Popular Posts


Thursday, December 27, 2012

What's In A Name?

“What’s in a name?
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

If Orford had been called Mannburg or Newbury was Riverton and Bradford was chartered as Salemville, would it have made any difference in their history? How about Cumberland County instead of Orange?

What if New Connecticut had remained the name for what is now Vermont? Would the appeal have been the same? That is a difficult question to answer. But this column will deal with how our political divisions were named. It is the first of two parts. The second one will deal with the naming of neighborhoods, roads and physical features of the area.

WHAT'S IN A NAME? Fairlee may have had its name taken from an estate on the Isle of Wight familiar to Governor Benning Wentworth who granted its charter in 1761.  The name means "a beautiful open or cleared land or meadow," a description that apparently applied to both the estate and the new town. (Larry Coffin)

 Orange County was created after the American Revolution and, just as a number of locations in New England. gets its name from the title Prince of Orange, borne by William III, who became King of England in 1689. Some of the towns were named by New Hampshire Royal Governor Benning Wentworth.  Some towns have undergone name changes in the time since their charters were granted.

When Grafton County was created in 1769 it was named for the Third Duke of Grafton, Prime Minister of Great Britain.  Many of the towns were named by Wentworth, pictured below.

 LAND GRANTER.  Benning Wentworth was the Royal Governor of the Province of New Hampshire from 1741 to 1766.  During this time he granted about 200 towns charters in what is now Vermont and New Hampshire.  Many were named by Wentworth to honor members of the British aristocracy.  Portrait by Joseph Blackburn, 1760.

NAMING TALE.  Dr. Samuel Peters claimed that he christened the green mountains Verd-Mont, from atop Mount Pisgah or Killington Peak in 1763.  He is pictured here in a 1938 National Life Insurance Company advertisement by Roy F. Heinrich.  Most historians discount this story and give credit to Dr. Thomas Young, who first used the title Vermont in April 1777. (Courtesy Bradford Historical Society/National Life Insurance Company)

This column draws on information from Vermont Place-Names, Footprints of History by the late Esther M. Swift, Indian Place Names in Vermont by John C. Huden, local history books and internet sources. Swift was the Vermont Director of the Place Name Survey project for the American Name Society. Huden, who wrote widely on Native Americans, was the principal of Bradford Academy from 1930 to 41.

The original place names for the region were applied by the natives who were here prior to the arrival of Europeans. The names those natives used were derived from the key characteristics of a physical feature, how it applied to their needs or its relationship to other physical features. Their name for the area now occupied by the Bradford golf course was mas-ba-ak, “where much water overflows,” tolbabauk on Lake Fairlee meant “snapping turtle pond.” The Ammonoosuc translates as “narrow fishing-place” and is an example of how Europeans sometimes applied the native name for a local spot to a larger entity.

When Europeans began to settle the region, they dismissed most of these traditional names. The lack of a common language, speech sounds and subsequent numerous spellings made using native titles difficult. When they were used, they were often garbled or erroneously interpreted. Kwenitegw, “the long river,” became the Connecticut and tickeneket, “little beaver” became Ticklenaked Pond. Koaske, “the place of the white pines,” has many spellings, including coos, coosuc, cohos and cohase. It was also thought that the name meant “a crooked river, a wide valley or a great fishing place.”

Most political entities in the two states were named by the English settlers prior to the end of the 18th century. The exception to this is the names applied by the French in areas closest to New France north of the border. There are no political entities named by the French in our area.

New Hampshire was given that name by Captain John Mason who received major grants of land from the Council of New England in 1629. He selected the name for his new territory from the English county of Hampshire, his childhood home.

Massachusetts got its name from the natives who lived there at the time of European settlement and the native name for the river became the anglicized name for Connecticut. Rhode Island and Providence Plantations were given that name by settler Roger Williams. The Dutch colony of New Amsterdam was captured by the English in 1664 and renamed New York in honor of the Duke of York, brother of King Charles II.

Vermont was created out of the New Hampshire grants in 1776 and 1777. When delegates met in Windsor in January 1777, they voted to call the new republic New Connecticut. Later, when they found that that name was being used in Pennsylvania, they changed the name to Vermont.

There are two different stories about the origin of that name. One is that Dr. Samuel Peters claimed that he christened the green mountains Verd-Mont, from atop Mt. Pisgah or Killington Peak in 1763. Peters was related to the Peters family who were among the first settlers of Bradford and an important family there for over 200 years.

Most historians discount the Peters story and give credit to Dr. Thomas Young, who published a broadside in April 1777 entitled, “To the Inhabitants of Vermont, A Free and Independent State.” It is the French words for “green mountain,” in a grammatical format used by the French for place names. That term had been applied to the Green Mountain Boys as early as 1772.

The names of towns and counties in our area come from the areas of New England that were settled earlier and from connections with England. Most were given their names by Benning Wentworth who became royal governor of New Hampshire in 1741. He assumed that his colony stretched westward to the Hudson River, an assertion disputed by New York. Between 1749 and 1766 he wrote grants for nearly 200 towns in the unpopulated areas in what is now Vermont and New Hampshire. At least two of them, Bennington and Wentworth, bear his name.

Wentworth’s land grants transferred ownership from the Crown to groups of private individuals or proprietors. These were often friends or associates of Wentworth, many of whom had no plans to settle in the new towns. Following the example of Massachusetts and Connecticut, these grants were for townships of about 30,000 acres. Establishing townships as a primary political division was based on the New England traditions of town meetings and the Congregational form of local church control.

While fees were paid to the office of the Governor, the major benefit to Wentworth was that he received a large tract of land in each town, which he could then sell. The proprietors were also in a position to make money from the sale of land to settlers. In many cases the first town meetings were not held in the new towns, but rather in remote locations such as Portsmouth.

When granting a town to its proprietors, Wentworth often selected a name chosen “to honor or influence members of the peerage of England.” These were powerful individuals the governor hoped would support him politically or economically.

Thetford was one of these grants, and its name may have come from the English Viscount Thetford, a distant relative of Wentworth. There are others who believe that it derives its name from the England town of Thetford. Although Orford was referred to earlier as Number 7 or Sugar River, it was named for Robert Walpole, Earl of Orford and Britain’s first prime minister. Strafford got its name from the Earl of Strafford, a title held by Wentworth’s cousin.

Fairlee may have had its name taken from an estate on the Isle of Wight familiar to Wentworth. The name means “a beautiful open or cleared land or meadow,” a description that apparently applied to both the estate and the new town. When the town was split in 1797, West Fairlee became the official name of that section, while the rest, bordering on the Connecticut River, was often referred to as East Fairlee.

Warren was named by Wentworth in honor of British naval hero Sir Peter Warren. There is an alternate version that suggests that name describes a township that was “beautiful and full of rabbits.”

Many thought that the name of Ryegate came from either the city of Rye in Scotland or the one in New Hampshire. Ryegate historian Dwight White explains in his book, The Down of the Thistle, that Ryegate was named by Wentworth in honor of Charles Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough and Baron of Reigate.” Swift also suggests that one of the most prominent early families in Ryegate had connection with Reigate in England.

When Grafton County was created in 1769 it was named for the 3rd Duke of Grafton, prime minister of Great Britain. Orange County was created after the Revolution, just one of a number of locations in New England whose name derives from the title Prince of Orange, borne by William III, who became King in 1689.

Caledonia County was created by the Vermont legislature in 1792, a body unlikely to name it for the aristocracy. In fact, the name is taken from the ancient name for Scotland and recognizes the importance of Scots to the county’s settlement. Politics apparently also played a role when, in 1810, the name of Jefferson County was changed to Washington County.

Bradford was not one of the towns granted by New Hampshire and was actually settled five years before it was chartered. These inhabitants called their community Waits River Town or Waitstown. In 1770, a delegation from the squatters approached the royal governor of New York asking for a charter that would recognize their land ownership. That request was granted and the town was named Mooretown in honor of Governor Sir Henry Moore, who had died the previous year. After that the town was sometimes referred to as Salem, “perhaps as an increased dislike to be named after a royal governor.” At the request of the inhabitants in 1788, the Vermont General Assembly voted to rename the town Bradford, probably after Bradford, Massachusetts.

Corinth was one of two towns that Wentworth named after ancient cities, Jericho being the other. The Corinth Bicentennial Committee, among others, preferred to think that the town was named after Corinth in England. Swift believes that no connection between the two towns has been found. There has also been considerable debate over the pronunciation of the town's name. 

Lyme’s history says that the origin of its name “has been the subject of some controversy.” While there were those who believed it came from Lyme, Connecticut, there was no immediate connection between those two towns. Lyme’s history states: “It appears more reasonable that this town was named by the Massachusetts proprietors.” They, more than the royal governor, would have appreciated the connection with the English town of Lyme Regis, a puritan stronghold. The name was spelled Lime until about 1823.

Some of the first settlers of Topsham were from Topsham, Maine and took that name for their new community. Both are named for Topsham in England. Newbury and Haverhill got their names from the older adjoining towns in Massachusetts, which in turn are taken from towns in England. Piermont was given its name by its proprietors in 1764. According to the 1947 town history: “It is quite likely that Peaked Mountain, standing out like a great pier, suggested the name.”

