Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Town of Cavendish Fire Districts History

Murdock Mill Fire in Proctorsville
At the Nov. 16, 2015 Fire District # 2 (Cavendish) Informational Meeting, regarding the proposal to replace two engines with one new one, there was considerable discussion about the town's need for two fire districts. To better understand the present situation, the following historical information is being provided based on information from Barbara Kingsbury’s book “Chubb Hill Farm and Cavendish, Vermont” and Margo Caulfield’s digital Cavendish Update.

1833: Proctorsville Volunteer Fire Dept. (PVFD) formed-Fire District #1

1883: Cavendish Volunteer Fire Dept. (CVFD) formed-Fire District #2

1944: There was a fire at the town garage on Feb 10. This was in Cavendish Village behind the Town Hall, but the Vermont Tribune reported, “ The Proctorsville Fire Co was soon at the scene and lines of hose were also strung from Gay Bros. Mill...” Cavendish village was Fire District #2 but it did not then have much equipment nor a well-organized volunteer force. Gay Brothers Mill used their own equipment to help fight fires near the mill. For several years, Fire District #1 had had better equipment and a more structured volunteer group under the direction of its fire chief, Nelson Holland. By the early 1930’s, Proctorsville had a Women’s Auxiliary, which helped raise money for a truck and garage.

Late 1940s: Milton “Mike" Dickerman, fire chief for District #2 during this time remembers Cavendish village still didn’t have much equipment. One of his main responsibilities was to check that fire extinguishers were in working order. For years, there ha been ladders and buckets stored at three or four strategic locations in or near Cavendish village. Dickerman did not think they were used much in this period except when the barn next to the Roger and Walter Buck house caught fire on Oct. 28, 1949. The barn and house were adjacent to the Universalist Church on Main Street. One of the storage sites for fire-fighting equipment was on the bank above the church. Men from the village formed a “bucket-brigade” but the Vermont Tribune credits the Proctorsville Fire Department and help from Gay Brothers Mill for putting out the fire.

1957: Art Briggs became the fire chief of District # 2 and served in that capacity for the next 30 years. He had received training and experience fighting fires in the Army Air Force during WWII. Under his direction, the volunteer firemen became a well organized group with regular drills, and District #2 Fire Department was legally incorporated. An active Auxiliary was formed. CVFD consisted of a portable pump, a trailer, and one thousand feet of hose. An old Army truck (with four wheel drive) was purchased for $500 and another $500 was spent to outfit it.

This was the year of the Hawks Mountain fire. On May 7, the fire started on the Cavendish side of the mountain and spread to Perkinsville. The National Guard, fire departments and volunteers were all called to help. It took until May 9 before the fire was finally under control. The Town Report lists $16,699.54 as the cost for fighting this fire. 
Cavendish Fire Feb. 2014

2005: The following is from the Cavendish Update:
April 12 The Selectmen’s Meeting on Monday, April 11, had the following agenda item, “Follow up to discussion at the Annual Town Meeting wherein the status of the two Cavendish Fire Districts was discussed by the voters in attendance and the voters urged action. A question for discussion is whether legislative body (Select Board) action is required or is appropriate and desired at this time. Discussion to include the status of the two districts at present. Copies of relevant state statue sections will be available as reference.”

Cavendish currently has two fire districts, one in Cavendish (which operates with nine volunteers) and the other in Proctorsville (which operates with 24 volunteers).  Considerable discussion took place regarding the lack of coverage in Cavendish. Currently, dispatch to Cavendish goes through the “red phone,” which is located in various volunteer’s homes and the town office. Because no one source of phone coverage is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there have been difficulties alerting Cavendish volunteers. Further, several of the holders of the red phone are now volunteers for Proctorsville. In short, there is a real problem with dispatching in Cavendish, which could have dire consequences.

Proctorsville operates out of Ludlow’s dispatch.  In the event that Proctorsville does not immediately respond to a call, Ludlow provides backup.

