Mount Mansfield, at 4,393 feet, is the highest elevation point in Vermont. Other high points are Killington Peak, Mount Ellen, Mount Abraham, and Camel's Hump. The lowest point in the state is Lake Champlain at 95 feet. The state's average elevation is 1,000 feet.

The history of Vermont begins more than 10,500 years before the present day.

Early history[]

Little is known of the pre-Columbian history of Vermont. The western part of the state was originally home to a small population of Algonquian-speaking tribes, including the Mohican and Abenaki peoples. Between 8500 to 7000 BCE, glacial activity created the Champlain Sea, and Native Americans inhabited and hunted in Vermont. From 7000 to 1000 BCE was the Archaic Period. During that era, Native Americans migrated year-round. From 1000 BCE to 1600 CE was the Woodland Period, when villages and trade networks were established, and ceramic and bow and arrow technology was developed. Sometime between 1500 and 1600, the Iroquois drove many of the smaller native tribes out of Vermont, later using the area as a hunting ground and warring with the remaining Abenaki. The population in 1500 is estimated to have been around 10,000 people.

European settlement[]

The first European to see the area that is now Vermont is thought to be Jacques Cartier, in 1535. On July 30, 1609, French explorer Samuel de Champlain claimed the area of what is now Lake Champlain, giving to the mountains the appellation of les Verts Monts (the Green Mountains). However, as in the french language adjectives come after the noun, the correct structure of this name would be "les Monts Verts." A possible alternative name was "Vers Monts," meaning "towards mountains." In light of the fact that Champlain was coming from the relatively flat plains south of Quebec towards mountainous Vermont (towards mountains), this explanation of the name seems to make more sense.

France claimed Vermont as part of New France, and erected Fort Sainte Anne on Isle La Motte in 1666 as part of their fortification of Lake Champlain. This was the first European settlement in Vermont and the site of the first Roman Catholic mass.

During the later half of the 17th century, non-French settlers began to explore Vermont and its surrounding area. In 1690, a group of Dutch-British settlers from Albany under Captain Jacobus de Warm established the De Warm Stockade at Chimney Point (eight miles west of Addison). This settlement and trading post was directly across the lake from Crown Point, New York (Pointe à la Chevelure).

In 1731, the French arrived. Here they constructed a small temporary wooden stockade (Fort de Pieux) on what was Chimney Point until work on Fort St. Frédéric began in 1734. The fort, when completed, gave the French control of the New France/Vermont border region in the Lake Champlain Valley and was the only permanent fort in the area until the building of Fort Carillon more than 20 years later. The government encouraged French colonization, leading to the development of small French settlements in the valley. The British attempted to take the Fort St. Frédéric four times between 1755 and 1758; in 1759 a combined force of 12,000 British regular and provincial troops under Sir Jeffrey Amherst captured the fort. The French were driven out of the area and retreated to other forts along the Richelieu River. One year later, a group of Mohawks burnt the settlement to the ground, leaving only chimneys and giving the area its name .

Colonial history[]

The first permanent British settlement was established in 1724 with the construction of Fort Dummer in Vermont's far southeast under the command of Lieutenant Timothy Dwight. This fort protected the nearby settlements of Dummerston and Brattleboro in the surrounding area. These settlements were made by the Province of Massachusetts Bay to protect its settlers on the western border along the Connecticut River. The second British settlement was the 1761 founding of Bennington in the southwest.

During the French and Indian War, some Vermont settlers, including Ethan Allen, joined the colonial militia assisting the British in attacks on the French. Fort Carillon on the New York-Vermont border, a French fort constructed in 1755, was the site of two British offensives under Lord Amherst's command: the unsuccessful British attack in 1758 and the retaking of the following year with no major resistance (most of the garrison had been removed to defend Quebec, Montreal, and the western forts). The British renamed the fort Fort Ticonderoga (which became the site of two later battles during the American Revolutionary War).

