Ethan Allen Life and Times Talk

Author Willard Sterne Randall will give a talk on Ethan Allen, one of Vermont’s best known historic figures, on June 18 at 1 p.m., at the Mount Independence State Historic Site in Orwell, VT. Randall’s new book, Ethan Allen: His Life and Times, which W.W. Norton will be coming out with later this summer, is the first comprehensive biography of Allen in a half century.

In this talk and the book, Randall uses new source material to strip away the myths about Ethan Allen, heroic rebel, and reveals a complex character, defender of settlers to the Green Mountains, public spirited, but also self-serving and self-interested.

Randall, whose previous book was Benedict Arnold, is a noted Vermont author and historian and teaches history at Champlain College.

The program is sponsored by the Mount Independence Coalition, the official friends group for the Mount Independence State Historic Site. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children under 15- it includes the program, visiting the museum, and access to the grounds and trails.

Mount Independence, one of Vermont’s State-owned Historic Sites, is a National Historic Landmark and one of the best-preserved Revolutionary War sites in America. It is located along the shore of Lake Champlain and near the end of Mount Independence Road, six miles west of the intersections of VT Routes 22A and 73 in Orwell. The site is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October 10. Call 802-948-2000 for more information.

Vermont State Historic Sites Reopen

Six of Vermont’s State-owned Historic Sites reopened for the 2011 season yesterday, Saturday, May 28. “These beautifully preserved gems allow us to see history where it happened,” says John Dumville, Historic Sites Operations Chief at the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. “They tell us the exciting story of Vermont and our nation&#8211from the first inhabitants to the Vermonter who became our 30th president.” A full schedule of special exhibits and events are planned for the public’s enjoyment.

Vermont played an important role in the American Revolution. Mount Independence in Orwell is one of the nation’s best-preserved Revolutionary War sites, and celebrates the 235th anniversary of the start of construction. The annual Soldiers Atop the Mount weekend is July 23-24. The Hubbardton Battlefield is hallowed ground, the location of the July 7, 1777, battle where Green Mountain Boys fought the English to enable the main American forces withdrawing from Mount Independence and Fort Ticonderoga to head southward in safety. Hundreds of reenactors will gather on July 9-10 for the popular battle weekend to commemorate the 234st anniversary of the battle.

On August 16, 1777, Americans successfully fought British troops trying to capture desperately needed supplies in Bennington. These battles led to victory that October at Saratoga and to American independence. The 306-foot Bennington Battle Monument, the state’s tallest structure, was completed in 1891 and offers glorious views from the top. The big event commemorating the battle will take place on August 13-14.

Vermont’s Constitution, signed on July 8, 1777, at a Windsor tavern (the Old Constitution House), was the first in the nation to prohibit slavery, authorize a public school system, and establish universal manhood suffrage. On July 10 a symbolic Revolutionary relay from Hubbardton to Windsor will convey the news to the constitutional convention about the fall of Mount Independence and the battle at Hubbardton.

Millions of Americans owe their higher education to Strafford’s Justin Smith Morrill, whose acts in the U.S. House and Senate established the Land Grant Colleges. The outstanding 1840s Gothic Revival style Morrill Homestead and gardens he designed look much as he left it.

America’s best-preserved presidential site is the rural village of Plymouth Notch. Calvin Coolidge, born here in 1872, also became president here in a dramatic early morning inauguration on August 3, 1923, after President Harding’s death. An exciting new exhibit on Coolidge and his accomplishments will open in August.

The Bennington Battle Monument opened for the season on April 16. The Chimney Point State Historic Site in Addison is closed for a second year due to the Lake Champlain Bridge construction, but will be open for the bridge opening celebration weekend sometime this fall. The popular annual Northeast Open Atlatl Championship weekend, Sept. 17-18, will be moved again this year to Mount Independence in Orwell.

Opening on July 2 are the 1783 Hyde Log Cabin in Grand Isle, one of America’s oldest log cabins and the President Chester A. Arthur Historic Site in Fairfield. Born in 1829, Arthur became president upon the fatal shooting of James Garfield and was a champion of civil rights and civil service reform.

For more information, visit www.HistoricVermont.org/sites.

