University of Vermont

South Hero

South Hero, Vermont

A Brief History of the Town of South Hero

Portion on 1857 Wallings Map. Courtesy of University of Vermont Special Collections.

The founding of the town of South Hero began with a resolution on October 27, 1779, signed by Governor Chittenden, allotting the plot of land now known as Grand Isle County to three parties: General Ethan Allen, Colonel Samuel Herrick and Major Benjamin Wait. The island measured twelve miles long and four miles wide at its broadest point and soon became separated into two towns: North Hero, settled by Alexander Gordon, and South Hero, settled by Ebenezer Allen. [1] Allen transformed his home into a public house, or tavern, for travelers and new settlers arriving on the island; the tavern still stands today.

South Hero Inn. Unknown dates. Postcard images courtesy of University of Vermont Special Collections.

The rapid population growth necessitated a town government, and at the first town meeting held on March 28, 1786, town officers were elected. The first tax was in place one year later, and Col. Ebenezer Allen was appointed town treasurer on March 11, 1788. [2] In 1790, the second town meeting was held, wherein officials were reelected and taxes were raised to three and four shillings per bushel, on wheat and corn respectively. [3] The increase in tax revenue allowed the townspeople to support a new schoolhouse, fund the transport of goods to other areas, and create roads.

The first settlers of South Hero took advantage of the fertile soil with subsistence farming, growing fruit, tending gardens, maple sugaring, dairying and spinning and weaving fabric from domestic materials. As the town grew, the main source of income for residents came from farming, dairying and fruit growing, as the fertile land generated abundant crops, which were good for community development. [4] Apple growing in particular became a viable part of the South Hero economy. Wheat was another vital crop for farmers; it was so precious that it was used for money by the earliest settlers of the island. By the late 18th century, production on the island began an industrial incline. The lumbering of forests for oak produced much needed revenue and cleared land for farming. [5] Large fallen trees were ideal for crafting masts for ships, and they were usually shipped and sold in Quebec. Production of hats was also an early trade, utilizing local wool and beaver hides from trappers, while other early commerce included use of a limekiln; distillery; engraver; blacksmiths; brick makers; and a dyeing shop.

[1] Leroy Wilbur Wood, South Hero in the Garden Spot of Vermont (Providence: Rollinson and Hey, 1923) 9.

[2] Cass Lewis Aldrich, History of Franklin and Grand Isle Counties (Syracuse: D. Mason and Company, 1891) 22.

[3] Aldrich, 27.

[4] Aldrich, 37.

[5] Stratton, 250.


Last modified May 17 2005 04:41 PM

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