Skip to main contentAccessibility feedback


The state

Click to enlarge

Vermont, one of the New England States, extends from the line of Massachusetts, on the south, 42° 44′ N. lat. to the Province of Quebec in Canada, on the north, at 45° N. lat. Its eastern boundary, through-out its entire length, is the Connecticut River which separates it from New Hampshire; it is bounded on the west by the State of New York, from which it is separated by Lake Champlain for a distance of more than one hundred miles south from the Canadian border. Its area is 10,212 sq. miles. Its length between Massachusetts and Canada being 158 miles, and its width on the northerly border 88 miles, while it narrows to a width of 40 miles on its southerly border.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS., The Green Mountains, from which the State derives its name, extend through its entire length, about mid-way between the easterly and westerly borders. Five of these mountains exceed 4000 feet in elevation, the highest, Mount Mansfield, being 4389 feet above sea-level. Several parallel ranges of mountains lie upon either side of the main chain and the surface of the state generally is broken and diversified, the mountain slopes being densely covered with forest growths, principally of spruce and other evergreen trees. The scenery is everywhere attractive, and in many districts very beautiful. Five rivers flow westerly and northerly into Lake Champlain; three flow northerly to Lake Memphremagog, on the Canadian border; eleven are tributaries of the Connecticut, on the east; while two run in a southerly direction to the Hudson. Not only do the streams of Vermont water beautiful and fertile valleys, but along their courses they furnish valuable water power for manufacturing purposes. The climate is healthful, although subject to sudden changes. The mean annual temperature for the different parts of the state varies from 40°; the highest temperature runs from 90° to 100° F., and the lowest from 30° to 45° F. The average annual rainfall is from 30 to 45 inches.

RESOURCES.—The soil of Vermont is very fertile, especially in the river valleys. The low rolling hills are excellent for tillage purposes; the uplands furnish good pasturage and the mountain sides produce much valuable timber. Agriculture is the chief industry of the people, and the state leads all others in the production of butter and cheese, in proportion to population, while in the amount of these products it is surpassed by only nine states. On the eastern slope of the mountains, in the Counties of Windsor, Washing, and Caledonia, granite of excellent quality is produced and its manufacture forms an extensive and important industry. The westerly portion of Rutland County is one of the principal slate producing regions of the country. Marble is found in several localities on the western mountain slope, principally in Rutland, Bennington, and Addison counties, which furnish about three-fourths of the finer grade marble produced in the United States. A large number of manufacturing establishments are in operation, producing a great variety of products, many of which, like the Fairbanks scales, made at St. Johnsbury, and the Howe scales made at Rutland, are shipped to distant countries. The value of the agricultural output of the state in 1910, comprising corn, wheat, oats, rye, buckwheat, potatoes, and tobacco, aggregated $21,-491,400. A summary, issued by the United States Census Bureau for the year 1909, shows that the capital employed in manufacturing in the state was $62,658,741; the number of wage-earners employed in the several factories was 33,106, and the total wages paid them was $15,221,059. The total value of the manufactured products was $63,083,611.

POPULATION.—The first census taken in 1791 showed a population of 85,499, which had nearly doubled in 1800. Rapid gains were made in each succeeding decade up to 1850, after which the increase was smaller owing to emigration to the western parts of the country. In 1910 the total population was 355,956. The state contains six cities and two hundred and forty organized towns.

LEGISLATURE AND JUDICIARY.—The Legislative Assembly consists of a senate with thirty members, apportioned among the counties according to population, and chosen by the voters of the several counties; and a house of representatives, in which each town and city has one member. The governor, members of the Legislature, state and county officers are elected biennially, in the even years, in September, and the sessions of the Legislature convene in October following. The Supreme Court of the state consists of five judges, elected for a term of two years by the two houses of the Legislature in joint assembly. Regular terms of this court are held at Montpelier in January, February, May and October, with one session each year at Rutland, St. Johnsbury, and Brattleboro. In each county is a court which holds two sessions annually, the presiding judges being elected by the Legislature in joint assembly. Associated with the presiding judge in each county court are two assistant judges, elected by the freemen of the several counties. Probate courts are established in the several counties, being divided into two probate districts for each. The state is represented in the National Congress by two senators and two representatives. Since 1903 the liquor traffic has been regulated by a local option law under which the voters of each town or city determine its policy at the annual town elections in March.