Mount Independence, Hubbardton Battlefield Reopen

The Mount Independence and Hubbardton Battlefield Vermont State Historic Sites open for the 2011 season on Saturday, May 28, at 9:30 a.m. Both sites have scenic grounds for walking and picnics, and popular specialty museum shops with many books and other items.

The Chimney Point State Historic Site and grounds in Addison will be closed to the public for the 2011 season due to the ongoing construction of the Lake Champlain Bridge. The site will be open for the bridge opening celebration weekend, at a yet to be determined date this fall. The popular annual Northeast Open Atlatl Championship, September 16 to 18, will be moved again this year to Mount Independence in Orwell.

Orwell, Vermont’s Mount Independence, a National Historic Landmark named after the Declaration of Independence, was built on Lake Champlain in 1776-77 to protect the American colonies against British invasion from the north. This year is the 235th anniversary of the start of construction, as well as of the Mount Independence-Hubbardton Military Road.

The museum’s exhibits include a talking hologram sculpture and exciting Revolutionary War artifacts from the site, including two huge logs from the Great Bridge and a cannon recovered from Lake Champlain. Six miles of scenic walking and hiking trails wind past archaeological sites. The nationally award winning Baldwin Trail is suitable for outdoor wheelchairs and strollers, and has acclaimed interpretive signage.

The season begins on Saturday, May 28, at 8:00 a.m. with the favorite annual Early Bird Nature Walk, led by bird expert Suzanne Wetmore. Other special events include nature and history programs and the annual Soldiers Atop the Mount encampment on July 23 and 24. The site is open daily, 9:30 to 5:00. Admission is $5.00 for adults and free for children under 15.

The Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Site is the location of Vermont’s only Revolutionary War battle. It is considered one of the best preserved battlefields in America, retaining most of its original setting, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. At noon on May 30 there will be a simple Memorial Day commemoration.

The annual living history weekend, with the battle reenactment, is July 9 and 10, with many other nature and history programs and hikes throughout the season. The site is open Thursdays through Sundays and Monday holidays, including Memorial Day, from 9:30 to 5:00. Admission is $2.00 for adults and free for children under 15.

Vermont Historic Sites are now on Facebook.

For directions, more information about these sites, or to receive a calendar of events, call 802-759-2412 or visit www.HistoricVermont.org/sites.

VT Historical Society Saving VTs Treasures

On March 4th, the Vermont Historical Society (VHS) announced the final stage of its Saving Vermont’s Treasures campaign.

In her remarks at the event celebrating the launch, VHS President Sarah Dopp noted that March 4th, in addition to being the 220th anniversary of Vermont’s becoming the 14th U.S. state, was also a &#8220punny&#8221 call to action for VHS to &#8220march forth,&#8221 in the final leg of our $900,000 capital campaign.

The campaign, which had raised $815,225 as of March 4th, needs $84,775 more to reach the $900,000 goal. President Dopp noted that the remaining $84,775 &#8220will be the hardest part of the campaign.&#8221

The Saving Vermont’s Treasures campaign will create three new gallery spaces for rotating exhibitions at the Vermont History Center in Barre, allowing Vermonters and other visitors to explore new aspects of Vermont’s heritage through the Society’s collections. &#8220For years, people have been asking us to display more artifacts,&#8221 noted Mark Hudson,

VHS executive director. &#8220With this campaign, we will finally have the gallery space to do so.&#8221 The campaign also will help to preserve the bell tower, a distinctive feature of the historic History Center building, for generations to come.

The capital campaign launch celebration featured music by Colin McCaffrey and a presentation by Marselis Parsons, who offered highlights of his personal experiences with historical events in Vermont during his many years as a WCAX news anchor.

If you’d like more information on the campaign, contact Amy Sholk, VHS Capital Campaign Assistant, at (802) 479-8525 or [email protected]

Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History

The eastern edge of the Adirondack Park stretches into the middle of Lake Champlain, that great river-lake 120 miles long, four times the size of Lake George. Standing between the states of New York and Vermont, it’s the largest body of water in the Adirondacks, one that connects Whitehall and (via the Champlain Canal and Hudson River) New York City to Quebec’s Richelieu River and the St. Lawrence River. Two routes inland from the Atlantic Ocean that have had a historic impact on the entire North County, New York and Vermont. The book Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History celebrates what is unquestionably America’s most historic lake.


