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)