The beginning of the fifteenth century was an era of great changes in all Europe. It was the end of the darkness of the middle ages, the revival of learning and science, and the birth of many useful arts, preeminent among which was that of printing. The invention of the mariner's compass in the preceding century had enabled sailors to go out of sight of land with impunity, and a thirst for exploring unknown seas was awakened; long voyages were undertaken and important discoveries made.

      It was during this age of mental activity and growing knowledge that Christopher Columbus undertook the most memorable enterprise that human genius ever planned, and which renders his name immortal. On the third of August, 1492, a little before sunrise, he set sail from Spain for the discovery of the western world. A little before midnight, on the thirteenth of October, he descried a light on the island of San Salvador. From this moment properly dates the history of America. From this time forward its progress bears date from a definite period, and is not shrouded in darkness nor the mists of tradition.

      Two years after the discoveries of Columbus became known in England, Henry VII. engaged John Cabot, a Venetian merchant, to sail in quest of discoveries in the West, and this navigator, in 1497, reached the coast of Labrador, which he named Prima-Vista, thus making, probably, the first visit to the coast by Europeans since the day of the Norsemen. This voyage was succeeded by others under Sebastian Cabot, son of John, in 1498, and by Gaspar Cortreal, from Portugal, to whom the discovery of the St. Lawrence some authorities claim is due. This adventurer returned to Lisbon in October of that year, laden with timber and slaves, seized from among the natives of the coasts he had visited. On a second voyage he perished at sea. In 1504 the French first attempted a voyage to the New World; and in that year some Basque and Breton fishermen began to ply their calling on the banks of Newfoundland and along its adjacent coasts. From these the island of Cape Breton derived its name. In 1525 Stefano Gomez sailed from Spain and is supposed to have entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence and to have traded upon its shores. A Castilian tradition relates that, finding neither gold nor silver upon the coasts, nor anything that conveyed to these sordid adventurers an idea of wealth of any kind, they frequently exclaimed "aca - nada," signifying "here is nothing," and that the natives caught up the sound, which was repeated by them when other Europeans arrived, and thus gave origin to the designation of Canada.

      In 1534 Francis I., king of France, listening to the urgent advice of Philip Chabot, admiral of France, who portrayed to him in glowing colors the riches and growing power of Spain, derived from her trans-Atlantic colonies, dispatched Jacques Cartier, an able navigator of St. Malo, who sailed April 20, 1534, with two ships of only sixty tons each and one hundred and twenty men, reaching Newfoundland in May. After coasting along for sometime, without knowing it was an island, he at length passed the straits of Bellisle and traversed the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Having spent part of the summer on these coasts, he sailed on the 25th of July, highly pleased with the hospitable reception he had received from the natives, with whom he traded for furs and provisions. His report induced the French king to attempt a colony in the newly-discovered regions; and in May, 1535, Cartier sailed with three small ships, with a numerous company of adventurers, and arrived on the coast of Newfoundland much scattered and weakened by a disastrous storm of July 26th. Here they took in wood and water, and proceeded to explore the gulf, but were overtaken, August 1st, by a storm which obliged them to seek a port, difficult of access, but with a safe anchorage, near the mouth of the "Great River." They left this harbor on the 7th, and on the 10th came to a "gulf filled with numerous islands." Cartier gave to this gulf the name of St. Lawrence, having discovered it on that saint's festival day. Proceeding on this voyage he explored both shores of the St. Lawrence. Pleased with the friendly disposition of the natives, and the comfortable prospects of a winter's sojourn, Cartier moved his vessels where a little river flowed into a "goodly and pleasant sound," which stream he named St. Croix, near the Indian village of Stacona, the site of the present city of Quebec. Subsequently, October 2d, he ascended the river to a populous Indian village called Hochelaga, on the site of which the city of Montreal now stands. Here Donnacona, an Algonquin chief, conducted Cartier to the summit of a mountain about two miles from the village, and to which he gave the name of Mount Royal, or Montreal, and showed him, "in that bright October sun, the country for many miles south and east, and told him of great rivers and inland seas, and of smaller rivers and lakes penetrating a beautiful country belonging to the war-like Iroquois. This beautiful country, which the chief called Iroquoisia, included the present state of Vermont. Thus, to Jacques Cartier, a French navigator and explorer, is due the honor of having been the first European to gaze upon the Green Mountains of Vermont. In May Cartier returned to France, taking with him the Indian chief Donnacona, and two other prominent natives of the village, as prisoners; and they, who had treated the Frenchmen with such uniform kindness, died in a strange land, exiled from their homes and friends.