Four hundred years of Champlain history are conveyed in the coffee-table book’s more than 300 color photographs, drawings, maps and vintage images. Chapters on the towns along the lake, the Chaplain basin’s First Peoples, it’s critical military and transportation history, and the sports and recreation opportunities are eloquently contextualized by regional writers, including occasional Almanack contributor Chris Shaw who provides the book’s Prologue and Epilogue, and Russ Bellico who offers a chapter entitled &#8220Highway to Empire&#8221.

Published by Adirondack Life in Jay, Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History is a great book for those who love the lake, local and state history buffs, and nature lovers.

You can pick up a copy online.

You can here an interview with the book’s editor Mike McCaskey on the Vermont Public Radio website.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers.

Public Input Sought for Bridge Reopening Celebration

The Lake Champlain Bridge Coalition has announced the formation of the Lake Champlain Bridge Community (LCB Community). The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has entrusted the Coalition and LCB Community to create, plan and lead the public festivities that will celebrate the replacement and re-opening of the Lake Champlain Bridge. The celebration will also showcase the reunited regional communities of Addison, Vt. and Crown Point, N.Y.

The LCB Community will hold a public meeting on Monday, January 24, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. at the Crown Point Historic Site Museum. The purpose of the public meeting is to encourage area residents, business owners, and other stakeholders to join the LCB Community and become involved in the celebration planning by serving on a committee, volunteering time or offering ideas. If anyone is unable to attend this meeting, they are still welcome to join the LCB Community or offer their ideas for the event. The committees will plan and organize a proposed two-day event and coordinate fundraising and marketing of the celebration.

“When NYSDOT entrusted the planning of this historic event to us, they emphasized that this should be a ‘grassroots’ celebration,” said Karen Hennessey, co-chair of the LCB Community and owner of Sugar Hill Manor B&B, Crown Point, NY. “That’s why it’s so important for us to reach out to community members and gather input as to what shape and form these celebration activities should take. We welcome everyone’s input—whether or not you can be at the meeting on January 24th.”

The date of the bridge re-opening is yet to be announced by New York’s and Vermont’s transportation departments and Flatiron Construction, the firm constructing the new bridge. Early indications suggest the re-opening will be in early- to mid-October 2011.

“The 1929 celebration of the first Lake Champlain Bridge has been the inspiration and guiding force for this upcoming event,” said Lorraine Franklin, co-chair of the LCB Community and owner of West Addison General Store. “Forty thousand people attended the opening in 1929, and we hope our event will far surpass that landmark celebration. This will be our celebration, and we all look forward to the day the second Lake Champlain Bridge is open.”

Members of the Lake Champlain Bridge Community include area residents, representatives from local business, historical sites, local governments, and chambers of commerce.

Tories: American Revolution and Civil War

In 1777, as General John Burgoyne’s army marched south, having taken Fort Ticonderoga, a temporary loyalist enclave was created in Rutland County, Vermont. While many rebel Americans fled before the British Army, a few stayed on. In Rutland Nathan Tuttle, a rebel known locally for hating and taunting loyalists, was one of them.

Tuttle’s decision to stay behind was not a very good one at a time and place when the American Revolution was a full-scale Civil War. As Burgoyne’s army passed through Rutland, Tuttle disappeared. Ten years later it was revealed by a local Tory that Tuttle had been bayoneted, his body weighted with stones and thrown into a creek. Nathan Tuttle was an American, and so were his murderers, likely men associated with the notorious Loyalist and close confidant of John Burgoyne, Philip Skene of Whitehall.

Under the grand story of the fight for American independence are finer threads, stories of people who are often assigned a mere footnote in the Revolutionary narrative. Offering a fresh look at the lives of those who sided with Britain during the American Revolution, TORIES: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War, by Thomas Allen, weaves a provocative and unsettling picture of a bloody and savage civil war that divided America and sent more than 80,000 Tory Americans — Loyalists, as they called themselves — fleeing to Canada, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.

For Loyalists, America was home- yet, when they sought to preserve allegiance to the Crown and protect their homes from the rebels, many Loyalists found themselves in a civil war raging in the midst of a Revolution. Hatred between Tories and Patriots divided families, friends, and communities. This war was vicious and personal, forcing many Loyalists to flee America. Those who chose to stay quickly realized that if they had any chance of survival, the British had to win.

