Books Checked Out: Vermont History

Janet Clapp

Vermont may be small, but it boasts a long and interesting history. There are numerous general books about the state’s past, and others that focus on specific events or cultural aspects. Knowing the story of a place helps us understand it.

“The Story of Vermont: A Natural and Cultural History,” second edition

by Christopher McGrory Klyza and Stephen C. Trombulak

Written by two Middlebury College professors, this is a detailed history of Vermont’s landscape, starting from its geologic beginnings billions of years ago. The “natural history of a region, although primarily shaped by geological and ecological forces, must also include a clear recognition of human effects.” Before the Europeans arrived, the “Native Americans had low population densities and lived lightly off the land. They hunted at sustainable levels, made minimal use of fire, and did not disturb much land for farming.” As Europeans settled here and Vermont became a republic and then a state, forests were largely cleared in favor of agriculture, only to return after the Civil War. In the 20th century, the “major force shaping the modern Vermont landscape was human population growth.” Pollution and climate change play a role in Vermont today.

“Vermont’s Marble Industry”

by Catherine Miglorie

The black-and-white photographs collected here are accompanied by short paragraphs describing the marble industry in Vermont, primarily the Vermont Marble Company run by the Proctor family. An 1878 photograph depicts the Sutherland Falls Marble Company, one of the first in the state. “In 1884, the unincorporated village of Sutherland Falls officially became incorporated, and the town was named Proctor. The dynastic age of the marble industry had begun.” The images and text show the quarrying, carving and transport of this sought-after material.

“Vermont Women, Native Americans & African Americans: Out of the Shadows of History”

by Cynthia D. Bittinger

In “today’s world, where 49 percent of Vermonters are ‘transplants,’ a new narrative should unfold. Looking back at history — at people of color, the original native inhabitants and the role of women — brings a new view of who was here all along but overlooked.” This short book offers a history of these three groups of people and short biographies of many important figures. One of the profiles is of Molly Ockett, who came from a band of Abenaki known as Pigwacket. Using her knowledge of healing, she doctored settlers in the 1700s. Alexander Twilight was the first African American college graduate in the United States and the first African American to serve in a state legislature. Abby Maria Hemenway, born in Ludlow, collected the histories of Vermont towns. The Vermont Historical Gazetteer she wrote remains a valuable resource.

“The Vermont Difference: Perspectives from the Green Mountain State”

Published in 2014, this collection of essays and illustrations discusses subjects in which Vermont sets an example for the rest of the country and even the world. The essays “make clear that Vermont has provided visions and lessons ‘for all to see’” and “has been a birthplace and an incubator and often a model.” Grouped by the broad themes of government and politics, economy and environment, heritage and history, education, culture, and society, the writings cover many topics, including civil discourse, outdoor recreation, creative economy, local history, maritime preservation, lifelong learning, and land stewardship. The last of these is “founded on these principles of history and continuity, personal relationships, great affection for the outdoors, the complex interrelationship between working lands and nature, and the knowledge that our land is at the heart of our communities and our economy.” Contributors include Vermont personages such as former governors James H. Douglas, Madeleine M. Kunin, and Thomas Salmon, as well as academic Frank Bryan and many other Vermont experts.

“Deluge: Tropical Storm Irene, Vermont’s Flash Floods, and How One Small State Saved Itself”

by Peggy Shinn

Almost five years ago Vermont was battered by Tropical Storm Irene. “On the morning of Sunday, August 28, Tropical Storm Irene seemed to many in Vermont like an overblown rainstorm…Then Irene blanketed Vermont’s already soaked landscape with five to eight inches of rain, and the state had a quick and painful lesson in flood physics.” History was both destroyed and created, as Shinn recounts here in the stories of Vermonters who experienced it.

The Rutland Free Library has the titles above and many other Vermont history books. We also offer the Passport to Vermont Libraries ( Pick up a passport and get it stamped at different libraries around the state before September 1. In your statewide travels, consider the history that brought us where we are today.

Janet Clapp

Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.

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