Vermont The First 150 Years

Congregational Church in Plymouth Notch. Calvin Coolidge's home is across the street.

"I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union, and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont." Calvin Coolidge, September 21, 1928

The Vermont Landscape - Forests, Mountains, Rocks. Inviting, beautiful, and tough.

From Indian Land to Vermont

The People of The Dawn Land, the original Vermonters.

Meet River Bear and his wife. This couple are married in real life, both have considerable Native American ancestry, and attend events as a Mahican warrior and his European wife. Although the Mahicans were in what is now southern Vermont, the dominant group were the Abenaki who were part of the Wabanaki. Wabanaki is an anglicized version of a word meaning "people of the dawn" or people of the east.

At The Frontier's Edge This image was taken at the location of the civilian Fort No. 4 in Charlestown, NH on the Connecticutt River. Established in 1740 and by then the northern most settlement extension of the British colonies. Vermont can be seen on the opposite river bank. In the upper Connecticut River Valley, the threats to safety extended beyond French and/or Indian raids. Winter weather was harsher than it is today and, given the agrarian economy, the rocky hillside soil made agriculture extremely difficult. But the rugged settlers still came. And the impact that those individuals and their ancestors made far exceeds what might be expected from the sparsely populated "brave little State of Vermont" as Calvin Coolidge dubbed it in a 1928 speech.

Fort No.4 - This image was taken during a reenactment weekend at the reconstructed Fort at No.4 Plantation. The Plantation was initially settled by Stephen Farnsworth and his brothers Samuel and David. By 1743 ten families were located at No. 4 and although the frontier was relatively peaceful the settlers decided to build a fortified village in which settlers would have security. In 1744 France and Spain entered into war with England and in New England the French were allied with the Abenaki. In 1746, Abenaki raids ensued on the outlying mills and farms with several men killed and others taken as captives to the French in Canada. All the settlers retreated to the Fort to join with those living there. But the Indians had killed their livestock and the crops could not be harvested for fear of attack. Late in 1746, No.4 was abandoned.

In March of 1747, Captain Phineas Stevens returned to secure the Fort No.4 with a 30 man militia group. On April 7 they repelled a large group of French and Indian attackers, securing the fort and in so doing Captain Stevens and his men also secured the settlements to the south. Held in high regard throughout New England, Captain Stevens continued to reside in the fort establishing himself as a trader to both the settlers and the Indians. He also was sent on several occasions to redeem captives in Canada including Captain John Stark who would later gain fame in the Battle of Bennington during the Revolutionary War. This image is of a frontier trader re-enactor in Steven's trading post at Fort No. 4.

First Church, Bennngton

The Old First Church (above) was built in 1805 but the congregation was formed in 1761 by Capt. Samuel Robison and six families. Although Bennington was first laid out in 1749 the arrival of this band of Congregational Separatists in 1761 constituted the founding of Bennington and the first example of separation of church and state in Vermont. The construction of this beautiful building was paid entirely by the members with no public money. And as an aside, Robert Frost is buried in the graveyard officially proclaimed by the Vermont legislature as "Vermont's Sacred Acre" and the church was designated as "Vermont's Colonial Shrine". The church is open to touring by the public and all are invited to worship there.

The area comprising today's Vermont was claimed at times by the colonies of Massachusetts, New York and New Hampshire. The conflicting claims arose from inconsistent decrees from successive English Kings and from the avarice of colonial governors. In 1741, Bennington Wentworth became the New Hampshire colonial governor. Being both bold and ambitious, Wentworth decided that he would make town grants in the land west of the Connecticut river and to within 20 miles of the Hudson River. Of course, parcels of this land went to both himself and those close to him. His very first grant was Bennington in 1749, utilizing the "20 mile east of the Hudson River" precedent set by Connecticut and Massachusetts. In making this grant he skipped over a large section of unsettled land to layout a town within just 40 miles of Albany - a direct challenge to New York's land claims. New York was slow to respond and by 1764, Bennington had made 135 grants of what became to be known as the Hampshire Grants. In 1764, New York did get a decree from King George III reaffirming the border between New York and New Hampshire as the western bank of the Connecticut River. But New York also got greedy. The settlers in the Hampshire Grants had paid for their lands and now New York demanded payment again. Thus the Green Mountain Boys, a local militia led by Ethan Allen, rose up in opposition to New York's demands for payment and control. The Green Mountain Boys frequently met at the Catamount Tavern near the Old First Church. And the land dispute between New York and New Hampshire continued into the Revolutionary War when it was further complicated by a new state calling itself Vermont.