Proctorsville Fire January 2014
Copies of the Secretary of State’s Book of Opinions on Fire Districts and Fire Departments was made available. After considerable discussion, it was agreed that the select board is ultimately responsible for providing fire protection. To that end, the first order was to figure out an immediate solution to the “red phone” issue in Cavendish. The select board voted the following:
• The current fire line in Cavendish, 7823, should be rolled over to 911 as soon as possible (this needs to be cleared with state 911, and worked out with TDS). This means that if someone would dial the old Cavendish Fire number, their call would automatically go to a 911 dispatcher.  As 911 is the preferred method for contacting fire and rescue, and to reduce confusion if there are multiple callers for one incident, it was agreed that 911 be used, versus a roll over to Ludlow dispatch.
• Ludlow will be asked to provide dispatch for Cavendish. There will be a cost associated with this service, but it was felt to be more than justified
• Rich will be responsible for contacting the Secretary of State for confirmation that the select board can operate in this manner. Depending on confirmation, he will then contact TDS, Ludlow PVFD, and state 911 to arrange for Cavendish dispatch through Ludlow.

With a unanimous “straw vote” at town meeting regarding the combining of Fire Districts into one district, the select board voted to do the following:
• Confirm legality of strategy with Secretary of State
• Convene a planning meeting with Cavendish and Proctorsville Fire Departments (Prudential Boards and fire fighters) and the selectmen. Rolph Van Sheik will be asked to moderate the meeting. A date was set for April 18 (Monday), 6:30 pm at the Cavendish Town Elementary School in Proctorsville.  Note: This meeting may change due to availability of various parties. For meeting confirmation, contact the Town Office 226-7292.
• Hold a town informational meeting, where the proposed plan for a single fire district is presented and discussed.
• A town vote would follow to determine if voters want to continue with two fire districts or convert to one.

May 3: In response to the ongoing situation with fire service in Cavendish, the following petition is available for signature at Singletons, Crows Corner Bakery and Bennets Store:

“The undersigned voters of the Town of Cavendish hereby petition the Cavendish Board of Selectmen to hold a special town meeting for the purpose of having the legal voters of the town consider, by Australian Ballot, merging Cavendish Fire District # 1 and Cavendish Fire District #2 into one consolidated fire district for the town. This special Town Meeting will include a general session wherein the general public as well as Town and Fire District officials and Firemen may comment and ask questions.” By May 7, 70 signatures had been obtained.

May 23: The select board held a special meeting this evening to “continue discussion on the petition received on Monday May 9 with input from Town Counsel. A course of action on this petition is anticipated to be established and initiated. The subject petition asks for a Special Town Meeting vote on a merger of the two Cavendish Fire Districts.” The results of this meeting were as follows:
• Town Counsel felt that this was not a select board issue but rather one for the Fire Districts. As such, the select board rejected the petition.
• After discussion by select board and audience participants, it was made clear that:
a)     There is fire protection for the town of Cavendish, as Fire District 1 (Proctorsville) does respond to Cavendish fires. The problems with notification of fire fighters in Cavendish has been resolved.
b)    The issue of fire districts is not about the fire fighters, but rather the Prudential Boards that over see the fire districts.
c)     Fire District 1 (Proctorsville) feels they are operating quite well, but are being dragged into things because of problems with Fire District 2 (Cavendish).  There have been a number of fire fighters from Cavendish that have transferred to Proctorsville.
d)    It was noted, by a lister, who also serves on the Fire District 1 Prudential Committee, that the town property, as far as monetary value, is now split 2/3 non residents and 1/3 residents. What impact this will have on fire service remains to be seen.

• If change is to occur it has to happen at the Fire District level, particularly Fire District 2 (Cavendish). This can be done by petition, which would require 20 signatures of town voters that reside within Fire District 2.

• It is strongly recommended that residents attend fire district meetings on a monthly basis and participate in the annual meeting in February.

September 12: A request was recently made by the wife of a Cavendish volunteer fire fighter to inform Cavendish Update subscribers that Fire District 2 has 12 volunteers.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Cavendish Witch

This story has a twofold inspiration 1) An 1871 Cavendish map, which identified the area in back of the Cavendish Village Cemetery as the “witch’s bowl;” and 2) The early “pioneers” of Cavendish who “squatted” on land that was unoccupied. The story unfolds in the early 1800s and uses the names of people who were actually “warned out” of Cavendish.

