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April 2001

The History of Surgery in Vermont

Author Affiliations

From the University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington.

Arch Surg. 2001;136(4):467-472. doi:10.1001/archsurg.136.4.467

In 1609, while exploring the lake that now bears his name, Samuel de Champlain looked to the east and exclaimed, "Voila les vert monts." The Green Mountain State was an inhospitable place at that time; few dared to settle there until after the end of the French and Indian War, in 1763. By 1771, the population of Vermont was 4667 people. They led a difficult existence, and the earliest surgeons were true pioneers. Most doctors of the time practiced in widespread areas and had to endure difficult conditions to reach their patients. Many anecdotes about these individuals have survived.1-3 Dr Adam Johnson thwarted an attack by wolves by throwing his saddlebags at them. Dr Steven Powers of Woodstock was physically adapted to the challenges of the countryside. He wore buckskin trousers for their durability and as a convenient way to sharpen his surgical instruments.