Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America.
The state ranks 45th by total area, and 43rd by land area at 9,250 square miles (24,000 km²), and has a population of 608,827, making it the second least populous state (second only to Wyoming).
The only New England state with no coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, Vermont is notable for the Green Mountains in the west and Lake Champlain in the northwest.
It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, New Hampshire to the east, New York to the west, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north.
Originally inhabited by Native American tribes (Abenaki, and Iroquois), the territory that is now Vermont was claimed by France but became a British possession after France’s defeat in the French and Indian War.
For many years, the surrounding colonies disputed control of the area, especially New Hampshire and New York.
Settlers who held land titles granted by these colonies were opposed by the Green Mountain Boys militia, which eventually prevailed in creating an independent state. Vermont became the 14th state to join the United States, following a 14-year period during and after the Revolutionary War as the independent Vermont Republic.
It is the leading producer of maple syrup in the United States.
The state capital is Montpelier, and the largest city is Burlington.
Vermont is located in the New England region in the eastern United States and comprises 9,614 square miles (24,902 km²), making it the 45th largest state. Of this, land comprises 9,250 square miles (23,955 km²) and water comprises 365 square miles (948 km²), making it the 43rd largest in land area and the 47th in water area.
In area, it is larger than El Salvador and smaller than Haiti.
The west bank of the Connecticut River marks the eastern border of the state with New Hampshire (the river itself is part of New Hampshire).
Lake Champlain, the major lake in Vermont, is the sixth-largest body of fresh water in the United States and separates Vermont from New York in the northwest portion of the state. From north to south, Vermont is 159 miles (256 km). Its greatest width, from east to west, is 89 miles (143 km) at the Canadian border; the narrowest width is 37 miles (60 km) at the Massachusetts line.
The state’s geographic center is Washington, three miles (5 km) east of Roxbury.
There are six distinct physiographic regions of Vermont. Categorized by geological and physical attributes, they are the Northeastern Highlands, the Green Mountains, the Taconic Mountains, the Champlain Lowlands, the Valley of Vermont and the Vermont Piedmont.
The origin of the name Green Mountains (French: Verts monts) is uncertain.
Some authorities say that they are so named because they have much more forestation than the higher White Mountains of New Hampshire and Adirondacks of New York.
Other authorities say that they are so named because of the predominance of mica-quartz-chlorite schist, a green-hued metamorphosed shale. The range forms a north-south spine running most of the length of the state, slightly west of its center.
In the southwest portion of the state are the Taconic Mountains; the Granitic Mountains are in the northeast.
In the northwest near Lake Champlain is the fertile Champlain Valley.
In the south of the valley is Lake Bomoseen.
Several mountains have timberlines with delicate year round alpine ecosystems. These include Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in the state, Killington Peak, the second highest, and Camels Hump the state’s third highest.
About 77 percent of the state is covered by forest; the rest is covered in meadow, uplands, lakes, ponds and swampy wetlands.
Areas in Vermont administered by the National Park Service include the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock.
Vermont has a continental moist climate, with warm, humid summers and cold winters, which become colder at higher elevations.
It has a Koppen climate classification of Dfb, similar to Minsk, Stockholm and Fargo.
Vermont is known for its mud season in spring followed by a generally mild early summer, hot Augusts and a colorful autumn, and particularly for its cold winters.
The northern part of the state, including the rural northeastern section (dubbed the “Northeast Kingdom”) is known for exceptionally cold winters, often averaging 10 °F (6 °C) colder than the southern areas of the state. Annual snowfall averages between 60 to 100 inches (150–250 cm) depending on elevation, giving Vermont some of New England’s best cross-country and downhill ski areas.
In the autumn, Vermont’s hills experience an explosion of red, orange and gold foliage displayed on the sugar maple as cold weather approaches. This famous display of color that occurs so abundantly in Vermont is not due so much to the presence of a particular variant of the sugar maple; rather it is caused by a number of soil and climate conditions unique to the area.
The highest-recorded temperature was 105 °F (41 °C), at Vernon on July 4, 1911; the lowest-recorded temperature was -50 °F (-46 °C), at Bloomfield on December 30, 1933.
Prehistory and pre-Columbian era
Vermont was covered with shallow seas periodically from the Cambrian to Devonian periods. Lower areas of western Vermont were flooded again, as part of the St. Lawrence Valley “Champlain Sea” at the end of the last ice age, when the land had not yet rebounded from the weight of the glaciers.
Little is known of the pre-Columbian history of Vermont.
