAX News

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