Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Photographing a Waterford Barn: First Try, Harder Than It Looks

This is Donna Rae Heath's barn on Walsh Road, not far from Styles Pond. I thought it would be simple to photograph -- four sides and you're done! -- but found that capturing the "look" of this friendly old structure isn't that easy. I'll be interested in seeing how the rest of the team develops this skill, as we do the Waterford Barn Census this winter and spring.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lee Farm

The Lee Farm includes another set of Waterford, Vermont, farm structures already documented; this group was described in a 1982 National Register of Historic Places nomination written by Deborah Noble. The nomination can be found here:

Here is the paragraph that most intrigued me in the nomination:
The large farm complex alludes in its relative grandeur to the early days of what was then known as Waterford Hollow, when that village was formerly of "considerable importance, having a church, store, hotel, oil-mills and saw mill" and when the proximity of Stiles Pond "rendered the locality a pleasant summer retreat."(8) The Stiles family, who settled nearby, were developers of the various mills at the outlet of the pond. After business passed to nearby East St. Johnsbury and Concord, the village declined until now all that is left is the nearby cemetery and several farms bypassed by the newly constructed Interstate 93.

West View Farm

As we prepare to make lists of Waterford's most intriguing barns and outbuildings this week, I'm also looking for farm structures that have already been documented. West View Farm includes a round barn that was the last design of Northeast Kingdom architect Lambert Packard, and was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. For more information, look here:

Here is a short excerpt from the nomination report:
The most notable feature of West View Farm is its round barn. It is the last known work of the distinguished Vermont architect, Lambert Packard (1832-1908). Packard created much of Victorian St. Johnsbury, located about one mile from the farm. In addition to stately homes, his commissions included the following structures in St. Johnsbury: the Fairbanks Museum; the North Congregational Church; the former Fairbanks scale factory; the Atheneum; and the Post Office block. The homes and public buildings he designed can be found across a wide area of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Round barns are rare in Vermont, as they are elsewhere. Twenty three round (as distinct from polygonal) barns were built in Vermont - all in the northern one-third of the State. Their era ended with the start of World War One. A survey done in 1971 determined that twelve of these true round barns remained; five had not survived the preceding five years. At present there are five in Vermont.

The West View Farm round barn was built in 1903 by Fred Quimby, an East Barnet carpenter who was noted for the precision of his work in general and his silos in particular. These skills help to explain why he was able to build the first Vermont round barn in 1899. He built one other round barn which has been moved to and rebuilt at the Shelburne Museum. The West View barn is the last and largest of the three.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Barn Survey: Waterford Historical Starts New Project

At right, speaker Joshua Phillips.

Attentive audience!
Joshua Phillips brought his Vermont barn expertise to the October meeting of the Waterford Historical group, and taught about English-style barns, bank barns, roofs, why round barns were designed, and much more. Handouts on barn details and terminology and a dynamic "PowerPoint" slide show kept us all eager and the conversations afterward were full of enthusiasm.

So -- it looks like our Nov 28 meeting (at the Davies Memorial Library, 6 pm) will focus on who's going to survey which structures (or areas), and setting some priorities. Mr. Phillips suggested that November and April are the best months for taking unobstructed photos of all four sides of a barn or other farm-related building (yes, sugarhouses count!).

For copies of the handouts, look here:

And if you can't be at the November meeting but you're interested in working on this, or want to suggest some agricultural buildings in town, please do leave a message at the library and one of us will get back to you.

Oh yes -- why do this? Because it will help preserve our barns! The Barn Census is step one in making sure that state and private preservation groups pay attention, and direct some funds, toward the fascinating structures and history that we have right here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Waterford District Schools: Help Identify These, Please?

Beth here. I took the camera out today and snapped the location where, if I have it right, the Graves School used to be -- is this correct?

And here is the little schoolhouse across from Union Baptist Church on Route 5. Which school was this? Someone is taking very good care of it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

More Waterford, Vermont, Postmasters

I've already typed today the 150-years brochure from the Lower Waterford Post Office. In the same folder where this was found is another document, typed, with Marvel E. Denis, Oct 4, 1980, added at the end of the Lower Waterford list.

