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Did you know that the first person to run for the Presidency of the United States while living in Vermont was not Calvin Coolidge but, instead, was Guilford’s own General John Wolcott Phelps? In fact, he was the only one until Howard Dean’s candidacy in 2004; Coolidge was living in Massachusetts when he ran for President.

General Phelps might best be described as a unique character. Born in Guilford, he graduated from West Point and rose to become a Major General in the Army. During the Civil War he issued a proclamation abolishing slavery long before President Lincoln’s own proclamation was made. Phelps’ act was ignored, however. After his army career, he returned to Guilford and lived here the rest of his life. He married at the age of 70 and had one son. He was always interested in meteorology and kept a diary of the weather and his activities for years.

In his last years he lived in the house now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bernie LaRock and often lectured on scientific matters to the school children in the one room school between his house and Christ Church. General Phelps ran for the Presidency on a anti-Masonic ticket. He is buried in the cemetery behind Christ Church in Guilford.

The Guilford Historical Society