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Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Myths and Memories

Thanksgiving  is  a family affair for most area families with traditional
foods such as turkey, ham and sweet potatoes. It is a chance for a multi-generational sharing of thankfulness for all we enjoy.

"The First Thanksgiving" (1914) by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (1850-1936) helps to perpetuate the belief that the Pilgrims celebrated the original American thanksgiving in 1621.
This c 1911 Thanksgiving greeting card was typical of many holiday post cards published in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Published in the Journal-Opinion, November 24, 2009

They were a group of hard-pressed colonists facing the rigors of the New World. Faith in a providing and protecting God caused them to celebrate with thanksgiving the blessings they felt had been provided. The image that immediately comes to mind with this description is of the traditional Pilgrim Thanksgiving at Plymouth in 1621.

However, in New Mexico there are those who believe this describes colonizing families led by Don Juan de Onate who reached the banks of the Rio Grande and celebrated by giving thanks to God in April 1598. Berkeley, Virginia residents believe that the honor for the first American thanksgiving belongs to them.

On December 4, 1619 a group of newly-arrived English colonists under Capt. John Woodlief proclaimed the following: “Wee ordain that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacons in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

All of these observances are merely continuations of festivals celebrated from very ancient times. Early hunters and gatherers connected continued success with worship of their deities. Ancient civilizations such as the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans made these festivals significant annual events.

Native Americans celebrated in a similar way prior to the arrival of European colonists. Certainly the English settlers were familiar with the age-old rural celebration of ingathering called Harvest Home. Held on the last day of the harvest, this traditional festival of ingathering included feasting, song and dance.

The Thanksgiving story my grandchildren will hear in school this November will most likely include Pilgrims and their neighbors, the Wampanoag. That story, so familiar to most Americans, is a mixture of fact and myth. What is known is that after a difficult first year in which more than half of the Pilgrims died, the company had gathered a reasonably good harvest. They were also amazed by the natural bounty of the forests and sea around them. A hunting party returned with an abundant take, probably including wild turkey. Governor William Bradford called for a harvest festival.

Massasoit, a leader among the Wampanoag, along with a large party of his people, arrived to join the English in three days of feasting and entertainment. Fall festivals of this sort were part of the fixed rhythm of their culture. They brought with them 5 deer as a gift. This sharing was a way to show friendship and respect. That was a relationship that continued until the 1630’s when war broke out between the ever-expanding colonial settlements and the Native Americans.

Most of the foods Americans traditionally eat at Thanksgiving were probably not on the menu in 1621. This celebration, according to Giving Thanks, by Kathleen Curtin et al, “occurred sometime between September 21 and November 9.” Having all the trappings of the Harvest Home observance, this was not truly a day of thanksgiving. That, in the English tradition, was a solemn day of prayer, worship and often fasting.

My 8th great-grandfather, 13-year old Joseph Rogers, was at that celebration. He and his father, Thomas Rogers were among those “planters” who came on the Mayflower. His father died during the first winter and young Rogers went to live in the household of Governor Bradford. He would have joined in the games and partaken of the venison, wild turkey, fish, breads and sweets along with beer and water.

Over the next century and a half, colonial thanksgiving days were held from time to time, both in recognition of special blessings and, “more general expressions of gratitude for prosperity and health.” Governors and later Presidents would declare official thanksgiving observances. Worship was the main event of these days, although food or fasting played an important role.

Increasingly, in the early19th century, the so-called Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving became attached to a fall family festival that included distinctly American foods. Many of the dishes that are served today became standard fare. These include stuffed turkey or chicken, gravy, cranberry sauce and a vast array of vegetables, breads and desserts. Molasses-based pumpkin pie and Indian pudding were staples of the day.

Rev. Grant Powers, one of the earliest local historians, relates how in one of the earlier years, “the proclamation of Thanksgiving did not reach Newbury till after the appointed day had passed. The people however, decided to keep the feast, but it was discovered that there was no molasses in the settlement. A supply being expected from Charlestown, the day was postponed to await its arrival, but, after waiting several weeks, the desired article having not appeared, Thanksgiving was kept without it.”

In 1863 President Lincoln established the last Thursday of November as an annual national Thanksgiving holiday. This was largely a result of the lobbying by New Hampshire-born Sarah Buell Hale, editor of the women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book. She wanted to extend the New England holiday to the rest of the nation. While Lincoln may have felt that such a holiday would serve the war-torn nation, Southerners rejected the declared day for one of their own.

Jessie Baldwin’s brief history of Post Mills describes Thanksgivings as celebrated a century ago. It was a day when family members, “gathered at the family homestead.”

Both she and Suzanna Taplin, whose recollections are included in the Corinth history, tell of pies being baked and frozen in cold rooms. Taplin, “told of her aunt making 100 pies, 25 to 30 of mincemeat, one dozen apple and the others pumpkin, squash, blackberry and custard. Freezing improved the flavor, especially of mince pie.”

Articles in Bradford’s The United Opinion reflect the changing observances connected with Thanksgiving. In the closing years of the 19th century there were articles that included the Governor’s annual Thanksgiving proclamation, notices of church services and poems and articles connecting the celebration to its mythical Pilgrim roots. The close of the 8-week fall term at local schools was also announced.

There were almost no ads for Thanksgiving supplies. One did appear on November 23, 1888 as a small notice that announced that Bradford’s Bailey’s Store has “oranges, oysters and sage cheese, fine cooking raisins and pure spices for Thanksgiving.” An article described a Thanksgiving Dinner served in the French style reflected the attempts by urban Victorians to gentrify the meal. One suspects it had little impact on country homesteads.

Some communities had Thanksgiving pageants and dances. In 1891 Bradford’s Village Hall held an afternoon of entertainment featuring Thomas Edison’s new “wonderful Phonograph.” It played to an overflow audience.

Thanksgivings in the 1920s and 30s reflected the prosperity and depression of those years. Two years after the disastrous flood of 1927, Vermont’s Governor John Weeks’ proclamation cited the abundant harvest, the rewards of industry, freedom from disease and pestilence as well as peace among the nations and the swift recovery from disaster as reasons for being thankful.

But five years into the Depression, Governor Wilson included in his message that, “The past year has not brought the prosperity for which we had hoped. We have been beset by trials of many kinds.” He called on Vermonters to face their problems, “with a confidence born of the experiences of the past.” Roland Moore of Woodsville recalls that Thanksgivings for his small family in those Depression years were sparse.

During World War II, many were unable to return home and food was rationed. The United Opinion still saw reason to observe the spirit of Thanksgiving. Its columnists cited among the reasons for thankfulness the many rights enjoyed by Americans and denied to people in conquered lands. Additionally, they added, “We are able to carry the war back to the enemy, and carry it back hard and furiously to him wherever he is.” One gets the impression that Americans are more thankful for what they have when they have less or are beset by problems.

