Geography and Landforms:

Vermont is nicknamed the Green Mountain State because of the Green Mountains that run through the middle of the state. Mount Mansfield is the tallest mountain in Vermont, at 4,235 feet. As mountain ranges go, the Green Mountains are very old, and have been sculpted to their present form during several ice ages. Granite, marble, slate asbestos and talc have all been mined from the range. Vermont's Lake Champlain is the sixth largest body of fresh water in the United States. Seventy-seven percent of Vermont is still forests.

In comparison with most states, Vermont is small in total area. Still, Vermont is the second largest state in New England after Maine, just a few hundred square miles larger than New Hampshire. The Green Mountain State is bordered by Canada, New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. It is 157.4 miles in length, 90.3 miles wide at the Canadian border, and 41.6 miles along the Massachusetts border. The Connecticut River forms the eastern boundary, while the western boundary runs down the middle of Lake Champlain for more than half of its length.

Vermont has 223 mountains over 2,000 feet in elevation. The mountainous areas of the state are primarily forested. In fact, although Vermont was virtually clear-cut of timber during the late 19th century, more than 75 percent of the state's total area is now forest. Below the mountains and rolling hills are the fertile valleys that support an extensive dairy industry.


The French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed into the lake now named for him in 1609 with a party of Algonquin Indians. Their plan was to conquer lands in control of the Iroquois. Champlain called the area "Verde Mont," the French words for Green Mountains. The French did not attempt any permanent settlement until 1666, when they built a fort and a shrine to Saint Anne on the Isle La Motte in Lake Champlain. However, this and later French settlements were abandoned, and until well into the 18th century the region was something of a no-man's-land. The first permanent English settlement was established along the Connecticut River in 1724 at Fort Dummer, near what is now Brattleboro. The fort was maintained by the colonial governments of Massachusetts and New Hampshire as a defensive outpost throughout the French and Indian Wars. Although Champlain had claimed the land for the country of France in 1763, the British took control of Vermont under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, the treaty that ended the French and Indian War. However, at that time, both the colonies of New York and New Hampshire claimed the land, then known as the "New Hampshire Grants," for themselves. Most of the European settlers were from Connecticut or Massachusetts, and did not wish to be under the control of New York. In 1775, Ethan Allen and his "Green Mountain Boys" organized in opposition to the "Yorkers," and in 1777 they declared Vermont an independent republic, which it remained until 1791 when Vermont became the 14th state admitted to the United States.

The 1777 Vermont Constitution was the first to abolish slavery and the first to eliminate the requirement that voters must be landholders.

In the next two decades Vermont had the greatest population increase in its history, from 85,425 in 1790 to 217,895 in 1810. As in the earlier days, most of the settlers migrated from Southern New England, and, since the more desirable lands in the river valleys were soon taken, many of them settled in the less hospitable hills.


The rise of manufacturing in towns and villages during the early 19th century created a demand for produce for the non-farming population. Consequently, commercial farming began to crowd out the subsistence farming that had predominated since the mid-18th century. Grain and beef cattle became the chief market produce, but when the rapidly expanding West began to supply these commodities more cheaply and when wool textile mills began to spring up in Southern New England, Vermont turned to raising sheep.

After the Civil War, however, the sheep industry, unable to withstand the competition from the American West as well as from Australian and South American wool, began to diminish. The rural population declined as many farmers migrated westward or turned to the apparently easier life of the cities, and abandoned farms became a common sight. The transition to dairy farming in the twenty years following the Civil War staved off a permanent decline in Vermont's agricultural pursuits.

Since the 1960s, Vermont's economy has grown significantly with booms in the tourist industry and in rural homebuilding, and with the attraction of high-technology firms to the Burlington area. Dairy farming has long been dominant in Vermont agriculture, although it has declined somewhat. Apples, cheese, maple syrup, and greenhouse and nursery products are important. The state's most valuable mineral resources are stone, asbestos, sand and gravel, and talc. In the area around Rutland and Proctor is a noted marble industry, and at Barre the famous Vermont granite is quarried and processed.

