Wednesday, November 11, 2015

West Waterford Letters: The Carpenter Family

(this is Beth Kanell, writing)

Amos B. (Bugbee) Carpenter (1818-1904) was a postmaster in West Waterford;  his family members included Cosbi Bowman (Parker) Carpenter (his wife) and Mabel (his daughter), who also were postmasters, so that, with brief interruptions, the Carpenters managed the West Waterford post office from its opening in 1856 to its closing in 1905. That may be one reason that letters from and to the family have come my way recently. In April 2015, I posted a letter from Amos B. to his son Amos H. (Herbert) Carpenter, who was known as Herbert. The letter was from 1889, after Herbert had gone West (born 1855 in Waterford; died 1933 in Stockton, California; buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, St Johnsbury, VT).

Happily, I was able to purchase two more Carpenter-family items this fall, both addressed to Amos H. (Herbert) before he'd left the area. In fact, they turned out to include three letters from home, sent to Herbert while he was a student at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. Herbert graduated from Dartmouth in 1878, and all three letters were probably written in 1877. They are rich with affection, local news (gossip!), and some insight into the certification and working roles of teachers in Waterford's small schoolhouses. Here is a photo -- followed by the transcription. "May" is most likely Mabel, who later has the post office, and I think her letter (the last one here!) is a lot of fun, little sister to big brother. You'll see there's also a mystery in the letters, regarding "George" -- anyone know who he was and what happened to him? Let's keep adding to this local history.


Envelope is imprinted with green three cents postage emblem at top right; printed “If not delivered within 10 days, to be returned to” at left but no return address; postmark WEST WATERFORD VT MAR 5 (presumed 1877); and addressed to A Herbert Carpenter / Dart. / Hanover / N.H.”


            Sunday eve
Dear Herbert – It is prayer meeting night and I am along in this part of the house, nothing to disturb me but my thoughts, they wander to you & wonder what you are doing, perhaps you are at prayer meeting[,] perhaps reading, perhaps writing, doing nothing wrong I hope. Have all of the students got back yet[.] poor George I always think of him[.] I suppose you do not hear the students say anything about him, I hope they will not hear where he is, he writes to the girls to be sure and let no one know where he is, he inquires particularly about you – he says he is contented, but submissive, Flora came home the next Saturday after you left, they want her again next year, Emily came home last week, is going to Burk to work for a minister several months, Flora is going to Mr Peabody, this spring do not know how long she will stay, she thinks she must be earning something all the time, Helen came home last week, is going to stay here this spring and teach the children. Papa would like to have her stay all summer, but I suppose she cannot afford it[,] the children are sadly in need of a good teacher[.] I sent them to school until the last day, I could not conscienciously send them another day she the teacher was greatly vexed, but that did not trouble me, there is a story afloat I hardly think she will relish, Mr Howe says he shall sift it to the bottom if it takes the last cent he has, but I hardly think it will bear sifting[,] it came from Nelson her beloved
            Lida Baker staid here the week after you left I like her very much.
                        Town meeting next Sunday[,] Mr Hovey’s auction next Thursday,
            I was sorry you left D Copperfield, I supposed you had it until I saw it in my bed room after you went away, I have read it and shall I send it? will cost fourteen cts [cents][.] Can you bring up one or two more when you come home? When are you coming? I think you must have taken one of Grandmothers undershirts with you for she could not find it anywhere[.] can you not take your under shirts on your strap and stop at Newbury one night and so leave it there? I did not know but what Fred & Nell would come up with you if it was sugaring
                        Good night
            and be a good boy


Envelope is imprinted with green three cents postage emblem at top right; no return address; postmark WEST WATERFORD VT APR 30 (presumed 1877); and addressed to A. Herbert Carpenter / Dart. / Hanover / N.H.” Two letters are enclosed in different handwriting.

LETTER 1 [with two plant parts – petals and stem? - enclosed]:

                                    Sunday eve
                                                Dear Herbert
                                                            it is prayer-
meeting night and I am alone as usual, and nothing to do, but think[.] I have a great deal of time to think now. perhaps too much. I have been thinking of you, I knew you said you did not want to write every week but I thought you could find time to write once in two weeks, but when four weeks go by and we do not hear from you, it makes me think you do not care much about your home. Home what a dear word, how much I used to think of mine, it seemed as though I never would be wened from it, I think I never was until dear father died.
            After I left the dear old home for a home of my own, I loved it just as well, and looked forward to my visits there, with a great deal of pleasure. I am glad now that I visited it as often as I did. You cannot tell how long you may have a home or parents to write to. I think we deserve a letter from you once a fortnight.
            Are your studies all made up, do you have to study hard now.
            Yesterday was examination day, Helen said there were six teacher, she thinks they all got certificates.
            Flora teaches where she taught last winter, Elisa Kinne at the village, Emily Mason in Mr Heales district, Emma Green in her district.
            All is quiet here now, there was to be a China wedding up to Mr Wells the first of May, but he has gone to his sisters funeral, so it is postponed. Frances Carpenters two boys Allen & Harlan have failed, Gran[?] Guilford has moved into Miles Hovey’s house, it is said he is going to work while Miles has been sick was not able to go another journey, I understand he is better and has gone in another direction. George & Carlie were over Mrs Lang cow died last week, she ate too much meal[,] she was very fat she was intending to kill her in a few days for beef.
            I would not wonder if you saw G— back there in a few weeks, he thinks he can get a discharge, of course they don’t want anything said about it. He has told his sisters they might tell where he was if any one inquired. I have not told anyone but you[.] I do not know as he would go back to college[,] if he should come back say nothing about it
            Good night dear boy
                        Your loving

