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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Armistice Day to Veterans Day: A Centennial

Journal Opinion, Nov. 7, 2018
SINGING THE BOYS HOME. In the aftermath of World War I, thousands of American troops returned from Europe. Along with parades and receptions, popular songs such as the one above celebrated their return.

ORFORD MEMORIAL. In 1920, Orford became the first local community to honor WW I veterans with a public monument. Originally located at the top of Bridge Street, the monument now stands next to the Orford Congregational Church. (Photo courtesy of Arthur Pease) 

TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER.  On Armistice Day, 1921, a national holiday was observed as the nation established the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery.  Built from Vermont marble, the shrine was the final resting place for an unknown American soldier brought home from France.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the council of the nations…” Pres. Woodrow Wilson, Nov.1919

 World War I, the Great War, began in August 1914. The United States entered the conflict in April 1917 after Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare on American vessels. Among the  4.7 million American who joined the military service were over 650 local men and women. The war cost the United States 53,402 battle deaths with an additional 204,000 wounded. Over 63,000 other service members died, many from the influenza pandemic. At least 35 locals died while in service. 

While these locals  served in every branch of the military, many men served in the Yankee Division. As part of the American Expeditionary Force, this division served on the Western Front longer than any other American unit. The American involvement tipped the stalemate in favor of the Allies. The Yankee Division was involved in heavy fighting right up to the armistice that brought an end to the  fighting at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918.

The war had a major impact on the local home front. In order to mobilize the nation, the national government was given significant new powers to control the economy, the transportation system and the media. Government declarations promoted the war effort and encourage the sale of war bonds. As the country was assisting its allies, there were shortages of food and fuel. Citizens of all ages joined in the effort to meet the nation’s quotas.      

The nation rejoiced on that November day with school closings, church services, factory whistles blowing and “spontaneous” parades.

Bradford celebrated as people gathered in the streets in front of what is now the Bliss Village Store and “sang songs of joy and praise and thanksgiving, under a great star-spangled banner flying overhead across the street.” In Haverhill and Woodsville, as in other towns, the bells rang all day.  It was reported that “there was a clear satisfaction and joy written on the faces of everyone.”

On April 4, 1919, the first ship load of returning soldiers landed in Boston. Welcoming boats crowded with officials, families and friends met them. Later that month, full-dress parades were held at Fort Devens in Massachusetts and in Boston to honor the returnees before they were discharged.

In many area towns, welcome home receptions, banquets and dances were held. On July 5, 1919, Barre hosted a parade for Orange and Washington County veterans, complete with a victory arch erected in the center of the business district. 

Nov. 11 became known as Armistice Day in the United States and France and Remembrance Day in Canada and Britain. In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day anniversary observance with the statement at the beginning of this column. On that day, residents of Newbury and Haverhill hosted a car parade “rivaling the 4th of July.” The custom of observing moments of silence at 11 a.m. in remembrance of the war dead became widespread.

In 1920, the newly established American Legion Post in Woodsville observed the anniversary with a dinner, concert and dance. There were also Legion Posts in Bradford, Rumney, Lyme and Newbury.  Veterans of Foreign Wars Posts were established in Wells River, North Haverhill, Groton, Fairlee and Bradford, some before and some after World War II. 

Among their civic activities, these veterans groups sold artificial poppies to raise funds for the needy children of France and for disabled veterans. Communities also used the observance to promote annual Red Cross drives.  

Many veterans came home with physical wounds. Others suffered from shell shock, now known as post-traumatic stress disorder. While it is now known that the horrendous conditions of the Western Front was a major cause of the disorder, it was often thought at the time to be caused by a “lack of moral fiber.”

Returning soldiers also suffered from acute unemployment as the nation experienced a sharp post-war recession in 1920-21.This was caused by the shift from wartime to a peace time economy and the attempt to absorb millions of veterans into the economy.

The America Legion worked to find employment for veterans. In Sept 1921, the Caledonian-Record ran the following Legion announcement: “Figures alone do not tell the plight of the American unemployed veterans, for the great part of the jobless ex-soldier and ex-sailor are not only out of work, but are engaged at this moment in a struggle for existence with their backs to the wall of circumstance.” 

In 1921, Armistice Day was declared a national holiday as America established the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery. Built of Vermont marble, the shrine became the final resting place for an unknown American soldier brought home from France.

The United Opinion reported the local observance. “Promptly at 12 o’clock noon today, church, school and fire bells will commence to toll…Vaneer mill and creamery whistles will boom out, and Bradford will bow in reverent silence to pay homage to American’s unknown hero.”     

 Local communities began to create monuments to honor those who served in the recent conflict. In 1920, Orford  created a monument complete with an honor roll. Originally placed at the top of Bridge Street, this monument now stands on the mall next to the Orford Congregational Church.  In 2003, that community dedicated a new monument to honor veterans of WW II.  It is located in front of the Town Offices.

In June 1921, a World War I monument was dedicated at Haverhill Corner. In August 1921, Bradford dedicated a Memorial Park north of the Library. A granite monument was erected bearing bronze tablets with the names of the soldiers and sailors of the Civil War, the Spanish American War and World War I.

Fairlee’s Soldiers’ Monument was dedicated in August 1926. While there had been discussion of listing the names of those being honored, it was decided to have a simple inscription that read “To Those Who Gave Their Lives in the Service of Our Nation.” At the dedication, Congressman Ernest Gibson’s comment on the inscription was that it was “all that could be said.”    

In the 1920s and ‘30s, most states established Armistice Day as a legal holiday.  Because the establishing of legal holidays was a state prerogative, it was not until 1938 that the Federal government made it a legal national holiday.

Only occasionally did local reporters for The United Opinion mentioned Armistice Day observances by schools and veterans organizations. Elders with whom I spoke recall that Memorial Day was more often observed with programs in schools than Armistice Day.      

In November 1929, an editorial entitled “Armistice Day Thoughts,” praised the work of the American Legion in support of war veterans and their dependents. As it cited the Legion’s civic programs, it decried the lack of support for ex-service men by the general public. 

 In 1935, the Bradford Legion Post used the newly-dedicated Academy gym as a location for an Armistice Day dance featuring the Bar X Cowboys and caller George Bedell. By that time it had become an established tradition for stores to close for the holiday. This practice continued for some time, although by the 1950’s only some businesses closed for the entire day.    

World War II and the Korean War created millions of additional veterans and, in the early 1950s, interest in observing a day in their honor grew. In 1953, a special Armistice Day assembly was held at Bradford Academy at which the school was presented with the flag that covered the casket of the late General Herbert T. Johnson of Bradford, former Adjutant General of Vermont.  Orators spoke of the meaning of Armistice Day. On that same day, Loyalty Day was observed in the Fairlee Elementary School. 

In 1954, President Eisenhower signed legislation changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In keeping with the theme of honoring all service men and women who had served, special ceremonies were held locally. As it is a day honoring all veterans, Veterans Day is spelled without an apostrophe. 

