Should Ethan Allen be famous as a founder of Vermont?
On July 4th, 1873, a large crowd gathered in Burlington. They wanted to see the new statue of Ethan Allen in Green Mount Cemetery. He was buried there eighty-four years earlier, in 1789. Even though he was well-known during his lifetime, he became a legend(stories that are passed down, sometimes about a famous person) after his death.
Ethan Allen was born in Connecticut in 1738. He bought land in the New Hampshire Grants in 1770. Like other settlers, he wanted farmland. He also hoped to make money buying and selling land.
Some settlers got their land from Benning Wentworth, the governor of New Hampshire. Other settlers, called Yorkers, bought land from New York. The settlers and the government argued over who owned the land.
Allen and his cousin Remember Baker started the “Green Mountain Boys” to protect their land. Sometimes the Green Mountain Boys attacked Yorkers to scare them off the Hampshire Grants.
Ethan Allen and his brothers purchased a lot of land along the Winooski River. They bought it from New Hampshire or other settlers. They did not buy it from the Abenaki people who had lived near the river for generations(a time when groups of earlier family members lived).
In 1775, Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and the Green Mountain Boys captured Fort Ticonderoga from British soldiers. The Americans were fighting the British as part of the Revolutionary War.
Allen tried to attack Montreal but British soldiers caught him. He was in a British prison for almost three years during the war. He was still in prison in 1777 when Vermont declared independence from New Hampshire and New York.
After he returned to Bennington in 1778, he wrote a book about his life in prison. His stories made him famous as a patriot(a person who loves and supports their country). At the same time, he negotiated(discussed in order to agree on something) with the British to make Vermont part of Canada.
In 1783, Allen’s first wife, Mary, died. The next year he married Fanny Buchanan. The family, including five children, moved to Burlington. They farmed land along the Winooski River. Ethan Allen died in 1789, two years before Vermont became a state.
His fame grew after his death. Some historians wanted to celebrate heroes of Vermont’s founding. Sometimes they mixed real history with exaggerated(stretched the truth) stories. By 1873, the new statue in Burlington honored both Ethan Allen and how Vermont became a state.
Thinking About History
Historians ask questions to think deeply about history.
Ethan Allen fought against people he disagreed with. Was he a hero? Or a bully? What would you do if someone tried to take land that you bought?
Ethan Allen wrote a book about his time in a British prison. Should historians believe everything he wrote?
Follow the links below to explore related topics.
Try the activity The Many Images of Ethan Allen
Read the article The Legendary Ethan Allen from Green Mountaineer Magazine
Read the article Ethan Allen: Vermont Hero from the Historic Roots Magazine
Learn more about the Green Mountain Boys
Watch the video of Images of Ethan Allen from This Place in History
Watch the video Ethan Allen Park from This Place in History
Copy and paste this citation to show where you did your research.
Vermont Historical Society. "Ethan Allen." Vermont History Explorer. Accessed December 5, 2023. https://blog.vermonthistoryexplorer.org/ethan-allen