Eighteen years after the first permanent dwelling was built there, Montpelier was named the capital of Vermont in 1805. Colonel Jacob Davis, a settler from Massachusetts, founded and first chartered the town in 1781, naming it after the Southern French city of Montpellier with two "l"s. The French were looked upon favorably during this time in history due to their aid during the American Revolution.
The location of Vermont's capital was chosen for its north-central position in the state and its proximity to the Winooski River Valley. The configuration of the early village was heavily influenced by geography, with a bridge being constructed over the river as early as 1799. Mills were made possible and powered by the river, while the town became a center for commerce and manufacturing by the middle of the 19th century. With the arrival of the Central Vermont Railroad in 1849 came the growth of the town's granite industry, resulting in substantial immigration. Among these immigrants were a large number of Irish hired as labourers. It was also during this time that East Montpelier was established, separating itself from the rest of the town. By 1895, Montpelier was incorporated as a city.
The city, itself, is about 10.3 square miles with .1% of that being water. The Winooski River is named for the Abenaki tribe's word winoskik meaning "at wild onion land," a reference to the vegetables once common along the river banks. The river flows west along the south edge of downtown and is fed by many tributaries that cut through residential areas. Montpelier is a flat clay zone with an elevation of about 520 feet surrounded by hills and granite ledges. All of these factors make it subject to periodic flooding, including the destructive Great Vermont Flood of 1927.
By the time Montpelier was named the capital, it had a population of 1,200 and although it remains small in population today, with a little over 7,000 residents, it remains the Green Mountain State's capital. However, the daytime population increases to around 21,000 due to the many jobs within the city limits. Over the years, Montpelier defeated several attempts by Burlington to overthrow the title of state capital. Today, it is the state capital with the smallest population, the only one without a McDonalds, and tourism is one of its leading businesses.