The western part of the state was originally home to a small population of Algonquian-speaking tribes, including the Mohican and Abenaki peoples. Between 8500 to 7000 BC, at the time of the Champlain Sea, Native Americans inhabited and hunted in Vermont. From 8th century BC to 1000 BC was the Archaic Period. During the era, Native Americans migrated year-round.
From 1000 BC to AD 1600 was the Woodland Period, when villages and trade networks were established, and ceramic and bow and arrow technology was developed.
Sometime between 1500 and 1600, the Iroquois drove many of the smaller native tribes out of Vermont, later using the area as a hunting ground and warring with the remaining Abenaki. The population in 1500 is estimated to be around 10,000 people.
The first European to see Vermont is thought to have been Jacques Cartier, in 1535.
On July 30, 1609, French explorer Samuel de Champlain claimed the area of what is now Lake Champlain, giving to the mountains the appellation of les Monts vert (the Green Mountains).
France claimed Vermont as part of New France, and erected Fort Sainte Anne on Isle La Motte in 1666 as part of the fortification of Lake Champlain.
This was the first European settlement in Vermont and the site of the first Roman Catholic Mass.
During the latter half of the 17th century, non-French settlers began to explore Vermont and its surrounding area.
In 1690, a group of Dutch-British settlers from Albany under Captain Jacobus de Warm established the De Warm Stockade at Chimney Point (eight miles or 13 km west of present-day Addison).
This settlement and trading post was directly across Lake Champlain from Crown Point, New York (Pointe à la Chevelure).
In 1731, more French settlers arrived.
They constructed a small temporary wooden stockade (Fort de Pieux) on what was Chimney Point until work on Fort St. Frédéric began in 1734.
The fort, when completed, gave the French control of the New France/Vermont border region in the Lake Champlain Valley and was the only permanent fort in the area until the building of Fort Carillon more than 20 years later.
The government encouraged French colonization, leading to the development of small French settlements in the valley. The British attempted to take the Fort St. Frédéric four times between 1755 and 1758; in 1759, a combined force of 12,000 British regular and provincial troops under Sir Jeffrey Amherst captured the fort.
The French were driven out of the area and retreated to other forts along the Richelieu River. One year later a group of Mohawks burnt the settlement to the ground, leaving only chimneys, which gave the area its name.
The first permanent British settlement was established in 1724, with the construction of Fort Dummer in Vermont’s far southeast under the command of Lieutenant Timothy Dwight.
This fort protected the nearby settlements of Dummerston and Brattleboro.
These settlements were made by the Province of Massachusetts Bay to protect its settlers on the western border along the Connecticut River.
The second British settlement was the 1761 founding of Bennington in the southwest.
During the Seven Years War, locally known as the French and Indian War, some Vermont settlers, including Ethan Allen, joined the colonial militia assisting the British in attacks on the French.
Fort Carillon on the New York-Vermont border, a French fort constructed in 1755, was the site of two British offensives under Lord Amherst’s command: the unsuccessful British attack in 1758 and the retaking of the following year with no major resistance (most of the garrison had been removed to defend Quebec, Montreal, and the western forts).
The British renamed the fort Fort Ticonderoga (which became the site of two later battles during the American Revolutionary War). Following France’s loss in the French and Indian War, the 1763 Treaty of Paris gave control of the land to the British.
The end of the war brought new settlers to Vermont.
A fort at Crown Point had been built, and the Crown Point Military Road stretched from the east to the west of the Vermont wilderness from Springfield to Chimney Point, making travel from the neighboring British colonies easier. Three colonies, Massachusetts, New York, and New Hampshire, laid claim to the area.
The Province of Massachusetts Bay claimed the land on the basis of the 1629 charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Province of New York claimed Vermont based on the early Dutch Charter to the West India Company for lands west of the Connecticut River, and the identical land granted to the Duke of York (later King James II) in 1664.
The Province of New Hampshire also claimed Vermont based upon a decree of George II in 1740. In 1741, George II ruled that Massachusetts’s claims in Vermont and New Hampshire were invalid and fixed Massachusetts’s northern boundary at its present location.
This still left New Hampshire and New York with conflicting claims to the land.
The situation resulted in the New Hampshire Grants, a series of 135 land grants made between 1749 and 1764 by New Hampshire’s colonial governor, Benning Wentworth.
The grants sparked a dispute with the New York governor, who began granting charters of his own for New Yorker settlement in Vermont. In 1770, Ethan Allen, his brothers Ira and Levi, and Seth Warner recruited an informal militia, the Green Mountain Boys, to protect the interests of the original New Hampshire settlers against the new migrants from New York.
