Monday, October 24, 2016

The Book A Community Wrote About a Writer Who Changed History

 Cavendish, Vermont is known for having been the home of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Soviet dissident and Nobel Prize winner who lived there for almost 18 of the 20 years after being exiled from Russia. The town’s willingness to protect his privacy from outsiders is legendary and as a recent visitor to the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) Museum noted, “there is little on the Internet about Solzhenitsyn’s time here, other than people wouldn’t give directions to his house.” 

That is about to change, with the publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Writer Who Changed History. The author, Margo Caulfield, the Coordinator of CHS, explains that this is a community effort that started in the 1970s when a group of volunteers met weekly and clipped articles pertaining to Cavendish. Through their efforts, Solzhenitsyn’s time in Cavendish was well documented and these archives were key in writing the chapter “Life in the West.”

The inspiration for The Writer Who Changed History came from former third grader Isabele Gross. As part of CHS’s outreach to children, Solzhenitsyn’s experience as a Captain in the Russian Army during WWII was included along with the stories of other Cavendish veterans. Isabelle became extremely upset about how Solzhenitsyn was arrested on the front lines and imprisoned just because he wrote to a friend about his concerns with Stalin. She kept on saying, “This is unfair!” and had many questions including “Was he okay?” “Did they hurt him?” By showing her pictures of Solzhenitsyn living in Cavendish, his children and grandchildren, her concerns were eased. It became clear that having a book might be a better way for Isabele and other students to understand that Solzhenitsyn’s war experience was literally just one chapter in a very amazing life.

The Cavendish Community Fund provided funding for editing, while the Vermont Humanities Council gave CHS a grant to develop the book’s companion website.  Cavendish resident Katie Hamlin is the webmaster for the site, which includes a study guide and curriculum that teachers and book groups can use. Finally, private donations helped with other costs.

Caulfield states, “There were three things I thought were important. The book needed lots and lots of photographs that on their own could tell the story.” Thanks to the generosity of the Solzhenitsyn family, who provided the majority of the book’s photographs, some of these pictures, until now, have not been seen in the west.

Equally important was the look of the book. “It needs vibrancy and color. We don’t want kids turned off because it appears dark.” Another Cavendish resident, Julia Gignoux, was able to provide the right mix. Responsible for the layout and design, Gignoux made  TheWriter Who Changed History come alive, resulting in a final product that is appealing to all ages.

The third element was that the book had to include Solzhenitsyn’s writing. “When you mention his name, people immediately think of “Gulag Archipelago,”  but his body of work is vast and includes plays, poems and so much more. As much as possible I thought it important to rely on these resources so that Solzhenitsyn gets to tell his own story but at a level children will understand.” TheWriter Who Changed History includes excerpts from speeches, interviews as well as text from his books.

Of most importance are the people of Cavendish. Their cooperation and willingness to protect Solzhenitsyn from the prying eyes of the public, made it possible for him to complete “The Red Wheel.” That same Vermont spirit brought many locals together to make The Writer Who Changed History possible.

“Yes,” in response to a common question posed by longtime local residents, the book does contain a picture of the now famous homemade sign that hung at the entry of the Cavendish General Store “No Directions to the Solzhenitsyn Home.” And, “No,” is still the answer to visitors who ask for those directions.

In addition to having the book and website for students, teachers and anyone interested in Solzhenitsyn, there is a Facebook page and Pinterest board.  CHS plans to use these digital tools as a way to engage students from around the world in discussing issues that were of importance to Solzhenitsyn.

The book is self-published by CHS and is available for purchase locally at the Cavendish Town Office (37 High St); Minibees (1990 Main St), formerly the Cavendish General Store; and the CHS Museum, which is right next to Minibees. The book is available on-line at Create Space and Bulk purchasing is available by calling 802-226-7807 or e-mailing

All proceeds from the sale of the book will be used for the Society’s Solzhenitsyn Project, which includes a permanent exhibit, archives, education and outreach.