Editions in the post-war years reflected the renewed prosperity and availability of food. Additionally, as hunting season overlapped the celebration, the paper featured the resulting deer count as front page news. For those who wanted to eat out, the Bradford Inn offered, in 1949, a complete Thanksgiving Dinner for $1.50. Post-holiday editions featured news of numerous family gatherings.

In those years my family spent the holiday at my grandmother’s in Brattleboro. My 90-year-old great grandmother’s contribution to the dinner was Indian pudding made with stone-ground corn meal. I didn’t appreciate it as much then as I would now. After the traditional mid-day meal my brothers and I got to go to the Paramount for a movie before the long and sleepy ride back up Route 5 to Orford.

In some of the larger communities, football games became a tradition. Barbara Condict of Post Mills, who grew up in Leominister, Massachusetts, remembers both the traditional game with Fitchburg and the touch football games in the family’s yard. Most people gathered with family for the meal of comfort foods, particular to their traditions.

For Betty Wheeler Emerson of West Newbury it was turkey and dressing along with steamed puddings at her grandparents’ farm in Haverhill. For Mary Metcalf Munn who grew up on Taplin Hill, it was the gathering at the farm that had been in her family for four generations. Dinner at that household was placed on hold until the men returned from hunting.

During my four decades of teaching high school students in Bradford, I annually closed the classes prior to the Thanksgiving break with the same set of questions. How many will gather with you for dinner tomorrow? Can you list exactly what will be served and by whom? What is the one dish you really enjoy and the one that few seem to eat? If your family has a children’s table, what is the manner in which one becomes eligible to sit at the adult table?

Even as football replaced hunting and the holiday bird was sometimes deep-fried, the results of this informal survey were predictable. Similarities were enhanced by family variation. Boiled onions and turnip could not hold up against turkey, stuffing, apple pie or mixed nuts. The children’s table was often more fun than the grownups’ table especially when it was next to the television for parade or football viewing. Besides, only some wanted to hear old Uncle So-and-so tell the same stories year after year.

If there were members of the extended Kingsbury-Maxwell family of Bradford they would claim the record for participants. That was broken only one time by a family reunion in Corinth that numbered nearly 150 and was held in the old academy building.

I was lucky to have married a wife who loved to cook for Thanksgiving, and she brought to our holiday table the extended Martin family. With our daughters’ families we often number up to 40 diners. One year we included two German students from Dartmouth. They were astounded that the meal that had taken days to prepare could be wolfed down in less than 30 minutes. In Europe, they remarked, it would have been a 3-hour meal, with each course relished in turn.

While America is not the only nation that celebrates thanksgiving, it does tell us a lot about America as a nation. It reflects the level of our religious beliefs, our prosperity, the respect for both traditions and change, our mobility and freedom to travel, the importance of commercialism, the changing divisions of labor, our intergenerational relations and how important eating, sports and families are to us.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The Bradford Game Supper for which my wife and I make gingerbread and rolls for many years was behind us. The overshadowing Christmas season demands our attention. I love the smell of the kitchen, the conversation of family members, the way in which children change from year to year, the traditions and the food.

I join those who hold that one of the pleasures of Thanksgiving is the “pickings”, those leftovers best enjoyed by those who host. For me one of the great comforts of this holiday of memories is a cold turkey sandwich on homemade bread, a cold glass of milk and a piece of left over pie in the early twilight of Thanksgiving Day. All this gives more than ample cause for giving thanks.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rev. Powers on Local Historians

“Let every town have its stated historian, who shall delight in his duty, whose object will be to collect facts of the aged, and by all other means Providence may afford him; to record passing events of an interesting nature.”

Rev. Grant Powers
Historical Sketches of the Discovery, Settlement, and Progress of Events in the Coos Country and Vicinity

October 1759 Rogers Rangers

Robert Rogers, known among the Abenakis as the White Devil was a skilled frontier fighter who led his Rangers against the native village of St Francis in October, 1759.
This Highway Historical Marker on Route 10 south of Woodsville reminds area residents of the wilderness ordeal that took place 250 years ago this month as Rogers and some of this Rangers struggled to reach Fort Number 4 60 miles to the south.

The meadows at the junction of the Waits and Connecticut rivers was the scene of the slaying o f a deer by Capt. Joseph Wait on October 20, 1759. He left a portion for other rangers and carved his name in a tree, thus becoming the first recorded European visitor to Bradford. (Photo: Nancy Jones)
The Connecticut River flows south of its confluence with the Wells and Ammonoosuc rivers between Woodsville and Wells River. In 1759, Rogers' Rangers followed the Wells to its junction with the Connecticut expecting provisions from a relief party, but instead found an abandoned camp with nothing left behind. (Photo: Alex Nuti-de Biasi)

Additional comment, April 2014:  amc channel has premiered a new series about spies during the
American Revolution.  Entitled Turn, it is based on Alexander Rose's book Washington Spies.  Robert Rogers is shown in a decidedly less than favorable role as the leader of a group of Queen's Rangers.  In the opening scenes of the pilot his men are shown celebrating the massacre of a group of young American soldiers.  

As published in the October 7, 2009 Journal Opinion

Two hundred and fifty years ago this month, the White Devil passed through the region.
He was Robert Rogers, known among the Abenakis as Wobomagonda, the White Devil.
With the beleaguered remains of a force that he led against the St Francis Indians,
Rogers was struggling to reach the safety of Fort Number 4 at present-day Charlestown, New Hampshire.

One of his captains named Joseph Wait reportedly killed a deer in the meadow at the junction of the Connecticut and the river that now bears his name, providing much needed food for the starving men. Young ranger Silas Aldrich escaped pursuing Indians and returned to live in Bradford.

What circumstances brought these three men to our area? It was 1759, a pivotal year in the struggle between Britain and France for control of North America. Part of that struggle was for the control of the waterway of Lakes George and Champlain. Throughout those wars, native tribes allied with New France constantly terrorized the English colonists.

The St Francis Indians were among the most terrifying. In his book White Devil, Stephen Brumwell states: “During a half century of warfare, the St Francis Indians had torched countless frontier communities, killed and scalped numerous men, women and children, and herded droves of shocked and bewildered captives back to Canada…they were a devilish crew and their village was a pernicious nest.” Rumors that the English might build a road from Fort No. 4 to our area, then known as the Lower Cohas “incited the Abenakis to threaten Strong War.”

There are many accounts of the attack by Rogers and his Rangers on St Francis. Brumwell’s book and War on the Run by John F. Ross are two, drawing heavily from primary sources and native oral tradition. Some are familiar with the event from Kenneth Roberts’ novel Northwest Passage and the 1940 film of the same title with Spencer Tracy portraying Robert Rogers.

