Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Northeastern Speedway's Stories at Waterford Historical Society Meeting, October 25

The historical society's last public meeting of 2017 takes place Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 6:30 pm in the Davies Memorial Library in Lower Waterford.  The speaker will be Paul Bellefeuille, Northeastern Speedway owner, sharing stories and hands-on ephemera from his fascinating archive. View a neat aerial of the site of the Green Mountain State's first raceway here: http://www. 
Craig Brown and Donna Heath of Waterford Historical Society greet raceway fans at the speedway reunion in July 2017.
Also look here: Come find out what Paul's contributing from his collection to a 2018 Vermont Historical Society exhibit, "The Need for Speed."

Saturday, October 14, 2017

How People Get Engaged With History -- Vermont Version (Note!! Oct 16 Rgistration Deadline)

Weaving a Historical Web: Bringing Community & Collections Together

64th Annual Meeting of the League of Local Historical Societies & Museums
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Lyndon State College, Lyndonville, VT

Register Now with a Credit Card!  (under Events section in store)

The Vermont Historical Society invites you to join us and your colleagues in charming Lyndonville, Vermont. This annual meeting is always an excellent opportunity to network with peers; attend educational, informative and creative workshops; and visit a thriving Vermont town in the company of history-loving peers. Be sure to spread the word and encourage all members of your organization to join us!
2017 LLHSM Schedule
9:00-9:40amRegistration, Academic & Student Activity Center, Lyndon State College
9:40-10:30amWelcome & Keynote Panel with Jill Mudgett & Ben Ward
10:45-11:45amWorkshop Session 1
12:00 to 1:30pm   Lunch & LLHSM Awards Presentation
1:45-2:45pmWorkshop Session 2
2:45-3:00pmAfternoon Break
3:00-4:00pmWorkshop Session 3
Keynote Panel: How do you engage people with history? What are some new trends, and ongoing issues for historical societies & museums? This year’s keynote will explore these questions, and more from the viewpoints of a new historian and an established professional.
Jill Mudgett is a cultural historian who has written about rural people and places. She has a strong interest in community history and serves on the boards of the Morristown Historical Society and the Vermont Historical Society.
Ben Ward is a senior at Montpelier High School who has done research on Vermont political history and contemporary art history. He has participated in Vermont History Day and National History Day twice and is currently interning at the Robert Hull Fleming Museum of Art in Burlington.
Visit our Exhibitors!Selected organizations with programs & products for local societies in attendance. Current exhibitors include:
Arcadia Publishing & The History Press
Vermont State Archives/Vermont Historical Records Program
Registration: Registration Fees: $35 VHS Members/$50 Non-Members. Light breakfast, lunch and complete program of events are included in the registration fee. Please register by October 16, 2017
REGISTER HERE  (under Events) with a credit card or download a registration form.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Rediscovering Settled Life Along the Connecticut River Before European Settlers

Dr. Jess Robinson, Vermont's state archaeologist, presented to a "full house" on September 26 in Lower Waterford at the Davies Memorial Library. He spoke on "The Early Native History of the Upper Connecticut River," including projected images of sites and artifacts, as well as historic details. The first half of the talk involved the Connecticut River locations he and other archaeologists have explored, looking for information to accompany the oral histories of tribal life in Vermont. Then he showed details from Lake Champlain sites (especially Swanton and Alburg, as well as South Burlington), where Abenaki settlements clearly thrived in complex and long-term forms.

Archaeology and ethnohistory details multiplied with audience questions, information from local residents, and additions from visiting archaeologists Peter Thomas (now residing south of the state line but continuing to learn and write about Native American presence, especially about the Sokokis) and Frank Cowan (of Canaan, VT).

Dr. Robinson is both a scholar and a "public archaeologist" -- someone who shares information with the community and also relies on community input. His talk began with sites north of Lower Waterford along the Connecticut River, then worked more or less south. Here are some of the details he mentioned:

* A project ongoing at the Lancaster (NH)-Guildhall (VT) bridge, where hearth (cooking area) and other materials were found that date back six thousand years.

