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Tuesday, August 15, 2023

"School's Out, Job's In"


Journal Opinion

August 9, 2023


Boys At Summer Work. In the late 1940s, the most common summer jobs for boys was mowing lawns, pumping gas and restaurant work.  Girls were more likely to perform housework or child care. This seasonal employment gave young workers additional disposal income. Many use it for school clothing or to help their families. 

 “Girl, high school age, wants summer job, house, mill or office work.  Write Box 218, Bradford, Vt. “

A local girl placed this advertisement in The United Opinion in May 1933. She, like many other young people, sought summer employment.  Summer jobs is the focus of this column.

I placed notices in local community online sources and email listservs asking for personal stories. I received over 35 responses. The following draws from those responses as well as other sources and personal interviews.

Extended school summer vacation from school did not exist prior to 1900. It was previously thought that practice was driven by farm family’s needs. However, extra child labor is actually needed on farms during the spring planting and fall harvesting periods.

Both primary and secondary schools in our area had an 8-week summer term. In the 1880s, local village schools ended that term in mid-to-late July and often didn’t resume until late September, coinciding with harvesting.

At that time, city schools often followed an 11-month schedule. By 1900, the 9-month calendar became common for urban children who needed a summer break from hot classrooms. Increasingly, children from upper- and middle-class families used the break to escape from the cities. 

Other than for college students who sought seasonal employment at mountain or seaside resorts, there was almost no newspaper notices of summer employment for young people before 1920.

 By the 1940s, employment opportunities increased. The most common jobs for boys were pumping gas, mowing lawns, and restaurant work. Girls did housework and childcare. This gave young workers more disposable income.

What follows are some of the responses that I got to my inquiry about summer jobs. I have tried to deal with both the most common and those that were unusual.

Several respondents told me of youth employment that was questionable and in violation of child-labor laws, such as prohibitions on long hours at meager pay.

 In 1941, at age 10, former Fairlee resident Phyllis Graham said, she worked alongside her grandmother at a Bellows Falls chicken processing plant. Her grandmother was paid, but Phyllis was not. There were also 16-year-old employees who worked as an electrician’s assistant or in a hazmat suit removing asbestos

Beginning in the early 20th century, summer youth camps were established throughout the area. Camp counselor position and other camp jobs coincided with school and college breaks.

The camp economy also offered positions for camp office help, laundries and infirmaries as well as at the local businesses and train stations. As campers and counselors traveled outside the camps, they had an impact on local restaurants and stores. In 1910, a group of girls from a local camp descended on a Fairlee soda fountain and left the young local lad “quite beside himself.” 

 Orford’s Ruth Hook was among those who mentioned camp employment. Beginning in 1966, she worked at Camp Merriwood in East Orford. Her duties included washing dishes, preparing and serving food, mopping floors, and cleaning bathrooms. She worked six days a week, beginning at $25 per week and saved money for college.  

Tracy Paye Durkee shared her work experience at Newbury’s Camp Farwell’s laundry in the early 1980s

Local resorts and golf courses also offered employment for young workers during the summer. Ninety-three-year-old Dawn Houston of South Royalton’s first job was at a Lodge where she worked in the kitchen and as a chambermaid. “Work made me a dependable person later in life,” she wrote.

 Piermont’s Lake Tarleton Club opened its golf course in 1909 and hired caddies from Boston and local communities for the summer. As the resort expanded, there were opportunities for summer employment in the dining room, kitchen, maintenance, and caring for guests’ rooms.  

I received information from locals who worked at Fairlee’s Lake Morey Inn, Bonnie Oakes, and Rutledge Inn as well as hostels in Woodstock, Canaan, Mendon, and Hanover. Marilyn Welch-Fava of Thetford Center recalled earning an hourly wage of $1.25 plus tips as a chambermaid in the 1960s

Several responses mentioned seasonal employment at local restaurants. As early as age 14, young workers could start out as dishwashers and then graduated to food preparation or as waitstaff. 

 I worked as an assistant cook at Fairlee’s Kettledrum Restaurant in 1956. It was only open during the summer and employed college students as waitstaff and high school students as kitchen help. I was 14 and worked at least 60 hours a week for $25.

Nancy Jewel-Durkee wrote that while growing up in Bradford in the 1970s, she worked at the Chimes Restaurant on Main Street. She later worked at Lebanon’s Carter Mill. “If I wanted something, I had to work for it.”  

The first jobs held by many teens included picking strawberries and babysitting. Beginning in June, pickers worked to make money to buy school clothes or supplement the family income.

Many older residents spoke of picking strawberries as youngsters. In the 1930s and 40s, they were paid 2 or 3 cents per quart. In the 1950s, it increased to 8 or 10 cents. The field boss kept a sharp eye out for poorly selected berries or less-than-filled baskets. 

Many respondents wrote that their earliest jobs were in childcare. Bradford’s Amy Emerson said she both babysat and picked strawberries. “I spent my earnings on milkshakes and gravy french fries from Cootie’s restaurant.” 

In 1965, Bradford’s Wendy Wright placed an ad offering herself as an experienced babysitter for 30 cents per hour. Laura Allen Marsh, who grew up in Bradford, mentioned that by 2004 she might get as much as $30 for a day of childcare. At age 14 she also began working at the Grafton County Nursing Home for a minimum wage of $5.25.

In several cases, this summer position included spending time with the children at nearby pools and lakes. One spoke of spending the summer at the local pool as “a cake job.” Another wrote, “It was a way to work while still having fun as a kid.”

Fairlee’s Isaiah Washburn said that he first official summer job was as a gatekeeper for Thetford’s Treasure Island.  Like several others, he spent part of his time mowing neighbor’s lawns. His pay that summer of 2007 was deposited into his savings account or used to purchase new fishing lures.  

Children who grew up on local farms had chores from an early age. In the 1930s, Vida Perry Munson of Bradford grew her family’s farm in Corinth. Summer meant haying, and she was able to do all the related tasks, except mowing. “Girls didn’t do mowing,” She said.

“When you had a chance for a job, you grabbed it.” That’s how Fairlee’s Larry Martin spoke of working on a neighbor’s farm in the early 1960s. He began at age ten and worked about 50 hours a week for $10. He did barn chores and ran the tractor and bailer for three summers. “It was fun,” he recalled. He used his money for school clothes and a new bicycle. 

Another boy who grew up on an Upper Valley farm spoke positively of the experience. “Where else could a 14-year-old drive tractors, trucks, and bulldozers?” Still another said he got room and board and a 10-cent a week allowance for doing chores on his family’ farm.

Rev Jane Wilson of Wells River said that her first job was also in agriculture, but of a different sort. She worked in the tobacco fields near her home in Granby, CT. Shirley Beresford of Bradford has mentioned a similar job experience.

Local governments and retail stores offered seasonal and full-time positions for young workers. Vicki-Bacon Thomas, who grew up in Lyme in the 1970s, worked for the Town of Hanover and as a cashier at a P&C grocery store.

 At age 14, Alicia Plante of East Corinth stocked shelves at Huggetts’s store during the summer of 2003.To help her family, she also babysat, worked on neighboring farms, and mowed lawns. 

There were a few factory jobs open to older teens. Nancy Jones of Bradford recalls the hot and sticky job she had in the summers of 1962-63 at the Maple Grove Factory in St. Johnsbury. “It was a job,” she said. She used her minimum wage pay to purchase school clothes.

Bradford’s Dr. Robert Munson remembered working in the Bradford Vaneer and Panel Company during the summer of 1966. At $1.25 per hour, he saved $3,600 to purchase his first car. The next several summers, he served as a lifeguard at Lake Morey Inn and as a carpenter.

Several spoke of working with a family business. John Adams grew up in Lebanon. In 1961, at age ten, he began to work as a laborer’s helper with family members who were brick masons. In the following summers, he progressed in skills and duties. He also earned money selling night crawlers for a penny each and working at Lander’s Restaurant. 

Sometimes, summer jobs required workers to arrive earlier than teens might want. West Topsham’s Westy Copeland recalled working in a Vermont bakery “at some ungodly hour like 5 in the morning.” Jay Dunlap of Thetford said that his job on a tent crew in 1970 required getting up at 3 a.m. or before. “It was years before I could hear the sound of an alarm clock without a panic attack.”

The Pew Research Center reports that teen summer employment “follows a fairly regular pattern.” Jobs are more plentiful during good economic times, falling during and after recessions. In 2008, during the Great Recession, summer employment for 16 to 19-year-old Americans fell to under 30%. Now, as the nation recovers from COVID, youth employment has increased to 36.6%.