LETTER 2 [with a plant leaf enclosed]:

                                                West Waterford Vt
                                                            Apr 27th 1877

My Dear Brother

            Please tell me whether you are a live I really have begun to worry about you But know if you don’t care enough about your folks not to write them[.] Mother says be sure you had better write to Herbert – no I shall not he has not written to me yet nor to any one but I concluded it would plague you about as much to get one of my scolding letters as not to hear from me at all and think Herbert you ought to be ashamed for not writing but I suppose you must be popular with the boys down there and you care more to be popular than for your folks I fear. but never mind I will be even with you sometime when I get off I will never write to you but I suppose you will feel very sorry and cry over it day and night[.] I don’t suppose you will sleep any to night[.]
Well I will tell you what I have been doing I have have made a tidy and worked a motto and have studied since you have been away don’t you think I have done well I do[.] I don’t believe you have done half as well[.] I don't believe you have leanrt anything if you have it is something new[.] But now will try and be sensible[,] I went up with Helen & Aden to the examination up in Mr. Greene’s district her average was 82 Arithmetic she was 90 Geography 70 History 90 Grammar 60[.]
There was a meeting up in the schoolhouse[,] Mr Blodgett from St Johnsbury was over a good meeting[.] You must not blame me if this letter don't look very well for William keeps talking to me and I am vexed at him but little Herbert is the only one that is good to me and he grows handsomer every day he lives but he don’t look a bit like you cause not if he grows handsome[.] But now Mr Carpenter about this writing business now you remember sir I shall not write you a letter until you answer this and I do think you are just as mean as can be but then I don’t care You will get the worst of it you will not get any more of my letters until you write to me[.] Ader is working for Mother this summer or part of the summer
I hope you will feel better when you get this letter for I know you cannot [next part is written across top of first page] be happy being so spuny Now my dear dear dear dear dear dear dear dear Brother you will answer this letter
May Carpenter
Carpenter family stone, West Waterford cemetery (BK).


Amos B. Carpenter was an author, of a book of Carpenter family genealogy. At the time of writing this post, a scan of his book was available for free, online, here:

Monday, November 9, 2015

Lower Waterford's Gas Pumps in the 20th Century

Curran store and gas pumps at rear; house at front.
Fall foliage has settled onto the ground, and in Waterford, Vermont, snow is expected next weekend. Maybe it won't stay around long, but the ground is getting colder, and winter's around the corner.

Among the many discoveries and events this autumn was a well-attended and appreciated history walk around the White Village -- "Lower Waterford, Then and Now" -- led by Dave Morrison. He kindly agreed to sit down on another occasion to explain the Curran store and gas pumps that once stood on Route 18. Here is his explanation.

Waterford History, 20th Century: Mitchell and Gertrude Curran and Their Gas Pumps and Store; Other Gas Pumps; and the Rabbit Hill Inn

Information from Dave Morrison, in-person interview, Sept. 30, 2015

Mitchell Curran [1883-1954] and Gertrude Mabel (Baker) Curran [1881-1957] lived in the house that is labeled G. (George) Morrison on the 1875 Beers Map of Waterford. (George [1838-1906] and Kate/Katherine [1847-1928] Morrison were great-great-aunt and great-great-uncle to David Morrison.) The house stood on the west side of what was then the main road from Waterford to St. Johnsbury. Around 1930, the state of Vermont relocated Route 18 and negotiated for land from the Currans. Their land probably extended to Mad Brook Road, and the state had to buy some of it. Mr. Curran’s negotiation with the state included future state snowplowing on his newly elongated driveway, which had to extend much farther to meet the relocated roadway. Two other current houses have since been built on what would have been the Curran land.

“The Currans weren’t that into farming, and got the idea of having a store and gas station at the top of the hill” – that is, where today’s Route 18, leading out of Lower Waterford village, stops rising for a bit. They placed their gas pumps in front of a modest building on the related through-road, within walking distance of their house – and “behind” their home. There is a structure at that location today, a white house with attached garages; the double garage is where the store once stood with the gas pumps in front of it. In the 1930s thoses pumps sold Mobil gas. [As described later, the store was built by Kenneth Curran, Gertrude and Mitchell’s son.] Patricia Powers, in the 2004 Waterford Town Report, dated the start of the store and gas pumps to “the late ‘30s.” Dave Morrison recalls, as a small child in the early 1950s, having his mother pull him up the hill in a wagon, from the White Village, to go to the Currans’ store. There were cookies in a glass case; Hoodsie cups (Hood Dairy’s prepacked  ice-cream cups); and soda “in a pool of water where you put in a coin and slide the bottle to the gate.” The property included “a huge pull-off of several car lengths.”

Around this same time the Currans took over operation of the Lower Waterford Post Office. It had been run by Dave Morrison’s grandmother, who died in 1944 of a stroke; Dave’s mother and father then moved back into the family house (after just six weeks in their own place!) to take care of Dave’s grandfather. The Morrison family had a store that accompanied the post office, on Maple Street. Dave’s birth in 1946 made it too hard for his mother Dorothy to run both the store and post office, and Dorothy gave up the postal service (closing the store) to Gertrude and Mitchell Curran, who hosted the post office at their own location from 1946 to 1954. Their son Ken, who was particularly gifted with cement work, eventually built the Currans a new home adjoining their store, so they wouldn’t have to walk across the field from their original home.  That is the house currently seen at the location (attached to the double garage mentioned earlier). Their original home (currently blue) was then occupied by Milton and Marion Valentine and their daughter.