Additional information appears at that end of the story.

The Cavendish Witch

 “You have to go now!” shouted her mother.

Sukey didn’t want to go. However, she knew better than to say anything. When her mother had the “thunder” across her face, it was best to do as told.

As she wrapped her coat around her, Sukey shivered. Not because she was cold, though it was a freezing night for October, but rather from fear. All she could think of was that the witch would boil her alive, eat her or at the very least, hold her captive.

The kids told lots of stories about the “witch” who rode her horse through town, always with a hood covering her head and face. Just that day they were talking in school about how the witch had come to the Greens house and within just a few hours of her arrival old Mr. Green died. He’d been buried that morning in the Cavendish Village Cemetery, which was near the witch’s cabin. The kids said she lived close to the cemetery so she could feed off the dead. At lunch, her classmates were chanting, “If you go to the witch’s bowl she’ll skin you alive and eat you whole.”

She knew something was wrong with Papa. He had cut his leg while chopping wood and now he had the fever on him. That was a few days ago and Papa couldn’t get out of bed saying his leg pained him so.

Pushing her out the door, without a chance to put on her mittens, her mother told her to run as fast as she could. “Tell Betty to come right quick.”

Since Ma was standing at the door watching, Sukey started off by running, but as soon as she was out of sight, she slowed to a walk. She didn’t want something to happen to her Papa. She had several friends whose fathers had died, and so she understood how quickly a cut could lead to death. “But why go to the witch for help?” Sukey wondered.

She could save time and cut through the Cemetery, but it was so dark and she was fearful of old Mr. Green’s ghost. Instead, she walked the long way around. As she approached the hill to the “witch’s bowl” she found herself wrapping her scarf tighter and tighter around her neck as if it might offer protection.

Witch's Bowl area
Abutting the back wall of the Cemetery was a clearing where the witch lived. Behind her cabin was a gigantic boulder that looked like a cauldron, hence the reason the area was called the “witch’s bowl.” It always seemed that there was a fire going and smoke hung about the place regardless of the season. Even in the summer, if they came up that way to pick black berries, the sight of the “witch’s bowl,” let alone her cabin, sent a chill up Sukey’s spine. 

As she approached the clearing, her breath hung in the air, while the full moon cast a shadow from the trees. Sukey hesitated. Her legs couldn’t move and she felt frozen to the ground.

The sudden bark of a dog caused movement in the house. “That’ll do Basil,” called out the witch as she opened the cabin door. “Whose there?”

Sukey couldn’t say anything. The witch’s eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, called out again, “Whose there?” “Is that you Sukey?”

“Oh no,” Sukey thought, “She knows my name!”  But still she couldn’t turn and run.

It seemed as if she flew, but the next thing Sukey was aware of she was sitting next to a fire and the witch was rubbing her hands. “Child, what are you doing out on a night like this? You could catch your death.”

Looking around the room, Sukey was amazed not to see skulls, bones, spiders or anything else she assumed witches would have. Instead, there were a lot jars and various plants were hung from the rafters. The most delightful smell, a combination of something cooking and fresh herbs, hung in the air. Maybe it was the bubbling pot on the fireplace hearth that was responsible for the wonderful aroma. In spite of her fears, Sukey found it a very pleasant place to be.

“I was just about to have some soup,” said the witch, as she ladled a bowl full for Sukey. “Eat this so you’ll warm up.”

Sukey was afraid not to do what she was told, so she quickly started eating. She had never tasted such delicious soup. It was filled with potatoes, vegetables and best of all meat. There wasn’t much of this at Sukey’s house since her Dad had been hurt and was unable to hunt or work.

Warm and full, Sukey started to realize that the witch wasn’t going to harm her. In fact, for the first time she actually looked at the witch and realized that while she was older than Ma, she was certainly not the hag the kids described at school.

“Now tell me, why are you out on a night like this?”
“It’s Papa. He cut his leg and now he’s got the fever. Ma said I needed to come get you.”
“Ah,” said the witch. “Let me get my things together, while you finish your soup.”

Sukey continued to eat, watching the witch move about the room putting a variety of things into her bag, including what looked like moldy bread.

