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The Making of the 50 States: Vermont


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• Part 2: The Rest of the Story

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The Making of the 50 States
The 13 American Colonies
Clickable map of the 13 Colonies with descriptions of each colony
American History Glossary
The First European Settlements in America
Colonial Times

Part 1: In the Beginning

Vermont was the 14th state admitted to the Union.

As with many other states, what is now Vermont was home to Native Americans for many years. The Abenaki and Mohican peoples lived in the western part of the state. Other tribes living and/or hunting in the area included the Chippewa, Narragansett, Natick, Pennacook, Pocumtuc, and Wampanoag. The most powerful Native American tribe in the Vermont area, however, were the Iroquois Mohawk.

Noted French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived in the early 17th Century and claimed what is now Lake Champlain, along with some surrounding land, for France. To help solidify this claim, French settlers and soldiers built Fort Sainte Anne in 1666. This was the first European settlement in Vermont.

The first permanent British settlement arrived in 1724, when British soldiers constructed Fort Dummer, in the southeast part of the state. British and French conflict in the area eventually spilled over into the French and Indian War. Some Vermont settlers from England joined the colonial militia and fought for Great Britain, taking part in an attack on France's Fort Carillon, which was a prime focus for fighting during the war because of its location on the western shore of Lake Champlain.

British forces under General Jeffery Amherst captured the fort for good in 1759 and renamed it Fort Ticonderoga.

The British victory in the French and Indian War ended French settlements in Vermont. British settlements grew steadily and strongly.

Boundary disputes were not uncommon in the early history of the Vermont territory. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York all won claims to part or all of what is now Vermont at various times during the English settlement.

In 1750, the regional governor, Benning Wentworth, issued a land grant for a town to organize and control the westernmost part of his crown-issued land claim, Lake Champlain. This became the town of Bennington.

An order from King George III in 1764 handed all of Vermont to New York. This resulted in the activism of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, who much preferred the New Hampshire Grants instituted by Wentworth.

Landholders in New Hampshire and Vermont challenged the king's ruling in court; the disputes turned ugly in March 1775, when a courthouse riot resulted in the deaths of two people.

The capture of Fort Ticonderoga by the Green Mountain Boys in May 1775 was a symbolic blow to British claims in the region and effectively the end to New York's claim on land in Vermont. In fact, in 1777, New Hampshire grant town residents declared their independence from both New York and Great Britain and set up a new state, with its own government. This new state was called New Connecticut.

Six months later, a delegation of 72 met at Windsor to solidify their state. They changed the name of the state to Vermont and then drew up a constitution, which was adopted on July 8 after four days of debate. This Constitution of Vermont abolished slavery, provided for public schools, and allowed the vote for men who did not own land. (The tavern where the constitution was drafted, known as the Old Constitution House, is now a state historic site.)

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