Below is a 1900 newspaper clipping I found in a scrapbook kept by Mary Harris. This clipping struck a nerve with me. I imagine it troubled Mary as well, or she wouldn’t have saved it.
For as long as I can remember, Vermont and Vermonters have been subject of ridicule or insults from some down-country people. I’ve been called a woodchuck more times than I care to recall. Hick, stupid, ignorant, and dumb are all insults known to me. It was just a few years ago that I was called a “Dumb Vermonter” by a newcomer to Chester from Connecticut.
If you take the time to speak with other natives, you will hear similar stories. At a time when we are hypersensitive to every cause or other peoples’ lot in life, I would like to see an end to casting Vermonters as a people of lesser intelligence or ability. We are very capable.
A sneer at Vermont
Says the Boston Traveller: “When Vermont is cut off from communication with the outside world, by reason of snow, it is comforting to reflect that the outside world isn’t losing very much.”
This is funny, this is wit; Attic wit; wit that exudes from an attic bed-room and twenty-one meal tickets for $2.50. This was doubtless written by a young man and written because it would make six lines of type. The man who perpetrated this probably never saw Vermont. It would be ridiculous to fly into passion over such an insignificant paragraph, but there is food for reflection in the fact that men who write this kind of stuff in cities like Boston scarcely reckon a Vermont newspaper man as a credible representative of the profession. It is the cult among his genus to indulge the fond imagination that Vermont and Vermonters hold to modern newspaperdom that same attitude that the frozen north and the Hyperboreans did to Herodotus. Any old thing could be fathered upon them in case of doubt.
The young man of the Traveller is cordially invited to come up to Vermont and see a cow. He is also reminded, gently but firmly, that older and wiser men, men who have had some experience and have broadened out beyond the bamboo cane they first carried, will tell him that while Vermont is not a great state, in area or resource, population or wealth, it is none the less a very stable old commonwealth, has a history as exciting and as glorious as the tale of “Scottish Chiefs,” and in proportion to her population, has contributed as many distinguished men to the service of the nation as any of her New England sisters. The young man of the Traveller has much to learn. “Smartness” is not wit. Gratuitous insults to a neighboring people, lugged in merely to make an alleged joke and help fill a column, may be “journalism” in Boston, but it is of a class that even the most intensely rural weekly would not recognize. The young man of the Traveller is invited to read the recently expressed opinion of the New York Sun on Vermont and Vermonters.
One of the beauties of Vermont’s attitude toward the nation is that she makes no boasts, is not self-assertive, is seriously conscious of her limited resources of men and money, but at the same time there emanates from her old green hills a steady influence upon the career of the nation that ranges from the deeds of Ethan Allen to the achievement of George Dewey and embraces a century and a quarter of glory. –St. Albans Messenger.
I am very proud of my Vermont heritage. My family has lived in Weston and Chester over 200 years. It deeply offends me when I hear these insults. Not all newcomers are this way. I know a couple I consider my best friends.
In other news, the Chester Historical Society will publish another book this winter. The subject is the “History of Chester’s Fire Departments.” We have the largest collection of Chester Fire Department artifacts in existence. We will use our extensive collection and publish a first-class history with many photos and supporting documents. If you have any such history, give me a call.
The photo with this article is a page in Mary’s scrapbook. I include it so you have an idea what I’m working with.
This week’s old saying my mother used to tell me when I was hurt by someone’s words. “Those above you won’t hurt you and those below you can’t.”