The Vermont General Assembly “coined” the name of Vershire as a combination of the names of the states of Vermont and New Hampshire. Swift quotes Child’s 1888 Gazetteer, “the town was first called Number 7, afterwards Caley Town and it was also at one time called Arlington.” In 1878, the residents voted to change the name of the town to Ely in honor of the owners of the copper mines, a vote that was rescinded four years later.

Groton’s charter was voted on by the Vermont legislature in 1780, but not officially issued until 1789. Like all the other Grotons in America, this name is taken from the town of that name in England. Groton historian Waldo Glover indicates that, while no documentation exists, he supports the theory that the grantees named the town in honor of an ancestor of fellow grantee Thomas Butterfield. That ancestor, having gone to the defense of Groton, Connecticut in 1704, was captured by the natives and “cruelly treated.”

We use these names of states, counties and towns to help identify who we are. While not as likely as in the past, some individuals reside their entire lives within one town or county. In the past these small communities have been compared to the walled cities of the Middle Ages, defensive against outsiders and competitive with neighboring towns. While these identities have dulled with changing population and modern communication, many still swell with pride over their town’s accomplishments and bristle when the town is belittled.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Decades of Change: 1960-64

This column is the first of a series examining interesting events and changes that occurred locally since 1960. Other articles, covering about five year periods of time, will appear over the next 20 months, interspersed with other topics.

It would not be original to say that the only constant during the period from 1960 to the present was change. In many ways the 1960-64 period were the calm before the changes that would alter the area in remarkable ways. The majority of area residents cannot remember the period. While many are just too young, others moved here later. Those who do remember are encouraged to share those memories with those who don’t.

In several months I will write an article on the period 1965-1969. I am seeking volunteers to contribute to that and other future articles with stories and photographs. Contact me if you have things to share. In researching this article, I took over 20 pages of single-spaced notes. In writing it, I may have left out or misinterpreted things that others consider significant. Corrections and additions may be sent to lccoffin@charter.net.

Sources for this series include The United Opinion, and its successor the Journal Opinion, local history books and residents’ recollections. History does not fall conveniently into neat five-year blocks. The events and trends that are covered sometimes occur quickly and sometimes develop over decades. While the articles will draw from events in all area towns, this effort may result in an updated history of Bradford.

Established in 1881, The United Opinion was the local weekly. It featured Bradford news along with columns and news items from other area towns. In 1947 Randolph’s John Drysdale began publishing it in conjunction with his White River Valley Herald. Local staff and community columnists reported the news, supplemented by guest editorials from around Vermont.

That news reflected the normal activities of this area. Seasonal news, with variations, repeated year after year. Regular articles included school openings and deer hunting in the autumn, skiing and basketball in the winter, sugaring and graduation in the spring followed by golf, baseball and vacation news in the summer. Local columns were gossipy, informing folks of local events as well as neighbors’ trips, visitors, illnesses and home improvements.

Shopping small and shopping local were more practice than slogan in the early 1960s. Bradford was a main shopping center, and one could find almost everything needed in its stores. Route 5 was the main route and brought shoppers and tourists to town. Every Friday night was as active as Midnight Madness later became.

During this period Bradford boasted three major grocery stores and several smaller ones. There were two appliance stores, a furniture store, several clothing stores, four new car dealers, a bank, three hardware stores, two dentists and two doctors along with insurance agencies, filling stations, lawyers, oil and gas dealers, a slaughter house, two grain stores, a pharmacy, several gift stores, two railroad stations, salons and a barber, restaurants and lodging establishments. The Woodsville and Wells River commercial districts combined to offer similar services.

While the area was not as wealthy as some other areas of the state, it was recovering from the recession of 1958 and new businesses were common. Established businesses often relocated within the same community with enlarged facilities.

In 1960, the Bradford National Bank moved to its new building on the site of the demolished Bradford Hotel. In 1962, the Red and White Store moved from Main Street to Barton Street adjacent to the A & P grocery store. It opened as the 5,000 square feet Super-Duper, with such modern features as “music to shop by.” By comparison, the new Hannaford store will be 36,000 square feet.

In 1963, Perry’s Oil moved to its present location replacing Hale’s furniture store which relocated across the street. Perry’s shared the building with the Central Vermont Public Service appliance store. That company, which also used the brick mill as a local operations center, forecast the increase use of electricity with “flameless” appliances and “all electric” heating for homes.

Forward thinking business leaders urged local towns to encourage planned growth. In 1963-64 the Bradford Area Development Committee brought leaders of local towns together to encourage industrial growth. In 1963, a major industry targeted Bradford for a possible relocation. Local supporters raised $26,700 in pledges to help with the project. As with the 1962 proposal to build the Sunday Mountain Ski Area in Orford, this one never came to be.

In other towns, the Gould family retook ownership of its Piermont store and Wing’ Market took over the First National Store in Fairlee’s Colby Block. Across the street, the Bradford National Bank opened a branch in the former Fairlee post office. Fairlee acquired a new post office building as did Orford while the post offices in Newbury and East Corinth had new locations.

The new Carriage Stop Restaurant in Fairlee joined established ones in the area including the Kettledrum, the Chimes, Bill’s, the Happy Hour and the Fairlee Diner. Lake Morey Inn added a new convention center and served tourists along with Bonnie Oakes and the Rutledge Inn.

Agriculture was a major economic pursuit in the area. Fluid milk flowed to markets in southern New England. But a “creeping disaster was stalking the small Vermont dairy farm.” The combination of new regulations, irregular prices, uncertain weather and increased competition from other states, caused many farmers to auction off their family farms.

“1962 was a year of sharp adjustments for many farm families who were faced with the choice of going out of farming or investing heavily in equipment to meet new marketing requirements.”

New barns and milk houses with bulk tanks were increasingly required. The Bradford Creamery, which served farmers who shipped in cans, closed in January 1962. Through local efforts it was reopened and continued to serve farmers who used either cans or bulk tanks. Bradford’s Whiting Creamery also went through a period of bankruptcy and reopening. Farm organizations, such as the Farm Bureau, the Grange, 4-H and the Corinth Dairy Herd Improvement Association, assisted farm families in their efforts to keep farm traditions alive and growing.

School news was prominent in the weekly papers with in-depth reports of teams, clubs and events. Graduations were celebrated. All area towns struggled to provide education for an expanding student population. Communities spent local resources to improve programs including new courses and facilities. New courses, such as physical education and new math, were introduced. Proposed changes in state aid caused joy in only some towns. The 1962 U. S. Supreme Court decision prohibiting prayer in public schools raised concerns if not always immediate compliance.

Just prior to this time, Lyme and Haverhill consolidated their elementary schools. In April 1962 the new Thetford Elementary School opened, consolidating five village schools. After at least three failing votes, Bradford added three rooms to its elementary school. Area special needs students were served by The Valley School in North Thetford.

There was considerable discussion regarding the creation of regional high schools. At this time Orford, Woodsville and Haverhill voters decided to keep their high schools. There was pressure from the Vermont State Board of Education to reduce the number of school districts and area towns responded with study after study. In November 1964, Wells River, Groton and Ryegate voted to form a union school district.

Town and village voters regularly considered special projects. Bradford voters bought a new grader, fire truck and thought about a new fire house. East Corinth bought a new truck and built a new fire station. Piermont proposed to outfit its new fire department with a truck and fire station. In 1964 Lyme undertook a study that led to improved fire protection. Despite these improvements, some area buildings still disappeared in flames.

Some towns took seriously the advice: “You must consider the type of development you want before other kinds of development swoop down on you.” When in 1963 Thetford conducted a planning survey, it drew the attention of national media.

The United Opinion supported the idea that, “A small community needs to plan more carefully than a big city. A small town cannot afford to make mistakes.” Many feared government intrusion on private property rights while others saw zoning as a way of protecting property values and encouraging growth. Bradford voted down zoning at least three times and other communities never broached the subject.

Dumps and pollution were regular topics of discussion. Newbury bought land for a new dump and Fairlee studied how to prevent further pollution of the Connecticut River by moving its dump to a new site. The Village of Bradford solved the sewage disposal issue by dumping raw sewage into the Waits River. Two attempts in 1962-63 failed to gain voters’ support for a disposal plant.

Transportation issues often dominated local discussions. As railroad traffic declined, concerns over the future of local stations were voiced. Automobile dealers’ offerings were of high interest to the public and a major source of revenue for the paper. In 1962 Blake’s Chevrolet unveiled its new models at the Bradford Armory before a crowd of 1000 residents.

“The birth pains of a new superhighway through scenic Vermont towns and countryside.” were a constant source of news. As plans for the I-91 route were announced, some towns reacted with concerns. Fairlee fought to save both its village and Lake Morey by unsuccessfully suggesting several more westerly routes than the one proposed.

In Bradford, one route would have built the interstate on the meadows east of Memorial Field. That was discarded in favor of one over the Waits River intervale. The proposal to have the highway reduced to two lanes north of the Bradford interchange was eventually discarded as well.

