Sunday, June 26, 2016

Love, Beauty, and Remembering: The Memory Garden at the Lower Waterford Community Church

Summer's blossoms (and a caring gardener) have made the LWCC Memory Garden into a very lovely place to pause and reflect for a few minutes, in this busy season. Here are some photos to enjoy!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Celebrating One Hundred Years at Union Baptist Church, July 2016

Church history can be complicated! Waterford's contribution to Baptist worship in the 1800s led to today's Passumpsic Baptist Church. Meanwhile, two congregations from St. Johnsbury linked and became the Union Baptist Church, which in turn moved to Waterford, where it stands today.

For intriguing details and personal anecdotes of the Union Baptist Church history, mark your July calendar to attend the events hosted by UBC:

{Thank you, Tanya, for the postcard!}

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Crowded Country Calendars!

Living in rural Vermont means there are always more things to do than there's time for! And I don't just mean weeding the garden or clearing out the garage.

This weekend, history and music fans have the very unusual opportunity to hear music from the Waterford, Vermont, family of Euclid Williams, recreated by contemporary folk and bluegrass band UnCommon Folk, on Saturday June 18 at 6:30 at the Lower Waterford Community Church (across from the Rabbit Hill Inn, in Waterford, Vermont) -- see preceding post.

And for the rest of the weekend, why not visit the Vermont History Expo in Tunbridge, Vermont? This stunning exposition of all things historical, intriguing, and fun is a family event that takes place once every two years. I'll be there with a group of fellow Vermont authors, and I'll be presenting at 4 pm on Saturday "Myth, Legend, and Wild Truths of 15-Mile-Falls" -- which is of course the section of the Connecticut River that includes the Moore Dam reservoir at Waterford today.

Here's the handout for my talk, so you can get a bit of the flavor! Hope to see you at the Expo.


In 1840, it was impossible to take a boat up the last one-third of Vermont’s Connecticut River.  TRUE   FALSE

Fifteen Mile Falls was a killer stretch of the Connecticut River, and “spiked boots” tied to trees at the edge proved it. TRUE FALSE

Nobody ever rode a log through Fifteen Mile Falls and survived to tell the tale. TRUE   FALSE

Loggers ate the best food on the river! TRUE  FALSE

George Van Dyke was a wicked, stingy man who stripped the boots from his own loggers’ feet after the log drive. TRUE  FALSE

George Van Dyke’s death caused the end of the Connecticut River logging days. TRUE  FALSE

To buy land along Fifteen Mile Falls, the power company threatened residents to make them sell out.  TRUE  FALSE

There are bodies of dead men in the cement foundations of Comerford Dam on Fifteen Mile Falls. TRUE  FALSE

The men who built the Comerford Dam wooed away the “local girls” and caused fights with local men. TRUE  FALSE

If you go boating behind the Comerford Dam, you can look into the water and see the remains of the drowned town. TRUE  FALSE

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Waterford Family's Music -- Renewed

Euclid I. Williams on fife (center); his son, Leo (right) on the bass drum, and Euclid's younger brother, John (left) on the snare drum.

What happens when a researcher (Helen C. Pike) with a flair for history re-discovers a local family band from the 1930s -- and finds an actual recording of their music? In Waterford, Vermont, that's reason to celebrate, and to renew that music with  today's bluegrass and folk band! Read on:

Welcome Home to Waterford Music
WATERFORD – The sounds of music new and old will reverberate in this Connecticut River town when the Waterford Historical Society and the Lower Waterford Congregational Church host a unique benefit concert on June 18.
            “Welcome Home to Waterford Music” features the harmonies of the UnCommon Folk Band, string musicians who chose the post-Revolutionary War settlement as their home base: Samantha Amey who plays upright bass and folk guitar; Paul Amey on guitar, fiddle viola, and mandolin, and Tom Bishop, who not only plays the upright bass and frailing banjo, but also the harmonica.  All three sing.
“We started out sitting around the woodstove just jamming on cold winter nights,” according Sam Amey who runs a sugaring operation with her husband. “After a while people started liking our sound, so we formed the band sometime in 2005 in order to play at a variety show... The rest is history!”
Performing a mix of folk and bluegrass, UnCommon Folk is popular at First Night in St. Johnsbury, the Cabin Fever Reliever series in Guildhall, and at open-air festivals throughout the North Country.
Their repertoire of old-time music was exactly what the historical society and the Ladies Social Circle at church were looking for this past winter when they began brainstorming about their third joint production.
            The intersection of community interests with broad appeal occurred with the discovery of Helen Hartness Flanders’ 1933 recording of country fiddler Euclid I. Williams, a Waterford dairy farmer and church member. Flanders, daughter of a Vermont governor and wife of a U.S. senator, was internationally recognized as a ballad collector and authority on New England and British folk music.
Her 4,500 field recordings, transcriptions and analyses are housed as the Flanders Ballad Collection at Middlebury College, including the wax cylinders she used to record Williams when she visited Waterford. Those recordings have since been digitally converted, but the sound quality is poor.

