The Population of Vermont


Words to Know

- Abnaki

- settle

- immigrants

- demographer

- rural

- census


            Vermont was once a great wilderness.  The land was almost completely forested.  There were Abnaki and other native American tribes or peoples in the Champlain Valley, near Lake Memphremagog and along the Coos (the grassy intervals near present day Newbury) of the Connecticut River Valley.  These tribes would travel to different places to hunt, fish, and plant their crops as the seasons changed.


            Vermont was first settled, or populated, by pioneers in the mid-1700's.  The population grew rapidly after the end of the French and Indian War in 1764.  The open lands in the Green Mountains were safer and ready to be settled.  Many of the settlers came from southern New England.  One route was up the Connecticut River Valley into eastern Vermont.  Most of these settlers were from the more populated parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut.  They brought the Congregational Church to Vermont and tended to settle with their families.


            The Valley of Vermont also provided an early route into the area.  Most of the settlers on this side of the state were from western Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.  These settlers came as individuals and included men like the Allen brothers from Salisbury, Connecticut, and their cousin, Remember Baker.  The map of Vermont settlement shows the distinctive pattern of settled towns by 1777 in towns east and west of the Green Mountains.


            Rapid growth continued until about the early 1800's.  The War of 1812 slowed settlement on the frontier of northern Vermont because people were nervous about a British invasion from Canada.  By 1825 the Erie Canal in New York State was opened and many young Vermonters left the state for the open lands in the great American west.  Horace Greely, for example, was born in Poultney, Vermont.  He later started the New York Times newspaper.  He was famous for saying, "Go west, young man!"  Certainly many Vermonters did.


            For the next 150 years, Vermont's population grew very slowly.  Many mountain towns, where farming was hard, lost population.  Residents moved west or to the larger towns and villages in Vermont's river valleys.  There was work in the mill towns and the quarries.  These towns also attracted immigrants from Canada and Europe in the early 1900's.


            After slow growth in the first half of this century, Vermont's population has grown rapidly since about 1960.  Between 1990 and 2000 the population of Vermont grew 8.2%.  Much of this growth has occurred in the greater Chittenden County area of the state.  Larger Vermont cities and towns have lost population, while medium size towns around them have grown rapidly.


            Vermont has one of the smallest populations in the United States.  Vermont's population in 2000 was 608,827 in 1985.  That ranks Vermont's population 49th in the nation.  Only Wyoming and Washington D.C. have fewer people.  Demographers believe that Vermont is on track to have the lowest population count in future census'.


            In 1990 Vermont was the most rural state in the nation.  More than two-thirds (67.8%) of the Vermont's population was rural according to the census taken in 1990.  The Census Bureau defines a place as rural if it has fewer than 2,500 people living there.  Vermont also has the smallest population of all the New England states.


            Burlington, with a population of 38,889, is Vermont's largest city and Chittenden County contains almost one-quarter of the state's entire population (146,571).  It is the fastest growing region in the state.  Rutland is our second largest city and has a population of 17,292 people, which is actually down from the mid-1980's.


            Cities do not always have more people than towns.  Bennington and Essex are two large towns that both have more people than the city of South Burlington.  Many large cities like Burlington and Winooski grew very slowly or lost population in the last few years.  Towns like Essex (which has a larger population than Rutland), Colchester, and St. Albans grew at a rapid rate.  Here is a list of Vermont's largest towns and cities in 2000.




                        Cities                                      Population

            Burlington                                               38,889

            Rutland                                                    17,292

            South Burlington                                    15,814

            Barre                                                        9,291

            Montpelier                                               8,035


                        Towns                                     Population

            Bennington                                            15,737

            Essex                                                      18,626

            Colchester                                              16,986

            Brattleboro                                             12,005

            Springfield                                              9,078