Vermont history from 1850-1899

What historic events happened in the second half of the 19th century?

January 6, 1857

Vermont's second State House was destroyed by fire. A stove, left burning all night to warm the building for a special session of the General Assembly the next morning, became so hot that it ignited the timbers near it.

Vermont Government Finds a Home (PDF)

October 20, 1859

John Dewey, educator, philosopher, and reformer, was born in Burlington. Dewey believed that children learn best by doing. He changed the way school was taught in America and around the world.

December 8, 1859

Reverend Joshua Young of Burlington, an abolitionist, angers his congregation by crossing Lake Champlain to preach at the funeral of John Brown in New York State. Brown had started a revolt to free southern slaves, but had been caught and hanged by the United States government.

April 23, 1861

An emergency session of the state legislature is held, due to the outbreak of the Civil War. The first call goes out for volunteers to fight.

"Thank God I am alive yet..." (PDF)

August 23, 1864

Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, her son Tad, and their servant signed in at the Equinox Hotel in Manchester for their second visit. Their rooms were #27, #50, and #51. Robert Todd Lincoln, the eldest son in the family, later bought Hildene, a Manchester mansion that is now a museum.

The Lincoln Family Home in Vermont (PDF)

October 19, 1864

A small group of Confederate soldiers brought the Civil War home to Vermont by raiding St. Albans and robbing three banks. After killing one man and wounding others, they escaped into Canada.

February 9, 1865

Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley was born in Jericho, Vermont. He was the first person to photograph snowflakes and discovered that no two were alike.

Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley, Famous Vermonter

October 2, 1867

The first "little World's Fair" opens in Tunbridge.

The Circus and Fair: A Summertime Delight (PDF)

February 4, 1870

Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, and many other famous American heroines spoke at the Women's Suffrage Convention held in Montpelier.

Clarina Howard Nichols, Crusader for Women's Rights (PDF)

July 4, 1872

Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth president of the United States, was born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. Coolidge assumed the presidency from his position as vice-president, when President Harding died. At 2:47 a.m., on August 3, 1923, at the Coolidge's family farm, Calvin's father, John, swore in his son as president of the United States. Calvin Coolidge is the only U.S. president to be born on Independence Day.

From Vermont Farm to the White House (PDF)

March 17, 1878

Redfield Proctor, founder of the largest marble company in the world, became governor of Vermont.

December 18, 1880

Women are allowed to vote in Vermont school district elections.

Clarina Howard Nichols, Crusader for Women's Rights (PDF)

November 24, 1881

On this day, Alexander Crowell shot and killed the last catamount in Vermont. In the wild, catamounts ate deer and other animals. But in the 1800s, farmers had cut down many trees and turned forests into farms. Without the trees, there were not as many deer as before. The catamounts started eating sheep that lived on farms. The farmers and hunters killed the panthers to protect their sheep.

January 15, 1885

Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley takes his first successful photomicrograph of a snow crystal at his home in Jericho, Vermont.

Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley, Famous Vermonter

May 17, 1886

John Deere, a native of Rutland, developer of the self-scouring steel plow and founder of a farm machinery empire, dies in Moline, Illinois. His invention was known as the "plow that broke the plains," because it was used by farmers on the Great Plains.

February 4, 1887

Vermont's most famous train wreck occurred at White River Junction when the Montreal Express was derailed on the huge bridge that crossed the river. Many people were killed in the fall, and more lost their lives as the wooden passenger cars and railroad bridge caught fire and burned.

A Train Wreck, A Song, and a Memory (PDF)

July 9, 1888

Vermont's first Jewish congregation was incorporated in Poultney.

February 2, 1891

Electricity lights the streets of Newport for the first time. "A village without electric lights ain't much of a village," wrote the Newport newspaper.

And Then There Was Light - Electric Light (PDF)

February 1, 1895

The red clover was selected as Vermont's official state flower. Oddly, this flower is not native to Vermont but was introduced from Europe.

Vermont State Flower

May 1, 1898

Admiral George Dewey, native of Montpelier, Vermont, won the Battle of Manila Bay by destroying the Spanish fleet. When Dewey returned to America, he was greeted by the nation as the greatest living naval hero.

Vermont Welcomes Her Hero Home (PDF)