These employment figures paled when compared to earlier economic recoveries. In 1948, 56.6% of youth were employed in summer jobs., In 1956, “the Vermont seasonal summer jobs were at close to record levels.”  In the late 1960s, the Federal Summer Youth Program found jobs for high school students.     

The July 2022 figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics report that 55.3% of young people age 16-24 were employed. This is slightly less than pre-pandemic levels. It also includes those who have received permanent employment.    

The decline in low-skill entry-level jobs, shorter summer vacations, unpaid internships, and the lure of unpaid community service jobs to enhance college applications have impacted seasonal employment for high school students. Some positions that might be otherwise open to youth job seekers are being held by seniors who need the work to supplement their sixed retirement incomes.       

 There were other responses to the value of these summer jobs.  One said the job provided “life learning that was actually an adventure.” One woman who grew up in Wells River and worked at the local information booth, got her to meet “all types of personalities,” giving her a better understanding of people.  

Alexis Romano wrote of working at the Ice Cream Fore-U in Lebanon beginning in the summer of 2008. She loved the job and was promoted to shift supervisor. That gave her a “first taste of responsibility.”  She spoke highly of her employers, Jennifer and Meredith Johnson. “My work ethic and professional foundations were molded by both of them which has helped me became a successful leader in my career.  

Jay Dunlap said the summer of erecting tents “was a bad summer, but it was an education into how tough many lives are and continue to be.” Westy Copeland commented that she “learned how to work hard. Nothing comes easily.”

Isaiah Washburn mentioned that he learned valuable skills involving interactions with people and handling money. Others spoke of the value of manual labor and “a job well done.”

 While for most, the jobs they held during those summers of their youth were dead end, they believed that the positive work ethic learned served them well in later employment.  

Other jobs mentioned to me included hospital patient-sitter, drive-in car hop, library aide, concrete worker, bank teller, greens keeper, paperboy, and working in a family steam laundry.

 Summer jobs for local young workers offered a variety of skills. Some jobs were easy, whereas other were hard. Many gave young people an introduction to the world of adult work. Paychecks were spent on both fun and essentials.

 Looking back, they gave us a variety of memories that still linger as we consider those summer days of our youth. 

Monday, July 31, 2023

Beyond Milk

 Journal Opinion June 28, 2023

Established in 1889 as a farmers' cooperative, the Bradford Creamery on Creamery Road pooled the milk of numerous local farmers. The creamery initially produced butter, but later changed to cheese production. (courtesy of the Bradford Historical Society.)

YOGURT MAKER: This recent photograph shows Diane Wyatt of West Newbury pouring Jersey milk into the pasteurizer to make Sweet Cow Yogurt. The Wyatt family as been producing yogurt for sale since 2004. The yogurt is available at local outlets. )Courtesy photo)

The first European settlers in our area were farmers. Most of these farm families kept several “non-descript scrub” milch cows that provided milk, cheese, and butter for personal use. The now antiquated term milch referred to those animals kept explicitly for milk production.

 The History of Corinth indicates that an annual yield of 125 pounds of milk per animal was considered good in the town’s early days.  By 1800, some Vermont farmers began to raise livestock such as pigs, mules, beef cattle, and horses for export to regional markets. Of these experiments with livestock, sheep-raising was the widest spread.

 Eventually, these efforts were lost to the competition from newly developed land in the west. But by the 1860s, even this was on the wane.

The dairy industry gradually filled this vacuum. The following examines some of the dairy products produced from the milk produced by New Hampshire and Vermont dairy farmers. As most producers mixed the making of butter and cheese, the history of those dairy products overlaps.

At first, butter and cheese production were minor industries, conducted mainly by housewives.  These products allowed farmers to make use of highly perishable excess milk. Butter and cheese preserve the fats from milk for use in the winter.  Many farms had “cheese house” outbuildings.

“Butter season” generally extended from when cows were let out in spring pasture until fall.  Butter was churned at home, “put down” until cooler weather, and then taken to market.

The railroad’s arrival in the 1850s provided better access to urban markets for area dairy products. Spurred on by the attraction of better and surer returns, farmers “literally made a rush into dairy.”  By 1860, there were 175,000 milch cows in Vermont.

 Introducing breeds such as Holsteins and Jersey led to the production of larger quantities of high-quality milk.  There was increased attention to the care of animals and winter dairying was common.

Raw milk was highly perishable and so most of it was made into cheese and butter in commercial creameries. The introduction of the refrigerated railroad car led to the development of the Boston butter market.

Between 1850 and 1865, Vermont’s cheese production increased to almost 2 million pounds per year and butter to over 3 million pounds per year.

The St. Albans Creamery produced more butter than any other plant in the world. As the number of creameries doubled in the decade after 1890, state production peaked at 22.4 million pounds of butter in 1899.

Creameries were opened in Lyme and Bradford in 1888, serving farmers from surrounding towns. Soon   Bradford Creamery was making nearly 2,000 lbs. of butter per week, much of it shipped to Boston. .

By 1900, Haverhill had three creameries. The following year a another opened in Woodsville. All of these creameries produced butter and/or cheese at first.

Miler and Wells’ History of Ryegate states: “From the very first, this has been a dairy town.” Dairy was the source of wealth for Ryegate, and neighboring towns on both sides of the river. A new co-operative creamery was created in Newbury in 1892, and four creameries were established in Ryegate the following years.

The number of farms in Vermont peaked in 1880 at 35,522, with an average acreage of 138 acres.  According to the 1888 Orange County Gazetteer, Orange County had 3,460 farms with 13,072 milch cows producing 31,612 gallons of milk, 105,360 pounds of cheese, and over 1.4 million pounds of cheese annually.

Grafton County’s 1888 gazetteer reported 4,794 farms with 14,190 milch cows producing 153,104 gallons of milk, 1.4 million pounds of butter, and 201,455 pounds of cheese.

After that, Vermont farmers passed from “a system of extensive farming to that of specialized and intensive dairy farming.”  The number of farms decreased as farmers bought out their less successful neighbors.

 At the same time, rail connections with the Midwest meant that the butter and cheese industry still faced competition from Wisconsin and Minnesota. In response, the Vermont Butter and Cheese Makers’ Association was formed in 1898 to promote the sale of those dairy products. 

At the turn of the 20th century, hill-country farmers turned to fluid milk as the one product that could stand in the face of competition.  As farms closer to the northeast urban center turned to truck farming, the increased demand for milk was met by area producers.

By 1900, the number of cows in Vermont had risen by half over 1870 figures, while New Hampshire experienced a 27% growth.  One-half of the farms in Vermont and one-third of those in New Hampshire had dairy as their largest “crop.” 

Famers made the daily trip to the local creamery or railroad shipping station, their milk transported in 10-gallon cans. It was then transported to market in iced railroad cars on the daily “milk train.” The flow of fluid milk to market became a “river of milk” by the 1920s.

The years that followed brought both positive and negative changes to the local dairy producers. The introduction of electricity allowed for the use of milking machines and improved refrigeration. There were significant fluctuations in both the price and sale of fluid milk, causing many farmers to reduce their herds.  Economic problems of the 1920s and 1930s dramatically impacted dairy farmers.  The flood of 1927 was “the most staggering blow that Vermont agricultural interests had ever received.”

The number of dairy farms has declined every decade since. In 2021 there were only 56 dairy farms in Orange County and 583 in Vermont.

 During the heyday of dairy farming, The United Opinion frequently mentioned the price that local creameries paid for farm produced butter. In the 1890s there were also advertisements for homemade butter. Local butter box and tub manufacturing operations met the creameries’ needs.

As most milk was delivered from nearby farms, creameries were established in several locations within local towns. The East Topsham’s Green Mountain Creamery was organized in 1892 but closed in 1896 “for lack of patronage.” The more successful West Topsham Creamery began operation in 1893, and within a year, was producing 95,000 pounds of butter annually. It closed in 1929.

There were creameries in West Newbury, South Newbury, and Newbury village. Over the years, they consolidated with other local creameries. The Wells River Creamery produced butter and delivered it to both local stores and urban markets. It was later converted to cheese production.

 In 1919, Cabot Co-op was formed. Their first product was Cabot butter, often sold under the Rosedale Brand. Today, all their butter, including that made from Vermont milk, is manufactured by Agri-Mark in West Springfield, MA. 