Rogers' Rangers staged their attack against the village of Saint-Francis, Quebec from Lake Champlain in 1759. Separating afterwards, they fled the angered Abenakis through northern Vermont back to safety in Lake Champlain and New Hampshire.[1]

Following France's loss in the French and Indian War, the 1763 Treaty of Paris gave control of the land to the British.

New Hampshire Grants and the Vermont Republic[]

The end of the war brought new settlers to Vermont. A fort at Crown Point had been built, and the Crown Point Military Road stretched from the east to the west of the Vermont wilderness from Springfield to Chimney Point, making traveling from the neighboring British colonies easier than ever before. Three colonies laid claim to the area. The Province of Massachusetts Bay claimed the land on the basis of the 1629 charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Province of New York claimed Vermont based on land granted to the Duke of York (later King James II) in 1664. The Province of New Hampshire also claimed Vermont based upon a decree of George II in 1740. In 1741, George II ruled that Massachusetts's claims in Vermont and New Hampshire were invalid and fixed Massachusetts's northern boundary at its present location (except for Maine, which remained part of Massachusetts until it entered the Union in 1820 as the 23rd state). This still left New Hampshire and New York with conflicting claims to the land.

The flag of the Green Mountain Boys

The situation resulted in the New Hampshire Grants, a series of 135 land grants made between 1749 and 1764 by New Hampshire's colonial governor, Benning Wentworth. The grants sparked a dispute with the New York governor, who began granting charters of his own for New Yorker settlement in Vermont. In 1770, Ethan Allen—along with his brothers Ira and Levi, as well as Seth Warner—recruited an informal militia, the Green Mountain Boys, to protect the interests of the original New Hampshire settlers against the new migrants from New York. When a New York judge arrived in Westminster with New York settlers in March 1775, violence broke out as angry citizens took over the courthouse and called a sheriff's posse. This resulted in the deaths of Daniel Houghton and William French in the "Westminster Massacre."

On January 18, 1777, representatives of the New Hampshire Grants convened in Westminster and declared their land an independent republic. For the first six months of the republic's existence, the state was called New Connecticut.

On June 2, a second convention of 72 delegates met at Westminster, known as the "Westminster Convention." At this meeting, the delegates adopted the name "Vermont" on the suggestion of Dr. Thomas Young of Philadelphia, a supporter of the delegates who wrote a letter advising them on how to achieve statehood. The delegates set the time for a meeting one month later. On July 4, the Constitution of Vermont was drafted at the Windsor Tavern owned by Elijah West during a violent thunderstorm, and was adopted by the delegates on July 8 after four days of debate. This was among the first written constitutions in North America and was the first to constitutionally provide for the abolition of slavery, suffrage for men who did not own land, and public schools. The tavern has been preserved as the Old Constitution House, administered as a state historic site.

On August 16, 1777, the Battle of Bennington took place, not at Bennington but just across the New York border. However, Vermont men played the most important role in the battle and were led by General John Stark and Colonel Seth Warner of Vermont. Ordered to retreat by Continental Army leaders, Stark had refused and instead led his men to fight the British troops and Hessian mercenaries. Stark prepared his men to fight to the death, telling them that: "There are your enemies, the redcoats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!" With reinforcements from the Vermont militia, American forces routed the British, leading to the surrender of John Burgoyne's 6000-man force at Saratoga on October 17. The battle is seen as the turning point in the Revolutionary War because it was the first major defeat of a British general and it convinced the French that the Americans were worthy of military aid. Stark became widely known as the "Hero of Bennington" and the anniversary of the battle became a legal holiday in Vermont, known as "Bennington Battle Day."

Vermont continued to govern itself as a sovereign entity based in the eastern town of Windsor for 14 years. Thomas Chittenden, who came to Vermont from Connecticut in 1774, acted as chief magistrate of Vermont from 1778 to 1789 and from 1790 to 1791. In 1791, Vermont joined the federal Union as the fourteenth state–becoming the first state to enter the union after the original thirteen colonies, and as a counterweight to slaveholding Kentucky, which was admitted to the Union later the same year.