In 1968, the Federal government, as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. When the legislation took effect in 1971, some states began to move the observance back to November 11th. In 1978, with popular support, the Federal holiday observance reverted as well. 

For some years, the Legion Post in Woodsville has led other veterans groups for a ceremony  at the veterans monument on Woodsville’s Central Street. The ceremony draws up between 40 and 100 participants and spectators depending on the weather and the day of the week on which Veterans Day falls. The veterans groups also sell poppies.

Veteran Leonard Dobbins told me that Veterans Day ceremonies had been held in Bradford for decades. Scott Johnson, Bradford’s American Legion Commander, said that for some years a short Veterans Day observance were held at the Bradford Gazebo.

 In 2010, at a special Veterans Day assembly, Oxbow High School and River Bend Career Center dedicated an honor roll to the students, faculty and staff members who have served in America’s armed forces.  The plaque is located next to the flagpole on the front lawn. On November 8, 2018, the Bradford Historical Society met with the students and staff at the high school to honor veterans and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice.   

On November 11, 2011, Bradford dedicated Veterans Honor Rolls for its veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The ceremony, which took place in the auditorium of the Bradford Academy, was attended by about 150 local residents, including some 6th graders from the Bradford Elementary School. The attractive wooden panels with engraved name plates were crafted and donated by Copeland Furniture.  

In 2012, Piermont’s Veterans Memorial was moved from its location in front of the old town hall to become the center piece of the new Piermont Memorial Gardens in the South Lawn Cemetery.

In May 2016, the Veterans Memorial that had been placed on Bradford’s Memorial Field in 1965 was moved to a more prominent location on the front lawn of the Bradford Academy. The dedication of this new setting was part of Bradford’s 250th celebration. 

There are no living World War I veterans in America.  Frank Woodruff Buckles passed away in 2011 at age 110. He was “our last living link” to that Great War. The ranks of World War II veterans are rapidly being depleted and the obituaries of  Korean and Vietnam conflicts veterans are increasingly common.   

This year, as in other years, newspapers will include mentions of Veterans Day in columns and advertisements. Television programs will make note of the day and may mention the centennial observance. Some businesses will close and others will offer special deals to service personnel and veterans. Veterans’ groups will hold ceremonies. Concerts, parades and wreath-laying ceremonies will be held across the nation. Flags and poppies will appear. Some will raise a glass to departed comrades.     

In November, 1926, The United Opinion featured a retrospective editorial entitled “Back to Plowshares” heralding the return to normalcy in the general population. But it went on to say, normalcy came to “…all except the shattered shell-shocked bodies and the bereft minds and morale of the unfortunate heroes. To them, then, is due all deference and reverence on Armistice Day, the first to respond, yet the most futile to restore and recompense, for an imperishable service.” 

For Veterans Day, 2018, with a whole new group of veterans returned from conflict, this is a timely message.  






Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Closing the Books

CENTER OF LOCAL TRADE. Built in 1871 by Nelson Tewksbury, the Newbury Center store and post office was the retail location for this hamlet. (Photo by Sue Martin) 

OLD AND OLDER STORES GONE.  Two of Fairlee's historic retail outlets are pictured. In the background is the 1846 Brick Store that was destroyed in a fire in 1982. In the foreground is the Colby Block that housed a number of stores from 1910 until it burned in 2007. (Fairlee Historical Society)

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During the years, Bradford's Main Street has experienced a pattern of businesses opening and closing. Perry's Oil is gone. It has been replaced by Thomson Fuels and Alarmco.  Pictured above is the going out of business sign for North of the Falls shadowing the stone reminder of the Doe Brothers that occupied the storefront for many years.  The Space on Main will open on Oct. 12, 2018 and occupy the space left vacant by the demise of Hill's Five and Ten.

“I’m not much of a shopper, really, but I still feel a pang of regret when a local store with loads of history closes the books on it.”

Dan Mackey, Valley News , July 14, 2018

In July, Valley New columnist Dan Mackey wrote an article entitled “When All Shopping Was Local.” As a West Lebanon resident, his observations centered on that part of the Upper Valley. Informative and entertaining though it was, no mention was made of those retail stores that have come and gone in our immediate area.

This column will attempt to fill that void. It describes the rise of the first local country stores, the impact of village retail centers and  summary of those factors that have challenged those centers.. Faced with scores of local examples, I have used samples of retail establishments to illustrate historic trends. Information was taken from local town histories and newspaper as well as online sources.

Pioneers who settled this area were subsistence farmers and generally produced most articles they used. The few other consumer items they needed were brought overland on sleds or wagons, depending on the season, and on flatboats on the Connecticut River. Additionally, farm families would barter agricultural products for items from local craftsmen, including blacksmiths and shoemakers.

Col. William Wallace of Newbury was one of the first to establish a store. Beginning in 1775, he sold items he imported. As there was a general shortage of currency, he would accept fur, pot and pearl ash, ginseng root, handspun cloth or labor for the items families needed.  Early store owners or traders would stockpile local goods until they had enough to ship to down country markets. 

Some of the  other early stores in the area include the following: Jonathan Conant in Lyme, 1785; Gen. John Montgomery, North Haverhill, 1793; James Cameron, Ryegate, c. 1797; Josiah Marsh, Wells River, 1799; John Hill, Groton, c. 1802 and Daniel Wheeler, Orford, 1804.  Micah Barron opened the first store in Bradford around 1800 and opened stores in East Corinth and East Topsham between 1808 and 1810. General stores opened in each of Thetford’s villages at about the same time. 

Old account books indicate that the earliest country stores kept a limited number of items. “Indeed, but for the trade in ardent spirits, they could hardly have existed at all.” As the demand grew, the variety of  items carried increased. In 1814, Thomas Barstow’s establishment in Wells River offered dry goods, groceries, drugs, books and ardent spirits, “very much indeed of the latter.”

Population concentrated around hydro powered mills and transportation crossroads, leading to commercial villages in Bradford, Wells River and Lyme. With the expansion of the railroad at Woodsville, mining near West Fairlee, and tourism in Fairlee, those villages also developed retail offerings.    

Bradford in the 1850s was an example of the development of the mercantile economy. In addition to three hotels and a livery stable, there were five merchants that sold dry goods and groceries. These stores offered everything from medicines,  crockery, ready-made clothes and hardware to spices and ironware. By the 1870s, there was also a shoemaker and two tailors as well as four milliners along with harness makers, a dentist and three blacksmiths. 

Wells River continued to develop as a commercial center. By the 1880s, there were commercial buildings along Main Street offering consumer goods to customers from that village and outlying rural area.

The coming of the railroad  made it easier for merchants to offer a wider variety of good. It was not unusual for local merchants to offer items manufactured from both throughout the nation and from abroad. The changes in society brought an enhanced consumer demand for merchandise and retailers met those demands.

