/ / /

FC 92 Uncommon Law with Paul Gillies

This week on Fieldstone Common our featured guest is Paul S. Gillies, the author of the book Uncommon Law, Ancient Roads, and Other Ruminations on Vermont Legal History. This book shows us the importance of understanding how laws came about and their significance in helping us understand history.

Bio – Paul S. GilliesUncommon Law with Paul Gillies on Fieldstone Common

Paul Gillies is a partner in the Montpelier, Vermont law firm of Tarrant, Gillies, Merriman & Richardson. He co-edited The Records of the Vermont Council of Censors with D. Gregory Sanford, and wrote A Book of Opinions with James H. Douglas and A Place to Pass Through: Berlin, Vermont 1820-1991. He is a co-founder of the Vermont Judicial History Society and the Vermont Institute for Government. A former Vermont Deputy Secretary of State, he is presently Moderator of the Town of Berlin.

Book Summary

The 25 essays collected in this new book from the Vermont Historical Society examine the founda­tions of legal thought in Vermont, historical issues ranging from log drives to the keeping of sheep to blue laws, the state’s legal luminaries, and contemporary issues including ancient roads and Act 250.

Vermont was born in conflict and existed as an independent political community until becoming the 14th state in 1791. During those early years Vermonters had to chart their own course in matters of law. From these unique origins, the history of law in Vermont traces the evolution of social and economic developments over time and provides a fascinating lens for understanding the history of the Green Mountain State.

Publication Info  Uncommon Law with Paul Gillies on Fieldstone Common

Title: Uncommon Law, Ancient Roads, and Other Ruminations on Vermont Legal History

Publisher: Vermont Historical Society (2013)

Trade Paperback; 414 pages with end notes, a bibliography, an index, and some photos and illustrations.

Uncommon Law, Ancient Roads, and Other Ruminations on Vermont Legal History is available for purchase from the Vermont Historical Society.

The Interview

In this interview Paul Gillies and I talk about a variety of items from Vermont legal history such as the implication of towns settling the first minister and distributing land to him. We also dig into the importance of fences and why they were needed over the centuries. We discuss ancients roads that are still legal roads even though they only exist on old maps. We also discover three luminary characters from Vermont legal history – Nathaniel Chipman, the scandalous Royall Tyler and John Mattocks.

Links mentioned during the interview:

Prize Winner

One copy of Uncommon Law, Ancient Roads, and Other Ruminations on Vermont Legal History is given out to the Fieldstone Common audience courtesy of the Vermont Historical Society.

The winner is:

  • To be announced next week

Congratulations to our winner and thanks to the Vermont Historical Society for their generosity in donating the book!

Make sure you qualify to win the giveaway next week by signing up for the Bonus List! Once you sign up your are in the running each week!

The Direct Link to this post is

News & Announcements

BIG NEWS for Android users! Fieldstone Common is now available in the Android app Stitcher. Stitcher is a program like iTunes but is available on the Android platform. Download Stitcher and search for Fieldstone Common or click here.

Question: What’s that’s new stuff in the Fieldstone Common title (FC 92)?

Answer: That makes it easier, especially for iTunes and other podcast listeners, to keep track of which episode they are listening to. FC stands for Fieldstone Common and 92 is the number of the episode.

Similar Posts


  1. I was a little distracted thinking about work while listening to this so I have to listen again for some of the details but I did enjoy it. I would say that I got my start by doing legal research but when I was in high school I would spend hours in the library researching any paper I had to write. It was the writing part I struggled with and sometimes still do. Good job as always Marian. Christine

  2. Interesting interview. The mention of fence laws made me curious. I looked up the statures online as I was listening. It was fun sort of reading along with the interview, matching the statutes to the examples.

  3. Such a fascinating description of life in Vermont and the role of the laws. I didn’t have much luck finding my folks who I was looking for — a father who abandoned his family, no records I can find of the kids. I did find a will for the grandfather, but no clues in it. I did figure out that the mother whose husband abandoned her with young kids, years later married the grandfather of her daughter-in-law! All in Vermont.

  4. I cannot believe how fascinating this episode was! Who would have thought Vermont law talk could have kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time? Not I! He was a wonderful speaker. I particularly enjoyed hearing about all the Nathaniel Hawthorne ties, since *House of the Seven Gables* is one of my favorite books. (Do you remember having “Weekly Readers” in school growing up? They were “newspapers” kids got each week that contained information about current events. Well, every so often, the “Weekly Reader” would offer a large group of paperback books kids could purchase at extremely low prices. I bought *House of the Seven Gables* as a 6th-grader, but could never bring myself to read it until about 6 years ago [yes, the pages had yellowed a LOT!]. Loved it, but I know I wouldn’t have loved it as a 6th-grader! Anyway, it was so interesting to learn how Hawthorne’s book character was drawn from a real-life person.)

  5. Oh, yes – just wanted to mention how cool I think it is that he does trial reenactments – actually retries – historical cases! His passion for his subject is contagious! I would love to go to those trials!

Comments are closed.