      During each succeeding year, for sometime after, expeditions were sent out to the newly-discovered river; but misfortunes attended them all, and no efficient attempt at colonizing the country was made until 1608, when DeMonts, a Calvinist, who had obtained from the king the freedom of religious faith for himself and followers in America, though under the engagement that the Catholic worship should be established among the natives, after several perilous voyages and much opposition, dispatched Champlain and Pontgrave, two experienced adventurers, to establish the fur trade and begin a settlement. Samuel Champlain reached Quebec, where Cartier had spent the winter nearly three-quarters of a century before, on the third of July. On the 18th of the following April, 1609, in company with two other Frenchmen and a number of the natives, he started up the St: Lawrence, and, after a time, “turned southward up a tributary” and soon entered upon the lake which perpetuates his name. Thus came the first European upon the territory now included within the limits of Vermont.

      The early explorations and discoveries we have mentioned led to much litigation and controversy on the part of the several European countries under whose auspices they had been conducted. The English, on the grounds of the discoveries of the Cabots, claimed all the country from Labrador to Florida, to which they gave the name Virginia; but their explorations were confined principally to the coast between Maine and Albemarle Sound. The French confined their explorations principally to the country bordering on the St. Lawrence and its tributaries, which they named New France; while the Dutch, by the discoveries of Henry Hudson, afterwards laid claim to the country between Cape Cod and the Delaware river, which they called New Netherlands.

      Attempts at colonization were made by England during the reign of Elizabeth, but they proved abortive, and it was not until the Tudor dynasty had passed away and several years of the reign of James I., the first of the Stuarts, had elapsed, before the Anglo-Saxon gained any permanent foothold. Stimulated by the spirit of rivalry with France, England pushed her explorations and discoveries, while France, from her first colony on the St. Lawrence, explored the vast region from the great lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and established among the savages missions and trading posts, spreading from Canada through the West, and finally through New York and Vermont.

      The rivalries and jealousies that had made France and England so long enemies in the Old World were transplanted to the New Continent. The French made allies of the savages anti waged war against the English, and years of bloodshed followed. The first of these hostilities, which are now known as the old French and Indian wars, began with William's accession to the throne of England, in 1690, and was terminated in the peace of Ryswic, in 1697. Queen Anne's war, so-called, came next, commencing in 1702, and terminating in the peace of Utrecht, in 1713. The third controversy was declared by George II, in 1744, and continued until the preliminaries of peace were signed at Aux-la-Chapelle, in 1748. The final great conflict was declared by Great Britain, in 1756, and terminated in the capture of Montreal, in September, 1760, when the whole of New France, or Canada, was surrendered to Great Britain..

      During the progress of these wars the territory of Vermont was often crossed and recrossed by portions of both armies, and a few military settlements sprang up. The first of these, however, was even before the wars, in 1665, on Isle La Motte, where a fort was erected by Captain DE LA MOTTE, under command of M. DE TRACY, governor of New France. In 1690 Capt. Jacobus DE NARM, with a party from Albany, N. Y., established an outpost in the present town of Addison, at Chimney Point, where he erected a small stone fort. The first permanent settlement, however, and the first of any kind by Anglo-Saxons, was begun within the limits of Windham county, in the town of Brattleboro, in 1724, when Fort Dummer was built. For six or seven years the garrison of this fort were the only white inhabitants. In 1730 the French built a fort at Chimney Point, and a considerable population settled in the vicinity. In 1739 a few persons settled in Westminster, and about the same time a small French settlement was begun at Alburgh, on what is now called Windmill Point, but was soon abandoned. The colony at Westminster increased but slowly, and in 1754 the whole population, alarmed by the Indian attack upon Charlestown, N. H., deserted their homes. Forts were erected and small settlements were commenced in several other places, but fear of the Indians prevented any large emigration till after the last French war, when, the Province of Canada being then ceded to Great Britain, the fear of hostile incursions subsided and the population rapidly increased.