HISTORY.—Starting from Quebec, in the spring of 1609, Samuel Champlain ascended the St. Lawrence and Richelieu Rivers, accompanied by two French-men and about sixty Algonquin Indians. He entered the lake which bears his name on July 4, and upon seeing the mountain range extending along the eastern shore, he exclaimed “Voile, les monts verts”, thus giving their name to the mountains and the state. A month was spent in exploring the lake and the adjacent country. Proceeding southward, Champlain reached another large lake, now called Lake George, to which he gave the name of St. Sacrement. The first settlement by white men, within the borders of the state, was made by the French on Isle La Motte, in Lake Champlain, in 1666. It was called Fort St. Anne, and was occupied until about 1690. The French claimed the territory as far south as the south end of Lake Champlain, and forts were built by them early in the eighteenth century at Crown Point and Ticonderoga, on the west side of the lake. At about the same time they established a settlement on the east shore at Chimney Point, in the present town of Addison. This settlement together with one in what is now the town of Alburg, Vermont, flourished until Canada was ceded to the British. The first English settlement within the present limits of the state was made about 1690, in the present town of Vernon. This was an extension of the settlement of Northfield, in Massachusetts, which a later survey showed to be north of the boundary of that colony. In 1724 Fort Dummer was built on the west bank of the Connecticut River near the present village of Brattleboro. This also was supposed to be within the territory of Massachusetts, but a survey made in 1741 established the northern boundary line of the colony several miles south of the fort.

During the period covered by the Colonial wars, the country was the gateway through which the contending forces advanced to attack each other, the troops of each side being generally accompanied by savage allies. Raiding expeditions were frequent, and the country was so exposed to attack as to make settlement and development practically impossible; but after the final conquest of Canada by the British in 1760, this feature being practically removed, settlements increased very rapidly, the rich lands of the valley being much sought after. In 1761 a settlement was made in Bennington, under a charter granted by New Hampshire in 1749, and others grew up near it in the next few succeeding years. Newbury on the eastern border of the state near the Connecticut River was permanently settled in 1762. Before the close of 1765, 150 townships lying west of the Connecticut River had been granted by Governor Wentworth of New Hampshire to purchasers from the New England colonies, and the country became known by the name of the “New Hampshire Grants”. In granting charters, the Governor of New Hampshire had acted upon the theory that the western boundary of that colony was an extension of the west line of Connecticut and Massachusetts, substantially 20 miles east of the Hudson River, but in 1765 claim was made, by the Governor of New York, that the easterly boundary of New York was the Connecticut River. Several townships were granted by New York in the disputed territory, regardless of the authority of New Hampshire, and the titles of purchasers from New Hampshire were declared to be void. The dispute was carried to the courts of New York, whose decision was adverse to the settlers, and in 1770 a convention at Bennington declared that the inhabitants would resist by force the claims of New York. For defense against the aggression of New York, committees of safety in several towns were established, and a regiment of militia called “Green Mountain Boys” was organized with Ethan Allen as colonel commandant. Few of the settlers complied with the demand that their lands be repurchased from New York, and the officers of the latter colony found it impossible to execute the judgments of the courts of Albany.

