Brighton walking bridge

Situated in western Essex County, Brighton is bounded by Avery’s Gore, Ferdinand, Newark, Westmore, Morgan and Charleston. Brighton's  village of Island Pond, once a booming railroad town 16 miles south of Quebec, now rests peacefully on the western shores of a 600-acre lake called Island Pond, so named because of the lake’s 22-acre island.

The Clyde River, Pherrin’s River and Nulhegan River all run through town. The Clyde is the outlet of Island Pond, and it was named by one of the early surveyors for a river of the same name in Scotland. Native Americans often used the Clyde on journies from Canada to Southern New England. Brighton was chartered under a different name, "Random," in 1731 by Joseph Brown because it was a random purchase from an agent in Providence, R.I. In 1832, the town became Brighton, a name that was chosen by the inhabitants. The first white man to visit the town, identified as a Mr. Lindsley, was hunting with a company of St. Francis Indians and had some thrilling adventures and hair-raising escapes. The first settler was believed to have been Enos Bishop in 1820.

The first settlers traveled 16 miles from the Connecticut River through a dense wilderness, which is how they brought in supplies with the help of snowshoes and hand-sleds (it was said the snow was too deep for teams). The first post office was established in 1849. The first public road was known as the Old Magog Road, and it connected Brunswick on the Connecticut River with Derby and Lake Memphremagog. The road was the scene of much conflict during the war of 1812 when smugglers tried to move cattle into Canada from New Hampshire. The township is quite mountainous and heavily timbered, and logging played a major role in its development.

In 1853, the Grand Trunk railroad purchased land that would become known as the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railway. It ran through Island Pond, the first international railroad junction in the United States, connecting Montreal with Portland, Maine. Logging operations, mills and the railroad spurred the growth of the town. Thousands of board feet of timber were brought to mills, much of it white pine. At one time, more than 500 loggers were working in the Brighton area.

The village of Island Pond has been the community center and population nucleus of the town since the 1850s. Brighton’s population peaked at 2,500. However, with the decline of the railroads and the advent of the Great Depression, the population dwindled steadily. The streets may no longer be lively with railroad men and rugged loggers and the 13 railroad tracks that once passed through town are down to two, but Brighton has become a tourist destination for snowmobilers and outdoor enthusiasts, and in a bold plan announced in early 2015, the town may become the site of the largest maple operation in the United States. A company called Sweetree intends to tap as many as a half-million maple trees to produce syrup, sugar and other products.