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Monday, December 23, 2013

Smell of the Sawdust

NOW A SUPERMARKET.  This planing mill, part of the Newman Lumber Company operation was
destroyed by fire in 1978.  The site has been used for lumber processing since 1872.  It is now the site of Shaws Supermarket.  (Courtesy Walter Young) 

CREWS AT STEAM-POWERED MILL.  Woods and mill crews join together for a break from their work in front of a Vermont steam-powered sawmill around 1900.  Steam engines freed sawmills from their dependency on water-side
locations.  (Courtesy Bill Gove) 
CIRCULAR SAW AT WORK.  By the late 19th century, circular saws were being used on both small and large logs, significantly increasing the production of sawmills.  Gang and band saws along with other innovations increased production even further. (Courtesy UVM Landscape Change Program) 

AIR-DRIED HURRICANE HARVEST.  Prior to the production of kiln-dried lumber, sawmills air-dried lumber
stacked in their yards. This 1941 photo of a Vermont mill may also show lumber that was sawed from the
blow-down from the Great New England Hurricane of 1938.  (Jack Delano, Farm Security Administration) 

BRADFORD CENTER STORE & MILL.  Built on the banks of the Waits River, this sawmill was in place
as early as 1857 and changed ownership a number of times. (Courtesy Bradford Historical Society) 

500,00 BOARD FEET WEEKLY.  In the 1980s Newman Lumber Company of Woodsville was one of the largest producers of pine lumber in the nation. It carried on a tradition of sawmills in the Woodsville area stretching back to the settlement of Haverhill (Courtesy Walter Young) 

Journal Opinion, December 24, 2013

“I’ll stand by the gate and keep watching for those
Who come with the smell of the pine on their clo’es.
For even in heaven I’ll want it, I will,
The smell of the sawdust that comes from the mill.

Tall Trees, Tough Men
Robert E. Pike

Recently my Woodsville bowling buddies Roland Moore and Wayne Dickey suggested I devote an article to the history of sawmills. When they were younger, both worked in local sawmills. Pike’s book along with local histories and interviews provided more than sufficient material to meet their request.

When settlers arrived from southern New England they found dense and diversified forests. They built their first structures from logs they harvested. But to them frame houses were symbols of civilized permanency. As soon as towns were chartered sawmills were established “to supply the inhabitants with boards, thus making them as comfortable as possible.” The cost of framed structures, including the high price of nails, left others with log cabins and barns for decades.

In 1764 the proprietors of Newbury, meeting down country, “voted to give eighty acres to the man or men who should build a sawmill on Hall’s brook.” In Piermont money, land and water privileges were promised as rewards. Orford’s Israel Morey, who built that town’s first sawmill on Jacob’s Brook in 1766, was offered 100 pounds if he would build a saw and grist mill on the outlet of Fairlee Pond, something he completed in 1781. Nathaniel Niles met the challenge to build a mill on Middle Brook, but he may not have been paid the bounty raised for that purpose.

Local histories honor those individuals who were among the first to establish sawmills, thus helping to make their communities self-sufficient. In 1762 John Hazen built the first sawmill in the area along a brook in what is now North Haverhill. By 1765 he used sawed lumber to build a house on Little Oxbow Meadow. Benjamin Baldwin built the first sawmill in Bradford in 1774. It was located at the falls on the Waits River and was “greatly to the benefit of the early settlers.”

Sawmill pioneers in other towns included Corinth’s John Taplin, Thetford’s Eldad Post and Lyme Center’s James Cook. The first sawmill in Ryegate was built, with some controversy, out of town at the falls in Boltonville. In Corinth Corner Joseph Fellows built a sawmill in 1791 and the first boards produced were used for a frame house for his bride.

Where there was no water to power the saws, the earliest mills used up-and-down pit saws. Two men, one in a pit and the other above, used a long thick saw to cut up to 200 board feet daily. The easier method, however, used a water-driven saw activated by a crank handle. All parts for these early sawmills could be produced locally except for the saw and the crank. In his early history of the Coos, Rev.Grant Powers writes of six men from Newbury who nearly lost their lives making a winter trip to Concord to secure a crank.

These early mills served the immediate needs of the communities that grew up around the waterpower sources. Giant trees, including those reserved for the British navy, fell to the ax, supplying lumber for homes, barns, and bridges. When there was a surplus, timber and logs were shipped south on the Connecticut River.

There was money to be made in operating a sawmill, especially when it was coupled with other milling processes, such as grain, cloverseed and bark. Other mills manufactured shingles, fencing and clapboards and later bobbins, furniture parts, caskets and eaves troughs. One Orford sawmill also sawed soapstone. Some early owners sold or leased their mills while others passed the ownership on to family members for generations.

In the early 19th century the circular saw was introduced. Initially it was only used on smaller logs. This increased the production of sawmills significantly. New style waterwheels and gang saws with numerous blades that allowed multiple simultaneous cuts also increased production.

Over the years additional improvements included the edging and band saws. The Orford history indicates that young Royal Beal of Orfordville applied the use of the band saw in 1838 when he took four old saws and banded them together for use in his father’s mill. Some time before 1851 Randsom Aldrich introduced the board-planing machine into Orange County at his South Newbury mill resulting in a more finished product.The introduction of the log turner in 1899 was another significant improvement.

At first mills operated only when water supply was sufficient. Farmers often stockpiled logs in the mill yard to be sawed when spring rains came. Some mills could operate following downpours during other times of the year. The use of steam engines after the 1820s freed mill operation from dependency on natural water flow. Despite this advance, there were still 762 water-powered sawmills in New Hampshire in 1874.

In the 20th century some sawmills began using diesel engines to power their operation. One unique power source was used by Leo Jenks when he set up his first Lyme mill in 1931 driven by Cadillac V-8 engine. These new power sources sometimes allowed mills to be more easily dismantled and moved to new locations.

The coming of the railroads in the 1840s increased the market reach for local timber. The construction of the Montpelier & Wells River Railroad in the 1870s with its demand for ties and lumber for bridges and ease of transport to market gave a boost to local sawmills. As highways improved logs and lumber were increasingly transported by trucks.

It is impossible to list the numerous sawmills that operated in the area over the past 250 years. Wood working was second only to agriculture in the local economy. By the 1820s Haverhill had five sawmills, Bradford had four and Piermont and Warren had three each. By 1840 it was estimated there were over 31,000 sawmills in America with 1,081 in Vermont. Many of these mills were very simple buildings, often open on three sides and operating only seasonally. By 1855 there were up to 12 mills in Newbury and their operation “nearly stripped the town of its timber.”

With improved methods sawmills increased their production. Trussell’s Mill in Orford, built in 1866, produced 1 million board feet of lumber and 100,000 shingles annually. In the 1880s there were about 50 sawmills in Orange County, with six in Newbury, three in Corinth and two each in Groton, Bradford and Topsham. More than 800 portable sawmills were estimated to be in New Hampshire at that time.

Working in sawmills was also hard and hazardous. From harvesting to the sawing, logging was among the most dangerous of occupations. Maneuvering logs in icy conditions was unpredictable. At Corinth’s Bear Ridge, “logs were drawn to the top of the steep ledges by oxen and chains unhitched so the timber could be shoved over the edge for faster delivery to the sawmill. This method of skidding ended when a pair of oxen was dragged to its death along with a log of giant size.”

Sharp moving equipment, flying pieces of wood and metal and the occasional boiler explosion resulted in injuries and even death for millworkers. Local histories include descriptions of men who suffered broken bones, lost limbs and eyes and worse.

Floods sometimes washed away a streamside mill and its dam. Fire was also a constant danger. One sawdust fire at Baldwin & Hazen mill in Groton smoldered for years. Harry McLam of Bradford says that fire ended his grandfather’s mill operation in East Corinth around 1948 and small fires in the sawdust and shavings piles were common at his father’s mill in Bradford. Sometimes these disasters permanently ended the operation of a mill.

Several mills in Woodsville survived multiple fires. The first sawmill near the location of the present Shaw’s Supermarket was built in 1872. It burned in 1879, was rebuilt and burned again in 1902. Dwight Stone rebuilt the mill in 1910 and rebuilt it again after a fire in 1915. In 1921, it was incorporated as Acer Lumber Company. A second fire occurred that year.

The depletion of nearby timber and the Great Depression caused the mill to close until 1942 when it was leased to Johnson Lumber Company. That company built a second mill near the junction of routes 10 and 302. In 1946 a fire destroyed the complex. Rebuilt, it was purchased by Newman Lumber Company in 1953.

Newman suffered fires in 1973, 1977, and 1978, the last of which destroyed the planing mill at the original mill site. The company’s entire operation was then transferred to the Rte.10/302 location. The plant suffered another fire in 1988, but continued to be one of the largest producers of pine boards in the country, producing up to 500,000 board feet per week.It was sold in 1997 to Davidson Industries. Tembec, a Canadian company, was the last operator of the mill having purchased it in November 2001.  It closed permanently in 2003, the victim of an unstable lumber market and increased  foreign competition. Wal-Mart and Fogg’s Hardware now occupies the site.

The depletion of harvestable timber and the Great Depression caused the closure of many sawmills. The need to salvage the blow-down from the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 revived the industry temporarily. Logs waiting processing were stored in local ponds. George Nichols’ mill in Lyme alone processed over 4 million board feet between 1938 and 1942. The amount of lumber produced caused “a glut on the market.”