Mitchell and Gertrude Curran had two sons, Ken and Robert. Ken was an engineer and partner in the Curran–Lavoie contracting business in Littleton, NH, and took part in construction of Moore dam (1954-1957). When the road across the reservoir was being constructed in 1982, a very expensive bridge was included in the plans. Ken saw the possibility of skipping the bridge and creating the earth-filled segment now called “The Causeway” on which to lay Interstate 93, saving a great deal of money. The Causeway extends across a brook valley that entered the lake in the location that was the old village of Pattenville, NH, and Ken called the depression “the Pattenville draw.”  (Another small causeway was built to support Route 18 nearby.) The other son, Robert, lived at the round barn now owned by the Levy family, best known locally as the Hastings farm; Robert owned Curran’s Furniture in St. Johnsbury, located where Mayo’s Furniture now stands. [Dave’s guess: Kenneth was born 1910 or 1911; Robert, aka Bob, had children, including Peggy Curran (Bristol) Barber, whose recently deceased husband was Glenn Barber, Jr., living where Hastings Road goes off Daniels Farm Road.]

Mitchell Curran’s sudden death of a heart attack in 1954 ended the Curran post office and also rearranged the lives of the Morrison family. Dorothy Morrison, Dave’s mother, resumed being postmaster at the building that had been Dave’s grandparents’ home, where there was also a woodstove, but no store at this time. (Dorothy ran the post office until she retired in 1980, at which time the postal service moved into the Davies Memorial Library across the road.) At the same time, 1954, Dave’s father Arthur Morrison took a leave of absence from his job and invested all his funds into finishing the house that he and his wife had started back in 1941 (and had only lived in for 6 weeks; Arthur had puttered on the house during the intervening years).

Eventually the Currans sold the property to Earl and Lydia Stetson. “Earl needed a garage so he tore down the store and built the garage there” where the store had been. Mrs. Curran (Gertrude) moved to the end of Webster Street in St. Johnsbury, where she lived for the rest of her life. Dave recalls that his mother Dorothy saw the Currans as parental figures, so he often visited there with his mother.

Back at the original Curran place, as already mentioned, the next occupants were Milton and Marion Valentine and their daughter. After these, the Leon family moved in. Major Leon (who may have rented the place) came to the area as part of the project of building a radar base on East Mountain in East Haven, part of the DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line then being built to protect the United States from potential Soviet bomber attacks. Major Leon and his wife had three sons, of whom the oldest was Douglas. Douglas Leon showed Dave Morrison the old mineral excavation shafts on Rabbit Hill. [A note written by Patricia Powers in the 2004 Waterford Town Report gives the 2004 owners as the second Curran house, the one now on Route 18, as Raymond and Nancy Auclair.]

Other gas pumps in Waterford in Dave Morrison’s lifetime included City Service pumps at the brick (Begin; later Looking Glass Inn) house where Route 18 meets Interstate 93. A barn on that property was built twice. Dave believes there may have been dances at the barn after the second rebuild. That barn also is now gone, but driving past the property, the line of the existing driveway can be seen – it once separated house from barn, and continued across to the lower fields of today’s Gingue dairy farm, reaching Route 2 about a quarter mile east of the Route 2/Route 18 junction.

There were also gas pumps – Texaco ones – at the Whittemore place on Route 18, southeast of Lower Waterford village. Gladys and Earl Whittemore started that business in the 1950s, not many years after the Curran store went out of business. [Its name was the Countryside Service Station and Restaurant.]
Ad for the Whittemore restaurant and gas pumps, from 1963 Waterford cookbook.

Dave knew Earl Whittemore before the Whittemore business opened, as Earl worked at the lunch counter of Parker Drug Store in St. Johnsbury in the 1950s, perhaps 1952-1957; Dave’s parents after 1952 attended Sunday church services at Union Baptist Church in St. Johnsbury and would often give Earl a ride to his job in St. Johnsbury on Sunday mornings.

The Whittemore place began with just gas pumps and a stand that sold ice cream. Gladys Whittemore was a gifted baker, especially of pies, and the couple then operated a restaurant with their gas station. Dave recommends Barbara Douse, the Whittemores’ daughter, to give information and memories about that business.

Another business that Dave connected with as a youth was the Rabbit Hill Inn. He worked at the inn as he entered his teens, 1957-1964. In 1957, room rates were $10 single, $12 double. Alden Hull, a St. Johnsbury businessman [and father of Deborah Thornton], managed the St. Johnsbury (St. J) House (a hotel) then, and the Rabbit Hill Inn was purchased to be a satellite operation. Even the laundry was taken from Lower Waterford to the St. J House each day. Dave worked for the manager Anita DesTroismaisons Oakes, whose husband Kenneth Oakes worked for St. Johnsbury Trucking.

Where the safe [vault] now is, in the Town Office (lower floor of Davies Memorial Library building), in those years there was a garage door instead. It was installed with the dream of a firetruck for the village, to be parked in there. The dream was especially dear to nearby village resident Hamilton Allport (married to a daughter of the Davies family), who lived three houses away from the Davies Memorial Library, but the dream did not come to fruition. Instead, the Oakes family used the space as a garage while Dave worked at the Rabbit Hill Inn.

(report completed November 9, 2015 – BK)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

An Old Road in Waterford?

One of the loggers who worked this summer at the landing near the Mad Brook Road, off Route 18, mentioned being able to "see the old road" from the landing. After a bit of a prowl, this is what I saw, parallel to Route 18. Comments or information from anyone?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Waterford's Part at the 100-Year Celebration of Long Log Drives on the Connecticut River

Canaan Historical Society

Spiked boots (worn by river loggers) and logging chain.
One hundred years ago, in 1915, Waterford schoolchildren and families probably stood along the Connecticut River, like people along about a hundred miles at a time, marveling at the last long log drive organized by the Connecticut Valley Lumber Company, the C.V.L. Co. -- there would be some other log drives, but in 1930 the river would close entirely to this, as the Comerford Dam rose into place here. It would be the first dam on this river to NOT have a sluice gate for logs to pass through.
Helen and Beth at WHS table.