      During these wars, also, grants of land lying within the present limits of the state had been made by the Dutch at Albany, by the French, and by the colonies of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York, and each claimed jurisdiction over them. All of these claims, except that of New York, however, were relinquished without much controversy, of which more will be said on another page. But at the close of hostilities the lands were sought so eagerly by adventurers, speculators, and settlers, that in a single year, subsequent to 1760, Gov. WENTWORTH, of New Hampshire, granted in the name of King George III. not less than sixty townships of six miles square, and two years later the number of such grants amounted to 138. The territory now began to be known by the name of the New Hampshire Grants, and the number of actual settlers soon became quite large. The affairs of these settlers were managed by committees in the several towns, who met in general convention, when occasion required, to provide for their common defense and welfare. The decrees of these conventions were regarded as law, and violations of them were punished with extreme severity. While the Revolutionary war was in progress the land title controversy was in a degree suspended; but soon after the war broke out it became apparent that the settlers of the grants needed some better organization than was possible by means of committees and conventions. Accordingly, in 1776, a convention was held at Dorset, and an address to Congress prepared, declaring the unwillingness of the settlers to be regarded as subjects of New York. This was not favorably received by Congress, whereupon the more resolute of the people determined to assume the powers of an independent state, "and risk the consequences." Another convention was held at Dorset, in June, and met again by adjournment in September, when such measures were taken that, at a convention held in Westminster, it was decided, on the 16th of January, 1777, that the following declaration should be adopted:


  "This convention, whose members are duly chosen by the free voice of their constituents, in the several towns on the New Hampshire Grants, in public meeting assembled, in our names, and in behalf of our constituents, do hereby proclaim and publicly declare, that the district of territory comprehending and usually known by the name and description of the New Hampshire Grants, of right ought to be, and is hereby declared forever hereafter to be considered as a free and independent jurisdiction or State, by the name and forever hereafter to be called, known and distinguished by the name of New Connecticut, alias Vermont ; and that the inhabitants that at present are or may hereafter become residents, by procreation or emigration, within said territory, shall be entitled to the same privileges, immunities and enfranchisements as are allowed ; and on such conditions, and in the same manner, as the present inhabitants, in future, shall or may enjoy; which are and forever shall be, such privileges and immunities to the free citizens and denizens as are, or, at any time hereafter, may be allowed, to any such inhabitants, or any of the free and independent States of America; and that such privileges and immunities shall be regulated in a bill of rights and by a form of government, to be established at the next adjourned session of this convention."

      On the 4th of June the committee met at Windsor, there being present seventy-two members, representing fifty towns. A committee was appointed to prepare a draft of a constitution for the new state, and recommended to the town to choose delegates on the 23d of June, to meet at Windsor, July 2d, to discuss and adopt said constitution. The newly-elected convention met July 2d, and continued in session six days. It received from the committee appointed for that purpose a copy of a constitution very similar to that of Pennsylvania, which was read and discussed. Before it was wholly adopted, however, alarming news of the British army in the western part of the state was received. It was proposed at first to adjourn and leave the work in hand unfinished; but this was providentially prevented by the sudden occurrence of a thunderstorm. Some who were less agitated by the news from the west side of the state suggested the great importance of finishing the work in hand. This advice was followed, the constitution adopted, an election ordered, and a Council of Safety appointed to manage the affairs of the state until the government should go into operation under the constitution.

      This independence Vermont pursued, asking no favors, enjoying no benefits of the Union, and sharing none of its burdens, until March 4, 1791, when she was admitted as one of the Federal states, with the full rights and immunities belonging thereto. Thus Vermont exists to-day -- so may she always exist!

