Popular Posts


Friday, January 13, 2023

List of 146 Past Articles

Below are the titles of the 146 columns I have written since 2007 for the Journal Opinion.  They are all posted on this blog.  If there is one you want to read, go to the search bloc on the right side of page one and put in key word(s).  The article should appear on the top of the second page.  I have just finished throwing away 5 lg boxes of hand written notes and kept just the newspaper copy and one hard copy. Notice that 13 of the articles were reprinted in the Valley News, most of which had great illustrations by Shawn Braley. 

 1.     Changing the Face of the Community (Architects)  10/20

2.     Portraits, Landscapes and Still Lifes (Local Artists) 6/2012

3.     Send Out the Alarm (Attacks) 1/2011

4.     Under the Auctioneer’s Hammer 9/2017

5.     The Horseless Carriage Arrives 11/2017

6.     Strike Up the Band 7/2007

7.     Banking On That (Banks) 7/2014

8.     Dance Night 8/2008

9.     The Rise of Baseball 6/2022

10.There Is Nothing Like Baseball 8/2022

11.The Bayley-Hazen Road 7/2013

12.Pedaling Alone: Bicycle Ups and Downs 5/2017

13. Boundaries: May, 1933   5/2008

14. Building With Bricks  11/2016

15.Going to Summer Camp  7/2010

16.The Vulnerable Child  1/2022

17.Christmas Pageants, Prayer, Parties and More 12/2022

18.Memories of Christmas 1659-1959   12/2008

19.Cooking Up a Holiday Storm 12/2017

20.The Best Christmas Gift Ever  12/2019

21.Christmas: How Sweet It Is  12/2021

22.Church, Town Disestablishmentarianism 6/2013

23.Charles Clark, the Oregon and Company G  7/2017

24.Battle of Bull Run April 1861  4/2007

25. Antietam: A Most Bloody Day  9/2012 (Also Valley News)

26.Gettysburg: Furious Feld of Fire   6/2013

27.Wilderness of Woe (Battle of the Wilderness) 4/2014

28.Cedar Creek: A Valley Victory  10/2014 (Also Valley News)

29.An Unending War (CW Veterans) 5/2015

30.Watching the Time: Clocks  12/2016

31.Common Land 6/2019 (Also Valley News)

32.Cool It (keeping Cool in the Past) 7/2022

33. Economic Workshop Paper on Communist movement 7/1972

34.The Search of Something Different (based on paper) 9/2020

35.BOOK 2:  Roots of the Dairy Industry 6/2009

36.Damming the Falling Water 9/2010

37.Dancing in the Kitchen  4/2012  (Also Valley News)

38.Decades of Change 1960-1964  11/2012

39.Decades of Change  1965-1969  2/2013

40.Decades of Change 1970-1974    5/2013

41.Decades of Change  1975-1979  9/2013

42.Decades of Change  1980-1984  11/2013

43.Decades of Change   1985-1989   1/2014

44.Decades  of Change  1990-1994    6/2013

45.Decades of Change 1995-2000   8/2014

46.Dental Fads, Fancies and Facts   1/2016

47.What Ails You?  (Doctors)  7/2012

48.Bad Dog, Good Dog  6/2018

49.Being 80: Still In the Game  9/2022

50.Caring for Yesterday’s Elders  12/2018

51.Election Patters: Made and Broken  10/2012

52. September 1897  Introduction to Electricity 9/2007

53.Epidemics  (Spanish Flu etc.) 11/2008

54.The River Crossings (Ferries) 10/2016  (Also Valley News)

55.Fires (Bradford: February 1883) 2/2007 (First article)

56.Fires (Part II)  2/2008

57.November, 1927 Flood   10/2007

58.The 1936 Flood   3/2016

59. Celebrating with Loud Huzzah (4th of July) 7/2008 (Also Valley News)

60.French in Vermont (July 1609) 7/2009

61.Funerals:  Deadly Sorrowful and Grave  10/2018

62.Furniture Makers: Plain and Elegant   9/2015

63.Games of Our Childhood  5/2012

64.Survival By Gardening 8/2015

65.Fruits and Berries: Fruits of the Harvest  10/2012

66.Fore No More (Abandoned Golf Courses)  6/2008

67.Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow  3/2022

68. Halloween: Mysterious Tales    10/2011

69.A short History of Hill’s Five & Ten  (no article)