* The Canaan (VT) bridge site, where evidence of early inhabitants had been "capped" (covered over) by material deposited during flooding -- which protected the evidence during later development. Among the evidence recently found is a nut processing site of Native American residents.

* The Carson Farm site in Newbury, where people lived 2550 years ago, connected to the long-term settlement known as Koas / Coös. At this site were found pieces of pottery of the type known as Vinette I vessels, which were made and used in "early to mid" Woodland culture. (See a recent summary here of Vinette I.) Here is a Canadian example of such pottery:
Vinette I pottery fragments; image courtesy of the Canadian Encyclopedia.

* Petroglyphs (drawings made in stone), both the well-known ones at Bellows Falls and some recently rediscovered ones where the West River meets the Connecticut River, under the water, witnessed by a diver.

* Windsor: A Skitchewaug site that dates from the late Archaic (about three thousand years ago) until "first contact" (of European settlers with Native Americans).

In addition, Dr. Robinson discussed corn kernels found in different locations, dating the use of corn as a staple food instead of just an occasional item, and the introduction of beans in the region. Until about a thousand years ago, Native Americans in our region were hunter-gatherers; corn took on cultural importance as larger, more settled villages formed (usually not year-round). This led to mention of a recently discovered set of three sites on the Otter Creek (Middlebury area), where corn was found -- and then to images and explanations of other sites along Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River.

Discussion afterward included hopes of locating any records remaining of a site exploration in the early 1970s in McIndoe Falls (a village of Barnet), and mention of early contact in town histories and journals.

The Waterford Historical Society hosted the presentation as part of Vermont Archaeology Month, and with respect for those who lived in this region for thousands of years before the era of written European-style records that form much of our known history. For more recent information specific to our region, consult Trudy Ann Parker's book Aunt Sarah: Woman of the Dawnland.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Clarence Priest Donates Fire Department Albums to Historical Archives

On September 26, Clarence Priest, Jr., left, of the Waterford Fire Department, donated the albums he has maintained of the volunteer fire company's history from 1985 to 2015, to the Waterford Historical Society.

The Waterford Historical Society Board of Directors (from left, Clarence Priest, Jr., and then the WHS Board: Helen Pike, Tanya Powers, president Donna Heath, Craig Brown, and front, Lynn Troy; not present, Roberta Smith) is storing the albums in the town vault. This winter during its "work meetings" the historical society will merge what it already had with what Priest personally maintained for 30 years before his retirement.

The group is very excited and appreciative about this major addition to the archives that record the history of the Waterford community. Thank you, Clarence Priest!

Monday, September 18, 2017

State Archaeologist to Speak in Waterford, September 26

State archaeologist Jess Robinson will speak on Tuesday September 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Davies Memorial Library, 111 Lower Waterford Road (across from the Rabbit Hill Inn).
            Robinson’s talk is part of Vermont Archaeology Month and presents an overview of early Native History of the Upper Connecticut River and adjacent areas, focusing on early and overlooked documentary and archaeological evidence.
            There will be time for questions. The Waterford Historical Society, host of the event, will also have related displays to examine.
            The Waterford Historical Society aims “to discover and preserve whatever relates to the history of the Town of Waterford and surrounding communities, for the use, education, and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
            The event is free and open to the public, with limited handicap access. Contact the library director at 802-748-4609 or e-mail WHS president Donna Heath at

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Waterford, Vermont, Meetinghouses Over the Years

Hard to believe how many locations Waterford folks have chosen for their meetinghouses -- locations where the residents made important choices for the town government and finance, and where community has taken shape. All the locations tagged on this 1875 "Beers" map are described in the town's history, A VERMONT VILLAGE, written by Dr. C. E. Harris in 1941.

Looking for an enjoyable way to learn more about the town's varied history? Join Waterford Historical Society member Dave Morrison this evening (July 26) at 5:30 pm at the Davies Memorial Library in the White Village (Lower Waterford, across from the Rabbit Hill Inn), for a guided strolling tour of people, homes, and memories.

(You are also invited to more WHS meetings, on the fourth Wednesday of each month, usually 6:30 pm at the library, until the snow gets too "interesting.")