Remembering the Band from Farming Days
Geneva Powers Wright of Waterford who is in her mid-90s recalled, as a child, listening to Williams and his family playing music when they came in from their fields at lunchtime. The Powers dairy farm was the nearest neighbor in an era of rolling pastureland with no trees to stop the sound.
“We could hear their music floating down,” Wright said of their fellow hill farmers.
In all, there were nine tunes that Flanders recorded.  To recreate the sound of the Williams Family and make new memories that come from music, the UnCommon Folk Band will include the slightly bawdy “Tim Finnegan’s Wake” in its playlist for the evening.
The historical society will mount a captioned display of Williams family photographs taken at Highland View Farm, today owned by Dr. Clare Wilmot and her husband, poet Peter Goreau.  A true hill farm, the historic homestead stands on Old County Road South with views of the Connecticut River valley and the spires and rooftops of Lower Waterford. The display will reference Euclid and Jennie’s son, Leo, who also played music, and his wife, Bertha, a member of the Congregational Church’s Ladies Social Circle.

Collaboration of Historic Church and Historical Society
The June 18th event is the third joint fund raiser between the church and the history group.  Members of the mid-19th century church are redoubling their efforts for contributions, both in-kind and financial, that will help restore the iconic edifice.
One of the three main village structures that give Waterford both its civic and historic identity, the church was built in 1859 using repurposed timbers from an 1818 meetinghouse on Old County Road South. Earlier fund raisers intended for the sanctuary’s interior were diverted to repair a leaky steeple and part of a rotting foundation on the building’s southwest side believed to have been constructed with beams from that meetinghouse.
For its part, Vermont’s newest historical society is asking for contributions that will help it continue to record Waterford’s early to mid-20th century history by those who lived it. Monies raised at the first joint benefit with the church, “Barn to Table”, were used to buy a secure archives cabinet and materials needed to organize family and business histories. Last year’s hugely successful combined fund raiser, “The Waterford Historic House & Garden Tour & Rhubarb Café”, enabled the society to pay its non-profit incorporation fees.
The church is located on Lower Waterford Road, between Route 18 and Maple Street. Church doors open at 6 p.m.  on Saturday, June 18. The concert is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. The historical society is providing light refreshments during intermission.
Admission is at the door: $10, adults; $5, children 12 and younger, kids under five, free. Anyone who cannot make it, but would like to make a donation to either organization’s projects is welcomed to mail a gift to the church: P.O. Box 111, Lower Waterford 05848 or the historical society: P.O. Box 56, Lower Waterford 05848. (article by Helen C. Pike)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

"You Never Know What You'll Discover": Today's Research Adventure

Benton, Richardson, Turek home ... photo courtesy of Dotti Turek
You may already know the house that Samuel Slade Benton built with his wife Esther, at the T where the Simpson Brook Road and the Daniels Farm Road meet. I've spent a lot of time this month seeking evidence for each of the small details that add up to a good story of the house and farm, and drafting an article on it for July publication.

But the most curious moment in the research happened this afternoon, as I was looking for the connection between mid-1800s owner Stephen Richardson and 1900s resident and eventual owner Clarence Simpson. (It turned out that Clarence was Stephen's great-grandson.) While I was searching, I found a transcript of the 1860 Census at Stephen Richardson's family home. At the time, Stephen was 37 years old, and the household included a 17-year-old farm helper named "Louie Packard" -- at least, that's what the Census transcription said.

Packard. Hmm. Noted architect Lambert Packard (1832-1906), who designed so many of St. Johnsbury's cultural facilities, as well as the classic original Fairbanks Scale structures, lived in Waterford during his childhood. (His mother was a Hastings from Waterford.) Could there be a connection to Louie? A cousin, maybe??

I downloaded a copy of the original hand-written Census page, and I checked Lambert Packard's family tree. No Louie, no Louis, no Lewis. Instead, I found a list of the architect's siblings: Charles born in 1836, Marshal born in 1839, Loren born in 1843, and Alonza born in 1845.

Bingo! Loren Packard, a younger brother of the architect, was 17 years old when the 1860 Census was taken. Back we go to the handwritten Census sheet, and sure enough, whoever transcribed it thought a dot of ink on the page meant there was an "i" in the name ... which was actually Loren.

So there we have it, one more small detail, established and worth thinking about: In 1860, Lambert Packard's younger brother Loren was living as a teenage "hired man" on the farm founded by the Benton family and owned at that time by Stephen Richardson.