70.Hurricane: September 21, 1938  9/2008   (Also Valley News)

71.BOOK 3: Yankee Inventors  1/2010

72.Labor’s Gains & Summer’s Farewell (Labor Day) 8/2013  (Also Valley News)

73.Local Libraries: Small Town Perfect  4/2010

74.Log Drives: Driving the Middle Way 5/2010  (Also Valley News)

75.It’s In the Mail (Part I) 12/2020

76.It’s Still In the Mail (PartII) 1/2021

77.Fall In the Muster (Militia) 8/2009

78.Mining Mania (Grafton West)  5/2011

79.Mining Mania (Orange Co.) 8/2011

80.Carved In Stone (Gravestones)  10/2013

81.Monuments (October 12, 1926) Public Monuments 10/2007

82.Let’s Go To The Movies  11/2010

83.Murder Most Vile (Part I) 4/2020

84.Murder Most Vile (Part II) 4/2020

85.Murder Most Vile ( Part III) 5/2020

86.What’s In A Name (Part I) 12/2012

87.What’s In A Name  (Part II) 1/2013

88.FDR March 1933  3/2008

89.Stimulating the Economy in the 1930s 4/2009

90.Old New Year’s Ways 12/2015

91.Old Home Spirit 6/2011

92.Photographers:  Picture That! 12/2011

93.Poor Farms: March 1923   3/2007

94.No One Lives There Anymore (Part I) 2/2011

95.No One Lives There Anymore (Part II) 3/2011

96.From Privy to Plumbing 6/2017 (Also Valley News)

97.Coming of the Railroad: October 1848  10/2008  (Also Valley News)

98.Radio Broadcasts Received 3/2015

99.Ten-Year Retrospective 2/2017

100.        Roads To And From  5/2022

101.        I-91: Between A Rock & A Hard Place 11/2022

102.        Valley News Vermont’s Lost Highways 10/2009

103.        Rogers’ Rangers: October 1759   10/2009

104.        BOOK FOUR  Smell of Sawdust (Mills) 12/2013

105.        School Time: Academies and Seminaries  1790-1890 9/2009

106.        Sheep Mania boom & Bust    4/2016

107.        Police: Shields Against Crime  3/2021

108.        Sidewalks “ Take A Walk”  8/2012

109.        Slavery: A Crime Against Humanity  8/2010

110.        Snippets From Past Articles (Presentation)

111.        Strawberry Time 6/2007

112.        Strawberry Festival 6/2015

113.        Stores: Closing the Books 9/2018

114.        Sugarin’ Time   3/2014

115.        Late Summer Fun   8/2021

116.        Not On Sunday 12/2015

117.        Tax Time: Rebellion and Revision  4/2018

118.        Plain Talkin’   9/2011

119.        Television:  Pictures From The Air   4/2015

120.        Hello Central, What’s New (telephone history)   5/2017

121.        No Rum For Me (Temperance movement) 3/2009  (Also Valley News)

122.        Thanksgiving Myths and Memories 11/2009

123.        Theatre Companies: On the Stage  7/2021

124.        Things That Never Happened (Locally) 1/2009

125.        Summertime Tourism  8/2020

126.        Early Town Meetings  2/2009

127.        Just Passing Through (tramps, Gypsies etc.)      11/2020

128.        BOOK FIVE Settled Here, At Anchor (Sea captains) 3/2013

129.        Old Fashion Winter Fun 2/2019

130.        Hail to the Chiefs (Washington/Lincoln) 2/2018

131.        Women’s Suffrage: A Radical Notion 10/2010

132.        Women’s Suffrage written with Abby Robbins 10/2020

133.        Mother Peckett & Other Extraordinary Women 5/2009

134.        Women: Work That’s Never Done   5/2019

135.        1945 Hanging on Toward Victory 1/2007

136.        VJ Day August 14, 1945  8/2007

137.        Dark Days of ’42 3/2017  (Also Valley News)

138.        Songs of WW II  4/2008

139.        World War I:  Locals Over There   4/2017

140.          World War I: Locals Over Here 3/2018

141.        From Armistice Day to Veterans Day 11/2018

142.         Valentine’s Day :  How We Love It. 2/2015

143.        Wood There Be (Part I) 4/2021

144.        Wood There Be (Part II) 5/2021

145.        Veterans: Five Who Served  11/2021


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Christmas Pageants, Prayers, Parties, and More.


