Monday, January 1, 2018

CHS Briefs January 1, 2018

Please also check the Cavendish VT Facebook page for photo albums of various Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) activities.

December is always a busy month for CHS as it’s when we do our day long series of workshops at Cavendish Town Elementary School. This year we featured Poland, and for the first time included foods for the students to try at lunch-pierogi and kielbasa. As can be seen in the photograph album, it was a very successful day.  A very special thank you to our volunteers-Angela Assermely, Peggy Svec, Pang Ting and Penny Trick. Svetlana Phillip’s garnish for the kielbasa was a real hit and our continuing thanks to the endowment provided by Stein van Schaik who is giving our students an incredible opportunity to learn about the world beyond Cavendish.

Over the holidays, we’ve had a chance to talk to a member of the school board  as well as various people in the community. Again and again the issue of “local control,” and networking school and community keeps surfacing. So with the new year, we been considering how CHS might be able to help with this issue.

HISTORICAL SOCIETIES AS ELDER UNIVERSITIES: Small historical societies like Cavendish’s have a unique opportunity to be mini “elder universities” where knowledge of a town’s past and how things have been done are well remembered by board members and visitors alike. But how we take this incredible knowledge and share it with the community is an important question. There are various programs for our elders to participate in “life long learning,” but far less opportunities for our elders to teach skills and life lessons that took them years to master. 

CHS is fortunate to have the Carmine Guica Young Historians Program (CGYHP). To help insure that our elders are part of the teaching process, we are providing CTES teachers-as well as anyone else who is interested-with a “Cavendish Speaker’s Bureau” list. If you have a special skill, or an interesting part of Cavendish history to share, or if you are interested in having a copy of the list, please e-mail or call 802-226-7807

WHAT PHINEAS GAGE & SOLZHENITSYN HAD IN COMMON: As we’ve been mentioning, 2018 is the 100th anniversary of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s birth as well as the 170th anniversary of Gage’s accident. Neither man was from Cavendish, yet their fates are very much linked to this tiny town. Besides the Cavendish connection and being historical figures, do they share anything else in common?

They are both incredible examples of resiliency. Solzhenitsyn didn’t just survive the horrors of the Soviet era Gulag’s and cancer he went on to write about his experiences, helping to bring the Soviet era to an end. Gage survived a level of brain injury that no one thought possible. He not only allowed the medical community of his day to study him, but he exhibited himself to the world at large being a living example that one can survive trauma. More importantly, the reporting of his injury made way for a new understanding of how the brain functions, ushering in the age of neuro science.

More discussion on this topic will appear in the Winter “Scribbler II,” CHS’s newsletter and there will be a presentation on this topic in June at the Museum.

If you can help with any of the following, please contact CHS; 802-226-7807 or PO Box 472, Cavendish, VT 05142

• CHS is looking for new board members as well as volunteers who can help with various activities.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Cavendish Christmas Memories: Carmine Guica WWII

Carmine autographing copies of his book.

The following is from "The Story of My Life" by Carmine Guica, who died in 2016 at the age of 95.  This excerpt describes his holiday after the war ended and he was on his way back to Cavendish.

I left Okinawa on the 1st of December of ’45 and it took just 12 days when we landed at Fort Ord in California. On all the ships that I ever was on I would always volunteer to work in the galley (kitchen). It made time go by faster and I was always treated good by the Navy personal.

We stayed in Fort Ord either 10 or 12 days and we sure did have a great time and then a day or two before Christmas we boarded a troop train that took us to our nearest place to home. I did go to Fort Devens, Mass as that is where I started from.