The coming of the railroad also made it easier for mail-order businesses such as Sears-Roebuck to offer merchandise sent directly to the consumers.  With the introduction of Rural Free Delivery in 1896, rural customers had access to a variety of merchandise beyond that offered by local stores. 

Woodsville was the last of the commercial centers to expand. The 1919 history of Woodsville lists the following businesses: five grocery stores, one jewelry store, two hardware/furniture stores, two banks, several clothing stores, one barber, three lawyers, three doctors, one hospital, one druggist, two hotels and a number of restaurants. 

Stores were generally owned by local entrepreneurial families and therefore reputations were highly significant. Distance of travel to the commercial center determined how frequently customers came to shop. As many stores were specialized, shopping entailed visits to a number of outlets.

Generally, the customer would approach the counter and indicate to the store staff the items desired. As many products were purchased by the store in large boxes or barrels, many items had to be weighted out and wrapped for the customer. Weekly or even monthly trips to the local general store also meant devoting some time to catching up on local happenings. 

The arrival of the automobile changed shopping habits. Trading was no longer as local and could be undertaken more frequently. A shopping trip from Corinth to Bradford, for instance, was no longer an all-day activity.

There were also peddlers selling tin ware and notions and salesmen with ice, meat and milk delivery wagons who visited rural areas. Even into the mid-20th century, the Sunbeam and Grand Union delivery men continued that practice.

In the 1940s, local retailing underwent major changes. Self-service grocery stores like First National and A & P, began to appear in commercial centers. The local First National stores, including those in Bradford, Fairlee and Woodsville, were supplied out of a regional distribution center in North Haverhill.    

Called supermarkets, these self-service stores offered aisles filled with a variety of food and household products. Customers pushed carts around, perhaps stopping briefly to order from the meat counter where the butcher would assist with selections. Checkout staff generally knew the regular customers and, depending on the lines, might spend a bit of time in conversation.     

In a similar fashion, department stores were likely to offer a larger selection of consumer products, organized into sections devoted to shoes, clothing and other supplies. Five & Ten Cents variety stores in Bradford and Wells River were examples of this type.  

In 1967, Bradford historian Harold Haskins described the mercantile profile of that community as a shopping center for area residents. Families made frequent trips to Bradford to take advantage of some of the following: one bank, three automobile agencies, two barber shops, a frozen-food bank, five beauty shops, a dairy, a greenhouse, two fuel dealers, three bottled gas dealers, eight gasoline stations, four plumbers, seven motels and cabins, a laundromat, three-year round restaurants and one summer dining room, a public typing service, and a funeral home.

There was also two doctors, one veterinarian and three dentists. Stores included three chain food stores and four independent, a meat market, three general hardware stores, a Five and Ten store, a men’s furnishing and jewelry, two ladies’ shops, a children’s clothing store, a furniture store, four appliance dealers, a drug store, a television and radio shop, three feed dealers, a state liquor store, two auto parts stores and a mail-order service.

These are in addition to two real estate brokers, three insurance agencies, three painters, four carpenters and builders, two electricians and a woodworking shop.

Growing up in Orford in the late 40s and 50s, my family made frequent visits to Bradford for many of the things we needed.  School shopping meant a visit to Hill’s and Doe Brothers. Bowling alleys and a movie theatre offered entertainment. My parents did their banking in Bradford and stored extra food in the frozen-food bank.

 Stores were open on Saturday night as many people got their paycheck that day. Even when it was changed to Friday night openings, crowds of shoppers made the weekly open night similar to the later Midnight Madness events.    

The four decades that followed saw major changes. Grocery stores became larger in a series of replacements. In 1963, a 5,000-square foot Super Duper opened in the former Bradford bowling allies and then moved to a new store on the Lower Plain. That store later became Grand Union, then P & C and in 2012 was taken over by Hannaford’s. That chain’s new 35,000-square foot store opened in 2012 and serves customers from throughout the area.    

In 1978, Gould’s of Piermont moved from the village to a new store at the corner of Rt 25 and River Road. Before being destroyed by fire in 2000, it also housed Stop & Save and Bronson’s.

Woodsville’s Butson family was involved in grocery sales for one hundred years. Known as People’s Market and later Butson’s, the grocery store occupied several buildings in central Woodsville and in 1985 moved to a new building on Rt. 302.  Shaw’s now occupies that site.

In Fairlee, the closing of the First National allowed Thetford’s Wing’s store to open in 1964 in the Colby Block. Its current store to the south opened in 1995. There continued to be a number of ”mom and pop” convenience stores in villages throughout the area.

In the 1960s, Rockdale’s, a large chain discount department store, opened in one of Lebanon’s abandoned mills. At first, items were often displayed in bins with every effort made to reduce overhead.  It was the beginning of a series of changes that challenged local retailers.

In 1967, a Forest Hills Factory Outlet opened in the former First National warehouse in North Haverhill.  It was replaced by the Ames store in 1975. Ames moved it operation to a new store on Woodsville’s Central Street in 1990. That store closed in 2002. Three years later Ocean State took over the building. Walmart opened its superstore in 2008. 

In 1969, Vermont adopted a sales tax on retail sales. New Hampshire did not, putting Vermont businesses along the boarder at a competitive disadvantage.

By the mid-1970’s, I-91 was extended to St. Johnsbury. That opened larger commercial centers in St. Johnsbury, Littleton and Lebanon to local shoppers. Predictions that Rt. 5 would become abandoned, with grass growing from the cracks did not materialize, but the impact was felt on some area business that could not compete. Areas adjacent to exits became a magnet for new businesses.

Scores of locally owned businesses opened, changed hands or closed during the period after 1964. In some cases, the businesses had served the area for decades.

Newer residents of the area may not recognize the following businesses that have disappeared: Doe’s Brothers, Erskine’s, Wells River’s Five & Ten, Clark’s IGA, Borden Walker-- Furniture King of the Valley, McLam’s Hardware, Hebb’s Store, Grossman’s, Martin’s General Store, Crossroad Pharmacy, Gove & Morrill Hardware, the Groton Village Store, Ryegate’s Corner Store and Perry’s Chrysler-Plymouth dealership.

To that list were numerous restaurants that opened and closed, as is the custom in that type of enterprise.

At the same time, new enterprises have been added. Those include Fogg’s Hardware, Wells River Chevrolet,  Copeland’s Factory Store, Subway, McDonald’s, Farm-Way, Oakes Hardware, Family Dollar, Colatina,  Kinney Drug, NAPA, RiteAid and Valley Floors. Some of these are locally owned either as independents or franchises. In addition to services or products, all  offer employment opportunity to  local residents.   

In 1993, the closing of  Bradford’s Hale’s Furniture and Gove & Bancroft Pharmacy led to suggestions that the business district was “rapidly becoming a ghost town.” The recent changes on Central Street in Woodsville with the loss of Hovey’s and in Bradford with the closing of Hill’s Five & Ten and the departure of Perry’s Oil may, again, raise that specter.

