Vermont Facts & FAQ
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Vermont / Vermonter
Green Mountain State
Origin of name:
From the French “vert mont,” meaning “green mountain”
Vermont, Freedom and Unity
Entered Union (rank):
March 4, 1791 (14)
Present constitution adopted:
Governor: Honorable Peter Shumlin
Lt Governor: Phil Scott
State Attorney General: William H. Sorrell
State Auditor: Thomas M. Salmon
Secretary of State: Jim Condos
State Treasurer: Beth Pearce
U.S. Representative: Peter Welch
U.S. Senator: Bernard Sanders
U.S. Senator: Patrick Leahy
Flower: Red Clover (1894)
Tree: Sugar Maple (1949)
Bird: Hermit Thrush (1941)
Animal: Morgan Horse (1961)
Insect: Honeybee (1978)
Song: “These Green Mountains” (2000)
10 largest cities (2005 est.):
South Burlington, 16,993
Essex Junction, 8,841
St. Albans, 7,476
9,250 sq mi. (23,958 sq km)
In Washington Co., 3 mi. E of Roxbury
Number of counties:
Largest county by population and area:
Chittenden, 149,613 (2005); Windsor, 971 sq mi.
To help you decide which part of Vermont you'd like to visit, use the map in the upper right-hand corner of our site for a brief description of each region of the State.
Some pages tourists find helpful when making plans to visit our beautiful State are our Calendar of Events, and our online Travel Guide. In addition to the Foliage Report, we also have a Golf Guide, and a Ski & Snow Report to help visitors plan their seasonal Vermont vacations.
A few more pages that may help you in planning your vacation online are our Lodging, Dining, and Attractions pages. When viewing these pages, you can sort by the region you will be visiting with the map in the upper right-hand corner.
If all else fails, the Vermont Department of Tourism should be able to mail some printed material to you. They can be reached at 1-800-837-6668. When you call, wait until the end of the recording to speak with a "live" person and tell them you got their phone number from VERMONT.COM.
When is the best time to visit Vermont to see the Fall Foliage?
The Fall Foliage Season usually begins around mid-September and lasts thru mid-October, with peak colors appearing around the first week in October. Of course this varies depending on the weather. The leaves start to turn in the northern part of the state first and gradually work their way south. Also, in general, higher elevations start changing before the lower elevations.
Visit our Fall Foliage page for current conditions throughout the Foliage Season.
How can I get married in the State of Vermont?
Our "Guide to Vermont Weddings & Civil Marriage" should have the answers to all your questions.
If you have questions that are not answered, contact your Town Clerk or the Vital Records Unit of the Vermont Department of Health at 802-863-7275 / 800-439-5008. When contacting them, please mention you found their information on VERMONT.COM.
Vermont is a leader in protecting the environment, a top producer of U.S. Olympic skiers and riders, and a state consistently rated one of the safest in the nation. Vermonters are resourceful; the state made a conscious decision in the mid-20th century to market itself as a tourist destination. (Tourism appeals to many Vermonters partly because it is non-polluting. Vermonters don’t tolerate pollution or its dirty little cousin, littering. A 1968 Billboard Law bans billboards from highway corridors and a Beverage Container law keeps roadways clear of bottles and cans.)
Historic sites feature the people and places of the American Revolution; fascinating museums as well as art and theater & music venues help offset the abundant outdoor and winter activities. Shopping in country stores, galleries, museum stores, or at sprawling outlet communities is welcomed and encouraged. At day's start or day's end, native refreshments include maple syrup, apples, cheese, and chocolate. If you need a little help finding something to do, checkout our Calendar of Events. The beauty of Vermont ranges from rustic to refined, and it all feels special to the Vermont way of life.
Vermont remains a superb destination for country drives, mountain rambles, and overnights at country inns. A good map opens the door to back-road adventures, and it's not hard to get a taste of Vermont's way of life. The numbers tell the story: Burlington, Vermont's largest city, counts around 39,000 year-round residents; Rutland sits at around 17,000; Montpelier, the state capital, about 8,000; Brattleboro and Bennington, perhaps 8,500 and 9,500; Stowe and Manchester have between 4,000 and 5,000 residents; Woodstock and Chester about 3,000. The state's total population is just a shade over 600,000, making it one of only a handful of states with more senators (2) than representatives (1) in Congress.
For more info about Vermont History, visit the Vermont Historical Society.
The first European known to have entered the area that is now Vermont was Samuel de Champlain, who, after beginning the colonization of Quebec, journeyed south with a Huron war party in 1609 to the beautiful lake to which he gave his name. The French did not attempt any permanent settlement until 1666, when they built a fort and a shrine to Ste Anne on the Isle La Motte in Lake Champlain. However, this and later French settlements were abandoned, and until well into the 18th cent. the region was something of a no-man's-land.
Benning Wentworth and the New Hampshire Grants
Fort Dummer, built (1724) by the English near the site of Brattleboro, is considered the first permanent settlement in what is now Vermont. However, Vermont's history may be said to have really begun in 1741, when Benning Wentworth became royal governor of New Hampshire. According to his commission New Hampshire extended west across the Merrimack River until it met “with our [i.e., the king's] other Governments.” Since the English crown had never publicly proclaimed the eastern limits of the colony of New York, this vague description bred considerable confusion.
