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!

1 comment:

  1. this place was also the Fleming dairy,a friend of my family worked there delivering bottled milk in the late 49 to 51 time frame