In the 1920s, several local creameries were still making butter. In 1925, one article mentioned, “Vershire was right to be proud of her little creamery and the butter-maker.”  

The introduction of oleomargarine after the 1870s brought a bitter conflict over its competition with dairy interests. Termed “bitter” or” bogus butter,” this product was promoted by the meat industry as a use for excess suet and by the cotton seed industry. The dairy industry conducted a campaign against oleomargarine. 

One of the significant battles in the “Oleo Wars” was over the coloring of the bogus product to resemble real butter. Efforts by both New Hampshire and Vermont to require margarine to be colored pink, blue, or green were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court did uphold a special tax on the product itself. 

By law, oleo was sold as a white block that looked like lard. Users had to mix the accompanying dye to make the product resemble butter. This federal regulation was overturned in 1950.

In the 1960s, health advocates began to promote plant-based alternatives to butter. This further damaged the butter industry.

Past and present, there are several examples of local home butter makers. Until the mid-1960s Bradford’s Golda Benjamin was known for what would now be artisan butter. Families would visit her home in what is now Farm Way’s gift shop to purchase molded imprinted butter.

Since 1988, Kathy Barrett of Lyme has continued a family tradition of butter making. On the River old-fashion sweet butter is produced from her 4-cow herd and sold at the Norwich Farmers Market and from her home. 

Artisan or cultured butter is also currently being produced by other small operations such as Ploughgate Creamery in North Bennington. There is a growing market for butter, as recent evidence indicates that the moderate use of butter is not as harmful as previously thought.   

Another dairy product that has risen in popularity is yogurt. It was introduced in Vermont and New Hampshire in the early 1950s. One of the first local yogurt advertisements appeared in 1951. It was for the Kilfasset Farms of Lyndonville.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the alternative food movement encouraged yogurt consumption. In 1972, a demonstration of Vermont yogurt making was featured at the Eastern States Exposition. 

 In 1969, Balkan introduced an electric home yogurt maker offering “fresh yogurt overnight.” In 1974 Salton Corporation introduced its popular household yogurt maker. It remained popular until commercial yogurt brands became more widely available. 

Locally-made commercial yogurt brands began to be produced in New Hampshire and Vermont. Cabot brand yogurt was first advertised in 1971 and was widely distributed by the 1980s. Butterworks Farm of Westfield, VT began producing yogurt with milk from their Jersey herd in 1976. Stonyfield Farm of Wilton, NH began production in 1983 and, from its Londonderry facility, has grown to be the second leading brand of organic yogurt in North America.

 In 2011, Green Mountain Creamery brand award-winning yogurt began production in Brattleboro.  In 2013, the Vermont Yogurt Company of Orwell began producing yogurt from the thick butterfat of their Jerseys. Other New Hampshire producers include Huckins Farm in New Hampton, and Benedikt Dairy in Goffstown.

One local producer is Sweet Cow Yogurt of West Newbury. From a single Jersey the Wyatt family began to sell yogurt from a booth at the Norwich Farmers Market in 2004.  In 2009, they became licensed and with an enlarged herd of three, they now sell 15 flavors of fruited yogurt in small cup containers at a number of local outlets.

Cheese-making has a long history in the area. At county fairs in the late 19th century, there were awards for the best homemade farm cheese. However, there was concern that skim milk cheese and “half-made cheese” were depressing the market.

In 1888, there were no local cheese factories, but by the 1920s several creameries produced cheese. The Bradford Creamery, established in 1889 as a cooperative, initially made butter from local milk, but changed to cheese production. Located on Creamery Road, it “enjoyed the reputation for producing the first cheese in this county.”

 In October 1921, the creamery workers produced 250 boxes of Neufchatel and other fancy cheeses daily. The daily production of Greek cheese amounted to 600 pounds per day with shipments, to both domestic and foreign markets. Its dozen workers created these cheeses from a wide farming community. It was said that even after it closed, the odors of Greek cheese lingered. 

In the 1930s, the Cabot Co-operative Creamery added the production of cheddar and cottage cheese. By the 1960s, their products were winning awards, including the World Champion for their sharp cheddar.

Country stores often featured a large wheel of country cheese, cutting wedges to meet customer requests. At home in Orford, we referred to this cheddar as “rat-trap cheese.” In typical kid fashion, we referred to softer cheeses as “stinky-feet cheese.”

 In 1895 George Cochran wrote, “We hope the time will come when New England people will be able to detect good cheese and finding it will encourage it.”

That time has come. According to the Vermont Tourist website, there are more than 45 cheesemakers in Vermont. Using milk from sheep, goats, and cows, “the variety of cheese seems almost endless… more than 150 varieties available.” From the World Cheese Awards to the World Championship, Vermont cheeses are known worldwide.

There are several local cheese makers currently. Corinth’s Three Cow Creamery produces a variety of raw milk English and French cheeses for sale at the Norwich Farmers Market. The Robie Farm in Piermont produces toma and gruyere which they sell from their farm store on Rt 10.  

 Despite the sharp decline in the number of dairy farmers, there are still Twin State producers of quality cheese, butter and yogurt that make their products available at local outlets. Buying their offerings will confirm why so many of them are award winners.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

We Remember Their Sacrifice

 Journal Opinion May 24, 2023

Nineteen-year-old Nathaniel Westgate joined the 1st NH Calvary in 1863. He was taken and imprisoned in a Confederate prison where he died. He was one of 10,000 New Hampshire and Vermont men who died either of wounds or disease during the Civil War. 
King Dexter was one of 65 Topsham men that enlisted in WW II. He saw combat in North Africa, Sicily and Normandy before he was killed in action on July 16, 1944.  

David Hildreth of Warren was a member of Company D, 27th Engineering Battalion in South Vietnam. He died during a mortar attack on April 14, 1969. The local Baker River flood control dram was renamed in his honor. His name is inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC.

Memorial or Decoration Day was first recognized in the period after the Civil War so that “the memory of the brave deeds and nobles sacrifices of our deceased soldiers be kept fresh in the minds of the people.” It was observed annually on May 30 in some states. In 1971, the observance became a national holiday and moved to the last Monday of May.

This column recalls the courage and dedication of 12 local residents who served their country from the Civil War to Iraq. They are just a sample of those  who gave their lives while serving in the nation’s armed services.  

About 10,000 New Hampshire and Vermont soldiers died in the Civil War, both from action and disease. Several hundred were from the local area.  

Amos B. Chase, age 38, was mustered into Union service on Nov 20, 1863, and joined Co. H, 2nd Berdan’s Sharpshooters. Chase, a married man with four daughters and a carpenter, had lived in Newbury and Bradford.  Snipers or sharpshooters got their title using Christian Sharps’ long-range rifles. Their duty was very hazardous, and their effectiveness had a demoralizing impact on the enemy.

Chase was with Company H at the Battle of the Wilderness and the siege of Petersburg, VA, where they were on almost constant skirmishing and picket duty. On June 18, 1864, Chase was killed in action. While his name is on a headstone in Bradford’s Upper Plain Cemetery he is probably buried at the national cemetery near Petersburg.

Nathaniel W. Westgate joined the First NH Calvary in March1864. He was a 19-year-old from Haverhill.  His regiment saw action beginning in June. In early August1864, he was part of several successful cavalry raids targeting Southern railroads. On August 14, Westgate was taken prisoner near Winchester, VA.

 He spent the next five months in Confederate prisons under absolutely miserable conditions. The diary he kept chronicled his declining health. On Jan 7, 1865 he died at Danville Prison, VA. A comrade wrote of Westgate’s death, “thus another noble son of freedom has been lain a sacrifice upon the altar of his country.”  

In 1880, Haverhill-area veterans established the Nathaniel Westgate Post of the Grand Army of the Republic. The post was active in Decoration Day observances until at least 1912.    

All area men who volunteered during the Spanish-American War were in Co. G, 1st Vermont Regiment. They mustered into service on May 16, 1898. They never saw action during the few months of the war, but instead spent a horrible summer at Camp Thomas, Chickamauga Park, GA. They suffered from heat, poor water, typhoid fever, dysentery, disgusting food and lack of medical equipment. At times, 50% of the men were ill. Not one of the 27 members of the regiment who died from those conditions were from the local area.

When the regiment returned to Vermont in Sept 1898, they “were a skeleton of its former self.” Some of those who had contracted malaria or typhoid suffered from it for the remainder of their lives.

The United States was involved in World War I from 1917 to 1918. Over 36,000 men and women from New Hampshire and Vermont were in the military service.  That included over 650 local individuals, of which 35 died in service.  

