It was a pleasure to begin my official state visits with the Vermont Daughters in the Green Mountain State.
Greeted at the Burlington airport by State Regent, Liz Bicknell and others, we spent the evening in Burlington and drove the next morning to Addison to the John Strong Mansion, a historic property for which the Vermont daughters have lovingly cared for almost 80 years.
The area on the shores of Lake Champlain is one of the earliest settlements in Vermont. In 1731, the French constructed a fort at this site to prevent the British advance up the Champlain Valley. In 1759, the French evacuated the area and fled to Canada in response to pressure from the British. Historic accounts say the French burned their homes, leaving nothing but chimneys standing, giving the name Chimney Point to the area.
After the English won control of the area in 1760, settlers began to arrive and build homesteads. John Strong is believed to have built a cabin on top of a former French home site and after the home was burned in 1790 by loyalist British forces, they built the home from bricks made on site.
The Vermont DAR purchased the property in 1934 and their preservation of this mansion is significant because General John Strong was a Revolutionary War patriot, judge and state legislator. He represented Addison County at the State Convention which adopted the Constitution of the United States and voted to approve admission of Vermont as the 14th state.
The imposing brick mansion contains many of the furnishings and artifacts used by the Strong family including the original deed. It was interesting to learn that Marjorie Meriwether Post, an Associate member of the Cornwall Chapter, donated valuable antiques to furnish the bedroom when the mansion was purchased by the DAR.
One of the most intriguing items was a Weasel which Curator Nancy Morgan explained was used to measure the amount of yarn in a skein or a bobbin. The wooden device had a wheel with gears attached to a pointer and an internal mechanism which made a "pop" sound after the desired length of yarn is measured. The spinner only had to keep track of how many times the weasel went pop to know the yardage she had spun. This device is believed to be the source of the nursery rhyme “Pop Goes the Weasel!”
The upstairs ballroom was full when State Regent Liz Bicknell called the meeting to order. Following my remarks, I was delighted to receive a bracelet with a lovely silver charm of Vermont. It was a pleasure to present Ann Gray, State Regent 2011-2013, with an Honorary State Regent pin.
The Vermont Daughters were grateful to have received one of the DAR Special Project Grants to replace the dilapidated front porch with one appropriate for the period of the home. After dedicating the porch, we retired to the lawn for a picnic lunch and reading of the essays of the state winners for the American History Essay Contest and the Christopher Columbus Essay contests.
Congratulations to the Vermont Daughters for preserving the John Strong Mansion and using it as a tool to educate visitors about life in rural Vermont in the early 1800’s. You truly are Celebrating America!