Margo Caulfield
Cavendish Historical Society
PO Box 472
Cavendish, VT 05142


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Vermont Celebrates Indigenous People's Day

Indigenous People's Day will be observed in Vermont in lieu of Columbus Day this year.
"Now therefore, I, Peter Shumlin, as Governor of the State of Vermont, do hereby proclaim Oct. 10, 2016, as Indigenous People's Day in Vermont, and on this day traditionally observed as Columbus Day encourage all Vermonters to recognize the sacrifice and contributions of this land," stated a proclamation, signed by Shumlin on Thursday, acknowledging that the Green Mountain State was founded and built upon lands first inhabited by indigenous people, "the Abenaki and their ancestors and allies." 
Vermont is joining other states and towns around the United States in recognizing the second Monday of October as Indigenous People's Day and "re-imagining Columbus Day as an opportunity to celebrate indigenous heritage and resiliency," according to the proclamation.
Columbus Day has been celebrated on the second Monday of October for the last 82 years. Like many towns, Cavendish’s town office and schools will be closed.  However, there is a growing movement to abolish the holiday, replacing it with  “Indigenous People’s Day,” thereby acknowledging and celebrating the millions of people who were already living in the Americas when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean islands (Bahamas) on Oct. 12, 1492. While Columbus made four trips to the “new world,” exploring the Caribbean Islands, the Gulf of Mexico and the South and Central American main land, he never set foot on North America.

Who were the first peoples of Cavendish and where did they come from? What is known is that more than 11,000 years ago, after the ice age ended and the glaciers started receding, Paleo-Indian were in the Okemo Valley (Jackson Gore). Located between Lake Champlain (at one time the Sea of Champlain) and the Connecticut River, Cavendish was part of the Indian road that connected these two points. Archeological evidence indicates that there may have been an Archaic Indian village in Cavendish-dating back about 5,000 years. Learn more about Vermont’s First People.

For a long time it was believed that the first Americans came across the Bering Strait land bridge from Asia approximately 15,000 years ago using an “ice-free corridor.” However, two new studies refute that. In July, the journal Nature published Postglacial Viability and Colonization in North America’s Ice-Free Corridor, which shows that the corridor was incapable of sustaining human life until about 12,600 years ago. A second study, “Bison Phylogeography Constrains Dispersal and Viability of the Ice Free Corridor in Western Canada,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates it closer to 13,000 years ago. Either way, the Americas were already settled by the time the land bridge would have been accessible for crossing. In fact, there is new evidence that there was human occupation in Florida 14,550 years ago. (Science Mag

So how were the Americas populated? One theory is that the Indians migrated in boats down along the Pacific coast about 15,000 years ago. Regardless of what DNA and archeological research finds, what is clear is that Columbus did not “discover America.”

Interestingly, 269 years after Columbus landed in the Caribbean, on October 12, 1761 the charter for Cavendish was issued by New Hampshire and signed by King George III. While Cavendish celebrates its 255th birthday this year, keep in mind that this land has been occupied for thousands of years and that our “first people” were not the Coffeens.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

CHS Briefs: October 1, 2016

Bill Jansak cleaning the
 The Civil War Memorial is now clean!!! Under the direction of CHS board member and Assistant Town Manager, Bruce McEnaney, the Civil War Memorial was cleaned on Wed., Sept. 28. No one seems to know the last time this was undertaken. For comparison, the Washington, D.C. Lincoln Memorial is power washed (no more than 300 psi) twice a year. The goal is to wash the Civil War Memorial at least every three years, but more if possible, in order to avoid the build up of mold, lichens etc. As noted in last month’s Briefs, “spalling” is occurring. Acid rain” speeds weathering, resulting in stones being permanently damaged, as it leaves a rough, pitted surface, making writing and art harder to distinguish. Don't expect to see a white monument as to obtain this you need to use chemicals that could further damage the stone. CHS follows the National Park Service’s guidelines for cleaning.  See the Cavendish Facebook page for more photos. 

Kem and Svetlana Phillips working on a test patch.
Chalkboards drying after 1st coat
of unsanded grout and paint.
• The Young Historians program is in full swing, with the CTES 4th graders participating in a museum “scavenger hunt” 5th and 6th graders learning community stewardships by participating in RiverSweep. and the 3rd graders learning about one-room schoolhouses by reading Sandra Stearns’ book “Field Hill Farm” and making their own chalkboards. The home school group will be making a tiny Library and Pantry. Do you have an old cabinet or something else that would be could be used for this project? Have carpentry skills that could assist the kids in building? The pantry will ultimately be housed at the Cavendish Baptist Church while the Library will be outside the museum. 
4th graders treasure hunt inside the Museum

• The Phineas Gage Annual Walk & Talk was well attended. This was done twice in order to accommodate those who weren’t able to walk.

