An excerpt from a brief history of Bethel town and village published in 1895 gives an idea of the community in the late nineteenth century:
"TOWN OF BETHEL"
"The town of Bethel is located nearly at the geographical center of the state. The surface is quite uneven, especially back from the main streams, the soil is generally productive. Good farms abound on the streams and back of the hills. Timber of various kinds is plenty, the town is well watered, White River flows across the south-east corner. The third branch, rising in Roxbury, flows through Braintree and Randolph into Bethel from the north, thence about four miles within this town and then discharges into White River at Bethel village. The second branch flows across the eastern corner of the town through the village of East Bethel, and joins White River at North Royalton. Locust Creek flows from Barnard, and is also the outlet of Silver Lake in Barnard, and joins White River about two miles from Bethel village. Camp Brook flows from Rochester and joins the third branch about two miles north of the village. The Gilead Brook also flows from Rochester and joins the branch about two miles above the mouth of Camp Brook. There is also a stream in the westerly part of the town that flows into White River near Stockbridge line. The Central Vermont railroad has about six miles of main line in town, running up White River to Bethel Village, then up the third branch to Randolph. Bethel station is one of the most important ones on the line, as Barnard, Stockbridge, Pittsfield, Rochester, Hancock, and parts of several other towns come here for their railroad business. There is a great passenger and freight traffic here. Stages run daily to and from Stockbridge, Rochester and points up White River, and to Woodstock by way of Barnard and Pomfret.
There is a very large and fine deposit of granite located about three miles from the railroad station, which is being worked to some extent at present, and is only waiting capital and proper management to be made a great industry and consequently of large advantage to the town. Some gold has been found but has failed to pay for working, so far."
"Bethel village is located in a natural basin in the southeastern part of the town at the junction of the third branch with White River, and is a very pleasant place, with beautiful scenery all about it, and pleasant drives into the surrounding country, which also abounds in wild and picturesque scenery. Many city people spend their vacations here. The place has grown quite rapidly in business and many buildings have been erected within the last five years. Among the other buildings erected in this town is a fine town hall with one of the best appointed stages in the state.
There are at present four religious societies holding regular services, viz.: Universalist, Congregationalist, Episcopal and Methodist. The Whitcomb High School is located here and has five departments and is a first-class school. The National White River Bank is located here, also the Bethel Shoe Company, employing about 150 people, The G. & E. G. Place Tannery and finishing factory, employing about 150 hands, two hotels, and a job-printing office. There is also a weekly paper, "The Bethel Courier", published ere, a fine creamery known as the "Harrington Creamery", the Vermont Plastering Hair Company is doing quite an extensive business, a flour and feed mill doing a large wholesale and retail business, a sawmill, carriage shop, three blacksmith shops, two harness shops, two livery stables, photograph gallery, two hardware stores and tin shops, three attorney's offices, insurance agents, two meat markets, three millinery stores, several dress-makers' rooms, furniture store, two dry goods and general stores, two apothecary stores, several grocery and provision stores, fish market, news and book store, music store, merchant tailor. There are now 1,000 inhabitants within one mile radius of the post office.
Many years ago when people used to make their own cloth and knit socks, there was a woolen mill and carding works here, also in the same building there were works for pressing out oil from flax-seed. Also in those times there were buildings called "potashes", where potash was made from hard wood ashes.
In July, 1830, "the great freshet" occurred, sweeping away the branch bridge, stores, mills, factories, etc.. December 10, 1877, the "great fire" occurred, burning many buildings. The erection of new buildings on the burned spot made a great change in the appearance of the street. The place has now a good water service for protection against fire in the business or main portion of the village, having a line of pipe through the main street with hydrants at convenient places. The pipe is connected with two powerful pumps at different locations. There is an Electric Light and Power Company formed recently, which is to furnish lights and power in the near future. The power or plan is to be located at Gaysville and wired here."
"A small village in the easterly part of the town, situated on the second branch of White River, is quite a thriving village, as portions of Randolph, Tunbridge and Royalton center there. It has two churches, Universalist and Baptist, the latter having regular services and a settled minister. Also has a hotel, tin and hardware shop, feed store, creamery, grist and sawmills, general stores, carriage and blacksmith shops, etc.. Its nearest railroad point is Royalton, and it has daily stage connections and a post office."
Features numbered & lettered references to the following locations:
White River Driving Park.
Bascom House, R. Gilson, Proprietor.
Wilson House, T. E. Wilson.
C. V. R. R. Station.
J. W. Alley & Co.'s Tannery.
National White River Bank.
Sylvester Block, Masonic Hall.
M. A. Moody & Co., General Merchandise.
Tupper & Martin, Hardware.
Brooks & Washburn, General Merchandise.
Wilson Block. Post Office, Green & Chase, Drugs, Geo. I. Abbott, General Merchandise.
M. Burnett, Lumber.