The name probably comes from the Arawack Indians of Jamaica Island and means “land of spring and water”. The settlement was founded in 1780 and first occupied by a few young, energetic and adventuresome people who built primitive log cabins along the mountain streams and rivers. They were drawn to the area with the lure of cheap land and freedom to be their own masters. History tells us that Indians traveled between the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain valley via the creeks and rivers and fished and traded but did not live in the area.
The rugged terrain and extreme weather kept the Vermont area unpopulated long past settlement of adjacent colonies. The first settlers came after 1780 and were primarily lumbermen who set about harvesting the plentiful hardwood forests and eventually building water-powered mills and factories to make various wood products. Travel remained precarious – roads were difficult to build due to the mountains and many streams. A few farmers attempted to farm on terraces, where the land had been cleared by the lumbermen, but bottom land was flood-prone and until dams were built many years later, was undeveloped.
When Napoleon invaded Spain, the King of Spain, being short of funds sold his precious Merino Sheep herds to savvy investors who decided that the hillsides of Vermont were perfect for raising sheep and this was true. The sheep multiplied and flourished and the resulting wool boom brought wealth to many. The lovely homes built during this period of financial security remain today as mementos of this period. When the Civil War ended, the cotton industry resumed in the south, which caused a sudden lack of interest in wool trade.
Gradually the hillsides were reforested and hidden among the new trees are many rock walls showing where the old sheep pastures were. Many severe floods in later years destroyed mills and factories, which were not rebuilt. Tourism did not take off until the birth of the ski industry when many ski resorts sprang up on the major mountain areas. Today, ski and snowboard tourism plus the lure of cool summer vacations centered in the ski and golf resort areas create a steady flow of visitors. Today Jamaica stands out as a unique Vermont village with a stable main street, civic-minded citizens and a history to share. This web site will feature stories of our history so keep checking in.