•  Kem and Svetlana Phillips have been planting at the Stone Church, including a lovely mock orange bush that will help to hide the electric meter.
Mock Orange planted at the Stone Church

• The Museum doors are finally clean and all the holes filled in. The custom made latch has arrived and so the next step is painting and working on the casing that will house the doors. Dave Stern has done an amazing job on these doors and we hope to have them hung in the spring.

Oct.  3 (Monday): Annual Fitton Mill tour for the 6th grade.

Oct. 7 (Friday): CTES 4th graders will be taking a site visit to the archeological dig that CHS continues to provide volunteers to. Located in West Haven, VT, this is a very rich site containing Paleo-Indian –European settlement artifacts.

Oct. 9 (Sunday): Cavendish: Creepy, Eerie and Haunted. Since the summer, CHS has been collecting stories about places that are believed to be haunted and/or have a creepy feel to them. Who knew that both the Proctorsville Fire Dept. and the Golden Stage Inn have “visitors” that go by the names of Homer and George respectively? Various people have described the unseen children that laugh and talk in what was once a classroom at the Duttonsville School. This is just a few of the tales we’ve uncovered. On the last day the Museum is open, we will share the stories we’ve collected and look forward to hearing from members of the audience. The event takes place from 2-4 pm at the CHS Museum. This is a free event open to the public. 

Oct. 17 (Monday): Thanks to Bruce and Betty McEnaney’s blueberry fundraiser, the 6th graders will be taking a field trip to Sturbridge Village.

For any of the items below, please e-mail or call 802-226-7807.

• Board Members/Volunteers: Want to have a more active role in CHS? Become a board member. There are also numerous volunteer opportunities.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

American Pickers Looking for Locations in Vermont

The Cavendish Historical Society was approached today by representatives from the show “American Pickers,” -airs on the “History” channel-as they are looking for locations in Vermont where they can “pick” in October. Please note they are looking for large, rare collections that are not open to the public- no store, malls, flea markets, museums, auctions, or businesses. 

Below is the press release from the show, along with how to get in touch with them if you or someone you know is interested in participating.  

Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and their team are excited to return to Vermont! They plan to film episodes of the hit series “American Pickers” throughout the region this fall. The showis a documentary series that explores the fascinating world of antique ‘picking’ on History. The hit show follows Mike and Frank, two of the most skilled pickers in the business, as they hunt for America’s most valuable antiques. They are always excited to find sizeable, unique collections and learn the interesting stories behind them.

As they hit the back roads from coast to coast, Mike and Frank are on a mission to recycle and rescue forgotten relics. Along the way, the Pickers want to meet characters with remarkable and exceptional items.  The pair hopes to give historically significant objects a new lease on life, while learning a thing or two about America’s past along the way.

Mike and Frank have seen a lot of rusty gold over the years and are always looking to discover something they’ve never seen before. They are ready to find extraordinary items and hear fascinating tales about them. American Pickers is looking for leads and would love to explore your hidden treasure. If you or someone you know has a large, private collection or accumulation of antiques that the Pickers can spend the better part of the day looking through, send us your name, phone number, location and description of the collection with photos to: or call 855-old-rust.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

CHS Briefs: September 1, 2016

This is a special “back to school” edition of the CHS briefs. 

In the fall of 2009, CHS launched a once a week half hour program for students in grades 3-6 at the Cavendish Town Elementary School (CTES) who might have an interest in “hands on history.”  Using volunteers, students had a chance to try all sorts of activities. Because of the “great recession,” that first school year we focused on the Depression Era and the kids did everything from making hobo stew for the entire school to learning how to “Lindy,” thanks to a demonstration by Gloria and Seymour Leven.

Today, programing is offered to all grades as part of the classroom activities. In August, we met with the teachers, discussing curriculum and programs that meet both the school’s standards and CHS’s learning objectives.

