Vermont's history of presidential visits - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermont's history of presidential visits

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

No matter the president, no matter the years; Vermonters have a long history of turning out in droves just to get a glimpse of the commander in chief.

The Vermont Historical Society estimates roughly half of all the nation's presidents have been to the Green Mountains. The first sitting president to visit? James Monroe way back in 1817.

"There was a period from 1817 to 1877 when you had no seated presidents visit the state. So there was a long period without any presidential visits," said Mark Hudson of the Vermont Historical Society.

Prior to the 1900s it was considered undignified for presidential candidates to hit the campaign trail.

"McKinley literally sat on his front porch and people came to him," said Skip Vallee, a Roosevelt historian.

But that all changed shortly after around the turn of the century.

One of the most memorable presidential visits happened 100 years ago in Barre. Teddy Roosevelt delivered a speech to hundreds of people while running as a Progressive candidate for president.

Skip Vallee is President George W. Bush's ambassador to Slovakia. The Shelburne resident is also one of the state's leading experts on Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt served as vice president under William McKinley and was actually giving a speech in Isle LaMotte when he learned the president had been shot. McKinley died eight days later while Roosevelt was hiking Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks.

"He found out about halfway down as he was changing horses that McKinley had died. So he knew on his last treacherous descent that he would become president," Vallee said.

Two presidents have been born in Vermont; Calvin Coolidge in 1872 in Plymouth, and Chester Arthur in 1829 in Fairfield. Although that's open to debate-- some claim Arthur was actually born across the border in Canada.

"A lot of really strange stories circulated, one being that he was actually born Chester Able Arthur and that his parents switched identities with him and a brother who had died," Hudson said.

Other presidents also have connections to Vermont. William Taft's father was born in Townshend.

"When he came back in 1912, in addition to other places in Vermont, he went back to the family homestead," Hudson said.

And President Lincoln's son once lived in Manchester, although Honest Abe never came here himself.

As for modern day presidents, many have campaigned here at one point or another; from John F. Kennedy to President Bill Clinton, who even spent some time on Burlington's Church Street Marketplace.

One notable absence? President George W. Bush. Bush visited 49 states while in office, every state except Vermont.

"And I'm not sure why the president never came here," Vallee said.

But now, after a 17-year hiatus, a commander in chief returns. Another president set to touch down on Vermont soil and another visit for the history books.

Now, we should mention that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were actually in Vermont before James Monroe. They visited way back in 1791. The catch is they had yet to be elected president.

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