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- This article is about the U.S. state. For other meanings, see Vermont (disambiguation).
As the only New England state not to have a coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, Vermont is noted mainly for the Green Mountains in the west and Lake Champlain in the northwest. It borders Massachusetts to the south, New Hampshire to the east, New York to the west, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north.
Originally inhabited by Native American tribes (Iroquois, Algonquian and Abenaki), Vermont was originally claimed by France but became a British colony after France's defeat in the French and Indian War. For many years, it was controlled by the surrounding colonies, who met fierce resistance from the "Green Mountain Boys." After American independence following the Revolutionary War, Vermont became the 14th state to join the union.
Famous for its scenery, dairy products and maple syrup, Vermont has long been known for its progressive politics and staunchly independent political thinking. The state capital is Montpelier, while the largest city is Burlington.
Geography and climate
Vermont is located in the New England region in the eastern United States. It covers an area of approximately 25,000 km² (9,609 square miles), of which 343 square miles is water. The west bank of the Connecticut River marks the eastern border of the state with New Hampshire (the river itself is part of New Hampshire). Lake Champlain, the major lake in Vermont, is the sixth-largest body of water in the United States and separates Vermont from New York and Canada in the northwest portion of the state. The state's greatest length, from north to south, is 159 miles. Its greatest width, from east to width, is 89 miles (the narrowest width is at 37 miles). The state's geographic center is three miles east of Roxbury.
The Green Mountains, so named because their relatively low altitude allows for little timberline, form a north-south spine running the most of the length of the state, slightly west of its center. In the southwest portion of the state are the Taconic Mountains; the White Mountains are in the northeast. In the northwest off Lake Champlain is the fertile Champlain Valley. In the south of the valley is Bomoseen Lake.
Several mountains do have timberlines: Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in the state and Killington are two examples. About 77 percent of the state is covered by forest, the rest in meadow, uplands, lakes, ponds and swampy wetlands.
Vermont is known for its brief mud season in spring followed by a cool summer and a colorful autumn, and particularly for its cold winters. The northern part of the state, including the rural northeastern section (dubbed the "Northeast Kingdom") is known for exceptionally cold winters, often averaging more than ten degrees (F) colder than the southern areas of the state. Annual Snowfall averages between 60 to 100 inches depending on elevation, giving Vermont some of the East Coast's premier ski areas and cross-country skiing.
In the autumn, Vermont's hills experience an explosion of red, orange and gold foliage caused by the Sugar Maple. That this famous display occurs so abundantly in Vermont is not due so much to the presence of a particular variant of the tree; it rather results from a number of soil and climate conditions unique to the area.
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, incuding 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 the 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 be around 10,000 people.
The first European to see 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).
France claimed Vermont as part of New France, and erected Fort Sainte Anne (sometimes spelled Fort Ste. Anne and also called Fort Isle La Motte) 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 river 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.
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, fighter Ethan Allen and his "Green Mountain Boys" warred against the British. 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). Following France's loss in the French and Indian War, the 1763 Treaty of Paris gave control of the land to the British.
The end of the war brought new settlers to Vermont. A fort at Crown Point had been built, and the Crown Point Military Road streched 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 1764. The Province of New Hampshire also claimed Vermont following 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. This still left New Hampshire and New York with conflicting claims to the land.
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 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 during Westminster Convention 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 after four days of debate. This was the first written constitution in North America and 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.
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 President of Vermont from 1778 to 1789 and from 1790 to 1791. In 1791, Vermont joined the Union as the 14th member–the first state to enter the union after the original 13 colonies, and a counterweight to Kentucky, which was admitted to the Union shortly afterward.
The northernmost land action of the American Civil War took place in Vermont on October 19, 1864. In this incident, one of the most unusual in American history, Bennett H. Young led Confederate forces. Young had been captured in John Hunt Morgan's 1863 raid in Ohio, but escaped to Canada in the fall of that year. Morgan went to the south, where he proposed Canada-based raids on the Union as a means of building the Confederate treasury and forcing the Union army to protect their northern border as a diversion. Young was commissioned as a Lieutenant and returned to Canada, where he recruited other escaped rebels to participate in the October 19, 1864 raid on St. Albans, Vermont, a quiet town 15 miles from the Canadian border.