 In response to the earlier rumors, the late Charles Glazer wrote in the Journal Opinion that other businesses  would move in “to take up the slack.”  The opening of Thomson Fuel and the anticipated opening of The Space on Main on October 12 at the same time that North of the Falls is closing seems to indicate a mixed future for Bradford’s Main Street.

Added to the impact of the interstate highway, the Vermont sales tax and the arrival of businesses without close local ties is the rise of the internet. Sites such as Amazon offer a selection of items that even superstores like Walmart may not be able to provide. That leaves local store having to compete both with other local stores and a world of internet offerings.

With all of these forces going against them, it is not unreasonable to expect further changes in local retails. Do not be surprised to see “Going Out of Business” signs on your local favorite store.  Unless you want to share in Dan Mackey’s “pang of regret,” shop locally as much as possible. As one local bank’s radio ad suggests, the dollar spend locally is magnified as it circulates around the community. That was true in times past and remains true still.             


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Meeting Cancelled, Permanently

CRYSTAL LAKE I00F LODGE HALL. Built in the 1870s, the Post Mills Odd Fellows Hall house lodge activities as well as many community events. It still stands in the middle of that village.

GOLDEN AGE OF FRATERNALISM.  During the period from 1860 to 1920s, male-only groups such as the one pictured above med in lodges throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. While their ceremonies and regalia varied, they offered men opportunities for fellowship and civil involvement.
This well-worn 1894 honors Thomas Widley, the founder of the first Lodge of American Odd Fellows, Baltimore, April 1819.  A British emigrant, Widley brought the order from England to America. Surrounding his portrait are the symbols and activities of the order arrayed in a complicated mosaic.

Bradford lodge of the Knights of the Golden Eagle met for a few years following their establishment in 1898.  Next to their banner is the stamp of the Improved Order of Red Men which met locally for a short time.

July 25, 2018 Journal Opinion
“When a community gets the “get together” habit, reforms can be easier accomplished, and each man can look his neighbor in the face and say, with St. Paul, that he is the ‘citizen of no mean city.’”  St. Johnsbury Caledonian, Dec.18, 1907

In 1835, visiting French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville observed, “Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all disposition are forever forming associations.” In 2000, political scientist Robert D. Putnam wrote in his national bestseller Bowling Alone, that the nation was experiencing a decline of “active civil engagement.” That decline was characterized by the loss in membership and active participation by volunteers in traditional civic organizations.

Many organizations that have characterized local civic involvement for years in New Hampshire and Vermont have ceased to exist. Their memberships have melted away with age and conflicting interests.

This column describes some of the men’s groups that existed locally in times past. It is the first in a series that will, in future columns, cover groups for women and youngsters as well as literary societies. A future column will also describe the history of the Masons, Grange and Modern Woodmen of America.

This column details the history of just a few of the numerous organizations that have existed over the past 200 years.  Those selected are examples of once vibrant groups that have faded to near or complete oblivion and is in no way meant to suggest that others were not just as important to their host communities.  

The period from the 1860s to the 1920s was the “Golden Age of Fraternalism.” In 1899, there were over 200 different fraternal, benevolent, social, insurance, political, religious and temperance societies in the nation, many of them with secret ceremonies. 

The International Order of Odd Fellows is an example of a fraternal organization whose chapters or lodges once played an important civic role locally. The organization began in London in 1730 and spread to the United States in 1819. The title is thought to have been taken from the “odd” behavior of gentlemen in carrying out charitable work.

The first local lodge, Moosehillock Lodge in Haverhill Corner, was established in 1848. Bradford’s Champion Lodge and a lodge in Orford followed. The Haverhill Lodge surrendered its charter in 1858 and was reestablished in Woodsville in 1876. Lodges were also formed in Post Mills (1872), Barnet (1880), Wells River (1881), Groton (1900) and North Haverhill (1902).

With hundreds of members in both states, the Odd Fellows focused on individual improvement and social service. They also played an important social function by holding public dinners and dances. 

In 1851, the Odd Fellows became the first fraternal organization to have an affiliate auxiliary with open membership to both men and women. Known as the Rebekahs, affiliate lodges were opened in: Bradford (1890), Wells River (1892), Woodsville (1892), North Haverhill (1903),  Barnet (1895), Post Mills (1895) and Groton (1902).  

It was common for lodges to acquire property and erect lodge halls.  Crystal Lake Hall still stands in the center of Post Mills. The Bradford chapter owned what is now the Old Church Theatre until selling it in 1970. At one time, Bradford was considered as a possible site for the Vermont Odd Fellows Home, but lost out to Ludlow, where it still exists. 

All of the lodges mentioned above have ceased to exist. Some just surrendered their charter whereas others merged in a vain attempt to remain active. The Bradford Lodge closed in 1977 and merged with Barnet’s Connecticut River Lodge until it too closed in 2000. There are just seven active lodges in Vermont with 162 members remaining. From a high of 72 lodges, the Rebekahs have shrunk to six lodges and 109 members.      

The Knights of Pythias was another fraternal organization that grew during second half of the nineteenth century. It was founded during the Civil War with the objectives of “reestablishment of friendship and confidence” among Americans. The organization’s Vermont Grand Lodge was instituted in St. Johnsbury in 1889. By 1929, there were 32 lodges or castles in Vermont with 2,536 members. Nationally, there were nearly a million members.

Locally, there were lodges in Groton, West Topsham, Haverhill and Woodsville. In 1919, 100 members gathered at West Topsham for a Field Day complete with a supper and torch parade The Mount Gardner Lodge in Woodsville had a drill team and band and provided various financial and medical for members in need. In 1908, one newspaper article described its annual Easter Ball as “one of the leading social events of the season.”

As with other fraternal organizations, the Knights had both several higher levels of lodges and both youth and women’s auxiliaries. By the 1940’s, the local lodges had disbanded. There is no evidence of this organization currently in either state.    

One of the most unusual organizations was the New England Fat Men’s Club. It was established in Wells River in November 1903. At a time when “bulbous and overhanging abdomens and double chins” were indicative of wealth and success, this club met at Hale’s Tavern on the village’s Main Street.

Operating under the motto of “We’re fat and we’re making the most of it,” individual members observed “I’ve got to be good natured; I can’t fight, and I can’t run.”  Despite that observation, the annual gathering often included athletic contests, like the 50-yard dash. That was in addition to a nine-course dinner and entertainment.

The United Opinion described the game supper the club held in 1911 at which time the club claimed a membership of 5,000. The event got front-page coverage as the club’s secretary was publisher Harry E. Parker. At its height, this professional network of businessmen had a membership of twice that number, including members from around the nation.

