Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vermont’s “other President”

When we think of Vermont, we automatically think of Coolidge, but Chester Arthur was also born in Vermont:
While many Americans remember Calvin Coolidge as “the President from Vermont,” most forget that another of our Chief Executives hailed from the Green Mountain State. Vermont’s “other President” was Chester Alan Arthur. Both Coolidge and Arthur were born in small farming communities and both, as Republican U.S. Vice Presidents, succeeded to the Presidency upon the death of the incumbents. Like many of their contemporaries, both men left their native state to attain political prominence.

Here is some background on his family and early life:
Chester Alan Arthur was the 5th child and first son of Malvina (Stone) and William Arthur. William Arthur was born in 1796 in County Antrim, Ireland. Because of a childhood injury, his family encouraged him to concentrate on his schooling. After graduation from Belfast College, William emigrated to the Province of Quebec and taught school near the Vermont border. In 1821, he married 18-year-old Malvina Stone. Malvina’s family was originally from Vermont and New Hampshire; family tradition says Malvina’s mother, Judith Stevens, was part Native American.

After a time the young couple moved to Burlington, Vermont, where William studied law in addition to teaching school. The growing family lived in Jericho and Waterville, Vermont, in the years before 1828. Sometime during this period William experienced a religious conversion and became a Baptist.

In 1828, William Arthur was ordained as a Baptist minister. North Fairfield’s 46-member congregation was his first post. The Arthur family lived in a small cabin for more than a year while the Fairfield congregation finished the frame parsonage on the site of the reconstruction. Chester Arthur was born October 5, 1829, in the temporary parsonage.

The Arthur family moved to New York State in 1835. That year William Arthur co-founded the New York Anti-Slavery Society and began to increasingly promote his abolitionist and temperance views. Chester was strongly influenced by his father.

You can visit the historical site in Fairfield, Vermont:
Some mystery surrounds the early years of Chester A. Arthur. The most frequently asked question is “Where was he born?” The President Arthur State Historic Site is a 1953 recreation of the second house in which Arthur lived as an infant. The confusion stems from the fact that Arthur himself told people that his birthyear was 1830 (it was actually 1829). The building in which he was born was actually a primitive cabin hastily erected in the village of Fairfield. The Baptist Congregation later completed the parsonage where the family moved shortly after the birth of the future president. It was this parsonage which was reconstructed by the State of Vermont.

The granite monument, dedicated in 1903, is situated on a small plot of land presented to the State of Vermont by P.B.B. Northrop. At that time it was believed this was the location of the birthplace of Chester Arthur. In 1950 the State of Vermont purchased the land around the monument and the present building was recreated in 1953 using as a guide an old photograph of the house which stood on this site.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As I recall, from visiting the site, some people think he might have actually been born in Quebec.