The manufacture of non-electric machinery, machine tools, and precision instruments is also important. The textile industry, once dominant in Burlington, has declined, but the manufacture of computer components, food products, pulp and paper, and plastics has helped to compensate for this loss. Cottage industries have long thrived in Vermont, making a variety of products from knitwear to ice cream. Tourism is also vitally important to the state economy.

First Inhabitants:

Vermont's story begins with the native peoples who frequented the territory between the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain long before the Europeans came. Between 7,000 and 5,500 BC, we know that small groups of people lived throughout the lowlands of the Champlain Valley and along the Walloomsac River in southwestern Vermont. By around 4000 BC, the climate began to warm, and the number of people living in the area grew. The Natives were nomadic in most cases, however, and there were a few permanent settlements. Those without permanent villages returned to the same places year after year to raise corn or other crops. Evidence of woodworking tools seems to indicate that the people used dugout canoes for transportation along Vermont's rivers. By the materials used to make tools and other items, we know that the people traded with others. The Early Woodland period, beginning around 900 BC, brings the first evidence of pottery and bow and arrow.

The earliest known Native farm site in Vermont is in Springfield, on the Connecticut River, and dates from around 1100 AD -- nearly 400 years before Columbus. The Native American inhabitants of this area were the Abenaki, a tribe of the Algonquin nation. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of Abenaki villages along the shores of Lake Champlain near the mouth of the Winooski River. "Winooski" is an Abenaki term for "wild onion." Abenaki villages were also located along the Connecticut River.

The arrival of Samuel de Champlain in 1609 signaled the beginning of the end of the native culture of Vermont. Although the native people had survived changes in climate, the availability of food and other hardships for nearly 11,000 years, the Natives could not compete with the arrival of Europeans and their diseases and desire for land. Between 1600 and 1800, Vermont's native population was almost completely wiped out.

Books Related To Vermont

Counting on Grace - Elizabeth Winthrop
(978-0553487831) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-9, Lexile: 760, ESL level: 3 - 4
A preteen girl, working in a fabric mill in Vermont, brings her terrible working conditions to light when a reporter picks up on a letter the child had written to the Child Labor Board.

A Day No Pigs Would Die - Robert Newton Peck
(978-0679853060) , Fiction
Interest level: 8-12, Lexile: 690, ESL level: 3 - 4
A young Vermont farm lad learns a hard lesson when he takes a pig as a pet, but his father butchers pigs on the farm to make a living.

How Tia Lola Came to Stay - Julia Alvarez
(978-0440418702) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-7, ESL level: 3
When Miguel's aunt comes to Vermont from the Dominican Republic, he is at once embarrassed, enthralled, and proud of his larger-than-life aunt.

M is for Maple Syrup: A Vermont Alphabet - Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
(978-1585360307) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of Vermont.

Reality Check - Peter Abrahams
(978-0061227684) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 690, ESL level: 3 - 4
Cody's eventful year includes a sports injury, a possible kidnapping, and a cross-county jaunt to find his ex-girlfriend.

The Sweetness of Salt - Cecilia Galante
(159-9905124) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-12, Lexile: 630, ESL level: 3 - 4
Julia's visit to her older sister in Vermont reveals hidden family secrets and helps her to define herself.

Understood Betsy - Dorothy Canfield Fisher
(978-1887840132) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-6, Lexile: 950, ESL level: 4
While living with relatives in the country in Vermont, a quiet girl blossoms.

Where the Great Hawk Flies - Liza Ketchum
(618-400850) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 550, ESL level: 2 - 3
Two Revolutionary War families learn how to help each other after the war despite their racial and social differences.

Witness - Karen Hesse
(978-0439272001) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-12, ESL level: 3 - 4
This series of poems aptly describes the fears and prejudices of multiple citizens of a small Vermont town, including those of black Americans and Jewish people.

Famous Citizens:

Chester Arthur
The son of a Baptist clergyman and abolitionist, Chester A. Arthur, was born in the Green Mountain country of Vermont. He became a successful lawyer in New York City, served as the state's quartermaster general during the Civil War, and was appointed collector of customs at the port of New York by President Grant in 1871.