“We can both ride Charlie and we’ll be at your house in no time.”

As they got on the horse, Sukey found herself being wrapped in the cape that the witch often wore. Not only was it warm, it covered her face, protecting her from the wind.  She barely realized they were trotting through the village cemetery and right up to the front door of her cabin.

“Oh Betty, I’m so glad you are here,” said Sukey’s mother. “Walton’s mighty sick with fever.”

Without saying a word, Betty quickly went to work. Sukey found herself standing nearby so she could watch.

First she washed her hands. Then she exposed Papa’s leg. It was red and nasty looking. Carefully wiping it clean, she asked Sukey to bring her bag. Next she took out the moldy bread and cut a slice from the outside of the loaf. This was then mixed into a paste with water and applied to the wound with a bandage. Washing her hands again, Betty asked Sukey to get out a packet from her satchel. She then explained to Sukey and Ma to mix the willow bark powder with some tea and give it to him several times a day. “It will help with the fever and pain,” she said.

The look on Ma’s face was now one of relief. “Betty, have a cup of tea and sit a spell.” Pulling up to the fireplace, the two women began a conversation, not only about neighbors but how the family was managing with Papa being ill.

“I heard you were “warned out” by the constable,” said Betty.
“We were because we couldn’t pay the tax bill with Walton being laid up and all. However, with your care, he should be back working in no time and then we can catch up. Heard they served you with the same notice.”
“Yes, they did,” replied Betty. “However, they weren’t aware of the arrangement the previous select board had made with me.”
“Glad you were able to straighten things out. While we can’t always pay you what you deserve, the least we can do is give you a free place to live. We wouldn’t be able to get along without you.”
Smiling Betty said, “I like it here. There are other towns that have asked me to come, but here I have access to wonderful herbs and plants, the river and I love living among the trees.”

Sukey couldn’t contain herself anymore, “But you aren’t a witch, are you?”

Betty laughed. “No child, I am no witch, but many people refer to women who are healers and mid wives as such. However, we’re also called ‘wise women.’ My mother was a midwife and her mother a healer. Many of my treatments have been used for hundreds of years.”

The next morning, Papa was feeling much better and it wasn’t long before he was able to return to work. Betty stopped by several times to check on the leg and each time Sukey would stand by her side and help. On her last visit, Betty said, “Would you like to learn more about what healers do?”

When summer came, and the kids came up to pick the blackberries that grew so plentiful by the “witch’s bowl,” they were surprised to see Sukey stirring the pots and creating the “brews” that were used for healing. Even though she was only 10, Sukey had found what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

Squatters/Pioneer Families: Without deeds or legal claim to the land, these people made a stake in areas that were unoccupied. They would stay for a while and then move when the authorities pressed legal action against them or the area became too populated.

Warning Out: The selectman usually met once or twice a month and decided whether new squatters would be allowed to stay for a while. Did they have relatives in town? What church did they belong to?  Could they support themselves? The intent of a “warning out” was to let them know that “we the permanent residents and taxpayers of the town want you to know that we are concerned about ‘strangers’ in our town and if you cannot support yourselves and your family, we will not be liable for your support.” A newly forming town like Cavendish had little financial resources to take care of extra poor.

The town constable would issue warnings. Many of those who were “warned out” became prosperous and active in the town, while those with limited means moved on.

The names used in the story were taken from Cavendish Warning Out records for Dec. 20, 1802. Sukey was the child of Rufus and Sukey Walton. Most of those warned out were families or married couples. There were a few single men, and occasionally there were single women. Along with the Waltons, Betty Balcom, a single woman, was among eight families “warned out” that month.

Witches/Healers/Midwives: Through out history, women have been healers. With treatments, potions and lotions handed down from one woman to another, their cures and treatments were based on what they observed as having worked, so not surprisingly a number of their treatments were effective. By Medieval times, these women knew that blue mold on bread treated infections (the active ingredient is penicillin).  The main chemical of Willow bark, which would be given as a tea, is salicylic acid or aspirin.  Midwives washed their hands before attending a woman in labor. It took until 1885 for physicians to understand the importance of this practice.