Fred A. Cook of Post Mills graduated from West Point in 1906. By 1917, he had risen to the rank of major and assigned to the American Expeditionary Force in France. In Oct, 1918, he was part of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive as commander of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry. 

He was said to be “an inspiration to his men, and they would follow him in the face of murderous fire.” On Oct. 8 he was killed while “directing an attack on a strongly entrenched machine gun.” He was awarded the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism posthumously. He is buried in the American Cemetery near the battlefield where he “fell face to the foe.”  

In 1920, the Earl Brock Post 78 American Legion was formed in Newbury to honor the only soldier from that town who died in World War I. One of the first functions of the Post was to give military honors as Brock was buried in the Newbury Center Town House Cemetery.

Brock grew up in South Newbury and was one of 58 men from Newbury who joined the service. He enlisted in the Army in April 1917 at age 19. He was assigned to Co. E, 55th Telegraph Battalion of the Signal Corps, and shipped to France with the American Expeditionary Force.

As with Major Cook, Private Brock was part of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in Oct 1918. On the 28th, while constructing telephone wires under severe shell fire, he was struck by a shell. He died the following day.

His commanding officer wrote a letter to his parents, remarking on Brock’s “quiet and modest demeanor…efficient and effective in every duty he was called upon to perform.”  

Not all those who served were men or died from battle wounds. Bradford’s Josephine G. Barrett was a member of the Army Nursing Corps. The Corps required participants to be “unmarried, well-trained, respectable women, between the age of 25 and 35 and be a graduate of a nursing school.”  Barrett, 28 met those requirements.

 She was assigned to the U.S. Army Base at Camp Wadsworth, Spartanburg, S.C. She was the first Bradford woman known to have served in the nation’s armed forces.

In Oct 1918, the Spanish influenza epidemic hit the camp hard. Inundated with sick soldiers, military nurses were overworked and susceptible to the disease. Barret became ill, and on Oct. 13, she died.  She is buried in Bradford’s Upper Plain Cemetery.

Thousands of men and women from New Hampshire and Vermont were involved in World War II (1941-1945) and 295 died.

Charles R. Pierce of Orford was a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He grew up in Orford and described as “one of our most popular boys.”

 In Nov 1940, he volunteered for service, and after training was shipped to the Philippines, arriving before war broke out. In May 1942, after 120 days of intensive fighting, the Americans at Corregidor surrendered to Japanese forces. Approximately 9,000 Americans were taken prisoner and forced on what was known as the Bataan Death March. Pierce was among them.

The captives were imprisoned under appalling conditions and many died from abuse or disease. On August 3, 1942, Pierce and 14 comrades, died at the Cabanatuan Prison camp in the Philippines. They were buried in a common grave.

In 1950, the bodies of men from that grave were retrieved. The Pierce family travelled to the Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Mo.to attend his burial in the local national cemetery. A headstone with his name is in Orford’s West Cemetery.

On Dec 30, 1942, 24-year-old Raymond S. Wood of Woodsville was killed fighting the Japanese at Guadalcanal in the Pacific. Lt. Wood had been stationed there with the 182nd Infantry Regiment as an intelligence officer.

The battle at Guadalcanal was the first major land offensive against the Japanese forces. Wood and his men were involved in the battle for Sea Horse on the island’s north coast. He was mortally wounded leading a combat patrol against the enemy. In a letter to his family, his commanding officer wrote, “after being hit, he survived for about five minutes during which the men in his patrol opened themselves to heavy enemy fire to render aid.”

In the announcement of his death, The Groton Times described him as “a boy of good disposition, honest, frank, enthusiastic to better himself, most devoted to his family and scores of friends.”

Wood’s remains were not recovered from the battle site until 2008. At that time, he was memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery.    

 Sixty-five men from Topsham enlisted in World War II. King F. Dexter was one of two killed. In Oct 1942, at age 20, he was inducted into the Army.  He saw action in North Africa, Sicily and Tunisia before being transferred to England to train for the invasion of France.  

In June, 1944 his company was part of the Normandy D-Day invasion. In July, his family received a letter from him saying that he had been taken prisoner by the Germans but escaped the next day to return to his company.  

On July 16, Dexter was killed in action. He left behind his wife Norma and a son he never saw. In March 1949, his body was shipped by rail back to Bradford and met by a local American Legion post honor guard. He is buried in the East Corinth cemetery. 

In 1950, the United States was supporting South Korea in its fight against North Korean and Chinese troops. Before this conflict ended in 1953, over 190 service members from New Hampshire and Vermont lost their lives.

Lyme resident and Thetford Academy graduate Guy O. Chesley was among the first to give his life. At 19, he was an infantryman in Company L, 9th Infantry Regiment.

 In February 1951, his company was engaged in bitter fighting against Chinese forces at Chaum-Ni. In an attempt to control supply lines, the Americans were taking heavy casualties.

 On the morning of Feb 14, 68 Company L soldiers were found murdered in their sleep. That is the recorded day of Private Chesley’s death, but I could not determine if he was one of the 68 or if he died during the fighting.

Chesley’s body was shipped back to the States in August 1951 and after a memorial service, he was buried in the Lyme’s Highland Cemetery.

In the Spring of 1953, A similar memorial service for another member of the 9th Infantry was held in Orford.  Being memorialized was Cp1 Clayton Huckins, a 20-year-old who had joined the Infantry in July, 1950. 

His sister, Helen Huckins Marsh of Fairlee, recently spoke of her brother as “the go-to guy for things out of doors.” As a youngster he fished along Orford’s Jacobs Brook, “always investigating.” He was known as the type of “buddy who watch others’ backs.”  

On March 12, 1953, Huckins was constructing tactical wire around the company’s position near  a mountain known as “Little Gibraltar” north of the Imjin River. There had been heavy fighting against Chinese troops. He was recently awarded the Bronze Star for historic achievement and was scheduled to come home for his 20th birthday.

He received what was a mortal injury, but continued his hazardous work until unable to do so no longer.  His body returned by train to Fairlee and a memorial service was held in the Orfordville church on the banks of the Jacobs. He is buried in the Orford’s West Cemetery.

With improvements in medical care, the number of soldiers who survived even major wounds increased. However, during the Vietnam war, 197 New Hampshire and Vermont service personnel lost their lives.

On April 14, 1969, David W. Hildreth, a 19-year-old soldier from Warren, NH, died at Quang Tri Province. Hildreth had enlisted in the Army in February, 1968.

He succumbed to injuries from a mortar attack on the base camp of Company D, 27th Engineering Battalion. He never got to see his daughter born eight days following his death.

In a recent letter Hildreth’s cousin Gloria Bumford of Warren, wrote, “he was a typical country boy…who made the decision in later life to serve his country.”  

A memorial service was held in Warren, and he was buried in Glencliff’s High Street Cemetery. A 15-man contingent from Fort Devens conducted the full military rites.

On July 4, 1970, by Legislative decree, the local Baker River flood control dam was renamed the David Wayne Hildreth Dam.

Specialist Alan J. Burgess joined the Woodsville unit of the NH National Guard in 2002. He had grown up in Lisbon, Bradford and Landaff and graduated from Oxbow and River Bend. It was said that he was one who could easily bring a smile to others.

 His unit was deployed to Iraq as part of the 197th Field Artillery Brigade. On Oct 12, 2004. while on patrol as a vehicle gunner in Mosul, Iraq, he was killed by a car bomb. He was one of 65 from the two states who died in the post 9/11 wars.

In an Associated Press release at the time, his mother Karen Moore of Bradford, said “He had a love for his family and for his country. His needs were always last, everybody else came first…they were all there because they had to go.” 

He was buried in the Landaff Central Cemetery on Oct 25. 2004. In 2010, by Legislative action, the Salmon Hole Bridge on Rt 302 in Lisbon was renamed the Specialist Alan J. Burgess Memorial Bridge.

Burgess joined the hundreds of local residents who gave their lives in the military service. On Memorial Day, pause as you drive by a local cemetery. Notice the flags placed on the graves of fallen service members and remember their sacrifice.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Drugs For A Cure

A RECORD LEGACY DRUG STORE; From 1872 until 1974, the Mann family operated a drug store in the center of Woodsville. At left is the original site of the E.B. Mann & Co.  At right, the Opera Block housed the drug store after 1890. At the time it was sold it was said to be the oldest drug store business in the nation to be "continuously owned and operated by the same family."