Robert Rogers was born in Massachusetts and from an early age was involved in the militia. In 1753 he joined an expedition to mark out a road to the fertile meadows of the Lower Cohas, perhaps reaching Moose Meadow in Piermont. The venture was aborted. However, his military career was not. Rogers was described as a natural leader, “big, bold and articulate.” Adept at frontier guerilla tactics, he was willing to undertake dangerous scouting assignments.

In 1755 he was selected captain by his New Hampshire men and three years later was commissioned as major with a command of six hundred. This group of independent companies was known as Rogers’ Rangers. John Taplin of Corinth and perhaps even his young son, John Jr. were members of this group. Rogers developed regulations that outlined techniques for warfare in the situations facing his Rangers. Rogers’ Rules for Ranging have been used by US ground troops and Special Forces as well as private paramilitary groups.

In 1759, General Jeffery Amherst assigned Rogers the task of destroying St Francis. Rogers gathered from different companies over two hundred men along with native scouts. On September 13 they departed by whaleboat from Crown Point up Lake Champlain. Ten days later, having skirted French gunboats, they left their boats at Missisquoi Bay and set off for the one-hundred mile trek to St Francis.

It would take them until October 3 to reach their destination. It was a strength-sapping march through spruce marsh, ever mindful of possible attack. From the beginning disease and injuries reduced the force. Members left behind to guard the whaleboats caught up to report that the boats had been discovered by the French, cutting off that route of return. Rogers decided to return by way of the Cohas to Fort. No. 4. He sent word back to Amherst asking that provisions be sent to the Ammonoosuc River on the Cohas.

Luck was on the side of Rogers. His French pursuers turned back. Distracted by the crisis of the fall of Quebec City to the British, the French incorrectly anticipated his target. On the night of October 3, Rogers poised for the attack on the St Francis, having personally conducted a reconnaissance. His command had been reduced to about 142 men, in poor condition and hungry. The village’s 600 residents had also been reduced in number as many warriors were away fighting with the French.

The village was in the midst of a celebration, perhaps of the harvest. Tradition has it that one of Rogers’ Indian scouts warned a young native woman that the village was about to be attacked. Some inhabitants heeded the warning and went into hiding, leaving others behind. At 5 a.m. on October 4th, the Rangers punitive attack began.

With little defense, the occupants were massacred. Amherst’s order to spare women and children was ignored. The village was plundered for food and valuables and put to the torch, burning some inhabitants alive. There is no doubt that the Rangers were incensed by personal memories of Indian attacks and by finding many English scalps hanging in the village. “The St Francis Indians had now been punished for their cruelty.”

Just one of the Rangers was killed and seven wounded. Rogers incorrectly estimated that 200 residents had been killed. He based his estimate on the number of inhabitants he had seen the night before, prior to the warning.

Hearing from the prisoners that there was a large enemy force just a few miles away, the Rangers hastily began the two-hundred mile trek to Fort No.4. Rogers ordered his men to take provisions from the village, but some filled their packs with loot, a mistake they would come to regret.

Both Ross and Brumwell give extensive coverage to the retreat. Assuming pursuit, Rogers pushed his men through the unbroken Appalachian wilderness. Within eight days the party had reached the northern edge of Lake Memphromagog. The party was worn down by unrelenting fatigue, compounded by the hard trek and the fear of ambush. Rogers wrote in his Journal that “provisions began to grow scarce.” Efforts at hunting were unsuccessful. Hunger became so extreme that they roasted the Indian scalps and boiled their leather belts, moccasins and powder horns for what little nourishment they would provide. Loot was abandoned.

Rogers then made what Ross calls as “a devil’s bargain.” He divided his command into smaller groups of approximately 20 men each. One group would strike out overland to Crown Point whereas the others would try alternative routes south and east. Two of the parties fall victim to attack by the pursuers, with many being killed. It is thought that Silas Aldrich was in one of those parties, but managed to escape.

By October 20, the map drawn by Rogers indicated that group was somewhere near present-day Groton on the Wells River. Following the river to the Connecticut, the party came upon a recently abandoned camp. The relief party fearing ambush had, just hours before, retreated to Fort No. 4 leaving no provisions behind.

Rogers recalled “Our distress upon this occasion was truly inexpressible; our spirits, greatly depressed by the hunger and fatigues we had already suffered, now almost entirely sunk within us, seeing no resource left, nor any reasonable ground to hope that we should escape a most miserable death by famine.” Some later recalled that members of the party resorted to cannibalizing the bodies of their dead comrades.

Not all were so unfortunate. The party lead by Captain Joseph Wait missed the rendezvous at the Ammonoosuc and found itself at what is now Bradford. Wait shot a deer on the meadow at the junction of the two rivers. After the party had satisfied their hunger, the remains were hung in a tree for other Rangers who might pass that way. Wait carved his name in a tree, thus becoming the first recorded visitor to Bradford.

Rogers made one last desperate attempt to save his beleaguered party. He, along with two others, undertook a treacherous voyage on a rudely-constructed raft down the Connecticut. Upon reaching Fort No. 4, he had provisions sent north to his party. Of the more than 200 who had set out from Crown Point, 142 were involved in the attack at St Francis and only 63 survivors made it to Fort No.4 and 17 to Crown Point.

What then of Robert Rogers, Joseph Wait and Silas Aldrich? Rogers continued to play a role in the war along the northern frontier from New England to the Great Lakes. Upon return from a short trip to England he was appointed to an official position in the upper Mississippi Valley. Being suspected of trying to create an independent republic in the area, he was unsuccessfully tried for treason. At the outbreak of the American Revolution he offered his services to Washington. Suspicions that he was really loyal to the King caused him to be jailed, a confinement from which he soon escaped.

He spent the remaining years of the Revolution serving the British cause. He organized several ranger-style groups of loyalists. Wells History of Newbury states that in November, 1775, Rogers came to Newbury “under circumstances which exited alarm to all who knew the character and present relations of the man.” Well’s continues: “In May, 1782, Major Robert Rogers came into Coos with a strong force, and encamped among the hills back of where Bradford village now stands, and held communication with certain men of doubtful loyalty to the American cause.” As the Revolution drew to a close, Rogers returned to England where, beset by personal and financial problems, he lived out his life in obscurity.

As the Upper Valley opened to settlement by New Englanders, Joseph Wait moved to Claremont and Windsor. He became active in the Green Mountain Boys against both the British and New York interests. He took part in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. He actively recruited men, including a number from local towns, for Bedel’s Regiment and was commissioned a lieutenant colonel. After being mortally wounded at the Battle of Valcour Island in September 1776, he was buried in Clarendon, Vermont, his grave being marked by a monument erected by his men. Present-day Bradford was unofficially known as Waits Town in his honor until it was chartered as Mooretown in 1770.