During the Medieval era, the newly emerging male dominated medical community viewed women healers and midwives as “witches”, and many were burned at the stake for “curing.” However, in rural New England of the 18th and 19th centuries, these women were highly respected and were even given land in exchange for moving to a community.

Cavendish’s first physician, Asaph Fletcher, arrived in 1787 and lived near Proctorsville.  A member of the First Constitutional Convention of VT, he held many state offices including terms in the legislature and Senate. He was also a Windsor County Court judge and was one of the electors of James Monroe. Thought president of the Windsor County Medical Society, it’s unclear how much time he had for the practice of medicine. Many families, particularly those who were poor, such as the squatters, would have continued to use the healer/midwife, and all women had a midwife for births. Given that woman averaged six births, and infant/child mortality was high, the midwife, even in a small community like Cavendish, would have been kept very busy.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Chapter 28 Memoirs/Cavendish Post WWII.

This is the last chapter of Coming to Vermont (Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann The added feature pertains to post WWII Cavendish and includes what happened to Philip and Isabel.

If you have appreciated the serialization of the Tiemann Memoirs, you can show your support by sending a donation to the Cavendish Historical Society, PO Box 472, Cavendish, VT 05142.

On Oct. 11, the Annual CHS Cemetery Tour will be to the Center Road Cemetery where the Tiemanns are buried, complete with stones from the Windy Hill property. Meet at the CHS Museum at 2 pm.

For the prelude and links to all of the chapters go to Coming to Vermont (Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann.  

On January 15, 1941, I changed from farmer's blue jeans to the Army olive drab for a year's extended active duty. The year stretched to more than five before I again put 'on civvies.

Crammed into this period were enough experiences for a lifetime, most 'of them satisfying but a few, Inevitably, not. At Fort Riley, after brief refresher training, I helped to receive and then train the first contingent of cavalry replacement recruits under the Selective Service Act. In August, foreseeing the end of the cavalry, by my own application I was transferred to the Armored Force and went to the Replacement Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky, to spend over a year as company com­mander and battalion commander (major) training more and more troops. It was a life I enjoyed to begin with, but was not to my liking after we entered the war.

Then unexpectedly . as such things seemed usually to happen to me-I was assigned to the 10th Armored Division in training at Fort Benning, Ga., which, following maneuvers in Tennessee, was slated soon to go to Europe. At this time I was a lieutenant colonel and due to command a tank batt­alion. But no such luck. Again with great suddenness I was sent on "tem­porary duty" to Headquarters 2d Army at Memphis to act as an assistant Army Inspector General. This was the low point; I felt completely frustrated and out of place and was unable to do anything about it. Except, finally, in order to make an uncertain status secure, a transfer to The Inspector General's Department, which I accepted with the best grace I could, It wasn't what I wanted yet it was no come-down (the I. G. Department is top-drawer) and I saw more of the Army than would have been pos­sible under any other circumstances, It involved trips over half of the United States as the "eyes" of the Commanding General, making inspections and investigations and rendering lengthy reports. Then in the spring of 1944 while away from Headquarters I received orders to return post haste, This could mean only one thing, I had been assigned to the cadre of the newly activated 8th Army, which was to prepare immediately for overseas movement, Not to Europe, as I had fondly expected, but to New Guinea in the Pacific, from whence the American 6th and 8th Armies would take part in MacArthur’s return to the Philippines, As an Army Inspector I roamed widely before being transferred to the 43d Infantry Division as I. G. With this fine combat outfit I participated in the liberation of Luzon after making an amphibious landing at Lingayen Gulf.

While I was in the States the family was with me as much as possible, The children’s education was the governing factor. They came out to meet me at Fort Riley in a fine new Nash, which Isabel had somehow managed to negotiate and we spent a most pleasant week seeing the country on the way to Fort Knox. After a couple of exceedingly hot months there in "quarters" (a euphemism for two tiny rooms in a converted barracks) Isabel located a comfortable apartment in near-by Louisville where the family spent the winter . and where we were together the Sunday when the fateful announcement of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came over the radio. This of course changed the entire picture and intensi­fied training. But I was able to secure a short leave, just as the children’s school ended and we all returned to Windy Hill, the family re­maining for the summer.

