Irasburg, located just west of Interstate 91, is bounded on the southeast by Barton, on the southwest by Albany, on the west by Lowell and on the north by Newport and Coventry. Irasburg has two rivers, the Black River, which flows south-to-north, and the Barton River, which cuts through the town’s eastern tip. Both rivers continue north through Coventry and empty into Lake Memphremagog.
The land that became Irasburg was granted on February 23, 1781, to Ira Allen and others. Ira Allen and his brother Ethan were leaders of the Green Mountain Boys militia unit and founders of Vermont, which became the 14th state in 1791. But in 1781, the future of the territory that became Vermont was in dispute, claimed by both New Hampshire and New York. The Continental Congress had ordered that land not be distributed until the conflict was resolved. But the Vermont General Assembly ignored the order. Ira Allen was granted the most land during that time of uncertainty. He initially leased the Irasburg land his group had received to settlers, but in September 1789 he married Jerusha Enos and deeded the town to her as a wedding gift. No further Irasburg land was conveyed by deed until their son, Ira H. Allen, became a town resident in 1814 and served as town clerk.
In 1812 the Vermont legislature voted to make Irasburg the shire town of Orleans County, meaning it would be the administrative center of county government, which consisted of a court and sheriff. The first courthouse and jail were built in 1815, and the town prospered with new industrial sites, including a woolen mill, a tannery and a foundry producing stoves and plows. Irasburg remained Orleans County’s shire town until 1886, when the legislature moved the county offices to the Village of Newport, which became Newport City, where the offices remain today.
In the years leading up to the War of 1812 and during the war, which lasted less than three years, smuggling to and from Canada appeared to be out of control. “The principal business of the inhabitants, during the war, seems to have been, one party taking cattle and contraband goods from the other party,” reported the Vermont Historical Gazetteer, which was published in the 1870s. “The government party became strongest, and many of those who engaged in smuggling became bankrupt and left the town. Some families went away during the war and never returned.”
Between 1845 and 1860 three newspapers were published in Irasburg. The longest lasting was The Independent Standard, which was launched in 1856 and was published for 10 years before its owner moved it to Barton, where it continued to publish.