The history of Vergennes Township is the history of Lowell. For the first ten years after Vergennes was organized, Lowell was part of Vergennes. In 1838 Vergennes was organized and included today’s Vergennes, and also Lowell, Grattan and Bowne Townships. In 1840 Bowne detached, Grattan in 1846, and Lowell in 1848.
Sylvester Hodges first settled in the area of today’s Vergennes in 1836, with the Robinson brothers, Luther Lincoln, and Philander Tracy settling closer to Lowell. Many others followed soon after. There isn’t much information on the naming of Vergennes, but naming rights have been credited to Sylvester Hodges and George Brown, who settled in 1838. While it may never be known which man truly suggested the name, one thing is certain, it was named for Vergennes, Vermont. The naming of a newly settled area after an established town is not unique. Lowell is named after Lowell, Massachusetts.
What is behind the name ‘Vergennes’? Vergennes, Vermont credits the naming of their town to Ethan Allen’s desire to honor the Comte de Vergennes, French minister of foreign affairs during the American War of Independence and negotiator of the Treaty of Paris. Vergennes was known for sending large amounts of funding to the Americans.
French history has deep roots here in Lowell and Vergennes. Odawa from this area joined with the French in trying to stop England’s push into this land during the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War). Historian Claude Hamilton explained why the native people preferred the French over the English. “The French inter-married with the Indians and treated them as brothers, whereas the English treated the Indians with contempt and themselves as masters.”
The fur traders that worked along the Grand River were all French Canadian. Charles de Langlade traded on the upper Grand River after raising native troops and fighting in the Seven Years’ War. He took credit for his native army causing the death of British General Braddock at Fort Duquesne. Joseph and Madame LaFramboise, who built the first known trading post in Lowell, would have flown the French flag from their post. The French Voyageurs who traveled with the fur traders were known for flying their country’s colors on their canoes and bateaux. Even in 1831, the fur trader in Lowell, Daniel de Marsac, was of French descent.
It is unknown if the naming of Vergennes was simply a tribute to a city in Vermont, or if indeed it was a remembrance of many years of entwined history. Either way, the name Vergennes is fitting in many ways, including the history of the settlers and the history of the people and land that were here first.
The Compte de Vergennes
Charles de Langlade, metis war chief and fur trader.
Daniel de Marsac, Lowell fur trader from 1829 to 1848.
Madame Magdalaine LaFramboise continued fur trading in Lowell and West Michigan (1806-1821) after the death of her husband, Joseph LaFramboise.