On August 1, the Waterford Historical Society took part in a celebration of the river logging days, hosted by the Barnet Historical Society and organized by Dylan Ford and Bobby Farlice-Rubio. Also on hand was the Canaan Historical Society -- which brought many C.V.L.-related artifacts, and where Waterford resident Walter Dodge donated a pair of snowshoes that belonged to noted logger Winfield Schoppe. Many members of Win Schoppe's descendants shared the stage for renditions of logging tales related to his life, as written and published by Robert E. Pike.
Helen Pike visits with a couple who used to host her father as he wrote his books.

And Waterford's Helen Chantal Pike -- a historian and author herself, and daughter of author Robert E. Pike -- narrated the life and adventures of Ruth Park, one of the few women to leave a record of her own efforts in timber harvesting, managing the operation, as well as setting in motion forest conservation for future generations.
Helen Pike on stage.

A stunning hooked rug designed and hooked by Roberta Smith of Waterford hung at the center of the event space. And storyteller Beth Kanell (yours truly), also of Waterford, shared tales of logging magnate George Van Dyke of the C.V.L., as recorded by Robert E. Pike and added to with more details from her research.
Roberta Smith and her hooked rug.

What an event! Some 400 people attended, making it clear that the history of the logging days is a lively and engaging topic that continues to be an active part of our heritage.

(Photos by Lynn Troy and Beth Kanell.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Call for Modern Photo Postcards

Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter are the social media that have replaced photo postcards today - but these rectangles of stiffened paper last much longer! Here is an image, printed in the 1950s, of the "Rabbit Hill Motor Inn" in Lower Waterford. The photo was captured by Jenks Studio of St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

By dint of its age, the postcard is now an "antique." What should we be printing to make sure that today's lovely moments are captured for viewers 50 years from now?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Comerford Dam: Another Early Postcard View

Hard to tell whether the photo was gently enhanced to emphasize the European "Romantic" appearance of the Comerford dam in this postcard, probably printed in the 1930s.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Sense of Place: Vermont Farms, Gregory Sharrow

Gregory Sharrow, photo courtesy of Williams College.
It will take a few weeks to catch up with the history-related events that took place in our region during the first week of August! So here are a few notes from the shortest and easiest to summarize: the talk given by Gregory Sharrow of the Vermont Folklife Center, at Old Home Day in Lunenburg, Vermont, on Sunday August 2 at the town's primary school.

Here is the summary from the Humanities Council, which co-sponsored the talk:
A Sense of Place: Vermont's Farm Legacy. The character of a place is shaped by its cultural heritage and folklife, the informal traditions of family and community that guide the ways in which a person plans a meal, treats a neighbor, or understands civic responsibility. In Vermont the cultural legacy of farming has strongly influenced the identity of Vermonters, and it is these distinctive traditions, which have persisted even with the decline in farm numbers, that help make the state unique. This lecture by Gregory Sharrow explores the fabric of farm culture in the past and probes its relationship to the world of Vermont today.
Sharrow collected oral history from about 500 Vermonters during the late 1980s and 1990s; in our region he interviewed dairy farmers Wayne and Edie Patenaude in East St. Johnsbury at Locust Grove Farm. He did not bring the Patenaude recordings, but played parts of several others to illustrate three concepts that he wanted to emphasize:

* Palimpsest. This is a term used for early manuscripts where writing was repeatedly erased in order to re-use the vellum or other flat substance -- but every use left some trace on the "page." Sharrow sees Vermont farms this way: with evidence of changing use.

* Sense of Place. For Sharrow, this is "the thing that anchors you in a web of experience and meaning." He illustrated it with farm choices and traditions that are particular to Vermont.

* Oral History. Sharrow and fellow oral historian Jane Beck use a form of listening to local residents that rarely involves questions or direction -- more, letting the person talk at length about his or her topic. He presented one farm woman's explanation of making butter, from milking to stamping.

Sharrow also described a question he had used to understand people's relationships with their neighbors: "Do you live in a neighborhood? Who else is in your neighborhood?" With this, he found the clusters of people who help each other on the seasonal tasks that could otherwise take too much cash and expense out of the farm cycle. He cited the book Changing Works by Douglas Harper as initiating this idea and giving examples, and the fifteen people in the audience provided some in exchange, as they recalled group efforts for haying, for instance, as well as kitchen tunks (aka kitchen junkets), musical gatherings in the neighborhood. Gary Fournier and others of the Lunenburg Historical Society added examples of this locally, especially for the region known as West Neighborhood -- proving Sharrow's point locally.

Who are your neighbors? Do you see them less often now than you did a decade ago? That's what many people in the audience talked about. It's an interesting way to look at the changes in our current history and heritage.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Last CVL Long Log Drive, 100 Years Ago: Celebration in Barnet, Vermont, August 1

One more wonderful image from the 1929-1931 construction of Comerford Dam surfaced recently. This dam was the first on the Connecticut River to be built WITHOUT a sluice gate for logs -- thus marking the physical end to the log drives on the river.

But the practical end happened in 1915, when the Connecticut Valley Lumber Company held its final long log drive. And the emotional end ... well, that's a story of George Van Dyke. You can here it on Saturday August 1 in Barnet, Vermont, at the grand 100-year celebration, held at Maplemont Farm, just south of Barnet Village on Route 5.

Here's the schedule -- hope to see you there!

