ABORIGINAL OCCUPANCY.

      Jacques CARTIER, a distinguished French explorer and navigator, in the service of France, in 1535 entered the great gulf of Canada, to which he gave the name of St. Lawrence, sailed through it and up the river of the same name which he called the "River of Hochelaga," and explored the country as far as the city of Montreal, ascended Mt. Royal, from which he was the first white man to gaze upon the magnificent prospect which continues to delight the tourist, and was the first to behold in the panorama stretched before him a part of the territory of the Green Mountain state. In 1540 CARTIER again visited Canada and made an abortive attempt to found a colony. No further attempt was made to establish a settlement for more than half a century.

      In 1608 Samuel CHAMPLAIN, a French nobleman, with others, founded a colony at Quebec. Champlain, restless for adventures, and equally anxious to make further discoveries in the new world, waited only for spring, and an opportunity, to enter upon a long cherished plan of explorations with the high hope of finding a way to China. 

      The French had made friends with the native tribes of Indians that dwelt along the St. Lawrence, and in the adjacent country, and had astonished them with the deadly execution of fire-arms, and were regarded by them as a superior order of beings. 

      In the last part of the autumn he was visited by an ambitious young chief from the vicinity of Ottawa (then unknown), who prevailed upon Champlain to join him in the spring in an expedition against his enemies, the Iroquois, "The Five Nations," composed of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas, who were their deadly enemies, and of whom all the other Indian tribes stood in mortal fear. Impatient of waiting for his western allies, he set out a little past the middle of May with only a band of the tribe of the Montagnais, but as he moved up the St. Lawrence he was joined by his more powerful allies, the Herons and Algonquins, with a chief from each nation. Few of them had ever seen a white man, and they viewed the steel-clad strangers in speechless wonder. After the ceremony of smoking, feasting, and speech making Champlain was obliged to return with them to Quebec, as they were determined to see the wonders of their architecture, the fame of which had penetrated the whole region.

      On the 28th day of May the expedition' set off, Champlain in a small shallop carrying himself and ten others, armed with guns similar to modern carbines. They passed up the St. Lawrence, entered the mouth of the "River of the Iroquois," so-named by Cartier sixty years before, now the Richelieu. Here his ease-loving warriors encamped for two days, hunted, fished, and again feasted, and regaled their French allies with fresh venison and wild fowl -- and quarreled, too. About three-fourths took to their canoes and paddled towards home.

      Champlain and the remnant of the party pushed on until they reached impassable rapids. Here he learned the value of an Indian's word. He had been promised that his shallop would pass without obstruction. But nothing daunted he sent back the shallop, and all but two of his men, who volunteered to go with him, and proceeded with the Indians, who lifted the canoes to their shoulders and carried them to the smooth stream above. Their forces consisted of sixty warriors with twenty canoes.

      The Indians observed something of military system; some were in front as a van-guard of the main body, and as they were proceeding up the river a party was in the forest hunting for the subsistence of the whole, so as to husband their supply of parched corn, until they were in the vicinity of their enemies, when hunting would be impracticable. Thus they proceeded; camped on the shore at night, until they passed the islands composing Grand Isle county, when they became sensible that they had entered the enemy's country and were on dangerous ground. They now moved only in the night, and lay all day concealed in the thick forest. If they did not fall in with their enemy on the lake to which Champlain gave his name, then known as the lake of the Iroquois, their destination was by way of Lake George and across the country to some Indian settlement on the Hudson river. But they were spared so long a journey. The night of June 29th they embarked at twilight from the west shore of the lake, near the site of Crown Point; they descried a flotilla of Iroquois canoes about ten o'clock in the evening. Each recognized his mortal enemy, and their mingled war-whoops made "night hideous."

      By common consent the battle was deferred until daylight, when the allies, confident of their success, marched with steadiness to the conflict. They opened their ranks, and Champlain and his two friends passed to the front, with their carbines. The astonished Iroquois stared at the unwonted sight in amazement. The guns were leveled and discharged; two of the chiefs fell dead. The brave Iroquois stood firm, and filled the air with their arrows; but the fire-arms continued their deadly work; their terrific reports quailed their stout hearts; they broke and ran, and the victory was won. Thus the French foolishly rushed into war with the mightiest and most powerful Indian confederacy the world ever beheld, and engendered a hatred on the part of the Iroquois that descended to generations then unborn, and eventually led to the annihilation of many of the Canadian tribes, and the weakening and dissolution of the Iroquois as the great confederation of the Six Nations. This deplorable expedition was the first exploration and discovery by white then of the Iroquois country and their lake of the same name, now the beautiful Champlain.