In spite of an order made by the British king in council on July 24, 1767, prohibiting all further grants by the Government of New York pending the settlement of the questions involved, the colonial Government continued to make grants, to press its claims, and attempted to organize counties in the disputed territory, with courts and county officers. Indictments were filed against many of the settlers in the courts at Albany, but the principals could not be apprehended nor brought to trial. A convention of the settlers prohibited the holding of offices and the accepting of grants of land under the authority of New York, and obedience to these orders was enforced. The only legislative authority recognized was that of the conventions of settlers and the country became in fact an independent state, which it was formally declared to be by a convention held at Windsor on June 4, 1777, and it continued as such until its admission to the Union in 1791. Upon the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, the Green Mountain Boys gave valuable aid to the cause of the patriots. On May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen in command of a small party captured the fortress at Ticonderoga and made its garrison prisoners. On the following day Crown Point was captured by troops under Captain Seth Warner. A large number of settlers joined the expedition of General Montgomery against Canada and participated in the capture of St. Johns and Montreal, and in an unsuccessful assault upon Quebec. On July 7, 1777, the rear guard of the American army, retreating from Ticonderoga, gave battle to the advancing British forces at Hubbardton. Colonel Warner commanded the patriot forces, composed largely of Green Mountain Boys. After an obstinate struggle, the patriot forces were finally greatly outnumbered and forced to retreat. On August 16 following the same troops participated, with a force from New Hampshire under General John Stark, in the important battle of Bennington, which resulted in a victory for the patriots that helped to bring about the final surrender of Burgoyne’s army. In the war of 1812 the state furnished its full quota of 3000 troops for service; in addition more than 2500 of the inhabitants volunteered for the defense of Plattsburg, and participated in MacDonough’s victory on September 11, 1814. The state’s troops were among the first to respond to the call of President Lincoln for service in the Civil War in 1861; they served principally in the Army of the Potomac and participated in all its engagements and campaigns. The total number of men furnished for the national forces was 35,242, or a little more than one-half of the total available population between the ages of 18 and 45.

EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM.—The University of Vermont, founded at Burlington in 1800, provides instruction in the arts, engineering, chemistry, agriculture, and medicine. In 1910 it had a teaching staff of 53 in the collegiate departments and 37 in the professional departments, with an attendance of 498 students. Middlebury College has 18 professors and instructors with 334 students enrolled; Norwich University has 15 professors and instructors, and 172 students; St. Michael’s College (Catholic) at Winooski Park, near Burlington, has 14 professors and 125 students; there are 18 academies with a total attendance of 1350 students, and 71 high schools, which in 1910 had 3650 students. Public schools are required to be maintained by the several towns and cities throughout the state, the total attendance in 1910 being 66,615. The total number of public schools is 2489 with 3266 teachers. The state agricultural college is located at Burlington, and is a department of the University of Vermont; in 1910 it had 35 students, and the medical department of the University had 168 students. There are 25 Catholic parochial schools with 168 teachers and 5950 pupils. In the original township allotments lands were reserved for the maintenance of schools in each town, and the income is used to defray the expense of public schools. State supervision is exercised through a superintendent elected by the General Assembly.

MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION.—There are 1094 miles of steam railway in the state, of which the three principal systems run to Montreal and Canadian points on the north, and to New York and Boston on the south and east. The Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada controls and operates the Central Vermont system extending from the Canadian border to the Connecticut River; the Rutland Railroad system extending from Bellows Falls, on the east, and Bennington on the South, through the western part of the state to the Canadian border, is controlled and operated by the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad Company, which also controls the line extending from the southern border of the state northerly through the Connecticut valley. In all the cities and some of the larger towns there are electric street railways, which in 1910 comprised a total of 135 lines. The ports of Lake Champlain have water transportation to Canadian points, and by means of the Champlain Canal, to the Hudson River.

