Began Just North at Wells River
Conceived, planned, laid out & financed by Newbury founder, Gen. Jacob Bayley 1726-1815, who on Nov. 24, 1775, presented his plan to Gen. George Washington for a shorter military route to Canada. On Washington’s orders, Bayley began road in spring of 1776. After 26 mil, it was halted until 1779 when Washington ordered Col. Moses Hazen & Col. Timothy Bedel to report to Bayley & continue his road about 26 mi. further northwest to Hazen’s Notch now Westfield, VT. Thos, Johnson, Fry Bayley, Abial & Silas Chamberlain, John McLean & Native American, “Indian Joe”, surveyed road for Gen. Bayley. Most are buried here at Ox Bow Cemetery near Gen. Bayley.
Below are two pictures of Ox Bow Cemetery. Unfortunately, we did not have time to locate Gen. Bayley’s grave since, as you can see, the cemetery is quite large. You can also tell by looking at it that it is a very old cemetery and is full of key figures in Northern New England’s history.
Be sure to check out all of our historical road markers that we have personally visited. There is also an embedded Google map with the exact location of each marker in case you would also like to visit them.
If you are interested in hiking or biking the Bayley-Hazen road, here is an excellent map from the Cross Vermont Trail Association (pdf). The brochure also has a bit of additional history:
Within the Northeast Kingdom are remnants of a Revolutionary War era military road. Proposed and started in 1776 by Colonel Jacob Bayley, continued in 1779 and later abandoned by General Moses Hazen, the road–and what remains of it–extends from Wells River in a northwesterly direction to what is now known as Hazen’s Notch.
For sure, exploration of the road is accomplished far better by mountain bike and hybrid than by motor vehicle. Small details, historical markers, grave sites and monuments that still recall the events of long ago may escape the eye when barreling along in a car but will not be missed by bike. As inveterate touring cyclist Josh Lehman reminds us, “bicyclists travel fast enough to span the forest but slow enough to sport the trees.”
Much of the original route can be followed using existing roads, the majority of which remain unpaved. Indeed, the character of the original road as described in the 1959 Northeast Vermont Development Association (NVDA) booklet, Bayley-Hazen Military Road – 1776 & 1779, aptly describes what cyclists will find today.
“It makes no concessions to comfort or convenience, and very few even to the law of gravity. It goes straight as possible, regardless of grade, like an old Roman road, but by no means regardless of that bogey of the early road builders in New England. In general it keeps to the ridge-tops, dodging the wet spots as much as possible, crossing brooks and larger streams at right angles, almost never following them.”
Sound like fun? The let’s get started in search of Bayley Hazen.
The history of the Bayley-Hazen Military Road begins with the ill-starred campaign of 1775-1776 during which Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery attempted to capture Canada. The American army urgently needed reinforcements and supplies to continue the siege of Quebec, and Bayley, head of the frontier militia and a resident of Newbury, Vermont, repeatedly wrote General George Washington urging upon him the importance of constructing a new road that would shorten existing supply routes. Washington, determined to act without the approval of Congress, approved construction of the road on April 29, 1776 aware of the critical situation at Quebec, but equally aware that a road to Canada could just as easily facilitate an attack of British troops from the north.
In mid-1776, the campaign in Canada foundered. Washington instructed Bayley to abandon work on the road which had reached a point about six miles north of Elkin’s place in Peacham. There construction lay dormant until April, 1779 when General Moses Hazen of Haverhill, Massachusetts received orders to complete the road in anticipation of another Canadian campaign.
Hazen’s men built a block-house on Cabot Plains and as the road progressed, they build another six miles farther on in Walden. Still another blockhouse was built at Caspian Lake near Greensboro. By late summer, Hazen had reached the notch that now bears his name in the Green Mountains near Westfield where work was halted still some forty miles short of the road’s intended destination, St. Johns, Canada.
As a military achievement, the Bayley-Hazen road was not a great one. Instead, it was more of an aggravation to the settlers of Peacham, Ryegate and Newbury, as it could be traveled both ways and the British conducted raids down the road from time to time, as anticipated. In September 1781, two members of an American scouting party were killed near the block house on Caspian Lake. A memorial to this even can be seen today.
You can view more pictures of Newbury, Vermont in our town picture gallery.