      In their passage up the Champlain lake the Indians, representing the Huron and Algonquin nations, informed Champlain that not only the lake but the country both sides of it belonged to their enemy, the powerful and dreaded Iroquois, and especially pointed out the country at the east as having rich valleys where the Indians raised good corn. There is indubitable evidence that the Iroquois lived here, besides the testimony of their enemies, and their often-repeated claims for compensation for their domain, urged upon the legislature of Vermont. The resources of this "goodly heritage," Western Vermont, which these Indians claim was "given to their forefathers by the Supreme Spirit forever," were such as to make it desirable. The moose and deer abounded, the mountains' rocky caverns were the homes of numberless bears, and the lakes and ponds were the homes of the otter and beaver. The shimmering lakes, sinuous rivers, and sparkling mountain streams swarmed with the speckled trout; and the mountains stood like giant sentinels to protect their winter homes in the thick wooded valleys from the fierce piercing wind.

      It is admitted by the local historians who have mentioned the subject that at that time all of that part of Vermont west of the eastern range of the Green Mountains was in the possession of the Iroquois, but not permanently inhabited by them. Yet we find that they were so permanent that they built villages and cultivated its rich valleys; and we conclude they were as permanent as their Indian habits ever make them. Temporarily, and for short periods only, they may have moved across the country if on a thoroughfare, to escape the devastation incidental to a war of hostile tribes; but were back again as soon as the cause was removed.

      The further evidences that they were here at as late a date as 1735 or 1740 are the facts that the location of their villages, corn fields, and other signs were the undeniable testimonials that they left behind them. To be sure this was an outpost on their territory, and in all probability not so densely populated as the more central portion of the nation. The same occurs with the whole of the civilized world.

      There was an Indian village in East Montpelier, on the Winooski, opposite the mouth of Kingsbury Branch, that contained as many as twelve fireplaces, which were distinctly marked. These consisted of pavements made of small stones driven into the ground, and from one to two yards in diameter. Above, on Kingsbury Branch, about half a mile, was a corn field of an acre. Near this corn field an iron axe was found, of prehistoric manufacture, so far as we know. This curious relic is deposited in the state cabinet of antiquities. This field in the primeval forest was found when Montpelier was first settled, overgrown with poplar trees about thirty or forty feet high, that were estimated to have been growing from thirty to thirty-five years.

      Down the Winooski at the confluence of a small brook that flows through the "NORCROSS" farm was another Indian village, but only the sites of very few lodges could be distinguished, but relics were found. The village was on the east side of the Winooski. Opposite there was an Indian corn field of about three-quarters of an acre, with unmistakable signs that it had been cultivated at no remote period. This ground was also covered with such a growth of poplar as before described, and surrounded by primeval forest.

      Down the Winooski, about half a mile, at a location known as "Lightning Ridge," was a "Kitchen Midden," (the Dutch name for a location for a clam-bake,) which contained a cart-load of clam shells. And by the way, Winooski river abounds in large pearl-bearing, edible clams. The above place was clearly a feasting place of the Indians.

      Still down the Winooski about seventy five rods, on its northerly bank, is a sandy hillock about twenty feet high, surrounded by swamp, and contains an area of one-third of an acre, which shows signs of having been a fortification. On this were found Indian relics, and boiling-stones which were heated by the squaws and alternately thrown into their wooden vessels to boil the succotash, meat, etc. Between this hillock and Lightning Ridge an earthen urn was found, which was preserved by Arthur DAGGETT, but is lost. Its counterpart may be seen in the state cabinet. And forty rods below, at the confluence of Corliss brook, on the north side of the river and west side of the brook, is a little promontory, the site of another "Kitchen Midden," with a pile of clam shells as large as a hay-cock. On the farm of Hon. S. S. KELTON, on the river, were other Indian relics, (boilingstones, etc.) A mile further down, near a venerable old elm tree, which bears the mark, nearly overgrown, of the old canal survey, is another "Kitchen Midden." Just in the edge of Middlesex, on the Winooski, are still evidences of another Indian village, corn field, and burial-place, where Indian weapons were found.

      In Woodbury numerous Indian relics have been found, and the site of their present cemetery is the location of an Indian corn field. This town contains over twenty natural ponds, and consequently was famous hunting ground. This was the home of the beaver and otter. That "Prince of the Red Men," Captain Joe, and his wife, Molly, frequented these lakes.

      On the farm of Willard CUTLER, late of East Montpelier, in the near vicinity of a pure spring, in a sheltered nook, several Indian hatchets, and a small cannon ball, of three or four pounds weight, were found. The ball and one of the hatchets are in the state cabinet for preservation.

      On the farm now occupied by Mr. PARKER, in East Montpelier, a neighbor of George DAVIS, was a well defined Indian clearing, near the brook, and beaver meadow. On the brook just named was the scene of an unwitnessed tragedy, probably about 1790. The pioneer and hunter of Berlin, Jacob FOWLER, had a line of traps on this brook, and on visiting them on several occasions he found that some one had plundered his fur. At his next visit an Indian was on the ground just in advance of him, and FOWLER discovered him in the act of robbery. They discovered each other simultaneously, and each took shelter behind a huge pine tree; the situation resolved into a case of the death of one of the parties. Suffice it to say, FOWLER was the victor.