ECCLESIASTICAL.—AS already noted, the state was discovered and named by a Catholic nobleman, Samuel Champlain, whose high character is shown by the sentiment he often expressed, that the “salvation of one soul is of more value than the conquest of an empire”. The first sacred edifice to be erected within the state was the little chapel at Ft. Anne, which was built in 1666, and the Sacrifice of Mass there offered up was the earliest Christian service within the territory that now comprises the State of Vermont. Father Dollier de Casson came to the fort from Montreal in the winter of 1666 and ministered to the spiritual wants of a battalion of soldiers stationed at the fort. Father de Casson, in his youth, had been a soldier in France, and tradition credits him with wonderful physical strength; it is related that he was able to stand, with his arms outstretched, and hold up an ordinary man with each hand. He was of a most cheerful and genial disposition, as well as courageous and zealous in his missionary work. A mission was preached by three Jesuit Fathers at Fort St. Anne in 1667, and in 1668 confirmation was administered there by Msgr. Laval, Bishop of Quebec. This was, undoubtedly, the first administration of confirmation in New England, and probably in the United States. In the early years of the seventeenth century, the Jesuits established several missions in the vicinity of Lake Champlain; they had a chapel at a permanent Indian settlement near the present village of Swanton, and another in the town of Ferrisburg. A Swedish naturalist, Peter Kalm, who went through Lake Champlain in 1749, says: “Near every town and village, peopled by converted Indians, are one or two Jesuits. There are, likewise, Jesuits with those who are not converted, so that there is, commonly, a Jesuit in every village belonging to the Indians.”

Vermont was included within the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Baltimore, established in 1789, and the bishops of Quebec continued to look after the spiritual interests of the Catholic settlers and Indians. When the Diocese of Boston was formed in 1810 Vermont became part of its territory. In the early years of the nineteenth century, there were no resident priests in ‘Vermont, but missions were given from time to time. Father Matignon, of Boston, visited Burlington in 1815 and found in that place about 100 Catholic Canadians. Commencing about 1818 Father Migneault, from Chamblay, Canada, looked after the settlers on the shores of Lake Champlain for several years. He was appointed vicar-general of this part of the diocese by the Bishop of Boston and continued in that capacity until 1853. In 1808 Fannie Allen, daughter of General Ethan Allen, the hero of Ticonderoga, became converted to the Catholic Faith, and entered the novitiate of Hotel-Dieu, Montreal, where she was received as a member of the order, and after a most exemplary life died there on September 10, 1819. Orestes A. Brownson, the noted Catholic author and philosopher, was a native of the state. He was born in Stockbridge, Windsor County, in 1803. Father Fitton, of Boston, came to Burlington for a short time in the summer of 1829. Rt. Rev. Bishop Fenwick, second Bishop of Boston, visited Windsor in 1826. The first resident priest in Vermont was Rev. Jeremiah O’Callaghan, who in 1830 was sent by Bishop Fenwick to Vermont, and visited successively Wallingford, Pittsford, Vergennes, and Burlington. He settled at Burlington, where his influence and pastoral zeal radiated far and wide for nearly a quarter of a century. His field of labor extended from Rutland to the Canadian line, a distance of about 100 miles, and from the shores of Lake Champlain to the Connecticut River.

In 1837 Rev. John Daley, who is still lovingly remembered by many of the generation that is passing, came to the southern part of the state. He is described as an “eccentric, but very learned man”. During the time of his zealous labors in Vermont, he had no particular home; he usually made his headquarters at Rutland or Middlebury. He was in every sense a missionary, travelling from place to place wherever there were Catholics, and stopping wherever night overtook him; he remained in the state until 1854 and died at New York in 1870. Bishop Fenwick made his first pastoral visit, as Bishop of Boston, to Vermont in 1830, and in 1832 he dedicated the first church built in Vermont in the nineteenth century. This was erected at Burlington under the supervision of Father O’Callaghan. A census of the Catholic population of Vermont, taken in 1843, showed the total number to be 4940. At about this time emigration from European countries, particularly from Ireland, increased very rapidly, and there was a great increase in the Catholic population. In 1852 a meeting of the bishops of the province of New York decided to ask the Holy See to erect Vermont into a diocese, with Burlington as the titular city, and Bishop Fitzpatrick of Boston proposed for Bishop of Burlington, Very Rev. Louis De Goesbriand, Vicar-General of Cleveland, Ohio. On July 29, 1853, the Diocese of Burlington was created and Father De Goesbriand named as bishop. He was consecrated at New York by the papal ablegate, Mir Bedini, on October 30, 1853, and on November 5 arrived at Burlington, where he was installed the following day by Bishop Fitzpatrick. Bishop De Goesbriand entered upon his work with the greatest zeal, making a visitation of the entire diocese. He then found about 20,000 Catholics scattered throughout Vermont. In 1855 he visited France and Ireland for the purpose of securing priests for the Diocese of Vermont, in which work he was eminently successful, and he brought to the diocese in the succeeding years, several priests who did splendid work in the up-building of the Church in Vermont.

