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!