Statehood and the nineteenth century[]

The gold leaf dome of the Vermont State House in Montpelier is visible for many miles around the city. This is the third State House on the site, and like the second, was built in the Greek Revival architectural style. It was completed in 1857. Montpelier became the state capital in 1805.

Because of the proximity of Canada, Vermonters were somewhat alarmed during the War of 1812. Five thousand troops were stationed in Burlington at one point, outnumbering residents. About 500 of these died of disease.[2] An expeditionary force of Quebec Eastern Townships’ volunteers destroyed a barracks built at Derby with no personnel casualties. [3] The war, fought over what seemed like obscure maritime considerations to landlocked Vermont, was not popular.

Vermont had a unicameral legislature until 1836.

In 1853, Vermont passed a strict law prohibiting the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Some towns followed the law, others ignored it.[4]

French migration started before the Civil War and accelerated during the 1860s.[5]

Civil War era[]

An 1854 Vermont Senate report on slavery echoed the Vermont Constitution's first article, on the rights of all men, questioning how a government could favor the rights of one people over another. The report fueled growth of the abolition movement in the state, and in response, a resolution from the Georgia General Assembly authorizing the towing of Vermont out to sea. The mid to late 1850s saw a transition from Vermonters mostly favoring slavery's containment, to a far more serious opposition to the institution, producing the Radical Republican and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens. As the Whig party shriveled, Vermont changed its allegiance to the emergent Republican Party. In 1860, it voted for President Lincoln, giving him the largest margin of victory of any state.

More than 28,100 Vermonters served in Vermont volunteer units. Vermont fielded 17 infantry regiments, 1 cavalry regiment, 3 light artillery batteries, 1 heavy artillery company, 3 companies of sharpshooters, and 2 companies of frontier cavalry. Instead of replacing units as they were depleted, Vermont regularly provided recruits to bring the units in the field back up to normal strength.

Nearly 5,000 others served in other states' units, in the United States Army or the United States Navy. The 54th Massachusetts Infantry (Colored) included 66 Vermont blacks; a total of 166 black Vermonters served out of a population of 709 in the state. Vermonters, if not Vermont units, participated in every major battle of the war.

Vermonters suffered a total of 1,832 men killed or mortally wounded in battle; another 3,362 died of disease, in prison or from other causes, for a total loss of 5,194. More than 2,200 Vermonters were taken prisoner during the war, and 615 of them died in, or as a result of, their imprisonment.

Among the most famous of the Vermont units were the 1st Vermont Brigade, the 2nd Vermont Brigade, and the 1st Vermont Cavalry.

A large proportion of Vermont’s state and national-level politicians for several decades after the Civil War were veterans.

The northernmost land action of the war, the St. Albans Raid, took place in Vermont.

The twentieth century[]

In 1902, Vermonters approved a law for local option on the sale of alcoholic beverages, countermanding the prior law of 1853 which banned them entirely. That year 94 towns approved the sale of alcoholic beverages locally. The number of approving towns fell each year until there were only 18 in 1917, shortly before national prohibition became law.[4]

A political history[]

The political scene 1791-1830[]

Vermont preferred the Jeffersonian Party in its early existence, which became the Democratic Party in the early 1820s. Along with many other dissidents Vermont stopped voting Democratic, reacting to the personality of Andrew Jackson, and not for objective reasons. [6] The state voted Anti-Jackson, Whig, then Republican. It did so consistently until 1962. [7]

The Vermont legislature chose presidential electors through the general election of 1824.[8] Vermont citizens first started voting directly for presidential electors in 1828.[9]

Politically upward mobility 1830-1916[]

Politicians aspiring to statewide office in Vermont normally had to be nominated at a state convention or “caucus.” Factions dominated these caucuses. Some of these were family. A look at the list of Governors, Senators and Representatives over time shows the Chittendens, Fairbanks, Proctors, and Smiths.[10] Nomination was tantamount to election. The state legislature chose US senators until 1913. Governors normally served just one term of two years. Up to six seats in the US House of Representatives gave ambitious politicians an ample stage for their talent.

