The town forms the northwestern corner of Orleans County and contains a distinctive mountain, Jay Peak, one of the main summits of the Green Mountain Range. It is home to a ski resort known for receiving more snow than any others in the eastern United States.
The town of Jay is on the Canadian border and was named in honor of John Jay, one of the key founding fathers of the United States and the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was an eminent New York lawyer and statesman who was instrumental in settling an 18th century land dispute with New York in favor of Vermont, clearing the way for it to become the 14th state in 1791.
The land constituting the town of Jay was originally granted as a township named Carthage on March 13, 1780. But the grant reverted to the state because of non-compliance. As a result, the Vermont legislature in 1792 directed the governor to grant the land as a township named Jay to John Jay and another man.
The town was uninhabited until 1809, when the first settler arrived. A few more followed, but they abandoned their houses during the War of 1812 because of the danger from Canadian Indian tribes. After the war, the town grew slowly. Its population reached 52 in 1820 and 196 by 1830. The town government was organized on March 29, 1828.
In addition to its border with Canada to the north, the town of Jay is bounded to the east by Troy, to the south by Westfield and to the west by the Franklin County town of Richford.
The Vermont Historical Gazetteer, published in the 1870s, contained an extensive description of the stunning views from Jay Peak. Part of it reads: “There is nothing but the distant mountains to intercept the view in any direction. The base is surrounded with a broad tract of forest, covering the valleys, glens and mountains. A little beyond the forest are rivers, ponds, groves, farms, roads and villages. Further off, looking in all directions near and remote, the observer may see Mount Mansfield, Camel’s Hump and other dignitaries of the Green Mountain range; the White Mountains; Mount Hor, Mount Pisgah, Westmore Mountain, Mount John; the mountains about the head waters of the Connecticut… This field of observance is broad enough for frequent study, not only by the travelers from foreign lands, but by the inhabitants of the country; and the young men and women of Vermont should not consider their education complete till they have stood upon some of the lofty eminences of the Green Mountains and beheld and studied their scenic beauty and sublimity.”
In recent years, Jay Peak’s ski area has been expanded to a four-season resort with a year-round indoor water park, an ice arena, a championship golf course and a range of accomodations, restaurants and pubs.