Vermont History

Summer 2005


Class four


Part I: Outsiders Inside Vermont


Key words and phrases:

Bennington Seminary

John Humphrey Noyes

Jeremiah O’Callaghan

St. Mary’s Church

The Bolton War (1846)


The Up/Down dynamic is like all history: sometimes it’s like now, and sometimes it’s very unlike, or the opposite of now. Either way, history is linear—now is never the same as then.


A Burlington selectman in 1848: “we have been flooded by an immense emigration of the Irish population through the Canadas, impelled by the double force of oppression and starvation at home, and the hope of freedom and abundance here…we seemed destined to be overwhelmed.”


5000 Quebecois in Vermont in 1840, over 14,000 in 1850

1850: at least 15,000 immigrant and first-generation Irish in Vermont


Overall, about 10% of Vermont’s population in 1850 was foreign-born, almost exactly the same percentage as for the United States as a whole, though less than the other states in New England.



Part II: Connection and disconnection


Key Words and phrases:

Central Vermont Railroad

Charles Paine

Bolton War (1846)

Pioneer Mechanics Shop

1853 Temperance Referendum


The construction of railroads in the 1840s had a profound effect upon the state: in some ways they reinforced and accelerated trends already in place, and in other ways caused radical transitions and discontinuities.


Rutland RR: completed 1849

Vermont Central RR: 1849

Vermond and Canada RR: 1850

Connecticut and Passumpsic RR: 1850


Effects of the railroads:


--dramatically accelerated the transition Vermont farmers made from sheep (encourages specialization/highs are high, lows are low) to dairying (encourages diversification/everyone does about the same)


--centralized industrial and commercial activity (and therefore downhillers) in fewer, larger places


--accelerated the rate at which Vermont residents emigrate west


Is the state renouncing or embracing the legacies of its founders?

Does this process make it easier or harder to achieve Vermont’s ultimate goal—finding the perfect balance between the needs of the individual and those of the collective?


Vermont experienced a wave of inter-denominational revivals in the 1830s. Are both uphillers and downhillers better off when they share institutions, or when they have separate institutions?


Uphill denominations:




(and Congregationalists, of course)


Downhill denominations:






By 1850, 43% of native-born Vermonters were living outside the state.