Between 60 and 100 members met in Wells River for the annual meeting. Each was required to be at least 200 pounds at time of registration. In 1923, former President Howard Taft, well-known for his portly stature of about 300 pounds, joined the meeting. But just four years later, after some of the original members died, the group ceased to exist.

 In April 1909, the Bradford Brotherhood, a Methodist group, organized the Bradford Young Men’s Club. In its first year, the club organized baseball games and a fair. In 1926, the Bradford Men’s Club was established and, until at least 1939, promoted Bradford economically and provided social services in the community. In 1946, it was reorganized as the Bradford Community Club. 

The Community Club made substantial contribution to Bradford for over 70 years. Those included assisting with the operation of the Connecticut Valley Fair, turning a swampy area along the Waits River  into  Memorial Field, building the Bugbee Landing, assisting with the development of the Pierson Industrial Park and holding an annual Strawberry Festival. 

At its monthly meeting, the men voted to support youth groups, staff the local Prouty SAG stop, work at the Bugbee Landing and take stands on town issues.  Prior to the completion of I-91, the club sponsored the information booth on Main Street.

 In 2017, with membership declining, the remaining members decided to cancel further meetings, although individually several of the traditional projects have continued to be carried out by former members.

There have been several labor groups organized around specific local industries. In 1885, the South Ryegate local of the Granite Cutter’s National Union was organized. It stated purpose was, by collective action, to remedy the unsatisfactory working conditions for the approximately 100 men working at the Blue Mountain granite industry. The next several decades both confrontation and cooperation characterized the workers’ relationship with the granite companies’ management.

The Ryegate Paper Company was unionized in 1907 for a short period. The workers again unionized in 1944 as the East Ryegate local of the United Paper Workers International Union. The union remained through changes in management until the mill was closed permanently in 2001.

Beginning in 1921, three railroad labor groups met in Woodsville. They included the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, the Order of Railway Clerks and the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen. Their presence was indicative of the former importance of the railroad to that community. 

Some organizations appeared briefly and then disappeared. The Ethan Allen Castle of the Knights of the Golden Eagle was established in Bradford in 1898. There was no mention of this organization in Vermont after 1907. The Improved Order of Red Men had 10 tribes in Vermont in 1906 including locals in St. Johnsbury and Barre. The Woodsville tribe was organized in 1899 and existed until at least 1905. Despite its title, the organization’s membership was exclusively white men. 

The only evidence of this organization in Bradford is the following 1890 tongue-in- cheek news item: “There is no truth to the rumor that the Bradford Guard are to be called out to suppress the Hoccomocco tribe of Red Men in the area. The latter don’t indulge in firewater or the ghost dance.  Their existence is somewhat shadowy though.”

There have been other short-lived men’s groups over the past century and a half. In Bradford those include the Oriental Palm and Shell (c. 1884). West Fairlee had an Athletic Club (1898) and Corinth had the Men’s Welfare Club (circa 1921).  Haverhill had the Knights of the Maccabees  (1899) and Woodsville had Moose and Elks Lodges. For a short time in the 1920s, organizers of the Ku Klux Klan in the area passed the group off as a worthwhile civic group as well as protector of the status quo.     

Some of those short-lived organizations may have had a noteworthy albeit fleeting impact.  One such group was the Connecticut Valley Jaycees. Targeting men under 35 from all walks of life, the group was chartered in Bradford in 1965 and immediately became a major participant in community activities. They held field days, sponsored the Junior Miss pageant and raised funds for the new local mental health office. The local won many awards from the state organization.

 When the original group aged beyond 35, they rechartered the  then defunct Bradford Lions Club and continued many of the activities for a short time before disbanding. The Thetford Lions cooperated with the Bradford group in hosting several field days at Gray’s Field in Fairlee.  The Thetford group no longer exists.

There are currently several area Lions Clubs. The Cohase Lions Club gathers members from the Woodsville-Wells River area and is very active in sponsoring sports activities and granting scholarships. The Orford-Fairlee Lions have fewer active members and sometimes struggle to find workers for their activities. Both of these clubs opened membership to women in an effort to be both inclusive and viable.   

The Cohase Rotary Club, originally named the Woodsville-Wells River Rotary, was formed in 1926.  On the verge of disbanding last year, it has had a revival under the leadership of the new president Monique Priestley with membership going from 4 to 12 in the last few months.  

In “Bowling Alone,” Putnam suggests that voluntary civic organizations have been replaced by the “individualization” of leisure time resulting from the rise of television and the internet. This is not the first time new technologies have raised havoc with local activities.

 In beginning of the 20th century, local appearances by visiting musicians and lecturers as part of the Chautauqua circuit were very popular. Then, in the 1920s, that popularity  waned. I asked the late Bernard Crafts, the local  Chautauqua organizer, about the sudden loss of interest. He quickly responded, “the coming of the radio and the automobile.” 

There is no doubt that residents of our area have new interests other than belonging to volunteer civic groups. Many are drawn to groups and activities that benefit themselves and their families with much less emphasis on the ceremonies that characterized some of the groups in the past. 

\With that being said, thank goodness for those who are willing to devote time  to the “getting together habit” in organizations that help to make our communities better places.   


Monday, June 4, 2018

Good Dog, Bad Dog

OUR DOG HENRY. This 8-year old standard poodle is better than medicine at keeping his staff (the author and spouse Carolyn) healthy and busy with walks, play and trips in and out of the back door.  He is one of a long line of dogs we have owned and is generally a good dog. 
Journal Opinion May 30, 2018
This Currier & Ives print features a Newfoundland dog having rescued a child. This breed of dogs possesses a natural instinct to rescue individuals from drowning. There are numerous 19th century stories of these dogs participating in water rescues.  

For centuries dogs have either scavenged for their food or accepted leftover from the family meal.  Around 1860, English businessman James Spratt introduced the first commercially-prepared dog food to the British market. It became available in America in the 1890s.

DOGS OF WAR.  Since colonial times, dogs have worked with American soldiers.  They have been guards, messengers, scouts and companions. It is estimated that scout dogs saved 10,000 American lives during the Vietnam War.  Pictured are several of those canines accompanying American soldiers in that war. 
"Osmo’s a year and a half old chocolate lab. And I have not been his biggest fan.  He’s been so naughty, but I’ve realizing now that he belongs with us. So what if he’s eaten $600 worth of shoes.”

Jennifer Martin Benware, Bradford, VT, 2018 

On May 16, this newspaper published the 2018 Pet Parade  The photo feature highlighted dogs as well as other pets. This column describes the roles dogs played in our history. Sources include A Dog’s History of America by Mark Derr, Pets in America by Katherine Grier, newspaper archives and stories sent to me by local residents.

While searching my collection of local histories, I found almost nothing on local dogs. They were so taken for granted the authors did not find them noteworthy. Even earlier local newspaper stories were likely to be about dogs from afar.  

