Sister Cities: Roxbury, New Jersey, Meet Roxbury, Vermont

By Steve Sears

 

A Fourth of July parade passing by Roxbury Country Store

Roxbury, Vermont, was granted on November 6, 1780, chartered on August 6, 1781, but was not officially settled until 1789. Located in the center of the state, there is a marker on the eastern side of Roxbury that cements this claim. 

Route 12A runs north and south and bisects the community of 42 square miles. “12A runs down through one valley and route 12 through the other. We have two valleys, and so we have kind of a West Roxbury and East Roxbury. But those aren’t official designations; we are all one town,” says Sue Nevins, Roxbury, Vermont historian, who explains why someone would want to visit the town she has lived in for 18 years. “The first thing is it’s very rural. There’s no industry per se in town, we might be between 650 and 700 people. We’re just very, very rural, but we’re only about 40 minutes outside the capitol. Montpelier is a very nice place to visit.”

And so is Roxbury, which is elevated in some areas and dominated by the Roxbury State Forest. A spot to stay in town is the old Johnnycake Flats Inn, an early 1800’s farmhouse and Bed & Breakfast, and there are also a variety of Air BnBs in town, as well as in neighboring communities. Says Nevins, “Northfield, Vermont is the next town north, and there’s a couple more inns in that area, and then Randolph, Vermont is the next town to the south.” Dining in Roxbury is at a minimum. “We’re too small to actually have a restaurant,” says Nevins. “We do have a general store, the Roxbury Country Store. They have a fairly nice, little selection of wines, and they have some nice craft beers that we make in Vermont.” However, driving for a fine meal is not out of the question. “It’s 20 minutes to Randolph, Vermont for us, so it’s definitely within driving distance for a meal. They have some nice restaurants and, as a matter of fact, they have a Thai restaurant called SAAP.” Serving northern Thai cuisine, SAAP features the culinary skill of Executive Chef Nisachon Morgan, who was recently named Best Chef in the northeast by the James Beard Foundation. “It’s a wonderful restaurant. As I understand it, since they got the award, you really have to make reservations,” says Nevins.

Collecting sap for Vermont maple syrup

According to Nevins, one Roxbury, Vermont’s claims to fame is having the state’s oldest fish hatchery, which almost met its demise in 2011. It was opened in the late 1800s. “It’s the oldest one, and it was also the most productive one. Much of it was destroyed when we got hit by Hurricane Irene, which was supposed to hit New York City and instead demolished central Vermont. But they’ve rebuilt it, and it’s a little Central Vermont tourist attraction. Kids can come and they can feed the fish, and it’s quite a nice little place.”

As for Roxbury, Vermont history, there are a few aged cemeteries in town. “At the peak of our population right after the Civil War, that was when we had the highest population. We had about 1,500 people, and we have a number of cemeteries,” says Nevins, who is actually one of the cemetery commissioners. “Many of the houses in town are historic and Vermont has – I think mostly because people couldn’t afford to build new houses – preserved a lot of their old housing stock. Riding through town and into the hills, you see a lot of older houses.” 

The rurality of Roxbury means you don’t have to go to the state forest to enjoy nature. It’s right underfoot wherever you are. Says Nevins, “The thing about Roxbury is that you can pretty much drive anywhere, just park your car, and walk. You don’t even have to go to the state forest to go for a walk.”

Rural Roxbury, Vermont

For more information about Roxbury, Vermont, visit www.roxburyvt.org.

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