In addition, the following are in this stapled two-page typescript document, which appears to be a photocopy:

Waterford, Caledonia County, Vermont
Established as Waterford-Littleton (date not given)
Littleton dropped from office name (date not given)
Discontinued on February 28, 1935 (mail to Lower Waterford)

Postmasters                    Appointment Dates
                             Through February 28, 1935

Nathan Pike           *July 1, 1807
Luther Pike              April 28, 1808
Laban Hemingway     December 15, 1817
Charles Davis          November 24, 1819
Richard F. Rowell   September 4, 1826
Charles Davis           March 5, 1828
Robert Taggard        October 27, 1828
Ephraim C. Parks      September 1, 1829
Milo K. Parks           October 3, 1849
Luther P. Hosmer      February 11, 1856
Ebeneezer M. Wheeler   April 29, 1857
John C. Frye                July 20,  1860
Charles C. Moulton     June 18, 1861
Ephraim C. Parks       November 25, 1863
Harvey C. Kinne        November 21, 1881
Seth P. Moulton          August 24, 1885
Fred A. Watson          October 21, 1885
Niles G. Johnson       December 9, 1887
Hiram M. Parks         August 6, 1889
William H. Bailey     July 12, 1894
Wilfred Cleasby        September, 10, 1898
Clara E. Cleasby       February 19, 1901
Edward M. Brown     February 26, 1904
Myra P. Parker           February 26, 1906
Flora W. Wallace       April 9, 1907

West Waterford, Caledonia County, Vermont
Established on January 5, 1856
Discontinued on February 28, 1902 (mail to Saint Johnsburg) [sic]
Reestablished on April 8, 1902
Discontinued on June 30, 1905 (mail to Saint Johnsburg) [sic]

Postmasters                  Appointment Dates
                               Through June 30, 1905

Amos B. Carpenter      January 5, 1856
James W. Curtis           April 21, 1862
Amos B. Carpenter      October 31, 1862
Edwin L. Hovey          December 11, 1863
Amos B. Carpenter      August 25, 1864
Cosbi B. Carpenter      August 13, 1884
Cosbi B. Carpenter (Reappointed)    April 8, 1902
Mabel H. Carpenter       July 16, 1903

Gaskill, Caledonia County, Vermont
Established on March 9, 1894
Discontinued on December 31, 1901 (mail to Saint Johnsburg) [handwritten y over final letter[

Only Postmasters           Appointment Dates

Fred M. Hovey             March 9, 1894
Frank E. Dexter            January 18, 1895

IN A SECOND FOLDER, a later list of Lower Waterford Post Office includes a column of titles, all of which are "Postmaster," until these final entries:

Name                                  Title                Date

Mrs. Gertrude B. Curran    Acting Postmaster  09/01/1946
Mitchell J. Curran             Postmaster  01/30/1947
Mrs. Dorothy P. Morrison    Acting Postmaster  01/18/1955
Mrs. Dorothy P. Morrison   Postmaster  10/21/1955
Yvonne M. Raynor   Officer-in-Charge  06/13/1980
Mrs. Marvel E. Denis   Postmaster 09/20/1980
Denise Hindle    Officer-in-Charge  09/29/2003
Bruce A. Killian   Postmaster 05/29/2004
Nathan Morse  Officer-in-Charge 07/24/2012 [last line handwritten in ink]

Lower Waterford Post Office 150 Years

[typed by Beth Kanell from a mimeographed brochure]
If you have seen on Channel 3 from Burlington, the picture of a low brown building with flag flying from the front porch, you have seen the location of the Lower Waterford, Vermont, Post Office.

This office will have been in operation 150 years February 9, 1980, having been established February 9, 1830 [as Waterford-Littleton]. Three other post offices have served other parts of the town, but have long since been closed. This office was established at the time of the building of the covered bridge across the Connecticut River near the village.

The post office at Waterford was called Upper Waterford, and because this village was down river, it was called Lower Waterford, the only town of that name in the United States. The name has been kept for historical reasons.

The post office has been housed in several locations in the village, and in Curran's store on Route 18. At the time Edwin Bowman was postmaster, the post office was then in the building which is now Rabbit Hill Inn, then one of the main taverns on the Montreal to Portland route. Mr & Mrs Goss had the office in their store, the building which now houses the Davies Memorial Library.

