Story of the Week: Enigmatic Ethan Allen

Enigmatic Ethan Allen

Mary Kelsey Trumps,
Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator at the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum

Ethan Allen Parkway. Ethan Allen Shopping Center. Ethan Allen Park. Ethan Allen everything. Upon entering the state of Vermont, it becomes exceedingly clear that Ethan Allen is a legacy.

But who is Ethan Allen?

This is a question few can answer. Even fewer are aware that just outside of Burlington rests the site where he lived the last years of his life, in addition to a museum dedicated to educating the public about his life and times.

So back to the original question, who is Ethan Allen? The majority of people believe, before visiting the museum, that like Joseph, he was a carpenter (thank you Ethan Allen Furniture Company for perpetrating this fallacy.) Ethan Allen was not a carpenter, and here, at the museum, our mission is to educate the public about who he really was – a leader, a fighter, a simple farmer, and an entrepreneur, among other roles. He is best known for being the elected leader of the Green Mountain Boys militia. He played a major role in the Revolutionary War by leading the taking of Fort Ticonderoga alongside Benedict Arnold. He was later captured and wrote a recount of his time in captivity, which has continually been in print since published in the late 1700’s. Upon his return to Vermont, he wrote Reason, the Only Oracle of Man, and alongside his brother formed the Onion River Land Company. His many historical roles coupled with his simplistic lifestyle made him the Vermont legend that he is today.

Ethan Allen MuseumIn order to educate visitors about this extraordinary yet simplistic man, we rely on trained volunteers who greet visitors and provide tours of the Homestead, engaging and immersing museum guests into traditional life in colonial times. Sometimes, this involves dressing in authentic 18th century costumes. Often, it involves anecdotes. These are easy to offer, as Ethan Allen was quite rebellious, as far as the conservative colonists were concerned.

The museum brings to life his legacy to individuals young and old through general tours, reenactment events, and educational programs. However, this would not be possible without volunteers, and this is where I come in.Ethan Allen Museum 2

I am responsible for recruiting and managing volunteers of all ages who wish to gain practical experience, who are interested in museum operations, or who simply wish to be involved and give back to the community. In addition, I get to witness and be a part of educating visitors, creating active and engaged citizens who have a sense of our past and the trials and tribulations faced by our forefathers. It is a wonderful place to serve and a rewarding role to be in. There is always something new to learn about our past and Ethan Allen – the man, the myth, the legend. Come on in and see for yourself.

VHCB AmeriCorps is a program of the
Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.

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