CHS has five areas of town history that we think are important to impart:
• 1st peoples (Native Americans)
• Where people came from and why
• Civics) & stewardship (role of Town Meeting, the importance of being involved in one’s community
• Cavendish’s role in world affairs (for a tiny town we have a big history)
• The evolution of the town from agricultural to industrial to digital.

2015 6th Grade RiverSweep
Programs differ from grade to grade. Some of the activities planned for September include:
• RiverSweep for 5th and 6th grades. They will be cleaning a portage and swimming hole on the Black River that appears on Cavendish maps in 1870. In addition to clearing debris, they will be pulling invasive plants that can damage the river. 

• Museum Scavenger Hunt for the 4th Grade

• One Room Schoolhouse: 3rd Grade

For our homeschoolers we will be doing a civics project where they will build a Free Tiny Library and a Free Tiny Pantry. The “library” will be set up next to the Museum while the pantry will be placed at the Cavendish Baptist Church.

For the holidays, CHS picks a country that Cavendish residents have come from and uses their various traditions as a teaching tool. In previous years, countries have included England and Russia. No pinecones or greens this year as we will be featuring South of the Border Christmas, complete with piƱatas, poinsettias, and tropical fruit ornaments. 
CTES 4th graders making stars as part of Christmas 2015

Bruce McEnaney, with volunteer Sandra Russo, at Sturbridge Village
Thanks to Bruce and Betty McEnaney, who donate money from the sale of their blueberries to the CTES program, we can now take students on field trips. Last year, a group of dedicated volunteers, drove the 6th grade to Sturbridge Village. This same trip is planned for the coming year but we hope to also include the 4th graders.

Leavanna Point found at dig site.
This summer, CHS volunteers have been working on an archeological dig in West Haven, VT on what appears to be a very rich site from the Paleo-Indian period (11,000 years ago) through present day use as a farm. Not only will some of the grades be visiting the site, and have an opportunity to participate in a dig, but the archeologists will be meeting with students to discuss their findings from a dig in Guatemala. The latter fits with the 5th curriculum.

We post pictures of the school program at both the CHS blog and the Cavendish Facebook page so that you can follow along with what we’re doing.

• Blueberries are still available for the picking:  Berries continue to ripen, even if it is September, so take advantage of it before it’s too late. Thanks to Bruce and Betty McEnaney, half the proceeds from picking their organic blueberries, ($3 a pint) goes to the CHS program at CTES. Located at 354 Miner Rd, just over the Cavendish line in Chester off of Smokeshire (part of Cavendish at one time), lock in your GPS and head for some of the best blueberry picking ever. 

• Stone Church: It looks like Bruce has found someone who can do the belfry repair. We had to stop looking at the restoration companies, since none of them wanted to do (or for that matter needed) the work.

• Cleaning the Civil War Monument: We met in August to look over the War Memorial and it appears there is some “spalling” taking place. Acid rain” speeds weathering, resulting in stones being permanently damaged, as it leaves a rough, pitted surface, making writing and art harder to distinguish. Before we take on the cleaning of the entire monument, we will be doing a test patch as soon as the temps are cooler and the weather is cloudy. Actually, rainy days are idea for stone cleaning.  

• September/October Activities:
-       Sept. 10 (Saturday) VT Golden Honey Festival  at the Golden Stage Inn off Depot Street Proctorsville. We’ll be running a day-long candle dipping workshop. 
Sept 11 (Sunday): Phineas Gage Annual Walk & Talk at the Museum 2-4 pm.

-       Oct. 7 (Sunday): Cavendish Ghost and other eerie stories. 2-4 pm. We’d love to hear your stories. This is the last day the Museum will be open for the season.

For any of the items below, please e-mail or call 802-226-7807.

• Strange, Ghostly and Eerie Cavendish Stories: We're collected stories about all things spooky, eerie, strange and ghostly in Cavendish. If you have a tale to tell, we want to hear it.

• Tiny Library and Pantry: Do you have an old cabinet or something else that would be could be used for this project? Have carpentry skills that could assist the kids in building? 

• Marketing Assistance: Do you have experience in marketing? We could use your help with book distribution.

• Board Members/Volunteers: Want to have a more active role in CHS? Become a board member. There are also numerous volunteer opportunities.