Crown Point Rd near Stoughton Pond, North Springfield, VT

Between 1740 and 1760 much of what is presently the State of Vermont was occupied primarily by Indians due to both the limited access to the rugged landscape and competing claims of the British and French to the land. The French primarily held sway over the Lake Champlain area and the British had established settlements in the Connecticut and Hudson River Valleys. At the southern end of Lake Champlain a strategic narrows exists between Crown Point on the New York side and Chimney Point on the Vermont side. To the south of Crown Point, the French had established a fort at Ticonderoga which General Amherst captured in July, 1759 towards the end of the French and Indian War. To further control the southern end of Lake Champlain, Amherst then constructed Fort Crown Point and ordered a road built between Crown Point and Fort No.4, the northern most British outpost on the Connecticut River. Much of the road was constructed in 1759/60 under the command of John Stark, who had been ransomed by Phineas Stevens of Fort No. 4 fame. The image below is a portion of the road largely in its original state near Stoughton Pond in North Springfield, VT. Built for military purposes, the roads real significance is that it provided settlers access to south central Vermont and numerous communities sprang up along its length. Over time newer, better roads were built and sections were abandoned. However, in some cases sections can still be found in use as seen in the following image of a early 19th century home near Shrewsbury, VT. Additional history on the road can be found at the Crown Point Road Association.

A portion of the Crown Point Road largely in its original state near Stoughton Pond in North Springfield, VT.

In some cases sections are still in use as seen in the this image of a 19th century home near Shrewsbury, VT. Additional history on the road can be found at the Crown Point Road Association.

Just as the colonies in mid-1776 declared independence from England, the occupants of the Hampshire Grants decided it was time to declare independence from New York and New Hampshire. A meeting of Hampshire Grant freemen met in Dorset (north of Bennington) in the summer of 1776 to pursue free and independent status for the Grants. On January 15, 1777 an independent republic, New Connecticut, was declared in Westminster, a town on the Connecticut River. Dr. Thomas Young, a supporter from Philadelphia and a friend of Thomas Paine, sent a copy of the Pennsylvania constitution and a suggestion the new Republic be called Vermont. On June 2, 1977 the Westminster Convention adopted the name Vermont. One month later the delegates met in Windsor at the tavern of Elijah West. On July 4 they drafted the constitution of Vermont and adopted it on July 8, one day after the Battle of Hubbardton on the opposite side of the new Vermont Republic. The Vermont constitution immediately became the most far-reaching constitution in the Americas guaranteeing many of the freedoms later found in the U.S. Bill of Rights. And notably it was the first to abolish slavery, extend universal male suffrage, and enshrine public education as a requirement for each town to provide.

Vermont remained an Independent Republic for 14 years until it was admitted into the United States in 1791 as the 14th state and the first state that was not one of the original 13 colonies.

Elijah West Tavern - Birthplace of Vermont

Fighting for Principles

Vermont has a long tradition of being on the leading edge of societal change. But Vermont's men and women have always answered the call to arms to protect freedom. The result has also resulted in Vermont's casualty rate in several wars being among the highest in the nation.

French and Indian War

By the early 1750's, the American colonies had reached a population of 1 million and out numbered New France by roughly 30 to 1. But France was pushing its New World trade into the Ohio Valley and was successfully creating strong Indian alliances. This presented a northwestern barrier to settlement expansion by the American colonists and gave rise to the French and Indian War (1756-1763). Although the French had early success in the war, England dedicated decidedly more money and manpower into their effort resulting in France ceding Canada and all of its claim to land east of the Mississippi River in 1763. With France out of the picture, now only New York and New Hampshire were left to argue over the largely unsettled land which would become Vermont.