The trip on the Troop Train was so much different to when we went over. We were on first rate Pullman Cars and we had the best of service including food and we have regular bunks in sleep on and the Porter would make our bunks in the mornings and we lived in style. On Christmas Day we were not forgotten, as I said in some of my other writings. It was the best Christmas I ever had. I got at least 8 or 10 presents from the high schools and colleges and different organizations. They were all useful gifts. In fact, I still have a small hand case that is real leather, nothing like that junk you get now-a-days from China or Japan. And then of coarse with the thought of going home after nearly four years was something to make us happy. The thing when we stopped through  a town we didn’t see the crowds as when we were headed to war. It was cold and we didn’t open the windows to talk.
Carmine on the farm in Cavendish  

After three or four days we pulled into Fort Devens, my starting point, and we were greeting by German Prisoners of War. They carried the duffel bag and every thing that had to be carried. They sure were helpful to us and always good natured. In Fort evens we were briefed more on the changes of civilian life and what to expect. The meals were fit for a king.

It was New Year’s Day of ’46 when I started for home a free man and as I was getting all my stuff together once more the German prisoners came and helped me pack my stuff for home and they even carried the duffel bag and everything I had to carry with me to the train. The German prisoners of war seemed even happier than we were that the war was over. After a train ride of 4 or 5 hours I finally hit Cavendish Depot.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cavendish Christmas Memories: Tiemann

Windy Hill
Philip Tiemann was born in New Jersey in 1900. He moved to Brook Road in Cavendish, VT from Chatham, New Jersey with his wife Isabel (Carr), and three children Wyeth, Ann and Joyce in 1933. Naming the property Windy Hill Farm, Tiemann wrote of the family’s early years in Cavendish in “Memoirs of Coming into Vermont (Cavendish) in the Depression.” The memoir was written in 1966, after his wife had died (1958) and just a few years before his own death in 1969.

In 2015, CHS serialized the Memoirs over a 30 week period, which can be read on line starting with the Prelude. Below is an excerpt pertaining to how they celebrated Christmas.

1930s Christmas card
Having the big room ready in time for Christmas was a "must." We always have made that day a very special one. While in 1933 there was little to spend, we tried to get a few of the things the children wanted most, and interesting packages were arriving from our families. Everyone was excited at the prospect of cutting our own tree, and a couple of Sun­days ahead of time we spent most of the day in the woods. By good for­tune we came across a small group of balsam firs, which are superior for the purpose, so got a nice tree and greens as well, and then more greens and small trees to send away. Red pine is our second favorite, used as sprays or made up into wreathes. All such things had to be Government-inspected before they could be sent out of the state, but on request the inspectors used to come around (before it got to be big business, and a very nice chap looked over our things and issued tags to be attached. Then it was quite a job bundling them up. But they made nice and rather unusual presents for the people "at home."

The tree that year (and a good many years since) was set in the embrasure at the southeast corner of the kitchen. I put it up the afternoon before Christmas-a chore which sometimes tried my temper considerably. It had to be uniform and nicely balanced in the stand: a mechanical contrivance, which after being wound up, caused the tree to revolve slowly while a music-box played alternately "Holy Night" and "Lord, dismiss us with thy blessing." Mother had found it about 1907 at Schwartze's in New York, and every generation has enjoyed "the dancing tree."

Our celebration began on Christmas Eve, altho it was impractical to-attend church (which in future years we did when we could.) The children eagerly hung their stockings (large ones, provided for the purpose!) by the living-room fireplace; then there was singing of carols and reading of "The Night Before Christmas." After they had reluctantly gone to bed, Isabel and. I filled the stockings and trimmed the tree. We also set out a Crèche, with candles. Altho it was late when we retired, we felt assured that we would not be allowed to oversleep!

And of course the children were down early next morning, investigating their stockings while I did chores end Isabel got-breakfast. This was a "party" meal, with. pancakes and sausages to supplement the usual fruit, cereal and milk, and bread and butter. Housework and necessary chores came next. Then Isabel said "Well, are we ready?" and the kids stampeded in' to see the tree,- not but that they had doubtless peeked earlier! Wyeth throu the switch to start the stand turning and playing and then the three handed around the gifts piled under the tree while Isabel and. I relaxed. Soon the floor was strewn with remnants of gay wrappings, as we all opened and displayed our things with happy ex­clamations. The only thing, which could. have made it more enjoyable would have been the presence of other members of the family.