Young and two others checked into a local hotel on October 10, saying that they had come from St. John's in Canada for a "sporting vacation." Every day, two or three more young men arrived. By October 19, there was 21 men. Just before 3:00 p.m., the group simultaneously staged an armed robbery of the three banks in the town. They announced that they were Confederate soldiers and stole a total of $208,000. As the banks were being robbed, eight or nine of the Confederates held the towspeople prisoner on the village green as their horses were stolen. One townsperson was killed and another wounded. Young ordered his troops to burn the town down, but the four-ounce bottles of Greek fire they had brought failed to work.
Vermont also sent over 30,000 men into the service of the Union Army, of which some 1 out of 3 did not return, a higher proportion of men sent and lost than any other state. The most famous Vermont unit was the hard fighting "Vermont Brigade". This unit remains the hardest fighting brigade in the history of the United States military.
Large-scale flooding occurred in early November 1927. During this incident, 85 people died, 84 of them in Vermont. Another flood occurred in 1973, when the flood caused the death of two people and the loss of millions of dollars in property damage.
See also: List of forts in Vermont
Law and government
Vermonters are known for their political independence and progressive views. The Vermont government maintains a proactive stance with regards to the environment, social services and prevention of urbanization. The most recent controversy to stir up major political conflict in the state was the adoption of civil unions, an institution which grants same-sex couples nearly all the rights and privileges of marriage. In Baker v. Vermont (1999) the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that, under the Constitution of Vermont, the State of Vermont must either allow same-sex marriage or provide a separate but equal status for them. The state legislature chose the second option by creating the institution of civil union; the bill, which was supported by over half of the state's voters, was passed by the legislature, and signed into law by Governor Howard Dean.
Vermont is the home state of the only two current members of the United States Congress who do not associate themselves with a political party: Representative Bernard Sanders and Senator James Jeffords.
Attempts by out-of-state candidates (so called "carpetbaggers" or "flatlanders") to win a seat in Vermont have often been thwarted by locals. In 1998, a 79-year-old local man named Fred Tuttle won national attention by defeating a Massachusetts multimillionare in the Republican Primary for United States Senate. With a campaign budget of $201, Tuttle garnered 55% of the primary vote, before conceding the general election to Patrick Leahy.
The Republican Party dominated Vermont politics throughout most of the late 1800s and into the early 1900s. In the early 1960s many progressive Vermont Republicans and newcomers to the state helped bolster the State's then-small Democratic Party.
The Vermont Progressive Party is a small, left-wing political party created in the early 1980s and has held a handful of seats in the Vermont legislature for two decades; it now appears to be well on its way to official recognition as a political party by the state government.
The age of consent in Vermont is 16.
Vermonters independently elect a state Governor and Lieutenant Governor every two years (as opposed to every four years, which is the most common term length for a governor of a U.S. state). The current governor of Vermont is Jim Douglas, who assumed office in 2003.
Unlike other states, Vermont does not have a term limit for the governor.
The Vermont's state legislature is the Vermont General Assembly, a bicameral body composed of the Vermont House of Representatives (the lower house) and the Vermont Senate (the upper house). The Senate is composed of 30 state senators, while the House of Representatives has 150 members. Like the governor, members of the General Assembly serve two-year terms.
The Vermont Supreme Court is the state supreme court, made up of five justices who served six year terms. Superior courts in the state are made up of eight judges serving a term of six years. Appointments to the state supreme court, superior court, and district courts are made by the governor and approved by the General Assembly. Judges on lower courts are elected on a partisan ballot.
In the U.S. Senate, Vermont is represented by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, and Senator James Jeffords, an independent. Jeffords was a former Republican but left the party in 2001 as a result of political disagreements and now caucuses with the Democrats. Unusually, like its neighbor New Hampshire, Vermont tends to elect more independents than other states; in the U.S. House of Representatives, Vermont's single at-large congressional district is represented by Bernard Sanders, an independent representative and socialist who served as the mayor of Burlington.
Vermont has many festivals, including the Vermont Maple Festival , the Enosburg Falls Dairy Festival , the Marlboro Music Festival, and the Mozart Festival . The Vermont Symphony Orchestra is supported by the state and performs throughout the area. The Brattleboro-based Vermont Theatre Company presents an annual summer Shakespeare festival.
