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Fun Facts! Celebrating The Little City
photo providedNo matter the century they are photographed, the Otter Creek Basin and the Vergennes Falls are center points to telling the story of the Little City, the history of Vermont and its pivotal role in of the region in the history of the nation.
photo providedVergennes Falls lighted at night
Tuesday August 27, 2013
By Cookie Steponaitis
The population of Vergennes, Vermont doubled on Saturday, August 24th and the town green looked like a sea of humanity moving with the ebb and flow of conversation, dancing, face painting, running, eating and just plain being together. And yes, once again another year has passed and Vergennes Day was upon us.
The city of Vergennes sets aside once a year time for a celebration of everything rural that joins together generations, families and newcomers for a day of fun, eating, shopping, and strolling through the city which is a tradition dating back to settlement times. People congregate to talk, plan, and mostly to enjoy being together. Add to that rural traditions of music, food, games, races and civic pride and you have the ingredients for a local home town celebration.
What about those who walked the streets before us? What did they talk about, eat, do and how can we link our lives today to the echoes of their footsteps and lives that often reach through time to overlap into ours? The following is a list of memorable facts from Vergennes’ history that Voice readers may know that still impact Addison County today and are a part of the traditions celebrating life in rural Vermont.
Established in 1788, Vergennes actually is made up of land taken from Panton, Ferrisburgh and New Haven.
Named for the Comte de Vergennes Charles Gravier, a French nobleman who donated most of his fortune to aid the American cause during the Revolution, Gravier never came to America or the town that bears his name. While he negotiated the Treaty of Paris that ended the war it was Ethan Allen who thought it a fitting tribute to the Frenchman to name the city in his honor.
Vergennes is Vermont’s oldest and New England’s third oldest city.
Matthew Lyons, the only man in American history was elected to Congress representing four different states and Vermont while he was in the Vergennes jail.
Why didn’t we grow bigger? This is a question that has been asked many times through the years. Local historian Ann Sullivan concludes, “We were producing products on the falls like horseshoes, nails, shades for windows and these are not exactly high growth industries. At the same time Burlington was producing wheat, lumber and coal.”
John Brown’s body and casket not only passed through Vergennes on its way for burial in New York but history tells us it was followed by a gaggle of geese on its way through town and as it rested on the porch of the Stevens House people gouged the casket.
In the early 1800’s the city set about on a plan to bring ‘culture’ to the Little City. One very visible sign was the placing of Greek columns and pillars on the Methodist Church.
A great amount of fame came to the Little City as the result of the inventions of the pump still found in the Pump House and the Benton Spark Plug.
Vergennes is a microcosm of Native American, French and English cultures and settlements and more. No matter your town or when it celebrates its special day, join in for the memories are sweet and the lessons learned even sweeter. Life in Addison County and in Vermont is truly a blessing to those who call this place their home.
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