The day we marked by drifting snow,- "five feet deep at the barn doors,”  and a contribution of eight eggs from the new hens. Also, despite the weather, company came for a very pleasant supper. After this very successful day, all hands were glad enough to turn in, and found it especially comforting to stretch out between cotton blankets with which we had replaced the linen sheets; they were much warmer.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Ignat Solzhenitsyn Interview on NPR

Ignat Solzhenitsyn Returns To Vermont To Honor Piano Teacher Who Launched His Career

This weekend, a one-time Vermonter returns to the state to perform in honor of the woman who helped launch his career as a pianist and conductor.
Ignat Solzhenitsyn now teaches and conducts with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. He's also the principal guest conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and conducts and performs all around North America and Europe.
And his last name might sound familiar — he's the son of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian author who was pushed out of the Soviet Union for his writing, which was seen as critical of the Soviet government.
The elder Solzhenitsyn became an international figure after he left the Soviet Union. He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1970, but didn't claim it until after he was exiled in 1974. Soon after, seeking a respite from the crush of attention, he ended up settling with his young family in Cavendish, Vermont. That's where his son Ignat discovered music.
Excerpts from VPR's conversation with Ignat Solzhenitsyn below. Listen to the conversation above.
A teacher's influence
As a child in Cavendish, Ignat Solzhenitsyn studied piano with Chongyo Shin of the Brattleboro Music Center. On Saturday, he returns to perform a recital in Brattleboro in honor of Shin. Solzhenitsyn says Shin provided him with a springboard for his musical career.
"I think the biggest thing was attention to detail," Solzhenitsyn says of what he learned from Shin, "reading the text with attention and understanding that anything the composer writes is there for a reason."
That has influenced how Solzhenitsyn approaches music. He says that he chooses to examine the historical context of a piece when he plays it, something he adds is hotly debated in the classical music world.
"If a composer is writing in exile or if he's writing on his deathbed, how can that not matter? And how can it not affect his state of mind?" Solzhenitsyn says. "On the other hand, the reason we want to be careful not to overstate that is simply that if it's art, in this case music, worth playing five years later and certainly 200 years later, it must be because it's more universal than simply reflecting a given circumstance, no matter how serious."
His relationship with Russia
Solzhenitsyn now regularly travels back and forth between the United States and Russia, something he says was utterly impossible when he was a child.
"I'm still pinching myself after all these years in that I'm able to go back and forth freely. This was an utter impossibility during my childhood because of the general circumstances of the Cold War and the specific circumstances of my family," Solzhenitsyn says. "And so for me, it's still just a great joy to be able to have that part of my heritage and of my life restored to me, no matter what the political environment is."
Of course, the political environment between the U.S. and Russia is tense right now. When asked what he thinks of the way Russia is currently discussed in the United States, Solzhenitsyn says he's not impressed with what he sees in the press.
"I actually find that regular folks, just people I talk to — whether it's after concerts, whether it's, you know, on the subway or whatever, something comes up — I find people have a much kind of a more realistic and a more normal sense of what's going on than I find really in the kind of most sophisticated press of the U.S.," Solzhenitsyn says.
In his view, both the U.S. and Russia are pursuing their own interests, and those interests will not always line up, which, he says, is to be expected.
"In a broad picture, it's normal, but it's kind of a bumpy ride right now, and certainly I very much hope that this will improve as this next foreseeable period of time unfold[s]," he says.
Music and politics
Though his writer father was swept into the world of international politics, Ignat Solzhenitsyn says his work as a musician is not overtly political. But he does try to live his life in a way he says his father would approve of, by living "not by lies."
"Even if we can't be heroic, or life doesn't call upon us to be heroic, at least do not participate in lies,"  Solzhenitsyn continues. "At least do not let your actions help that side, wherever one sees it. And so I certainly try to make sure that there is no concert I perform or program that I develop or agree to or participate in that somehow might lead to supporting the wrong, the wrong side, as I see it."
Disclosure: VPR is a media sponsor of Ignat Solzhenitsyn's performance at the Brattleboro Music Center on Saturday, Dec. 9.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

CHS Briefs December 1, 2017

Please also check the Cavendish VT Facebook page for photo albums of various CHS activities.

