On January 10, 1738, future hero of the Revolutionary War Ethan Allen was believed to have been born to a farming family in the frontier village of Litchfield, Connecticut. By his mid-20s, Allen had fought in the French and Indian War and settled in Salisbury, where he operated an iron forge.
After leaving Connecticut, Allen earned fame or, some would say, notoriety as founder of the Green Mountain Boys in 1770. This militia formed in response to competing land grants that the provinces of New York and New Hampshire issued for settlement of the same properties in what is today Vermont. Allen’s men defended the claims of New Hampshire grant holders while antagonizing settlers with New York titles.
At the start of the Revolutionary War, Allen cemented his folk hero status when he, Benedict Arnold, and the Green Mountain Boys captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British. In a later battle, it was the British who captured Allen. He wrote of his experience in A Narrative of Colonel Ethan Allen’s Captivity (1779), which became a best seller.
After the war, Allen’s reputation suffered some decline—in part for tactics he used to lobby for Vermont’s entry into the Union and also for his advocacy of deism, a philosophy many religious of the period thought to be heretical. He died in 1789 in the Green Mountain State that he’d championed for decades.