8am- 10am : Barnet Preservation group lumberjack breakfast at the Barnet Congregation church

10:00- Festival start time Aden Marcotte opens with his log drive song
Tables: Helen Pike, Paul Keenan, Green Mountain books, Barnet Historical Society (also selling pies), Barnet Library booksale, Waterford Historical Society, St.Johnsbury History & Heritage Center with Tools, Blacksmith Craig Marcotte, Canaan Historical Society

10:30 1st Lumberjack Demo 

10:30 Beth Kanell tells stories of George Van Dyke, “lumber king of McIndoes” 
11:00 Helen Pike reads from Ruth Park
12:00 Aden Marcotte performs log drive song #2
12:00 Barnet trailblazers providing lunch of hot dogs, hamburgers, cole slaw (?)and baked beans.
12:15 : Grinner Schoppe Tribute by Schoppe descendants
12:30: Bayley Hazen Boys begin with Gary Moore reading from Robert Pike’s books
12:45: 2nd Lumberjack demos
Beth Kanell tells stories of George Van Dyke, “lumber king of McIndoes”
1:25 Gary Moore reading from Robert Pike's books
1:45: 3rd lumberjack demo
2:00 Gary Moore reading from Robert Pike's books
2: 30 : Bayley Hazen ends
2:30 : Grinner Schoppe tribute #2
3:00 Helen Pike reads Ruth Park,
Beth Kanell tells stories of George Van Dyke, “lumber king of McIndoes”

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Searching for the First District 10 Schoolhouse, Waterford, Vermont

The rain held off nicely for our "history hike" down Kidder Road from its east end, so Craig B. could show us where he'd located the probable site of an early schoolhouse. Craig began (as mentioned earlier this week) with two maps of the town: 1858 and 1875. Between the two dates, the schoolhouse for District 10 (centered at the Green farm on what is now Remick Road) changed -- and Craig found a record of expenditure for the school district in that gap, so his best guess was that the district decided to spend some money relocating and rebuilding its school.

His find of the site depended first on the distance shown on the map. Then he spotted a row of stones along what was probably the south edge of the little building lot. As he explored, and probed through the current soil cover among very young trees, he found what amounted to a "pad" of rocks, and measured the extent as 16 feet wide and 26 feet long. The structure would have been about 20 feet from today's (Kidder) roadbed. At a guess, the window wall of the building could have been at the south end, for maximum light and heat, and there is a suggestion of a door area with possible steps at the southeast corner of the "pad."
Southeast corner of stone "pad."

Surveying the site.

"Test pit" about 4 inches deep. Tool shows north-south direction.
Craig, who is experienced in archaeology's current steps of making careful investigations that can be restored without changing the site, made two small troweled "test pits" (about four inches deep) through the soil to the stone pad; one is shown here, with his tool lined up to north–south. This one simply showed the soil depth to the stone pad, but his other small space, toward the northern edge of the site, revealed scraps of building materials: handmade nails in two sizes (the smaller for clapboards, the larger for flooring; at a guess, the structure would have been timber-framed, held together with mortise and tenon joints), two different ages of window glass, some crumbles of brick (probably a layer between the rock pad and the wooden sill beams), and two chunks of old-fashioned plaster.

Nails, brick and plaster bits, and two colors/ages of window glass, from second part of site.
Much of the gathering after seeing the site was spent speculating on what might have happened to change the school location (demographics was our best guess: no kids at the central part of the Kidder Road, with the kids on the western part attending the "West Waterford" school, leaving the Green farm as the focus for the relocation); what happened to the old schoolhouse itself (moved? repurposed? collapsed?); and whether either the first or second schoolhouse survived in re-purposing of other nearby structures (no good evidence yet).

With the discussion came more visualizing the daily tasks of getting kids to school in the 1840s, including perhaps rolling the road, using horse and sleigh, and providing for heat during the day.

It was a great walk, short and easy but full of evidence and questions. Thanks, Craig, and thanks to all who attended or helped this to take place. More "history hikes" are sure to follow.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Powers Family History, Waterford, Vermont

Geneva Powers Wright and her family shared these documents earlier this spring. Thank you very much, Mrs. Wright!

More details on the family can be found in the rapidly growing archives of the Waterford Historical Society, searchable by family surname. If you would like to add material to this valued reference collection, please contact Helen Pike (pikeprose (at) gmail dot com).

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Rediscovering an Early Waterford Schoolhouse Location: History Hike

The 1875 Beers map shows the Green School, for District 10, at the corner of today's Green and Remick roads. But the 1858 map at the Davies Memorial Library shows another location, and archaeologically savvy Craig B. examined the earlier spot and found traces of that vanished schoolhouse.

So on Saturday July 18 at 10 a.m., as long as it's not totally pouring rain or crashing thunder, Craig will lead interested walkers down the old Kidder Road and show how he searches for and identifies markers of the past. The walk is flat on an old dirt road; wear sensible shoes and insect repellent! Parking in the barnyard at the Florio farm is available (thank you, M. Florio!).

Looking forward to learning a lot!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Stage Route and the Driver: Waterford, Vermont

Here is the schedule of the stage route from 1848, found in a guidebook to New England called "The Eastern Tourist." Note Waterford, listed as 7 miles from St. Johnsbury, Vermont, with 12 miles onward to Littleton, New Hampshire. Also see the final line, under the first chart: "Usual time from Burlington to Portland, 2 1/2 days."