See also: Music of Vermont
Over the past two centuries, Vermont has seen both population explosions and population busts. First settled by farmers, loggers and hunters, Vermont lost much of its population as farmers moved West into the Great Plains in search of abundant, easily-tilled land. Logging similarly fell off as over-cutting and the exploitation of other forests made Vermont's forest less attractive. Although these population shifts devastated Vermont's economy, the early loss of population had the beneficial effect of allowing Vermont's land and forest to recover from the excesses of human beings. The accompanying lack of industry has allowed Vermont to avoid many of the ill-effects of 20th century industrial busts, effects that still plague neighboring states. Today, much of Vermont's forest consists of second-growth.
Of the remaining industries, dairy farming is the primary source of agricultural income.
A unique part of Vermont's economy is the manufacture and sale of novelty goods and foods for cottage industries and niche markets. Examples of these are such exports as Cabot Cheese, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Burton Snowboards , King Arthur Flour , and Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream (headquartered in South Burlington).
Numerous summer camps, furniture-making and skiing also make up a large component of Vermont's income. Trout fishing, lake fishing and even ice fishing draw the outdoorsman to the state as does the excellent hiking on the Long Trail. Several noteworthy horse shows are annual events. Golf courses are springing up with spas to service the weary client. One major fashion outlet mall isn't really a mall but the old town of Manchester gentrified.
In the winter, the mountains in Vermont have enough snow to make skiing a viable industy.
The town of Rutland is the traditional center of marble quarrying and marble shaping in the USA. For many years Vermont was also the headquarters of the smallest union in the USA, the Stonecutters Association, of about 500 members.
In recent years, Vermont has been deluged with plans to build condos and houses on what was relatively inexpensive, untouched land. Vermont's government has responded with a series of laws controlling development and with some pioneering initiatives to prevent the loss of Vermont's dairy industry.
In 2001, Vermont produced 1,040,000 liters of maple syrup, about a quarter of the U.S. production.
A 2003 estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau placed Vermont's population at 619,107 people. According to the 2000 Census, the racial makeup of the state was 96.2 percent White, 0.9 percent Hispanic, 0.9 percent Asian, 0.5 percent Black, 0.4 percent Native American, and 1.2 percent mixed race.
The five largest ancestry groups in Vermont are English (18.4 percent), Irish (16.4 percent), French (14.5 percent), German (9.1 percent), and French-Canadian (8.8 percent). People under five years of age accounted for 5.6 percent of Vermont's population. People under 18 made up 24.2 percent, while those 65 years or older accounted for 12.7 percent. Females made up approximately 51 percent of the population, and males 48 percent.
Like many of the neighboring states, Vermont's largest religious affiliation in the colonial period was Congregationalism. In 1776, 63 percent of affiliated church members in Vermont were Congregationalists. At the time, however, most settlers were not church members, because much of the land was wilderness. Only 9 percent of people belonged to a church at the time.
Today, most of the religious data about the state comes from 1990 (see Hunter). Nearly 84 percent of Vermont residents identify themselves as Christians. The state's largest single religious body is the Roman Catholic Church. A self-identification survey in 1990 found that 36.7 percent of Vermonters consider themselves to be Catholics, although a Church survey that same year reported that only 25% of Vermonters were actually members, indicating that many Catholics don't attend church regularly and are not formally affiliated with the church.
45.5 percent of Vermonters are self-identified Protestants. The largest single Protestant denomination is the United Methodist Church, with 5 percent of the population, followed by Episcopalians, and Baptists.
Although Joseph Smith, Jr. and Brigham Young—the first two leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—were both born in Vermont, Mormons have never made up a large percentage of Vermont's population.
Judaism and Unitarian Universalism claim around 1 percent of the state's population. The 2001 Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia reported that the state has 5,000 Jews—300 in Burlington and 500 each in Montpelier-Barre and Rutland—and four Reform and two Conservative congegations.
Important cities and towns
Wealth of locations by per capita income:
see also: Vermont locations by per capita income
1 Old Bennington, Vermont $40,884
273 Island Pond, Vermont $13,207
The public school system in Vermont is regulated by the Vermont State Board of Education, which consists of nine voting members and one non-voting member, appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the State Senate. One voting member is a high school student; the non-voting member is another Vermont high school student who is a junior member and will move into the voting student member position the following year.