Wentworth, assuming that New York's modified boundary with Connecticut and Massachusetts (20 mi/32 km E of the Hudson River) would be extended even farther north, made (1749) the first of the New Hampshire Grants—the township called Bennington—to a group that included his relatives and friends. However, New York claimed that its boundary extended as far east as the Connecticut River, and Gov. George Clinton of New York (father of Sir Henry Clinton) promptly informed Governor Wentworth that he had no authority to make such a grant. Wentworth thereupon suggested that the dispute between New York and New Hampshire over control of Vermont be referred to the crown. The outbreak of the last of the French and Indian Wars in 1754 briefly suspended interest in the area, but after the British captured Ticonderoga and Crown Point in 1759, Wentworth resumed granting land in the area of present Vermont.
In 1764 the British authorities upheld New York's territorial claim to Vermont. New York immediately tried to assert its jurisdiction—Wentworth's grants were declared void, and new grants (for the same lands) were issued by the New York authorities. Those who held their lands from New Hampshire resisted, and a hot controversy, long in the making, now exploded. New York and New Hampshire land speculators had the most at stake, with the New Hampshire grantees, first on the scene, having the advantage. Regional pride among the New England settlers played a large part in creating resistance to New York authority. Chief among the leaders of this resistance was Ethan Allen, who organized the Green Mountain Boys. New York courts were forcibly broken up, and armed violence was directed against New Yorkers until the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, when the British became the major threat and common enemy.
The American Revolution and Independent Vermont
At the beginning of the Revolution, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys captured Ticonderoga, and Seth Warner took Crown Point. In Jan., 1777, Vermont (as its citizens were soon calling the region) proclaimed itself an independent state at a meeting in the town of Westminster. Chiefly because of the opposition of New York, the Continental Congress refused to recognize Vermont as the 14th colony or state. The convention that met at Windsor in July reaffirmed Vermont's independent status and adopted a constitution, notable especially because it was the first in the United States to provide for universal male suffrage. Thomas Chittenden was elected the first governor.
The Green Mountain Boys under Seth Warner and John Stark made an important contribution to the American cause with their victory at Bennington in Aug., 1777 (see Saratoga campaign). Later, Ethan Allen and his brother Ira Allen, acting on their own, entered into devious negotiations with British agents, possibly with the intent of annexing Vermont to Canada. The talks were inconclusive and ended when the Americans finally triumphed at Yorktown in 1781. For ten years Vermont remained an independent state, performing all the offices of a sovereign government (such as coining money, setting up post offices, naturalizing new citizens, and appointing ambassadors) and gradually becoming more and more independent.
Statehood, at Last
Not until 1791, after many delays and misunderstandings and, most important, after the dispute with New York was finally adjusted (1790) by payment of $30,000, did Vermont enter the Union. It was the first state to be admitted after the adoption of the Constitution by the 13 original states. In the next two decades Vermont had the greatest population increase in its history, from 85,425 in 1790 to 217,895 in 1810. As in the earlier days, most of the settlers migrated from S New England, and, since the more desirable lands in the river valleys were soon taken, many of them settled in the less hospitable hills.
Although the Embargo Act of 1807 aided the development of many small manufacturing establishments, it was bitterly opposed in Vermont for its disruption of the profitable trade with Canada. The War of 1812 was unpopular in Vermont as it was in the rest of New England, and during the war extensive smuggling across the Canadian border was carried on. Vermont was threatened by British invasion from Canada until U.S. troops, under Thomas Macdonough, won (1814) the battle on Lake Champlain.
At this early period in its history, Vermont, lacking an aristocracy of wealth, was the most democratic state in New England. Jeffersonian Democrats held control for most of the first quarter of the 19th cent. Beginning in the 1820s political and social life in Vermont was considerably affected by the activities of those opposed to Freemasonry, and in the presidential election of 1832 Vermont was the only state carried by William Wirt, candidate of the Anti-Masonic party. Anti-Masonry agitation was soon succeeded by even more vigorous efforts in behalf of another cause—the one against slavery.
The Mexican and Civil Wars
In the Mexican War, which it viewed as having been undertaken solely to increase slave territory, Vermont was very apathetic. However, no Northern state was more energetic in support of the Union cause in the Civil War, and Vermonters strongly favored Lincoln over Vermont-born Stephen Douglas. One of the most bizarre incidents of the war was the Confederate raid (1864) on Saint Albans, a town which, after the war, also figured in the equally bizarre attempt of the Fenians to invade Canada in the cause of Irish independence.
The Changing Economy of Vermont
The economy of the state, meanwhile, was in the midst of a series of sharp dislocations. The rise of manufacturing in towns and villages during the early 19th cent. had created a demand for foodstuffs for the nonfarming population. Consequently, commercial farming began to crowd out the subsistence farming that had predominated since the mid-18th cent. Grain and beef cattle became the chief market produce, but when the rapidly expanding West began to supply these commodities more cheaply and when wool textile mills began to spring up in S New England, Vermont turned to sheep raising.
After the Civil War, however, the sheep industry, unable to withstand the competition from the American West as well as from Australian, and South American wool, began to diminish. The rural population declined as many farmers migrated westward or turned to the apparently easier life of the cities, and abandoned farms became a common sight. The transition to dairy farming in the 20 years following the war staved off a permanent decline in Vermont's agricultural pursuits.
Since the 1960s, Vermont's economy has grown significantly with booms in the tourist industry and in exurban homebuilding and with the attraction of high-technology firms to the Burlington area. In recent years, prosperity has to some degree conflicted with concern for environmental issues. Nonetheless, the state has been active in attempts to preserve its natural beauty, enacting very strict laws regarding industrial pollution and the conservation of natural resources.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2007, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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