Church activities were also reported in detail. Church attendance for all ages was common. Churches held regular and special services, served suppers and had holiday sales and bazaars year round. There was a new St. Martin’s Chapel in Fairlee and a Roman Catholic chapel in Orford. In 1962 Woodsville’s Calvary Baptists relocated to the former Universalist church. Other churches in the area consolidated or closed when membership declined.

The interfaith services held following President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, seemed to break the ice in favor of ecumenical activities. In June 1964 the graduating class held Bradford Academy’s first interfaith Baccalaureate service in the school’s auditorium.

Not all activities were so serious. Golfing news was reported in depth as were results of ball games. During the school year, school sports were followed closely. Adult basketball teams included the Black Guards and the Hard Line Loggers. “There was nothing like baseball” reported the newspaper as it covered Little and Babe Ruth Leagues and the adult Bradford Bombers. There were also rifle clubs and skiing at the Northeast Ski Slopes as well as swimming at Bradford’s Baldwin Bridge, Fairlee’s Community Beach and Newbury’s Halls Pond.

Drive-in theaters in the area offered summer time viewing of blockbusters such as The Alamo and Ben-Hur along with films by Walt Disney. There were bowling leagues in Woodsville, record hops, Sadie Hawkins Day dances, Junior Proms, and card parties. Clubs included scouts, 4-H, church groups, the fraternal Odd Fellows and Masons, veterans organizations, Grange, Lions Clubs, women’s clubs and active PTAs. Libraries listed new acquisitions, activities and physical improvements. Art shows, strawberry festivals and concerts along with Fairlee’s Itty Bitty Bazaar and Newbury’s Cracker Barrel Bazaar, were annual events.

No activity dominated fall editions more than hunting. The area boasted “some of the best deer hunting in the country.” The names of successful hunters were printed along with those who were successful trappers. Anglers who were extra lucky were pictured with proof of their fish stories.

The Bradford Wild Game Supper was prepared by the Bradford Congregational church. Some men also attended Richard Shearer’s annual men’s beaver supper.

This was bicentennial time for area towns. Considerable planning went into elaborate programs and parades. Historical societies were active. Celebrations were held as follows: Fairlee, Lyme and Thetford in 1961, Haverhill, Newbury and Topsham “had fun” in 1963 and Piermont and Corinth partied in 1964. By the end of this period Bradford was well into planning its 1965 celebration.

I close this first article of the series with things common to this period: The Rare Bird and Animal Farm in Fairlee, Granddad’s Toys in Thetford, polio clinics, the bookmobile, Princess phones, Top Value stamps, overseers of the poor, turning on your headlights during holiday weekend, caddying, five-cent ice cream cones, Bradford’s Hilltop Dairy, Rockdale’s in Lebanon and the Saturday noon whistle. These, along with some very fine local folks, exist now still in the pages of The United Opinion and in the memories of some.

(Editor’s note: Consider giving the author’s book In Times Past: Essays From the Upper Valley Book Two as a gift this holiday. It is available at local outlets and benefits the Bradford Public Library.)

                                                Vermont Babe Ruth League Champions
The Bradford area All Star team became Vermont Babe Ruth champions in August 1962. First row, left to right: Bill Cronin, Kingswood; Mike Whalen, Woodsville; Mike Martin, Bradford; Allen Reed, Fairlee( actually from Orford) ; Bob Turner, Bradford; Billy Hill, Woodsville; Gary Eggleston, W. Topsham; Bob Munson, Bradford, Second row: George Huntington, Jr., coach; Mike Maxwell, Bradford; Dave Chase, Woodsville; Steve Munson, Bradford; David Paronto, Woodsville; Phil Fillian, Fairlee; Paul Choate, Woodsville; Steve Johnson, W. Topsham; and Harry McLam, coach, Bradford.

A Super Duper Sale. Soon after its 1963 grand opening on Bradford’s Barton Street, the Super Duper offered a trainload sale of items. Formerly the Red and White Store, it had been located on Main Street.

United Opinion Correspondents. In June, 1961 local correspondents met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Morris Perry. On couch: left to right: Mrs. Charles King, Newbury; Mrs. H. M. Goodwin, Fairlee;, Mrs. Harry Deal, Piermont; Mrs. Warren Martin, Piermont and Bradford; standing: Mrs. Lester Gray, Orford; Mrs. Morris Knapp, East Corinth; Mrs. Harold Carleton, West Newbury; Mrs. Clinton Sawyer, Waits River; Mrs. George Hastings, Corinth. In chairs: Mrs. Lee Gilman, Norwich; Mrs. Ernest Cilley, West Topsham; on floor: Mrs. Russell Fuller, Newbury Center; Mrs. Roscoe Whitney ,South Newbury.

 These local women weekly reported the news of their town and neighborhood. It kept local readers informed of the comings and goings of the local residents. It might be noted that in the early 60s married women were generally listed by their husband’s name.)

Bradford Doctor and His Babies. Dr. Franklin Dwinell practice family medicine in the local area for 44 years, retiring in 1964. This 1962 photo show the doctor seated before his office wall covered with pictures of some of the over l100 babies he delivered.

Proposed Interstate Route. In July196,3 this map of the proposed interstate at Bradford showed the use of the Waits River intervale route rather than one to the east of the village. Also shown was the plan to build only two lanes north of the Bradford exit, with the other two lanes to be built at a later date. .

The Old Swimming Hole. Every summer, swimmers from the Bradford area took advantage of the cool waters of the Waits River at Baldwin Bridge for lessons and free swimming.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Election Patterns, Made and Broken

Election Patterns, Made and Broken

October 24, 2012

Part One
William Palmer, Anti-Masonic Governor. In 1831, Palmer was elected governor by the Vermont Legislature to the first of four consecutive terms. The Anti-Masonic movement swept Vermont in the first half of the 1830’s and, just as suddenly, ceased to be a political force.

The Great Orator. In August 1840 Daniel Webster spoke in Orford on behalf of the Whig presidential candidate. “All the north country came to hear the great man.” It was said that, for many years, people dated other occurrences from “the year Daniel Webster spoke in Orford.”

1888 Campaign Banner. Bradford Republicans encouraged support for their presidential and gubernatorial tickets with this large banner stretched across Main Street. In the tradition of Republican majority, these candidates carried both Bradford and Vermont. Apparently they rehung the banner in later times as a reminder of that victory.  Banner is now in Shelburne Museum. f(Bradford Historical Society)

Just in case it slipped your notice, there will be elections on Tuesday, November 6. On Wednesday, November 7, many will, with relief, echo the sentiment submitted by The United Opinion Piermont correspondent following the 1912 elections: “Now that the affairs of the nation are once more decided for the next four years, it is hoped we will all get down to business and stop chewing the political rag for a while.”

This column is the first of two that examines the roles of Vermont and neighboring Grafton county towns in elections of the past, those that were examples of a pattern and those that were not. It draws on local resources, including the voting records of local communities, and excellent histories of Vermont I used during my teaching career. The latter includes Freedom and Unity, A History of Vermont by Michael Sherman, Gene Sessions and P. Jeffrey Potash, a source I highly recommend.

The two-party system was well established by the 1820s. What was changing was the increased number of men allowed to participate in the choices elections offered. Local voters, influenced by community leaders and political newspapers, were often divided between, “Democrats with their populist states’ rights views and Federalists who were considered more elitist and favored power to the national government.”

The election of 1828 is described as both the longest and the dirtiest in American history. Incumbent John Quincy Adams and challenger Democrat Andrew Jackson locked in a four-year contest resulting from the disputed election of 1824. The campaigns battled over both major issues and personal attacks. Jackson won, but Adams carried both Vermont and New Hampshire. Newbury’s results were much closer than the state with 136 Freemen voting for the Adams ticket and 135 for the electors pledged to Jackson.

For the next few years, Vermont politics were dominated by the Anti-Masonic movement, “one of the strangest episodes in the whole history of American politics.” Masonic lodges with their secret fraternal rituals included some of Vermont’s most prominent citizens. The death of William Morgan of New York on the eve of his revelation of Masonic secrets along with a rising distrust of secret organizations led to the creation of the Anti-Masonic party in Vermont. The strong feelings led to split communities and the closure of many lodges.

In 1831 Anti-Masonic candidate William Palmer of Danville was elected as governor by the General Assembly to the first of four consecutive terms. In 1832 Vermont electors voted for the Anti-Masonic candidate for President, the only state to do so, and sent a representative to Congress from that third-party. In Fairlee the largest number of voters supported that party. In the three-way election of 1834, Palmer garnered 79 votes in Newbury, about one-third of the town’s total.

The 1913 history of Ryegate described the Anti-Masonic movement: “In its sudden rise, its violence while it lasted, and its sudden termination, it resembled nothing so much as a tropical tornado.” By 1836, the splinter party was no longer a political force and Vermonters were split between the Whigs and the Democrats, with Whigs more frequently dominating.

From time to time a community would break from that pattern as Fairlee did in 1844 and 1848 when it supported the Democratic candidates.