The number of saw mills dropped in the 20th century. Production reach a peak in Vermont in 1907 with 373 million board feet of lumber produced. D. C. McLam’s sawmill in Bradford ceased operation in 1955 when, according to Harry McLam, “good construction logs petered out” and they were replaced by Canadian lumber. The last stationary sawmill in Lyme burned in 1959 and Bradford’s last one closed several years ago.

Markus Bradley of Redstart Forestry in Corinth says smaller mills have disappeared while larger, specialized, efficient and safer operations have survived with no drop in overall production. Newman Lumber in Wells River and Britton Lumber in Fairlee are examples of these surviving mills. He went on to say there is an “organic movement” with small low budget portable sawmills, allowing operators to “make a living.”

Currently there are 105 stationary mills in Vermont, seven in Orange County. New Hampshire has about 50 stationary mills. Both states have a number of portable operations. One New Hampshire forestry specialist indicates that the total output of these mills is as great as when there were twice as many.


Britton Lumber Co. sawmill destroyed last night.  It was a two-story 50 x 250 ft building employing 20 workers.  Robert Moses owner said “It’s too premature to make any decision or plans.”   Had produced 10 million bd fee of eastern white pine per year .  Considered medium size for New England with large mills producing as much as 30 million board feet annually, Moses said. Mill was built in 1972 and grew over the past four decades. 

What about the sawmill connection of my two Woodsville friends? Roland Moore worked for short periods in three local sawmills around 1951. He stacked lumber, worked slabs and washed logs at Hansen’s Mill in South Newbury, Wood Brothers in Newbury and Eastern Pine in North Haverhill. When asked why he didn’t continue, he says he “smartened up.”

Beginning in 1968, 23 year-old Wayne Dickey began his 14-year employment as a lumber grader at Newman Lumber in Woodsville. He says he enjoyed the work despite the heat in the summer and the often bitter cold in the winter. One winter it was 50 degrees below for a week and “we stayed all day trying to get things going.” “Not a job for everyone.” He went on to say “Walter Young was my boss, a great man to work for.” He also recalls fighting the New Year Eve fire that destroyed the mill in 1978.

My Dad and two older brothers logged our property in Archertown, Orford. I sometimes went along to burn brush or snake logs with our workhorse Dick. I never got to drive the bulldozer or use a chainsaw. We delivered logs to Jenks’ in Lyme, Johnson’s in Fairlee and Dyke’s in Orfordville. Using stickers we stacked lumber at our Bridge Street home and sold it air-dried.

When I asked Wayne and Roland what reminded them of their sawmill experiences they say the smell of the cut lumber. I would add to that, from my limited experience in sawmill yards, the high pitched screech of the saw and planer as they, like the hardworking men in those mills, did their work.

In Jan 2019, the Valley News reported that Vermont's small sawmills were under major pressure from Canadian imports as well as the retirement of older owners. Additionally, Asian log buyers are "paying significantly higher prices" than local owners can afford. In 1970, Vermont had about 130 permanent sawmills.  By 2017, that number had been reduced to less than 50. There are over 100 mills just across the borders in Quebec.

The article went on to say that small sawmills do not benefit from "the economies of  scale" that larger mills do.   

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Decades of Change: 1980-84

BRADFORD-PIERMONT INSTITUTION: Remembrance "Mem" Martin was the local police chief in Piermont for 34 years which overlapped with 16 years in the same office for the Village of Bradford.  When he died inJune 1981 the Journal Opinion editorial described him as being in the Vermont tradition of "hard work, service to others, along with stubborn pride." 

Add caption
NEW LIFE FOR OLD MILL:In August 1883, "amidst much hoopla, lots of praise," the newly renovated 1847 Bradford Mill
opened as a business and cultural center. Over 1,500 attended to view the work masterminded by Ray and Tina Clark. 
Add caption
OLD BRICK STORE, FAIRLEE TO LYME: On October 10, 1982 Fairlee's Hearthside Candle and Gift Shop burned. The building was built in the federal sytle in 1846 and was the oldest commercial building on Main Street. Upstairs was the author's first home in 1942 as his parents Ray and Lillian Coffin operated a garage in the building. It was later rebuilt in Bayne Stevenson's 13 Dartmouth College Highway development in Lyme where it is now an apartment building.

Journal Opinion, November 27, 2013

“What I know from my studies and from my life is that there is no such thing as a true event. We know dates and times and locations and participants but accounts of what happened depend upon the perspective from which the event is viewed.”
Ordinary Grace
William Kent Krueger

As I reread the 1980-1984 editions of the Journal Opinion I was also reading the novel mentioned above. Krueger’s closing comment on the events depicted in his story was a reminder that the article you see before you is largely colored by the perspectives of both the newspaper and this writer. There were events and trends that one or both skipped that others would have highlighted.

The Journal Opinion during this period frequently reported on property lost to fire. Some were businesses including the Copeland Factory and Our Place Restaurant in Bradford, the Hearthside Candle and Gift Shop in Fairlee and several country stores. The Woodsville-Bath covered bridge and Union 36 Elementary School were targets of arson. Bradford’s Low mansion and Corliss Tavern, both historic structures, were destroyed.

There were numerous home and barn fires. Often livestock was lost. Remarkably there was no loss of life either among residents or firefighters. Those impacted knew the feelings of loss that are experienced by losing one’s possessions.

Local volunteer firefighters often fought fires in the face of water shortages, dangerous conditions, remote locations and extreme temperatures. They held regular training sessions and sought support from voters for new equipment. New firehouses were built in Ryegate Corner and West Topsham.

The area was impacted by the national recession of the early 1980s. In 1982 unemployment nationally was 10.8%, with Vermont and New Hampshire unemployment rates at 6.6% and 7.6% repectively. At the same time there were periods of record inflation with 18% increases. Higher food prices meant that it took $87 a week to feed a family of four. By 1984 the economy had recovered and the two states were reporting some of the lowest unemployment in the nation.

Higher energy costs added to residents’ concerns. The newspaper reported in 1980: “Virtually every gas station has priced their gas over one dollar a gallon.” Home heating oil prices and electrical rates went up and people were encouraged to turn their thermostats down. Car pooling was encouraged and the new Stagecoach service offered local public transportation.

Several hydroelectric projects were created to offer some replacement for electricity from fossil fuel plants. Central Vermont Public Service rebuilt the Bradford dam and new dams were built on the Passumpsic River in East Barnet and on Eastman Brook in Piermont. There were proposals to replace older dams at Boltonville and on Dodge Falls between Bath and Ryegate.

The impact of these changing economic conditions was mixed. In 1980 Real Homes discontinued its planned Lake Tarleton development. Subdivisions in Newbury, Woodsville and Fairlee were shelved for economic or environmental reasons. For a time Lyme placed on hold plans to expand Bayne Stevenson’s complex at 13 Dartmouth College Highway.

Huntington Construction had mixed success in developments in Bradford and Thetford. Mountain Lakes residents purchased their defunct ski area and Haverhill sold 30 lots in that development in a major tax sale. One development that came to a sudden halt was one planned for Bradford’s Hackett Hill when its developer was arrested for dealing drugs and using the money to purchase the property.

A number of new businesses opened but subsequently closed or moved. They included the Agway Plant, Bankware, Crossroad Pharmacy and Maska in Bradford and Haverhill’s Burndy Manufacturing. Valley Floors and Shur-Auto Parts also opened and remained. The renovated Opera Block in Woodsville offered new senior housing and the Grist Mill in Bradford became a business and cultural center.

There was concern over police protection as crime rates increased. Lyme hired its first full-time police chief, Orford’s police chief battled citizen concerns over performance and Bradford tried to figure out its police security. In April 1981 the Village’s long-time chief “Mem” Martin was fired. Makeshift attempts to fill the position resulted in security officers with little training and reliance on the Vermont State Police Eastside Cluster. There was a prolonged fear that a fully-manned Bradford police department would cause costs to escalate as they had in Haverhill.

Controversies kept some residents on edge for much of the period. Military maneuvers held locally in 1983 brought protests by antiwar activists. Warren had a “missile crisis” when it was suggested that its Redstone rocket be moved to Derry, NH. The use of animal traps caused concerns for animal rights activists. Legislative efforts to raise the drinking age, adopt the Equal Rights Amendment, raise taxes and reform the state’s blue laws all brought strong local reactions.

Two issues raised at local town meetings attracted national attention. In 1982 many towns in Vermont and New Hampshire voted for a nuclear weapon freeze. Piermont, Orford, Lyme, Fairlee, Ryegate and Bradford were among them. At the Bradford Town Meeting, the majority voted favorably when highly-respected resident Jim Perry advanced the motion with the comment “I’m not sure it will do any good, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.” The next year towns along I-91 discussed articles calling for a halt to “secret” shipments of nuclear waste from Canada through the local area. CBS News covered the discussion at the Thetford town meeting.

There were other environmental concerns. As in the previous decade, wastewater treatment and solid waste disposal continued to be issues for local communities. Local Vermont towns sought to find a permanent landfill option. A proposed landfill near West Bradford was denied, a landfill in Thetford was thought to be polluting local drinking water and in Newbury two landfills operated. Volunteers in Bradford opened a bottle redemption center and wind and solar power were being explored.

South Ryegate, Wells River and Woodsville all developed wastewater projects during this time. Fairlee, Piermont village and Haverhill Corner worried about water pollution. Open burning at dumps in Orford, Warren and Piermont continued to raise concerns. In 1983, the state ordered these dumps closed and then issued a reprieve.

Schools continued to be of high interest and controversy. Increased student population, higher school costs and teacher contracts issues were constant topics for discussion and debate. A proposal to enlarge Bradford Elementary School brought initial rejection. Thetford and Orford voters continued to debate about where to send their high school students. In the end, Thetford Academy retained its town’s designation and Orford High School remained open.

