Revolutionary War Historical Article
General Ethan Allen
By Donald N. Moran
Editor's Note: This article was reprinted from the November 2001 Edition of the Liberty Tree Newsletter
Like many of our Revolutionary War heroes, Ethan Allen has been reduced to an icon, a marble statue. In real life, he was a truly heroic figure and one of the most controversial figures during that conflict. Surviving stories about him abound, often relating to his courage and physical strength, and his application of force rather than reason. In many instances he was noted for his impulsiveness. The following amusing story illustrates the last two of his character traits.
In 1783, the year the Treaty of Paris was signed, General Allen's wife passed away. He had been married to her for twenty-one years and they were not happy years. His late wife was Mary Brownson, was six years older then Allen. She is said to have been very serious and had absolutely no sense of humor. She was a stern Puritan and could never adjust to Allen's adventurous nature and his allegedly being a Deist.
During a trip to Westminster, Allen went to see Stephen Bradley, a well known lawyer. He had built a huge house and was accommodating boarders. One of these was Fanny Montresor Buchanan and her mother, the widow of Irishman Crean Brush. He left Fanny and her mother each twenty thousand acres of Vermont land. The two had come to Westminster to locate their estate.
Fanny was the widow of a British Officer who had been killed in action. She was bright, full of spirit and an absolute beauty.
Ethan Allen met her at Bradley's home and promptly decided to marry her. The pair proved to be 'like souls'. She did not hesitate to join Allen at a tavern, something simply not done in polite society.
On the morning of February 9th, 1784, General Allen arrived at Bradley's home in a brand new sleigh drawn by a pair of matched horses. Allen walked in and interrupted a meeting of the members of the Supreme Court of Vermont. The Court was in session in Westminster and Bradley was entertaining the judges at breakfast. Bradley a invited Allen to join the esteemed group, but he declined, stating "I would rather visit the ladies across the hall".
The General entered the lady's room surprising Fanny. She was dressed in a "morning gown" and advised the General that it was too early in the morning for people to be making social calls. Allen replied, "Fanny, if we are to be married, let us be about it." Probably shocked at this marriage proposal, from a man she had only recently met, she pulled herself together and answered him. "Very well, give me time to put on my Joseph" (A ladies coat in the 18th century was often called a 'Joseph', probably taken from the biblical Joseph's coat of many colors.)
A few minutes later the two crossed the hall and entered the room where the judges were breakfasting.
Allen addressed Chief Justice Moses Robinson, "This young woman and myself have concluded to marry each other and to have you perform the ceremony."
"When?" asked the surprised judge.
"Now!" answered Allen, "For myself I have no great opinion of such formality, and from what I can discover, she thinks as little of it as I do.. But as a decent respect for the opinions of mankind seemed to require it, you will proceed."
Judge Robinson asked, "General, have you given this serious consideration?"
Allen, glancing at his intended, replied, "Look at her, I do not think it requires much consideration."
Judge Robinson performed the short, impromptu ceremony and as soon as it was over, Allen stowed Fanny's trunk on the back of the sleigh, then wrapped his bride in a bearskin robe and drove off across the Green Mountains. They lived happily for the remaining five years of Allen's life. He died on February 12th, 1789.
The above drawing is of the Kinney statue of Ethan Allen, which mysteriously disappeared and has never been found. Those who knew the General said it was a good likeness of him. There are no surviving drawings or paintings of this famous Revolutionary War Hero. Representative statues of him can be found at the Vermont State House in Montpelier, Vermont and the Nation's Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.