A significant event in the election of 1840 was the local appearance of Whigs supporter Daniel Webster who spoke on the West Common in support of William Henry Harrison and the Union.

It was said, “All the north country headed to Orford to hear the great man.” Similar large events were held in Burlington and Stratton Mountain. Vermont gave Harrison a highest percentage of its votes than any other state.

In 1854, the Republican Party was established in Vermont with abolition of slavery as a major plank in its platform. That year Republican Stephen Royce was elected governor, the first of a line of Republican governors that continued unbroken until 1962. In 1856 Republican presidential candidate John Fremont received 78% of the popular vote, a pattern that continued until 1964.

Vermont’s support for the Republican Party and the Union was reflected in the 1860 and 1864 elections. In the first, Republican Abraham Lincoln faced three other candidates including Vermont-born Stephen Douglas (D). Lincoln received 76% in both elections. In Fairlee and Newbury, for unknown reasons, Lincoln received less support. Sixty-one percent of votes cast in the two elections in Fairlee were for Lincoln and in Newbury it was 67% and 69%.

Vermont was truly “the star that never sets” in the Republican firmament. No other state was so dominated by a single party for so long a period. That Republican domination, the product of a strong statewide organization, resulted in complete control of all state-wide offices and most seats in the Vermont legislature.

The Democrats, with power often limited to disaffected minorities in the larger communities, offered little opposition. Between 1854 and 1934 no Democratic gubernatorial candidate garnered more than 40% of the votes.

Only once between 1860 and 1962 did Bradford majority vote for a Democratic Presidential candidate, that being for Grover Cleveland in the election of 1884. Only three times in that period did Bradford vote for the Democratic candidate for governor, but not once between 1916 and 1964.

The only way to succeed as an aspiring politician in Vermont in the century after that was to be a Republican. To avoid internal disputes the Republican Party practiced a “mountain rule” that parlayed leadership between the two areas of the state, and single two-year terms for governor. Orange County had it owns mountain rule, with its state senatorial seat shifting between the two sides of the county.

An apprenticeship tradition brought Republicans up through state offices to the governorship and Congressional seats. Businessmen such as the Proctors of the Vermont Marble Company often provided candidates. Governor Roswell Farnham of Bradford (1880-1882), reflected this business influence.

Local partisanship was highlighted by local rallies, parades and banners. In August, 1876 the following West Topsham news item appeared in The United Opinion: “On Thursday morning we were greatly surprised to see a Tilden and Hendricks flag waving in the breeze over our main street…the diminutive size and general appearance was so ridiculous it caused a great deal of sport for the Republicans…The Democrats seemed well pleased with it until we had had our laugh, and then they begun to show displeasure, and some of them even accused us of putting it up…we think it is unkind in them as long as we have been life-long Republicans, to accuse us of being Democrats now.”

In 1884 the two political parties each had a flagpole in Woodsville and North Haverhill with the names of their candidates. That year the election of Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate for President, was celebrated by a large banquet at the Haverhill town hall.

In 1888 a large banner for Republican candidates including Republican Presidential candidate Benjamin Harrison stretched from sidewalk to sidewalk across Bradford’s main street. Harrison was elected over Democrat Grover Cleveland and in 1891 visited the area, speaking in both Wells River and Bradford to large crowds.

Harrison’s election resulted in payment of a strange wheelbarrow bet in East Corinth as reported on November 23, 1888, “The bet was this, if Cleveland was elected A.C. Jackman was to wheel Geo. Willey from the Four Corners to the village, W. T. Jackman was to carry a Cleveland and Thurman banner…If Harrison was elected, Geo. Willey was to wheel A.C. Jackman and fifty pounds of meal, S. G. Corliss was to carry a Harrison and Morton banner….About 3 o clock the procession made its appearance led by Sam carrying the banner and his head high, and escorted by the East Topsham drum corps. George Willey furnished the motive power while A. C. Jackman held the reins in great style. The length of the village made in better time than most two hundred pounders could make it, although George did appear fatigued when the two mile heat was ended, he was not sorry when his bet was paid.”

As the 19th century came to a close, the political patterns in Vermont were well established. Vermont was dedicated to the Republican Party. How that dedication continued and then was shaken will be the topic of the second portion of this essay in the October 31st edition.

Election Patterns, Made and Broken
Part Two
October 31, 2012

Candidates in Vermont. Former President Teddy Roosevelt toured Vermont in 1912 in an effort to unseat fellow Republican incumbent William Howard Taft. Both men toured Vermont, including stops by Taft in Wells River, Woodsville and Bradford. Roosevelt is shown speaking in Barre.

Young Aiken. George D. Aiken was a candidate of the Progressive wing of Vermont’s Republican in an era when a politician had to be a Republican in order to be elected to state-wide office. After coming up through the legislative ranks, this moderate Republican was elected governor (1937-1941) and then U.S. Senator (1941-1975).

Hoff, The First Democrat. In 1962 Burlington’s Philip Hoff, one of the “Young Turks,” was elected Governor of Vermont. He was the first Democrat to be elected to that office since John Robinson was elected in 1853.

In 1984, Madeleine M. Kunin (D) was elected as Vermont's first woman govenor and served until 1991. She was the first woman to serve as a govenor without being part of an election campaign involving her husband as a former govenor.   

This column is the second of a two-part essay that examines Vermont’s role in elections of the past, those that were examples of a pattern and those that were not. It draws on local resources, including the voting records of local communities, and excellent histories of Vermont I used during my teaching career. The latter includes Freedom and Unity, A History of Vermont by Michael Sherman, Gene Sessions and P. Jeffrey Potash, a source I highly recommend.

Bradford’s newspaper, The United Opinion, like most of Orange County and much of Vermont in the years after 1853, supported Republican candidates. In the June 19, 1896 edition it announced the Republican nomination of presidential candidate William McKinley at their convention in St. Louis. That announcement was accompanied by a large picture of the candidate under the headline “McKinley & Hobart. The standard bearers of the party of patriotism, protection and prosperity.”

Election reforms were adopted during this period. Prior to 1892, ballots were provided by party supporters. Voters merely had to deposit these pre-printed ballots. Since party ballots were distinctive, there was little secrecy in the voting. The State then adopted the Australian ballot, a system that provided a government-printed ballot with all the choices included. The voter then had to enter a ballot booth and make the selections. Secrecy was enhanced.

The Republican tickets were determined at a caucus convention until 1915 and thereafter by the direct primary, thus increasing the role of the average party member. In 1920 women first exercised the right to vote in all elections.

Changes were also finding their way into the Republican Party. There were candidates within the party who expressed a more progressive agenda, one that had its basis in the reform movements of the 19th century. Its opposition to the conservative old guard was very pronounced in the election of 1912. Republican incumbent William Howard Taft faced opposition from within his own party in the candidacy of former president Theodore Roosevelt as well as Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party found considerable support, especially when he made several appearances in the state. President Taft also visited with local appearances in this area, greeting a large crowd in Woodsville. Although not scheduled to speak in Bradford the President did stop before a large crowd assembled by local leaders in the downtown Square. In October conservationist Gifford Pinchot spoke before a large Progressive rally of 400 in Bradford, calling Roosevelt “the only true pilot.”

In the three-way election, Vermont went to Taft by only 1200 votes, joining only Utah in this support. In Fairlee, Roosevelt won by a large margin whereas in Newbury the vote between Taft and Roosevelt was very close with Wilson a distant third. In the race for governor, a three-way contest threw the election to the General Assembly, where the old guard rallied around its candidate Allen Fletcher. The United Opinion bemoaned Taft’s defeat, “A good man and a good President has gone down to defeat.”

Except for that election, the Republican nominee could expect to garner between 68 and 80% of the popular vote for President in every election from 1860 to 1928. In the election of 1924, when favorite son Calvin Coolidge ran for office he received over 78% of the vote.

The Great Depression changed patterns. State-wide support for the Republican candidate against Franklin Roosevelt dropped to 58% in 1932 and 56% four years later. In the Senatorial election of 1934, Republican Warren Austin was elected with only 51% of the vote over his Democratic challenger. In the election of 1936 only Vermont and Maine gave their electoral votes to FDR’s Republican opponent. Large voter turnout at local polls supported the Republican candidates in both presidential elections.

Over the next few years the progressive wing of the Republican Party began to exercise more influence, especially with the election of candidates such as George Aiken and Ernest Gibson Jr. Their more progressive agenda gave the state government a stronger role in public affairs. After serving as an activist governor, Aiken ran for the U. S. Senate in 1940 and gained the Republican nomination with the wide support of Bradford voters.

While Republicans continued to control the state’s political scene, the margin between their candidates and the Democrats continued to narrow. In 1958, Democrat William Meyer was elected to Congress as Vermont single Representative, the first member of his party to win a statewide election in over a century. However, moderate Republican Robert Stafford was elected governor by a narrow margin and, in 1960, defeated Meyer for his seat in Washington.