When a New York judge arrived in Westminster with New York settlers in March 1775, violence broke out as angry citizens took over the courthouse and called a sheriff’s posse. This resulted in the deaths of Daniel Houghton and William French in the “Westminster Massacre.”
Independence and statehood
In the summer of 1776, the first general convention of freemen of the New Hampshire Grants met in Dorset, Vermont, resolving “to take suitable measures to declare the New Hampshire Grants a free and independent district.”On January 18, 1777, representatives of the New Hampshire Grants convened in Westminster and declared the independence of the Vermont.
For the first six months of the state’s existence, the state was called New Connecticut, after the name of an existing state. During the years prior to acceptance for statehood the legislature met many times at the Cephas Kent tavern in Dorset, Vermont.
On June 2, a second convention of 72 delegates met at Westminster, known as the “Westminster Convention.”
At this meeting, the delegates adopted the name “Vermont” on the suggestion of Dr. Thomas Young of Philadelphia, a supporter of the delegates who wrote a letter advising them on how to achieve admission into the newly independent United States as the 14th state.
Notably, at that time the states of Pennsylvania and Connecticut were in a conflict over a separate territory called New Connecticut called the Pennamite-Yankee War and Congress would not approve the disputed name for what then became Vermont. The delegates set the time for a meeting one month later.
On July 4, the Constitution of Vermont was drafted during a violent thunderstorm at the Windsor Tavern owned by Elijah West and was adopted by the delegates on July 8 after four days of debate.
This was among the first written constitutions in North America and was indisputably the first to abolish the institution of slavery, provide for universal manhood suffrage and require support of public schools. The Windsor tavern has been preserved as the Old Constitution House, administered as a state historic site.
The Battle of Bennington, fought on August 16, 1777, was a seminal event in the history of the state of Vermont.
The nascent republican government, created after years of political turmoil, faced challenges from New York, New Hampshire, Great Britain and the new United States, none of which recognized its sovereignty.
The republic’s ability to defeat a powerful military invader gave it a legitimacy among its scattered frontier society that would sustain it through fourteen years of fragile independence before it finally achieved statehood as the 14th state in the union in 1791.
During the summer of 1777, the invading British army of General John Burgoyne slashed southward from Canada to the Hudson River, captured the strategic stronghold of Fort Ticonderoga, and drove the Continental Army into a desperate southward retreat.
Raiding parties of British soldiers and native warriors freely attacked, pillaged and burned the frontier communities of the Champlain Valley and threatened all settlements to the south.
The Vermont frontier collapsed in the face of the British invasion. The New Hampshire legislature, fearing an invasion from the east, mobilized the state’s militia under the command of General John Stark.
General Burgoyne received intelligence that large stores of horses, food and munitions were kept at Bennington, which was the largest community in the land grant area.
He dispatched 2,600 men, nearly a third of his army, to seize the colonial storehouse there, unaware that General Stark’s New Hampshire troops were then traversing the Green Mountains to join up at Bennington with the Vermont continental regiments commanded by Colonel Seth Warner, together with the local Vermont and western Massachusetts militia.
The combined American forces, under Stark’s command, attacked the British column at Hoosick, New York, just across the border from Bennington.
General Stark reportedly challenged his men to fight to the death, telling them that: “There are your enemies.
They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!” In a desperate, all-day battle fought in intense summer heat, the army of yankee farmers killed or captured virtually the entire British detachment. General Burgoyne never recovered from this loss and eventually surrendered the remainder of his 6,000-man force at Saratoga, New York, on October 17.
Battles of Bennington and Saratoga are recognized as the turning point in the Revolutionary War because they were the first major defeat of a British army and convinced the French that the Americans were worthy of military aid.
Stark became widely known as the “Hero of Bennington”, and the anniversary of the battle is still celebrated in Vermont as a legal holiday known as “Bennington Battle Day.”
Under the portico of the Vermont Statehouse, next to an heroic granite statue of Ethan Allen, there is a brass cannon that was captured from the British troops at the Battle of Bennington.
Vermont continued to govern itself as a sovereign entity based in the eastern town of Windsor for fourteen years.
The independent state of Vermont issued its own coinage, called Vermont coppers, from a mint operated by Reuben Harmon in East Rupert (1785-1788) and operated a statewide postal service. Thomas Chittenden, who came to Vermont from Connecticut in 1774, acted as head of state, using the term governor over president.
Chittenden governed the nascent republic from 1778 to 1789 and from 1790 to 1791. Chittenden exchanged ambassadors with France, the Netherlands, and the American government then at Philadelphia.