SERVING A WIDER MARKET: Fairlee pharmacist Will Chapman (1866-1947) began as an Abbot's Drug Store apprentice in 1907. After taking ownership of the store in 1925, "he was favorably known by a large clientele."  He also held a number of town offices. Known for his athletic preparations, he supplied liniments and ointments for the Byrd Antarctic expedition in 1939. 

PATIENT MEDICINE EXAMPLE: This patent cough syrup suppression came to the market in 1874. As with other patient medicines, it contain toxic ingrediencies.

 Journal Opinion April 26, 2023

Bradford Drugs: "H. B. Poole takes great pleasure in announcing that he is opening a New Drug Store at the Union Building in this Village. He has a full selection of Medicines of every kind.” Orange County Journal, Sept 22, 1855

For over two centuries, area druggist and pharmacists  have sold remedies and medicines to both physicians and the general public. Some were stand-alone businesses, and others were part of general stores.  

This column covers the local history of available medicines and cures as they transition from home remedies and patent medicines to modern drugs offered by registered pharmacies. Local histories and vintage newspapers are the sources of information. 

Early physicians had few effective weapons against disease, especially in the face of epidemics. Standard treatments, such as bloodletting and blistering, often resulted in a high death rate.

Herbs were often used to combat the symptoms of diseases. Native Americans introduced both physicians and the general public to plant-based medicines. Those included hemp, red willow and white ash bark, and various roots.

Many residents relied on home remedies, some of which may have actually had curative properties. Vinegar and honey were recognized as helpful both as cures and for maintaining good health.  Garlic clove were used for insect bites and spruce gum for toothaches. Bread poultices were used to draw out infections.

On the other hand, some home remedies did little good or worse. A dirty sock or salt pork wrapped around the neck did not cure a sore throat. Neither Skunk oil to relieve congestion, or skunk cabbage root for asthma brought much relief.  

Apothecaries were chemists who produced and distributed medicines. Their shops served both professionals and the general public. Many physicians also prepared their own drugs.  

The profession started to take shape when colleges of pharmacy were established in  Philadelphia, Boston, and New York in the 1820s, but some locals still gained their knowledge as apprentices.  For a time, those who were trained used the title pharmacists, whereas those without formal training were known as druggists. There were no legal qualifications for either of these practices.  

 In 1852, a national organization of pharmacists was established in Philadelphia. In 1873, pharmaceutical associations were established in both New Hampshire and Vermont.  However, it was not until 1894 that Vermont established a state licensing board for both pharmacies and pharmacists. The following year licenses were granted to 325 applicants.  

During this time, the ill often turned to patent medicines for relief. These proprietary preparations, often with exaggerated claims, were trademarked but not patented by the government.

 Throughout the 19th century, there was an unregulated market for patent medicines. Easily accessible and inexpensive, they were sold as “healing elixirs, nostrums, salves, liniments, and tonics,” and guaranteeing cures for a wide range of illnesses. Some patent medicines actually provided the promised relief, whereas others did not. 

These products were numerous and widely available and they used extensive advertisements in newspapers, and almanacs, featuring first-hand testimonials as to their effectiveness,

Many patent medicines contained alcohol and drugs such as opium as active ingredients and could do more harm than good. For example, Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, used to treat colic in babies, contained morphine. It was advertised in Orange County from the 1850s to 1898.

Many popular soft drinks, including Pepsi and Coca-Cola, were initially marketed as patent drugs.  

Local druggists and doctors marketed their own versions of patent medicines too. F. H. Keyes of Newbury developed a broad market for Dr. Carter’s Pulmonary Balsam. It was developed by Dr. W. H. Carter of West Newbury, who practiced there from 1827 to 1853. The product was later sold to the Keyes, who peddled it locally and wholesale to a national market.  

In 1849, Carter wrote to a Boston Medical Journal that he “never designed it to be a secret remedy or nostrum; but it had been passed off as such.” As late as 1873, the Keyes were still placing ads warning about counterfeits of their camphor-laced product.    

Between 1866 and 1877, Bradford’s C. C. Doty was a manufacturer and dealer in Doty’s Mandrake Bitters. His advertisements promised “warranted cures” for a wide variety of ailments including piles, liver complaints, and “fluttering of the heart.”  It assured relief for “depression of spirits and constant imagining of evil.”

The unsavorness of patent medicines eventually invited scrutiny. The Progressive movement brought about the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 with federal interstate regulation to “prevent the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulterated or misbranded or poisonous or deleterious food, drugs, medications and liquors…” New regulations demanded listed ingrediencies, fewer false claims and truthful advertising.

Although the law helped curb medical claims, the impact was not immediate.  Mrs. Winslow’s morphine-laced soothing syrup remained on the market until 1930, even though it was potentially lethal to infants.

Lee’s Save the Baby cough suppression came to market in 1874.  Despite containing toxic camphor, it was marketed for both external and internal use.  In the 1940s, it was a standard remedy in my mom’s medicine cabinet. She would warm the bottle and rub a bit on my congested chest, followed by a spoonful administered internally. It tasted terrible but seemed to help.

Almost every local community, at one time or another, had physicians or druggists who manufactured, distributed, and/or sold medicines. Following are four legacy pharmacies that were mainstays in the commercial centers of the area for decades.  

Woodsville’s E. B. Mann & Co. was that community’s premier drug store from 1872 until its sale in 1974. After 1890, it was located in the Opera Block.  At the time of its sale, it was described as “the oldest drugstore business in the country continually owned and operated by the same family.”.

As with other area drugstores, Mann’s sold more than drugs. After 1895, there was a soda fountain. Blaisdell’s history of Haverhill describes the store’s other offerings in the early 20th century, “they sold soaps, sugar, ketchup, razors and strops, paints and wallpapers, and, except during Prohibition, a full line of spiritous beverages.”

The store also offered a selection of patent medicines, including several of Mann’s own making. Those include Mann’s Bitters and Mann’s Little Liver Pills.

The family sold the store in 1974 to partner Harold Wheeler who had worked for them since 1963. In 1985, it relocated to Butson’s supermarket and renamed the Woodsville Pharmacy.

In Newbury, there were a number of stores that sold drugs in the 19th century.  F. & H. Keyes of Newbury Village advertised a selection of patent drugs in 1851.  

In Wells River, Thomas Barstow’ general store sold medicines as early as 1814. In 1878, W. H. Eaton opened a drugstore on the village’s Main Street. It went through a series of owners and locations.

Around 1900, W. H. Buck was the druggist in Wells River. He is credited with developing the formula for what became known as “Bag Balm.” The Buck family continued to operate a pharmacy until 1924, when it was sold to W.A. Knight. Fourteen years later, in 1939, Knight’s Pharmacy was sold to James G. Thomas.

Thomas Pharmacy “became a fixture on Main Street.” In 1974, the pharmacy was sold to nephew Robert Brock and Duane Hobbs. The lunch counter was known as the “hub of the community.”

In 2002, the pharmacy was sold again and became known as the Wells River Pharmacy and continued to operate until 2017.        

In Fairlee, L. H. Granger operated a general store on Main Street as early as 1807. For a time, it was operated by H.F. Bickford.  In 1891, Dr. Chase from Orford opened it as a drug store with F. W (Fred) Abbot operating it. Abbott promised that the  store’s White Pine Cough Syrup would “positively cure your cough.” In the early 1900s, Abbott’s advertisements included testimonials offered as news items for various patent medicines, with satisfaction guaranteed.

The history of Fairlee mentions that Abbott’s penny candy counter included Zanzivars, cinnamon imperials, Ju-Jus, and licorice. Its soda fountain offered ice cream treats. 

In 1925, William Chapman, who had studied with Dr. Francis Gerald of Warren and been an apprentice for Abbott, took over the store.  In 1939, Chapman supplied Chapman’s Liniment and Chapman’s Ointment for Boils for the men of the Byrd Antarctic expedition. Newspaper reports mentioned that he was known nationally for his athletic medicinal preparations.

 Chapman’s son Leland assumed ownership in 1947 and ran the store until his death in 1988.  Growing up, Lee Chapman was my family’s pharmacist, as he was for most of those who lived in Orford and Fairlee. I can still picture him behind the drug counter in his white coat. In a newspaper interview, Lee’s son Will said, “My father ran the store; prescriptions were 90% of the business.” Unable to find a new pharmacist, the store discontinued the pharmacy portion of the establishment.