In the 1960 election a group of young legislators known as “the Young Turks” joined the Vermont House. The seven Republicans and three Democrats included Republican Richard Mallary of Fairlee and Democrat Phillip Hoff of Burlington. This bipartisan group met to develop new more progressive policies.

In 1962 Hoff was elected governor over conservative Republican F. Ray Keyser Jr. Some progressive Republicans formed the Vermont Independent Party and were able to supported Hoff’s election without having to vote Democrat. Hoff was the first member of his party to be elected governor since 1853. He did not, however, have the support of voters in Orange County.

In 1964, “the star that never set” set. The United Opinion bold headline “Vermont In Somersault” announced the Democrats clean sweep of all state offices. Some candidates rode in on the coattails of the strong national ticket. Only Republicans Congressman Robert Stafford and U.S. Senator Winston Prouty won re-election. Vermont’s electors voted for Lyndon B. Johnson, the first time a Democratic candidate won those votes.

A majority of local voters in Newbury, Bradford and Fairlee supported Johnson as well as Hoff’s re-election. Piermont voters, on the other hand, supported Barry Goldwater 123 to Johnson’s 119. While LBJ won in Haverhill, it was a close 697 to 657.

In 1965, the Vermont House of Representatives responded to a court-ordered reapportionment. It was reduced from 246 members, each representing a town or city, to 150 equal population districts. The number of representative from Democratic leaning communities increased. The influx of residents from other states, the decline of conservative rural population and the influence of national media contributed to significant growth in the number of Vermonters voting for Democratic candidates.

Vermont is no longer a one-party state. No longer does a candidate with progressive ideas have to be a Republican in order to have a career in politics. In the 25 gubernatorial elections between 1962 and 2010, Democrats won 14 and Republicans 11. The majority of the latter were from the moderate wing of the Republican Party. In the 11 Presidential elections between 1968 and 2008, the Republican electors won the first six (Nixon, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Reagan and Bush) and Democratic electors won the past five (Clinton, Clinton, Gore, Kerry and Obama).

An important tradition was broken in November 1984 when Vermont elected Madeleine Kunin (D), its first woman governor. Kunin did not carry most area towns. However, when she was re-elected in 1986 and 1988 she garnered an increase amount of support locally. In the 1988 election, a majority of voters in Bradford, Corinth, Fairlee and Newbury selected Kunin.
In the Congress, Vermont is currently represented by senior Senator Patrick Leahy (D) who has held the office since defeating Republican Congressman Richard Mallary in 1974. In 2007, liberal Congressman Bernie Sanders (I) replaced Senator James Jeffords, Republican turned Independent. Sander’s place in the House of Representatives was taken by Peter Welch (D).

In the Vermont General Assembly, the Democrats hold a commanding lead in the House with 94 members to 48 Republicans and 8 Independents or Progressives. In the Senate there are 20 Democrats and 2 Progressives to 8 Republicans. Party affiliation is not always a true sign of party loyalty on issues, especially among independent thinking legislators dedicated to the welfare of local constituents.

I am often asked what I miss most about teaching. Of all the subjects that I enjoyed the most, elections ranked high. My job was to clarify the complicated procedures that characterize our democratic processes without bias. I took great pleasure in registering young citizens and watching them participate in the voting process. I was especially pleased with my role as teacher if my students were divided on which candidates I personally supported.

One thing they could be sure of, and one that I still espouse, is my belief in the importance of voting. They may also recall my admonition that those who do not exercise the vote have little right to complain about the choices made by those who do. The poster on my classroom wall said it more plainly, “If You Don’t Vote, Don’t Bitch.” Vote next Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Antietam: A Most Bloody Day

September 12, 2012

The Union called it Antietam; to the Confederacy  it was the Battle of Sharpsburg. It was fought on September 17, 1862, nearly 150 years ago. With more than 6,300 soldiers killed and 15,000 wounded, it was the single bloodiest day in American history. It was a pivotal event in the course of the Civil War. No other battle of that war had “such momentous multiple consequences.”

This column describes this decisive battle, the role of Vermont and New Hampshire troops in the action and the political and military significance of the battle. It draws information from local histories, internet sources, and the books Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam by James M. McPherson and Full Duty by Howard Coffin.

By the fall of 1862, almost 18 months into the war, any idea that the war would be quick and relatively bloodless was completely demolished. The North, with superior numbers of every military and economic factor, except military leadership, was still unable to bring the Confederacy to its knees.

The Federals were committed to reuniting the Union with abolishing slavery only a secondary purpose. Southerners saw the war as an invasion of their homeland and a threat to their way of life.

Southern military reversals during the early months of 1862, was then followed by a series of victories, causing both sides to react strongly. That summer, according to McPherson, was one of “dark and dismal days in the north.”

In early September 1862, Robert E. Lee decided to take his Army of Northern Virginia into the northern territory of western Maryland. His goals were to relieve pressure on Virginia, especially during the crucial harvest period, to gather fresh recruits from among southern sympathizers in Maryland and to bring the war to the North.

Invading rich unspoiled Maryland would also provide much needed supplies for his ragged and hungry army. A dramatic victory on Northern territory might also result in recognition of the Confederacy by European powers and gains in the Northern elections for Peace Democrats.

The Army of the Potomac under the command of General George McClellan moved out of Washington to block the invasion. Just prior to the rendezvous, one of the most extraordinary events of the war occurred.

Lee made the decision to divide his forces, sending a portion under Stonewall Jackson to take nearby Harpers Ferry. A copy of this secret Special Order 191 was then found by Union troops wrapped around three cigars and left under a tree.

McClellan’s subsequent failure to act on this information and decisively destroy the divided army gave Lee an advantage. He had been informed by a spy in the Union camp of the discovery of the lost order.

Meanwhile, Jackson’s forces surrounded the 12,419 Union soldiers at Harpers Ferry. Those men, mostly of new regiments like the 9th Vermont, were under the command of the inept Col. Dixon S. Miles. Despite recommendations from Col. George Stannard of the Vermont regiment, Miles failed to send troops to the heights that surrounded the town, leaving the advantage to the seasoned Confederates with their artillery.

Miles surrendered the garrison; the largest group of American soldiers to surrender until Corregidor in 1942. The troops, including Col. Dudley Andross and Lts John Stearns of Bradford and George Chamberlain of Newbury and local men under their command, were sent on parole to Chicago until they were exchanged in January 1863. One officer in the 9th Vermont wrote later: “No disaster of the war exceeds Harpers Ferry in the folly and incompetence which caused it.”

It was the Harpers Ferry victory that persuaded Lee to take a stand with 25,000 men of his divided army at Sharpsburg along a three-mile stretch of Antietam Creek. The Union army of 55,000 arrived at Antietam on the afternoon of September 15.

McClellan again hesitated, missing an opportunity to destroy the enemy, failing even to send reconnaissance and as a result he continued to overestimate Lee’s strength.

On the morning of September 17 the two armies engaged. In that day’s savage struggle, locations such as the Cornfield, Bloody Lane and Burnside’s Bridge were forever tragically etched into the history of the war.

In the 30-acre Cornfield on the Confederate left flank, fighting surged back and forth during the early part of the battle. In the “meat grinder” of combat, the 12th Massachusetts lost 224 of its 334 men. Among the fighters of that regiment was Topsham-born William Nutt. His regiment had the highest casualty rate of any Federal unit that day. The 1st Texas “lost 82 percent of its men in forty five minutes of fighting.”

It was estimated there were 12,000 casualties “in four hours of the war’s most intensive combat.” The exaggerated claim that the field was so covered with dead and wounded that one could walk across without stepping on the ground, gives some indication of the carnage.

A second Union charge was against the center of the Rebel position at a sunken road known as the Bloody Lane. Among those who entered the Cornfield were local men from the Second Sharpshooters who “helped to fill the bloody lane.”

The 5th New Hampshire Regiment, wearing the war paint made of cartridge power and yelling an Indian war whoop, joined the charge. One of their numbers later wrote “What a bloody place…the dead and wounded were literally piled in there in heaps.” The Confederate center collapsed, but McClellan’s hesitation in sending reinforcements lost the advantage.

According to Howard Coffin, around noon the Vermont Brigade advanced through the Cornfield and came to rest in front of the Bloody Lane but were told to halt and so laid down in sight of the “battered rebel line.” During the rest of the battle they remained there “amid considerable shot and shell, with a man occasionally getting hit, returning fire when a target presented itself.”

While losses were relatively few, 25 killed and wounded, perhaps these Vermonters might have been used more effectively against the weakened enemy before them.

A stone bridge on the Confederate right flank was central to later action. General Ambrose Burnside directed a series of attacks against it. Men from Haverhill, Lyme and Orford were among those who braved concentrated fire and with fixed bayonets, took the bridge and the area beyond.

Among those were Erwin, Henry and Josiah Archer and Joseph Quint all of Orford. Those last names that are still part of that town’s geography.

That successful foray came at the same time Lee was reinforced by troops from Harpers Ferry. McClellan believed that sending reinforcements to his forward lines was not “prudent” and again the advantage was lost. The Union forces withdrew.

