mark clement wind towers

Lowell is the westernmost town in Orleans County, bounded to the north by Westfield and Newport, to the east by Irasburg and Albany, to the south by the Lamoille County town of Eden and to the west by the Franklin County town of Montgomery.

It was first chartered to New York lawyer John Kelly on March 5, 1787 as the township of Kellyvale, but that name proved unpopular and in 1831, it was changed to Lowell.

The town’s early settlers did not have it easy, as the Vermont Historical Gazetteer noted in the 1870s: “The nearest store was located at Craftsbury, a distance of 12 miles. Having no mills they were obliged to carry their grain to an adjoining town… Throwing their bags of grain across their backs, or their horse’s, they would commence their journey, it taking them nearly a day to go and return.”

The Gazetteer noted that Lowell’s few inhabitants shared with those in other northern towns the panic caused by the war of 1812: “A fort was erected near where the Congregational church now stands, for a sort of refuge in times of danger… Ebenezer Woods and Abel Curtis were appointed delegates to a meeting [in Quebec] to ascertain, if might be, the state of feeling which existed among the people in Canada. They found the inhabitants as much disposed to have peace as themselves.”

The Gazetteer also recalled the cold misery of 1816, which came to be called the year with no summer: “Great scarcity of provision prevailed, one family by the name of Butterfield being reduced to such a state that they were obliged to subsist on clover heads for several days.”

The Gazetteer noted Lowell possessed a great variety of minerals, including serpentine and asbestos in considerable quantities. In the early 1900s, an asbestos mine was developed on Belvidere Mountain in the western part of town, extending into Eden. At its peak in the 1940s, the mining operation on some 1,500 acres employed as many as 300 people and produced an estimated 90 percent of asbestos used in the United States. The mine was closed in 1992 because of health risks. A 2009 report by the state Department of Health concluded that people living near the inactive mine had no more increased risk of asbestos-related illness than people living elsewhere in Vermont.

Today Lowell is better known for having the largest industrial wind farm in Vermont. The Kingdom Community Wind Project, which is owned by Green Mountain Power and the Vermont Electric Co-op, operates 21 wind turbines, each rising 450 feet above the ridgeline of the Lowell Mountain Range. It is one of two industrial-scale wind projects in the Northeast Kingdom.