There was evidence that many years before Annie Morrison became postmaster, the office had been in the ell of the present location, for when Mervyn and Arthur Morrison were boys, they climbed up over the room then housing the store and post office, and found pouches so old that they fell apart at a touch. Also, there is a slot in one of the doors in the ell, for letters to be deposited. This slot has not been used by either Mrs Annie Morrison or Mrs Dorothy Morrison

After William J. Morrison became crippled from polio, Mrs Morrison kept a store in the room at the end of the ell, and had the post office in one corner. Mr Morrison used another corner for his wood working and repairing of furniture. The model house, church and covered bridge which he made are now on display in the room now used for the post office, which was the kitchen when the family occupied the house.

In addition to the model buildings, there is a collection of pictures of the area showing how the town looked many years ago, and a collection of pictures of the village proper taken from calendars, candy boxes, greeting cards, etc. The picture of the old brown house which contains the post office had been on many calendars recently, and several people from various parts of the country have come to visit the office after seeing the picture.

It will be noted that there is a great difference in the length of the terms of postmasters. This was no doubt partly due to political appointments, before the office came under Civil Service.

Postmasters                  Appointment Dates
Nathaniel Bishop          Feb. 9, 1830
Thomas Hall                  Jun. 17, 1837
Timothy R. Fairbanks   Feb. 13, 1844
Russel Armington         Sept. 26, 1844
John Q. Hoyt                July 2, 1845
Hiram Cutting              May 14, 1849
Lorenzo Bingham          Aug. 27, 1853
John A. Harriman          May 27, 1856
Otis G. Hale                  Dec. 11, 1858 
Curtis G. Goss              Mar. 3, 1863
Ozro B. Hurlbut            Nov. 16, 1863
John N. Oakes               Mar. 29, 1865
C. H. Colby                   Mar. 20, 1867
Hale Mason                   Apr. 25, 1867
Ephraim M. Swett         Mar. 23, 1874
Asa P. Taft                    Feb, 6, 1879
Harry W. Hedgcock       Jan. 15, 1883
Asa P. Taft                      Mar. 10, 1884
Claudius L. Davison       Jul. 17, 1885
Mrs. Lucy J. Wilber        Aug. 6, 1889
Edwin Bowman              Jan. 13, 1890
Edward R. Goss              Dec. 11, 1907
Cora B. Goss                  Nov. 18, 1913
Mrs Annie Morrison      Feb. 17, 1820
Mrs Dorothy P. Morrison   Jan. 30, 1945 (Confirmed)
                                           Feb. 22, 1945 (Assumed charge)
Mrs Gertude B. Curran    Sept. 1, 1946 (Assumed charge)
Mitchell J. Curran           Jan. 30, 1947 (Confirmed)
                                        Mar. 1, 1947 (Assumed charge)
Mrs Dorothy P. Morrison  Jan. 18, 1955 (Assumed charge)
                                          Jan. 27, 1955 (Acting)
                                          Oct. 21, 1955 (Confirmed)
[added in ink, handwritten]

Mail for the Lower Waterford Post Office was brought by Star Route driver from St. Johnsbury. There have been many changes in schedule of arrival of the mail. It was not until the late '40s or early '50s that mail was delivered to the homes of the people living on "the Hill" -Youngs, Wrights, Williams, Powers, etc.

The influx of people during the building of the Samuel Moore Dam caused the class of office to change from fourth to third. Later, the opening of the Rabbit Hill Motor Inn and the Aldrich Formica business have brought much postal business.

Mrs Morrison enjoys the postal work. She attempts to see that mail is delivered where it belongs -even holding mail three months at one time until she has found where the person lives in town. Most of all, she enjoys the people -the local people and the guests from the Rabbit Hill Inn who are told to be sure to see the model buildings.

There was a young couple from New Zealand who wished to have a variety of stamps on the package they were shipping back home, so that their collector friend would have them. One day there was a man from Argentina, and it took only a few words in Spanish to help the man feel he was not lost. Some visitors ask if we receive mail in winter, and what do we find to do in winter. They are assured that mail arrives every business day, and that the town crews keep the road plowed and sanded so that there is no difficulty on the hill.

Many people come to the Post Office to inquire about their ancestors -in which town cemetary they may be buried. Because Mr Morrison is one of the oldest residents in the town, he is called on to answer these questions.