      From what is conceded, (that the Indians owned the territory known as Western Vermont,) and the facts herein presented, we conclude that the Indians not only owned the territory, but that it was also their home. 
 

     [This conclusion is strengthened, in our opinion, by the researches of Mr. Charles H. HEATH, of Montpelier, who has devoted considerable time and attention to the study of the Indian occupancy of this region.]

LAND TITLE CONTROVERSY

      For a period of sixteen years there was a controversy between the authorities of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, relative to the boundary line between the provinces, and a contest kept up in regard to the control of the territory in the vicinity of Fort Dummer and that on the opposite side of the river in Hinsdale. Finally, on the 5th of March, 1740, George II decreed that the line between New Hampshire and Massachusetts should be surveyed in accordance with certain special instructions, and in 1741 the line was run by Richard HAZEN, and found to leave Hinsdale and Fort Dummer to the north; whereupon the king recommended the Assembly of New Hampshire to care for and protect the settlers about Fort Dummer. From this royal recommend Gov. Wentworth, of New Hampshire, naturally supposed that the king recognized the jurisdiction of New Hampshire as extending to the same point west as Massachusetts, namely, a point twenty miles east of the Hudson river; and accordingly, on the application of William WILLIAMS and sixty-one others, January 3, 1749, he chartered a township six miles square, in what he conceived to be the southwestern corner of New Hampshire. This town was named Bennington, after Gov. Benning WENTWORTH, the first town in Vermont to receive a royal charter.

      As early as 1763 Gov. WENTWORTH had granted as many as 138 townships of six miles square, lying west of tire Connecticut, and the population in the territory, which had now come to be known as the New Hampshire Grants, had become quite large. This prosperity and growing power New York could not quietly brook. So, during that year, Lieut-Gov. TRYON, of that province, laid claim to the territory, by virtue of a grant made by Charles II to the Duke of York, in 1664, which included "all the land from the west side of Connecticut river to the east side of Delaware bay." Finally, on application of the government of New York, it was decided by George Ill., in council of July 10, 1764, that the "western bank of the Connecticut river should thereafter he regarded as the boundary line between the Province of New York and Province of New Hampshire."  The colonists were surprised and displeased at this decision, but peaceably submitted to it, supposing that it merely effected a change of the jurisdiction to which they were subject; and the government of New Hampshire, which at first remonstrated, soon acquiesced in the decision. But on the 10th of April, 1765, Gov. COLDEN issued a proclamation, giving a copy of the order of the king, changing the boundary of the territory, and notifying "His Majesty's subjects to govern themselves accordingly." He also at once proceeded to grant the lands to others than the New Hampshire claimants, and when the latter applied to the New York government for a confirmation of the grants they already held, such enormous patent fees were demanded as to make it impossible for them to comply. It was well known in New York that these lands had long been granted by New Hampshire, that they were actually occupied under such grants, and that the new patents were procured in utter disregard of the rights and claims of the settlers. It was also well known by them that the king, in commissioning Benning WENTWORTH governor of New Hampshire, had described his province as reaching westward "until it met his other government," thus bounding it westerly by New York and that the eastern boundary of New York was a line twenty miles easterly from Hudson river, extending from Lake Champlain south to the western line of Massachusetts, was proven by statements in the charter of the Duke of York, upon his accession to the throne of England, in 1685. But notwithstanding all this, New York insisted that not only was the jurisdiction changed thenceforward, but also that the grants made were vacated, and the titles acquired under them were made void. The settlers were required to repurchase their lands, which some of them did, though the majority of them peremptorily refused. The lands of such were granted to others, who brought actions of ejectment in the New York courts, where they invariably obtained judgments against the original proprietors. It was found, however, that it was easier to obtain judgments than it was to enforce them. The officers who attempted to serve the writs of possession were forcibly resisted, and sometimes roughly handled.

      In 1769 the king prohibited the governor of New York from issuing any more grants "until His Majesty's further pleasure should be made known." Meanwhile civil disturbances and open defiance to the New York authorities continued to such an extent that, in 1774, a law was passed by that province, ordering the surrender of all offenders, under the penalty of death. In reply, the people of the grants returned a public letter, threatening death to any who should aid in arresting any of her citizens. About this time a plan was made for the formation of a royal province, but the Revolutionary war soon joined the two provinces in a common cause, so that their personal quarrel gradually raged less furiously. In 1789 New York acknowledged the independence of Vermont, and endeavored to adjust all matters of dispute, having previously made grants to those who had suffered by adhering to her allegiance, while Vermont, in turn, paid into the treasury of New York thirty thousand dollars.
 
 
 
 

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 21-27

Transcribed by Karima Allison, 2003