Canines were humans’ first domesticated animal and their roles in human culture were well established by the time they accompanied their masters to this hemisphere over 30,000 years ago. For Native Americans, they were guards, hunters, beasts of burden, companions, and, in some cases, worshiped or eaten. 

Dogs also accompanied European settlers to the New World. In early New England, colonists used dogs to guard homes, manage livestock, kill wolves and vermin, power machinery, pull carts and pursue enemies. Species included mastiffs, spaniels and greyhounds.

Although unmentioned in local histories, it seems likely that settlers of this region brought dogs with them as companions and protections against the dangers of the frontier. Since they were untaxed, dogs were not mentioned as possessions or listed in wills.

 In 1853, Vermont historian Zadock Thompson wrote, “In Vermont, each family in the country usually finds it convenient to keep one dog…in the villages a few dogs are kept, better if fewer.”   

While not all wandering dogs created problems, tramps or uncontrolled dogs have always been a problem. Some were merely “free range,” following their owners or patrolling their neighborhoods. As scavengers, they were somewhat desirable. In 1877, the Bradford Opinion said that a dog “that wanders, looking for a handout or a chance to steal whatever he may find to eat.” It reported that Orford’s Willard Brothers had a tramp dog “which all people will do well to pass on the other side.”  This spoke to the  fear of attacks, dog bites, rabies, and hydrophobia, believed to be a symptom of rabies in humans. 

These fears were not unfounded. Local newspapers carried stories of humans being attacked by “mad dogs,” but most reports were from locations afar.

As early as 1801, several urban areas passed ordinances forbidding dogs from running at large. In one case, they were required to wear wire-basket muzzles. These cities also attempted to control wandering as a cause of unwanted pregnancies. Some cities sponsored “dog killing sprees.”

The attacks that were local and caused considerable damage were against livestock, especially sheep.  In 1878, the St. Albans Messenger carried an article calling for a “more stringent” control of dogs.  It quoted one farmer who believed that “sheep would prosper if dogs were annihilated.” The article used the word “slut” in reference to these  “miserable mongrels.” An article in The United Opinion in 1886 suggested “A dog is only a civilized wolf anyway.” 

Locally, dog attacks on sheep  created a “sad havoc.” In 1877, dogs killed more than 20 sheep belonging to Mrs. H. Keyes of Newbury. In Vershire in February, 1884, it was reported that a dog “killed forty sheep recently, and its owner has just sacrificed the animal.” In 1900, the Smith family of South Newbury abandoned sheep because of the damage inflicted by dogs.

The Vermont Department of Agriculture report of 1920 reported that the damage inflicted by “four worthless curs” was an example of dogs that “slink off and destroy sheep or kill poultry…and even kill hogs and small cattle. You must control the dog!”

 There have been a few reports of dog attacks on sheep in this newspaper in the last 30. Iinterviews with those who keep sheep today indicate they keep up their guard, but attacks are not a significant problem. 

Attacks on deer were, and still are,  another problem. Local articles from Newbury and Vershire in the first decade of the 20th century refer to deer being harassed by local dogs. The 1892 report of the Vermont Fish Commission stated that the use of dogs to hunt deer is illegal and the law permits the killing of dogs running at large and killing deer. Leash laws have limited the number of dogs allowed to run without supervision. New Hampshire has a state-wide leash law while Vermont leaves it to individual communities. 

Licensing was another technique used to control dogs. Vermont required dogs to be licensed in 1876.   Individual towns in New Hampshire began that practice as early as 1871 and the state  began requiring towns to license in 1891. Towns collected fees and placed them in a dog fund from which compensation for damage caused by dogs against sheep was paid, “but it  was never enough.”        

While attacks on livestock and deer were prohibited, hunting dogs have been prized. Orford’s Mt Cube is said to be originally named Mt. Cuba in honor of a favorite hunting dog killed by a bear on its slopes.     In 1871, it was reported that “Edgar Bragg of West Fairlee has a dog that has caught and killed one hundred and five woodchucks during the summer and is good for as many more.”     

While earlier dogs, on the whole, had been “mistreated and held in contempt,” by the mid-19th century, many dogs were looked upon by their owners as good, loyal and adoring pets. Generally, dogs ownership reflected both the personality  and economic status of owners. The wealthy were more likely to own purebred dogs while the poorer often had mixed breed common dogs as companions or workers. 

Breeding purebred dogs became more common in the mid-19th century. In 1884 the American Kennel Club was created to promote them. Dog shows were held to exhibit the breeds best specimens. Dorr writes that some imported breeds became the object of fads. One of the most popular was the St. Bernard. In 1887, The United Opinion suggested “Everyone should see these noble animals.”

By the 1880s, the Scotch collie became the new fashionable dog followed by the Boston terrier.  Breeders treated dogs as a consumer products  and skillful breeding changed their shape and markings to meet the customer demands.

Images of dogs began to appear in commercial trade cards, greeting cards, calendars, children’s books and as ceramic figurines.  Increasingly, stories of dogs implied that they possessed human emotions. Theft of valuable dogs was not uncommon.

Articles on the treatment of dogs proliferated. The New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was established in 1842, one of the earliest animal welfare groups in the nation. Despite calls for it, the Vermont SPCA was not established until 1889 and  cruelty to livestock seemed to be its first focus.

In 1893, The Country Gentleman included the following: “If you own a good dog, do not kick him outdoors when you go to bed and tell him to shift for himself.  He cannot expect to remain a good dog long.” The United Opinion published a long article in January, 1895, on kindness to house dogs, with suggestions for housing, feeding and bathing. 

Many families fed their dogs food scraps from their tables, bathed them in homemade soap and doctored them at home.  Around 1900, commercial dog food began to appear. In 1908, an ad for Spratt’s Famous Dog Cakes & Puppy Bread appeared in a Vermont newspaper claiming “What oatmeal is to Scotch children, Spratt’s food is to Dogs.”

Dogs have always played a role in America’s armed services. During colonial wars, they were used hunt enemies and haul supplies. Soldier dogs accompanied units in the Civil War. “Mike” was the pet dog of the 1st Vermont Calvary. In World War I, “Stubby” a pet for the Yankee Division, was decorated by General Pershing and was made an honorary Sergeant. In addition to being companions for soldiers, dogs carried messages, detected hidden bombs, acted as guards and scouts and hauled supplies, functions they continued to perform in later wars. In World War II, a dog named “Chips” was awarded a Purple Heart, despite having nipped Gen. Eisenhower.

Scout-dogs were used in Vietnam to detect ambushes and find booby traps. It is estimated that they saved 10,000 American lives during that conflict. The bonds that developed between the handlers and their dog in that and later conflicts, have been tearfully chronicled as, after 1971, they are reunited in America following discharge. 

Dogs also played a role as police dogs and became attached to fire companies. Their extraordinary sense of smell and an ability to be trained, made them invaluable as search-and-rescue dogs. Over the years, the same talents that led to the rescue of lost children was used to track runaway slaves and inmates. The same protective instincts that rescued families from attack or fire was used by police against protesters.  

