East Haven lies in the western part of Essex County, bounded on the northeast by Ferdinand, on the southeast by Granby, on the southwest by Victory and on the west and northwest by the Caledonia County towns of Burke and Newark.
East Haven was chartered on Oct. 22, 1790 by the Vermont Legislature. It was one of several parcels granted to a group headed by Timothy Andrews. He named the town after his hometown of East Haven Connecticut, where he operated an inn. Records show that his Vermont land grants were speculative and he had no intention of settling in the state. Ironically, he died in Vermont, while on a trip to inspect his holdings.
East Haven’s first settler was John Walter, Jr., who was born in the hills of northwestern Connecticut and moved here May 1, 1804. In addition to building the first house in the township, he planted the first orchard. The next settler was John Walter’s brother Norris. They had to go to Lyndon and St. Johnsbury to buy grain and get it ground. East Haven’s first schoolhouse was built in 1832. The first tavern was built in 1848, and the town was finally organized July 28, 1845. In 1850, a post office was established.
The Passumpsic River runs through the western part of East Haven, and a ridge of land rises through the center of the town, extending from the north to the south boundary. The Moose River on the east side of the ridge runs south through the eastern part of the town. Both rivers have been known for trout fishing, as well as for wild game hunting.
Another location that drew notoriety to East Haven through the years is 3,400-foot East Mountain, which is the second highest peak in the Northeast Kingdom and is surrounded by some of Vermont’s most remote wilderness areas. The U.S. Air Force built a radar base at the summit of the mountain during the Cold War to provide early warning of a feared attack by the Soviet Union. The base, which operated from 1956 to 1963, was staffed by more than 150 people, about half as many people who lived in East Haven at the time. Two years before the base was closed, a strange object was spotted in the sky over East Mountain. Speculation that it was a UFO was heightened when a New Hampshire couple, Barney and Betty Hill, reported that they were abducted by aliens near Franconia Notch, N.H., just hours before the East Mountain sighting.
During the decades since the isolated Air Force radar station was abandoned, it suffered extensive damage from trespassers. An attempt to erect an industrial wind farm on the site was withdrawn in 2012 because of strong local opposition and a finding from a state hearing officer that the project was incompatible with the remote, undeveloped surrounding land. Some of the property in question was part of Vermont’s largest land conservation agreement ever, resulting from the purchase of 132,000 acres from the Champion International Paper Company in 1999. Under the agreement, the former Champion lands are to be preserved for recreation, wildlife habitat and timber production through sustainable forestry.