A new sign on Main Street in Rutland trumpets the fact that inventor John Deere is believed to have been born in that city.
RUTLAND — John Deere may not have been in Rutland long, but a new historical marker bears witness to the fact that this is where he started.
The marker, installed Monday in Main Street Park, notes Rutland as the birthplace of the man who invented the first commercially successful steel plow. The Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce is planning an unveiling ceremony July 18 at 1:30 p.m.
“It’s one of those things that should be recognized in Rutland’s history,” said Tom Donahue, Executive Director of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce. “It’s one of those things that’s overdue.”
The chamber applied to the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation for the marker, a process that Donahue said involves a form, a map, a verified historical background, photos of the site and a checklist of requirements that ranged from nearby parking to an event at least 50 years in the past.
James Davidson of the Rutland Historical Society, who worked with the chamber on the project, said the location of Deere’s birthplace is a “frequently, frequently asked question.” He said Deere was the son of a Rutland tailor who had a shop (no longer there) on the east side of South Main Street, where Terrill Street intersects today.
“He was in one location, and there was a notice in one of the papers he had moved a few houses down,” he said.
Davidson was careful to say that Deere is “believed” to have been born in Rutland in 1804.
“We don’t have records other than — there is a corporate history of John Deere in the archive,” he said. “According to that, John was born in Rutland. ... It would be reasonable, I think, to believe that as a tailor (his father) probably lived above his shop. That’s not much of a stretch in those days. Most children were born at home. He was probably born right across Route 7 from where the marker is.”
Deere was not in Rutland long. Davidson said the family moved to Middlebury not long after he was born, and Deere’s first apprenticeship is already memorialized by another sign there. Donahue said he did not see the Rutland and Middlebury sites as competing, but rather as complementing each other.
“If you’re a John Deere fanatic, and there’s thousands of them out there, being able to visit his birthplace and the shop where he apprenticed is pretty amazing,” he said.
Rep. Herb Russell, D-Rutland, said he worked with the state and the chamber to get the sign placed.
“I just felt ... it would be one more good thing to put out in terms of tourism, one more reason for people to stop,” he said. “There’s quite a lot of people who follow John Deere and his origins.”
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