The concept of training service dogs began in the 1930’s with assistance for visually-impaired. Service dogs now assist those who are hearing-impaired or suffer from a wide number of conditions including PTSD, epilepsy, stress and diabetes.

Some dogs have become famous. There have been Presidential dogs including FDR’s Fala and Obama’s Bo. Television and films have made Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Benji and Old Yeller dog screen legends. The Little Rascals had Petey while at the opposite end of entertainment dogdom, Stephen King’s created the  terrifying canine, Cujo.  

In times past, there were a number of dogs that caught the attention of the public. In the 1890’s there was Owney, the railroad dog. For a number of years, this postal dog hitched rides on trains throughout the Northeast. He would get off a different stations to “inspect” and was cared for by railroad employees. The United Opinion mentioned that about once a year Owney would take a trip through Vermont. 

In 1903, Bud, a bull terrier, rode shot-gun on the first successful cross-country auto trip.  Picked up in Idaho by Burlington physician H. Nelson Jackson and his mechanic Sewell Crocker, Bud was outfitted with googles for the remainder of the New York-bound excursion.

Locally, there were well-known dogs.  In 1897, a published report mentioned the death of Rover, “the faithful old dog” that belonged to Charles Smith of West Topsham. “His familiar figure will be missed by everyone in the village as he was a universal favorite.” That same year there was a “tale of a sagacious dog” from Corinth who sought help when its elder mistress Mrs. George Jewell fell while out of doors in a storm.

 And there were dogs known for their astuteness. In 1895, there was a report of a shepherd dog in Bradford that was especially adept at herding cows for his master. One day he abandoned his herding to run off into the woods. His master discovered that the dog had found a break in a fence and guarded it to prevent his herd from straying. In 1917, a tongue in cheek report was published about a Newbury Center dog who left the neighborhood in an attempt to evade taxation. That, the report concluded, was a “wise dog.”

I requested dog stories from locals.  I was told about Hockey Puck, the Rottweiller of Piermont who  fell into a manure lagoon while chasing a cat. There were Corkey and Rusty who saved a West Newbury youngster from the “threat” of a woodchuck. Tatters grew up in the 1950s as a partner in the most daring of imaginative adventures with little Cynthia. 

Teddy was a cocker spaniel just a few weeks older than his master. When the family moved from a village home to a farm, it took Teddy several years to stop making daily three-mile round trip to the old home. Sam was described as a “gentle protector” that once led a three year old youngster away from the dangers of a nearby road.  And, of course, there was Osmo, the shoe-destroying chocolate lab. 

If you were to look back at the photos in the Pet parade, you will see a number of good dogs.  Some were named  Shadow, Lacy, Moose and Brady. I am sure that the proud and loving owners of all dogs pictured would agree with author Mark Dorr: “We often say that a dog in a loving family is a lucky dog, but the really lucky party is the family.”

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Taxes of the Past: Rebellion and Revision

This notice was posted around Bradford in 1883 as a notice to taxpayers. Barron Hay, co-owner of the Prichard and Hay Store at the corner of Bank Street, served as treasurer for both the village and town of Bradford. A good choice as he was described as being "strong in business affairs." (Bradford Historical Society)  

TOPSHAM TAX TIME: In 1885, Finette (Jones) Frost, widow of John Frost, was taxed $9/76 on the Power Springs Road farm that she and her husband had established.  It was at a time when many
Vermont farmers were feeling the impact of property taxes levied by both the state and local governments. (Town of Topsham)

This 1942 poster was distributed by the War Production Board.  Financing war efforts from the colonial wars forward meant that governments had to raise taxes as well as borrow.

"previous to any law being made to raise a tax, the purpose for which it is to be raised ought to appear evidence to the Legislature to be of more service to the community than the money would be if not collected.’   Vermont Constitution, 1793

The earliest movement to separate the American colonies from Great Britain s inspired by the issue of taxes.  As soon as New Hampshire and Vermont were established as political entities, their governing bodies moved to collect taxes from the inhabitants to cover governmental expenses.

This column explores the history of taxation in the two states from their beginnings to the early 1940s.  Information was collected from town histories, newspapers and online sources. Especially helpful was the Vermont History article “The Evolution of Vermont State Tax System” by Paul Gillies. 

This history of taxation is too complicated and controversial to cover thoroughly in an article of this length. The following touches on just some of the major developments during this history..  

When I taught units on taxation, I described the characteristics of an effective tax system. These include fairness, with each taxpayer paying his fair share, based on ability to pay. The system should be adequate to meet the basic needs of government programs. It should be easily understood and complied with. Transparency of the tax system means easy access to information from collection to appropriations. Finally, it should not be too costly to collect.

Over the years, there has been general acceptance that “the best tax is always the lightest.” 

Governments levy taxes for a number of reasons with the need to pay for government programs being primary. So-called sin taxes are levied on items or behaviors considered undesirable, such as tobacco or liquor. Tariffs can be used to protect domestic industries. Licenses and fees regulate those who are allowed to practice a profession or activity. 

New Hampshire was a royal province from 1680 to 1776. Taxes were generally decided by the Royal Governor and his appointed Executive Council. The representative assembly was given the power of consent. Property taxes were levied based on the value of assets and on the assumption that those who owned the greatest amount of property were the most able to pay. Taxes were also levied on shipping, mills and craftsmen.

Once the pattern of taxation was established there were few changes until the 1770s. There was a consistent problem of concealment of assets from assessors and taxes were often met with “mutinous and rebellious disposition.”  

During the period from 1688 to 1763 there were a series of intercolonial conflicts known as the French and Indian Wars. New Hampshire communities found themselves on the front lines of those wars and the extraordinary cost of protection was borne in part by the province and its taxpayers. Lotteries, fees, fines and bonds offered some relief from property taxes.

Those expenses also created a financial burden for Great Britain. The resulting new taxes levied by Parliament on the colonies  were a major cause of the American Revolution.   

Most of the towns in our region were part of the New Hampshire Grants and were under the control of the provincial government. Until property transferred to resident owners, the initial taxpayers were often absentee proprietors. Local property taxes were determined by meetings of the eligible male voters. 

The lack of a stable and convenient currency created a problem for local tax collectors. Local taxes for  the town church, roads and schools were often paid in kind through labor or crops. Taxes paid in corn or wheat put the local government in the produce business. In 1791, Haverhill’s highway taxes could be paid “in labor at three shillings per day, or other articles in proportion.”

 Although it continued to be a policy until the early 19th century, taxes to support the town church created resistance from some locals.

As Vermont became a separate entity, the cost of government was borne in part by the sale of property confiscated from Tories. The resulting low tax burden made Vermont attractive to new settlers. Except for a state tax on towns to pay for the war, state government’s needs were small and the attitude toward new taxes was very conservative. In towns such as Corinth, suffering from the financial recession of the late 18th century, the threat of property seizure was needed to assure compliance.