Children's Pageant:  This 2016 Pageant at the First Congregational Church of Thetford was typical of similar programs that have been held throughout the area for decades. (Courtesy Ray Chin)

Journal Opinion, Dec 14, 2022

In December 1939, an event occurred in Bradford that would probably not happen today. Despite a wintry storm, 393 area residents gathered at the Bradford Academy auditorium for the 3rd annual Christmas pageant.

Produced by the students and staff of the Academy in cooperation with the Bradford churches and assisted by the Bradford firemen and families, the pageant recalled the traditional Nativity story. High school students portrayed angels, shepherds, wise men, and the holy family. The combined choirs of the churches sang traditional Christmas hymns accompanied by an orchestra. The audience was encouraged to join in some of the songs.

One spectator remarked: “Christmas in America is still a happy occasion; let us be in sympathy with the millions in war-torn Europe to whom Christmas will be just another day of anxious waiting.”  

Across the area, similar Christmas pageants were held that season in Piermont, Thetford, and Groton. 

The Christmas season in 1939 had been expanded by one week when President Roosevelt reset Thanksgiving Day to the fourth Thursday of November rather than the last Thursday. With five Thursdays in November that year, the holiday season was long than it had been in the past.   

This column is one in a series that recognizes the importance of the Christmas season in our area.  Previous columns, available at larrycoffin.blogspot.com,  have explored the history of Christmas in America, gift-giving, and holiday foods and sweets. 

This column will explore the various holiday observances held locally in times past.  It includes parades and pageants, holiday parties, gifts for the needy, and church services. Wat follows is just a small sample of the Christmas season’s activities found in local newspapers over the past 150 years.

  Christmas concerts and cantata were a significant part of the area’s Christmas festival season.  There is so much material on this topic that I will hold it for a column next year.

Puritans objected to Christmas partly because of the unruly way the season was celebrated in Europe, where it was characterized by “rowdy displays of excessive eating and drinking, aggressive begging and mocking of established authority.”

By the mid-19th century, Christmas was becoming family-centered with Santa Claus bringing gifts to children. This was a response to the rough gang activities that characterized the season in many urban areas.  Nevertheless, a tension between religious and secular activities remained.

In the 1860s, local writers told of Christmas Festivals throughout the area. In 1860, a Christmas Festival was held at Seminary Hall in Newbury, complete with the Newbury Cornet Band, dramas and charades.

 A Christmas Eve service at the West Bradford Methodist Church featured “a Christmas tree filled with fruits of all kinds.”  In 1871, Santa Claus appeared at the Orford church “along with a lot of presents for all.”  This practice of a having a community tree for the distribution of even family gifts continued into the 1920s.

The Nativity pageant depicting the birth of Christ has its roots in medieval Europe. The first mention of a Vermont-based Nativity program with children taking part was in 1858 in Stowe. With children as the holy family, shepherds, wise men, and angels the story “was softened.”  

Local newspapers described annual Nativity performances, held in town halls, schools, and churches..  Sometimes they were sponsored by a local church or school, and sometimes by a collaborative effort.  Sometimes they were held during the weeks leading up to December 25, and on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the Orford Elementary School sponsored the annual pageant with practices during school time. The final production was held at the West Congregational Church. Once the play was completed, a much-anticipated Santa arrived with candy boxes and tangerines for the children.  

Having schools actively involved in a religious service began to be discontinued after the 1962 Supreme Court decision on school prayer. In 1967, the Vermont Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union warned that public school programs that were “specifically religious in nature” violated the principle of the separation of church and state. 

To give variety to the pageants, there were various scripts used to tell the traditional story.  In 1935, “The Story of Xmas in Song” was presented in Wells River and in 1940 the “The Soldier of Bethlehem” was the title of Groton’s pageant.

The First Congregational Church on Thetford Hill used the talent of its pastor Edward Tyler who in 1967 wrote “The Messengers” and, in 1968, “Joseph Waiting.” In both cases, there were original songs written by church members.