In 1791, Vermont joined the federal Union as the fourteenth state–the first state to enter the union after the original thirteen colonies, and a counterweight to slave holding Kentucky, which was admitted to the Union shortly afterward.
Vermont had a unicameral legislature until 1836.
An 1854 Vermont Senate report on slavery echoed the Vermont Constitution’s first article, on the rights of all men, questioning how a government could favor the rights of one people over another.
The report fueled growth of the abolition movement in the state, and in response, a resolution from the Georgia General Assembly authorizing the towing of Vermont out to sea. The mid to late 1850s saw a transition from Vermonters mostly favoring slavery’s containment, to a far more serious opposition to the institution, producing the Radical Republican and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens.
As the Whig party shriveled, and the Republican Party emerged, Vermont strongly trended in support of its candidates, first on the state level and later for the presidency.
In 1860 it voted for President Abraham Lincoln, giving him the largest margin of victory of any state. This strong lean toward the Republican Party has continued until very recently as evidenced by only electing two senators from other parties since the civil war (Patrick Leahy from the Democratic Party and Bernard Sanders, an independent).
The Civil War
During the American Civil War, Vermont sent more than 34,000 men into United States service, contributing 18 regiments of infantry and cavalry, three batteries of light artillery, three companies of sharpshooters, two companies of frontier cavalry, and thousands in the regular army and navy, and in other states’ units.
Almost 5,200 Vermonters, 15%, were killed or mortally wounded in action or died of disease. Vermonters, if not Vermont units, participated in every major battle of the war.
Among the most famous of the Vermont units were the 1st Vermont Brigade, the 2nd Vermont Brigade, and the 1st Vermont Cavalry.
A large proportion of Vermont’s state and national-level politicians for several decades after the Civil War were veterans.
The northernmost land action of the war, the St. Albans Raid, took place in Vermont.
Postbellum era and beyond
The two decades following the end of the American Civil War (1864-1885) saw both economic expansion and contraction, and fairly dramatic social change. Vermont’s system of railroads expanded and were linked to national systems, agricultural output and export soared and incomes increased. But Vermont also felt the effects of recessions and financial panics, particularly the 1873 Panic which resulted in a substantial exodus of young Vermonters.
The transition in thinking about the rights of citizens, first brought to a head by the 1854 Vermont Senate report on slavery, and later Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in changing how citizens perceived civil rights, fueled agitation for women’s suffrage.
The first election in which women were allowed to vote was on December 18, 1880, when women were granted limited suffrage and were first allowed to vote in town elections, and then in state legislative races.
Large-scale flooding occurred in early November 1927.
During this incident, 85 people died, 84 of them in Vermont. Another flood occurred in 1973, when the flood caused the death of two people and millions of dollars in property damage.
On April 25, 2000, as a result of the Vermont Supreme Court’s decision in Baker v. Vermont, the Vermont General Assembly passed and Governor Howard Dean signed into law H.0847, which provided the state sanctioned benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples in the form of civil unions. Controversy over the civil unions bill was a central issue in the subsequent 2000 elections.
In 2007, Vermont was ranked 32nd among states in which to do business. It was 30th the previous year.
According to the 2005 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report, Vermont’s gross state product (GSP) was $23 billion.
This places the state 50th among the 50 states. It stood 38th in per capita GSP. The per capita personal income was $32,770 in 2004.
Vermont stands 14th highest out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for state and local taxation, with a per capita load of $3,681.
The national average is $3,447.
However, CNNMoney ranked Vermont highest in the nation based on the percentage of per capita income. The rankings showed Vermont had a per capita tax load of $5,387, 14.1% of the per capita income of $38,306.
Vermont collects personal income tax in a progressive structure of five different income brackets, ranging from 3.6% to 9.5%.
Vermont’s general sales tax rate is 6%, which is imposed on sales of tangible personal property, amusement charges, fabrication charges, some public utility charges and some service contracts (some towns impose an additional 1% Local Option Tax).
There are 46 exemptions from the tax which include medical items, food, manufacturing machinery, equipment and fuel, residential fuel and electricity, clothing, and shoes. A use tax is imposed on the buyer at the same rate as the sales tax. The buyer pays the use tax when the sellers fails to collect the sales tax or the items are purchased from a source where no tax is collected.
The use tax applies to items taxable under the sales tax. Property taxes are imposed for the support of education and municipal services.
Vermont does not assess tax on intangible personal property.
Vermont does not collect inheritance taxes; however, its estate tax is decoupled from the federal estate tax laws and therefore the state still imposes its own estate tax.