Colleges and universities include:
- Bennington College
- Burlington College
- Castleton State College
- Center for Cartoon Studies
- Champlain College
- College of St. Joseph
- Goddard College
- Green Mountain College
- Johnson State College
- Landmark College
- Lyndon State College
- Marlboro College
- Middlebury College
- Norwich University
- Saint Michael's College
- School for International Training
- Southern Vermont College
- Trinity College (Vermont)
- University of Vermont
- Vermont Law School
- Vermont Technical College
- Woodbury College
Vermont is one of twelve states that have no death penalty statute. After 1930 there were four executions; the last was in 1954. Capital punishment was effectively abolished in 1964, with the statutes being completely removed in 1987. Current state law, however, allows children as young as ten years to be tried as adults, the lowest age limit currently specified by any of the 50 states.
The Vermont prison system is administered by Vermont Department of Corrections. There are nine prisons in Vermont:
- Caledonia Community Work Camp
- Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility
- Dale Women's Facility
- Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility
- Northern State Correctional Facility
- Northwest State Correctional Facility
- Southeast State Correctional Facility
- Southern State Correctional Facility
- St. Johnsbury Regional Correctional Facility
State song and symbols
The state song and state symbols are designated by act of the state legislature and confirmed by the governor.
Vermont's state song is "These Green Mountains," written by composed by Diane Martin and arranged by Rita Buglass Gluck. This song was officially designated as the state song on May 22, 2000, when Governor Howard Dean signed No. 99 of the Acts of 2000 into law. This song replaced "Hail to Vermont!," which was written by Josephine Hovey-Perry and made the state song in 1938.
The state bird is the Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus). This was adopted as No. 1 of the Acts of 1941, effective June 1, 1941. The bird was only designated after debate in the legislature; though the Hermit Thrush is found in all of 14 counties and has a distinctive sweet call, it left the state during the winter for its yearly southward migration. Many legislators actually favored the Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) or the Crow. The Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) was designated as the state flower by No. 159 of the Acts of 1894, effective February 1, 1895. The Red Clover is often seen in the countryside of Vermont but was originally naturalized from Europe.
The state tree is the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), adopted by the Acts of 1949, effective March 10, 1949. The Sugar Maple is the source of maple syrup, Vermont's most famous export. (The Sugar Maple is also the state tree of Wisconsin). The state mammal is the Morgan horse, designated as such by No. 42 of the acts of 1961, effective March 23, 1961. The Morgan horse is a horse breed originally from Vermont.
The state insect is the Honeybee (Apis mellifera), designated by No. 124 of the Acts of 1978, effective July 1, 1978. The Honeybee is also the state insect of ten other states—Arkansas, Kansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The state amphibian, adopted by No. 126 of the Acts of 1997, is the Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens).
Sources and further reading
- Albers, Jan. Hands on the Land: A History of the Vermont Landscape. MIT Press: 2000. ISBN 0262011751.
- Cohen, David Elliot, and Rick Smolan. Vermont 24/7. DK Publishing: 2004. ISBN 0756600863.
- Coffin, Howard. Full Duty: Vermonters in the Civil War. Countryman Press: 1995. ISBN 0881503495.
- Duffy, John J., et al. Vermont: An Illustrated History. American Historical Press: 2000. ISBN 1892724081.
- Duffy, John J., et al. The Vermont Encyclopedia. University Press of New England: 2003. ISBN 1584650869.
- Grant, Kim, et al. Vermont: An Explorer's Guide. Countryman Press: 2002. ISBN 0881505196.
- Klyza, Christopher McGrory, and Stephen C. Trombulak. The Story of Vermont: A Natural and Cultural History. University Press of New England: 1999. ISBN 0874519365.
- Potash, P. Jeffrey, et al. Freedom and Unity: A History of Vermont. Vermont Historical Society: 2004. ISBN 0934720495.
- Hunter, Preston. "Religion in Vermont." Adherents.com. Link
- Rodgers, Steve. Country Towns of Vermont. McGraw-Hill: 1998. ISBN 1566261953.
- Sherman, Joe. Fast Lane on a Dirt Road: A Contemporary History of Vermont. Chelsea Green Publishing Company: 2000. ISBN 1890132748.
- Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer. DeLorme: 2000. ISBN 0899333222.
- Open Directory Project: Vermont. Link
- State of Vermont. Link
- Vermont Cities, Towns, Mountains, Rivers, and Lakes, from Hayward's Gazetteer of 1839. Link
- Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. Link
- Vermont Historical Society. Link
- Vermont Judicial System. Link
- "Vermont QuickFacts." U.S. Census Bureau. Link
- "Vermont State Historic Sites." Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. Link
- Vermont State Legislature. Link
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