Young Silas Aldrich also returned to the area. Drawn by the prospects he saw in the region through which he had travelled on his return from St Francis, he settled in Mooretown sometime before 1774. In that year he married Alice Collins and, according to Silas McKeene’s History of Bradford, they built a log cabin in the northern part of the town and there raised a family. He was described as “a man of even peaceable disposition.” He died in 1811 at age sixty-eight and was buried in Bradford’s Upper Plain Cemetery.

One can imagine the memories that Aldrich carried of Robert Rogers, the Rangers and the Pyrrhic victory that was the attack on St Francis as he lived out his quiet life as a Bradford farmer. Did he, in the words of Shakespeare’s Henry V, on its anniversary “strip his sleeve and show his scars” and remember the feats of the day? If he did, those memories, like many of the details of this wilderness ordeal, were either lost, subject to varied interpretations or changed by their telling.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cemetery Walk: Bradford's Upper Plain Cemetery

On Saturday, October 12, 2009, the Bradford Historical Society held a cemetery walk at Bradford's Upper Plain Cemetery. Charles Marchant (right) and Arthur Hyde (left) , pictured above, shared their extensive knowledge of cemeteries and burial practices with the tour participants. They are both active in the Vermont Old Cemetery Association, with Marchant as secretary and lecturer and Hyde as vice-president and grant chairman.
The cemetery walk was a departure from the "Graveyard Gossips" programs that the Society has held during the past few years. However, Larry Coffin, President of the Society, shared information about some of the individuals buried at the sites visited. The first burial in this cemetery was in 1770 and it is currently being used for burials.
Coffin and Marchant are two of the four teachers that produced "Stones and Bones", a curriculum for the use of cemeteries in the classroom. This was produced in 1996 and republished in 2008. They are retired social studies teachers. The other two teachers are Joan Alexander, a special education teacher in Irasburg, and Andersen Thorp, an art teacher at Hartford High. Copies of this curriculum can be obtained from the Vermont Old Cemetery Association at Charles Marchant, PO Box 132, Townshend, VT o5353
Included in the presentation was a discussion of the materials from which the markers were built. Markers in the Upper Plain cemetery are made from slate of several types, soapstone, granite, marble and, as shown in the one above, metal. This type of marker was popular at the end of the 19th century and could be ordered in many variations from the company's catalog.

About 20 participants joined the one and a half hour tour which ended with a visit to the Sawyer Chapel located at the entrance to the cemetery. A group is currently seeking funds for the restoration of that chapel.

A film crew from Lyndon State College's Channel 7 toured with the group and interviewed both participants and leaders. Reporter Daniel Adams (left) has promised to sent the video for possible later inclusion in this posting. Stay tuned for that.

School Bells: Academies and Seminaries 1790's-1890's

From the earliest years of the Upper Valley, leaders of the towns felt that it was important to

establish institutions for educating students beyond the common school level. Pictured above is Newbury Seminary, located in Newbury Village. It opened 175 years ago this month on Sept. 15, 1834. It was moved to Montpelier in 1868 to become Montpelier Seminary (later Vermont

College, part of Norwich University).

Haverhill Academy's Pearson Hall is seen behind the graduating Class of 1881. Haverhill Academy was chartered in 1794 and for a time was the only institute of higher learning in the area. (Photo/courtersy of John Page/Haverhill Historical Society)
While the first academy in Orford opened in 1796, it closed soon after for lack of a charter from the state. Orford Academy was reopened in this building in 1851. The third floor was the boys' dormitory and named Patterson Hall after John Patterson who provided the funds for it.

The Cookeville Academy building housed the Corinth Academic Institute and County Grammar School from 1846 to 1910. In 1847, 170 students were enrolled. It is now the home of the Corinth Historical Society.

The picture above and below is of the original Thetford Academy classroom hall (right) built in 1818. To its left is Burton Hall dormitory (1845) In the picture below, Bartholomew Hall (1870) can be see to the right of the classroom building. All three buildings burned in 1942. (Courtersy of the Thetford Historical Society)

Montebello Ladies Institute, located north of Newbury Village, opened in 1850. Over the next 17 years it awarded the degree "Lady of Liberal Learning" to many young ladies.

Bradford Academy operated in this two-story wooden building for 75 years following its opening in 1821. The building was replaced by the brick Woods School Building in 1895.

As printed in the Journal Opinion on Sept. 9. 2009

There have been private academies, seminaries and institutions that operated in our local area from as early as the 1790’s. Education was very important in early New England as it enabled people to read the Bible. In 1647 Massachusetts required primary schools in most towns. New Hampshire followed suit in 1680 as did the new state of Vermont in 1777. Randolph Roth’s study of the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont between 1791 and 1850 includes a speech given to the 1782 legislature by Rev. Gershom Lyman. Lyman, “expressed the belief of the majority of Vermonters when he referred to ignorance as, ‘a natural source of error, self-conceit and contracted, groveling sentiment.’ ”

Roth continues, “Education promised to create an electorate that would choose its representatives wisely and then defer readily to the judgment of those they had placed in power over them.” He concludes that by the turn of the 19th century, “the valley had one of the highest literacy rates in the world—approximately 95 percent for men and 85 percent for women.”

Area business and professional leaders were instrumental in establishing private academies to provide education beyond the common or primary schools. Their motives were similar to those of the founders of Haverhill Academy, “to promote religion, purity, virtue, and morality and for teaching the youth in English, Latin, and Greek languages; in writing, music, and the art of speaking; in geography, logic, geometry, mathematics, and such other branches of science as opportunity may present and the teachers shall order and direct.”

What follows is a brief history of these institutions to their demise or merger with the public school system. The sources of information are the histories of the respective towns or institutions, often written by those who were graduates or staff. These sources generally focused on the positive aspects of the institutions, the outstanding administrators and graduates.

Haverhill Academy was chartered in 1794 and for a time was the only institution of higher learning in the area. As mentioned above its founders regarded religion and education as inseparable. The wooden academy building was located on the northeast corner of the common in Haverhill Corner, a building it occupied until a fire in 1816. The replacement brick building, known as Pearson Hall, was occupied until 1897 when an additional building was built next door.

John Bittinger’s History of Haverhill recounts the struggles the academy went through before merging with the Haverhill public school system in 1880. “One purpose of the merger was to resurrect the Academy at a low point. There had been a suspension of classes for some time during the 1870’s.” The more successful public academy continued until 1969 when the Haverhill and Woodsville districts were merged.