Posters depicting Soviet Communist leaders in one Oxbow classroom caused a short-lived tempest that was noted in an edition of Playboy magazine. Legal suits by Oxbow and Blue Mountain against the manufacturer of their faulty roofing material were finally settled with both schools getting large damage payments. Discipline policies and the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco concerned school personnel, parents and students.

Countering these school controversies were articles about the great things happening in area schools. Many classrooms were alive with innovative programs and special projects. Computers, initially labeled as “a plaything,” began to find a place as teaching and administrative tools. Local schools produced challenging science fairs and theatrical productions. Athletic teams won division and state championships with regularity.

Adult organizations also took an active role in community affairs. Lions Clubs, Jaycees, PTOs, Grange, Masonic, church and veteran organizations joined merchant groups to improve life in their respective towns. Their fund-raising ideas were as normal as chicken pie suppers and as unique as bath-tub races.

Bradford’s Midnight Madness was mimicked in the Wells River-Woodsville 11th Hour Sale. Groton’s Foliage Festival, Fairlee’s Lobster Dinners and Bradford’s Wild Game Supper as well as the Connecticut Valley and Haverhill Fairs were held annually. Bear Ridge auto racing and slo-pitch softball games continued to attract the attention of loyal fans and participants.

In addition to the fires mentioned above, the local area suffered some of the most disastrous floods in a decade. In these and other situations, communities responded generously to the plight of their neighbors. In 1982 a local man needed a heart transplant and the area residents raised $49,000 so that he could have the successful operation. In 1984 a 10-year old Fairlee child needed blood platelets to combat her leukemia and dozens of local residents went to Boston to provide them. Her battle was ultimately unsuccessful. Annually Operation Santa Claus transformed the local generosity into Christmas gifts for needy children. Regular blood drives met ambitious goals as did other service efforts.

Each year death by accidents, crime and disease robbed local communities of residents. Auto accidents were common. AIDS made national headlines during the period and took the life of at least one local resident. Many residents died of old age.

At the risk of ignoring many who experienced a life well lived, I mention just three local elders who died during this period. They exemplify the idea that the spirit of a small town is often personified by its long-time residents. Their concerns often determine the town’s priorities and their efforts are the town’s achievement.

One was Lucy Bugbee of Bradford, known as the “fern and flower” lady. She was a dedicated environmentalist before most knew what that meant. The second was W. Putnam Blodgett also of Bradford, a dedicated public servant who, with his wife Charlotte, amassed a large collection of historic items. The Blodgetts’ collection forms a major part of the Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, VT.

The third was Charles Pike of Fairlee, that town’s last living WW I veteran. Charles and his wife Mamie lived on a farm opposite the Fairlee Diner. He was a hoarder, the caretaker of the neighboring tramp house, a storyteller and one who could claim that he had bested Carlton Gray in a cattle deal. As I child often went to the Pike home. I thought of them as being very old, but now realized they were younger then than I am now.

Town government and elections continued to make news. While most discussion reflected “good sense and civilized conduct” there was just enough rebellion, especially over budgets, to remind local officials of voters’ concerns. Town planning and zoning seemed to have lost some of the edge that had characterized their role during the 70s. History was made when Democrat Madeline Kunin was elected governor of Vermont in 1984.

Another topic that had less news coverage was farming. Those farms still in operation struggled with the creation of new marketing strategies and a surplus of milk. While Future Farmers of America and 4-H clubs continued to be popular, the number of young people going into farming declined. Some farms were doing very well and there were news reports of outstanding production and model farming. In 1983 Dustin White of Corinth was named Vermont Dairyman of the Year. He, along with his wife Jane, had turned a rundown hill farm into a model one.

There are a number of items that do not fit into any of the above categories. They include the introduction of Cable and satellite TV, Channel 31, ATMs, Cabbage Patch Kids, PAC-Man, Rubik Cubes and PCs. A Laotian refugee family came to Bradford and stayed for a while. So did the measles. Country Singer Doc Williams and Chubby Checker came to the area for an evening. Robin Williams and a cast of Hollywood personalities arrived during the winter of 1982 to produce a movie, but left when essential snow came “too little, too late.”

All of the topics mentioned above and many more were covered by this newspaper. In 1984 a letter to the editor reproached it for not covering school and community events. The Editor’s response: “Are you sure you are reading the Journal Opinion?” This article is a mere hint at the local news so adequately covered.

In 1980, as the decade was at its opening, the editor of the newspaper suggested with foresight that “the decade of the eighties reminds us that things are no longer the same as they used to be.” Now we can look back at the 80’s with even sharper hindsight to know that he was so right. As we look back at the hopes, dreams, accomplishments and disappointments of this period, we might ask the question posed by the Old Testament prophet: “How does it look to you now?”

Friday, November 1, 2013

Carved in Stone

Journal Opinion October 30, 2013 “Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade, Where heaves the turf in many a moldering heap. Each in his narrow cell for ever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.” Thomas Gray, 1751 Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

Death was a constant companion among the first settlers of our region. Soon after settlement they created a community cemetery in which to bury family members. With Halloween this week, stories of vampires, zombies witches and ghosts are rampant and superstitions about graveyards plague many. It would be easy to link all of these in this month’s column. But I resist the temptation. Rather, this column examines the development of cemeteries in local communities and the monuments that mark the graves.

The information comes from local town histories, Burial Grounds of Vermont edited by Bradford’s Arthur and Frances Hyde and a recent presentation in Warren by cemetery historian Glenn Knoblock. I also used Stone & Bones: Using Tombstones as Textbooks, an 86-page curriculum that I help three other Vermont teachers create and distribute to classrooms around the state and beyond.

Soon after settlement, towns had to deal with the burial of the dead. The oldest marked burial in Bradford’s Upper Plain Cemetery was of young Andrew McFarland who drowned in the Waits River in 1770. A portion of the East Common granted to Orford in 1773 by Israel Morey was for a burying ground. The Old Burying Ground, now the Ladd Street Cemetery in Haverhill was set aside in 1774. Zelpha Abbot was Groton’s first death and in 1784 she was buried at her home place, the beginnings of the Groton-Peacham burial grounds. Every community in our area has at least five known cemeteries. Thetford and Topsham have 13 each, Newbury 12, Groton 10, Piermont 8 and Bradford has five. Each neighborhood selected a location nearby, often in an elevated and well-drained location. William Little in his 1870 history of Warren, reflected on the desirability of local burial: “In the country, every man, woman and child, goes down to the dust amid those who have known them from their youth, and all miss them from their place.”

Some graveyards, like the Union Village Cemetery, Corinth’s Meadow Meeting House Cemetery and the East Orange Cemetery are located adjacent to a churchyard. Orford’s Dame Hill cemetery was so located, except that the church was relocated downhill in Orfordville. Lyme’s oldest cemetery has always been near the town’s meetinghouse, even as the original building was rebuilt at an adjacent location on the Common. Topsham’s Currier Hill cemetery, the town’s oldest, was located in the area of the town that was first settled. Ryegate’s Old Scotch Cemetery was located east of the original Commons. As these neighborhoods did not grow as expected, the number of graves located there are few or have been moved to more established cemeteries.

The opposite was true in Wells River where, as the village grew, the Grove Street Cemetery, first used in 1801, was replaced in 1867 by a new cemetery on nearby Bible Hill. In 1890 the bodily remains in the old village cemetery were moved to that new location. As the years passed and the number of graves increased, many primary cemeteries were enlarged. As town population levels changed it was not uncommon for there to be more dead than alive in a community. It was said of some towns that “the only thing growing was the cemetery.” As early as 1875, Bradford historian Silas McKeen noted that there were 1666 graves in the Upper Plain Cemetery, one of four in the town with a population of 1500. In neighborhoods that became deserted during the period after the Civil War, abandoned burial grounds may be the only sign that the area was once an active settlement.

Most of the earliest cemeteries were town owned. Some cemeteries are maintained by private associations. In Newbury, the cemeteries at Jefferson Hill, Boltonville, Wells River and the Oxbow are cared for by local associations. Bradford'sSawyer Cemetery is operated by the Bradford Cemetery Association and the town. There was also a 19th century tradition of farm or family burial spots, many now abandoned. Through the mid-19th century, these small cemeteries kept deceased family members close to the home place. Examples include the Whiting family plot in Fairlee with its three fieldstone markers, Thetford’s Mills Family Cemetery with five graves surrounded by a wall of granite blocks and the Manchester family’s three graves enclosed by a stone wall in Ryegate. In recent years there have been several Vermont court cases arising from these small burial plots as land ownership changes.

Many of the earliest gravestones in the area were carved by local artisans. Two of the earliest sources have been identified by the symbols the carvers consistently used. In 1771, established Connecticut carver Gershom Bartlett moved to Norwich and over the next 28 years produced hundreds of gravestones still found in area cemeteries. From 1786 to 1835, three generations of the Risley family of Hanover produced local stones, some of which still mark local graves. The materials used by these early craftsmen include field stone, slate and soapstone. Orford had two quarries of soapstone, the largest of which was at Cottonstone Mountain, also known locally as Gravestone Mountain.

In the 19th century, power tools replaced hammer and chisels with stones being manufactured in larger stone sheds often manned by immigrant workers. Ryegate, and to a lesser extent Groton, quarried and manufactured granite monuments during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Vermont is one of the largest domestic sources of slate, granite and marble, the three most common stones used for grave markers. The first marble quarry in the United States opened in Dorset, VT in 1785, the beginning of a major Vermont industry. Barre’s granite industry began in the 1820s and grew into one of the nation’s largest providers of monuments. From 1874 to 1914 a company in Connecticut manufactured zinc metal monuments that could be ordered through catalogues. One such monument can be found in the Upper Plain Cemetery in Bradford.

