“Steve, we’ll all be able to see it quite a bit closer at hand in a few moments,” Mike Hoey said. “But one of the most recognizable features of Vermont’s landscape brings us (to Duxbury) this week.”
“Absolutely, Mike,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “We’re talking about Camel’s Hump. Around one side, the Winooski River really kind of cut it out and separated it from Mount Mansfield, and then the south side was cut by the glaciers.
“Where the name is concerned, the Abenaki do not call it Camel’s Hump,” Hoey noted. “What do they call it, and where might that name have come from?”
” ‘Ta wak be dee esso wadso’,” Perkins replied. “And so, please excuse my pronunciation, but ‘wadso’ means ‘mountain’ and the first part of that can be loosely interpreted as ‘a place to rest’ or ‘resting point’. It’s an iconic view, and certainly with the Winooski River being a main thoroughfare, a place to rest.
“The next name was from Samuel de Champlain. He did not see a camel’s hump. Instead, he saw ‘le Lion Couchant’. ‘The Lion Resting’ would be the English translation of that. Camel’s Hump came later, late 18th century, and even some people like Ira Allen — rather than calling it Camel’s Hump, he called it Camel’s Rump.
“By the end of the 19th century — we’re talking Victorians, if people want to think about them — started to think about leisure time activities, and one of those activities was going into the mountains. Carriage roads were built up Mount Mansfield, and they also attempted to build some carriage roads up the side of Camel’s Hump. They couldn’t; it’s steep.
“They couldn’t quite make it to the top, but they then created bridle paths and built a hotel near the top of Camel’s Hump, and that was a going concern for the 1860s. It eventually burned and the idea of commercializing access, especially to Camel’s Hump, kind of went away, but eventually it just became a wilderness. I mean, it was logged like every other part of Vermont was.
“The land was bought up by a man named Joseph Battell — the Morgan Horse Farm, UVM’s Morgan Horse Farm is one of his properties — and he gave the property to the state of Vermont. He actually offered it to the federal government, but they turned it down. The state of Vermont took it, and it became Camel’s Hump State Park — or the seed of Camel’s Hump State Park, which has expanded over time.
“By 1911, the state of Vermont owned about 1,000 acres, including the tippy-top of Camel Hump, and then there was a club created. The Camel’s Hump Club, their job — and this is the 19-teens, the 1920s — was to cut trails, hiking trails, to get to the top so people could recreate and enjoy the landscape. It was similar to the Green Mountain Club, but the Green Mountain Club was centered mostly on Mount Mansfield at the time. Ultimately, they combined. It’s now all the Green Mountain Club that manages the trails.”
Hoey asked, “What other means might people be able to make use of to learn more about Camel’s Hump and the entire surrounding area here?”
“Well, come visit us, Mike,” Perkins answered. “We’ve got a lot of publications talking about the history of Camel’s Hump in our archives — but Camel’s hump is so distinctive that it is often used as shorthand to say, ‘you’re in Vermont’.
“We’ve got a great painting of D.P. Thompson. We talked about him in the past; he wrote the book ‘The Green Mountain Boys’ that set off this whole Ethan Allen craze. But in his formal portrait, he placed Camel’s Hump in the background. Camel’s Hump is on the Vermont state quarter. The Vermont state flag — within that seal in the middle, there are two mountains in the background, Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump.”
“Almost as iconic, in its own way, as the Old Man of the Mountain might have been for New Hampshire once upon a time,” Hoey said.
“Certainly, yes,” Perkins agreed. “It’s a good analogy.”