As early as 1796, a group of proprietors worked to establish an academy in Orford. Orford historians William Conant and Alice Hodgson describe how the group erected a building on the West Common south of the present church, hired a teacher and “…fixed the tuition at one shilling a week.” After several unsuccessful attempts to obtain a state charter, the academy closed. The building was used as the district primary school until it burned around 1850.

At that time, there was a renewed interest in Orford Academy and a new three-story brick building was constructed at the south end of the Ridge. Joseph Patterson furnished the money for a third story boys’ dormitory, which became known as Patterson Hall. A dormitory for girls was built next door. The Academy opened in 1851 with 9 teachers and 167 students. In 1898, as its enrollment declined, the proprietors sold the property to the town. Orford High School, established in 1926, occupied the building until it merged into the Rivendell Interstate District.

In 1935 the United Opinion stated, “There is some evidence that an academical institution was operated in Bradford as early as 1797.” It refers to the “seminary” operated in the home of Mother Peckett for the training of Methodist ministers. Bradford Academy was established in 1820 with the first classes being held on March 12, 1821, with hopes it would become the Orange County Grammar School. Bradford historian Harold Haskins, who later served as its principal, chronicles its long history.

The Academy operated for 75 years in a two-story wooden building located in front of the present BA building. After 1866 the private academy was partially merged with the Union School District that operated two district primary schools in Bradford Village. That merger was expanded in 1892 to become the Bradford Academy and Graded School District. The present brick building, known as the Woods School Building, was first used in 1895. It was the gift of John Lund Woods, a native of Corinth. Bradford Academy became a public high school and continued to operate as such until 1971 when Oxbow High opened.

During the 19th century there were several private institutions in Newbury, their history recorded by Frederic Wells in his town history. A “select school” was open in 1830 but ended with the establishment of Newbury Seminary. That academy opened 175 years ago this month on September 15, 1834 in a three-story brick building on Newbury’s common. Established under the auspice of the Methodist Conference of New Hampshire, it operated in Newbury until 1868.

It then moved to Montpelier to become Montpelier Seminary, now part of Norwich University. Walter Rice Davenport writes in his History of Montpelier Seminary that lack of success was not the reason for its relocation. Rather, the lack of local support both from students and moneyed interests along with a break in the association with the N.H. Methodists caused the trustees to seek a larger community site.

In 1887 the village school district purchased the old seminary building, and in 1893 the town central school was created. The building burned in 1913 and was replaced by the present school.

Newbury was also the site of the Newbury Biblical Institute. Operating from 1837 to 1846 to train young men for the ministry, it was the first Methodist theological seminary in America. It was the predecessor of the Boston University School of Theology.

Two institutions for the training of young women also operated in Newbury. The first was the Female Collegiate Institute. It opened in 1850 and during its 17 years it educated 151 young ladies. The second was the Montebello Ladies’ Institute located on what is now Montebello Road north of Newbury village.

This institute opened in 1873 as a day and boarding school and operated until 1890. Women who finished the course of study were awarded a diploma declaring them to be “a lady of liberal learning.” An article on their third year commencement in the 1876 Bradford Opinion stated, “The people of Newbury may justly be proud of having such a school in their midst.”

The only academy that still operates as a private secondary school is Thetford Academy. It opened in February 1819 at Thetford Hill and had close connections with the Congregational Church. Alice B. Slade has written the most complete history of the academy during its first century. The 1888 Orange County Gazetteer stated, ”Thetford Academy is perhaps more widely known than any other public institution in the town because of the large number who have pursued the road to knowledge through its portals.” The original classroom building and adjacent dormitories burned in 1942 and were replaced by the current academy building.

The Corinth Academic Institute and County Grammar School was incorporated in 1846. The academy building is located in Cookeville. In 1847, 170 students were listed. In 1876 it united with the local district school. The Corinth town history concludes, “Corinth High School or Cookeville Academy, suffered reversals over the years, being reduced to one high school teacher and one grammar school instructor when the last class graduated in 1910.”

There were attempts to establish academies in several other area towns. Lyme formed an academy in 1836, erecting a building in Lyme Center in 1839. It operated for about 15 years and then the building, which still stands, was used by the public school system. Individuals in Post Mills, Topsham, Ryegate and Groton established “select schools” during the period from 1840 to 1860. Private and selective in their enrollment, they were short-lived.

Education beyond primary school was not a goal for most children. Roth writes that the majority of 19th century residents of the Valley, “Did not feel that their children needed more education than they themselves possessed, and they did not want to incur the costs associated with improving the schools and taking their older children out of employment.”

Even among those students who did attend, many attended only one or two 11-week terms each year. Reformers wanted to make schools public open and to all children. In 1867 Vermont became the first state in the nation to require school attendance for children ages 6-16. New Hampshire followed suit in 1871.

In all academies, the number of students attending in any one year was affected by the course of study, tuition, the staff, epidemics, and national events such as war and economic depression. Students often changed from one school to another and one of the duties of the principal was to recruit students.

Students were tuitioned to these academies from neighboring towns and states. Thetford, Newbury and Orford owned dormitories and in all cases villagers offered board and room. The students who attended were often interested in entering college. Those who attended schools such as Newbury Seminary were interested in becoming ministers and teachers. It was not uncommon for students to take a term off to teach in a local district school.

Having students from away brought new life and some prosperity to the villages. At the Orford Academy there were 13 rules published in 1851. A student was, “expected to conduct himself at all times with propriety” and refrain from profane language, cards and dice playing, ardent sports and smoking. While rules were strict, enforcement varied with changing administrations. Youthful capers in the neighborhoods were not uncommon.

Some academies allowed young women to attend. Martha Howard of the Thetford Historical Society writes: “From the beginning, Thetford Academy was co-educational: this being attributed to the number of educated and strong-minded women living in Thetford at the time, who likely influenced their husbands toward admitting girls to the school from the beginning.”

Students of color were another matter. Wells writes, “At that time it was held by a large portion of the public, to be a sin and a crime to teach a colored person to read and write.” When in 1842 Newbury Seminary allowed a “colored girl” to attend, there were those “who advised her exclusion from the school” saying that it would ruin the school. In what Wells calls an “act of moral heroism” one student offered to room with the young woman and the preceptress gave her a place at the dining table next to her. In 1856 Thomas Morris Chester, the son of a slave, graduated from Thetford with 2nd highest honors and became a Civil War reporter and a general in the Louisiana militia.

Tuition varied from term to term and with the selected course of study. In 1853 at Bradford, the Common Branch English tuition was $3 per term, whereas Higher English, Latin and Greek tuition was $3.50. By 1878 the tuition for those courses had been raised to $4.50 and $5.50. Because funds were usually in short supply, faculty members often stayed for just a short time before seeking improved opportunities. Older students sometimes taught young ones under the supervision of the principal.

