At the beginning of the 18th century, Deerfield Massachusetts was the New England northwestern frontier of the British colonies. The history presented in the next few blogs will have a British centric view of settlement of what is now Vermont even though the French under Samuel de Champlain had penetrated the Champlain Valley as early as 1609. The French had claimed much of what is Vermont as part of New France and in 1666 established the first European Settlement in Vermont as Fort Saint Anne on Isle La Motte. But the settlement was abandoned in 1671. In 1690, the Dutch also established a stockade and trading post at Chimney Point near present day Addison. But again this settlement was abandoned although Chimney Point remained a strategic defensive location.
Three colonies (Massachussets, New Hampshire, and New York) would ultimately place their claims on what eventually became Vermont. By the 1720's adventuresome settlers from Connecticut and Massachussets had moved into what is now southern Vermont. In 1724 Fort Dummer was established to protect the settlements near present day Brattleboro from attacks by the French and the Abenaki under the leadership of Chief Gray Lock.
This image was taken at the location of the civilian Fort No. 4 which was established in 1740 and by then the northern most settlement extension of the British colonies. More will be written about Fort No. 4 in the next post. Although the image is too pastoral to be truly representative of frontier conditions along the Connecticut River (in the background), I like it because it alludes to the remoteness and isolation that frontier settlers experienced. I often wonder at the calculus that the settlers considered in making the decision to move into the frontier. In the upper Connecticut River Valley, the threats to safety extended beyond French and/or Indian raids. Winter weather was harsher than it is today and, given the agrarian economy, the rocky hillside soil made agriculture extremely difficult. Vermont's charm lies in it's weather and wooded mountains, but to this day those same attributes still make it a tough place to make a living. But the rugged settlers still came. And the impact that those individuals and their ancestors made far exceeds what might be expected from the sparsely populated "brave little State of Vermont" as Calvin Coolidge dubbed it in a 1928 speech.
This image is part of an ongoing VT History Photo Essay Project. The project objective seeks to explore VT history through images that also reflect the art and photography of the respective time period. Eventually the best images will be curated into a gallery on the website. Unless otherwise specified, the history is sourced from the excellent book by Charles t. Morrisey: Vermont - A History.