Sometimes, several churches combined to present the Christmas program.  In 1932, churches in the Bradford vicinity combined to present a program of music and pageants. In 1981, churches from Haverhill, Wentworth, Warren, and Rumney joined for the Annual Union Christmas Service.

Whether school or church based, these pageants relied on volunteer, often mothers, to prepare costumes, shepherd crooks, angel wings, and a manger. The primary roles were often highly sought by older children.

As schools began to hold winter holiday programs, traditional carols were more likely to be replaced by secular music of the season. “Let it Snow” and “Carol of the Bells” replaced “Silent Night.”

In the late 1880s, Christmas parades began to appear across the nation.  Businesses saw these post-Thanksgiving Sant-theme parades as an opportunity to introduce the holiday shopping season.

A holiday parade in Barre began in the 1930s and annually drew hundreds of spectators. These included local residents who traveled to Barre to enjoy the parade and the open stores.  In 1940, Bradford’s local veterans’ post took a float to the parade.  Burlington added a parade in 1949.

That same year, Concord, New Hampshire began an annual tradition of holding a Christmas parade complete with Santa riding on a float. In 1991, the Woodsville High Marching Band was selected to lead the Concord parade.

Portsmouth, Littleton, and New London have held similar holiday events. Norwich, VT has combined the idea of a Christmas parade and a Christmas pageant in an annual downtown event that re-enacted the Nativity story, complete with a donkey carrying Mary. More locally, the closest to a Santa parade was the arrival of Santa on a local firetruck.

 In 2012, an antique firetruck delivered Santa to Bradford’s Midnight Madness. For the past several years, the Corinth Volunteer Fire Department has been giving Santa Claus rides around the area.  The Bradford Fire Department will join this parade this year.

For Christians of most denominations, church services complete with a Christmas sermon and carols are the highlight of the observance and center “the reason for the season.”  These services took place on the Sunday prior to December 25, on Christmas eve, or Christmas day.

Ministers knew that Christmas services often drew a larger congregation and put extra effort into the sermon and musical selections. As early churches often lacked sufficient heat, lengthy sermons could be trying.  Christmas Eve candlelight services began in the 1920s and became a traditional ending for most current holiday church services.

For Roman Catholics, midnight mass is a high point of the holiday.  Although I could not find evidence, it was probably celebrated annually in Woodsville’s St. Joseph’s Catholic Church after its dedication in 1897.

The local masses held on Christmas eve, 1945, were special.  Instead of being held in private homes as had been the practice, one was held at the Bradford Inn and another at an inn in Wells River, both to overflow crowds. The symbolism of the locations was not lost on participants since there was no room at the inn for the holy family, forcing them to seek shelter in the stable for the birth of Jesus.

In 1947, the mass was celebrated in the newly-constructed Our Lady of Perpetual Help sanctuary in Bradford and, in 1948, in the new St.Eugene’s Chapel in Wells River. Those who gathered at these events included members of area Protestant churches.

  Catholics who had fasted before the mass often went home for a late meal.  For other revelers, merry rather than Mary, is the spirit of the season.

Even during Prohibition and the temperance movements bans on alcohol,  New Hampshire and Vermont residents consumed liquor during the holidays.  Christmas was an excuse for imbibing, and there was often the temptation to drink more than usual.

That was especially true in 1885 when there was an unusually large number of drunken men in St. Johnsbury, leading to a police raid on local saloons.

For laborers, it was common practice to pass around a bottle at the mill or shop on the last working afternoon before the holiday break. Inn 1928, a Prohibition-era house party at Newbury’s Abbot Lodge included eight young ladies “who liked the cup that cheered.”

Office parties were a perfect way for employers to recognize a year of hard work.

Party refreshments, however, places a certain liability on the server.  Office parties were often moved to a restaurant for those reasons. In December 1968 Governor Philip Hoff made the decision that no office parties would be held on state property. 

The downside of that holiday partying is an increase in alcohol-fueled automobile crashes. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is often the deadliest for drivers. New Hampshire and Vermont have a higher drinking rate than the country overall. The holidays can have a tragic downside locally, the least tragic of which might be ending up in traffic court.

Of course, not all Christmas parties are defined by drink.

