by Doug McClure
HARDWICK/MONTPELIER – Vermont Department of Libraries’ Geographic Naming Committee officially voted to recognize the geographic name Buffalo Mountain on October 12, according to resident Mike Lance who has for months spearheaded a campaign for that official recognition. Federal recognition might come in December.
The impetus for the project was that the mountain everyone in Hardwick knows as Buffalo Mountain, which is also on the town’s logo and somehow was never officially designated by that name. Lance noted that the lack of official designation led to confusion, which meant some people were misidentifying nearby Woodbury Mountain as Buffalo Mountain.
Lance said that “this petition is not an appeal to rename an existing geographic feature as appeals often are that come before the State Geographic Naming Committee. Instead, it is a request to formally recognize a peak by a name that has a long history in the Northeast Kingdom.”
Lance submitted a petition for official recognition with the support of the Hardwick Select Board, the Hardwick Historical Society, the East Hardwick Neighborhood Organization, and over 100 signatures. He also included comments from Chief Don Stevens of the Abenaki Nation to ensure that there would be no issues of cultural appropriation.
Lance noted in the petition summary that “Buffalo Mountain has been integral to Hardwick history for over 150 years. A mine was opened on its slopes in the late 1800s and named Buffalo Hill Quarry. That, along with the rest of the local granite industry, helped fuel Hardwick economic growth well into the 1900s … With respect to Buffalo Mountain being a well-accepted name, it has been regularly referred to in Newspaper articles since at least the 1890s through the 2020s. It is also referred to in US Geological Survey studies of the Vermont Granite industry in the early 1900s, as well as Vermont State Geologist reports on the subject during the same time. Despite being recorded historically in State and Federal documents, for whatever reasons, the name has never made it into official Geographic records.”
He also pointed out that multiple Hardwick businesses used the mountain as their namesakes and that the mountain was mentioned specifically in the town plan as “one of Hardwick’s scenic offerings.” In describing the recent kerfuffle over a proposed AT&T tower atop the mountain, Lance noted that the mountain’s locally known name was understood widely enough that it was universally used to identify the location, whether it was mentioned in newspaper articles, select board meetings, or in letters to Public Utilities Commission.
Lance said that in the process “several people, including the representative from the USGS, said they were surprised that the name Buffalo Mountain had been lost from official records, given its appearance in state and federal documents. The chair of the library board said he was familiar with Buffalo Mountain and was surprised it was not in the records.”