Situated in southeastern Essex County, Lunenburg is bounded on the northeast by Guildhall, on the northwest by Victory, on the southwest by Concord and on the southeast by the Connecticut River, which separates Vermont and New Hampshire.
The township was chartered July 5, 1763 by Benning Wentworth, who was the governor of the New Hampshire colony before it became a state in 1788 and before Vermont’s boundaries were established. The first settlers reached the township the following year. They brought their grain and provisions in canoes from Northfield, Mass., a distance of more than 150 miles. More settlers arrived around 1768, building log huts near the banks of the Connecticut River, where fish and game were easily obtained. Salmon as large as 40 pounds were caught easily at night using torches and spears at the head of the 15-mile falls, according to the Vermont Historical Gazetteer. During the Revolutionary War, the settlers were constantly under threat of attack from Indians and British Loyalists.
One of Lunenburg’s most distinguished early citizens, according to the Gazetteer, was Samuel Gates, who was born in Marlborough, Mass. and was 15 years old at the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775. He volunteered to fight and reenlisted two more times before the war ended in 1783. The Gazetteer described his military service in some detail, noting that: “During the winter of 1777 and '78, he with his regiment were quartered at Valley Forge, where he endured, in common with his fellow patriots, those terrible sufferings from hunger and cold which no pen can ever describe… It is quite remarkable that in all the hard fought battles in which he was engaged he never received a wound.”
Gates married a woman from his hometown in Massachusetts in 1781 and in 1783, he moved his family to Lunenburg. He built the town’s first frame house in 1792, a house where the area’s first court session was held and where Sunday church meetings were conducted for many years. “Many of the noted men of those olden times spent days and nights within the walls [of that house] and partook of the good cheer always so freely tendered,” according to the Gazetteer. Gates was the town’s first representative in the state legislature and served several years as the county’s judge. His wife died in 1853 at age 91, and he died the following year at age 94. For his service to his town, his state and his country, “as well as for his patient endurance of the hardships and privations incident to pioneer life,” the Gazetteer said, “he deserves the grateful remembrance of those who are now reaping the benefits of his self-denying labors.”