The first diocesan synod was held at Burlington, October 4, 1855. Rev. Thomas Lynch was appointed vicar-general in 1858. The cathedral at Burlington was built under the supervision of Bishop De Goesbriand, work having commenced in 1861; it was completed and dedicated on December 8, 1867. Bishop De Goesbriand labored for the welfare and prosperity of his diocese with tireless zeal and gratifying success during thirty-eight years. In 1892 on account of advancing years and failing health, he requested the appointment of a coadjutor. Rev. J. S. Michaud, then pastor of Bennington, Vermont, was appointed. Bishop De Goesbriand retired to the orphanage, which he himself had founded, and there on November 3, 1899, he died at the age of 84. Bishop Michaud died on December 22, 1908, and Rev. J. J. Rice, D.D., then pastor of St. Peter’s Church, Northbridge, Massachusetts, was selected as his successor. Bishop Rice was consecrated on April 14, 1910.

There are now in the Diocese of Burlington 97 churches of which 72 have resident priests and 25 are missions. There are 93 secular priests and 14 priests of religious orders. Twenty parishes maintain parochial schools, attended by 5950 pupils. There are three academies for boys, and six for young ladies; an orphan asylum is maintained at Burlington, which cares for 220 children. Two orphan schools have 252 pupils, making the total number of young people under Catholic care 6202. Two hospitals are maintained, one at Burlington and one at St. Johnsbury. The Loretto Home for aged women at Rutland, under the care of the Sisters of St. Joseph, was built and equipped by the late Rev. Thomas J. Gaffney, almost entirely with his private funds. The Catholic population in the diocese in 1911 was 77,389 divided almost equally between Irish and Canadians, by birth or descent. There are two Polish congregations, and a small percentage of other nationalities. The principal non-Catholic denominations are: Congregationalists, 20,271 members, 197 churches, 186 ministers; Baptists, 8623 members, 105 churches, 111 ministers; the Methodists, 16,067 members, 182 churches, 161 ministers; the Episcopalians, 3926 communicants, 36 ministers, 52 parishes; Free Baptists, 4000 ministers, 60 churches; Adventists, 1750 ministers, 35 churches.

LEGISLATION.—The first Constitution of Vermont was adopted in 1877 and provided (Art. 3, chap. 1): “That all men have the natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences and understanding, regulated by the word of God, and that no man should, nor of right can be compelled to attend any religious worship, or erect or support, any place of worship, or maintain any minister, contrary to the dictates of his conscience; nor can any man who professes the Protestant religion be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right as a citizen on account of his religious sentiment or peculiar mode of religious worship.. Nevertheless, every sect ought to observe the Sabbath or Lord’s Day, and keep up and support some sort of religious worship, which to them shall seem most agreeable to the revealed will of God.” The same Constitution (Chap. 2, sec. 9) provided “that each member of the House of Representatives, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz. I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked; and I do acknowledge the scriptures of the old and new Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration, and own and profess the Protestant religion”. The Constitution was revised and amended in 1786 and the clause requiring a test declaration was dropped entirely from the revision. The words “who professes the Protestant religion” were also eliminated from the third article of chapter 1, leaving the declaration one of freedom of worship for all. And such was the provision of the Constitution adopted after the admission of Vermont to the Union in 1793.

