Isle La Motte Historical Society
Isle La Motte Historical Society was established 1925. The 3 building campus, located ~ 5 miles from the Isle La Motte, Vermont bridge on Main Street at the corner of Quarry Road, is comprised of circa 1843 Stone Schoolhouse Museum, early 1850 Dube Blacksmith Shop and the ~1900 Frances Ford Slab-log Cabin. The buildings are open every Saturday during July and August from 1:00 - 4:00 pm, or by appointment.
We are a 501 (c3) non-profit charitable organization. Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and Friend us on FaceBook.
A Brief History of Isle la Motte
Isle La Motte is the northern most inhabited island in Lake Champlain. During pre-European time it was likely a gathering place for Native American Nations (Abenaki and Mohawk) that utilized the Lake.
In 1609, Isle La Motte was the first landing place of Samuel de Champlain. In 1968, the State of Vermont donated a statue of the French explorer, Samuel de Champlain that is prominently displayed at the site. The sculpture F.L. Weber created the monument for the Montreal 1968 Expo.
In 1664, the Island’s world-famous Isle La Motte Black Limestone Reef Complex began to be quarried for lime burning to make ‘quicklime’. The likely major use of this quicklime on Isle La Motte was to make cement for construction. This quarrying activity likely ceased in the early 1670s.
Vermont’s First European Settlement, Fort Ste Anne, was built on the northwest shore of Isle La Motte in 1666 by French soldiers under the command of Captain Sieur de La Motte of the Carignan. The fortress itself was a simple structure measuring about 144′ x 96′ with double log palisade 15′ high and four log bastions. Fort Ste. Anne was the staging area for several military expeditions by the French against the British and the Mohawk Nations. In September 1666, about 600 veteran troops of the Carignan-Salieres regt., together with an equal number of volunteers, (or habitans) met here with approximately 100 Huron warriors, prior to marching against Iroquois villages. About three hundred bateaux and bark canoes set off from the Fort on this expedition. Fort Ste. Anne was undoubtedly a fearsome place to be stationed. Situated in the deepest reaches of an impenetrable wilderness, accessible only by water, subject to fierce winds and deep snows, the few hardy souls who resided there likely suffered terribly from both the elements, disease, isolation and loneliness. The fort was abandoned in 1671. All traces of the wooden fort were obliterated by the mid-1800s. The summer of 2016 was the 350 anniversary of the establishment of Fort Ste. Anne.
During the American Revolution Northern Campaign Invasion of Canada in 1775, General Richard Montgomery troops camped on the Island as did forces from General John Burgoyne’s invasion army in 1777. In the days preceding the Battle of Valcour, Benedict Arnold’s fleet anchored off the shore.
The Town of Isle La Motte was chartered in 1779. It was primarily a farming community.
The quarry business began again in 1788 to provide furnishing building stone from at least 3 sites located south of the Town center along the shore (1 on the west shore and 2 on the east). (good photo on http://www.fiskfarm.com/fiskfarm/Historic_Fisk_Farm.html) There are many ‘test pits’ visible from the roadside when walking or riding your bike along Isle La Motte’s mixed tree forests. During their operation the quarries were one of the main employers in the Town and all 7 stone buildings are composed of this rock. The quarry blocks were marketed as “Fisk black” or “Fisk gray,” and now can be purchased under the name commercially sold as “French gray” or “Champlain black”. All but one quarry stopped operations in the mid-1960s. When you visit the Historic Society Campus look at the outside walls of the Stone Schoolhouse and count how many of the 480 million year old fossilized creatures you can see.
In 1802 the town’s name was changed from Isle La Motte to Vineyard. The official records give no indication of the rationale behind the change. Generally speaking, throughout the United States, the name Vineyard has been used in places that either had large numbers of grapes vines (true on Isle La Motte as you can see from the 3 established vineyards on the Island) or the community wanted to be known as grape growing areas. Whatever the reason, the change was not a permanent one and in 1830 the name was changed back to Isle La Motte.
During the War of 1812, the British Capt. Daniel Pring erected a battery of three long 18-pdr guns on the west shore of the Island to protect Chazy Landing, NY on the opposite shore. The British Captain George Downie fleet anchored offshore the west side of the island prior to sailing to their defeat by the American’s at Cumberland Bay on September 11, 1814.
It was here on Isle la Motte, at the Fisk Farm, in September 1901 that Vice President Theodore Roosevelt heard the news that President McKinley had been assassinated. Roosevelt, staying with the prominent Fisk family, was guest at a Vermont Fish and Game League dinner.