Numerous newspaper notices of various Christmas parties included an early one being an outdoor skating party at Lake Fairlee in 1897.  Over the years, Bradford s Christmas Club, the Grange and other organizations, veterans posts, nursing homes, and hospitals held parties. Private house parties were common.  The number of schools that host Christmas parties has decline. 

Notices of Christmas bazaars appeared in local newspapers as early as 1909.  That year, a Christmas bazaar was held in Newbury’s Chadwich Hall. In 1928, the Fairlee-based Rondo had its annual bazaar. In 1940, the Social Club of Piermont and the Ladies Society of Bradford’s Congregational Church each held an annual event.  In the 1960s, the Grace Methodist Church of Bradford held an annual bazaar and supper. These events included the sale of handmade crafts and baked goods. Luncheons, teas or suppers helped to make these events successful “socially and financially.”

As the number of church women declined, craft shows and flea markets helped to fill the place of more elaborate bazaars.

In the tradition of Dickens’s “Christmas Carol,” gifts for needy families at the holiday season has a long history in the area. In 1932, the South Ryegate’s Woman’s club created boxes of clothing and toys for the community’s poorest families. In the 1940’s both the Bradford Methodist Church and Fairlee’s Rondo created baskets for the needy, sick, and shut-ins. The Bradford Legion Post Auxiliary provided gifts for patients at White River Junction’s VA Hospital. 

In 1978, the Bradford Lions Club began Operation Santa Claus to provide toys for needy children in the area.  For many of the years I chaired it, Oxbow’s Senior Class members were buyers of toys and other gifts using funds raised from throughout the community. The program was later expanded to include food baskets and winter clothing. It will be held again this year with Bradford’s Ryan Chase as chair,  

In 1997, Barbara’s Red Stocking Christmas project began to serve the needy of the Fairlee-Orford area. The following year, Toys for Tots got underway  in Woodsville.  The response to all these programs is made more significant because the focus is local and the donations are targeted with little overhead.

Those who labor to make these local programs possible often experience a “warm glow,” knowing that hundreds of children awaken on Christmas morning after a visit from Santa.  

As the examples above indicate, the holiday season has expanded. It seems to now start around Halloween. These events may overshadow Christmas day itself and the fatigue brought on by the hype makes December 26th all that much more welcomed.  Nevertheless, Merry Christmas.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The Impact of I-91

Between A Rock And A Hard Place Journal Opinion November 16, 2022
Note I have made several corrections to my original article, thanks to a helpful letter from Erik Sohlberg of St. Johnsbury)

Fifty years ago, the new 4-lane highway was snaking its way along the Connecticut River. Interstate 91 eventually extended 177 miles from the Massachusetts line to the Canadian border. It was part of the greatest building project in human history. It changed the area forever. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal Highway Act of 1956, he saw the possibilities of economic development, improved highway safety, and freedom from highway congestion. Amidst the Cold War there were defense implications as well.

The highway was constructed from the Massachusetts' line to the southern St. Johnsbury exit and there it connected to the highway being built from the Canadian line.
Moving north, I-91 opened locally in stages, reaching towns as follows: Thetford and Fairlee 1971, Bradford 1972, and Wells River 1974. A temporary exit from the north to Rt. 5 opened at East Ryegate in 1971 as the highway was being constructed south from St. Johnsbury. The 15-mile section between Bradford and Ryegate did not open until 1974. The section between East Ryegate and Barnet was completed in November 1977.  

The exact route of the highway was the subject of considerable debate in the early 1960s. There was a rerouting effort that proposed to have the highway built up the middle of the state closer to Rutland in an “effort to serve more people.” There was an additional proposal to have the new highway be built on the east side of the Connecticut River. Another proposal committee encouraged a plan that moved the route from Bellows Falls to Bethel and the “around robin hood’s barn” to St. Johnsbury. However, that route was discarded because it would delay construction by a minimum of three years and result in a net increase in cost.

As Sohlberg points out, The route chosen up the Connecticut and Passumpsic valleys "was due to a decision to have the road connect population centers and avoid New Hampshire."

