American Folklore: Vermont

American Folklore: Vermont

Vermont was the first state to join the union that was not one of the original thirteen colonies. It has a history of human habitation going back thousands of years with Native American tribes, plus French, British, and American settlement. It has some unique and intriguing folklore of its own. Here are some of the highlights of it.

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Vermont was admitted to the union in 1791 as the 14th state, and the first state that was not one of the original thirteen colonies. It borders Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Canada, and is the second smallest state by population. It is also the sixth smallest state by geographical area. Its capital, Montpelier, is the smallest state capital by population in the country. Its most populous city, Burlington, is the least populous city that is the most populous city in any state in the union. It is the nation’s leading producer of maple syrup and has been ranked since 2016 as the safest state in the country, as it is the state with the least amount of crime.

The area that is now Vermont was inhabited by Native Americans. The earliest inhabitants migrated to and from Vermont with the seasons. Around 1000 B.C. to 1600 A.D., they began making permanent settlements there. Their ceramic production and trade became well known in the area, as well as their sophisticated bow and arrow technology. Around the time of the first European explorations of the area in the 1500, the population of Native Americans in Vermont was estimated to be around 10,000 people.

The first European known to have visited Vermont was Jacques Cartier, a French explorer who came to the area in 1535. Almost a century later, another French explorer named Samuel de Champlain claimed the area for France. French settlers began coming to live there in the 1660s. The first European settlement in Vermont was Fort Sainte Anne on Isle La Motte. Vermont eventually changed hands to the British, then was its own nation, and then became a U.S. state. It has some interesting and intriguing folklore. Here are some of the highlights of it.

The Cursed Hayden Family

The Hayden family lived in Vermont in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The legend says that family patriarch William Hayden’s mother-in-law, Mercie Dale, cursed the family and eventually ended up destroying it. William lived a quite lavish lifestyle, owning a lot of lands and a large, opulent house. He couldn’t pay for it all on his own, so he kept asking to borrow money from Mercie; he borrowed huge sums of money from her over a period of years, and never paid any of it back to her.

Later, when Mercie was older and ill, she thought William was trying to poison her so he could inherit her fortune. Just before she died, she cursed him and his family. According to legend, her curse stated that the Hayden family name would disappear in the third generation, and that third generation would be in poverty. Whether or not Mercie actually cursed the family, what she is supposed to have said actually came true, with the last of the family to bear the Hayden surname dying in poverty in 1927. Since then, the Hayden family house has been haunted, with the most common manifestation of it being fires that periodically appear out of nowhere and with no obvious cause on the property.

The Legend of Champ

Like many deep, freshwater lakes around the world, Vermont’s own Lake Champlain is the home of a notorious and actually kind of famous lake monster. Sightings of the creature, dubbed as Champ (after the name of the lake) go back to Native American times in the area. Both Iroquois and Abenaki natives have spoken of a monster being in the lake.

The descriptions of what Champ looks like vary a bit, depending on who is telling the tale. Overall, it appears the most likely appearance for Champ is a creature with the head of a sea horse that is about one hundred feet long, with a star on its forehead, and silver scales of about thirty-five feet long each. Champ is so well known and popular, that sightings are still reported today. In 1992 alone, there were more than six hundred reported sightings of Champ. The creature is so well known and believed in, that it is protected by law both in Vermont and in New York (which also borders Lake Champlain).

The Hartford Railroad Disaster

The winter of 1887 saw the worst train accident in Vermont’s history. A train was going over the White River Bridge in West Hartford on the Boston to Vermont route. As the train crossed the bridge, the bridge swayed, which pulled the back carriage car off of the bridge. That car took the rest of the train with it, depositing the train in the river below. A fire resulted, which destroyed the bridge, killed thirty-seven people, and injured fifty others.

A barn near the crash area was converted into a makeshift hospital for the survivors. It is said today that the ghosts of the victims of the crash haunt the barn and surrounding area. One can hear crying coming from the barn, as well as the smell of burning wood where the bridge used to be located. Also, the ghost of the conductor of the train as well as that of a small child have been seen in the area.

The Abenaki Curse of Brunswick Springs

Brunswick Springs is a small town in Vermont that has an actual spring that was sacred to the Abenaki Native Americans. The springs were famous for their fabled healing powers. In 1874, the Abenaki brought a wounded soldier to the springs and he drank the water and was healed. However, he broke the cardinal rule of the Abenaki and tried to profit from the water by bottling and selling it.

The Abenaki objected to this activity, and a fight broke out between the soldier and the tribe that resulted in an Abenaki man and child being killed. The mother of the child put a curse on the springs as a result, which said that anyone who tried to profit from the water there would have bad things befall them.

The springs are owned by the Abenaki today, and so are safe from commercial exploitation. However, the area still has a creepy feel to it, and a number of odd deaths and unexplained phenomena and hauntings are tied to the area, as well.


About the author

Ancestral Findings

Will founded Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has been involved in genealogy research for over 24 years. The excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his Moneymaker surname.