The Champlain Tercentenary Celebrations occurred in 1909 at the site of the old Fort Ste. Anne. A large Indian ‘pageants’ was staged, and visiting dignitaries from near and far came to celebrate the great French explorer who gave his name to the lake.
The Historical Society mandate is to preserve the cultural, family, industrial and natural history for the Isle La Motte, VT community.
What’s in store in 2020?
We are pleased to announce that the Society is partnering with the Alliance Francaise of the Lake Champlain Region for the 9th “Hidden Treasures Exhibit on the French Canadian Settlers to Isle La Motte” to be held in the Frances Ford Slab-Log Cabin. Immigration of French settlers to the Island began with the construction of Saint Ann’s Fort and has continued until today. In the early days most of the settlers came from Upper Canada to find work in the quarries and to establish farms.
The Stone School House will exhibit a scaled-down version of The Abenaki on Isle La Motte” exhibit along with memories of Frogging on Isle la Motte. In addition more of the archived stories, photos and artifacts from our collection will be rotated into the permanent exhibit space. During the summer volunteers will also begin to put George Duba’s artifacts back into the Blacksmith Shop. If you have the time and the interest please volunteer to make the exhibit great.
2019 exhibits and operations
A total of 223 people visited the Society campus in 2019.
The Society presented its 8th Hidden Treasures Exhibit on “The Abenaki on Isle La Motte” in the Frances Ford Slab-log Cabin. Photos below show the opening smudge ceremony conducted by Carolee Reynolds, a member of the Missisquoi - St. Francis/Sokoki Abenaki Band in Swanton, VT. On that day over 40 people observed the ceremony, learned about the Abenaki tribe and their historic activities on Isle La Motte.
Also below are photos of the 2019 Stone Schoolhouse exhibits. The Duba Blacksmith Shop was not open to the public in preparation for its restoration.
Carolee Reynolds explained the purpose of the smudge ceremony.
This exhibit highlighted the carvings of Chief Richard Menard.
Photos of members of the Missisquoi - St. Francis/Sokoki Abenaki Band.
Carolee Reynolds allowed the Society to borrow her traditional regalia and her modern ribbon dress both are worn by her during community events.
On display were Ceremonial Drums borrowed from the Tribal Council and Carolee Reynolds. We also had displayed a variety of books on traditional Native American outfits, Abenaki History, an Abenaki dictionary and an Abenaki Cookbook. The cookbook can be purchased from the Abenaki website www.abenakination.com
This section discussed the likely historical life activities that the Abenaki people did on Isle La Motte.
Other cultural items displayed were baskets, a top hat with eagle feather, a smudge feather, ceremonial gourd rattle, a model of a traditional Abenaki long house.
Abenaki Nation Flag and a display of traditional and modern baskets
Exhibit in the Stone Schoolhouse Museum
Exhibit in the Stone Schoolhouse Museum
A celebration of the brave men and women from Isle La Motte who fought 75 years ago in World War II
2019 Annual Meeting
Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe which is located in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont gave the keynote talk on the Abenaki creation story for Lake Champlain and its guardian Lake Monster, Champ. He also answered questions from the 50+ people that attended on the history of the Abenaki tribe in Northern Vermont and its effort to be recognized as an official Native American tribe in Vermont. The Annual meeting was held in the Fisk Barn on the West Shore Road in Isle La Motte.
Our normal lawn mowing was done bi-weekly and one of our members used his large mower to maintain our back property and to cut down some invasive sumac on the east end of the property. We also purchased a new screen door for the Schoolhouse. It will be installed in 2020 after it has been correctly sized for the space and painted.
We also hired Trevor Campbell’s firm to clean and seal the wood shingle roof of the Slab-log cabin. We have added to our 5-year maintenance plan the resealing of it in 3 to 5 years. Periodic maintenance will be less expensive than waiting until it needs to be cleaned again.
Isle La Motte, Vermont’s First Settlement
75th Anniversary Book
10.00 plus $3 postage
History of Isle La Motte by Alan Stratton (Digitally processed reprint)
35.00 plus $5 postage
Images of America: Lake Champlain Islands
by Tara Liloia
22.00 plus $5 postage
Elizabeth Fisk, The Story of A Weaver (CD)
15.00 plus $3 postage
Elizabeth Fisk Looms Note cards
$12.00 plus $3.00 postage
Elizabeth Fisk Looms Note cards
$12.00 plus $3.00 postage
Please complete the information below regarding your order and enclose it with your check to Isle La Motte Historical Society, P.O. Box 18, Isle La Motte, VT 05463
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