While the earliest grave markers were on boulders of common fieldstone, these quickly gave way to the doorway-shaped headstone, thinly cut and simple in design, suggesting the passage from this life to the next. In the 19th century pedestals, obelisks and even pyramid-shaped monuments began to appear. In cemeteries throughout the area the graves of prominent individuals and families are marked with obelisks, their size overshadowing adjacent stones. The gravesite of Nathaniel Niles in the West Fairlee Center cemetery has a pyramid adjacent to his 1828 marker. After 1900 markers were sometimes fashioned in designs ranging from angels to trees. The Hope Cemetery in Barre and the Pinehurst Cemetery in South Ryegate have very ornate memorials, often fashioned by the families of the stone crafters who worked in the local industry. Some gravesites have footstones as well as headstones and a family marker. In addition to the more common family plot cornerstones, some earlier plots were set off with stone curbing or metal fences. What was carved on grave stones changed over time.

In early New England symbols reflected almost exclusively religious attitudes toward life and death. The death’s head symbol was common. A familiar epitaph was “Death is a debt to Nature due. Which I have paid and so must you.” With the Great Awakening in the mid-18th century attitudes changed from mortality to immortality and salvation. This was reflected in the use of birds, angels and soul images as symbols of the belief in the resurrection. By the early 19th century imagery became more ornate reflecting the attitudes of the Enlightenment. Weeping willows and urns were more commonly used and epitaphs reflected beliefs in eternal peace and reunions in heaven, written to soothe the bereaved. Some appeared to defy death altogether. Inscriptions reflected the individual’s biographical information, personal characteristics, accomplishments, relationship to others buried nearby and circumstances of their death. In the late 19th century the use of epitaphs declined but carved images continued. Modern techniques now allow a headstone to be inscribed with complex etchings and even color.

In the earliest graveyards, gravesites were often in haphazard rows. After 1800 cemeteries became more organized with orderly grave location, roads, plantings and the addition of vaults for the placement of bodies awaiting spring burial. The Sawyer Chapel in the Upper Plain Cemetery was built in 1912 as both a vault and a building in which funeral services could be held. In some cases cemeteries took on the look of parks.

Even before it was required by state law, most cemeteries were surrounded by fences, some with stonewalls and others with a board fence, often with granite posts. The small Munn-Rowell cemetery in South Corinth has a unique slatted steel fence with granite posts. The fence around Orford’s West Burying Ground was first constructed in 1811 and after some years fell into disrepair. Despite the comment of one earlier caretaker that there was no reason to repair it, as “the people in there can’t get out,” that fence is now fine. Some graves are unmarked. This may be because they were never marked or because the markers have disappeared. Weathering and acid rain have made many markings illegible.

Some gravesites are cenotaphs or “empty tombs.” During the Civil War, with embalming in its infancy, many of the battle dead were not returned home but markers were sometimes erected in memory of the departed. The grave of Mary Sumner Hoyt in the Upper Plain Cemetery is marked, but with a question. The only information on the stone other than her name is “She lived, what more can be said? She died and that’s all we know, she’s dead.” Those who died on town poor farms were buried at town expense often with the smallest of markers. One exception to this can be found in a Corinth cemetery where, according to an 1880 newspaper report, “a handsome marble slab has been placed by the Selectmen at the head of an aged woman who died this spring in the town poor house.” This apparently was in recognition of her “industrious and prudent” nature.

Since 1868 many indigents who died at the Grafton County Home in North Haverhill have been buried in a paupers’ cemetery adjacent to the Horse Meadow Cemetery. Each grave is marked by a simple stone with the name, age, date of death and the Grafton County town from which the deceased came. At one point, even this information was omitted in favor of a simple number corresponding to records kept by the County Clerk.

The graves of veterans receive special attention. Their graves are marked annually with flags often placed in holders representing membership in veterans’ organizations. When leading groups on tours of the Upper Plain Cemetery I draw their attention to the marker for Bradford’s Charles Smith who died of his battle wounds in 1864. The stone that marks his cenotaph bears an epitaph that reflects his attitude toward life and the cause for which he died. “God is with the right and sooner or later the right must prevail. God help me to be ever in the right.”

In closing, I salute the work of groups such as the Vermont Old Cemetery Association, including members such as Frances and the late Arthur Hyde, that work to prevent old cemeteries from being “weed grown, forlorn, forgotten, headstones bent, some fallen away.” This includes local towns that regularly appropriate funds to maintain their cemeteries. This is especially important as many deceased no longer have descendants locally. It has been said that a town’s character can be judged by how well they maintain their cemeteries. I consider graveyard vandalism to be a serious crime against a community. The role of one of my students in the vandalism of a cemetery in the early 1990s led to the development of the Stone & Bones curriculum.

I appreciate those in local schools who take their classes to local cemeteries as part of a study of history, art or other subjects. As a genealogist and historian I am drawn to cemeteries. I have visited the gravesites of family members in England and New England as far back as nine generations. As I do not subscribe to the horror stories connected to cemeteries, I find them interesting and peaceful. I appreciate that the memory of those, known and unknown, are carved in stone. I can tell much about the history of a town or neighborhood by visiting the local cemetery. In May 1966, The United Opinion reporter Marilyn Spooner wrote of her visit to the older section of Haverhill’s Ladd Street Cemetery. Her comment reflects a lasting attitude toward cemeteries. She wrote “There is stillness in the air throughout the cemetery. Not the uneasy sort that frightens, but rather, one of tranquility. It speaks of death, yet softly.”

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween: A Frightful Upper Valley History

Valley News, October 26, 2011 “Spooky apparitions, hob-goblins and witches were abroad in numbers here on Hallowe’en or so it seemed cons’dering numerous disappearances of such things as chairs, screen doors, wagons, dump carts and other articles not fastened down.” The United Opinion, November, 1931

