Vermont Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

A small and comparatively homogenous state, Vermont has the fewest foreign-born residents of any New England state. Its percentage of foreign-born residents was only about 4 percent during the early twenty-first century, but it was rising rapidly, thanks to a growing influx of Mexican workers, many of whom were undocumented.

In 1609, the French explorer Champlain, Samuel deSamuel de Champlain claimed the area that is now Vermont for France, giving its mountains the name Verd Mont (green mountains). The French built a few military posts to protect their claims and established a fur trade with the local Algonquian people. However, they did little else to develop the region, which later passed into English hands and became known as New Hampshire Grants. Dutch immigrants;VermontDutch immigrants settled in the southwest part of the region in 1724, but significant immigration did not begin until around 1750. With the help of the British crown, local settlers resisted the efforts of New York to absorb the region. In 1777, they declared their independence from both New York and Great Britain and renamed their territory Vermont. In 1791, Vermont became the first state after the original thirteen British colonies to join the union.VermontVermont[cat]STATES;Vermont

Nineteenth Century Immigration

Because Vermont shares a border with French-speaking Quebec, it has a long history of immigration from the north. The first significant influx of French Canadian immigrants;VermontFrench Canadians came in 1837 and 1838 as a result of a British campaign in Quebec to curtail French influence.

As the only New England state without an Atlantic coastline, Vermont attracted fewer immigrants from overseas, but the composition of European immigrants who did come was similar to that of other New England states. The first group to come in significant numbers were Irish immigrants;VermontIrish immigrants, who tended to settle in the state’s railroad towns of Bellows Falls, Northfield, Rutland, Burlington, and St. Albans. As early as 1846 Irish railroad workers staged the first strike ever in Vermont. Irish women also found wage employment, primarily as peddlers, mill workers, and domestic and farm servants. Most of these immigrants were Roman Catholics, and their presence helped candidates of the nativist Know-Nothing Party to get elected to the Vermont legislature during the 1850’s.

Post-Civil War immigration into Vermont was characterized by the arrival of new immigrants from southern and eastern European countries. Russian Jews contributed to the business life of Burlington, the largest city, during the 1870’s. Other immigrants from southern and eastern Europe found work in Vermont’s urban centers. These new arrivals include small numbers ofGreek immigrants;VermontGreeks, many of whom worked as peddlers and in the restaurant industry. Many Russian immigrants;VermontRussian, Polish immigrants;VermontPolish, and Italian immigrants;VermontItalian immigrants worked in the state’s granite and marble industries. Vermont also had a thriving textile industry, and agents of a mill in Springfield that reprocessed old wool went to New York City to recruit workers from among Russian immigrants already living there. Russians also constituted an important part of the workforce in another Springfield factory that produced turret lathes that revolutionized the machine tool industry.

Twentieth Century Trends

The peak moment in Vermont immigration history came in 1910, when U.S. Census figures show that the state’s foreign-born population was 14 percent. The bulk of these immigrants were French Canadians. By the early years of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Franco-Americans made up 75 percent of the workforce in Vermont’s cotton and woolen mills. However, they were slower to assimilate than Irish and Jewish immigrant communities.

The predominantly Anglo-Protestant population of Vermont was never comfortable with the influx of eastern and southern European settlers. During the 1920’s, one of its U.S. senators, William P. DillinghamDillingham, William P., led a congressional movement against immigration from eastern and southern Europe and Asia and helped to enact laws restricting immigration from those regions. Since that time, Vermont has attracted few new immigrants from those parts of the world.

Despite nativist tendencies in Vermont history, the state has generally succeeded in accommodating foreign immigrants. For example, its educational system has ranked above national averages in all levels of education, reflecting the fact that immigrant children have not caused a decline in standards. Another measure of Vermont’s success in accommodating immigrants has been its high rate of immigrant naturalization.Vermont

Further Reading
  • Brault, Gerard J. The French-Canadian Heritage in New England. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1986.
  • Gallagher, Nancy L. Breeding Better Vermonters: The Eugenics Project in the Green Mountain State. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1999.
  • Graffagnino, J. Kevin, et al. Vermont Voices, 1609 Through the 1990’s: A Documentary History of the Green Mountain State. Montpelier: Vermont Historical Society, 1999.
  • Woolfson, A. Peter. The French in Vermont: A Civil Rights Perspective. Burlington: University of Vermont Center for Research on Vermont, 1983.

Canadian immigrants

Illegal immigration

Immigration Act of 1924

Jewish immigrants


New Hampshire

Categories: History