Between 1894 and 1906 Vermont began to require that all towns provide a public high school or pay tuition for its students to attend a high school. As a result of this change, some academies merged with the public school system and made changes in their curriculum to accommodate the diverse needs. In the case of Thetford, the private academy became a designated school for Thetford students. Tuition students still attended the local academies. It was not uncommon for students from Corinth and Topsham to board in the village when attending Bradford Academy, returning to their homes on the weekend.

Many students did not graduate from the academies, even after they became public schools. They assumed that graduating from the 8th grade or achieving the age of 16 was sufficient. There is no doubt that many of the students who did graduate went on to live more productive lives as a result of their education. An internet search of the graduates of local academies produces the biographies of leaders from every field of endeavor and from across the nation.

Rev. Timothy Frost spoke at the centennial celebration of Bradford Academy in 1920. His words reflect the accomplishments of all of these academies. “Here sleeping potentialities have been awakened. Here aspirations have been born, to bless the world. Out from this school have gone joymakers to touch with beauty and refinement a multitude of homes.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fall In For A Muster

In late August2011, Parson Corporation employees Todd Belanger (left) and Mike Ball (right) search the Fairlee Town Beach and the adjacent wooded with a magnetometer to measure for "residual munitions" and unexploded ordinance left from the August, 1895 Vermont Guard encampment held near by. (Journal Opinion photos by Alex Nuti-De Biasi)

Bradford and Fairlee, Vermont have been the site of four military musters in the 19th

century. This is a pass to Camp Proctor, the muster that was held in Bradford in 1879.

(Courtersy of UVM Special Collections)

On commons such as this one in Orford, area militiamen mustered during and after the American Revolution for "training days."

In August 1895, the Vermont National Guard held its annual muster and encampment near Lake Morey in Fairlee. The surrounding hills were used for maneuvers. (Photo courtesy of the Bradford Historical Society)

Company G of the Vermont National Guard, known as the Bradford Guards, participated in the Civil War and the Spanish American War before being disbanded in 1908. The group included men from several area towns. (Photo courtesy of the Bradford Historical Society)

Dennis McClure of Bradford is shown point out the ridge south of his Goshen Road home that is believed to have been used as a target for the cannons of Fuller's Battery during the 1890 encampment of the Vermont National Guard on Fairground Road.

Article appeared in Journal Opinion on August 19, 2009

“A well regulated militia is the proper, natural, and sure defense, of a state.” This statement was in the constitutions of several of the states of the new nation, including New Hampshire’s. They reflect the well-established practice of requiring all able-bodied men to come to their community’s defense, a principle found in the English common law posse comitatus. The long standing suspicion against a standing army made for a great dependence on the militia. In both Vermont and New Hampshire the tradition of the militia is kept alive in the National Guard units.

Burtron Rubenstein describes the Revolutionary role of the Vermont militia in an essay collection entitled Put the Vermonters Ahead as, “guerilla warfare of the most desperate kind.” Vermont required all men ages 16 to 50 to,” bear Arms and duly attend all Musters, and Military Exercises of the respective Troops and Companies…” New Hampshire had a similar requirement.

Even after the Revolution, the militia was called together for June “training days.”
The men of Orford, as in other communities, would muster on the town common for drill (see photo). Officers were usually elected by their company. Men were expected to participate without compensation except for being excused from the poll tax. They had to provide their own equipment and sometimes individuals drilled with brooms rather than guns. Orford historian Alice Hodgson describes how, “farmers trying to become soldiers forgot their military directions for the familiar gee and haw of farm usage.”

One of the issues facing the militia was that federal law created a dual obligation, as every white male was also a member of the Federal militia. However, the President could not require the states to call out their militia in time of war. This created a dilemma for the national government in both the War of 1812 and the Mexican War.

In the years between those two wars, the militia was torn by conflicting attitudes. Laws dealing with universal participation were amended and finally abolished. This was in part due to a reaction to the ease with which men of means could be excused from the required training.

Due to the absence of a threat interest in the militia continued to decline. Training days became a celebration often attracting a “rough element.” There was a, “degeneration of June Training into a mere picnic whose sometimes alcoholic aroma offended temperance men.” That description by Vermont historian T. D. Seymore Bassett, quoted in Howard Coffin’s Full Duty, goes on to say, “…according to a saying of the time, the troops were given just three commands: ‘Mount! Drink! Fall off!’” In 1844 Vermont repealed the militia law and the following year New Hampshire abolished musters.

Despite this decline there was a deep interest in the military among some men. In 1819 a military academy was established in Norwich, later to move to Northfield as Norwich University. In some communities volunteer uniformed companies were formed. Locally there were the West Fairlee Rifles or Light Infantry, Ryegate’s Grenadier Company, the Bradford Guards and in Topsham a rifle company that drilled on what is now the fairground in Corinth. These uniformed companies often included men from neighboring towns. In several towns military bands and drum corps were organized, appearing at local musters. In 1845 officers of the area held a Grand Military Ball at Bradford’s Bliss Hotel.

These militia men and others have participated with distinction in all of America’s wars. That is a topic for other times. The remainder of this article deals with the four musters that were held locally by the Vermont Guard as they attempted to remain ready for war.

The first local state muster was held in Bradford on September 8-9, 1859. It was the third in a series of annual musters called by the governor. Howard Coffin states that these musters rekindled interest in the military companies, just in time for their Civil War role.

Lyman Hayes’ History of the Town of Rockingham describes the Bradford muster from the point of view of that town’s Green Mountain Guards, the largest company present. “The Green Mountain Guards encamped in true military style upon the muster ground, having with them all the et ceteras of camp furniture.” The company held a torchlight parade down Bradford’s Main Street and, “serenaded Adjutant General Kellogg, who on the next day reviewed the troops with the Governor.”

After the Civil War, several laws were passed by the Vermont Legislature attempting to upgrade the training of the existing uniformed companies. Roger Newton suggests in his essay Vermont’s Militia After the Civil War that “after their experience the newly discharged soldiers must have looked upon the current military situation at home as an exercise in futility.” By 1876, the regiment, now informally called the Vermont National Guard, was reduced to 10 companies of infantry, one battery of artillery, organized by Levi K. Fuller of Brattleboro and no cavalry.

The law required an annual inspection be held of each company in June and a “parade” of the regiment each September. Newton explains that, “the regimental drills began to be held in August possibly because of the fear ‘that the cool nights of September are unwholesome to men obliged to change suddenly from the comfort of home to the more exposed life of the camp.’” Recruiting students who were free for the summer was an added incentive.