Many local men fought at Antietam in infantry regiments from New Hampshire and Vermont in company with others they knew from home. Company rosters indicate that many born locally were credited to other towns and other states.

Osman Taplin, born in Newbury, was a member of the 2nd Wisconsin and died of his wounds. Lorin Vance was from Groton originally. He was serving in the 2nd Massachusetts and was also wounded at Antietam.

Some served in other roles. Morris Vance of Groton was a wagoner in the 3rd Vermont along with Robert Carruth of Newbury, a musician.

Shepard Whitman of Newbury, George Lamprey of Orford and Daniel and Frank Davis two brothers from Fairlee and Orford, were sharpshooters. Orford-born Frederick Edgell was the commander of the 1st NH Light Artillery.

As night fell, surgeons tended to the wounded. They were everywhere, filling every shelter. Working with them was Clara Barton, “the angel of the battlefield.” Hospital stewards Charles Brooks of West Fairlee and Marshall Felch of Piermont care for members of the 4th Vermont. Dr. William Child of Bath tended the wounded of the 5th New Hampshire. The wounded included West Fairlee born Josiah Scott, a member of the 9th NH. Many would die from their wounds. David Winship, a new recruit in the 9th NH, died of his wounds on November 14. Like many, he is buried far from the local area; his headstone monument in Bradford’s Upper Plain cemetery shelters a cenotaph, an empty grave.

A number of local men were discharged or died soon after the battle. It is difficult to determine whether this was the result of wounds received or from disease, which was the most common cause of death among soldiers during the war.

As night fell, it was assumed by many that McClellan would take up the fight the following day. He actually had more men in reserve than Lee had in total. Many of those however, were new recruits with no experience under fire.

McPearson writes: “McClellan believed he had no certainty of success.” This was his pattern of inaction, “no initiative without absolute assurance of success...which rarely, if ever exists in any human endeavor, much less in war.”

That night Lee’s army retreated across the Potomac. McClellan’s chance to completely destroy the severely weakened army had passed. If he had done so, the war might not have gone on for another two and a half years.

But McClellan assumed their retreat meant that the victory was complete. For the next few weeks McClellan remained inactive while Lee had time to repair some of the damage inflicted at Antietam. President Lincoln had had enough of McClellan hesitancy and within two months relieved him of command.

What of the “momentous multiple consequences?” Northern newspapers declared the battle a victory, and the morale of both soldiers and the general public was lifted significantly. One of the most important consequences was Lincoln’s announcement of a proclamation of emancipation on September 22.

Early in the war Lincoln had announced that restoring the union with or without slavery was his most important goal, one he repeated as late as August 22, 1862. Still, he had planned an emancipation proclamation; but was waiting for a success in battle to make it public.

Five days after Antietam he announced that on January 1, 1863 all slaves held in states in rebellion would be free. That significantly added to the war’s goals. It would begin to deny the South the thousands of slaves whose labor released men to fight and would lead to eventual abolition of slavery throughout the nation.

The proclamation coming so soon after the victory at Antietam also had a significant impact on European nations. While it did not completely silence interventionists there, there was no recognition of the Confederacy nor any intervention.

The victory and proclamation also had an impact on the 1862 elections. Peace Democrats denounced the proclamation and the continuing war but lost the advantage they had prior to September 17. Republicans retained control of the Congress and made gains in a number of state contests.

All of these consequences were bought with the blood of Americans from both sides. Those who survived, even if they fought in other great battles of the war, remembered Antietam for its carnage of death and suffering.

In 1882, Antietam veteran Colonel Francis Winthrop Palfrey of Massachusetts wrote, “As the sun sank to rest on the 17th of September, the last sounds of battle along Antietam Creek died away. The cannon could at last grow cool, and unwounded men and horses could enjoy rest and food, but there were thousands sleeping the sleep that knows no waking, and many times as many thousands were suffering all the agonies that attend on wounds.”

“The corn and trees, so fresh and green in the morning were reddened with blood and torn by bullet and shell; and the very earth was furrowed by the incessant impact of lead and iron. The blessed night came, and brought with it sleep and forgetfulness and refreshment to many, but the murmur of the night wind, breathing over fields of wheat and clover, was mingled with the groans of the countless suffering of both armies. Who can tell, who can imagine, the horrors of such a night, while the unconscious stars shone above and the unconscious river rippled by?”

It was the close of the most bloody day.

 Burnside’s Bridge. In the afternoon of Sept. 17, Union General Ambrose Burnside directed a series of attack against this stone bridge across Antietam Creek. Men from Haverhill, Lyme and Orford were among those who braved concentrated fire and with fixed bayonets took the bridge and the area beyond.

The Sunken Road at Bloody Lane. Confederate casualties line the site of some of the most savage fighting at Antietam. Local men from the Second Sharpshooters and the 5th NH Regiment were part of that struggle.

The Commanders at Antietam: Lee and McClellan. The Confederate forces led by Robert E. Lee were greatly outnumbered by George B. McClellan’s Union troops. McClellan’s hesitancy made his “victory” less than victorious.

Sharpshooter Monument. The 2nd Vermont Sharpshooters are honored by the 1890 monument at the Antietam National Battlefield. Shepard Whitman of Newbury, George Lamprey of Orford and Daniel and Frank Davis, two brothers from Fairlee and Orford, were sharpshooters.
 The gravestone of Frank Davis is located at the Fairlee Village Cemetery.  He and his brother Daniel were both members of the 2nd Vermont Sharpshooters at Antietam.  Daniel Davis was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864.

The Old Vermont Brigade Monument was dedicated in 1900 and is located near the natorious Bloody Lane at Antietam. September 17, 2012 is the 150th anniversary of that blood battle. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Take A Walk

Journal Opinion
August 8, 2012

Located on the sidewalk just south of The Local Buzz, this marker indicates ground zero for the property boundaries in this section of Bradford village. It marks the center of the old elm tree that blew down in 1903. (JO Photo by Michelle Sherburne) 

Looks Like Permanent. The Newbury history indicates that the Village of Wells River did not vote for “permanent sidewalks” until the 1920’s. This pre-1892 photograph shows sidewalks along that village’s main thoroughfare. (Horace Symes)

 Orford Grand Mall Walk in 1910. Created in the early 1800s, this mile-long walk along Orford’s Main Street mall has been described as “a living memorial of the public spirit and liberality of those who made it.” In 2006, a grant allowed it to be restored by Orford volunteers. It is probably the earliest village sidewalk in the area and certainly the loveliest.

Bradford Sidewalks in the 1850s. Sidewalks run along side white fences and hitching posts on the main street of Bradford in this early photograph. The second building from the left is the Bottle Shop. (Bradford Historical Society)

“Most of us take sidewalks for granted. Sidewalks seem to be the epitome of mundane. Sure, there are pretty sidewalks, ugly sidewalks, dirt ‘sidewalks’ and places without sidewalks, but for the most part, underfoot means out of mind.”

This is how Brian Michael Lione describes sidewalks in his 1999 article “Sidewalks: Ignored Aspects of Everyday Life.” He goes on to say that sidewalk history is “difficult to pin down.” This column deals with the history of sidewalks in our region. The information comes from local histories and records and old photographs of area villages.

Sidewalks and walkways occur primarily in population centers. There is no need for them on rural dirt roads. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, legal entities, such as the villages of Bradford, Wells River and Newbury and the fire district of Woodsville, were created to provide services, such as sidewalks, needed by those who live in clustered areas.

Sidewalks on village streets with their higher traffic volume provided both safe and cleaner paths for pedestrians. They linked village homes with downtown business streets. A testimony to the degree to which dwellers were willing to walk to services is shown by the lack of parking for carriages or autos in the initial plans for the Bradford Public Library in 1895.

Probably one of the earliest and certainly the most attractive sidewalk is located along the mall in Orford. Located along the eastern side of what is now Route 10, the mall was created in the early 1800s on land owned by John Mann and Samuel Morey and the town common.

In 1865, Joel Mann described it as “one mile long--straight as a house floor-- straight as a line, and skirted with trees on both sides…note-worthy a feature of this village.” Granite posts were set up along the walk to prevent driving along the mall on “muddy days when people might be tempted to avoid the rutted road for a smoother surface. The posts were placed three in a row, one on either side of the walk and one, a veritable barrier, in the center of the walk.”

An early letter in the Boston Evening Traveller described the mall as “the chief ornament of this village, and is a lasting memorial of the public spirit and liberality of those who made it. In that spirit it should be carefully preserved and kept in perfect order.” The mall walk is still on a combination of public and private property and in 2006 a group of volunteers, working with a transportation grant, restored it. It continues to function as the lasting memorial it was meant to be and provides enjoyment to its users.

Some of the earliest sidewalks were planked. Photographs show what appears to be a plank sidewalk up Bradford’s Bank Street and along the road to the Bradford railroad station in the 1890s. In 1892, a plank sidewalk connected the schoolhouse and the church in Haverhill Corner. Groton had some planked sidewalks until 1904. Some sections of the walks in Newbury village were also planked.