Next Thursday is Halloween. After dark, little costumed hobgoblins will come to our door, and we will distribute chocolate to ward off any hex they might put on our house. It is a night deep with tradition, with activities ranging from parties and harmless pranks to vandalism. There are also thoughts of witches, vampires and ghosts. This column examines the history of Halloween as well as the stories of the supernatural from our area. This autumn observance has roots in the religions of pre-Christian Europe. The autumn solstice was observed as the festival of Samhain, the space between the seasons and the New Year. On this day, the Lord of Death gathered the souls of the dead, many of whom wandered the earth. Bonfires ruled the night and fortunes were told for the coming year. When these areas were converted to Christianity, the Church co-opted the pagan festivals it couldn’t stamp out. November 1st became All Hallows or All Saints Day. The night before became All Hallows Eve. In each country, the observance took on its own features. In England, November 5th was Guy Fawkes Day, recalling the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in which a group of Catholics plotted to blow up Parliament. Children in England celebrated the day with the burning of “guy” effigies and begging for candy or pennies. Elsewhere, treats were left out to ward off the wandering souls. Cabbage Night has an origin in Ireland where ungathered garden produce was considered inedible because the spirits had spit on them. The earliest settlers of New England observed the fall festival. To them, it combined all of the elements mentioned above as well as the completion of the harvest. But there was also a darker side. To them, the Devil and his evil band were a real part of their lives, something to be greatly feared. Witches were among them, casting spells on those who offended them. An New Hampshire observer wrote in 1832 that in his town: “There were few who do not believe in the apparitions of departed friends, and that witches were omnipresent.” The Salem witch trials of 1692 are the most well known manifestation of this fear. My 8th great grandfather, George Jacobs, and my wife’s 8th great grandmother, Susannah North Martin, were both tried and executed as witches during that hysteria. In the early 19th century, the belief in witchcraft had not died away. There are stories of witches in the local area. William Little’s History of Warren states, “Every town has had its witch or wizard, but if tradition is correct, Warren had more than its share.” Among the tales he relates is one of Nan Tucker, “who once sold some walnuts in old Haverhill, much to the displeasure of a certain elderly lady. That night Tucker and his wife could not sleep; all night long there was rattling of walnuts on the kitchen hearth.” In the morning, walnuts were piled in the form of a pyramid on the hearth-stone, having been returned by the witch. “But stranger yet, the silk handkerchief that Mrs. T. had used as a night-cap, when she went to take it from her head, fell to the floor cut in a thousand pieces. Wells’ History of Newbury relates the story of an old West Newbury farmer, “who affirmed that he had seen witches dancing along the crane in the fireplace at midnight and believed that some malady which affected his cattle was caused by a woman in the neighborhood.” Molding an effigy of the woman from tallow and beeswax, he stuck it with thorns and melted it before the fireplace. It was said that at that moment, the elderly woman fell down stairs and broke her arm. Topsham Sketches includes the story of the witch house of Dame Tucker near Waits River. Having a dislike of a certain man, she put a spell on him as he was driving his team of oxen past her house. “She ran out to the road and snapped her fingers at the oxen and their yoke fell off,” not once, but twice. It was also reported that she would go into a trance, take the form of an animal and “annoy her neighbors.” Probably the most famous story of a vampire in our area is the tale of Old Doc Benton. He was reported to be the son of early Benton settlers. The story, which I first heard at Dartmouth’s Ravine Lodge, relates how Benton, while studying in Germany, traded his soul for the secrets of eternal youth. Returning to practice medicine in Benton, his strange behaviors soon drove him into seclusion. The story tells of numerous strange happenings involving his attempts to secure the blood of children, adults and animals for his bizarre experiments. While he has not been seen since the 19th century, rumors of him around Mt. Moosilauke persist. It is a story best retold in a darkened room lit only by the flickering light of a fireplace, especially at Halloween time. If you live in a house built before 1940, it is likely that former residents died there. That gives rise to the idea that older buildings may be inhabited by the spirits of the deceased. Several years ago the Bradford Historical Society offered an opportunity for local residents to answer the question, “Is Bradford haunted?” Over 50 came to tell and hear story after story of spirits and unexplained phenomenon. Residents of a 1785 house on South Main Street report hearing a child crying when they tried to sleep in a certain upstairs bedroom. Mysterious nighttime sounds of footsteps in a Main Street home may be those of the long dead housekeeper Mary Tuttle, trying to find her way to her upstairs bedroom. Visitors to a home across the street report ghostly apparitions and mysterious noises. Joi Winchell of Corinth recently told me that she has experienced unusual occurrences at her 18th century home. She related that late one night she heard laughter and the sounds of someone jumping on the bed and floor of an unoccupied upstairs bedroom. Twice, she heard the sounds of work horses passing on the road when there was none to be seen. Jenn and Andy Boyce of Post Mills live in a house built on the site of the Commodore Hotel. The hotel was destroyed in 1910 and the Boyce home was built in 1914. They and their neighbors have heard unexplained old-fashioned music. Apparitions in 1890’s apparel have been seen. In a recent interview, Jenn Boyce said that they thought of their home’s ghostly guests as friendly and benevolent. Not all the occupied structures are old. The family of Crystal Eastman of Bradford lives in a home built in 1995. It also has a family of three ghosts who live in that home. Eastman said the interactions between these two families led her to invite the Vermont Paranormal Investigators to examine her home. She said these ghost chasers found evidence of orbs, anomalies suggesting the presence of spirits. Other places might also be haunted. In Topsham, there is a haunted cellar hole and in Haverhill, there was an afflicted tavern. Both Colby-Sawyer and Dartmouth have buildings reported occupied by resident spirits. A number of sources relate the story of Ezra“Wrench” Magoon, a farmer and bootlegger who has haunted the halls of one area hotel since his death in 1917. Writer of the paranormal Joseph Citro suggests that Hartland “seems to have the highest ghost population in the State” and in his book Ghosts, Ghouls & Unsolved Mysteries describes resident specters ranging from the ghost logger and phantom highwayman to Hartland’s hippy ghosts. It is said that Fairlee’s Lake Morey is the haunt of the ghosts of Samual Morey and his boat. Florence Kendall wrote a poem about it that appeared in a 1928 edition of The Vermonter magazine. It read in part: “…And each year when midnight cometh, of the day he sank his boat. On the waters of Lake Morey ghostly craft is seen to float. On her deck the eerie Captain guides her swift and silent flight.” Whether or not one believes these stories of ghostly happenings, Halloween brings a yearly opportunity to let the imagination run wild. Called Hallow-Een is an 1871 edition of Bradford’s newspaper, The National Opinion, it was described in terms of the spells and charms that might be used on that night to predict a future mate. Searching the available copies of The United Opinion from the 1880’s to 1910, I found no references to Halloween observances. That is not to say there were none, as other Vermont and New Hampshire publications report Halloween activities in many communities. From 1910 forward, local columnists for The United Opinion mention holiday social activities for people of all ages. Schools, community halls and church vestries were the venues for activities ranging from masquerade balls to children’s parties. One such notice describes plans for a celebration to be held in Newbury where, “witches, fortune tellers, your future husbands and wives will be in attendance.” A harvest supper and promenade were included. One prank that occurred at the time, and reported 50 years later, was played against a 220-pound bully. Several youths removed his union suit from the family’s laundry line and strung them up on a power pole in front of the Bradford Academy. To the delight of all, “the November breeze ballooned it like an airport wind sock” The bully, “scowlingly prowled about his usual haunts, grim as a who-dun-it detective, but he found no clue.” On November 4, 1921, the Newbury columnist wrote: “Quite a commotion on our streets last Monday with ghostly figures in sheets and pillowslips which gave us creepy Ku Klux Klan feelings, which were not dispelled until their young mouths were filled with marshmallows and cookies.” The West Fairlee Center’s school, along with other area schoolhouses was filled it was reported, with, “jack-o’-lanterns and white-robed spooks.” There was a fine line between mischievous Halloween pranks and outright vandalism. In the November 6, 1931 edition, the following appeared: “Halloween night gave some of the mischievous of town a chance to perform some pranks, some of which were interesting and others were damage to public property. Would those who participated please right up what they tipped over?” That this was perhaps a long standing tradition in Bradford is evident in the 1934 post-Halloween report: “Numerous disappearances of such things as chairs, screen doors, various dump carts and other articles not fastened down, as well as mysterious markings on windows. It was a great night for the youngsters and some of the older residents who the next day had to go about retrieving pieces of property that turned up in the most peculiar places. As those older citizens were on their salvage expeditions they no doubt were thinking of the number of years before when they too had made a lot of work for somebody on that night.” Growing up in Orford in the 40’s and 50’s, I recall that October 30th was trick or treat night. Weeks of planning went into carving pumpkins and arranging costumes. Notes reading, “Be ready for trick or treat, or else!!” were left on neighborhood doorsteps. While some of the older boys were involved with vandalism, most pranks rarely rose above stringing toilet paper, smashing a pumpkin or applying a bit of soap to a window or two. As in most area towns, a Halloween party was held on the 31st. Ours was held in the Town Hall in Orfordville, complete with bobbling for apples, trying to eat donuts hanging from a string and a costume parade. By 1946, some felt that Halloween was getting out of hand. An anonymous letter signed “A Mother” was published in local paper stating: “Hallowe’en has become a menace to many of the citizens of Bradford. Damage makes our village anything but Bradford the Beautiful.” An accompanying article read: “BAH!!! very inadequately expressed the way we feel about the way Hallowe’en is handled in this community.” It referred to the trick or treaters as practicing “rank bribery.” A Bradford resident, a teenager at the time, recalls that others dumped a truckload of gravel on the front steps of the Bradford Academy, dropped water on the head of the owner of the Bradford bowling alley and created a potentially dangerous situation by removing the wooden front steps from some folks’ homes. Despite these concerns, Halloween didn’t go away. Trick or treating for UNICEF was added. Families and businesses spent more on decorations and treats. Parties sponsored by community groups attempted to deter vandalism and in some communities, they did. The Bradford party in 1954, drew more than, “400 children, adults and ghosts” for a parade, skits, treats and prizes. More elaborate costumes, often purchased or sewn by talented seamstresses, compared with costumes fabricated by youngsters themselves made judging the “best costume” contest difficult. Personally, I love Halloween and all the harmless fun that goes with it. As the last vestiges of summer disappear and the days shorten, we decorate our home with our Halloween collection. I grow tiny white pumpkins and paint the faces of “guys” on them to give to friends and family. We always buy more candy than we need for the 75 to 100 trick or treaters who ply South Pleasant Street, many of whom come in from the surrounding rural area for better pickings. A horror movie on television during Halloween week reminds me that when my heart beats faster and my palms get sweaty it is a sign that I am still among the living. No walking dead at our house, at least not this year. As to the “inexplicable activities” of ghosts, goblins and other horribles that stalk Halloween night, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: “Nobody has any conscience about adding to the improbabilities of a marvelous tale.” This column is adapted from one published previously in the Journal Opinion. Coffin is the author of In Times Past: Essays From the Upper Valley available locally.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Decades of Change Part Four 1975-1979