Arthur was named James A. Garfield's presidential running mate at the Republican National Convention in 1880 and served as Vice President from March 4 to September 19, 1881. He became the 21st President of the United States (1881-1885) after Garfield was assassinated by Charles Guiteau, a disgruntled office-seeker.

Calvin Coolidge
Born in Plymouth, Vermont, Calvin Coolidge was the 30th President of the United States. While serving as Vice President under Warren G. Harding, Coolidge was vacationing on his family's farm in the foothills of the Green Mountains of Vermont when the news came of President Harding's sudden death. Coolidge's father, a notary public, administered the oath of office to his son at 3:00 AM by the light of a kerosene lamp.

John Deere
John Deere was born in Rutland, Vermont, and spent his boyhood and young adulthood in Middlebury. He apprenticed as a blacksmith, and in 1825, began his career. He soon developed a reputation for careful workmanship. In the 1830s, business conditions deteriorated, and John Deere migrated westward with other Vermonters. In 1836, he established a blacksmith's forge in Grand Detour, Illinois. He discovered that the cast-iron plows being used by farmers were inefficient in the rich soil of the Midwest, so he developed a steel plow that revolutionized farming for the settlers of the area. Within ten years, his company was producing 1,000 plows a year.

George Dewey
George Dewey, born in Montpelier, Vermont, served under David Farragut during the Civil War, then followed the standard career of a peacetime naval officer. In 1897 he was assigned command of the Asiatic Squadron, and in May 1898 he directed the action in Manila Bay that totally defeated the Spanish fleet (during which he is said to have commanded his flagship's captain, "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.") Dewey stayed on for over a year to oversee the American takeover of the Philippines, then returned to a tremendous hero's welcome. He was honored with a special rank, admiral of the navy, and urged to run for US president, but he settled for presidency of the General Board of the Navy Department, serving as an adviser on naval affairs to his death.

John Dewey
John Dewey was born in Burlington, Vermont and graduated from the University of Vermont. In 1896, he established a Laboratory School at the University of Chicago to put his educational theories into practice. He has been thought of as the "father of progressive education" and his theories emphasized the combination of learning with concrete activity.

Capital: Montpelier
Entered Union: March 4, 1791
Population: 626,562
Area 9,614
Bird Hermit Thrush
Flower Red Clover
Nickname: Green Mountain State
Governor Peter Shumlin

Places to Visit in Vermont: (Click the links to learn more.)

Ben and Jerry's - Waterbury
The Ben and Jerry's Factory is located in the heart of the Green Mountains just north of Waterbury. Guided tours of the factory show the ice cream production process, and tell the story of two childhood friends, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, turned a $5.00 correspondence course on ice cream making into a successful company with a reputation for environmental awareness and community involvement.

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum - Vergennes
Come see why Lake Champlain is perhaps the most historic body of water in North America. Historical exhibits, maritime collections, nautical archaeology, a working forge and boat building on a beautiful lakeside location. Climb aboard the Revolutionary War gunboat replica PHILADELPHIA II.

The Hubbardton Battlefield - East Hubbardtton
The Battle of Hubbardton was the only battle of the American Revolution that took place entirely on Vermont soil. The Battle involved approximately 2,130 troops and resulted in a total of about 580 casualties, or roughly 27 percent of all participating troops. It marked the beginning of the end for British General "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne, who surrendered three months later at Saratoga, with his entire Army of some 8,000 men.

The Ethan Allen Homestead Museum - Burlington
Visit the reconstructed home and farm established by Ethan Allen and his wife in 1787. You'll see a what an 18th century Tavern was like, and learn about life in Vermont during the 18th century.

Goodrich's Maple Farm - Cabot
Open year-round, Goodrich's Maple Farm offers tours of a working maple syrup operation including the sugarhouse, demonstrations of syrup making, and exhibits of antique syruping equipment. Of course, there are also plenty of products made with Vermont maple syrup to taste!