Dorset Vermont Historical Society Bley House Museum
Welcome to Historic Dorset, Vermont
Bley House
Welcome to Bley House Museum
The Dorset Historical Society was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1963. The Society's purposes are: to discover and collect materials that will help establish or illustrate the history of Dorset, Vermont; to provide for the preservation of relevant collections; to exhibit archival materials and disseminate historical information; and to educate members of the Society and the public. Toward these ends, DHS collects and maintains artifacts, art, photographs, documents, books, manuscripts, and genealogical records pertinent to Dorset and its environs from the time the town was chartered in 1761 to the present.
The Society's home is the Bley House Museum, located on Route 30 at Kent Hill Road. Among the museum's featured exhibits are Fenton stoneware, paintings by Dorset artists, and in the Marble Gallery, a large display that showcases 130 years of quarrying, hauling, and finishing marble in Dorset and East Dorset—all part of the town's most historically significant industry. Two historic buildings using marble from Dorset quarries are the Old Customs House in Erie, Pennsylvania—the first major building in the U.S. to use marble (1839)—and the New York Public Library (1910).
Dorset Quarry
Norcross-West Marble Quarry, earliest (1785) commercial marble quarry

 

Fenton Stoneware Pottery


Jonathan and Richard Webber Fenton grew up and learned how to make pottery in New Haven, Connecticut. Jonathan moved to Boston when he was 28 years old, and made pottery there for a few years.  He next moved to Walpole, New Hampshire, and then to Windsor, Connecticut, before settling in Dorset, Vermont, in 1801.


 








Richard Webber Fenton moved from Connecticut to St. Johnsbury, Vermont, in 1808.  There, he set up a pottery, which was continued by his son Leander, until fire destroyed the works in 1859.


 







Jonathan Fenton 

 


F
enton most likely used clay from the banks of the Mettawee River to make redware.  He also bought clay (probably imported from New Jersey) in Troy, N.Y., and used clay from the kaolin beds of North Dorset.


 



 

 


He operated the Dorset Hollow pottery until 1810, when he moved his operations to East Dorset.  Two reasons to move: to be nearer the North Dorset clay beds, and to have better access to markets in response to increased demands for pottery brought about by the Embargo Acts.







Richard Lucas Fenton


R.L. Fenton, the fourth child of Jonathan and Rosalinda Fenton, was born in Walpole, New Hampshire in 1797.  He learned pottery-making from his father, and purchased the business from him in 1827.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

By that time, Jonathan Fenton had been operating his pottery in East Dorset for seventeen years.  Richard bought the pottery with his brother Christopher and his sister Melinda’s husband Seth Curtis.  In 1828, Richard, still controlling part of the East Dorset pottery, moved to Bennington to work in the Norton pottery, but returned in 1830, when he and Christopher bought out Curtis.  In 1833, the brothers sold the works back to their father and moved to Bennington.  Richard died the following year.



 

Eli Ames & Company


 

When the Fenton Brothers moved to Bennington in 1833, they sold their business back to their father.  The patriarch sold it about six months later.  Eli Ames bought it, and made pottery there for an unknown length of time, but had stopped by 1845.


                               





 


Christopher Fenton

Christopher Fenton was born in Dorset in 1806, and grew up around his father’s potteries in Dorset and East Dorset.  He went into business with his brother Richard and brother-in-law, Seth Curtis, in 1827, but sold out and moved to Bennington in 1833.





Fenton had good reason to move to Bennington: in 1832, he married Louisa Norton, daughter of Luman Norton, who had taken over the Bennington Potteries from his father, John Norton.  Fenton worked for the Nortons for many years, even entering a formal partnership with his brother-in-law Julius Norton (1845 – 1847).


 

 


 

 

Christopher Fenton distinguished himself by his keen interest in design and innovation.  To his credit are at least two patents: one for a fire brick (1838), and one for a new way of applying colors to glazes (1849).

 

 


 


Dorset Historical Society
Member of Vermont Historical Society and
The New England Museum Association


PO Box 52 · Route 30 at Kent Hill Road
Dorset, VT 05251 USA · 802-867-0331
E-mail: info@dorsetvthistory.org

— Open Hours —
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, 10-4 p.m.
Saturday, 10-2 p.m.

Other days and times by appointment

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