      The constitution has remained without very material alterations, the chief being the substitution of a Senate of thirty members, appointed to the several counties, according to population, and chosen by a plurality of the freemen of the several counties, in lieu of a council of twelve members chosen by a plurality of the voters of the state at large; and in 1870 a change from annual to biennial state elections and meetings of the legislature. The frame of government now provides for, 1st, The executive, the chief officers of which are the governor, lieutenant-governor, and treasurer, all of whom are elected biennially, by the freemen of the state. 2d, A Senate of thirty members elected as before mentioned. 3d, A House of Representatives, consisting of one member from each organized town, elected by the freemen thereof. 4th, A judiciary, the officers of which are elective, the Judges of the Supreme Court (who are also chancellors) by the Senate and the House of Representatives, in joint assembly, the assistant Judges of county courts (a Judge of the Supreme Court presides in each County Court), Judges of the probate courts, sheriffs, state's attorneys, and high bailiffs by the freemen of the respective counties; and justices of the peace by the freemen of the several towns. The state election is held in September, biennially, and a majority of all the votes cast is required to elect every officer, except senators and other county officers, including in the latter justices of the peace elected by the several towns; but in March the freemen of each town meet for the transaction of public business of the town, and the election of town officers. Every term of town office is limited to one year, or until others are elected, and all town elections are therefore annual. The governor's power of appointment is very limited, embracing, ordinarily, his secretary and military staff only; but he has power to fill any office created by law, where the appointment is not fixed by the constitution or statute, a case which has rarely occurred; and also to fill any vacancy occurring by death, or otherwise, until the office can be filled in the manner required by constitution or laws. By recent statutes the governor may nominate, subject to approval by the Senate, various officers. The heads of the various state bureaus (except treasurer) and generals of divisions and brigades are elected by the Senate and House in joint assembly, -- the former officers biennially and generals when vacancies occur. The General Assembly meets in the even years, on the first Wednesday of October. The first officials elected, in 1788, were as follows: Thomas CHITTENDEN, governor; Joseph MARSH, lieutenant-governor; Ira ALLEN, treasurer; T. CHANDLER, secretary of state; Nathan CLARKE, speaker; and Benjamin BALDWIN, clerk.

      The division of the state into counties, and the formation of Washington county, is described in the "Bench and Bar," following the roster of officers in the civil war.


TOPOGRAPHY.

      The surface of Washington county is varied by high mountains, gentle hill slopes, and charming picturesque valleys. Camel's Hump lies on the western border, and rears its rocky crest more than 4,000 feet above the sea - the highest except Mt. Mansfield in the state. It is the best defined and most conspicuous peak of the Green Mountains. It is conspicuous from most parts of the county and the whole valley of Lake Champlain. It is accessible from Huntington, but is usually ascended from Duxbury. The views obtained at the summit in extent and "scenic beauty" are unsurpassed, and amply reward the tourist for his labor in making the ascension.

      Other heights from which magnificent views are obtained are Mt. Hunger, 3,648 feet above "Old Ocean," on the line between Middlesex and Worcester, and Bald Mountain in Northfield, 2,636 feet high. The Winooski, or Onion, river and its numerous branches contribute their utility and beauty to the territory, and the eastern part of the county is adorned with numerous gems of lakes and ponds. The town of Woodbury alone has twenty-three. The Winooski, the longest river in the state, rises in Cabot, receives an important tributary in Marshfield, flows in a southwesterly direction to Montpelier, and thence nearly northwest, which course it continues until it discharges its waters into Lake Champlain about five miles north of Burlington, and drains an area of about one thousand square miles. Its principal tributaries in Washington county are Kingsbury Branch, Stevens Branch, Dog river, Worcester or North Branch, Mad river, and Waterbury river.

      There is indubitable evidence that the valley of the Winooski, from Montpelier to Bolton falls, was once the bed of a lake all along this valley between the places named. The rapid mountain streams would deposit a sediment in the still waters of this lake, which would settle and form terraces, as at Waterbury village. Mr. C. N. ARMS informed the writer that in digging his well in that village he encountered a birch tree about twenty inches in diameter and well preserved, nineteen feet below the surface of the ground. The question is, how came it there? The region of Bolton falls "is an excavation through the back-bone of the Green Mountains," says Professor HAGAR. In Zadoc THOMPSON's Gazetteer of Vermont, Part III., page 197, is the following description:


    "The channels which have been worn in the rocks by this river are a great curiosity. One of these between Middlesex and Moretown is about eighty rods in length, sixty feet in width, and thirty feet deep; the rock appearing like a wall on each side. Another of these channels is between Waterbury and Duxbury, four miles below Waterbury village. Its depth is about one hundred feet, and the rocks on the south side are perpendicular. The rocks have here fallen into the chasm and form a natural bridge, which is crossed by footmen at low water. Among the rocks here are also several curious caverns. Holes also of cylindrical form are here worn into the solid rocks several feet in depth. There is abundant evidence existing that above this place a large pond formerly existed, whose waters were drained off by the wearing down of the channel."

