Vermont is a rural state of farms, sugar maples, rolling hills grazed by cows, shaggy mountain peaks, and bucolic towns lined along river valleys. This picturesque tapestry of sceneries comes straight out of a painting, or so it appears. This pastoral landscape is also devoid of any major urban city or center of industry, making Vermont an unspoiled land where nature can be enjoyed in its unperturbed state.
In Vermont, you can expect to see country roads, forests, pastures, and colonial villages dominated by white steeples. Over 200 covered bridges help add charm to the countryside as well. And with maple groves found everywhere, Vermont lays claim to being the maple syrup capital of the world.
Vermont’s Green Mountains serve as the main skiing destination for all of New England. A variety of cross-country and downhill skiing trails are supplemented by modern complexes such as at the traditional Stowe or Killington. Hikers have long enjoyed the 260-mile Long Trail that runs from Massachusetts all the way to Canada, passing through Vermont’s Green Mountain ridge. The trail also intersects the Appalachian Trail near Killington.
Vermont is a small state, measuring 150 miles long and ranging 40-90 miles in width. It is the perfect place though to live the easygoing, classic New England lifestyle. Bike riders will love Vermont for its long stretches of back roads and its historic lodges and inns. The state’s fall colors are rivaled by none and a major attraction every year.
In the mid-19th century, Abraham Lincoln and his family fell in love with the state’s special qualities. They spent many vacations in southern Vermont, relaxing in the Green Mountain resort of Manchester. Lincoln, in fact, had a reservation at the town’s Equinox Hotel on the day he was assassinated in 1865. So smitten by Vermont’s charm, noted British Historian, Lord Bryce, described it as the “Switzerland of North America”.
Vermonter’s are eager to keep their state pristine and unspoiled. Its legislature has enacted the nation’s toughest zoning, land use, and environmental protection laws. Even billboards are banned throughout the state.
Before the first Europeans arrived in Vermont, about 120,000 Indians were living in present-day Vermont. They fished the streams and hunted in the forests. French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who founded Quebec, was the first to explore the area in 1609. Standing by the lake, he described what he saw as “les vert monts”, which in French means “the green mountains”.
Champlain was guided by Algonquin Indians. When he pulled ashore, his guides attacked their enemy, the Iroquois, and Champlain was forced to assist in the battle. This marked the beginning of Vermont’s role as a bloody battleground where the French, Indians, and the colonial-minded British would fight for the next 150 years.
Large numbers of colonists did not begin settling the area until 1759, after the English defeated the French at Quebec. Vermont was originally made part of New Hampshire. People slowly trickled in from neighboring colonies such as New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. They started farming the land that they purchased through New Hampshire. By 1762, there were about 50 families that had settled near Bennington, Vermont. However, when New York learned about these families, it petitioned the King of England claiming that these lands were within its own territory. The King sided with New York and demanded that the settlers pay for the land again. When they refused, the governor of New York sent enforcers to drive out the settlers. Vermont’s favorite hero, Ethan Allen, saved the day.
Growing up on a farm in Massachusetts, Allen enjoyed living the frontier life. He was asked by the settlers to help them get out of their mess, and he agreed. Allen traveled to Portsmouth to visit John Wentworth, the governor of New Hampshire at the time. He obtained certification of the land grants from the governor and hired the best lawyer in the country to defend the rights of the settlers. When they ultimately lost in court, Allen did not give up the fight. Forming a self-style militia group called the “Green Mountain Boys”, Allen and his band of intrepid fighters defended Vermont’s position, ridding themselves of the New World colonists. Vermont then got out from under British rule and proclaimed its independence. When the Revolutionary War ended, Vermont declared itself an “independent nation” because of its continuing land disputes with New York. Eventually, the land conflicts were resolved in 1791, but not before Vermont’s 14 years as an independent country. During this period, Vermont coined its own money, operated its own postal service, negotiated with other nations, and conducted affairs with the U.S. as with a foreign power. Though Vermont finally joined the union in 1791, it really hasn’t made much of a difference. Its people have always functioned independently, just as it does to this day.
Bond, Richard. The Insider’s Guide to New England. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc., 1992. ISBN: 1556504551.
Chase, Suzi Forbes, and Ann Lee. New England. New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1994. ISBN: 0671878999.
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