In the fall I secured nice quarters on the main Post at Knox and they came down again,. only, within six weeks, to be uprooted for the transfer to Fort Benning, There we were well off in­deed, in a commodious house on the main Post with pleasant surroundings, the only difficulty being that the division training area was situated several miles away,- a relatively minor matter. We had a happy winter together.

Wyeth graduating from high school in Columbus, and than we again went home. I rejoined the division in the Tennessee maneuver area. The family found a place in Brattleboro where the girls could go to school. That fall Wy was inducted into the Army, having persuaded them to waive his defective vision, - I saw them all at Easter and again briefly before going overseas, - The next fall Isabel and Joyce went to Boston Isabel to train as an occupational therapist,- and Ann commenced two years at Green Mountain Junior College in Poultney, Vermont.

What had in general been a very fulfilling period of service was marred at the end when I became ill and was evacuated back to the States, But this was in July of 1945 after the campaign had ended. Following long recuperation in several hospitals with brief visits with the family I had the satisfaction of being promoted Colonel, given terminal leave, and was finally relieved from active duty in May, 1946,

My government service was not entirely over, however. My health still was uncertain, and not having energy enough to resume farming I accepted a temporary position with the Office of Price Administration, working out of Montpelier. This proved most unsatisfactory, partly because I was unwell but more because the work was not in my line. The agency had outlived its usefulness, and some of the time we did not have enough to do to justify drawing our pay. It was a relief when it came to an end in December.

In the meantime the family had to do some adjusting. Isabel was heading the OT department of a hospital in Providence. Joyce was with her, going to secretarial school. Ann still was at Green Mountain. Wyeth came back in April following service in the combat engineers in both Europe and the Pacific, and was discharged at Fort Devens. After taking some summer courses in Providence he entered Norwich University.

We all spent Christ­mas together in Providence, Then it was arranged so that Isabel and Joyce remained in Providence until Joyce graduated in June, and I came back to Windy Hill to work on the house, During the spring I installed elec­tric wiring, and the power line at last came thru; so when the family reassembled for the summer we had more comfort and conveniences than ever before. This homecoming in 1947 was what really brought the war period to an end.

Hampshire Sheep
Cavendish Post WWII:  When Philip Tiemann returned to Cavendish, he began raising pure-bread Hampshire sheep for breeding stock. This proved to be more profitable than his earlier subsistence farming.

He had been a selectman in 1941 and soon became active again in community affairs. Isabel died in 1958 and Tiemann died in 1969, having written these Memoirs in 1966.

Electricity final came to the back roads of Cavendish in the late 1940s. The Center School, which the Tiemann children attended, was wired for electricity in 1947, with most of the houses along the Center Rd receiving power in 1948. One of the last areas to be wired was the Knapp Pond area. Jim Hasson, a WWII Seabee, reports that they didn’t have electricity until 1949.

While most of Cavendish’s servicemen returned, the prosperity of the first half of the 1940s was replaced with significantly fewer job opportunities. Neither the mills nor the machine shops needed more workers and in fact slowed down considerably from the feverish war years. Many veterans were content not to return to the mills and machine shop jobs. The noise of the Gay Brothers Mill was considerably, with the clack of the looms being heard up and down the village streets. Deafness was a common risk for those who worked any length of time in the weave room. 
Gay Brother's Mill

Gaymont Mills in Ludlow, owned by the Gay Brothers and managed by L. Stearns Gay of Cavendish, was sold in 1950. In 1951, the building was purchased by General Electric and a number of Cavendish residents went to work there. That same year, Gay Brothers Mill closed and was sold to F.C. Hyuck and Sons and renamed Kenwood Mills. This mill lasted until 1957.

The ranks of the American Legion swelled with the returning veterans. The Legion bought the Opera House (now Crows Bakery) in Proctorsville  and the vets went about the business of “catching up” on the life they missed.

Because sports team was a big part of the community, in 1948, Dr. H.J. Greven deeded his eight-acre filed to the Proctorsville Fire Department. Volunteers put in a baseball diamond, bleachers, and more to create a community recreational field, which remains in use to the present day.