Early in their statehood, both states made a major change in their voting laws and allowed all free adult males to vote without a property requirement and with the payment of a small poll or head tax.

Both states and their local communities recognized the need for public education. By 1810, district primary schools supported by property tax were established in area towns. In 1811, for example, Newbury voters raised one cent on the dollar of appraised value for schools. In  1828, New Hampshire created its Literary Fund, marking the first time that state funds were allocated to towns.

In 1849, New Hampshire became the first state to authorize towns to levy taxes in support of public libraries.  Vermont followed suit in 1865.

During the same period, the national government relied on tariffs and an excise tax on liquor as major sources of income.  They were controversial. In 1791, the federal government placed an excise tax on distilled liquor to pay for the debts of the Revolution. In 1794, the farmers of western Pennsylvania  were in openly revolting against that tax.

A series of tariffs passed by Congress to protect northern industries from foreign competition was a major cause of the sectionalism that resulted in the Civil War. To finance that war, the United States passed the first federal income tax in 1861. Local towns were saddled with debt from  bonuses they awarded to local combatants.  

Like during the colonial period, assessment of property remained a problem. Property owners were allow to appraise their own property. With some assets easily hidden, the system was open to underreporting and fraud. It was not until 1833 in New Hampshire and 1841 in Vermont that full appraisal by local listers was established. 

An article in The New England Farmer in 1860 referred to property tax as being “unjust and oppressive.” This inequality of taxation had “a tendency to discourage young men from engaging in agricultural pursuits. Farm and stock cannot, like cash and notes of hand, be concealed.”  There was also the problem of taxing standing timber prior to it being harvested. This practice help to encourage deforestation.   

In the latter half of the 19th century, both states frequently tackled with tax issues. New taxes were levied in both states against railroads, financial institutions and telegraph and insurance companies. In 1896, Vermont passed its first inheritance tax.  

These new laws impacted local businesses. In April 1898, the following notice appeared in The United Opinion: “On account of the excessive state corporation license tax, the North Thetford Water Company voted to annul their charter and cease to do business as a corporation.”

New laws defined the responsibilities of local communities, their power to tax and the role of the grand lists and listers. In 1890, Vermont passed a law requiring towns to appropriate funds for the support of public schools. 

All levels of government attempted to deal with tax evasion. Notices in The Vermont Phoenix in 1882 referred to the significant penalty for failing to report an accurate personal list of taxable property. In Vermont it could result in a doubling of the amount due, while in New Hampshire the offender was forced to pay a quadrupled tax.  

A search of Vermont newspapers reveals that local tax collectors or treasurers published notice of taxes due. They often set up collections in local hotels and offered discounts for early payment. As communities took on new responsibilities, taxes were increased. For example, as free bridges replaced toll, towns had to assume the financial burdens involved. 

An example of the impact of local taxes can be seen in the 1891 statistics for Newbury. The town’s grand list was $15,599, a figure that represents one percent of the appraised value of taxable property.  The voters had accepted a town tax of 50 cents and a highway tax of 15 cents. The latter raised $12, 479, which along with the town’s share of state highway tax helped Newbury maintain its extensive road system.

Two decades later, The United Opinion carried the following: “ There is a prospect of a 90 cent school tax for the coming year instead of $1. Let us all rise up and sing ‘There is sunshine in our home today.’ The taxpayers of Newbury should congratulate themselves in the able and business manner their affairs have been conducted this past year.”

Not was all sunshine. Property was seized for non-payment of taxes, with seizures increasing during economic downturns. In 1887, the assets of the Vermont Copper Mining Company in Vershire were sold in a tax sale.

There were those who often felt they were not getting a proper return for their taxes. In 1896, a resident of the Ricker’s Mill neighborhood complained that there was no local benefit from Groton’s snowrollers. “We pay our taxes and get little in return.”

In 1904, a letter to the St. Johnsbury Caledonian pointed out that taxing women without giving them the vote was taxation without representation.    

Despite that, property tax remained the principle source of revenue. As villages residents began to require services not needed or practical for rural areas, villages governments were established. The Woodsville Fire District was chartered in 1878, Wells River Village in 1888 and the Village of Bradford in 1890. Property owners within those district were taxed for sidewalks, village streets and fire protection.

The federal government expanded its tax base significantly in the first four decades of the 20th century. A tax on capital gains was implemented in 1913. In 1916, the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment cleared away legal challenges to a federal income tax. That year a federal estate tax was also passed. A federal gasoline tax was added in 1932.  In 1935, the Social Security program was created, with benefits going first to workers and later expanded to survivors and the disabled.

During the two world wars, the tax rates were raised to meet the expanded military budgets. During World War II, the government implemented payroll withholding of income taxes.  

During that same period of time, Vermont’s tax system underwent major changes.  During the first three decades of the 20th century, both states added or increased excise taxes on items ranging from gasoline and Christmas trees to ice cream.  In 1915, Vermont’s state property tax was increased to support reorganization of local schools.

World War I added costs to both local and state governments and taxes were raised accordingly. An article in several Vermont newspapers in 1919 stated that New Hampshire taxes had almost tripled and Vermont taxes had doubled in just one year. A portion of those increases were for bonuses for service personnel.

For the five years after the flood of 1927, Vermont adopted a special flood tax to cover the costs of rebuilding damaged public infrastructure. In 1929, both states considered adding an income tax.

In Vermont the Legislature adopted an income tax in 1931. It replaced the state highway and education tax as well as the general property tax. This tax became the basis of state revenues at that time.

In New Hampshire, an income tax was first considered in 1929 and then again in 1937.  While the state came close to passing the tax, the Boston Globe caught the opposing mood of the residents: “Around the big-bellied stove of a country store in a New Hampshire town men sit and growl about taxes.”

Since that time each  states have struggled with the need to finance essential government services. Vermont added a sales tax in 1969. Guarded by The Pledge against them, New Hampshire has resisted the passage of either a general sales tax or an income tax. Taxes on businesses, a state property tax and room and meals taxes are its major sources of tax revenue.

The Tax Foundation figures for 2015 show the differences between the impact of taxes in the two states. In Vermont, the per capita local and state tax burden was $11, 176 with 43.8 percent coming from property taxes. New Hampshire’s per capita was $8, 012 with 65.7% derived from property taxes. 

Throughout our history, taxes have been the topic of considerable debate and even rebellion. Most citizens begrudgingly pay their taxes. They are usually more willingly when the taxes support programs  of personal benefit.   

Their attitudes are somewhere between fiscal philosophy of the late U. S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Homes and the late New Hampshire Gov. Meldrim Thompson of Orford. The former said,  “I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.”  The latter said, “Low taxes are the result of low spending” Therefore, “Ax the Tax.”