In Bradford, Main Street served as the location of a series of stores that sold drugs. George Prichard and Son’s  store opened in the 1840s.  In 1854, H. B. Poole offered his services as a druggist. About  1856, Dr. A. A. Doty opened an apothecary shop. 

H. G. Day’s Bradford Drug Store was opened in 1867, offering drugs, toiletries, patent medicines, and druggist’s groceries. Between 1888 and 1903, the store was owned by A. T. Clarke. Cunningham’s Pharmacy was opened at about the same time. Sisco Pharmacy operated in the Stevens Block from beginning around 1913 and introduced the Rexall brand. In 1925, Sisco sold the business to brothers William and Frank Gove.

In 1935, Kenneth Murdock and George Bancroft purchased the pharmacy. William Gove continued as a pharmacist and the pharmacy was renamed Gove and Bancroft.  William Gove’s nephew, Fletcher Gove, began his career at Thomas Pharmacy in Wells River before becoming a partner pharmacist in the Bradford store in 1959. 

Gove’s son Graham recently recalled his “dad’s patience and good-naturedness toward customers no matter their social or economic status.” He remembered that his father delivered prescriptions after hours to people who were unable to get to the store.

As with other pharmacies, Gove and Bancroft carried far more than prescription drugs. It was the place to go to have photographs sent for developing or to purchase reserved tickets for Bradford Academy’s senior plays. They carried a full selection of gifts and toys. Their “Rexall 1 cent” sales attracted many to what was advertised as “Your Family Drug Store.” 

In 1968, pharmacist Howard Search Jr. joined the pharmacy. In a recent telephone conversation, Search indicated he purchase the business in 1980 when Fletcher Gove retired. In about 1989, the pharmacy moved east across the street to occupy a newly-built store and remained there until it closed in 1992.

Search went on to explain that the practice of pharmacy had evolved dramatically during his career. When he began in 1962, there were lots drug compounding locally.  which he described as a mixture “between the art and science of pharmacy.” By the close of his work, work had become somewhat easier as it was more likely to be dispensing of pre-made pills and other pre-packaged prescriptions.

In about 1984, pharmacist Linda Michelsen opened Crossroads Pharmacy on the Lower Plain. At first, it was in a small location at the four corners and, in 1968, it moved to the former Green Frog store, now the location of East Coast Van. In 1999, New York-based Kinney Drug took over from Crossroad Pharmacy and occupied a new building on the Four Corners.             

In the past two decades, new local pharmacies have opened and others have relocated to new sites. In Woodsville and Haverhill, there are now instore pharmacies at Walmart and Shaw’s. There is also a   Rite Aid pharmacy, part of a national chain of pharmacies.  Bradford’s Hannaford’s has an in-store pharmacy on the Lower Plain.   

Many locals now have their prescriptions filled through mail-order pharmacies or online pharmacies such as Express Script, Optum RX, and Caremark. While the customers of mail orders pharmacies may get to interface with a distant pharmacist they lack the close personal contact they may have received from local and well-established community pharmacists.

Built over decades of operation, familiarity with the primary pharmacists at the four pharmacies mentioned above gave customers confidence in their work. Locals took their advice with the belief that the prescriptions they prepared would provide a path to improved health. 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Organized Women: Not Just Social


WOMEN'S CLUB WORKERS--In 1961. the Newbury Women's club took possession of the Methodist church building on the Common in Newbury.  As shown in this 2007 photo, the maintenance of this community building has been one of the club's projects. The club celebrates its 100th birthday this year.
Bradford's Fortnightly Reading Club members are shown in historic costumes in this 1916 photo. Begun in 1900, this organization was dedicated to public service and studying history and current events. In 1930, it was renamed the Bradford Women's Club, a group that exited until 1970. 
Journal Opinion, March 22, 2023

“By being involved in church or charitable groups, women were able to find companionship and a way to facilitate change in their community.”  Jane Cunningham Croly, Founder, General Federation of Women’s Clubs 1898

America has experienced a decline in “active civic engagement,” which has been characterized by a loss in membership in traditional women’s organizations. Many such local organizations have ceased to exist. 

This column details the history of women’s role in just a few of the many local causes and organizations that have existed in the past. Those organizations mentioned are just a sample of those that played an important role in their communities. 

Early gatherings of women often involved the “mutual assistance of textile production,” such as sewing circles and quilting bees. It was an opportunity for personal interactions beyond the family, especially essential during the long New England winters.

After 1820, many women joined “female charitable societies.” Their meetings included reading aloud religious publications and gathering items for the towns’ needy. “Feeling the worth of our time” was a phrase that summed up their efforts.

Before the 1850s, most women’s groups were either church-sponsored aid societies or affiliated with men’s groups. Outside of the church, women played a major role in establishing and maintaining public libraries. Women kept libraries alive as trustees, patrons, and librarians.

 In 1868 “a few ladies” established the Newbury Village Library Association, and Martha Tenney donated a library building. Woodsville’s Ladies’ Charitable Society was formed in 1871 to establish a village library. In the 1870s, Orford’s Hannah Willard Sanborn established a public library in her family’s store.

 In 1874, the Bradford Social Library Society breathed new life into “the lagging library organization by the contribution of $1 each from 63 ladies.”

 Laura Currier Whitney created a library in her Haverhill home in 1880. In 1898, Mary Benton donated the front room of her North Haverhill home and 500 books to create a library. 

Women also played a significant role in 19th century reform movements, including the abolition of slavery, the temperance movement, and women’s suffrage.  

In the abolition movement, women took a substantial role in anti-slavery petition drives and public meetings, but their role was a subject of debate.  As with many issues of the day, many felt that women did not properly belong in male-dominated groups.

When, in 1853, activist Lucy Stone spoke in Orange County, the local newspaper suggested, “There is something shocking in the idea of a lady’s going about haranguing men and women on political subjects.”    

In the 1870s, the creation of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in New Hampshire and Vermont gave local women a role in the battle against alcohol.  There were local WCTU chapters in East Haverhill, Piermont, East Corinth, Newbury, and Bradford. 

East Haverhill’s Ellen Ruddick Richardson was elected state WCTU president from 1899 to 1918.  She spoke widely on behalf of the movement and was recognized nationally for her work.  Women would go on to play a major role in the passage of the Constitutional amendment that created national prohibition. 

Through their leadership and advocacy, women played a significant role in achieving rights for women. In 1869, the New Hampshire Woman Suffrage Association was founded. A similar organization was formed in Vermont in 1883. These groups lobbied for voting rights, access to higher education, and equal pay for women.

Not dissuaded by early failures in lobbying efforts, these groups continued to seek reforms. As a result of the “constant heckling of the militant women,” voting rights in local elections for women were achieved.

Women’s service during World War I helped to tip the balance toward expanded voting rights. In 1919, the U.S. Constitution was amended to grant full voting rights to women. This was a women-led victory that was 70 years in the making.

In 1897, the National Congress of Mothers began what was referred to as an “experiment in every way.” It was focused on the education and welfare of children through the “mutual helpfulness” of local mothers’ clubs.

Between 1909 and 1920, the East Thetford’s Mother’s Club was one of the first in the area.  In the early 1920s, there was a very active club in West Fairlee Center followed by one in South Fairlee (1927).

In 1940, the Bradford Mother’s Club was formed to promote childhood education and parent-child relationships. By 1951, there were similar organizations in Waits River, East Corinth, and East Topsham.  Health clinics, pre-school activities and programs on child development were common.   

 Piermont, Thetford, and South Ryegate also had active mother’s clubs.

In the mid-20th century local public schools did not offer programs for youngsters before the first grade.  Pre-school mother’s groups were formed to provide these needed services. In 1949, a group filled pre-school needs in Waits River and West Topsham. Programs included health screening, and swimming and primary education lessons.

The following year, a similar group was formed in Bradford. It operated a pre-school program for members’ children. It was very active with both programs and fund-raising activities. Over the years it lobbied for creating pre-school programs within the Bradford school system. 

Even in the 20th century, church-related women’s groups were the most common type of women’s organizations. These groups were often the backbone of local churches providing workers and funding for church programs.  

Every local church had an active women’s group, known by a variety of names, including Women’s Fellowship, United Methodist Women, Ladies’ Aid, Catholic Women’s Club, Willing Workers, and the Guild.

They offered an opportunity for church women to gather together for mutual support in what is now referred to as women’s ministry. Their activities range from Bible study to organizing events and activities, mission support, and raising funds to support church programs and facilities. 

