August 2005
Educators' Newsletter
In this issue


Rumrunners & Revenuers: Prohibition in Vermont
by Scott Wheeler

From 1920 to 1933, Vermont was on the front lines of a battle between those who would enforce Prohibition and those who would evade it. In this book we hear first- hand accounts from fourteen Vermonters whose families participated in this great national experiment - - on both sides of the law.

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August 16 & 17, 2005
As the schooner Lois McClure tours down to the World Financial Center in New York City, her sponsors, including Cabot Creamery and the State of Vermont, are setting up two days of fun and activities, showcasing all that Vermont has to offer.


Strictly American, this term is thought to have originated from the practice of sailors who once smuggled goods ashore in the upper part of their seaboots.

From When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Pay,
by Olivia A. Isil.
Available at LCMM, 802-475-2022.





Museum Reenacts Black Snake Affair

From the formation of the LCMM twenty years ago, a major element of its mission has been to further “a better understanding of the maritime history of the Lake Champlain region.” One method used to meet this goal is Rabble in Arms, an annual re-enactment of events from Lake Champlain’s remarkable 18th-century history. This year’s Rabble will take place on August 20-21, and the theme is “Skulkers, Smugglers, and Contraband.”

On Saturday, the “Smugglers and Contraband” portion of the weekend will break with tradition and move out of the 1700s to present the story of the little-known Black Snake affair that occurred in 1808. The day’s highlights will begin with Pete Sutherland performing his song about the incident. That will be followed by John Lovejoy presenting a lecture on the results of his research into the incident. Later, there will be reenactments of the encounter between the crews of the United States revenue cutter, Fly, and the smuggling boat, Black Snake, as well as the trial of one of the smugglers, Cyrus Dean. Scot Slater, an officer from the modern Customs Border Protection Agency, will also be present to talk about efforts at controlling smuggling.

Sunday will explore the “Skulkers” part of the theme, featuring re-enactors revealing stories and methods of the scouting and spying activities that took place in the valley during the 18th century. Typical military camps will be set up for visitors to tour but there will also be displays of how scouts lived when traveling scores of miles into enemy territory. The afternoon will feature the portrayal of what might have happened when the commander of a fort received reports of scouts and spies being in the area.

Learn More about the Fight for Independence in our area with a Field Trip
1776: The Revolutionary War in the Champlain Valley


Smugglers on Lake Champlain:
the Black Snake Affair

During the early 19th century, Great Britain attempted to damage France’s economy by restricting trade between their enemy and the young United States. America’s merchant marine suffered as a result so President Thomas Jefferson and Congress attempted to counter England’s action with the Embargo Act of 1807. The act limited trade with Canada thereby cutting off much of the legitimate income for those living in the Lake Champlain valley. The inhabitants of the region responded by starting a prolific smuggling trade.

In August, 1808, a revenue cutter named Fly, enforcing the embargo on the lake, had an encounter with a smuggling boat called Black Snake. Thirteen federalized Vermont militia men under the command of Lieutenant Daniel Farrington received word that smugglers had gone up the Winooski River to take on some potash destined for Canada. On August 3, Farrington rowed up the river looking for the smugglers and found Black Snake beached. He put some of his crew aboard Black Snake and started back down the river with both boats.

After threatening the revenue officers as they took Black Snake, the smugglers moved down the bank of the river and eventually fired shots at Fly killing the helmsman, Ellis Drake. Farrington put ashore in an attempt to capture the smugglers but walked into an ambush which wounded him and killed another of his men, Amos Marsh, along with Jonathan Ormsby, a farmer who had come along to talk with the officers. Within a matter of days, the officers captured all of the smugglers and most of them went on trial within a few weeks. The court found four of the men guilty of manslaughter but three eventually received pardons. However, the court sentenced Cyrus Dean, perhaps the most vocal of the smugglers, to be hanged. On November 11, a large crowd watched the sentence carried out in Burlington.

Phone: 802-475-2022