In November, after the death of Mrs Annie Morrison, Dorothy Morrison took over the work in the post office. In the summer of 1946, after the birth of their son, David, she resigned and the office was moved to the store run by Mr and Mrs Mitchell J. Curran on Route 18. After Mr Curran's death in 1954, the office was moved back to the Morrison home, this time in the room which was formerly the kitchen, using the counter and old mail boxes from the old store and office. A few years later, an inspector suggested getting more up-to-date boxes and a set from the old Franconia Post Office was installed.


Dorothy Morrison was born May 1, 1911, in Center Stafford, N.H., the second daughter of Rev. and Mrs. Lester Pease. She has spent most of her life in Vermont. Dorothy attended rural schools in Middbesex, and graduated from Montpelier High School in 1929. In 1933 she graduated from the American International College, Springfield, Mass., with the B.A. degree in Social Work. In order to secure a teaching certificate, it was necessary for her to attend one of the State Normal Schools for one year. This year was spent at Johnson Normal, where she served as assistant to the Dean of Women, a position which she also held for one year at AIC. Aside from the studies at college, the association with people of over twenty nationalities helped her to know people of all countries as individuals.

Teaching positions included one year at the Young School at the head of Caspian Lake in Greensboro, Vt. After that, the school was closed, and the last time Mrs Morrison visited the place, trees where growing where the school house had stood.

Two years were spent at the Ward Hill School in Tunbridge, Vt., where she was janitor as well as teacher. In the Fall of 1939 she came to Waterford to teach at the Woods School. In 1944 when that building was dismantled after the closing of the school due to lack of sufficient pupils, Mrs Morrion asked for the flag pole that was made from a sapling or branch of a tree, and it is used each day for displaying the flag at the present post office.

Mrs Morrison became involved in community life aside from the school activities. Many winter evenings, she recalls, the children from Lower Waterford joined the children on the Hill in sliding parties with games and refreshments in the schoolhouse afterwards.

On June 21, 1942, Dorothy Pease and Arthur T. Morrison were married in the Lower Waterford Congregational Church by her father, and they made their home with Arthur's parents, William and Annie Morrison, while building their own home nearby.

Mrs Morrison assists her husband in caring for the Davies Memorial Library and is active in the Union Baptist Church in St. Johnsbury, of which she is a member. She has been, for nearly ten years, the Waterford correspondent for the Littleton Courier.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Homecoming, Waterford and Concord, Vermont

I love the fall for Miles' very reason: it's homecoming time like no other season on the calendar! The Waterford History Group has a terrific line-up for its September meeting (Wed. Sept. 26 at 6 pm at the Davies Memorial Library): Come one! Come all! Plus, we'll be finalizing the details for Waterford's participation in the annual Concord (VT) Historical Society's Open House 9/29 and 9/30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the original Town Hall on Route 2! There's a Family History Table worth checking out.

Posted August 25, 2012, from aWaterford, VT, author Helen-Chantal Pike  -- see her introduction to the 4th edition of SPIKED BOOTS by her father Robert Pike!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

School Days! Now and Then ...

The season is turning, and along with a few red leaves (we're nowhere near what this photo shows, yet!), the school buses are tuning up and there are new outfits for school, new books to explore. At the Waterford Historical group, we've enjoyed listening to stories of school days at the district schools -- which stopped being used after the town's central school opened in 1957.

More stories tonight (Wed. Aug. 22, at 6 pm); hope you'll be there.

Meanwhile, just for the record, here's a discovery I made today: Mrs. Vida Nina (Watson) Fitchett's 2009 obituary, in the Caledonian-Record, specifically mentioned the Wood School, one of the last four district schools of the town. Here's the link:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

An Invitation from Peacham, Vermont

The Waterford Historical group met at the Davies Memorial Library on July 25 and heard from four people who'd attended the former district ("one-room") schools as children -- a great evening, and there's a similar one planned for August 22, at 6 p.m. Many thanks to all. Count on video footage being available sometime next year, from these events (our editing process is slow but steady).

Meanwhile, it's also great that surrounding towns are sharing with us. Here's an invitation from the Peacham Historical Society -- which also raises the question: Who in Waterford went West during the Gold Rush? There is one stone at the Riverside Cemetery that says the person died in California -- anyone have a story to go with it?

Hope you'll want to post some local history here soon.