Decorating for the Holidays: Thanks to Svetlana Phillips, there are now greens and holiday decorations at the Museum, Stone Church and War Memorial. The lights are on in the Stone Church. Thank you Kem and Svetlana Phillips for the batteries and a special thanks to Cooper Naess for patiently working to make sure all the candles would light. They should be lit from about 6-11 pm. 

Carmine Guica Young Historians Program (CGHP): The Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) program for the 5th grade was so much fun. Check out the photo album to see all the crafts the students were involved in making along with the altar they set up. Thank you Peggy Svec and Pang Ting for your help with this program.
Examining the Model T located at the site of Fitton Mill.

Building on what they learned from their trip to Sturbridge Village, the 6th graders toured the old Fitton Mill site that burned in 1875. Using an archeologist map, they could identify cellar holes and observe the damage done to the area by repeated flooding. The Mill was constructed in 1867 on the banks of the Black River off the Cavendish Gulf Rd near the gorge. It was destroyed by fire in 1875. Robert Fitton set fire to the family woolen mill, according to court testimony. He is probably responsible for numerous other fires in town involving a dwelling house, tenement house, storehouse, and a factory boarding house. According to an article in the paper from that time period, "In giving his evidence in the case, James Fitton testified that Robert Fitton told him, after the burning of his (Robert's) factory in 1875 that he (Robert) set the building on fire himself, spreading oil over the floors and elsewhere so it would burn well, and that the machinery for putting out fires go out of order just in time so no one could prevent the mill from burning, or words of that import. James Fitton also swears in the same deposition that the books showing how Robert's affair stood previous to his going bankruptcy the first time were burned by Robert himself. " Check out the Photo album  for this trip as it includes a lot of photographs from the original mill.

It was a thrill to hear the 6th graders discussing how wrong they thought it was that the only surviving building from the mill-the school house-was now a second home. “They sold off our history,” one of them noted. The CGYHP makes a real difference.

Solzhenitsyn Program: In spite of a chilly Museum, we’ve had a number of Russian visitors this month including a group of five journalists. We’re gearing up for 2018’s 100th anniversary of his birth and we’re booking various speaking engagements. Have any ideas on what would make a nice T shirt design to celebrate this anniversary?

Brief History of Cavendish: CHS has provided the Cavendish Planning Commission with a brief history of Cavendish, which you can read on-line.

Newsletter: The Fall Scribbler II is now available on-line.  If you haven’t had a chance to read it, there is a special feature on the First People of Cavendish.

Appeal Campaign: CHS’s Annual Appeal letter has been sent.  It reads as follows: 
While 2017 has been an exceptional growth year, particularly for our Carmine Guica Young Historians Program, it’s the important anniversaries of 2018 that we’d like to draw your attention to. It will be the 100th birthday of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s as well as the 170th anniversary of Phineas Gage’s accident.

As different as they may appear, these two historic figures have much in common as they both highlight thriving in the face of adversity-Solzhenitsyn survived the Gulag, Russian labor camp, and exile, while Gage recovered from a massive traumatic brain injury and led a productive life. Solzhenitsyn helped to rewrite the course of history with his books, while Gage’s experience changed the world’s understanding of the brain and ushered in the field of neuroscience.  We are a better and richer world thanks to these men and it’s important that CHS honors them in 2018.

We can’t do this without your help. You can play an integral part by
• Donating to the annual appeal campaign (see attached form), specifying how you want your contribution to be used.
• Renewing your annual membership.
• Volunteering to help with our various programs, including fundraising and the planning committees being established on Gage and Solzhenitsyn

Christmas Spirits: We’re collecting Cavendish Christmas stories. If you have some you’d like to share, please e-mail them to

Polish Christmas at CTES: We’re working on a day long program of workshops and food for the students of Cavendish Town Elementary School as part of learning about the Polish people who settled in Cavendish. This program takes place on Dec. 21.

If you can help with any of the following, please contact CHS; 802-226-7807 or PO Box 472, Cavendish, VT 05142

• Have Polish traditions you’d like to share with the school children as part of the special holiday program? We’re looking for craft ideas, foods etc.

