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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.