* * *
Peacham Historical Association Plans Annual Meeting
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Peacham Historical Association will hold its annual meeting on Wednesday, August 1 starting at 7 p.m. at the Peacham Congregational Church. Following the Association’s business meeting, the evening program will begin at 7:30 and is entitled: “He Says, She Says: A Shared 19th Century Diary.” The featured speaker, well-known archivist Lynn A. Bonfield, will read from the shared journal that Alfred S. Rix and Chastina Walbridge Rix started in Peacham on their wedding day in July 1849. For almost five years they alternated entries, writing about the birth and raising of their son, Julian, Alfred’s teaching at the Peacham Academy and studying law, his law practice, and the decision to go to California. Their shared journal is unusual in describing the difficulties created by Alfred’s decision to go to California and Chastina’s struggle to make the trip to rejoin her husband in San Francisco. Lynn A. Bonfield edited the journal, which was published in 2011.

The program is open to the public and admission is FREE!  The evening will end with dessert and conversation downstairs in the church.

 Mark your calendars!  We hope to see you on August 1.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waterford Historical Group (Met on June 27)

Love maps? If so, you missed about a dozen good ones from 1756 to 2003, if you didn't attend the June meeting of the Waterford Historical group at the Davies Memorial Library. More copies are still available.

Next meetings: July 25 and August 22. Invited guests who attended Waterford's district schools, before the current unified school was built, will help us learn what "school days" were like in the 1940s and 1950s. Come for the stories (and good company, and some cookies). Always at 6 pm in the Davies Memorial Library, Waterford, VT.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"Waterford Historical" Marks Memorial Day Weekend With Grounds Work at Riverside/Pike Cemeteries

Armed with a plot map that Matt L. put together, we checked the entire Pike Cemetery section of Riverside first, looking for any turf-buried stones (none found) and correcting the map for a few placements that had changed.

Then some of us worked on trimming turf around ground-level stones that were getting covered by the lawn growth -- and despite two-plus hours, barely covered 20% of the work needed. Another session would be great! At least two stones need repair that we couldn't do, and one was successfully reset, thanks to Roberta S. and Barb C.

Olivia helped Colleen K. with pruning, and others worked on fence repair. Olivia's birthday-boy brother stopped in to visit, with their mom. Helen P. labored over the stone of her father's little sister Violet, and noted that her own stone (crafted to remind us of her "Greetings From New Jersey: A Postcard Tour of the Garden State" book) was incorrectly placed and needs to be trimmed to size and placed between the stones for her parents. The dog assisting us came with Nate D. and is named Memphis -- a Southerner taking part in Yankee labor today, May 26.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Waterford, VT, in ORANGE County?

Yes, if you're accessing early records of Waterford -- especially back to the days when the town was called Littleton -- the correct county name is Orange, NOT Caledonia.

Also note that, according to the Vermont Census Finder website (, the year of a Census record can be misleading: "The 1790 Federal Vermont Census was actually taken in 1791 when Vermont became a state. This can cause confusion as an individual may be enumerated in the 1791 Federal census of Vermont but could have actually been living in a different state in 1790. When conducting genealogical research in Vermont, beware of this common pitfall."

Here's the 1790 Census record, courtesy of that site and VTGenWeb:

Waterford, Caledonia County, VT

1790 Census

The first census of the United States was taken in 1790. Six information fields were recorded: 1)Name of head of family; 2) Free white males of 16 years and upward, including heads of families; 3) Free white males under 16 years; 4) Free white females, including heads of families; 5) All other free persons; and 6) Slaves.

Please note that at the time of this census, the town was called "Littleton" and was located in "Orange County".

Please note that the census is transcribed exactly as it was printed and that Heads of Families may not be in alphabetical order. Please also note that there are several misspellings of surnames.

Head of familyFWM16+FWM16-
Adams, James2..1.. ..xx
Brown, James1..2.. ..xx
Felton, Joseph122.. ..xx
Hamlet, William116.. ..xx
Knoulton, Thomas121.. ..xx
Morgan, Cornelius224.. ..xx
Pike, Nathan3..3.. ..xx
Potter, Barnabas223.. ..xx
Sylvester, Peter112.. ..xx
Wood, John143.. ..xx
Wood, Joseph1..6.. ..xx

Monday, March 5, 2012

Waterford's District Schools

1928 Waterford School, courtesy of James Cross.
In pre-automobile days, schoolhouses had to be within walking distance. They weren't always just one room in Waterford -- it depended on how large a student group attended the school. The town had 14 of these "district schools" for many years, but by 1952, when memories of today's residents are strong, there were only four left: Lower Waterford, Graves, West Waterford, and Hastings. In 1957 the town opened its "new school," the building on Duck Pond Road. It was only half as big then as it is now, but it was enough for that year, and became the center of community life, with the kids all together at last.

