“We are going to be talking about the Loyal Block House, which was a British emplacement — fortification, one would say — right here in North Hero across the bay behind us, on the end of a point,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said.
Mike Hoey said, “It’s notable that there would have been a British military emplacement in North Hero — because it was there after the United States existed!”
“It was! It was there throughout the term of the Vermont Republic,” Perkins added, “And it was even there through the early existence of Vermont as a state, as part of the United States. So much so, that when Thomas Jefferson came and toured the state in 1791, when it was becoming a state, he wrote back to President Washington and said, ‘there’s kind of this problem; there’s this British fort, or fortification, within the state of Vermont’.”
“What we would know today as British intelligence operated out of it,” Hoey noted.
“And one of the key principals in that was a man named Justus Sherwood,” Perkins continued. “Justus Sherwood was originally a Green Mountain Boy; he was part of Ethan Allen’s band of merry men. When the American Revolution broke out, he decided to join the British side; he was a Loyalist. And so he went north to Canada and ultimately was put in charge of British spies throughout Vermont, and as far as we know, operated somewhat from a blockhouse here in North Hero.
“Vermont, as most viewers know, was a republic. It became its own republic in 1777 and we were our own country until 1791, when we became the 14th state. During that time, it was a precarious existence. For part of it, the American Revolution was going on. Other times, we had this new country, the United States, which we weren’t part of.
“Most Vermonters wanted to be part of the United States, but there (was) a faction who thought, ‘well, maybe we should be part of Great Britain’. (Ethan and Ira Allen) were a bit more pragmatic — like, ‘we’ve got a lot of landholdings up here; how do we protect those landholdings?’. So they, with some approbation of the governor of the time, Thomas Chittenden, decided they would negotiate with the British to see if the Republic of Vermont could go back and be part of the Crown.
“That happened between the Allen brothers and Justus Sherwood — and the governor general of Quebec was Frederick Haldimand, so that’s why they called these the Haldimand Negotiations. Nothing ever really came of it. We’ve got some information about what was said and what was offered, based out of that blockhouse over there on that point.
“Justus Sherwood kind of got his moment of fame around the beginning of the 20th century. A number of books have been written about him, and in fact, a big monument was installed on Blockhouse Point, which was kind of a public area at the time. It’s all private now, so you can’t really go out there, but we have some great pictures of that monument.
“And then in the 1950s an historian from northern New York, Oscar (Bredenburg), decided that he would buy the property and build a summer camp or summer home there — but he built it to look like a blockhouse, so you could still say it was Blockhouse Point.”