As a result  of their efforts, parsonages and churches were renovated, hymnals purchased, funeral gatherings had refreshments, shut-ins were remembered and church programs reflected a woman’s touch.  

In addition to specific church groups there was at least one non-denominational group. Organized in 1941, Church Women United combined the work of area church women.  It was part of a national ecumenical movement. Bradford’s Diane Smarro said the group “encouraged church women to come together in a spirit of community with others around the world.”

 Over the years, women of at least 14 area churches organized mission work, local charity efforts, UNICEF drives and annual World Day of Prayer observances. The last reported local activity was a prayer meeting in South Ryegate in 2004.

After the 1960s, there was a steep drop in the number of women participating in church women’s groups. Locally, this resulted from fewer potential members as church attendance declined. Mobility cut traditional ties to local churches. As women entered the workforce, there was less time or interest in participating in those groups. For several groups, the pandemic was the last straw.

When asked about the decline of the women’s group at Bradford’s Methodist church, member Connie Linnell of Topsham recalled that the group “took care of everything in the church but declined because young people didn’t want to go the meetings.”

Women’s auxiliary groups have formed in connection with men’s organizations. The Women’s Relief Corps was the first of several veterans’ auxiliary groups. That group’s local chapters helped war widows and orphans as well as disabled veterans. In 1901, Bradford’s’ Calista Robinson Jones was the national president of the Corps, and the group’s national headquarters was at her home.

 Women’s auxiliaries were formed after World War I when American Legion posts were established. They were chartered in Bradford and Wells River in 1921. Similar groups were formed as companion organizations for the Veterans of Foreign Wars posts following World War II. Both auxiliary organizations played an important role in community and veteran affairs.

There were also women’s groups attached to fraternal organizations. The Order of the Eastern Star was established in 1869 as an auxiliary for local Masonic lodges. While it included a few men, it was primarily a women’s group dedicated to friendship, personal growth, and community service projects. 

Eastern Star lodges were in Wells River, Bradford, North Haverhill, Warren, and Orford.  As membership dwindled, most of these vanished.  The Lodge in Bradford closed several years ago.  

Similarly, there were women’s auxiliary lodges for the Odd Fellows. The Rebekah Lodge #45 was chartered in Woodsville in 1887 and by 1916, had a membership of 205. Rebekah Lodges were established in Bradford in 1890 and in North Haverhill in 1903.  Additionally, there were local units in Post Mills, Wells River, and Barnet. All have been disbanded.

When Extension Services were established in Vermont (1913) and New Hampshire (1915), one of the programs was local Home Demonstration or Homemakers Clubs. In each county, a Home Dem Agent organized programs to improve the lives of rural women. 

There were clubs in each local community with some communities having more than one. Programs included information on topics such as cooking, health, gardening, and clothing.

In the 1890s, a new movement for women’s organizations led to the creation of the Federation of Women’s Clubs in New Hampshire and Vermont.  By 1889 there were 97 such local clubs in Vermont.  In 1915, the Bradford Fortnightly Club, East Thetford’s Thursday Club, and Wells River Study Club were among the locals.

 The Bradford’s Woman’s Club, which had existed since 1900, voted to disband in 1970. Like other woman’s clubs, it had played a significant role in the community.  These clubs suffered for some of the same reasons that caused a decline in church-related groups. 

The South Ryegate Women’s Club was formed in 1927.  Cindy Fraiser was the last president of the organization in 2005. She said the group organized programs to help the community, including building a playground and providing scholarships. “What is missing,” Fraiser said, “is the chance to get together with your women friends to do things for the community.”

As with many area women’s clubs and other organizations, the only mention of past membership and activities are in obituaries as members pass away.

 There are several local women’s groups that have survived the changes that have doomed others. One group that has continued to be active is the East Corinth Women’s Fellowship. The online description indicates that the group is “loosely associated” with the local church.

Sue Parmenter, who describes herself as the “head facilitator,” said that they have expanded to be more inclusive with women who are not necessarily church members. She said the club has about 50 members and meets about ten times yearly. 

The Oxbow Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution was organized in 1892 and continues to meet at Newbury’s Oxbow schoolhouse. Its area membership meets seasonally and contributes to “historical, educational, and patriotic causes.”

The Rondo, centered in Orford and Fairlee, is in its 103rd year and survived the pandemic to emerge strong.  It is “dedicated to supporting women’s needs, learning more about the world, and giving back to the community.”

Member Eva Daniels of Orford told me recently that there are about 40 current members. She added that the organization raises funds to share with  worthy local causes and that meetings often feature informative speakers. 

The Newbury Woman’s Club celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.  The club has its roots in the Lend-a-Hand Club organized by young women in 1910.  It was initially very active and assisted the Red Cross during World War I.  Interest waned until 1922-23 when the Newbury Woman’s Club was formed.

According to the Newbury history, the club has “continued its interests in education, legislation, government, the fine arts, crafts, recreation, and international relations, as well as civic affairs.”

There also continue to be informal women’s groups in the area.  Members gather to knit, garden, discuss books or share fellowship.  There are also a number of professional women’s groups and organizations dedicated to women’s rights and the prevention of violence against women. 

Women have also taken a prominent role in political and social advocacy organizations open to both men and women, as well as taking positions in all levels of government.  

As I write this column, there are hundreds of the world’s most influential women meeting at an International Summit in Abu Dhabi to celebrate International Woman’s Day.  Those women will forge new bonds and to work together to confront societal issues and create relationships that will last a lifetime.

Those are precisely the goals that local women’s groups have achieved for almost 200 years. In new ways, local women continue to generate both continuity and change in our communities.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Young and Restless: Youth Organizations


1910 postcard of Boston & Main Railroad YMCA, Woodsville, NH.

AMERICA'S FIRST SCOUTS:  In Oct 1909, a group of Barre boys under the leadership of William Foster Milne met at the First Baptist Church as the first Boy Scouts troop in the nation.  That organization is just one of many groups that provide youth with life-enhancing skills. 

Journal Opinion, Feb. 22, 2023

The history of American youth organizations spans more than 200 years. This column describes that history in New Hampshire and Vermont. These organizations were led by adults, but aimed at young people. Often the main targets were youngsters who might be at risk when outside the control of families and schools. Most organizations were started locally by concerned parents, educators, and pastors.  

Not all youth groups are covered here. Athletic youth groups and school clubs will not be covered in this column as they have been the subject of both previous and future articles. Small informal youth clubs are important, but will not be included as they usually come and go as interests waxed and wanes and kids outgrow them. That being said, secret club houses and handshakes create fond memories for many.   

Religious themes and church affiliations were significant for most of these early youth-oriented organizations. During most of the last two centuries, Sunday schools have been attended by a large number of local youths. For that reason, few other youth activities were held on Sunday morning.

 The Sunday or Sabbath school movement was established in Vermont in the early 19th century, with meetings in West Newbury as early as 1801. While Sunday school provided religious instruction to individuals of all ages, a significant goal was to reach children. 

After 1850, the Juvenile Mission Society movement established several chapters in Vermont and involved youth in mission work.  Centered in Baptist and Methodist churches it was recognized as America’s first national youth group. 

Local newspapers regularly reported on these church-based youth groups. In the 1880s, Woodsville churches were said to have “flourishing” Sabbath schools, a feature replicated throughout the valley.

In the 1920s, vacation Bible school programs were held locally during the summer. In Orford in the late 1940s, this program was held in the Orfordville Grange Hall.

 In the late 1940s, I attended Sunday School at the Orford Congregational Church.  I recall Grammy Sanborn leading us in the rousing Christian anthem “Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad.” We learned Bible passages and completed arts and crafts projects.  

In the early 20th century, there was a movement to reach older youth who didn’t fit into existing church youth programs.  Known as the Christian Endeavor Movement, there was a group in Bradford in 1887 and soon after in Piermont and Wells River.  It appeared to be non-denominational and included both religious and social activities.

By the 1940s, these groups had been replaced locally by Congregational Pilgrim Youth Fellowship and the Methodist Youth Fellowship.  A similar youth group was formed in nearby Presbyterian churches.  Until their decline in the later 1960s, these groups filled an essential religious and social function for older youth.    

There was also the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) which was active at Catholic Churches in Bradford, Wells River, and Woodsville from the late 1950s until the mid-1960s.

Newspaper articles in the United Opinion and the Twin State News regularly reported on local CYO events.  Youth participated in church events and socials, took trips to religious shrines, and met with other church youth groups.