The "Waterford Historical Group" (meeting at the Davies Memorial Library each month) is focusing this year on the schools. Historian David Carpenter described three schools before 1800: Districts 1, 2, and 3. By 1801, he wrote, there were 181 "scholars" and seven school districts. In 1812, the town boasted 554 school-aged children, with the older ones more likely to attend in winter (when there was less work for them) and the younger ones in summer (long walks in cold weather and sitting in a barely heated schoolhouse were hard for them). Here's a description of the districts in 1830, taken from David Carpenter's write-up in the 1987 Town Report:

District #1 (information about this district is proving to be elusive).
District #2 the original school house site is where the Gilbert Wright residence is now located on Town Highway (TH) 19.
District #3 the "Lower Waterford School," now the Flocks residence in Lower Waterford village.
District #4 the "Woods School" at the intersection near the David Morrison place (physically moved there from its original location on TH 13below the Mervyn Morrison place).
District #5 believed to have been known as the "Calvin Brown School" at the top of Cushman Hill near the Thompson place.
District #6 the "Graves School" about where Vermont Highway 18 crosses Interstate 93.
District #7 the "Hastings School" on TH 35, now the Howe residence.
District #8 near the Belknap place at the intersection of TH's 7 and 9.
District #9 the "Hill School" at the intersection of TH's 38 and 39 near the Reginald Willson place.
District #10 the "Green School" at the intersection of TH's 28 and 29 adjacent to the Gagne place.
District #11 the "Gaskell School" on TH 12 across from the Kelley (formerly Morrill) place.
District #12 between the Billig and Austin places on TH4.
District #13 the "Upper Waterford School" whose site is now underwater in the Moore Reservoir several hundred feet out from the New England Power Company boat launching ramp.
District #14 the "West Waterford School" on TH3, now the Root residence.

Did you attend one of these schools? Have memories to share? The Waterford Historical Group would like to hear from you.

For example, as Dave Morrison recollects the schools (he started in 1952), Lower Waterford School has no running water, and their were two outhouses, one for boys, one for girls. Graves was the "most luxurious," with running water, two toilets downstairs, a kitchette, a stage, even a full basement. And the first "bus" he ever rode in was a station wagon driven by Wayne Lewis's aunt Mrs. Pelletier.

Through 1953, the four final schools served eight grades each; in 1954-1956, each one had four grades instead, and "busing" or other forms of transportation were needed. Students gathered all together only once each year, in June, at the church in Lower Waterford, for the Grade 8 graduation.

What do you remember? Most important, WHO do you remember? Classmates, teachers, visitors?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Waterford's Civil War Soldiers' Record

I am posting all the pages here (scanned with help from Dave Kanell; thank you!). If you compare the names here against the cemeteries, there may be some discrepancies. Anyone interested in doing the full list, from these images plus the cemetery posts I've placed here earlier?

REMINDER: Next Waterford Historical meeting is on Wed. Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. at the Davies Memorial Library.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Quarrying Slate in Waterford

Llechwedd Slate Mine, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales
If you live on Slate Ledge Road in Waterford, or have driven past it, or studied the old town maps, you already may know: There was a slate quarry here. Slate is one of the three "state rocks" of Vermont (the other two are granite and marble), and when the legislature declared that status in 1991, it also spelled this out:
Metamorphic rock found in southwestern Vermont. It is formed by the compaction and heating of clay, silt or mud. Vermont slate varies in color from red, green, black and purple. Because it splits into thin slabs, slate is used for roofing shingles, sidewalks and floor tiles.