Not only was Waterford a significant stagecoach stop -- it also included a family known for driving the stages. Here is the obituary for Charles T. Hill, who was born January 20, 1842, and died September 18, 1930; the Hill family lived where the Gingue dairy farm now is, and the little cemetery on the farm is called the Hill Cemetery. Some of the Hills are buried there, Charles was buried in the one in East St. Johnsbury, now called Grove Cemetery.
Well Known Stage Driver Passes Away in Waterford

Charles T. Hill, for 20 years a stage driver plying on routes between Hardwick and Lancaster and Lyndon and Island Pond and later a hotel owner in East St. Johnsbury passed away at his home in Waterford Thursday at the age of 99 years following an illness of less than a week. Mr. Hill, who was a life long resident of Waterford was born Jan. 20, 1842, the son of Ambrose and Louise Foss Hill. He was a descendant of a long line of stage drivers. He attended the public schools of Waterford and was united in marriage with Julia C. Young of Waterford, Nov. 15, 18874. To this union nine children were born, five boys and four girls, all of whom survive with the exception of one daughter.

The children who survive are George A. Hill of East St. Johnsbury, Miss Lettie E. Hill of Waterford, Wilbur C. Hill of St. Johnsbury, Miss Edna M. Hill of Riverside, Conn., Robert W. Hill of Gilman, Benjamin C. Hill of St. Johnsbury, Wallace S. Hill of Plainfield and Miss Elsie L. Hill of Waterford. He is also survived by 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Funeral services were held from his late home at 2 o'clock this afternoon. The Rev. E. E. Grant officiated. Interment was in the East St. Johnsbury Cemetery.
The site where I found this obituary also included a card of thanks from Mr. Hill's family members, and a poem that must have run in the newspaper in 1932:
           IN MEMORIAM
In loving memory of our dear,
dear father, Charles T. Hill, who
passed away Sept. 18, 1930.
Out on the sunny hillside
   Where granite marks the spot
Just two years ago dear father
   We placed you in the lot.
Not dead to us who loved you.
   Not lost but gone before,
You live with us in memory still
   And will forevermore.
                    Inserted by his children.
Finally, although no photos of the stagecoaches in Waterford have been found as yet, I located one this week that shows stagecoaches from sometime after 1865, in a parade in Bethlehem, New Hampshire:

Friday, May 1, 2015

Butternuts, for Old Time's Sake -- and Next, Rhubarb


Singing makes any task more fun, right?
Last November we were able to purchase four pounds of butternuts from Native Nuts in North Troy; two pounds headed to New Hampshire to catch up with Geneva Powers Wright, and the other two pounds, in a basket, came to visit at a Waterford Historical Society meeting in February, when a few brave folks took a couple of them home to try cracking.

Most of this two-pound batch ended up at my house, and I was glad to catch my son Alexis and his NYC friend Jem as labor for cracking them in March. Based on a description from an East St Johnsbury resident of having cracked them using her dad's workshop vice, we tackled the task with a pair of large screw-type carpenter clamps. (We did test an ordinary nutcracker, and it was totally useless for this job!) Sorting the nuts from the shell fragments turned out to be quite a challenge.

It took the three of us TWO HOURS of steady work to crack all the nuts and set aside the nutmeats -- which added up to slightly less than one cup full. For the April meeting of the Waterford Historical Society, I baked cookies with the little flecks of nuts -- which were delicious, but in every cookie there was at least one tooth-jarring bit of nutshell, and in some there were half a dozen. And we thought we had these well sorted!

I'm glad we tried this, for the sake of knowing how to handle butternuts, which used to be a traditional food in this region, before the trees were stricken by a mostly fatal disease. All things considered, though, I don't think we'll repeat this!

Next on my old-time cooking schedule will be rhubarb recipes, figuring out the best ones for the Waterford Historic House and Garden Tour and Rhubarb Café, being held June 20!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Update: Waterford Slate Company

The original stone for early Waterford settler Mrs. Submit Adams, pictured here, was made of slate.
So far, I find no connections to Wales among the principals of the Waterford Slate Company -- but I do have some information to pull together here.

First, the Waterford Slate Company was incorporated in 1853 by an act of the state legislature, and the corporation members are "Otis G. Hale, Samuel G. Bracket, and Samuel A. Bracket, their associates and successors." Their first corporate meeting was to take place in St. Johnsbury.

Next, from a report by C. H. Richardson, Ph. D., Syracuse University, called "The Areal and Economic Geology of Northeastern Vermont," published in Montpelier by the Argus and Patriot Press in 1906:
The Waterford Slate Company in 1855 spent several thousand dollars in developing the quarry on Waterford Mountain two miles south of East St. Johnsbury on the St. Johnsbury and Lake Champlain Railroad. In 1860 it is reported to have been sold to WEbster and Keys of Concord, New Hampshire, for $7,777. They became involved in litigation and a foreclosure ensued. There seems to be no reason why the quarry should not be worked at good profit with modern machinery and modern methods. I have split with a single blow of a trimming hammer samples three feet long and from two feet thick to the thickness of one quarter of an inch. The grout around the old quarry exposed for half a century shows how stoutly the slate will resist disintegration. A seventy five foot front can easily be obtained with excellent opportunity for grout beds.
And the 1861 "Final Report on the Geology of Vermont: Descriptive, Theoretical, Economical, and Scenographical" by Hitchcock, Hager, Hitchcock, and Hitchcock praises the quarry, saying it has "The greatest width of slate suitable for working in any bed visited on this formation" and that "In 1855 there were about forty squares of slate quarried at this place, which were sold and used for roofing, since which time little has been done by the company." The authors said that the "slate of this belt is very tough, and in many places is in all respects equal to the best slate of Wales."

Find the words "Slate Ledge" just below Waterford Mountain. From Beers Atlas 1875.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Selling Scales on the Road"

You never quite know what you'll find when you pick up a postcard or letter with local ties, like the items in the last post. But sometimes the item just isn't in the week's budget, and that was the case for this wonderful calling card recently sold on eBay. Fortunately, the image could be captured from that website. So, given this business card of John O. Hale, an agent for "Fairbanks' Standard Scales" around 1880 (a guess), what can we find out?