Incorporating firsthand documents from archives in the United Kingdom and Canada, TORIES gives voice to little heard and Americans. TORIES also explores little known facts about Loyalists, such as: New York City and Philadelphia were Tory strongholds throughout the Revolution- at times, Georgia and the Carolinas had more trained and armed Tories than British Redcoats- Lord Dunmore, a Virginia royal governor, offered freedom to any slave that joined the British fight, creating thousands of black Loyalists- Scottish Highlanders, though onetime foes of the British, fought for the Crown in exchange for land grants- and William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin, led a brutal Tory guerrilla force that terrorized New Jersey.

While historical accounts portray the Revolution as a conflict between the Patriots and the British, there is another narrative: the bloody fighting between Americans, a civil war whose savagery shocked even battle-hardened Redcoats and Hessians. From mudslinging and rhetorical sparring to water-boarding, house-burning, and lynching, here is the rarely chronicled war-within-the-war that adds a new dimension to the history of the American Revolution. TORIES introduces readers to the forgotten Americans who chose the British side—and paid dearly for their choice.

THOMAS B. ALLEN is the author of numerous history books, including George Washington, Spymaster and Remember Valley Forge. A contributor to Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, Military History Quarterly, Military History Magazine, Naval History, Naval Institute Proceedings, and other publications, he lives in Bethesda Maryland with his wife, artist Scottie Allen.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Attendance Up At Vermont State Historic Sites

Vermont’s State Historic Sites posted a one-and-a-half percent increase in attendance for the 2010 season, with officials crediting more family-oriented events and improved promotion.

A total of 66,900 people visited the state’s 10 historic sites during the 2010 season, which ran from May to October, up 1,012 from last year’s 65,888 visitors.

The increase would have been even bigger had the state not been forced to close one site due to construction activity- when adjusted for that, the total attendance at the remaining sites was up six percent.

“We had a number of interactive and innovative special events at the sites – like the star-gazing at the Hubbardton Battlefield – that really appealed to families,” said John Dumville, historic sites operations chief at the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. “And we also expanded our efforts to publicize them, including radio ads in partnership with the Tourism Department and on Facebook.”

Attendance figures at the two most popular sites – the Bennington Battle Monument and the President Calvin Coolidge site in Plymouth Notch – were up 7 and 8 percent respectively.

The iconic monument – which also opens earlier and stays open later than the other sites – recorded 35,030 visits, while the Coolidge site saw 21,502 people stop in, including a crowd of over 700 people at the grand opening of the new President Coolidge Museum and Education Center in August.

The attendance increase is especially impressive, Dumville said, because the Chimney Point State site in Addison was closed on June 14 over safety concerns caused by the reconstruction of the adjacent Champlain Bridge, which was closed due to structural problems in October 2009 and was demolished using explosives in December, 2009.

That resulted in only 143 visitors to the site between its opening over the Memorial Day weekend and its closure, compared to nearly 3,000 who went to Chimney Point during 2009.

Dumville said officials were hoping to re-open the Chimney Point site for the 2011 season, but would have to evaluate the status of the Champlain Bridge reconstruction in the spring, adding, “Obviously, the safety of the public has to come first.”

The final event of 2010 is the Holiday Open House at the Coolidge site on December 11, which Dumville said is “always very popular.”

For more information, visit www.HistoricVermont.org/sites or visit the sites on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Montpelier-VT/Vermont-State-Historic-Sites/312675181273

Photo: British re-enactors fire a volley at Hubbardton Battlefield during one of site’s re-enactment weekends. Courtesy Vt. Agency of Commerce & Community Development.

VT: Native American Panel To Hold Meetings

The group that will establish a process for state recognition of Native American tribes in Vermont is holding a series of public forums around the state.

The Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs will hold the first meeting at the Goodrich Memorial Library on Main Street in Newport on Tuesday, November 16 according to Giovanna Peebles, State Historic Preservation Officer and director of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.

Although the commission’s monthly meeting starts at 1:00 p.m., they have chosen to devote the noon hour to a less formal potluck to hear the needs and concerns of local Native people and answer questions, according to Chairman Luke Willard of Brownington. &#8220Different communities have different needs and interests,” Willard said. “We want to know what they are.”