During the French and Indian War, England sent elite troops such as the 27th Inniskilling Regiment of Foot who were part of the successful capture of forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point.

The harsh and rugged environment of northern New England also required soldiers with skills adapted to the densely forested mountains. The most successful of these were Rogers' Rangers. The raids and scouting expeditions proved to be invaluable to the British effort. As guidance to his troops Rogers developed his "28 Rules of Ranging" a derivative version of which can still be found in the U.S. Army's Ranger Handbook.

Revolutionary War

Real history is often complex and not given to simple stories. The Revolutionary War was in many ways a civil war, especially on the frontier. Below left is a Captain in the patriot Green Mountain Continental Rangers and on the right is a Sargent in the loyalist King's Rangers. Both groups were formed from colonial militias. Although much of their uniform is very similar, a variety of colors and styles were deployed by the various troops' uniforms who took part in the Revolutionary War. This image is somewhat in the style used by Charles M. Lefferts who researched and made water colors of Revolutionary War uniforms over a 30 year period.

Revolutionary Weekend Fort No. 4 - Herrick's Rangers and Breckenridge's Kings Rangers
Similar Uniforms - Opposite Sides

New Hampshire and New York continued to dispute their claims on what became to be called the New Hampshire grants, especially near Bennington. New York tried to assert their control forcibly which led to the organization of the Green Mountain Boys, a militia led by Ethan Allen and his second in command, Seth Warner. After several violent confrontations, New York put bounties on the capture of Allen, Warner, and others. But before resolution was reached, the Revolutionary War broke out and in May of 1775 the Allen led Green Mountain Boys were crucial in capturing Fort Ticonderoga from the British,. The canon captured at Ticonderoga and Crown Point were transported to Boston and were critical in forcing the British to abandon Boston's occupation early in the war.

The Continental Congress directed that the Green Mountain Boys be organized into a Continental Army regiment and for New York to organize and outfit the regiment. New York reluctantly agreed despite the arrest warrants for Allen and Warner. Surprisingly, the Green Mountain Boys elected Seth Warner and not Allen as their Lieutenant Colonel and leader. Thus Warner became the commander at the Battle of Hubbardton, the only Revolutionary War battle on Vermont soil.

Early in the Revolutionary War, the British devised a strategy to break off New England from the rest of the colonies and the British commander John Burgoyne moved a large army south from Quebec. In July 1777 Burgoyne captured and the patriot commander St. Clair retreated 30 miles south along a mountainous military road to Castleton, VT. The British pursued but St. Clair had left Seth Warner in command of a rear guard at Hubbardton, 8 miles north of Castleton. Present with Warner was also the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment under the command of Colonel Nathan Hale.

On July 7 the British engaged the Americans at Hubbardton and a short but intense battle ensued with Americans occupying high ground on Monument Hill. The Americans were on the verge of turning Fraser's left flank when Hessian troops under General Reidesel arrived and secured the British line. The Americans were then forced to retreat but had inflicted enough damage that the British ceased pursuit of St. Clair's army. Burgoyne and the British ultimately would be defeated at Saratoga, but first the Battle of Bennington transpired. Although a relatively small engagement, the Battle of Hubbardton proved to be very important in defeating the attempt by the British to split New England from the rest of the colonies.

2 soldiers from Seth Warner's regiment stand guard on Monument Hill where the Hubbardton battle took place.

A month after Hubbardton the British decided to raid Bennington, VT. What the British did not know was that General John Stark was camped in Bennington with 1500 men and Seth Warner was just 30 miles to the north with another 350 men. Eventually Herrick's Rangers would join the effort to confront the British bringing the entire force to around 2000 New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts patriots. On August 16, 1777 Stark and Warner's forces decisively routed the British at the Bennington Battlle, although the battle actually occurred 10 miles away in Walloomsac, NY. Stark famously rallied his troops by saying, "There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow."