One 1960 newspaper article mentioned young CYO member Ronnie Bonneau of Bradford. After graduating from Bradford Academy, he attended seminary. . Father Bonneau passed away in 2021, having served as a long-time missionary in Paraguay and as pastor in several domestic parishes.   

Originally founded in England, the first Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) unit was formed in Boston in 1851 as a “home away from home” for seamen and merchants.

The first YMCA locals were established in Manchester in 1854 and in Burlington in 1866. Over the following decades facilities were established in various larger communities in both states.  The organizations sponsored various social and recreational programs for youngsters. 

Also founded in England, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) affiliates formed in Vermont in 1919 and in New Hampshire the following year. The focus was described as “a voice for change.”  Over the years, its members have worked to empower women, fight discrimination and “promote peace, justice, and freedom.”

Both organizations encouraged physical activities.  This was especially significant at a time when young women were thought too fragile to exercise. They sponsored boys and girls summer camps at Vermont and New Hampshire lakes.  Locally, Camp Billings on Lake Fairlee was established in 1907.

There were no other local YMCA facilities, but both local newspapers had many items about local youngsters attending YMCA regional and state functions. This included camps, athletic tournaments, and conferences. Local students participated in the organization’s NH Youth and Government Model Legislature.  

Beyond religious affiliated youth groups, the now-popular 4-H youth development program originated in the Midwest in 1902.  By 1912, the group had expanded and adopted the4-H title and familiar 4-leaf pin.  Initially established in schools for after school activities, it soon became a wide-spread community organization. 

In 1914, as part of the new Vermont Extension Service, new 4-H clubs began to form. By 1916, there were 80 clubs in 65 towns throughout the state with a membership of more than 5,000 girls and boys.

It began in Grafton County in 1916 as the “Boys’ and Girls’ Agricultural Club Work.” Blaisdell’s history of Haverhill mentions dozens of 4-H clubs in that community.  Prior to 1926, East Haverhill had one of the first in the county. By 1927, there were 4-H clubs in Pike, North Haverhill and Woodsville.

The units were generally divided by sex, with boys learning crops and animal production, while girls were encouraged to learn domestic skills. Often a unit concentrated on a single skill such as canning, sewing, animal care or outdoor experiences.

As 4-H became the largest youth development organization, similar clubs were found in all towns from Piermont to East Thetford.

As with other communities, Newbury “had its full share of 4-H groups.” If displays at the North Haverhill Fair are any indication, many vibrant groups still exist today. For over 40 years, the Rocking Horse 4-H Club met in Piermont under the leadership of Joan Osgood. Two Bradford women recall their 4-H experiences. Nancy Jones recalls raising and marketing chickens as a 4-H project in 1957. “It was a great experience,” Jones said.  Bobette Scribner added “Stories for the lifetime came out of 4-H.”

A similar rural youth program was established by the Grange. The Grange was founded in 1867 as a national farmers’ advocacy group. The Adelphi Grange was established in Newbury Center in 1874. The Oliverian Grange was organized in 1876 in East Haverhill.  Grange units have played an active role in communities from Haverhill, Piermont, and Orfordville to Bradford, Thetford, West Newbury, and West Topsham.

For a century, the Grange has sponsored a program for children aged 5 to 14.  Its focus was to provide leadership training and life skills. Members of the Junior Grange held social functions and participated in skills contests and seminars. Local members attended special camping activities at Camp Ingalls, the 4-H camp in North Hero, Vermont.  At 14, youth could attain full adult membership in the Grange. 

Another fraternal society with youth-focused groups within its “family” was the Masonic organization.  In 1919, the DeMolay organization was established for boys 12 to 20. It was dedicated to teaching citizenship, leadership, and public service.  Locally, there were chapters in Wells River, North Haverhill, and Wentworth. Efforts to establish units in Bradford and Haverhill around 1967 never materialized.

Rainbow Girls was established in 1922 and created opportunities for community service and leadership for girls 10-20.  Newspaper notices mention this organization in Fairlee (1927), Bradford (1946), North Haverhill (1952), and Wells River (1960).

Two of today’s most recognized youth organizations are the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA.  The Scouting movement has been a significant offering for local youth for over a century.

Troop #1 of the Boy Scouts was formed in Barre VT in October 1909. William Foster Milne Of Barre had been active in the early scouting movement in Scotland.  He reorganized a group of boys at the First Baptist Church in Barre into a scouting troop. In 1910, Camp Abnaki in North Hero, VT opened as the first official BSA/YMCA camp.

A boys’ group, much like the Boy Scouts, formed in Woodsville in 1910 and received an official BSA charter in 1916. In 1912, a meeting for interested boys was held in Piermont and in Lyme the following year. Pike had a very active troop chartered in 1915. Haverhill followed in 1928 and North Haverhill in 1945.

In Vermont, a BSA troop met in East Corinth about 1921.  In 1925, this troop shared their enthusiasm with 28 boys in Bradford and that group was granted a charter. From the earliest days of the troops, the boys were taking hikes, working on merit badges, and performing community service. 

The Orford-Fairlee troop was established before 1947. That year, they sponsored a winter carnival with contests on the Fairlee common and skiing on the Ridge in Orford. A Carnival Ball topped it off.

A troop was chartered in West Topsham in 1969. After it was discontinued, the remaining boys joined the East Corinth troop and later the one in Bradford. 

Vermont Governor Deane Davis was a junior member of Barre Troop #1.  He later described the movement as “dedicated to teaching boys of immature years the basic principles of good conduct, good citizenship, crafts, the skills of outdoor life and self-discipline.” 

In 1962, Bradford’s Gary Moore achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, the first in his troop.  Recently, I asked Moore to respond to Governor Davis’ comment.  Agreeing with the Governor, Moore said his “Scouting years have had a major impact on my life…, I learned about teamwork and leadership…and community service.” 

Founded on the belief that girls deserved the outdoor living experience that boys had, the Campfire Girls was established in 1910 as a sister organization to the Boy Scouts.  It was established in Thetford and Sebago Lake, Maine by Luther and Charlotte Gulick and Charlotte Farnsworth of Thetford.  They believed that girls deserved the outdoor living experiences that boys had. As the Rutland Daily Herald wrote in 1911, the organization would “lead young femininity afield in a healthy, womanly way, and give the girls a chance to become acquainted with nature.”

Within two years, there were 60,000 members, with many attending associated summer camps.  The first of those was Thetford’s Camp Hanoum.  There was a campfire unit in Groton (1920), West Topsham (1924), and Piermont (1940).

The other sister organization was the Girl Scouts.  The first troop in America was in Savanna Georgia in 1912. It began a movement “where every girl could unlock her full potential, find lifelong friends, and make the world a better place.”

Perhaps the first local Girl Scouts l troop was established in Pike in 1918 and immediately began an aggressive program of “camping, badge-blasts and crafts.” Troops were established in other communities in the area including Newbury and Woodsville (1922), Bradford (1925), and North Haverhill (1943).

As with the Boys’ troops, local Girl Scouts groups sometimes waned only to be reestablished. The Fairlee troop renewed about 1950 and the Newbury troop about 1955. In 1959, Thetford’s Camp Hanoum was acquired by the Girl Scouts and renamed Camp Farnsworth. 

Reading the many newspaper notices of the Girl Scouts and Brownies, there is certainly more to the organization than cookies. 

Throughout history, American youth organizations have provided opportunities for co-ed activities. It was not uncommon for local scouting groups to hold such events. As locals often participated in district events, members met youth from neighboring towns or even from throughout the state.    

There were other youth groups. Some were locals ranging from a Young Farmers group in Piermont to teen center groups in Bradford.   

Since they first appeared in America, youth organizations have not been without their controversies. Exclusions from membership based on sex, age, race, or religious affiliation and controversies over subjects covered or activities undertaken. Funding shortages and adult misbehavior have weakened organizations effectiveness.  In some cases, the controversies led to the demise of the organizations while others were strengthened by their resolve to survive.   

 In 2014, the Vermont Legislature recognized Newbury’s Marilyn Fuller’s 64-year 4-H leadership in both Vermont and New Hampshire, “helping both youth and adults to learn, grow and work together.”  Fuller’s dedication is just one example of the many adults who made youth organizations work.  Some were paid while many were not.

Adults who grew up in these organizations recall their experiences and the life lessons learned, and the adults who made those memories possible. Despite the scandals that sully some, most of those who worked with youth were heroes. They were, and continue to be, the adult personifications of their organizations’ goal.  America’s youth are better off for them.   

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