Two hundred and fifty years ago Vermont wasn’t even called Vermont.
Instead, the region was known loosely as the Grants. That was because New York and New Hampshire – both British colonies at the time - were granting town charters to wealthy individuals interested in having land to sell to folks who thought southern New England was already too crowded.
With the end of the hostilities of the French and Indian War in 1763, the Grants became more attractive than ever for settlement. This led Benning Wentworth, Governor of the New Hampshire colony, to increase his focus on granting town charters. He awarded a total of 129 charters in all, and named one after himself: Bennington.
But that’s just half the story.
The reason why both New York and New Hampshire granted charters in the same region is because they disagreed about the location of their common border. King George III tried to settle the dispute by declaring the Connecticut River as the boundary. That meant that Wentworth lost his charters, and it put land-owners at odds with New York. The quarrel – sometimes violent - wasn’t thoroughly resolved until 1777 when Vermont declared itself an independent republic.
The new republic became the first to prohibit slavery, establish universal voting rights for men, and authorize a public school system – all of which remained in place when the Republic of Vermont became the 14th state in the Union in 1791. You can see where the Republic of Vermont constitution was written at the Old Constitution House State Historic Site in Windsor – a town that happens to be celebrating its 250th too!
The name Vermont?
The militia that fought against the Yorkers for their land rights were known as the Green Mountain Boys, in reference to the mountains running from north to south through the region. “Vermont” is an old and formal French translation for “Green Mountains.”
About the map pictured above -
This 18th-century map, owned by the Vermont Historical Society, highlights the conflict between New York and New Hampshire and the land that later became Vermont. Says VHS Librarian Paul Carnahan, “If things had come out differently, we could all be living in towns with names like Newbrook, Leyden, and Kingsborough.” Courtesy of Vermont Historical Society.