I took and include this photograph of the mural "Prisoners Taken at Bennington Battle" by Leroy Williams in the Bennington Museum. First the many different American, British, and Hessian coat colors are exhibited. Mounted on horse in a blue coat is General John Stark and the first mounted individual to his right is Colonel Seth Warner in his green coat. Next to Warner is Colonel Samuel Herrick (also in green), another important Vermont militia leader. Secondly, the painting was done by Leroy Williams of Chester, VT who was hired to do it by Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration. Williams was hired along with many other artists around the country during the depression to complete paintings, drawings, and murals for public appreciation and education.

Molly Stark is well remembered for her nursing to her husband's troops and the use of her home as a hospital during the war. Numerous buildings, schools, etc. are named for her in both Vermont and New Hampshire as well as the Molly Stark State Park in Wilmington, VT. Another well remembered woman is Mary Tilden Dewey, daughter in-law to Bennington's first minister. Prior to the Battle of Bennington, numerous troops were bivouacked in her home and the night before the battle she and her household stayed up all night baking 80 loaves of bread. Her husband, Eldad, delivered the loaves to the battlefield. All of the bread was cooked in a beehive oven, a cooking mainstay of colonial America. The image below is of a Bee Hive Oven in use at Fort No.4 outdoor museum.

Baking Bread in a Bee Hive Oven

The Civil War

Meet below Dennis Charles representing a Vermont member of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of Union service members who participated in the Civil War. On the first day of battle at Gettysburg, Gen. John Sedgwick is quoted as saying, "Put the Vermonters ahead and keep the column well closed up.". Vermont soldiers participated in almost every important engagement during the Civil War with 10 percent of its population (about 350,000) serving in active duty. Of these 5,194 died on the battlefield, of disease and wounds, or in prison. At the Battle of the Wilderness, the Vermont 1st Brigade prevented the Union Army from being split by holding at a strategic crossroad. In so doing the brigade suffered 1269 losses in 12 hours, one of the single largest brigade losses in US Army history. Proportionally no state contributed more manpower to the war effort. And Vermonters will proudly tell you that no Vermont Colors were ever captured by the Confederates.

But Vermont did not just supply soldiers. The precision tool facility in Windsor, VT (Lamson, Goodnow, and Yale) also provided arms, specifically the Springfield Special 1861 with the Windsor made model referred to as simply the LG&Y. In the image Dennis is holding an original LG&Y and the well worn plate of the rifle reads: U.S, LG&Y, WINDSOR-VT.

Grand Army of The Republic Veteran with LG&Y Special 1861

Public Education for All

The 1777 Republic of Vermont constitution specified "A school or schools shall be established in each town, by the legislature, for the convenient instruction of youth, with such salaries to the masters, paid by each town; making proper use of school lands in each town, thereby to enable them to instruct youth at low prices." In 1782 the General Assembly wrote the first school act which specified more clearly the authority and mechanisms by which each town would provide schools. Largely due to religious beliefs and the emphasis on biblical knowledge, the New England colonies had a stronger educational tradition than other colonial regions.

This is the Eureka schoolhouse, the oldest surviving schoolhouse and one of a few 18th century public buildings remaining in Vermont. Completed in 1790 in the Eureka district of Springfield, the name came from the first teacher. David Searle, a young Yale graduate, headed to the Vermont frontier from Fort No.4 following the Crown Point road. When he discovered the new schoolhouse in need of a teacher, Vermont lore has him exclaiming "Eureka" which is Greek for "I found it".

In the late 18th century education in New England was extended to girls but it was very basic. Some parents, such as Emma Willard's father, recognized and encouraged the love of learning in their daughters. Emma Willard enrolled in school in 1802 at 15 years of age and 2 years later she was a teacher in the same school. By 1806 she was head of the school! In 1807 she became the principal of the Middlebury Female Seminary in Middlebury, VT. However, she became frustrated with the limited curriculum and in 1814 opened a boarding school in her home teaching science and classical studies to women. By 1821 she had secured funding and support for Troy Female Seminary in Troy, NY. The seminary became the "the first school in the country to provide girls the same educational opportunities given to boys". Soon seminaries and academies, such as the Black River Academy (established 1835 in Ludlow, VT), would proliferate across Vermont offering both men and women secondary educational opportunities.

