Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fifteen Mile Falls and Waterford's Dams: A Fragile but Essential Document

The meeting of the Waterford History group at the Davies Memorial Library on Wed. Aug. 27 (6:30 pm) will focus on how to store and organize the historically interesting items that people bring to the library or keep at home. An example of what we might consider, with our guests Garret Nelson (library director, Lyndon State College) and Marjorie Strong (librarian, Vermont Historical Society) is this four-page document printed on a single sheet of very fragile paper, dating to the years when Comerford Dam was being built. It includes the now-rare map of the "construction camp" and many of the details bring fresh perspective -- like the stables!

The scans shown here were made on a flat-bed scanner, with enormous care, as the document is "tender" at the fold and can't take much handling. How can we best preserve and protect it as information, and as the fragile item it has become?

Hope you'll join the discussion!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Recipes from Waterford's Earlier Years

Apple cranberry crisp.
The amazing Barn-to-Table event held at the Waterford church this past June, as a co-benefit for the church and the library's Waterford History interest group, served a capacity crowd of 80 people with delicious tastes of recipes connected with the barns that the history group is documenting for the town. Organizer Helen Chantal Pike saw clearly that people can enjoy learning while tasting!

My contribution was a half gallon of the old-time haymakers' thirst quencher known as switchel. I used a recipe from a collection of traditional Vermont cooks, adapting it to include maple syrup, which I've often heard as an ingredient in this drink, although the original wasn't written for it. Here's the switchel recipe, from the "Vermont Grange Favorites," modified the way I made it for the Barn-to-Table event:


2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Put all ingredients into a two-quart pitcher, Add cold water to make two quarts and stir well. Chill.

While we're on the topic of earlier recipes, Waterford has two cookbook collections of these, with the more recent one being a fundraiser for the fire department. For our July get-together, I baked 
BLUEBERRY BUCKLE CAKE from Laura Goodwin’s recipe in the fire department cookbook.

Doing this reminded me to look up, again, the differences among the various fruit dessert terms that were common a century ago, and even a generation ago. We're headed to apple crisp next, right? Or apple pan dowdy? Or apple brown betty? How many have you baked?

Here are some definitions of those dessert names (with thanks for some tips from baking pro Carol Pellegrinelli):

BUCKLE: Buckles are baked and are usually made in one or two ways. The first way is that bottom layer is cake-like with the berries mixed in (as in Laura’s recipe). Then the top layer is crumb-like. The second way is where the cake layer is on the bottom of the pan, the berries are the next layer and the top is the crumble mixture. Blueberry Buckle is the most prevalent Buckle recipe found.

COBBLER: The fruit filling is put in a deep baking dish and topped with a biscuit dough. The dough may completely cover the fruit or it may just be dropped in handfuls. Either way, a cobbler is baked.

CRISP: In this baked dessert, the fruit filling is covered with a crunchy topping that is crumbled over the top. (Similar: the CRUMBLE, in which the topping is crumbled on top.)

GRUNT: A grunt is a stewed or baked fruit dish. Biscuit dough is rolled and put on top of the fruit. The name of grunt may have come from the noise people made while eating it. Grunts are also known as slumps.

PAN DOWDY or PANDOWDY: You'll find both spellings in this baked dish. The dough is on top of the fruit and although it is rolled out, it ends up being crumbly.

SLUMP: Same as grunt.

BROWN BETTY: Traditional baked American dessert made from fruit (usually apples, but also berries or pears) and sweetend crumbs, which are in layers between the fruit. Dates back to at least 1864, and an 1877 recipe uses apple sauce and cracker crumbs. Also known as one of the favorite desserts of Pres. and Mrs. Reagan in the White House.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fifteen-Mile Falls Turns to Hydro Power: Two Promotional Documents

The New England Power Association, like many Waterford, Vermont, residents, took great pride in the completion of Comerford Dam, which began generating power in 1930. Here are two promotional documents that the company provided.



Friday, August 15, 2014

A Little History of the White Village

Classic postcard view of the White Village.
from the June 1919 issue of The Ice Cream Trade Journal
Some Notes on THE WHITE VILLAGE, from Beth Kanell

Dr. Harris's history of Waterford uses a Burlington Free Press article from 1937 to explain the history of Lower Waterford's "White Village." At that time -- shortly after the Great Depression, and only a few years before the Second World War -- the town's focus was almost entirely on farming and the trades that go with it, and Upper Waterford still stood up the river from Lower Waterford. Owners of property in the upper village knew that the second major dam on the Connecticut River would flood out their homes and farms, and they were gradually selling land to the New England Power Company in preparation.