• CHS is looking for new board members as well as volunteers who can help with various activities.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Brief History of Cavendish

Cavendish has been occupied since the ice age glaciers receded, about 11,000 years ago. While the earliest inhabitants would have used the Black River and surrounding area for hunting and fishing, there is archaeological evidence that an Archaic Indian village existed in Cavendish 5,000-7,000 years ago.

The first Europeans would have traveled along the Indian trail that became known as the Crown Point Rd. Playing a significant role in the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars, the first deeded land was settled by Captain John Coffeen in 1769 in close proximity to the Road. One of the signers of Vermont’s Constitution, Coffeen came to Cavendish seeking religious freedom.
Dutton House in Cavendish, today now the VillageGreen

By the early 1800s, the center of town had shifted from the Crown Point Rd area, to the Black River where the river gave rise to a variety of industries that used water powered machinery-woolen, grist, pulp and saw mills. Two villages grew up within the Cavendish township-Proctorsville, named for Leonard Proctor, and Duttonsville, for Salmon Dutton. The latter would eventually be called Cavendish.

In addition to the industrial complexes along the Black River, farming was a staple for the town, with small businesses, such as a hat shop, tanneries, cabinet makers and tinsmiths, flourishing to provide goods and services to farmers and mill workers. While sheep was an initial cash crop, this gave way to dairy farming after the Civil War.

The arrival of the railroads in the late 1840s impacted the town in numerous ways. While blasting for the railroad tracks, Phineas Gage survived a major brain injury when a tamping rod went through his head, thus ushering in the modern understanding of the brain and its functions. More importantly to the town’s economics, the train increased the ability to ship goods and expand markets. It also opened the town to its first wave of tourists, some of whom bought “second homes” to escape the heat of the city in the summer months.

Gay Brothers Mill in Cavendish
While the industrial complex of the Black River made Cavendish a “mill town,” this rapidly changed after WWII, when military contracts for both Gay Brothers Mill in Cavendish village and Proctor Reel in Proctorsville military contracts ceased. By the 1950s, with the mills gone, and farming no longer a viable means of livelihood, many traveled to other areas for work-machine shops in Springfield, General Electric in Ludlow. Fortunately, the Gay Brothers Mill was purchased by Mac Molding, which continues to operate in Cavendish village.

The town’s highest census recorded was in1870 with 1,823 residents. This number would decline rapidly due to job availability in more urban areas as well as westward expansion. Since then, the population census has dipped down to a low of 1,100 and has yet to reach even 1,500.

Beginning in the 1980s, with the transformation of Okemo Mountain into a four seasons resort area, tourism and second homes have become major economic drivers. The 2017 Cavendish Grand List indicates that approximately 54% of the town is now owned by people who do not live here. 

It is the opportunity to live safely, freely and be a place of sanctuary that has drawn many to the town. As early as 1805, a former slave and Revolutionary War veteran found a home in Cavendish. Peter Tumbo (Tumber) signed the freeman’s oath and owned 50 acres of land. He died at the age of 106, with his death being noted in the anti-slavery papers of the day.

With Cavendish native Ryland Fletcher being Governor of Vermont, as well as the town’s strong anti-slavery stance, abolitionist John Brown spent a week  in Cavendish in 1857. Brown had hoped to secure some of the $20,000 the Vermont Legislature had approved to support anti-slavery settlements in Kansas.

In 1976, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize winner for literature and anti-communist, sought refuge in Cavendish. He would spend almost 18 of the 20 years he was in exile here writing “The Red Wheel.” His books, including “Gulag Archipelago” contributed to the downfall of the Soviet system.

Today, in many ways,  Cavendish has returned to its roots with the single largest employer being self-employment in the building related trades and services that cater to tourism. With the arrival of the Internet age, those parts of town that are fortunate to have high speed Internet, telecommuting and home business ventures flourish. There is a growing artist community as well as a return to small farms, with cows and sheep once again dotting the Cavendish landscape.