In other early villages such as Fairlee, West Fairlee, Post Mills, East Corinth, Warren and Piermont, walkways were packed dirt or crushed stone. Some appear to be well laid out and well kept, whereas others appear to be mere paths of convenience created by walkers seeking safe and convenient routes.

In 1898, Fairlee officials dealt with the increased number of bikers by widening the walks “as it is quite dusty for ladies to ride on the main road.” Photographs show established walks on both sides of Fairlee’s Main Street from Bridge Street south.

Some photographs also show packed crosswalks, stepping stones or planks across main streets and gutters, designed to keep boots and lengthy ladies skirts out of the mud and muck of dirt roads. In the case of several villages, gas lamps and hitching posts were sidewalk amenities.

When there was a period of building and street construction, these earlier sidewalks were often replaced with concrete. Between 1888 and 1896 new sidewalks were built in the village of North Haverhill. The new Woodsville Fire District built concrete sidewalks along Central Street in 1888 and extended them along other village streets over the next four years. Much of this work was accomplished by S. D. Tilton, concrete paver of Woodsville. A 1907 photograph of South Ryegate shows a nice sidewalk along Pleasant Street.

Some villages put off creating more elaborate sidewalks. Although early photographs of Wells River show footpaths and then sidewalks, the Newbury history states that Wells River did not vote to make “permanent sidewalks” until the 1920’s, a project not accomplished until 1934. Between 1926 and 1930, Newbury Village replaced their older sidewalks with concrete, “the cost [of which was] shared by landowners and the village” augmented by private donations.

Some bridges also had walkways. In 1917, the new bridge between Wells River and Woodsville featured a six-foot wide sidewalk. In 1925, a covered walkway was attached to the north side of the 1856 covered bridge between Fairlee and Orford. When that bridge was replaced with the Samuel Morey Memorial Bridge in 1938, a walkway was included. The iron bridge built by the Village of Bradford in 1910 near the grist mill also had a walkway as does the 1938 concrete replacement.

The recurring discussions that often accompanied plans to ask taxpayers to fund sidewalk construction are exemplified by a closer examination of the history of sidewalks in the Village of Bradford. Even before the Village was created in 1890, the Selectmen had authorized new concrete sidewalks to be built in front of the new brick buildings.

The village residents then authorized the building of additional sidewalks on most of the village streets. The United Opinion of July 17, 1896 states that “work on the sidewalk is being pushed. This is a much needed link in the system.”

But by 1927 these sidewalks were in poor shape. A poem entitled “Sidewalks” which appeared on the front page of the November 4, 1927 edition of The United Opinion began with the following: “The sidewalks, oh the sidewalks that they laid in ‘ninety six. Had grown old and rough and narrow and in an awful fix.” It went on to describe the difficulties caused by the trees that had “sent in their roots like drills, and raised the concrete surface up and formed it into hills.”

“Our shoes” it described “were filled with water, our feet were wet and cold, And in language strong and forceful we scored the sidewalks old.”

In January 1927, the Village voters authorized $23,225 for a village sewer system, but a separate article relative to sidewalks was dismissed. As the sewer project proceeded, it was realized that money would be left over. A special village meeting was held to raise an additional $5,000 to hire the same construction company to repair and replace the sidewalks.

The local newspaper gave editorial support, saying that with these repairs “we will have reason to feel proud when referring to our village as ‘Bradford the Beautiful.’ ” The author of the aforementioned poem wrote “To walk is now a pleasure, but though the walking’s great/ We’ll get there if we ‘choose to run’ in nineteen twenty-eight…Of course no one of us expects these walks can always stay, But we can’t either, so enjoy and use them while we may.”

And, of course, they didn’t stay. By 1946 the village sidewalks were again in poor shape. The Village Trustees proposed a bond vote of about $40,000 to repair three and one-half miles of sidewalk. In the discussion, special concerns were raised about the safety of school children walking on unsafe sidewalks. The bond vote passed by a vote of 202 to 15. The United Opinion editorialized “We won’t have to feel ashamed or apologize for our abominable sidewalks much longer.”

The work was finished in the summer of 1947. The construction company offered to do driveway work at the owner’s expense. There were some concerns over the need for “city-like sidewalks” and questions raised about the need for a sidewalk up Peters’ Hill to the new catholic church. Since there were plans to rebuild that portion of Route 5, that sidewalk was delayed.

Wear and weather continued to wreck havoc on these sidewalks and by the early 1990s concerns about unsafe sidewalks were raised again. The voters of the Village created a revolving fund for sidewalk repairs and contributed $50,000 to it annually. Contractor Norman Allen drew up a preliminary repairs and replacement plan at a cost of $194,000.

A seven-part plan for spending $223,389 in sidewalk, street and water repairs was put to a bond vote in February, 1995. The Journal Opinion, which had referred to the “nagging problems of the village sidewalks,” favored of the bond. “The streets and sidewalks in the village area are a continuing sore thumb. Patching them up won’t do it, they need to be rebuilt. And if the work is done piecemeal or held back for a year or two, the cost will be even greater.”

With only 68 votes cast, the portions of the sidewalk repairs on Main, South Main and South Pleasant were defeated whereas the reconstruction of North Pleasant and High streets was accepted. Further, no sidewalk was added to High Street as the residents had lobbied against having something they had not had or needed. Over the next 20 years, federal and state grants were used to complete several of the defeated projects.

Additional grants and local appropriations built new sidewalks on Barton Street, from Barton to the newly refurbished grist mill and up Fairground Road to the Bradford Elementary School. That one was later extended to Elizabeth’s Park. Outside the village Route 5 has been widened walking and biking. In 2004 the merger of the Village and Town of Bradford placed the responsibility for all Bradford sidewalks under the jurisdiction of the Bradford Selectboard.

There are cracks and upheavals on the sidewalks of Bradford again. Some have been deemed compromised by underground delivery vaults to Main Street stores. Some have been completely removed by the current water project. Those will be replaced by the construction company by late fall. Several months ago I observed civil engineer Thomas Bigelow taking measurements of the sidewalks on the east side of the business district near the North of the Falls store in anticipation of additional replacements.

I asked him to notice the special marker that had been placed in the sidewalk in the 1930’s. It is the top of a pipe that marks the location of the historic elm tree that had stood at that location since the early years of the town’s settlement. That tree, which was used as a boundary marker for many of the building lots in the business district, fell down in 1903.

At that time a metal marker was placed at the location of the center of the tree stump. As the president of the Bradford Historical Society I wanted to be assured that a replacement marker would be part of any rebuilt sidewalk.

The sidewalks and pathways of the area seem busy with walkers, in groups, with dogs or alone. Joggers run past those enjoying a more leisurely pace. Sidewalks are also where children enjoy biking, being pushed in strollers, hauled in wagons or playing games outlined with chalk. In some communities, they are being made safer by the Safe Routes to School programs. They are a meeting place for conversations between friends and neighbors. Stores use them to display goods, daily or during special events. It is on the sidewalks of my village that I am amazed at both the number of folks I recognize and the number I don’t.

Yes, it may be true that to some “underfoot means out of mind,” except perhaps when the way is broken and dangerous, icy or messy with the deposits from dogs with irresponsible owners. But for me they are pathways to freedom from the automobile, relaxing walks for our health and that of our dog, routes to new places or favorite sites and especially a town’s history.

(Editor’s note Additional essays by this author can be found in the newly-published In Times Past: Essays From the Upper Valley, Book Two available at local outlet to benefit the Bradford Public Library)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Ails You?

Journal Opinion
July 18, 2012

The headstone for Dr. Nathan McKinstry is located in the Oxbow Cemetery in Newbury.  One of Newbury's first doctors, he died Feb.6, 1815 at age 41.  The inscription on the headstone, worn by time and acid rain, reads: "In-urned beneath lies no poor worthless quack. But the ashes of good Dr.Mac, Whose talents, honors, virtues, could not save, His generous bosom from an early grave."

Dr. Nathan Smith, pictured in this painting, was the founder of Dartmouth Medical School.  This school was the 4th in the nation and recently changed its name to the Geisel School of Medicine (Courtesy of the Geisel School of Medicine)

This is one of serveral patent medicines developed by Dr. Samuel Hardy of Cornish Flats, NH.  This promotion dates to 1836.  Patent medicines such as this often contained morphine and alcohol.

Green Mountain Balm of Gilead: Developed by M.K. Paine of Windsor, VT, this cedar plaster was guaranteed "unequalied in removing pain, internal inflammations, curing lameness" and a whole list of additional aliments.  

Doctors in Vermont carry on a practice over a radius of twenty miles, frequently being obliged to drive through eight feet of snow in order to reach their patients and find it necessary at times to dig their horses out of drifts, before they could proceed.”

This is Rudyard Kipling’s description of the 19th century conditions facing some of the doctors he observed during his stay in Vermont. This column describes the medical practices in our region from the period of settlement to 1860. It draws on local histories, internet sources and the history of the medical profession found in The Vermont of Today by Arthur Stone.