September 25, 2013 Journal Opinion Development in the Lake Tarleton area blossomed with 3,700 new homes, a village of boutique shops, a new Robert Trent Jones 18-hole golf course and a regional airport. The new Parsons & Whittemore pulp and paper mill located on the Connecticut River near the Piermont-Haverhill line is in full operation. It provides employment to 1,500 and added $20 million to the local tax rolls. Taking advantage of its tax-free status, Piermont attracted 20 retail businesses to the new mall at the junction of River Road and Route 25. At some times of the year, Piermont’s population exceeds that of any other town in the region. New homes fill other Piermont neighborhoods as farms sell out and formerly abandoned areas are developed. Sections of routes 25 and 10 and River Road have been widened to handle daily and holiday traffic as well as the large trucks servicing the mill. The bridge across the Connecticut has been replaced. Town services have been expanded to meet the increased population including full-time police and fire departments, a water treatment plant and elementary school. A new regional high school to serve Piermont, Orford and Haverhill is being planned. It is 1979 in Piermont, NH. Oh wait, that’s not how events evolved in Piermont during the period from 1975-79. This column, the fourth in the series, deals with events in the region during those years. It deals with those changes that actually occurred and those that were proposed but never came to be. Information is drawn from The United Opinion and its successor, the Journal Opinion, local town histories and interviews. Boise Cascade’s proposed development at the 5,200-acre Lake Tarleton Club property could have had a profound impact on the local area. In the early 1970s, the company plans included 3,700 primary and secondary homes along with a new golf course and retail shops. In March 1977 the yet-to-be developed property was sold to a Belgian investor. Operating under the title Real Homes, the plans were downsized to 1,500 homes. There was considerable opposition to the project from both state and local sources. Two reasons for the resistence included poorly drawn plans and negative environmental impacts. These, plus declines in the economy, were the death knell for Real Homes, and, in 2000, a major portion of the property became part of the White Mountain National Forest. The second unrealized project that could have had a profound impact on the area was the proposed pulp mill. In early 1975 the New York-based Parsons & Whittemore Co. began to explore building a mammoth bleached kraft pulp and paper mill in New Hampshire. With the encouragement of Gov. Meldrim Thomson of Orford, the company held information meetings around the state, including in Haverhill and Piermont. Using water from the Connecticut River, the proposed plant was designed to process over 400,000 cords of wood annually. It was expected that 500 workers would be employed, with an additional 1,000 jobs created in related industries such as logging and trucking. One study suggested that it would bring 400 new families to the area. Some New Hampshire towns registered opposition to the mill. Faced with a depressed economy and high unemployment, voters in Haverhill overwhelmingly endorsed the location of the plant in their community. At the meeting in Piermont interest was expressed, but no record of an actual vote was found. The company also expressed interest in Orford and Lyme. As late as January 1976, Haverhill was apparently still a possible site for the mill. The selectmen, however, expressed “mixed emotions” about it being located in the town. The company indicated it had no desire to come to an area if it was not wanted. In the end, while still expressing interest in New Hampshire, the company decided to concentrate its search to Alabama. As for a mall in Piermont, only one store opened at the corner of Route 25 and River Road. In 1978, Russell and Shirley Gould opened the Gould’s Country Store and Smokehouse adjacent to the Piermont branch of the Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank. Three years later the retail grocery portion was leased to Stop & Save. Plans to expand the store never materialized and it closed in 1995, later being destroyed by fire. The period from 1975 to 1979 did see other projects, some completed and others not. After decades of voting, the Village of Bradford finally decided to stop dumping untreated sewage into the Waits River. In May 1976, by a vote of 50-44 and with assurances of federal assistance, the Village began the lengthy process of building the water treatment plant. It was completed in 1978. Water pollution was still an issue in parts of Haverhill, Piermont, East Ryegate and Wells River and in Fairlee’s Lake Morey. Great disappointment characterized the restoration of the Bedell Bridge between South Newbury and Haverhill Corner. Built in 1866,the bridge had fallen into severe disrepair by the 1960s and was scheduled for demolition. Supporters formed the Bedell Bridge, Inc. and made plans for its restoration. Despite additional flood damage and problems with securing funds, the group worked diligently to achieve its goal. On July 22, 1979 the bridge and accompanying state park were dedicated with great fanfare. Less than two months later a windstorm destroyed the bridge. Projects in the area were encouraged by the influx of federal money, some of it in the form of revenue sharing funds. In 1976 Bradford Village received a grant to obtain and restore the vacant Low mansion and the adjacent Prichard house. These two historic structures overlooked the village center. Entitled “Village Renaissance,” one of the project’s major goals was to provide senior housing. But, with charges of mismanagement, the grant was withdrawn and the houses passed to private ownership. In 1981, fire destroyed the magnificent Low mansion, robbing Bradford of an impressive landmark. The Opera House on Central Street in Woodsville was also proposed as a senior housing project. In 1977 federal funds were received and, despite some delays, by 1979 the conversion had begun. A proposal to create senior housing on Route 10 north of Lyme was voted down over concerns that emergency services could not be adequately provided. Lyme voters did agree, however, to provide some tax relief to elder property owners. Federal and state environmental regulations continued to create pressures on local communities. Several towns continued to operate open dumps in violation of new regulations while others began to use the new landfill in Newbury. Though burning ceased at Bradford’s South Road location, the town felt it had to keep the dump open, in part, to prevent the dump’s rats from migrating elsewhere. Haverhill investigated solving its trash problems by burning it at an incinerator in Lisbon. In Piermont and Orford open dumps were given a reprieve by new state legislation exempting small towns. School controversies competed for newspaper space with positive articles describing school activities. School budgets, teacher grievances and negotiations, student discipline, teen pregnancies, bomb scares and the need to provide additional classroom space were the subject of regular coverage. There were vigorous discussions over setting aside time for prayer in Orford, open classrooms at Union 36, Oxbow’s roof problems, smoking policies for students and teachers, basic competencies and the state formula for financing local schools. In contrast, there were articles about the positive outcomes of academic programs, honors awarded individual students and teachers as well as athletic teams and individual coaches and athletes. Reviews of student productions were printed along side those of community theater groups such as the Bradford Repertory Theater, the Tabor Valley Players and the Parish Players. There was coverage of other controversies within and between local communities. Local environmental groups objected to erosion on the Connecticut River banks and the building of the Seabrook Nuclear Plant. They were relieved when a proposal to build twin nuclear reactors in North Monroe was scrapped because the site was found to be unsatisfactory. Local communities encouraged some new ventures and discouraged others. The proposal to rebuild the Bradford hydroelectric dam was supported, although the voters denied the owners a tax break for the improvements. The annual coverage of community fairs, bazaars and festivals continued during this period. The newspaper reported in depth on the events celebrating the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. Many towns, flying their official Bicentennial flag, made it a year-long celebration with activities centered in the week of the Fourth. This newspaper described Americans as “lovers of hoopla and ceremony” and declared that locals had “enjoyed every minute” of the celebration. Bradford, Newbury, Lyme and Orford used the occasion to nominate neighborhoods and significant buildings to the National Register of Historic Places. Five years of newspapers provide so much material for a short article that significant items must be left out. A longer article might have included information on any of the following news items from the period: transcendental meditation, Rex the Wonder Horse, perennial bad weather and floods, North Haverhill’s Ames Department Store, Bradford’s Channel Mills, land use planning and taxation as well as Fairlee’s railroad train explosion and the jet crash in Ryegate. Controversies over services at Haverhill’s Mountain Lakes, racing results at Bear Ridge, the tax status of the Boy Scouts property at Orford’s Indian Pond, a ban on nude swimming in Thetford and muddy water in Newbury’s water system got plenty of coverage, but not here. There was coverage of things that were new during the latter half of the 70s including a Catholic church in Orford, the Lafayette National Bank and People’s Market in Woodsville, the Colatina Bakery and Agway Fertilizer Plant in Bradford and a new industrial park in Newbury. New names to the area included T. Copeland and Sons, makers of cider presses in East Corinth and Drs. Mark Harris and Lance Osadchey. One might like to know more about the local sighting of UFO’s, the party responsible for hanging the anti-Thomson sign from the Orford-Fairlee bridge just before the ‘76 election or the rumors of uranium deposits in Corinth. On those deposits, selectman Jim Hood was quoted: “I wouldn’t get too excited.” With the completion of I-91, the expansion of newspaper coverage, the extension of cable television to several village areas and the new WYKR presenting “The World Within an Earshot,” area residents were increasingly aware of national and international events. The cultural lag that rural areas often experience decreased as fads, fashions and problems arrived more quickly. The nation’s gas and energy shortages, stagflation and unemployment brought hard times locally. Skyrocketing electric rates impacted both public buildings and private homeowners. Energy efficiency was encouraged, heating with wood increased and van pooling and gasohol were introduced. There was still the concern that growth needed to be carefully planned. Fairlee, Bradford, Lyme and Topsham discussed adopting zoning or amending existing regulations. Several towns realized the advantage of giving tax breaks to large landowners to discourage agricultural land being converted to housing. Over the years there have been conflicting opinions regarding life in small towns. Some see life in communities such as those found locally as being limiting, isolating, smothering and, populated by people who are characterized by small minds and small aspirations. Others celebrate the slower pace, the richness of local events and closeness of “one-horse” towns. An advantage of small town life is that a resident can have a significant impact on their community, a characteristic highlighted in the film It’s a Wonderful Life. Among those Bradford residents who passed away this year were five who represented the type of rural leadership that positively impacts small communities. Each had role in Bradford during the period of the 70s and devoted significant time to making the community a better place in which to live during that decade and beyond. They were Bradford Selectman Arthur Hyde, Bradford Village Trustees Bruce Stever and Gary Garone, Oxbow Board Member and Bradford Library Trustee Dorothy Cole and youth sports organizer Dr. Philip Munson. Every town in the area had such men and women during the period covered by this column. Hopefully they will continue to be an example as new leaders constantly need to step forward to fill the ranks of those who leave.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Labor Days: Labor's Gains and Summer's Farewell

EAST CORINTH PARADE.  "Liberty" is the theme of this elaborate float, one of many that were included in the 1939 East Corinth Labor Day Parade.  The floats were constructed by small groups and represented areas of Corinth and surrounding towns.  It is thought that Lady Liberty might be 16-year old Eris Metcalf of Taplin Hill, now Eris Eastman of Bradford. (Eris Eastman) 

Journal Opinion August 28, 2013

The first Labor Day parade was held on Sept. 5, 1882 in New York City.  Thirty thousand workers
took an unpaid day off to march in support of labor unions and labor reform.  

Labor Day symbolizes the unofficial end of summer. With cooler, foggier mornings, shorter days and just a hint of colorful foliage, the change of seasons is forcast. After the long weekend, vacations conclude and schools reopen. But that was not the original meaning of the day. This article explains the origins of Labor Day and how it has been observed locally.

The information is drawn from online sources, local interviews and town histories, The United Opinion and its successor, The Journal Opinion.

Labor Day was first suggested in America in the 1880s to promote the goals of fledgling labor unions. One early labor leader described it as an honor to those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” At that time it was common for workers to work 60 to 70-hour each weeks with perhaps Sunday off. Vacations were non-existent and the only holidays were New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Labor Day was a day off, independent of other celebrations, on which workers could “celebrate working by not.”