GEOLOGICAL.

      The science of geology is ever an interesting study, and as related to this county it is exceedingly so; for here the record of the changes, or "footprints," that time has left in the succeeding ages since the earth was created, are numerous and well developed. Before mentioning the several rocks that enter into the formation of the territory, however, it may not be considered superfluous to briefly note the fundamental principles of the science.

      Among men of science it has become the common, if not prevailing, opinion that in the beginning all the elements with which we meet were in an ethereal or gaseous state-that they slowly condensed, existing for ages as a heated fluid, by degrees becoming more consistent-that the whole earth was once an immense ball of fiery matter-that, in the course of time, it was rendered very compact, and at last became crusted over, as the process of cooling gradually advanced, and that its interior is still in a molten condition. Thus, if the view suggested be correct, the entire planet in its earlier phases, as well as the larger part now beneath and within its solid crust, was a mass of molten fire, and is known to geologists as elementary or molten. Following this came another age, in which the molten mass began to cool and a crust to form, called the igneous period. Contemporaneous with the beginning of the igneous period came another epoch. The crust thus formed would naturally become surrounded by an atmosphere heavily charged with minerals in a gaseous or vaporous condition. As the cooling advanced this etherealized matter would condense and seek a lower level, thus coating the earth with another rock. This is named the vaporous period. At last, however, another age was ushered in, one altogether different from those that had preceded it. The moist vapor which must of necessity have pervaded the atmosphere began to condense and settle, gathering into the hollows and crevices of the rocks, until nearly the whole surface of the earth was covered with water. This is called the aqueous period. As these waters began to recede and the "firmament to appear," the long winter that intervened, while the sun was obscured by the heavy clouds, would cover the earth with mighty ice-floes and glaciers, forming a drift or glacial period

      A great difference also exists in the consolidation and structure of the rocks thus formed. The very newest consist of unconsolidated gravel, sand, and clay, forming alluvium. A little farther down we come to the tertiary strata, where are same hardened rocks and others more or less soft. Next below the tertiary is found thick deposits, mostly consolidated, but showing a mechanical structure along with the crystalline arrangements of the ingredients. These are called secondary and transition. Lowest of all are found rocks having a decidedly crystalline structure, looking as if the different minerals of which they are composed crowded hard upon one another. These rocks are called metamorphic, hypozoic, and azoic.

      The principal portion of the rocky of this territory is azoic, and known as talcose schist and calciferous mica schist, though there are several beds and veins of other formations. Talcose schist proper consists of quartz and talc, though it has associated with it, as integral parts of its formation, clay slate, gneiss, quartz rock, sandstones, and conglomerates, limestones and dolomites: Talcose schist underlies a large portion of the towns of Worcester, Middlesex, Montpelier, Duxbury, Waterbury, Moretown, Fayston, Waitsfield, Northfield, Roxbury, Warren, and the west part of Berlin, Barre, and East Montpelier. Calciferous mica schist underlies a large part of the eastern portion of the county. Granite abounds in Berlin, Barre, Plainfield, Marshfield, Cabot, and Woodbury. A broad belt of clay slate extends through Roxbury, Northfield, Berlin, Montpelier, East Montpelier, Calais, and Woodbury. Beds of serpentine and steatite exist in Roxbury, Warren, Waitsfield, Moretown, Northfield, Duxbury, and Waterbury, also beds of copper and iron pyrites in Waterbury.
 
 

Gazetteer Of Washington County, Vt. 1783-1899, 
Compiled and Published by Hamilton Child,
Edited By William Adams.
The Syracuse Journal Company, Printers and Binders.
Syracuse, N. Y.; April, 1889.
Pages 5 - 13

Transcribed by Karima Allison 2003