The Free Press article described the lower village at that time as almost entirely a summer place "of the better kind where the summer people stay all season and contribute largely to the life of the community." Sometime after 1919, Mr. John W. Davies, a St. Johnsbury creamery owner and originally from Reading, Mass., purchased almost "the entire village" and established its color theme, the one it's still known for: white-painted structures with green shutters. The attractive appearance quickly became a tourist draw.

When Mr. Davies died, many of his buildings were sold, and his wife continued to reside in what's now the famous Rabbit Hill Inn -- but from 1912 to 1957 was a residence. (There's a detailed history of the inn here.) The Rabbit Hill Inn grew from a 1957 purchase that turned the structure first into a "motel," then in 1980, with fresh owners, into a gracious country inn that continued to rise in esteem and elegance as owners built on its possibilities.

On the same side of the road as the inn are a former village store that in the early 1900s housed the library, and also one of the town's early schoolhouses, the Lower Waterford School, now a private home. Across from the inn stands the Congregational Church, as well as the current library -- named for Mr. and Mrs. Davies (the Davies Memorial Library). Around the corner, using a separate entrance to the lower floor of the library building, is the town office and a limited-hours post office that still serves the village.

The color scheme that Mr. Davies initiated remains in place: The White Village is one of the most photographed locations along the Vermont side of the Connecticut River, and is worth visiting in all seasons, to savor both its changes and its enduring gracious character.

A little extra information on Mr. Davies: He was born John Wesley Davies in Union, Maine, on July 10, 1866; he married Marion Florence Lombard in Massachusetts on December 26, 1887. They had three children. Mr. Davies died in 1937 in Lower Waterford, where his wife continued to reside until her own death in 1949. In 1930 Mr. Davies was president of the Manton-Gaulin Mfg Co., in St. Johnsbury, a company with considerable expertise and patents in homogenizing milk and making ice cream; Dr. Harris's book suggests that Mr. Davies owned at least two creameries himself, one in St. Johnsbury, VT, and the other in Littleton, NH. -- BK

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Fifteen-Mile Falls and Comerford Dam: Then and Now

The Waterford History group met Matt Lewis at the TransCanada garage parking lot on the Comerford Dam Road (the Barnet end of Lower Waterford Road) this morning to learn about uses of the area during the construction of the famous Connecticut River dam, starting in 1928 and set into action (by President Hoover, via remote switch) in September 1930.

The construction project required its own rail spur from East Barnet to the dam, and two thousand people or more -- of whom about 1700 lived at the construction site during those years -- took part in building the dam. For a few months, it was actually the largest power-generating dam in the United States (until the Hoover Dam went online). Our meeting and walk, planned and supported by Matt with plenty of maps, blueprint copies, and 1930s documents, reviewed where the "camp" of workers had stood.

Thanks to Matt's planning, we also were able to visit and enter the last standing cabin from those days (now a storage shed and home to many bats). Matt pointed out where the concrete works had been, as well as the original site of the high-voltage service segment of the dam that is now located across the river in New Hampshire. He also noted for us the old road toward the now-water-covered Waterford hamlet of Copenhagen; group members who live in the Waterford Springs part of town were already somewhat familiar with this route. Craig B. shared a photo of the Copenhagen district schoolhouse; Dr. C. E. Harris's history of town also says there was a sawmill in Copenhagen.

Other topics during and after the hike included when the planning for the dams that would cover Fifteen-Mile Falls began. Here is a snippet from Electrical World, October 21, 1909 (p. 1009):
LITTLETON, N. H.—Carl A. Ross, promoter of the power project at Fifteen-Mile Falls, on the Connecticut River, is reported to have sold his interests to Massachusetts capitalists, who are already making plans for the development of three large power plants, by which it is estimated that about 5000 hp would be generated. It is understood that work will commence on the plant next spring. Carl A. Ross will have charge of the project.

Plans for upcoming Waterford History meetings: August, guest speakers Garret Nelson (Lyndon State College library director) and Marjorie Strong (Vermont Historical Society librarian). September, pulling together our archives; there are also plans for a display of pre-archaeology materials at the library at the end of September.  October, geology of the region, with possible guest geologist. November-January, winter break. February, consolidating information about Copenhagen.