In early September, 1879 a state-wide muster was held on the old fairgrounds in Bradford, for which Fairground Road is named. It was called Camp Proctor, probably for Governor Redfield Proctor. Captain Fuller of Fuller’s Light Battery came early to look for accommodations and a field of practice. The Bradford Opinion of August 2 1879 stated, “He has about 100 men and 50 horses, and will practice with shot and shell, so that those in this vicinity who have heard of, but never saw or heard the ‘plunging shot’ and ‘screaming shell’ will have a chance to see and hear. The guns are brass Napoleon 12 pounders.” Local entrepreneur H.C. Stevens furnished rations and was quartered, “in the floral hall building on the Fair Ground.”

The day’s routine began with reveille at 5:45 followed by drill, rifle practice and a dress parade. On Thursday, September 4, the regiment was reviewed by Governor Proctor. That evening all veterans gathered “for the purpose of participating in a grand campfire reunion.” Torches were provided and the regimental band played for what was described as “a grand rally.” Taps were sounded at 10:30.

The only “action” seen by the Vermont Guard between 1865 and 1898 came during the 1883 strike among copper miners at the Ely Copper Mine at Vershire. Five companies, including Bradford’s Company G, were ordered to Vershire to restore order.

At this time there were no state-owned armories. In February 1892 Company G dedicated an armory on the third floor of the new bank building, now the Richardson Building. The occasion was the 10th Annual School of Officers for the Vermont State Militia. The facility was described by The United Opinion as “the finest to be found in the State.” There was a large drill room as well as rooms for uniforms and trappings. This facility served the Guards until they moved to the Union Block (Perry's building). In 1959 the Guard moved to their new armory on Fairground Road in 1959.

The second Bradford encampment was held on the fairgrounds on August 19-23, 1890. It was named Camp Grant in honor of General Lewis A. Grant, commander of the Old Vermont Brigade and Metal of Honor recipient in the Civil War and Assistant Secretary of War in 1890.

The Report of the Adjutant and Inspector General fully describes the week’s activities.
Participants included a company of infantry from Plattsburg that marched across the state. Twelve companies, including the hometown Company G, were joined by the brigade band and Fuller’s Battery for a total of about 600 men. The camp was established and the companies were drilled in battalion movements. “Guard duty and military courtesy proved to be a weak point.” This was not surprising as one third of the men had never been in camp before.

Six companies met Governor Dillingham and Secretary of War Redfield Proctorwh had now been appointed Secretary of War by President Benjamin Harrison, at the railroad station and escorted them to the camp. During the week rifle teams of five men from each company engaged in a competition for the “Centennial Trophy.”

During a two-day drill for Fuller’s Battery “thirty shells were fired by the battery at a target 8 x 12 feet, located on the side of a hill northwest of the camp at an estimated distance of 2000 yards. Ten of the shells passed through the target, and it was subsequently ascertained that all of them struck within a space of 14 x 16 feet.” This was the battery’s first attempt to fire shells from the new model breech-loading cannon.

The fourth local state-wide muster was held near Fairlee’s Lake Morey in August, 1895. The encampment was called “Camp Woodbury” in honor of Governor Urban Woodbury who had distinguished himself in the Civil War. Fairlee apparently was chosen because William Gilmore of Fairlee was serving as the Quartermaster General of the Guard at the time.

The United Opinion published a Special Muster Edition on August 16. It mentioned that a company of cavalry passed through Bradford on the 9th on its way to Fairlee as did a company of regulars from the Plattsburgh barracks.

The Bradford Guard erected the tents for the encampment on what is now the golf course (see photo). Trains pulled into the Fairlee station from both north and south to unload companies of soldiers. The number of observers and luggage brought a flurry of business for local teamsters. Fuller’s Battery with 4 rifled 32-10 caliber cannon and 80 men joined the gathering and fired shells at neighboring hills. The United Opinion reported that, “this was the first time in the history of the Vermont Encampments that each of the three arms of the service, infantry, cavalry and artillery has been represented.”

The daily routine was very similar to that of the Bradford encampments, with a review by the governors of Vermont and New Hampshire and general officers from the U. S. Army.
The newspaper predicted “the grandest scenic military display that has ever been seen in the Green Mountain State in time of peace. The heights above the Fairlee camp grounds will be occupied by a strong force. This naturally impregnable position will be stormed by a heavy column consisting of Fuller’s Battery and 2 battalions of soldiers.”

This is not the end of the history of the local encampments. In 2008, local residents, including myself, were contacted as part of a study by the Army National Guard. This was part of a nationwide effort to identify former training areas where munitions were used on properties not owned by the Department of Defense. They were interested in both the Fairlee and Bradford sites mentioned above. It was the initial contact with this study group that helped me identify the three encampments in Bradford.

Dennis McClure of Bradford was also contacted. It is believed that both the target for Fuller’s Battery and the rifle range may have been on land he now owns on Goshen Road. It was then the property of Captain Preston Chamberlin. Recently McClure took me on a tour of ridge south of his home, the possible target for the battery (see photo).

He also pointed out a berm constructed in a nearby pasture that may have served as the rifle range for more than one encampment. Gary Moore comment (attached) corrects this by pointing out that the berm was actually built by the Bradford Pistol and Rifle Club in the early 1970's The newspaper account of the 1890 muster mentions that the rifle shooting range was a quarter mile north of the camp. The Bradford historian Harold Haskins writes that there was also a firing range for the guards near where Creamery Road meets Rt 25.

(Added information" The September 7, 2011 edition of the Journal Opinon reported that a team from the Parsons Corportion visited the site of Camp Woodbury near Lake Morey in Fairlee as "part of a nationwide effort to catalogue and inventory non-operational historical sites...where the National Guard units are believed to have used live munitions as part of training and exercise." The article indicated that the two-person team visited the Fairlee Town Beach, believed to be the launching site for cannon fire, as well as target sites on the other side of the lake. The team indicated it was, "too early to know if their search yielded any evidence of residual munitions."

This is not the end of the history of the Vermont National Guard. They served in the Spanish-American War, although they did not see action in that short and largely naval conflict. The Dick Act of 1903 stated that the President no longer needed the permission of the governor to call up the Guard for Federal duty. Just as they served with distinction in the two World Wars and the various conflicts of the Cold War, the Vermont and New Hampshire National Guard members are serving the nation in the Middle East. Later this year men and women from our area will again be called to active duty. We trust that the training they have received will serve them as well as it has in the past.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Poems and Pieces

On Tuesday, August 12, 2009 the Bradford Historical Society held a "home-grown" program featuring poems and pieces selected by its members. The program was orchestrated by Board members Martina Stever and Jannette Nordham. The general public was invited to share their favorite poems , with special emphasis on local poets. Seventeen inidividuals participated. If there was a somewhat common theme in the poems shared it was the beauty of the rivers, hills and mountains of our locale. Changes in the human landscape was also a theme.

