When Benning Wentworth, Governor of New Hampshire, granted charters for the nine towns from Sunderland north to Danby in 1761, he could not have guessed that they would develop so individually. Dorset is most favorably situated, its 46 square miles anchored by mountains - on the southwest by Mother Myrick, on the northwest by the Scallop, and on the eastern border by the Green Mountain front. It gives rise to three rivers, Otter Creek and the Mettowee running north, the Batten Kill flowing south - still prime sources of trout in the Northeast.
Of the original grantees of 1761 only one, William Lemmon, is known to have actually settled in Dorset. The others sold their rights to men from Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. As Dorset's very first settler (1768), Felix Powel received fifty free acres of land. Joining Powel were Isaac Lacey, Benjamin Baldwin, Abraham Underhill, John Manley, Jr. and George Page. The next year saw four more Baldwins, another Manley (Deacon John, Sr.,) and four Farwell brothers. Other early families included Armstrong, Bloomer, Curtis, Gray, Kent, Paddock and Sykes. These family names are still traceable here today, many of their forebears at rest in Maple Hill Cemetery.
Two elements combined to make Dorset quite different from the other grants along what are now Route 7A and Route 30. Strangely both are geographical and one is geological. A rise of mountains between these two routes turned Dorset into a split town with the villages of Dorset and South Dorset along Route 30 and North and East Dorset on Route 7A. Morse Hill Road from South Dorset to East Dorset is the only direct ink between them in the town - a distance of 3.6 miles. Lying buried in this range of peaks, Mt. Aeolus, Owls Head, Netop and Dorset Mountain, was the geological phenomenon that became Dorset's claim to fame throughout the country - marble.
The country's first commercial marble quarry was opened in South Dorset by Isaac Underhill in 1785 on the land of Reuben Bloomer. Over Dorset's marble industry lifetime of some 130 years, two dozen or more quarries located on the slopes of Dorset Mountain and Mt. Aeolus provided marble for headstones, lintels, hearths and the like in the early years, followed by monumental uses and later building stone used in many notable buildings, such as the New York Public Library, the library of Brown University, and Memorial Continental Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, D.C.
Several mansions on New York City's 5th Avenue were built of Dorset marble, and many bank buildings across the land were graced by interiors lined with polished Dorset marble, some of which was attractively streaked or tinted with green or bluish colors. After the clapboard church in Dorset Village burned in 1907 a new church was built in the same style using locally quarried marble.
One quarry is known as the Gettysburg because from its tunnel-like cut were taken marble blocks fashioned into 5000 or more gravestones for the cemetery on the Civil War battleground of that name. At the formidable Freedley tunnel quarry, located 1000 feet above the East Dorset valley, an inclined railway was built to transport the large marble blocks (typically 4x4x8 feet in size) to the mill located in the valley below, replacing the slow and laborious trip down the mountain in ox-drawn wagons and sleds.