The Green Mountains effectively split Vermont in two. Culturally the eastern Vermonters were often descended from immigrants from New Hampshire. Western Vermonters often had their roots in New York. Recognizing this as a source of potential problems, politicians began following an unwritten “mountain rule,” rotating the Lieutenant Governor and Governor residing in opposite sides of the state. [11]

The first election in which women were allowed to vote was on December 18, 1880, when women were granted limited suffrage and were allowed to vote in school board elections.

Primaries 1916-1946[]

General annoyance with this system of selecting leadership by a few people, led to statewide primaries in 1916. [12] Down to only one congressional seat to compete for, Governors started trying to serve two terms, beginning with Governor Weeks in 1927. This worked until World War II.

Senator Ernest Gibson died in 1940. The governor appointed his son, Ernest W. Gibsonto fill out the remainder of his term. With little prior political experience on his own merits, Gibson did not run for reelection. Instead he devoted himself to preparing the state for war. He served in the South Pacific and emerged as a colonel. There was a tsunami that year in American politics. Returning veterans were popular. Gibson ran an unprecedented campaign against the incumbent Governor and ousted him in the primary.[13]

Interregnum - Liberal Republicans prevail 1946-1962[]

Gibson was the first of the liberal Republicans. While conservatives like Harold Arthur and Lee Emerson were able to get elected to Governor, they seem, in retrospect, to be transitory figures.

A "normal" path to the top became: Representative, Speaker of the House, Senator, Speaker Pro Tem, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, US Representative, and US Senator.

In 1962, Phillip Hoff was elected Governor, the first Democrat since before the Civil War.

Democratic dominance 1962- current[]

The demographics of the state had changed. In 1960, 25% of the population was born outside the state. Most of these immigrants were from Democratic states and brought their voting inclinations with them. Anticipating this change, the Republicans conducted a massive free-for-all in 1958, the last good chance many of them saw to capture a congressional seat.[14] They were wrong. Democrat William H. Meyer won, the first from his party in 102 years.

While the climate had changed, the legislature had not. With one representative per town and two senators per county, the rural areas dominated and set the agenda much to the frustration of urban areas, particularly Chittenden County. In 1964, the US Supreme Court forced “one-man, one-vote” redistricting on Vermont, giving cities an equitable share of votes in both houses. [15]

Unlike yesteryear, no party nominee can be assured of election. The unwritten “two term” rule has been jettisoned. Governors usually serve as long as they can, not being able to guarantee that their policies will be continued after they leave office. Vermonters have alternated parties in the Governor’s office since 1962. However, Democrats have served an overwhelming majority of that time. [16]


  1. ^ "Androscoggin Valley Community Network". Roger's Raid according to the Research of Gordon Day (1981). Retrieved 2006-12-27. 
  2. ^ Logan, Lee (July 8, 2007). Grant may help Burlington reclaim War of 1812 heritage. Burlington Free Press. 
  3. ^ "Townships Heritage Web Magazine". A Distant Drum: The War of 1812 in Missisquoi County. Retrieved 2006-01-02. 
  4. ^ a b Young, Darlene (1998). A history of Barton Vermont. Crystal Lake Falls Historical Association. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Wikipedia". Democratic-Republican Party (United States). Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  7. ^ "Wikipedia". United States Congressional Delegations from Vermont. Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  8. ^ "Wikipedia". United States presidential election, 1824.,_1824. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  9. ^ "Wikipedia". United States presidential election, 1828.,_1828. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  10. ^ "The World". Rise of the Democratic Party. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  11. ^ "Vermont History Journal". Mountain Rule Revisited. Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  12. ^ "Vermont Secretary of State". Opinion Editorial: March 2001 An eGovernment Strategy for Vermont. Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  13. ^ "The World". Rise of the Democratic Party. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  14. ^ "The World". Rise of the Democratic Party. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  15. ^ "Arizona State Library". One Man, One Vote" . . . That's All She Wrote!. Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  16. ^ "Wikipedia". List of Governors of Vermont. Retrieved 2006-12-28. 

See also[]

Sources and further reading[]

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at History of Vermont. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.