Jeannette Nordham (left) shared several poems by Emily Page who grew up Bradford at her grandparent's home near the Bradford-Piermont bridge. She also read a poem by Rev. Alfred Hough "a prolific and versatile writer" who served as the Methodist minister in Bradford from 1887-89. BHS Curator Karen DeRosa (right) read a portion of a poem by George Divoll, a former Bradford resident who wrote about the Connecticut River.

Board member Phyllis Lavelle read selections from two poets. The first was Elizabeth Aker Allen who was described as "a competent, graceful, minor poet and one of the cleverest fashioners of light verse of her time." The poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox. the daughter of a Bradford resident, is best well known for a single line from her poem "Solitude": "Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone."

One of the highlights of the evening was a reading by Kay Darling Brown Martin, the sister of Bardford poet Donald Darling. "When I Went Away to School" was written by Mr. Darling about a "lesson" he learned as a freshman at St. Johnsbury Academy: "Don't blow out a toilet drain with a teacher on the stool." Mrs. Martin's delivery, complete with a twinkle in her eyes was delightful.

Other highlights of the evening included a recitation from memory by Ernest Sargent of Eugene
Field's "Cept

Just Before Christmas." He had memorized the poem as a freshman at Bradford Academy some years ago. Mary Sanborn recited two poems by her husband Bill and one by Sarah Hope Amundson. Wayne Kenyon recited a poem entitled "The Old Pine Tree" written by his father Charles A. Kenyon. A picture of that tree can be seen in the photo above.

Sheila Kaplow and Louise Sanberg both read poems they had written. Martina Stever read a poem by Thelma Belair and one by Patrick Creamer. Patrick was in Martina's 5th grade at Bradford Elementary School in 1988 and his poem won first honors in the state-wide Creative Writing Contest. Larry Coffin read a poem by Dorothy Parker Huden and one by Daniel Cady.
Eugenia Stevenson read a short unpublished poem by Helen Carr of Bradford about majestic Mount Moosilauke.

I have chosen two poems by Bradford poets, one older, one modern. The first will be portions of "The Old Bridge"was by Emily R. Page who lived with her grandparents next to the toll bridge between Piermont and Bradford c. 1850's. The second is by a modern poet Sheila Kaplow and is one of the poems she presented at the reading.

The Old Bridge

Bowered at either arching entrance

By the wilderness of leaves;

Clustering o'er the slant old gables,

And the brown and mossy eves,

Is the dear old bridge, which often,

Often in the olden times,

Echoed to our infant footfalls,

And our voice's ringing chime.

(Last verse) With the sunlight round about me

Bright and glad as long ago,

And the river down beneath me,

With its soft, continuous flow,

With the old familiar places,

All about me everywhere,

Come against the pleasant faces

That made the earth so bight and fair;

And, as then, each passing cloudlet

Seems to wear a golden edge,

As I muse within the shadow

Falling from the dear old bridge.


I don't want to skype or to twitter or "friend"

(the use of that verb makes my hair stand on end)

I bristle and scowl at the sound of a tweet

and the language I use is too crude to repeat

so though I don't twitter or flickr or chatter--

that's all for the birds or for kids for that matter

I do employ e-mail for sending a letter

but my typing is rotten, my prose not much better

and my eyes go all wobby for watching that screen

which makes me so tired that I get somewhat mean

and send awful things that I never would say

for which both my pride and my conscience must pay.

I do use the phone if the number is handy

'cos hearing the voice of a friend (noun) is dandy

a cell phone is useful when struck fast in traffic

but I don't want to text or send stuff that's-well="graphic"

I do click on Google for facts if I must

and Britannica's volumes are gathering dust

getting info is one thing, but I want to talk

why don't you come over?--we'll go for a walk.

Shelia Kaplow 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Old Bradford Armory Gets A New Life

The Armory of the Bradford Guard occupied the third floor of this bank building on Main Street, Bradford. It was dedicated in February, 1892.

Now on the National Register, the Richardson Building houses the Blue Wave Tae Kwon DO in the restored hall on the third floor. The hall, pictured below, was restored by members of Blue Wave in 2005.

Picture courtesy of Blue Wave Tae Kwon DO

On February 23, 1892 the new Bradford Armory was dedicated. It was located on the third floor of the Bradford Saving Bank & Trust Co. building on Main Street, Bradford, Vermont.

The occasion for the dedicated of this new facility was the 10th Annual School for Officers for the Vermont State Militia. The armory was described by the local paper as "the finest to be found in the State." It consisted of a 40' x 70' drill room with five trusses, sealed in natural wood. The hall had a small stage at the north end. There was a 20' x20' company room to the west and a uniform room on the south.

The brick building was new, having replaced the wooden building that housed the Prichard & Hay Store that had moved to the new brick Union block. "The building itself is one of the most substantial and modern structures in this section of the State." stated The United Opinion editor.

The armory had previously been located in a building owned by George Brown and located just behind the brick store on South Main Street (now the American Legion building.)

In addition to the armory and bank the building housed several stores on the first floor and offices on the second. Over the years, those facilities were used by a variety of offices for lawyers, dentists and other businesses as well as a variety of stores. The Bradford National Bank took over the banking facilities in 1904 and remained there until it moved to its new facilities in 1962. That first floor space was used as the Bradford Town Office until 1972 and followed by a short-lived cafe and then insurance offices. In the 1970's the building was placed on the National Register as part of the Bradford Village Historic District.

Over the years the third-floor hall was used for basketball games and dances as well as the center of militia, later National Guard, activities. The Guard moved to th Union Block (Perry's building) before moving to the new armory on Fairground Road in 1959. Gary Moore recalls that the Bradford Pistol and Rifle Club used the space after the Guards left, before also moving too the new armory.

A ticket booth was located at the bottom of the stairs to the third floor, sharing space with the "water closet". After being used briefly as a dance studio and teen center, the hall was subdivided into offices for an accounting firm and the Orange East Supervisory District offices.

In November, 2005 the Bradford Blue Wave Tae Kwon DO moved its headquarters to the third floor space. The members under the leadership of head instructor Bob Kline had accomplished a complete renovations of the facility. Office walls and a false ceiling have been removed. Original woodwork and metal wall coverings were replace or restored.

On May 9, 2009, the Bradford Historical Society held a meeting in the renovated hall. Marty Emerson and Bob Kline of the Blue Wave group shared photos of the renovation efforts. Other area residents shared memories of the building's long history. Sargent Harry Harrington of the Vermont National Guard spoke briefly, stating that the armory was the oldest of a series of armories built at the time.

The old Armory has taken on a new life. On warm summer evening, pedestrians on the sidewalks of Bradford can hear the buzz of activity emanating from the third floor. Kline recently repeated his interest in reconditioning the floor with the hope of having dances in the hall. Like the hall itself the old ticket booth may yet have a new life.