On March 4th, the State of Vermont celebrated its 232nd birthday. March 4th, 1791 is the formal start of what we now know of as Vermont: the 14th state in the union, with a continuity that has withstood the last two centuries. But the idea of Vermont had its own torturous birth in 1777, the result of land grants from the colonies of New Hampshire and New York, and those settlers making those lands their own.
The conflict between New Hampshire settlers and New Yorkers helped shape part of the state’s mythology of a rugged frontier where independence and self-reliance were essential, even if it meant the Vermont fighters during the American Revolution didn’t quite fit in with their counterparts from the other colonies.
Go a little further back, and you reach the early European settlers and colonists who came to the shores of North America and began to push out a little further into the dark forests of its mountains and valleys. Samuel de Champlain arrived at Lake Champlain in the early 1600s, and France claimed the territory in 1666 with Fort Sainte Anne on what’s now Isle La Motte, while others began arriving in the region.
But these inhabitants were only just the latest arrivals to this place: a patchwork of tribal nations inhabited these green mountains and riverbanks and lands for thousands of years, forging a vibrant civilization that stretched up and down North America.
It’s easy to imagine history as layers of strata, but history isn’t that simple. All of these eras live with us today, with their names embedded in our maps and minds, creating the place that we know of as Vermont for the last 232 years and beyond.
A version of this essay was first published in the Vermont Historical Society newsletter. Visit their website for more information, to subscribe to their newsletter or to become a member.
Photo of Seal of Vermont.
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