Slate: Three ranges of roofing slate:
  1. Eastern, clay slate near Connecticut river, from Massachusetts line to Essex county; found in Guilford, Windham county; Thetford, Orange county; Waterford, Caledonia county; and other localities and small quarries.
  2. Middle range of clay slate extends from Memphremagog lake to Barnard slate quarries in Northfield, Montpelier, and elsewhere of uniform shade and black.
  3. Western Vermont slate quarried largely in Castleton; also in Fairhaven, Poultney, Wells, and Pawlet, Rutland county; generally of a dark purple color, with occasional blotches of green; very compact and fissile. Large quarries near West Castleton, Hydeville, Scotch hill, and Fairhaven.
From Office of the Secretary of State, Vermont Legislative Directory and State Manual, Biennial Session, 1993–1994, p. 23.
 In 1958 the Vermont Geological Survey under Charles G. Doll issued a report by John H. Eric and John G. Dennis called "Geology of the Concord–Waterford Area, Vermont." On page 62 of the report, Eric and Dennis say, "Waterford Slate" (Richardson, 1906) was quarried on the southeast slope of Fairbanks Mountain, at the locality marked on Plate 1. This operation ceased about the time of the Civil War." (The C. H. Richardson 1906 report cited here is "The Areal and Economic Geology of Northeastern Vermont.")

Shortening up the language, what we probably get from this is: Around the same time when Waterford's population changed during the Civil War, with so many young men leaving to fight for the Union, activity at the slate mine dried up. Whether this was from the lack of working men or from changes in how people roofed their homes isn't clear. Or, I suppose, the quarry could have run short of easily mined, good-quality slate. However, that seems unlikely, since any casual drive along the nearby interstate today reveals pockets of slate cleaving off the rock walls.

It interests me that the minerals likely to be found in slate-quarry regions are biotite, garnet, staurolite, and pyrite. I recall gathering these, as a child, at a former mine site in northwestern New Jersey.

In nearby Littleton, NH, the American Slate Company spent about $70,000 to open a quarry, as described in Child's Gazetteer of Grafton County (1886). Child's Gazetteer describes the quarry and its slate deposit as "equal to the Welch" -- and the "ch" at the end is not a typing error. In this region, today's term "Welsh" (as in, someone or something from Wales) was pronounced with a -ch ending, and it makes sense that it was also spelled that way. (I learned this from Miss Karlene Exley, late of West Barnet, VT.) 

Because Welshmen were known to be the best miners of slate, I checked a few reports on Welsh immigration to the United States; there was a wave of Welsh immigrants in the 1830s during the industrial revolution; many of the immigrants were highly skilled. There's a documented pocket of Welsh immigration in central Maine, but I don't see documentation for Vermont.

Which Waterford families have ancestors who came from Wales? Was the town's slate quarry opened or operated by people from Wales? Which homes or barns in town have slate roofs? And why, indeed, did the quarry close? These are all active questions. If you have ideas, suggestions, or information, please add them here, using the "Comment" button, or e-mail Beth (

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Seven Waterford District Schools

As of 1933, according to Stella R. Powers's chapter in A Vermont Village, there were seven schools in Waterford. What were they called, where were (are) they located, and who remembers attending or teaching school in these?

Watch for more information here, as the Waterford Historical group tackles recording as much information as possible over the next four months!

WANTED: Your Information On ...

1. Submit Adams (see earlier posting).

2. People in town who attended or taught at the seven district schoolhouses (not all of which were "one room").

3. Letters received from Robert E. (Bob) Pike, for his daughter Helen to read, as she compiles the story of his life from the letters she already has -- most of which are TO Mr. Pike.

4. Town roads that have changed location, name, etc., for a project of interest to both the Waterford History group and the Selectmen.

George Porter Ela of Lisbon NH, who would marry Frances Harriet Rowell of Waterford VT.
Leave a note here on the blog, or contact Matt Lewis at, or come "visit" with the history buffs on Town Meeting Day.

James and Submit Adams: Early Settlers of Waterford

James Adams was one of the earliest Waterford settlers (by which I mean, people of European descent who came to establish permanent homes in the town). Dr. C. E. Harris's town history, A Vermont Village, gives Adams credit for being on hand as early as 1783.

The replaced stone for James's wife Submit is shown here, at the Adams-Babcock Cemetery on East Village Road (in a gentler season). According to Vermont author Alan Boye, as reported in his Vermont Public Radio commentary captured in the book Vermont Air, Submit Adams was of Abenaki heritage.

What evidence is there for Mrs. Adams' background and life? Details would be much appreciated!