Monday, July 3, 2017

Lower Waterford Congregational Church Reveals Memory Garden, Sunday July 9, 2017

Rev. Ann Hockridge and Church Trustee/Deacon Kate Piper pose beside the flourishing Memory Garden, a celebratory project Piper began planting three years ago in the historic village of Lower Waterford.
Workers for Robert Morgan Steeple & Building Restoration, Littleton, NH, replaced the old sills and repaired the foundation of the 153-year-old church in May of 2014.

On Sunday, July 9, the Lower Waterford Congregational Church will publicly dedicate a Memory Garden that honors those for whom the town held special meaning.
Descendants of 18th- and 19th-century families who settled the nearly 40-square-mile municipality as well as newcomers attracted by the natural beauty of the Connecticut River hill town are expected to come, some from as far away as Florida. The event is open to the public.
To date, 60 individuals or families have names carved in red brick. In neat rows, they share an elevated, semicircular floral bed with three seasons of colorful perennials. The garden is located next to the church’s Maple Street foundation.
“This truly is Isaiah-worthy to ‘enlarge the place of thy tent’,” said Pastor Ann Hockridge, quoting from the Old Testament. “We’re deeply grateful to Kate Piper for undertaking this project and for the research assistance of Waterford Historical Society member Beth Kanell.”
Mini biographies will be shared in a commemorative program. They include a former pastor who ministered to the needs of Lower Waterford, East Saint Johnsbury, and East Concord; a son who gave his life for his country during the Vietnam War; dairy farmers, summer residents, a blacksmith, a postmistress, teachers, a photographer, an author, a veterinarian, a retired geologist who served on the town’s Planning Commission, a Select Board member, residents of the forgotten village of Upper Waterford, and an avid snowmobiler whose trails through town are still used.
Funds raised from the purchase of the memorial bricks help with the enormous restoration needs of the 153-year-old building. A successful community drive in 2012 brought in $24,000 in donations that were subsequently used to repair 19th-century support beams at both the rear and Maple Street sides of the church.
“It’s the kind of work you can’t see,” Piper explained, “but necessary for holding up the building.  A church member then gifted us with money to paint the building’s exterior.
“But not the steeple,” she added. “It was leaking and needed repair, and that now is done.”
Trustee/Deacon Norrine Williams said, “We’re looking for an angel, or two, to help us get the steeple painted and this time install solar-powered lights so travelers on I 93 and Route 18 can use it again as a beacon when they’re driving at night.”
A devastating fire in 1859 leveled the 22-year-old meetinghouse built on what was once the crossroads corner of Lower Waterford Road and Maple Street. A covered bridge at the foot of Maple Street connected this section of Caledonia County to New Hampshire.
Repurposing timber and pews from Deacon Abial Richardson’s 1818 meetinghouse on Old Country Road South near Mad Brook, the edifice was built in the Greek Revival style and dedicated on January 11, 1860.  A portrait of the pioneer settler from Royalston, MA, is on view in the church foyer along with notable Waterford artifacts that were once on display in the Fairbanks Museum, and items from the Upper Waterford church that was de-accessioned in 1954 prior to Moore Dam’s construction.
Until 1957, when the new elementary school opened, Town Meeting took place in the Lower Waterford church’s lower level while the sanctuary hosted 8th grade graduation ceremonies from the town’s 14 district schoolhouses.
The work of postcard and Hallmark greeting cards photographer Winston Pote of Lancaster, NH, brought the Congregational Church and the village of Lower Waterford international recognition in the decades after World War II.
Following the 10 a.m. worship service, Pastor Hockridge is scheduled to offer a blessing of the garden at 11:30 a.m. It will be followed by a light lunch for all who attend.
Financial gifts to help meet the Lower Waterford church’s need to restore the sanctuary interior, install a composting toilet on the lower level, and add insulation can be mailed to P.O. Box 111, Lower Waterford, VT 05848.
Yoked with Third Congregational Church on Route 2 in East St. Johnsbury, the two houses of worship share a presence on Facebook:

POSTSCRIPT: Here is the July 9, 2017, gathering for the blessing of the garden. What a lovely and loving day! Photo by Helen C. Pike.