Early residents of the area lived in constant fear of illness or accident. While not as frequent as in the South or in the nation’s cities, epidemics increased local death rates. Local cemeteries are filled with the victims of both epidemics and endemic diseases. The average life expectancy in 1850 was under 40 years of age, brought low by a high infant mortality rate. Poor sanitation practices spread many diseases. War injuries brought their own special problems, often overwhelming the medical help available.

Many believed that illness was a punishment for sin. Believers relied on prayers for God’s intercession as a cure. This was especially true in the face of epidemics when days of fasting and prayer were observed. Governors proclaimed fast days in New Hampshire as early as 1680 and although it had lost its original purpose, Fast Day remained an April holiday in that state until 1991.

Despite their best practices or because of them, physicians were largely helpless in the face of illness. Orthodox medicine was based on tenets passed down over the previous two thousand years. It was believed that illness was caused by an imbalance of the humors in the body. The doctor’s duty was to restore those humors by bleeding, blistering or purging, techniques that killed as often as cured. The number of medicines was few and the same medications were often used for a variety of afflictions.

Many doctors learned their profession by serving as an apprentice to a practicing physician. A few received their training in Europe or at one of three American colleges that offered medical schools. In 1797, Dr. Nathan Smith petitioned the Trustees of Dartmouth College for the establishment of a medical school.  Nathaniel Niles of West Fairlee was appointed as a committee of one to investigate the proposition and after one day of thought, recommended that the Board adopt the idea.  Smith remained the sole instructor at the school until 1810 and was recognized as being “well ahead of his time in insisting that doctors practice watchful waiting and emphasizing patient-centered care.”

In 1804, Dr. John Pomeroy began teaching medical students in Burlington, an effort that led to the establishment of UVM’s College of Medicine in 1822. Two other colleges offering medical degrees were Castleton Medical College (1818-1862) and Vermont Clinical School of Medicine in Woodstock (1827-1861). In 1887 a short-lived bogus medical school was organized in Newbury, VT, providing licenses that were sold to individuals hoping to practice medicine in the West.

Each town’s history mentions the physicians who served their community during the period following settlement. In some cases a single physician served alone whereas, in other towns there was competition. Some were well trained, competent for the times, highly respected and served their community for decades. Others were short on some or all of these characteristics. Early physicians included Drs. Samuel Putnam of Topsham, Bildad Andross, Frederick Aubry and John Poole of Bradford, Eli Perry of Ryegate, Eliphalet Kimball of Orford and Adoniram Smalley of Lyme.

Several local histories mention Dr. Samuel White of Newbury and Haverhill, who began his local practice in 1773, “and for years was the doctor of the Connecticut Valley, his ride extending from Newbury to the Canadian border.” He was dedicated to his practice. He was quoted as saying “he had poor luck with his patients in their last illness.”

White’s diaries mention his fees as follows: “The least charge for a visit is one shilling and the greatest (to Upper Coos) is sixty shillings…medicine was usually one shilling for each potion, occasionally two shillings; bleeding was always one shilling; tooth pulling, one shilling; dressing a wound, one shilling, lancing a sore, one shilling; setting an arm or a leg, six shillings; attendance on your wife in travel [travail] twelve shillings.” The weather, difficulty of the journey, urgency of the call and the financial condition of the patient played a role in the amount charged.

Actually the birthing process prior to the mid-19th century, was one with only female relatives, neighbors and midwives attending. No females were allowed to practice as a physician. Two midwives, Lydia Peters Baldwin of Orford and Bradford and Bathsheba Wallace of Thetford competently served the area for decades following settlement. Each assisted in the birthing of hundreds of babies, traveling by horseback to neighboring towns regardless of time or weather. They charged a few shillings and were often paid in goods or services rather than hard money. Their record of success was difficult for physicians to replicate when the practice of midwifery was replaced by the male-dominated medical profession’s control of delivery.

Life for doctors on the frontier was “fraught with many hardships, difficulties and even dangers.” It was not unknown for a doctor to become lost or attacked by wolves when traveling to a bedside in winter, often on snowshoes,. Doctors were not immune to the illnesses they treated. Dr. Nathan McKinstry, one of Newbury’s first doctors, died at 41 in 1815. His headstone in the Oxbow Cemetery bears the following epitaph: “In-urned beneath lies no poor worthless quack. But the dear ashes of good Dr. Mc, Whose talents, honors, virtues, could not save His generous bosom from an early grave.” That same year Dr. Lemuel Wellman of Piermont went to Warren to care for spotted fever victims, “took the disease and died in four hours.”

Because contagious diseases spread rapidly in early communities, quarantine was used. In 1792 a smallpox epidemic led Newbury to vote to “see if the town will open a pest house.” In many cases a family would be quarantined in their own home. In 1790, Dr. Isaac Moore of Haverhill attempted to open a house for smallpox inoculation in Bath. This technique used the smallpox virus to try to prevent the disease, but often caused a fatal case instead. At first there was such strong feeling against it that the half-completed building was torn down, but it was subsequently rebuilt.

From contact with Native Americans, both doctors and the general public learned of the medicinal properties of plants not found in Europe. Stone quotes one doctor who supplemented his pharmacology from the fields and woods and said “Indian hemp was good for dropsy, spigot root for internal bruises, the bark of the red willow a sure remedy for fever and ague, burdock root with black cherry and white ash bark steeped in cider the very best remedy for spring jaundice.”

Many residents also relied on home remedies, some of which may have actually had curative properties. Vinegar and honey were recognized as helpful both as a cure and for maintaining good health. Garlic clove for insect bite and spruce gum for a toothache were said to be helpful. Egg white was known for extracting a splinter.

On the other hand, cures for consumption did little good. Some Grafton County residents believed that if the lungs of a consumption victim were burned, the ashes will cure other members of the family with the disease. Carrying a small potato in your pocket or wrapping the affected limb in the skin of an eel to prevent rheumatism was equally unsuccessful. Binding a piece of peppered salt pork or a nutmeg to the throat was suggested to cure a sore throat. Skunk oil was touted as a cure for chest congestion for infants and adults. Asthma could be cured by using the root of skunk cabbage.

In 1805 the Boston Weekly Magazine reported that a Miss Everts in Vermont “was lately poisoned by a villainous quack” and that her death ought to be a warning to all persons who “are disposed to employ the numerous nostrum mongers with which our country is unfortunately swarmed.”

Bradford’s National Opinion in the 1860’s carried ads for locally produced Doty’s Mandrake Bitters. It was “warranted to be the best compound ever offered to the public for the cure of Dyspepsia, Jaundice, Costiveness, Piles, Sick Headaches, Morning Sickness, Humors Morning Sickness, Foul Stomach, Liver Complaints in all its forms; General Disability, Worms, etc. etc.”

Doty’s was one of many patent medicines to which many turned in the face of so many conditions that were not helped by the medicines available. While some may have actually helped, others were either harmful or harmless. Some, such as Doty’s, were produced by local pharmacists, but others were sold by quacks and fast-talking snake oil salesmen.

Medical Societies were formed in Vermont in 1784 and in New Hampshire in 1791. While their efforts encouraged better education and licensing they also supported orthodox medicine to the discouragement of other practices. Licensing became less popular in the 1830’s as many considered it a violation of the new spirit of personal freedom.

From 1838 to 1876 there was no licensing of doctors in Vermont. This reopened the door to a number of competing theories of medicine, some with a basis in the science of the day and others practiced by charlatans. The 1849 Medical and Surgical Reporter described a Vermont medical prophet who healed the disease of patients at a distance, “provided they send him their symptoms and the required fee.”

One alternative that had many followers during the period was Thomsonian medicine. It was developed by New Hampshire herbalist Samuel Thomson. His methods rejected the dangerous and futile methods used by “qualified” physicians in favor of botanical remedies coupled with water treatments. Despite being dubbed as quackery, it was very popular in the 1830’s and Thomsonian societies and periodicals were created.

Another alternative was hydropathy, the drinking or bathing in the waters of mineral springs. It almost seemed the worse the taste and smell, the more beneficial the waters were considered. In 1804 Newbury’s Spring Hotel allowed its patrons to take advantage of the adjacent Montebello sulphur and iron springs for “curative purposes.” Nearby, on Montebello Road, was the Newbury Sulphur Springs and Bathing Establishment.

It was not until the mid-19th century that general anesthesia was being used for surgery and even later before modern antiseptics were standard practice. There were no general hospitals in the area until Mary Hitchcock opened in 1897 and Cottage in 1903. Until the Vermont Asylum for the Insane opened in Brattleboro in 1843 and the New Hampshire Asylum opened in Concord in 1842 there was little help for the mentally ill. Health regulations were in the hands of local authorities until State Boards of Health were established in New Hampshire in 1881 and in Vermont in 1886.

Health issues and medical practices, and their availability, are uppermost in the minds of many in today’s world. Obviously much has improved since the years prior to 1860. We live longer and healthier lives. Modern science creates a vast array of weapons available to the modern physician and hospital. Bleeding of patients or brutal surgery without modern anesthesia or antiseptics are just two of the traditional medical practices we can be grateful that modern medicine no longer uses. Those who yearn for the good old days of times past would do well to recall that, at least in the field of health, they were not all so good.