 As the plans for the highway were initially announced, most residents “were either accepting or resigned toward the approaching juggernaut.” Others reacted differently. Conservative Hartland resident Herbert Ogden “saw the highway as a scourge that would destroy many of the good aspects of rural life in the Valley.” In 1962, the impact of the highway raised fears in Thetford. One resident said, “You are trying to build too much of a highway. We don’t need it that big.” The fears were somewhat reduced when the plans showed the route to be between East Thetford and Thetford Hill rather than through the farmland further east. In response to some criticism, one highway department spokesman suggested that if Thetford people did not want an interchange, it might be possible to eliminate it from the plan. That, of course, didn’t happen. 

 One of the most intense route disputes was in Fairlee. That community fought to save both its village and Lake Morey by unsuccessfully suggesting several more westerly routes than the one that exists today. A town meeting vote confirmed the community’s support for a route west of the Palisades. The location of the Fairlee exit was also debated. The original plan had the exit opposite the road to Orford. Some proposed that it be in Ely. The location of the exit at Lake Morey Road was a compromise. Based on construction costs, the so-called red route through the village eventually won as it was the only route acceptable to federal officials.

 In Bradford, one proposed route would have built the interstate in the meadows east of the village and then on to the higher ground near Fairground Road. That was discarded for the route though the Waits River intervale. The proposal to have the highway reduce to two-lanes north of the Bradford interchange was discarded as well. 

 The proposed route to Route 302 east of Wells River was built away from Route 5 along less populated and relatively undeveloped sections near West Newbury. There were also competing routes further north between the 302 interchange and Glover. 

In 1968, the Vermont Highway Department announced that building of the highway in the Bradford-Newbury area would be delayed for up to 3 years because of a federal freeze on funds and its desire complete I-89 first. 

As plans for the highway required the acquisition of private property in the right of way, the state offered each landowner an allowed amount. After unsuccessful price negotiations, the state always had the right to acquire the property by eminent domain. In Fairlee, buildings in Adam’s Square and along the proposed route were removed. In January 1969, the Highway Department offered these buildings for sale. The minimum bids ranged from $50 for a small garage to $600 for a 7-room house. The Fairlee Hardware store that sat at the corner of Route 5 and the Lake Morey Road was advertised for a minimum bid of $400. All sales were contingent on the new owners moving the building to a new location. 

Some landowners sought higher amounts by appealing to the Orange County court. In October 1968, local highway necessity cases included 80 property owners and 75 interested parties. Some cases went to jury trials. In 1969, one Thetford couple was offered $3,500 for their 13 acres of land, but a sympathetic jury awarded them $6,800. 

 The cost of the highway, paid for by 90% federal funds, was about $1 million per mile with some sections, such as the one between Fairlee and Bradford, costing more. That is significantly less than it would cost today. It was also faster than it would be today. That the project was completed in a little more than a decade was “an amazing achievement.” Several reasons for this the fact that land was cheaper in the building period. With fewer regulations on building projects, construction outfits were “up and ready to go once their bids were accepted.” Using a “cut and fill” technique, the road advanced, often filling ravines and wet areas with till. Bridge construction was much faster than could be achieved today. 

 When the highway was completed, the impact was almost immediate. The changes were positive for some and not for others. Some families lost their homes, and, to the extent the highway negatively impacted businesses, their jobs. Some farmers lost land or found their property divided. Some residents had their wells affected by the construction. As with the railroad and major highways earlier, some communities thrived and others were bypassed. As traffic was reduced on Rt. 5, some businesses languished. The transfer of the Tween Lakes Motel in Fairlee to a residential facility is a good example of impacted businesses. As traffic increased, highway commercial areas developed around some interstate exits.

 The best example in the Upper Valley is the commercial development in White River and along 12A in West Lebanon near the junction of the two interstate highways. While the exit at Thetford did not significantly change the immediate neighborhood, the one at Fairlee precipitated several new businesses immediately off the exit, including service stations, a grocery store and a hardware store. 

 In Bradford, the growth of new businesses on the Lower Plain was directly influenced by the nearby interchange. In the years before, and after its completion, the businesses were developed or enlarged on the Lower Plain and in the nearby Pierson Industrial Park. Access to the interstate with shorter travel times and lower transportation costs enhanced businesses such as Copeland Furniture and Farmway. 