Of course, the research never quite ends, because the next question is, whatever became of Loren? It appears that at age 19, he enlisted to fight for the Union in the Civil War ... the wonderful website resource "Vermont in the Civil War" notes that he later became a "master car maker" for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, and later lived (and passed away) near Albany, New York.  There are some inconsistencies in the listing (click here to see), which could lead me to more research -- but not today!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Geneva (Powers) Wright, Growing Up in Waterford

Geneva (Powers) Wright and her daughter Glenna W. Pasho.

On May 25, 2016, Geneva (Powers) Wright, with her daughter Glenna (Wright) Pasho, told the Waterford Historical Society about growing up in Waterford. These notes (written by Donna Heath and Beth Kanell) are supplemented with added details from Geneva’s written history of the family and from Glenna afterward.

The Powers history in Waterford began at the intersection of Shadow Lake Road and County Road South at the farm purchased by Glenn Gilbert Powers and Eva Belle (Page) Powers on April 19, 1919 according to Geneva Ella (Powers) Wright, the eldest of Glenn’s seven children.  There were three boys and four girls. Glenn and Eva moved from Kirby to the farm in May 1919.

The farm was one of the earliest settled in Waterford; in 1792 when Daniel Pike came from Royalston, Mass., he settled on 125 acres there. Daniel Pike’s companions in his move to Waterford were his brother Nathan, and Jonathan Hutchinson and Luther Knight.* Daniels’s son Luther (who would become known as Deacon Luther Pike) took ownership, marrying Anna Caswell. Their daughter Carolina married Nathan W. Millen, who eventually owned the farm, followed by the Millen daughter Laura Jane (Jennie), who married Frank W. Brown of Bethlehem, NH; Frank Brown became a successful dairyman, in 1886 building a modern barn and in 1904 rebuilding and modernizing the house. Frank and Jennie Brown were the owners who sold the farm to Glenn Powers. In addition to farming, Glenn was a Vermont state representative for Waterford in the 1940s.

Geneva (the first child in the family, born September 22, 1919, at the Littleton NH hospital) went to a small (“one-room”) district elementary school in Waterford, the Woods School, and attended high school in Littleton.  During the first year of high school, she travelled to school in the truck that carried the milk cans.  The truck driver would be either Geneva’s father Glenn or his hired man Percy Kezar. For her other three high school years, she and her sister Theresa stayed with a Littleton family during the week, “self-boarding,” and went home on weekends.  The girls had to provide their own food and firewood at the house where they boarded. It was so cold in the winter there, that the girls were able to keep their perishable food supply in the very cold hallway.  Going home on weekends was a time to do laundry (skirts were below the knee), and to bring back more food, assisted by their mother. Geneva graduated from high school in 1937.

The family raised sheep and sent the wool to Maine to be made into wool blankets.  Glenn raised Jersey cattle.  Milk was kept in milk cans placed in a cooler until being picked up by the milk truck and delivered to creameries in Barnet and Concord and Littleton.  The milk cooler was kept cold with ice from Stiles Pond and from the pond at Pattenville, NH (across the river).  Sawdust was used to pack the ice in the ice shed to preserve it. The family made its own butter. It was packed into wooden butter molds and pressed out, and then wrapped in paper, which Geneva recalls doing.

Although Geneva’s high school years were during the Great Depression, her family did not discuss the Depression and the farm provided much of their needs. They milked cows, sugared, raised sheep and poultry, owned horses, made their own ice cream and sold butter. 

One of Geneva’s chores was to take care of house chores (sweeping, washing dishes) when a “hurricane” baby was born in during Vermont’s devastating Hurricane of 1938; her mother assisted at the birth, and often helped other women as needed.  Today, the baby lives in Gilman.

Geneva married Gilbert Augustus Wright (born March 26, 1912, in Lower Waterford) on March 1, 1938.  In addition to several kinds of work, Gilbert also was a road commissioner for Waterford, Barnet, and Kirby at different times, and later in life served as a lister for Waterford.

Geneva and Gilbert Wright would have three children. Their names now are, daughter Jean Wright Hagan, born 1939; son Merle G. Wright, born 1940; and daughter Glenna W. Pasho, born 1950. When the youngest, Glenna, was 3 years old, Geneva told Gilbert that she wasn’t milking cows any longer, so the family moved to St. Johnsbury, ideal for the children to attend St. Johnsbury Academy. When Glenna was 19 and attending college in New York State, her parents decided to sell the house in St. Johnsbury and move back to an acre of land reserved for them at the home farm.

Glenn’s grandson, Keith, now resides at the farm. 

[*Correction to Pike reference, from Pike descendant Helen Chantal Pike, Aug. 30, 2017: Daniel Pike moved with his 2 sons, Nathan and Luther (and at least 2 daughters). I'm descended from Nathan, the river farmer. Deacon Luther became the hill farmer.]