Black River Academy in Ludlow

The Black River Academy building above was built in 1890 to replace the original building that burned. Interestingly, the inaugural class was almost half women which is significant in part because parents paid the fees for attendance. The building shown was built in 1889 as the original had burned. Black River Academy is also where Calvin Coolidge received his secondary education. Eventually the academy became the public high school until it was replaced by a new building in 1939. Today it houses the Black River Academy Museum.

Pictured here is a recreation of a circa 1890's classroom located in The Black River Academy Museum in Ludlow, VT. The re-enactors consist of the 6th grade class from Black River school and their teacher Ms. Heidi Baitz. The period costumes were supplied by the museum and my sincere thanks go to the Ms. Georgia Brehm (museum director), Ms. Baitz, and the 6th grade class for affording the opportunity to make this image.

A passionate endorsement of Vermont education was delivered several years ago by Patrick Thompson, a village grocer in Arlington, Vermont . At the annual town meeting a debate ensued as to whether the town's limited funds should be spent on repairing bridges or building a needed grade school. The bridge repairs were winning when Patrick arose and said, "If we have to chose, let the bridges fall down! What kind of a town would we rather have, fifty years from now - a place where nit-wit folks go back and forth over good bridges? Or a town which has always given its children a fair chance, and prepares them to hold their own in modern life?" The school was built.

Sheep Bubble - 1820 to 1840

In the 1820's and 1830's Vermont's economy was dominated by sheep farming. The landscape of Vermont was very different from today with much of the land deforested leaving open hillsides well suited to pasture land for sheep. The Napoleonic Wars had loosened Spain's ability to restrict the export of Merino sheep and the embargoes of the War of 1812 further encouraged the domestic sheep industry in the United States. Vermont had the hillside pastures and nearby New England mills ready to take the wool. Fleece was golden to Vermonters. By 1840, sheep outnumbered people in Vermont by a 6:1 ratio. The industry was protected by high tariffs, which were removed in the 1840's, leading to more cost-effective competition from the West. The Vermont sheep bubble collapsed, done in by the Vermont landscape which does not lend itself to large operations no matter how hard a Vermonter works. Vermont's landscape has always been both beguiling to behold and limiting in support to economic development. The Vermont Shepherd owners David and Yesenia Ielpi Major generously made their farm available for photography.

The sheep industry dominated the economy of Vermont in the 1830's and 1840's. This image shows sheep post-milking and headed to pasture. I shot this picture at the Vermont Shepherd Farm with the 1890 barn in the background. The early 1800's original barn burned down, the victim of a serial arsonist.

Napoleon indirectly led to the Sheep Bubble in Vermont. Rather than have Napoleon decimate its Merino sheep population, Spain allowed the exporting of its sheep as a result of The Napoleonic Wars. William Jarvis, the US Consul to Portugal, brought Merino Sheep to Vermont where they thrived. Vermonters also successfully improved the Merino through breeding resulting in a three fold increase in wool production from what became the Vermont Merino.

The Vermont Merino had success internationally and many sheep were sent west to bolster the herds there. While Vermont's sheep farming came and diminished, New Zealand and Australia have had tremendous success with Merino sheep dating back to the early 1800's. In 1879 the Vermont Sheep Breeders Association sent 2 Vermont Merino rams to Australia as a gift. Although some Australian breeders crossed the Vermont Merino with the Australian Merino, ultimately the Vermont Merino was judged inferior despite it's high yield.

Industrial Bubble - Inventors & Precision Tools

Vermont grew fairly rapidly in the first half of the 19th century to just over 300,000 citizens at the start of the Civil War. However, population growth after the Civil War was limited, largely due to Vermonters taking their hard work and considerable skills elsewhere in the country. As Morrison writes in Vermont - A History (p.123), "Fifty-four percent of all Vermonters were living outside Vermont by 1880; no other state in the nation was losing such a large portion of its native-born. Vermont's greatest export has been its natives, especially its young people.".