The new commission, appointed by Governor Jim Douglas in September, is charged with executing a process for recognizing Native American Indian tribes in Vermont as called for in a Senate bill passed earlier this year. That legislation was introduced by the Senate Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs chaired by Senator Vince Illuzzi, who began working in the 1980s to obtain recognition for Native Americans in Vermont.

Willard said that he hopes educators will attend this meeting to learn about Title VII Indian Education, a federal program that could bring thousands of dollars into the school systems of Orleans County, and that this commission intends to focus on education and cultural awareness.

“I think they go hand in hand,” he said. “There are many Abenaki students in the schools of Orleans County but I think most are afraid to embrace and, in many cases, admit their own heritage because it could bring teasing from other students who are only taught a small piece of Abenaki history, and literally nothing about the contemporary Abenakis who sit at the desk right beside them.”

“This was a problem when I was a student and now I hear about it from my own children,” said Willard, a member of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe in Orleans County.

November is National American Indian Heritage Month and Governor Douglas recently proclaimed the month of November as Native American Heritage Month in Vermont. The signing of this proclamation is the kickoff of events held around the state to honor the contributions and heritage of Native Americans.

To learn more, visit the VCNAA website.

Champlain History Project Wins Prestigious Award

A partnership of state and non-profit entities has won an important award for its project to educate Vermonters about the history and archeology of the Lake Champlain area as part of the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial.

At its recent annual conference, the American Association for State and Local History awarded the Lake Champlain Voyages of Discovery project a 2010 Leadership in History Award of Merit.

“This is a special honor, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to accept the award on behalf of the partnership,” said project director Elsa Gilbertson, Regional Historic Site Administrator for the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, which collaborated with Vermont Public Television- the Bixby Memorial Free Library in Vergennes- Broadwing Productions- and the University of Maine at Farmington Archaeological Research Center.

“I’m very proud of the Voyages project and pleased to see the work of so many people in Vermont being recognized at the national level,” said AASLH Council President David Donath, CEO of the Woodstock Foundation and member of the Vermont Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

The two-and-a-half year project was funded by a $250,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as well as matching resources from the partnership, and used the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival in Lake Champlain as an opportunity to explore and bring to life the little known but internationally significant area and its peoples from 1609 to the 1760s.

“This project was a multi-disciplinary effort using archeology, historic research, film-making, museum and library outreach, and extensive local and regional participation,” said Giovanna Peebles, State Historic Preservation Officer and head of DHP. “I think it did a terrific job of portraying the Native American and other peoples and their contributions to regional and world history during this critical period in the Champlain Valley.”

It included:

* An archeological investigation with professional archeologists, educators, and volunteers at the DAR State Park in Addison to look for traces of the French colonial past-

* A Lake Champlain Voyages of Discovery publication for the general public about this early history and archeological results-

* A one-hour documentary, Champlain: The Lake Between, by film maker Caro Thompson and Broadwing Productions with Vermont Public Television, which won a New England Emmy-

* Public programs and exhibits at the Chimney Point State Historic Site and Bixby Memorial Free Library-

* A special edition Champlain: The Lake Between, with “Classroom Connections” educational activities and resources distributed to schools in the Lake Champlain Basin of Vermont and New York-

* Educational kits and new books and other resources at the Bixby Memorial Free Library-

* A website with information about the project.

The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 65th year, is the most prestigious recognition in the United States for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

“The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history,” said AASLH President Terry L. Davis.

DVDs of the Champlain: The Lake Between are available from Vermont Public Television by calling (802) 655-5307 and the special educational edition and the publication, Lake Champlain Voyages of Discovery, are available from the Chimney Point State Historic Site.

Educational kits are available in the local area on loan from the Bixby Memorial Free Library. For more information, visit: www.historicvermont.org/imls/lakechamplainvoyageshomepage.html

“VPT is proud to be part the Voyages of Discovery project, making this valuable content available to classroom teachers, students and lifelong learners,” said Vermont Public Television president John King.

Vermont Public Television will re-air Champlain: The Lake Between on Monday, Oct. 18, at 10:30 p.m.