The Origin of the name of the "Lemon Fair"
by Joe Nelson
Shoreham is justly known for its apple orchards. The town is also known, at least among bridge seekers, for the covered railway bridge spanning the Lemon Fair River. The "Lemon Fair" flows north from Johnson Pond in Orwell, through Shoreham, and on to the Otter Creek in Weybridge.
Lemon Fair is a curious name for a river in Vermont. The origin of the name has been obscured over the years. Even Abbey Hemenway's wonderful Vermont Historical Gazetteer provides little help. One local history expert—a surveyor who reads extensively about local history in his land research—has found a plausible origin of the name. He discovered that Lemon Fair may be a corruption of the words "A Lamentable Affair," a community named in commemoration of an Indian attack during the early settlement years.
Many other theories have been proposed, but perhaps the most likely source of the name are the French, the first European settlers in the area. "Lemon Fair" is probably an English corruption of a French phrase describing a sometimes murky stream--the river flows over beds of lime stone and through soils containing concentrations of hydrate of magnesium sulfate, or epsom salts. There are enough salts in the area to flavor some of the nearby wells. [Source: Vermont Historical Society, Montpelier, Vermont, News and Notes, monthly newsletter, Vol. 2, June, 1951. Number 10. Article: Merrily The Search Goes On - About Vermont Place Names.]
Others have dug into the puzzle and offered their theories to The Vermont Historical Society newsletter News and Notes. S.B. Penttengill, of Evanston, Illinois offered the story of an old man who had to ford the stream on horseback when he was returning from town after having bought provisions. The stream was up due to a cloudburst, and the horse lost its footing. All of the provisions were lost. When he spoke of the incident for months afterward, he always described the incident as a "lamentable affair." With a speech impediment, it came out as a "lemmonable affair."
Again: An 1800 census listing an Ezekiel Lemon, and a book listing William Lemmon with the names of Revolutionary war soldiers from the Rutland area, show that members of the Lemon family were residing in western Vermont. It can be concluded that the Lemons used the river or trails along its banks in their comings and goings, hence the place name "Lemon Fare," the trail, path or way by old usage, probably from the Old English to "fare forth," or to travel. [Source: Mrs. H.S. Colton of Springfield, Massachusetts. (paraphrased), Vermont Historical Society, Montpelier, Vermont, News and Notes, a monthly newsletter, Vol. 3, July, 1951. Number 1. Article: Merrily The Search Goes On - About Vermont Place Names.]
And the "search goes on." Readers are invited to send in their own theories about how the river got its name.