The first Labor Day parade was held on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882 in New York City. Thirty thousand workers took an unpaid day off and marched. One New York newspaper described the post-parade festivities as “speeches, a picnic, an abundance of cigars and Lager beer kegs.” Bradford’s newspaper, in an edition heavy with news of strikes around the nation, gave it a one-line description, reducing the number of marchers to 20,000. In 1884 the observance was moved to the first Monday in September where it has remained ever since.

 By 1894, Labor Day was a legal holiday in 31 states. New Hampshire was one of those, having adopted the legislation in 1889. In 1894, Congress passed legislation making Labor Day a federal holiday. President Grover Cleveland, pressured to heal the turmoil left by the bitter Pullman Strike, signed it into law. The benefit of this law did not extend beyond some federal workers.

Vermont did not adopt Labor Day legislation until 1898. The first observances were held the following year in Barre, Rutland and Burlington, all communities with stronger union sentiments. By the turn of the century there were major parades and demonstrations in cities across the nation, the day being an opportunity to advocate for labor reform.

 A review of The United Opinion between 1884 and 1920 shows little evidence of the Monday holiday being observed in reportable fashion. Perhaps the “grand rally” held by area Republicans in Cookeville on Labor Day in1896 took advantage of the holiday. The editorial column in September 1908 does mention it: “Labor Day, not the ordinary three hundred and sixty-five, but the one with a capital letter, ushered in this week with a holiday.”

 While school openings occurred on the first Tuesday of September and there were back-to-school advertisements for local businesses, no mention was made of Labor Day during the early years of the 20th century. It must have been customary for stores to close, however, because in 1921 there was just the smallest notice with no fanfare announcing that Bradford stores would be closed on Labor Day.

 Major celebrations on Labor Day were held during the period from 1920 to 1939, first in Newbury and then in East Corinth. On Sept. 6, 1920 the Newbury chapter of Modern Woodmen of America sponsored the first of a series of Labor Day celebrations in Newbury village. These celebrations featured a parade of floats, horribles, marchers and bands followed by band concerts, horse racing, a vaudeville show, baseball games, and an airplane flyover. The evening events included a carnival, open-air movies and dance. The Woodmen donated the proceeds to community causes including the fund to replace the hall adjacent to the high school, the old one having burned in 1924.

The Newbury column in The United Opinion described the success of each year’s event, even in years when it rained. It was written that at the 1924 celebration “thousands were present to witness and assist in making possible one of the most successful and in many respects the most enjoyable good times staged in years. It was reported that nearly 300 couples attended the evening dance and enjoyed the music of Klark’s Orchestra until 1 a.m. Several other town columnists mentioned the Newbury event. The Pike column contained the following: “Labor Day passed very quiet as many in the village went to Newbury.”

The last of these major Newbury celebrations was held in 1929 as the series became victim of the Woodmen chapter’s demise and competition from other area events. Those other events include Whoope Boxing bouts at an outdoor stadium sponsored by the Bradford Athletic Club, the St. Johnsbury fair and a midnight dance at Lake Morey. The United Opinion summed up that year’s holiday with an editorial stating that the day was a “tribute to all, including the housewife.”

 Between 1930 and 1938 East Corinth was the center of Labor Day activities. Director and community leader Harry Hunter sought to revive the fair that had been held there prior to 1907. The report of the first year’s event noted that despite some morning rain, the parade, horse pulling, foot races, ball game and rolling pin throwing contest all attracted large crowds. The writer concluded that “the well-known community spirit of the district was in full evidence.”

 Yearly the Opinion featured a major front-page article describing the East Corinth celebration. Over the years the crowds grew until, in 1938, there were 2,000 in attendance, many from other communities. In 1931 and 1938 the governor of Vermont was the special guest. Each year the East Corinth baseball team faced off against a town team from Bradford, Chelsea or East Barre or lacking that, between the single and married men of the community. Area bands played for the parade, concerts and an evening dance.

 Eris Eastman of Bradford recalls growing up on Taplin Hill and participating in the “huge” annual parade. She said that groups of families created floats, hiding them from prying eyes, “practically guarding it with shotguns.” Some floats reflected an historical theme whereas others were, according to the Opinion, “highly amusing…demonstrating that the Yankee sense of humor cannot be suppressed by any old depression.”

Another feature was the rolling pin throwing contest, with divisions for married and unmarried women. The reporter wrote, “Each lady was allowed four throws and her score computed by the number of hits on the effigy…if we were a burglar, we would rather face the man of the house with a gun in his hand than the missus with a rolling pin, after seeing what happened to the poor effigy.” A paper published by the Corinth Historical Society describes the demise of the East Corinth celebration.

 Following the death of Harry Hunter in Jan.1940, “An attempt was made to continue the celebration, but the enthusiasm was gone.” There were other events in the area, although none seem to be as ambitious as the one in East Corinth. The Women’s Club in Newbury held an annual chicken pie supper along with a small fair. There was an annual fair in Groton. The Dreamland Pavilion in Bradford held a Dawn Dance from midnight Sunday to 5 a.m. In the period after 1939 war news drove the reports of celebrations from the front page of the local newspaper

. In 1940 there was a Labor Day festival in Bradford, a State Championship Baseball game at Currier Park in Fairlee between the Fairlee team and Randolph and a dance at Lake Morey Casino. As in previous years, the newspaper reported the close of summer youth camps and the opening of area schools. During the years of World War II, Labor Day celebrations were dampened by the absence of so many men and the rationing of gas and tires. In 1944, the Dreamland Pavilion again held its Dawn Dance with George Bedell prompting.

Celebrations were reinvigorated in the post-war years. Bradford’s American Legion Post held a carnival on the old fairground in 1947. The next year, J. Arthur Peters and his students began the Connecticut Valley Fair. For the next few years it would be held on or around Labor Day weekend. In 1951, despite miserable weather, more than 5000 attended the fair held on Memorial Field. A ball game between the nearly undefeated East Corinth Little League with Harry McLam and Peter and Gene Pierson against the Bradford team attracted a crowd. For several years, beginning in 1947, Fairlee’s Recreation Council sponsored a Labor Day Festival. It centered at the Casino and featured round and square dancing. It featured Don Durlacher, a “national leader in the square dance world.” The East Corinth Fairgrounds hosted jalopy races, a predecessor of later, more elaborate, auto racing. In the years that followed, Labor Day observances fell into a predictable pattern

. As with the events described above there was little emphasis on the efforts of labor unions, although the eight-hour day and 40-hour work week reforms encouraged celebrations over three-day weekends. In 1953 a Bradford National Bank advertisement praised the efforts of both labor and management: “giving more cause to celebrate as each Labor Day appears.”

 One could expect Labor Day to feature dawn dances, community chicken barbecues, band concerts, auctions, yard sales and family gatherings. Summer vacationers began their “annual exodus” and seasonal businesses closed. Other businesses, having observed a summer break, opened for the new season. More and more, it became summer’s last gasp. An editorial in this newspaper in 1998 noted that many experienced “end of summer blues.”

 In the years before I-91 opened, holiday traffic fatalities and numerous arrests for speeding were reported along with heavy traffic on area highways. Drivers were encouraged to turn on their headlights and lower their speed for safety.

 There are three area events that will highlight this year’s Labor Day weekend. All three have been held annually for over 35 years. The Thetford Volunteer Fire Department Labor Day Chicken Barbecue was first held in 1960 to raise money for the department. Over the years, a parade, flea market and educational displays have been added to the annual event held at the Post Mills fire station on Route 244. This year’s Labor Day parade will begin at 11:30 a.m. and lines will immediately form for the barbecued chicken and homemade pies.

Bradford’s Bear Ridge Speedway will hold its annual Labor Day Classic, an event that has been held every year since the track opened in 1968. Held this year on Aug. 31, the Classic will feature six classes including the Sprint Cars of New England Fast Four Madness. The speedway draws a weekly crowd of over 900 spectators and participants and this year’s holiday event will, according to owner Butch Elms, be the same.

The Men’s and Co-ed Slow-pitch Softball Tournament will be held at Mills Memorial Field in South Ryegate, Aug. 30 to Sept. 2. This Labor Day classic, according to director David Eastman, began in the late 1970s and draws “a heck of a lot of people,” both as spectators and participants. This year he expects over 50 teams playing on four fields over the four-day tournament.

 Time off from labor is more frequent today. It is no longer common for most workers to endure backbreaking working hours and conditions. Many of those reforms are the result of the efforts of the organizations that first promoted Labor Day in the 1880s. As labor unions have not been common in the area, it is not surprising that the holiday lacks a reformer’s tone. Residents of the Upper Valley, along with other New Englanders, have a tradition of and respect for hard work. It is from those characteristic that Labor Day takes its meaning.

 Those enjoying a barbecue, a ball game or some other late summer outing might reflect on the extended weekend. Perhaps, in reading this article, they might think for a moment about the following editorial in The United Opinion prior to Labor Day 1926. “No emotion is more essential to the individual engaged in any line of endeavor than that of pride.Labor Day is labor’s ‘pride day.’ Then the toiler rests for the moment, and has the leisure to give himself to contemplation, to inward appreciation of the highly important place he and his fellows occupy in the world’s affairs.The victories of labor have changed the whole structure of the world’s social system. They deserve a special day for remembering.”

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bayley-Hazen Road: Path to the Wilderness

Journal-Opinion July 31, 2013 On July 6, as part of the 250th celebration in Wells River, a ceremony was held at the Welcome Center rededicating a monument to the Bayley-Hazen Military Road. The monument had been placed north of the village in 1912 during the 150th anniversary of the chartering of Newbury. It marked the assumed spot where northern Vermont’s premier wilderness road began. Changes in the highway at that location had made the monument less obvious and the decision was reached to move it to a more central spot at the Welcome Center.

