In this lesson students examine an 18th century map to identify some of the first buildings in their community.

Focusing Questions

What were some of the first needs of the community?
What was built to accommodate these needs?

Topical Understandings

Gristmills and sawmills were some of the first large buildings to be built in communities.
Communities needed gristmills to grind their corn and grain and sawmills to saw lumber for houses.
Communities needed roads.
Churches and schools were also priorities in the community.

Background Information

What did the early settlers do to organize their towns?


Eighteenth-century map of your community
For Vermont, use James Whitelaw’s Correct Map of the State of Vermont (1796)
Whitelaw Legend
For New Hampshire, use A Topographical Map of the Province of New Hampshire (1784)
Worksheet: What did they first build?


  1. Look closely at the legend for James Whitelaw’s map and define any unknown vocabulary. You will see similar symbols on the New Hampshire map.

  1. Zoom in on your town. Get it as large as you can and either print it or take a screenshot. Distribute town map to your students.
  2. Distribute the worksheet: What did they first build?
  3. Discuss.