No legislation nor constitutional provisions, discriminating in favor of one sect, or against another, have ever since been enacted in the state. The exercise of any business or employment, except such only as works of necessity and charity, and the resorting to any ball or dance, or any game, sport, or house of entertainment or amusement on Sunday, is prohibited by statute. The administration and voluntary taking of an unnecessary oath is made penal by statute (Pub. Stat., sec. 5917). The provision was originally a part of the anti-Masonic legislation enacted in 1833. The ordinary form of oaths, which are administered without the use of the Bible and while the recipient holds his right hand raised, commences with “You do solemnly swear” and ends with “So help you God“. The statute provides (Pub. Stat., sec. 6268) that the word “swear” may be omitted and the word “affirm” substituted, when the person to whom the obligation is administered is religiously scrupulous of swearing or taking an oath in the prescribed form, and in such case the words: “So help you God” are also omitted, and the words: “Under the pains and penalties of perjury” are substituted. The daily sessions of each house of the Legislature are opened by prayer. January 1 and December 25 are legal holidays (Sec. 2690). It is provided by statute that no priest nor minister of the Gospel shall be permitted to testify in court to statements made to him by a person under the sanctity of a religious confessional (Pub. Stat., sec. 1594).

The Catholic Diocese of Burlington is a corporation under a special charter from the Legislature. Incorporation of churches can be had by the filing of articles of association with the Secretary of State, signed by five or more persons (Pub. Stat., sec. 4237); and this may be done without the payment of charter fees or taxes (Pub. Stat., sec. 802). All real and personal estate, granted, sequestered, or used for public, pious or charitable uses, and lands used for cemetery purposes, and the structures thereon are exempt from taxation (Pub. Stat., sec. 496). Divorces from the bond of matrimony may be decreed by the several county courts. Five causes for divorce are recognized by law, for any one of which may be also granted a divorce from bed and board. In 1910, 369 divorces were granted in the state. Marriages may be solemnized by a justice of the peace in the county for which he is appointed, or by a minister of the Gospel ordained according to the usage of his denomination, who resides in the state or labors steadily in the state as a minister or missionary. The number of marriages solemnized in 1910 was 2992. The state prison is located at Windsor, the house of correction at Rutland, and the industrial school at Vergennes. The free exercise of religious belief is granted to prisoners by Public Statutes, sec. 6075. All bequests to charitable, educational, or religious societies or institutions, existing under the laws of the state, are exempted from the payment of the state inheritance tax of 5% (Pub. Stat., sec. 822). Blasphemy and profanity are punishable as crimes, the former by a fine not exceeding $200. All persons who have arrived at the use of reason are amenable to the penalty for profanity (Pub. Stat., secs. 5896-7).

Licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors are granted only in towns and cities which vote to grant them at the annual March elections. They are restricted in number, one for each 1000 inhabitants or major fraction thereof. Licencees must be legal voters, and more than twenty-five years of age. No licences can be exercised within 200 feet of a church or school; sales can be made only on the street floor of the building specified, and no screens or obstructions can be maintained so as to prevent a view from the street; tables, chairs, stalls, and sofas are prohibited on the licensed premises, and all licensed drinking-places are required to close at ten o’clock in the evening. Those authorized to sell liquor in packages are required to close at 7 p.m. All places are to close on Sundays, legal holidays, election days, and the days of circus exhibitions and agricultural fairs; no liquor can be. furnished to a minor for his own or another’s use, or to an habitual drunkard or a person known to have been intoxicated within six months. Minors are not allowed to be employed in licensed places.


Did you like this content? Please help keep us ad-free
Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission!