Immigration seems a very divisive and current topic.

Air-waves crackle with vitriolic opposition to one group or another, or else are flooded with calls pleading the case for the very same people.

Southern Vermont was settled in the 18th century, largely by people of English and Scottish descent. They had adapted to the severe climate and satisfied their needs between crops and livestock.

In the early 1840’s, however, they were alarmed by newcomers in their community, people wearing ‘costumes’ and speaking a strange language. Quickly these people were identified as Welsh, slate quarry workers who had previously worked in Brownville, Maine, and before that North Wales. Maine quarries turned out to have limited resources, and rumors of a more plentiful supply brought them south to Vermont.

Local reaction was frosty, at best!

The new immigrants were accused in local papers of ‘frequent intoxication and endless singing’. In addition, local farmers resented their trespassing.

The first objections never really dissipated. However, these ‘trespassers’ were skilled quarry men who, unlike the local population, recognized the potential wealth of the area. Roaming the countryside excitedly, they identified slate out-croppings and mapped out veins that would turn the valley into the Slate Valley, the valley that roofed America for the next one hundred and seventy years.

Immigration is a current topic. It always has been.

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