Wells of Wells, Fargo grew up in Thetford, VT. Frederick Billings of Woodstock built the Northern Pacific Railroad. Inventors from Vermont such as Elisha Otis (safety elevator) and John Deere (steel plow) impacted the country greatly and their eponymous companies persist yet today. Joseph Smith from Sharon, VT founded a major religious faith - The Church of The Latter Day Saints. But some outstanding innovators such as Thaddeus Fairbanks, inventor of the platform balance, remained in Vermont while exporting their products nation and world wide. The towns of Windsor and Springfield Vermont and a succession of innovators became famous for the advances made in precision tool making.

This 1846 building in Windsor, VT housed the Robbins and Lawrence gun making firm and today is the home of the American Precision Museum. The museum has one of the best collections of precision machine tools in the United States. From the earliest days of the industrial revolution, mass production of products with interchangeable parts had been a goal. A key hurdle had been the lack of exactness in the manufacture of individual parts. In 1849, the Robbins and Lawrence company is considered to be the first to have developed this precision on a practical and mass production scale when it delivered to the US government 10,000 guns all with perfectly interchangeable parts.

The gun wind vane that still is atop the Robbins and Lawrence Armory in Windsor, VT

The image below is of the now shuttered Parks and Woolson operation, a maker of clothing manufacturing equipment. The 3 story gabled roof building in the center was built in 1829 and the original equipment made at this facility was for the shearing of wool and the manufacture of woolen clothing, this being during the Vermont "Sheep Bubble". The building is located in Springfield, VT on the western side of the Black River upper falls. In 1850, Adna Brown came to Parks and Woolson as general superintendent and rose to become part owner and president. By the 1880's Adna, along with other prominent citizens, realized that the overall economy of Springfield was stagnant and needed growth.

Factory dating to 1829 on the Black River in Springfield, VT

Also by the 1880's the Windsor, VT precision machine tool facility had changed business focus and ownership several times and was now the Jones and Lamson company. The company was also struggling and looked to local capitalists for new investment but none was forthcoming. Meanwhile 17 miles to the south, Adna Brown led a group of investors late in 1887 to purchase control of Jones and Lamson's stock. However, the business was still risky and the investors wanted to mitigate somewhat the risk before relocating Jones and Lamson to Springfield. They requested from the town of Springfield a 10 year tax exemption and in December 1887 at a special town meeting the tax exemption was granted by a vote of 573-1.

In February 1888, Adna Brown was elected president of the stockholding group and 22 year old William D.("W.D.") Woolson was elected assistant treasurer. W.D. was the son of Amasa Woolson, an early partner in Parks and Woolson, and at the time of his election a clerk at the bank. By the summer of 1888 a two story brick building had been built on Main Street next to the Black River for water power. In 1888, Springfield still had no railroad service so the equipment had to be laboriously transferred by wagon over the mountainous, dirt road between Springfield and Windsor. But by October 1888 the Jones and Lamson Company was in Springfield, VT and would become an important machine tool company known throughout the United States and the world. Young W.D. Woolson would prove to be very important to the company, but the basic business model in 1888 was still problematic, despite the tax abatement. Then another important individual was recruited to Springfield - James Hartness.

Soon after the move to Springfield and so the investors began a search for talent to run the operation and manage the business. James Hartness was hired as the new superintendent. At 27 years old, Hartness was already a very experienced machinist and a talented inventor. His prior employer had taken his patents and then fired him causing Hartness to insist on a 3 year contract and a $100 (roughly $2500 today) royalty for each machine of his design sold. At the time turret lathes sold for $1100. He began work at J&L January,1889 and in August 1891 was issued a patent for what is now known as the flat turret lathe which was an immediate commercial success.

A top view of an 1861 Turret Lathe in the American Precision Museum located in the original Robbins and Lawrence building in Windsor, VT. Frederick W. Howe, Richard S. Lawrence, and Henry D. Stone of Robbins and Lawrence are credited with doing much of the important advancement and development of the turret lathe.

