In 1749, the governor of New Hampshire began giving away land to settlers willing to brave the howling wilderness that is now Vermont. Two decades later, New York State courts decreed those grants void, opening the door for New York speculators to flood the region and push the original settlers out of the valleys and up into the less hospitable Green Mountains.
Unsurprisingly, this decision didn't sit well with those already settled in, and they established a network of military units -- the Green Mountain Boys -- to drive out the New Yorkers. A fellow named Ethan Allen headed up this new militia, launching a series of harrying raids against the impudent Gothamites. His Boys destroyed homes, drove off livestock, and chased those Big Apple sheriffs back across the border from whence they had come.
The American Revolution soon intervened; Allen and his Green Mountain Boys now took up the revolutionary cause with equal vigor. They helped sack Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, rallied to the cause at the famed Battle of Bennington, and continued to confound the British effort throughout the remainder of the war. Allen's fame grew as word spread about him; a hard-drinking, fierce-fighting, large-living sort of guy, he supposedly could bite the head off a nail, and was so tough (they say), a rattlesnake that bit him promptly died.
While Allen's apocryphal exploits endured long after his death in 1789, he also left a more significant legacy: Vermont's statehood in 1791 was due in large part to the independence and patriotism the region developed under his leadership, and today you still can't drive far in Vermont without a reminder of Allen's historical presence. Parks are named for him, inns boast that he once slept there, and you'll still hear the occasional story about his bawdy exploits. Amen.
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