Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Ride Leads to Discovery: The Black Snake Affair

Following the Intervale Trail through fertile farmland, I stopped to inspect a new sign near the Winooski River. 

The Champlain Valley is abundant with history because of shared border with Canada, making Lake Champlain a major transportation waterway in early settlement times. Vermonters were also on the frontier, claiming and printing their own currency, unwilling to join the original 13 colonies, holding out for a dozen years before giving in.

It comes as little surprise that residents refused to head the 1808 Embargo Act placed against trade with British Canada. The Black Snake vessel was in the Winooski River ready to smuggle downstream a load of potash when a Revenue Cutter seized the boat. A confrontation developed and Black Snake's crew killed three men.

A area roped off to approximate the Black Snake's size. I read the temporary placards, which informed about potash in early history. Potash is made by running water through ash, and used as ingredient in gunpowder and as fertilizer. The display was removed when I pedaled by two days later
Three men were tried, but only one was sentenced for hanging. Cyrus Dean was executed in front of 10,000 Burlington people. He was "swung off".

I shared my historical discovery with Garage Sale Ride ladies (sadly, only my co-leader and friend attended). We picnicked at a nearby community gardens. And interestingly, one person had never ridden through the Intervale, on either dirt or paved pathways, so all was not lost. I was happy to introduce an alternative way through Burlington and share new found history; I purchased a book at a sale, and one lady bought a tool. All on a bright blue sky morning.


  1. Interesting. I wonder was the display just temporary for some event?

    1. It sure appeared there was an event. One day the display was there and the next day it was gone!


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