Fortunately, the 1880 Census and a reported family tree yielded a LOT of information! John was born on March 14, 1835; his parents, Otis Goss Hale and Eunice Pierce Hill, were both Waterford folks. John married Laura Ann Holbrook and they had a large family: Carrie, George, Addie, J. (John) Otis, Arthur, and William H. (Holbrook?). John O. Hale lived until June 11, 1910.

The 1880 Census described John's employment (could we have guessed from his card?) as "selling scales on the road."

The next obvious question is, was John related to O. Dean Hale, who owned the store on Main Street in St. Johnsbury now housing Umbrella and Secondhand Prose? (O. Dean Hale was the father of Richard "Ritty" Hale, well known in the region for his artwork.) In spite of the "O." in both names, it appears there was no near connection -- O. (Orvis) Dean Hale was born in Danville in 1887 (d. St. Johnsbury 1970), and his father Orvis Elisha Hale (1839-1920) was from Plainfield, and grandfather Valorus Waldo Hale was from Cabot.

Always worth taking a look at these fleeting scraps of our past!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Victor Lawrence, Inventor, connecting to Amos B. and Amos H. Carpenter of West Waterford

The Waterford Barn Census includes the Lawrence-Lund carriage barn, and with its documentation ( mentions Victor Lawrence.

The 1889 volume of Scientific American, on page 218 (April 6), mentions a patent issued to him:
PLANING MACHINE CUTTER HEAD — Victor V. Lawrence, Waterford, Vt. This head is made with end pieces having short integral journals projecting from their outer sides, parallel portions connecting the end pieces, which are separated by a clear space extending their whole length, and have flat inclined knife beds tangential to the side of the cutter hears, leaving room for the clips, the invention also covering various other novel features.
The next year, 1890, the U.S. Patent Office noted that Victor Lawrence had assigned a half interest in this patent, and in another one for a planing machine, to I. H. Paul, Boston, Mass., and A. H. Carpenter, West Waterford.

A. H. Carpenter would have been Amos Herbert Carpenter (born 1855), son of Amos B. (Bugbee) Carpenter -- who in turn was the postmaster in West Waterford from Jan. 5, 1856, to April 21, 1862.

Last week I was able to obtain an envelope postmarked 1889 from West Waterford to Amos H. Carpenter, and in it was a letter from his father, Amos B. Carpenter, mentioning Victor Lawrence!

                        West Waterford Jan. 13 1889

Dear Herbert
     I went up to see Abel on Saturday. Yesterday. Your mother went with me. It appears that Abel is failing at least he grows no better still he thinks he is some better in some respects and worse in others.
     I was in there about an hour & he seemed to be tired all out. I went out to let him rest. but when I returned he did not appear rested much.  It would be nothing strange if he did not live two weeks still he may get well. The village people think it doubtful.
     He had just received your letter and requested me to write you that he is not able to answer it but would be glad to receive letters from you.
     Wednesday we meet to complete those vistings [?]. I think they will all be there if it is a good day -- I have not heard from Haynes but I think he will come.
     Clinton & William say they will be there on time.
     Will send the papers soon as completed to you at Stockton.
     I shall take your letter over to St J and have Dunnett read it to them if necessary.
     Mrs. Asro Brown is very sick. The neighbors think she will not live only a few weeks to the most cannot take any food.
     I went up to Vic Lawrences last week to see if those yearlings were all right, I found only the two heifers, — I talked a few minutes with his wife. She told me that she knew that I had a claim on them but wanted to keep them for cows. I merely said that I expected Vic would pay for them when he returned. She made some inquiries about him. I answered that I knew nothing about his going to Cal or about the patent.
     She says he wrote in his last letter that he should be back in March.
     I saw Morrill who is on the place after I saw her and he told me they killed the Bull by Vic's order and that he did not know that I had any claim on them, that Mrs Lawrence had been trying to sell them, which I doubt some, as by appearance I should believe her sooner than Morrill.
     He says there will not be hay enough to last longer than the middle of February and he should not buy hay but was willing to take good care of them as long as it lasted.
     I told him when it was gone to drive them down to me; he said he would do it and let me know so that I could get them. I cam glad that I went up to see them as I think now they will be kept and delivered to me when the hay is gone.
     No snow yet. The ground is nearly as bare as in June.
     If there is anything you want of Abel you had better write at once it will be impossible to reach all the children.
     Write often, I have written every week since Thanksgiving if not received they are lost —
     Your affectionate Father A B Carpenter

A quick check of US Census records for Amos H. ("Herbert") Carpenter shows his birth in Waterford in 1855, residence in Waterford in 1860 and 1870, residence in Derby, VT, in 1880, and he shows up on the Stockton, Calfornia, Census pages for 1910, 1920, and 1930; he died on Nov. 10, 1933, in Stockton, California, and was buried May 12, 1934, in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. His mother was Cosbi Bowman Parker, born in 1828 in Littleton, NH to Ezra Parker (b. 1791, Pembroke, NH) and Hannah Burleigh (b. 1800, Sanbornton, NH).

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Searching for the Mills: Captain John Stiles Arrived in 1797

Ice fishing at Stiles Pond, January 2015.
Waterford's own printed history, A Vermont Village, says almost nothing about the Stiles family that settled in the area in 1797. But because Captain John Stiles built a sawmill on the large pond -- now more of a lake, but still called Stiles Pond -- that would become the water source for neighboring St. Johnsbury, his story shows up in Town of St. Johnsbury Vermont. This sizeable tome was written by Edward T. Fairbanks, a member of a family of industrial entrepreneurs who made their fortunes by harnessing the water power of the region and adding a hefty dose of creative invention and steady labor.