When the monument was erected in 1912, the town of Newbury decided to honor Jacob Bayley as well. Both Bayley and Moses Hazen were involved in the road’s construction. The following article is adapted from remarks that I made at the rededication ceremony.

My sources include the writings of Frederick W. Baldwin and Marcus McCorison as well as local history books.

 Around 1770, Col. Jacob Bayley of Newbury wrote “The whole country is rapidly filling up with a very desirable class of settlers and what was ten years since, a howling wilderness is now fast becoming fruitful farms.” Despite this description, this area, known as the Coos, was still on the edge of the frontier. The early military conflicts of the American Revolution were centered in southern New England. Therefore some believed that the Connecticut River Valley was a likely invasion route for British forces and their allies from Canada.

What loaded weapons the residents possessed were never far away. Stockades were built and area men patrolled to the north watching for attackers. With many men leaving to join the revolutionary army, the area felt increasingly vulnerable. The fall of Fort Ticonderoga to the British in 1777, “caused great consternation” in surrounding communities.

 Col. Israel Morey of Orford summed up that fear in a July, 1777 letter: “Our Frontier Towns are really in a dangerous and critical situation. We are entirely laid open to the sudden attack…” At that time, the Americans were involved in an ill-fated campaign to capture Canada. Additional supplies and reinforcements were needed to assist in their siege of Quebec. Bayley repeatedly wrote to Gen. George Washington promoting the idea of a road from Newbury to Fort St. John’s on the Richelieu. Bayley believed the safety of New England lay in the conquest of Canada and, until that was done, the Coos was not safe.

 He sent Washington a report of a possible 92-mile route blazed by a party led by Col. Thomas Johnson in March 1776. That party included Joseph Susap, known locally as Indian Joe, as well as other Abenaki familiar with the region. The route was about 73 miles and 10 marching days shorter than the established Crown Point Military Road from Fort Number 4 in Charlestown, NH to St. John’s via Lake Champlain.

Washington wrote to Bayley in late April instructing him to “set about the Road you propose as soon as possible.” He gave Bayley assurances that he would be reimbursed for the expenses. Bayley immediately began construction at Wells River following a route laid out by James Whitelaw of Ryegate He employed between 60 and 110 men, paying them the equivalent of $10 per month along with board and a half pint of rum every day for 45 days.

The road was constructed to allow for the passage of wagons and its course kept to the highlands as much a possible. The men cut trees, created corduroy roads through swamps and bridges across streams. Other trees along the roadside were girdled, and left to die so as to let in the sun and dry the ground. By mid-June the road was constructed to a point six miles above Peacham. Washington then wrote to Bayley saying that as American troops were retreating from Quebec continued work on the road would be “inexpedient” as it would “provide an easy pass for the enemy to invade.” Bayley stopped work on the road immediately.

 Other than the 250 pounds sent to him to start the work, the Continental Congress never repaid Bayley for his additional expenses of over 700 pounds for the summer’s work. In the summer of 1778 another Canadian campaign was proposed and the route was again surveyed. In April 1779 Col. Moses Hazen, brother of Haverhill’s John Hazen, received orders to complete the road to St. John’s. Starting at the road head in Peacham in June, Hazen’s Continental regiment continued the road in a northwesterly direction, ever concerned about possible ambush.

 To aid in their defense, they constructed blockhouses on Cabot Plain, Walden and near Caspian Lake in Greensboro. These were 20 foot by 40 foot log structures with port holes. A stockade of upright logs and a cleared space beyond added to the defense. In Albany and Lowell, the 90 or so men built up the steeper slopes by laying logs against trees and filled them with dirt and timber. In late summer Hazen called a halt to the work at what became known as Hazen’s Notch northwest of Lowell, 40 miles short of St. Johns.

While waiting in what he called his “Camp at the end of the Road” he asked for a resupply of provision to include 2600 pounds of “flower” and about 3000 pounds of fresh beef, adding he wanted no more “stinking beef.” He then abandoned the road, except for the blockhouse 12 miles above Peacham.

Why did he stop? On August 24, Hazen wrote to Col Timothy Bedel of Haverhill about the fear of attack. He had received word of a force dispatched from St. Johns to capture his workers. It has also been suggested that there was never an actual second invasion of Canada planned. Perhaps the proposed continuation of the road was part of a ruse to discourage a British attack from Canada against New York. Perhaps the residents of the Coos felt extra vulnerability to attack along a completed road as Continental troops were withdrawn from the area.

 Their uncertainty was enhanced as the future of the Republic of Vermont was being debated in Congress, with New York and New Hampshire both pressing their claims to the territory. For whatever reason, Bayley’s and Hazen’s work appeared to be a wasted effort, for other than patrols, there was no military use to it. Also, it was a continual aggravation to the residents of the area as it opened them to frequent alarms. It appears that the British and their allies used it more than the Americans.

While a major invasion never took place, the fears never really went away. In October 1780 there was a “Great Alarm” as 300 natives and Tories made plans to attack Newbury in retaliation for the death of a British general. Wells’s Newbury history states “Terror magnified the invading force into an army.” Being warned that Newbury was anticipating an attack, the force veered west and attacked Royalton and Tunbridge instead.

While the war subsided elsewhere after 1781, this area was a tempting target and experienced a succession of alarms over the final two years of the war. Enemy actions kept the nerves of the residents on edge. Between 1780 and 1782, raiding parties came to the area to destroy property and harass, capture or kill local residents, especially local leaders like Bayley and Col. Thomas Johnson.

Although less than an advantage during the war, this road through the northern wilderness proved useful afterwards for it permitted increased access to the interior of northern Vermont and helped to speed its settlement. Its route was through the present towns of Ryegate, Barnet, Peacham, Danville, Cabot, Walden, Hardwick, Greensboro, Craftsbury, Albany and Lowell to the notch in Westfield. Of course those are current names that replaced place names such as Lutterlock (Albany), Deweysburg (Danville/Peacham), Kelleyvale (Lowell), Mindon (Craftsbury) and Steven’s Village (East Hardwick).

Often the first settlements north of Peacham were made on what became known as the Hazen Road with even the blockhouses used. The first settler of Walden lived in that blockhouse, the first child was born there and it served as the first school and first place of worship. In Greensboro, the first settlers made the blockhouse their home in 1789.

The experience of the first family in Cabot, as related by the local historical society, tells us of the migrants’ determination to settle this newly accessible territory. In 1782, Benjamin Webster of Salisbury, NH, made his pitch on the Cabot Plain on the Hazen Road, cleared the forest and built a log cabin. The following spring he moved his family. He drove a cow through up to 4 feet of snow. His wife, Judith Webster, on snowshoes and with the help of a hired man, drew their goods in a hand-sled on which was a washtub containing their 2-year old daughter Hannah. Once his family was settled, Benjamin walked the 24 miles back to Newbury for provisions.

While he was away Judith tapped trees and made 40 pounds of sugar. It was said that “she could chop as well as a man” and helped to clear their farm. Family after family moved to the area, funneled by the Hazen Road. Taverns, stores, homes, farms and villages grew up along the road. At one time, Ryegate had seven inns along it. Roads were constructed from it to other parts of towns and between towns.

The Hinman Settler Road was built in the early 1790s, linking the road in Greensboro with Canada. By the early 1800s,the Hazen Road was a main stagecoach road. In 1805, the Vermont Legislature included the road in an incorporated company entitled the “The Boston & Montreal Turnpike Company. Towns were expected to keep up the road. In 1821, the section from Wells River to Ryegate was declared to be part of a market road to Canada, thereby making it eligible to receive state funds for half the cost of alterations and improvements. Between 1824 and 1841 the route of the highway was altered, with portions abandoned.

 Today, significant portions of this historic road go through meadows and forest land. The remaining portions still can be travelled on town roads and state highways. Over the years, monuments have been placed along it to remind passersby of its route and significance. In 1976 a group hiked the original route of the Bayley-Hazen Road. People could join or leave this trip at any point, with only five individuals completing the entire route.

 Among those five were Gilbert McClintock and Edward and Helen Vervoort, all residents of Newbury. I walked with the group during the first day, starting from the monument in Wells River. We went up over the hill, along roadways and through the woods. What I remember most vividly about that day’s hike was an ancient maple tree located on an abandoned section of the road near the Newbury-Ryegate line. Its gigantic size suggested that it was a survivor of the virgin forests through which the road had been constructed.

The hikers joined hands around its ancient and gnarled trunk and speculated on what it might had “seen” over its long life on the shoulder of the now abandoned road. Passing it had been surveyors, road builders, attackers and defenders, settlers with hand sleds, wagon pull by teams of oxen and horse-drawn stagecoaches. It was as majestic a monument to the history of that road as any erected by man.

The local historian Frederick Wells wrote an address for the dedication of the marker in 1912. He called the old military road “an historic treasure.” He closed his address with the following: “Therefore, the citizens of Newbury do well to mark the spot where this ancient road begins. They also do well in asking that its name henceforth include that of it projector, the founder of the town. Let this memorial of bronze and granite remain here to speak to coming generations and tell the story of the Bayley-Hazen Road.”

 In its new location that monument will continue to speak, but more prominently and to a larger audience. On July 8, Carolyn and I drove the roads that still follow the route of the Bayley-Hazen Road. We stopped to see monuments along the way, including the one on Hardwick Street. All along the route were buildings that must have been constructed during the road’s heyday. We marveled at how straight some of the sections were and what a challenge the slopes must have presented. We made it to Hazen’s Notch and found the stone marking it terminus.