Hartness then proposed that the J&L operation make only one product - his flat turret lathe and W.D. Woolson backed him in this bold move. Together the two young men formed a extremely successful 44 year partnership that transformed Springfield. By 1895 over 400 Hartness Flat Turret Lathes had been sold and in addition to his $100/lathe royalty, Hartness was receiving a $5000/year salary and soon to become president of J&L.

J&L attracted exceptional talent and when one of their employees had a great idea Woolson and Hartness helped set them up in businesses of their own. Among these businesses were: Fellows Gear Shaper Company (Edward Fellows, 1897); Bryant Chucking Grinder Company (William Bryant, 1910); and Lovejoy Tool Company (Fred Lovejoy, 1917). Springfield came to be known as the Precision Valley and as late as the 1970's Springfield residents had the highest per capita income in Vermont.

Besides his mechanical brilliance, Hartness had numerous other interests. He was the first licensed pilot in Vermont and built its first airport, Hartness State Airport in North Springfield. He was an amateur astronomer and helped organized the Springfield Telescope Makers later renamed the Stellafane Society which annually holds a large amateur telescope convention. Hartness served as governor of the state and held numerous professional honors. But his legacy and that of Precision Valley was also firmly rooted in the gunmakers that first delivered precision made guns in 1846 from the Robbins and Lawrence facility in Windsor, VT.

Calvin Coolidge - True Vermonter

Following the Civil War, Vermont had emerged as a region distinctly different - a state of independent thinkers with their own unique sensibility. Calvin Coolidge was our 30th President and the quintessential Vermonter. Although "Silent Cal" was decidedly a conservative "Yankee", a close examination of his speeches reveals the very essence of the Vermonter soul - a pronounced commitment to frugality and limited government with a fervid dedication to social justice.

This image was inspired by Winslow Homer's "The Nooning" (1872). With the passing of the trauma of the Civil War, in the 1870's rural life was idealized for it's innocence and Homer's paintings reflected that sensibility. For this image my nephew agreed to pose for me in the cold wet grass. Behind him is Calvin Coolidge's childhood home.Despite the suggestion of an idyllic setting, rural life has never been one of hours passed in pastoral leisure. And most assuredly young Calvin did not spend his summers lounging in the yard. Reality required constant, tiring manual labor with the chores varying by season and this reality was magnified by the terrain and weather of Vermont.

Calvin was born and raised in Plymouth Notch, VT which is today a Vermont Historic Site and is preserved almost unchanged. Every year on July 4th, his birthday, a wreath is laid at his grave followed by a chicken dinner in the yard behind his mother's home, and all are welcome. This particular image was made in 2015 as the VT National Guard led the procession to the cemetery, probably the most humble gravesite of any president. I had positioned myself to have the tree hide the cars parked along the road near the Plymouth Notch village. In the background are the village church (shown at the beginning of the presentation), the store that Calvin's father operated (and which also served as a summer White House), and attached to the store is the unpainted home where Calvin was born.

July 4th at Calvin Coolidge Birthplace
Vermont has a beauty across all seasons that is beguiling.... but.... "Much of Vermont's history has been a quest to cultivate home-grown prosperity, and the result has often been disappointing....many of the hopes never propagated among the rocks". Charles T. Morrisey in Vermont: A History

The image below is intended to capture some of that dichotomy described by Morissey. The mountains and hills are scenic but with precious little flat land. The weather is harsh in the winter and the growing seasons are short. The soil yields many rocks and beautiful rock walls abound but the work to clear the fields of them is unending. But for me Vermont will always be special because of the inhabitants and their special spirit that matches the natural beauty of the Green Mountain State.

Bridgewater, VT - Gold Coast Road

Conceived as a short photographic essay, this presentation focuses on approximately 150 years of Vermont history. The images are all original photographs taken by me and the processed to either a painterly or photographic look consistent with the time period. Further details about the images and the history behind them can be found in my blog entries starting in May 2016 to February 2017.

David O. Hearne, February 2016

Created By
David Hearne

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