Fairbanks notes the military rank of this settler -- most likely a rank gained in a militia company, as he was born in 1774, just before the Revolutionary War. His parents were John Stiles (1749-1818) and Keziah Divoli (1748-1819), and he married Annie Hill in 1802, a few years after he'd arrived in Waterford. Here is the Fairbanks summary of his background and achievements:

Fairbanks goes on to describe how Stiles pond became St. Johnsbury's water source, as follows (note that Summerville was then the name of the east side of St. Johnsbury, at the other side of the Passumpsic River, before the region was adopted into the larger town):

There are no signs of the Stiles millworks today. And of the Stile "mansion" across Route 18, only a stone wall remains along the road. I've searched the records for several months, looking for when the "mansion" was removed, and it looks as though its demise came in the 1930s, as Route 18 was rebuilt and the Depression caused many changes. No photos of the home seem to have survived.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Pike–Streeter Tavern, Upper Waterford, Vermont

Child's Gazetteer of Caledonia and Essex Counties, Vt., 1764-1887 (1887), offers some early history of Waterford:
The first saw-mill was built by Solomon Pomeroy, just below Mrs. Hibbard's brick house, at Upper village. John Stiles built a saw-mill at the outlet of Stiles pond, in 1807, and also built an oil-mill here in 1818. The first hotel was built by Warner Call, nearly opposite the store at Upper village. Nathan and Dennis Pike built the Streeter tavern in 1823, and kept it for many years. The first school kept in the eastern part of the town was by Candace Billings, in Daniel Pike's barn. The first church was built in 1818, near the center of the town. It was a large two-story structure, with a gallery on three sides.
... Daniel and Nathan Pike, Jonathan Hutchinson and Luther Knight came to Waterford, form Royalston, Mass., and located in the eastern part of the town, in 1792.
There's a lot in there to examine and compare with today! The "Upper village," or Upper Waterford, is gone -- sacrificed in the 1930s to plans to build the Moore Dam on the Connecticut River, which would create a lake at the village location. The Upper village, where Daniel and Nathan Pike settled, was the eastern part of town and was called "Upper" because it was up-river from the rest of the town.

More about the tavern, the Pikes, and their significance in the town is found in Frederic J. Wood's 1919 tome, The Turnpikes of New England. These were the toll roads, set up for commerce (and to let the landowners and road owners earn some fees). Here are the actual pages -- with page 260 being the one with the photos, above.

Dolores E. Ham brought out the book Caledonia County (Images of America) in 2000 (now available also as an ebook), and used two images of the Streeter Tavern in it, borrowed from the Wateford Town Clerk. Here they are:

And finally, of course, Gordon Hopper's Upper Waterford—A Village Lost to Progress offers the most detail on the history of the tavern. He writes that Nathan and Dennis Pike had a small farmhouse located at the crossroad in the village, and they converted it into a tavern in 1823. "The building was used for public gatherings, dances, religious and political meetings." After some years, the Pikes' tavern was taken over by Jeff Hosmer. In 1864 Timothy Streeter bought it; he closed it in 1874. Hopper says that "its patronage included stage coach drivers and passengers, freight wagon drivers and teamsters, drovers, drummers, private travelers, summer boarders, local barflies and those who needed a public hall. Balls and parties, meetings, funerals and court sessions were helpd in the old tavern and for a short time, part of it served as the town's library" -- with librarian Caroline Streeter.

The building then became a private home, and in 1926 it was purchased by the Connecticut RIver Development Company. Hopper says that it was used as a rooming house for men constructing the dam, until destroyed by fire "of an unknown origin" on January 1, 1930.

He also mentions Eugenia Powers' description of the interior of the tavern, which appeared in the 1978 Waterford Town Report (to follow).

Monday, March 23, 2015

Waterford Had a Fulling Mill -- But What Was Fulling?

Here's a long and thorough description of "fulling" from the website of an English woolen blanket manufacturer, Witney Blankets, and written by Clare Sumner:
After the cloth was woven it was fulled or milled. This process removed grease and shrank the material down to a smaller size, while matting up the fibres into a thicker and softer felt-like fabric. First it was steeped in a soap bath to clean and soften the wool. It was then placed into the trough of the fulling stocks - a machine with large wooden hammers that pounded, dragged and rolled the fabric, making it shrink and driving out the dirt from it.

An alternative to the fulling stocks was the milling machine, which did the same job using rollers. The stockful of blankets was fed into the machine, then the ends of the piece were sewn together to form a continuous belt which was run around between the rollers until it had become shrunk down enough. The first milling machine was patented in 1833 and was quicker than the fulling stocks, but stocks continued to be used either instead of, or alongside them in many mills in Britain for about a century afterwards.

After fulling the blankets were washed in water to remove the soap suds left from the fulling process and then they were spun dry in a machine. Mangles were sometimes used to extract excess water. At this stage they were still in one long piece.
This picture of a rotary fulling machine is from an 1891 issue of Popular Science
Fulling was not an unusual process in the early 1800s in Vermont -- many towns in our region had fulling mills. A few examples include one in East Village (East St. Johnsbury), one in Concord (as of 1847, according to McCullock's Universal Gazetteer), one in West Barnet, one next to what is now Ben Thresher's Mill in Barnet, one in South Peacham (in the basement of the Brown/Evans mill), and the fulling and woolen mill conducted by Benjamin Greenbanks in Harvey's Hollow (now part of Danville).

The Waterford Historical Society hopes that some readers will have more details and will share them with us. Let us know what you find out!