 The increased traffic at the junction of Rtes. 5 and 25 in Bradford led to the installation of the first traffic signals in Orange County. There were also warnings that exiting traffic at Bradford would use the Creamery Bridge road to the village increased congestion. At Exit 17 on Route 302 east of Wells River, the P & H truck stop and the adjacent Newbury Industrial Park met the public and commercial needs generated by the interstate.

 During its construction, the highway between Fairlee and Bradford employed 110 workers. The completed highway had a profound impact on employment, not only at the new or enlarged businesses adjacent to the exits, but also for those who lived locally and worked in larger communities. UVM Professor Frank Bryan referred to the creation of bedroom communities as “the divorce of work and home.” 

Previously people were more likely to live and work in the same place. By 1976, one-third of Thetford’s labor force worked in the Hanover-Lebanon area. As many of these positions were well-paid, it enhanced Thetford’s contributions to the economy. This trend was replicated in other towns in the area. New park and ride sites along I-91, and morning traffic heading south from area town, show this connection is still strong. 

 There was concern that the highway would create an over response to “Vermont, The Beckoning Country.” The locally-produced theater production “The Blog That Ate Vermont” explored these fears. In 1964, 14 area towns formed the Central Connecticut Valley Association to help encourage regional resources, conservation and development projects. At the initial meeting 150 area residents met at Thetford Academy. Over the years the organization was involved in projects including developing employment opportunities and recreational access. 

 The Upper Valley was more accessible to large urban populations within a day’s drive. This greatly enhanced the number of new full- and part-time residents and tourists. Between 1960 and 2007, Thetford saw a 165% growth. In the period between 1970 and 1980, Fairlee grew by 27% and Bradford by 43%. Bryan commented that the influx of new faces meant that “’Where are you from?’ is a much more common question when meeting fellow residents than it was in the past.” Today, the obituaries of local residents reflect how often many “are from away.” Before 1970, one would rarely see any but white faces in Bradford or Wells River-Woodsville. 

The enactment of Act 250, along with local zoning ordinances and subdivision regulations, was a response to the influx of new residents and the development of the second home industry. While these made sense to many, others valued property owner rights too much to accept centralized planning. 

 There was also a dramatic increase in “so called bridge traffic,” non-Vermont traffic that was just passing through. In many ways, Vermont was a central park between Boston-New York and Montreal-Quebec City. Tourists bound for the White Mountains enhanced the traffic exiting at Wells River. It was not just Americans using the new highway. There was a significant increase in the amount of Canadian traffic. That included personal vehicles and large trucks carrying raw materials and finished goods. 

The highway, with its higher speeds, also had an impact on shopping patterns. Trips from the local area to businesses in the Lebanon area and beyond were significantly more common. Area residents were more likely to travel 20 or more miles north or south for dining or shopping. Conversely, residents from aw3ay made trips to Bradford for dinner at Colatina Exit or to shop at Farmway. Likewise, quick access to Dartmouth Hitchcock reduced the travel time for emergency vehicles.

 While some local businesses prospered from the enhanced access, others could not compete. The reduction of Bradford village as a shopping destination directly resulted from its inability to compete. The additional impacts from the internet and Vermont’s sales tax only hastened its decline. 

 The cultural lag that rural areas often experience decreased as the outside world’s impact was more prominent. Unfortunately, the importation of illegal drugs was far easier. 

 As the section opened between Fairlee and Bradford in 1972, it was estimated that within a year, an average daily traffic volume of 3,500 vehicles would use the section. Route 5 would be reduced to a daily volume of 1100. Some feared Route 5 would be so abandoned that “grass would grow in the cracks.”

 In 2021, the Vermont Department of Transportation reports there was a daily total of 1,797 vehicles using Exit 15 in Fairlee and 2,309 using Exit 16 in Bradford. Through traffic at Exit 16 includes 3,258 northbound and 3305 southbound. Traffic on Route 5 is reported as 4,358 vehicles from Fairlee’s Lake Morey Road to the turn to Orford’s Bridge Street and 2,333 from that point to the four corners in Bradford. In all these cases, one vehicle may be counted more than once, coming and going. 

 As you can see, the history of many of the towns in our area can be divided into the periods before and after the arrival of I-91. It changed the Upper Valley socially, economically, and politically as few things have over the area’s long history. And it continues to do so.