Friday, August 24, 2012

Irene Remembered in Cavendish

Cavendish will recognize the first anniversary of Irene on Aug. 26, Sunday, as follows:

• Prayer Walk: Begins at Calvary Church in Proctorsville at 3 pm and will stop at various points in Proctorsville and Cavendish. People of all faith and spiritual backgrounds are welcome, with leaders from local faith communities guiding a few moments from their traditions at each of the stops. You can walk with the group or by yourself. FMI: 226-7131

• Cavendish Historical Society’s Museum and Refreshments: The Cavendish Historical Society Museum will be the snack and water stop for those in the prayer walk. To accommodate the walkers and others who are interested in seeing the Cavendish Floods exhibit, the Museum will be open from 2-5 pm. The exhibit features pictures and other items from the 1927 flood and Irene. FMI: 226-7807 or

• Cavendish Irene Website: Check out the CTES fourth grade class’s website on Irene

Cavendish VT Facebook: This site will have photographs from Irene being posted from Friday Aug. 24 through Aug. 28.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to School with the Cavendish Historical Society: Make a Chalkboard

While students and teachers today have the advantages of “smart boards,” “white boards” and other technology, to use as visual aids when teaching in a class room, up until the early 1800’s teachers had no easy means of presenting information. Not only were pencils and papers in short supply, but also students used flat wood board painted over with black grit. It wasn’t uncommon for teachers, who lacked supplies and the funds to purchase them, to write the alphabet on the back of students’ hands.

George Baron, an instructor at West Point Military Academy, is thought to be the first American instructor to use a large black slate chalkboard, when teaching math, in 1801. By the mid-1800s, a blackboard was to be found in almost every school and had become the single most important educational tool. Chalkboards remained the primary all-around educational fixture in schoolrooms and businesses for almost 200 years.

Many rural schools used the slate material chalkboard, a labor saving device for teachers and allowing them to educate many more children at one time. However, the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) found that not all of Cavendish’s rural schools adopted the slate chalkboard.

The Rumke School (Greenbush Rd in Cavendish) was closed in 1923. Left untouched, the property owners, Al and Diana Leonard, donated the teacher’s blackboard, to the Museum. This one room schoolhouse was still using the old method of combining un sanded grout and paint. Given the combination of Yankee thrift and lack of funds, many of the Cavendish rural one-room schoolhouses most likely used similar methods.

As part of CHS’s “Hands on History” program, on Sunday September 9, a free workshop is being offered whereby participants can make their own chalkboard and see the one from the Rumke School. The workshop begins at 2 pm.

This workshop has been made possible in part by a grant from the Cavendish Community Fund, a project of the Cavendish Community and Conservation Association (CCCA).

For more information, call 802-226-7807 or e-mail

Friday, August 10, 2012

Phineas Gage Poster for Sale

This Sunday, Aug. 12, the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) will have a program on the latest Phineas Gage research. Gage was the first documented traumatic brain injury case after a tamping rod went through his head. Working in Cavendish, blasting rock for the new railroad, in 1848, Gage continues to inspire new research almost 165 years later.

While Dr. Harlow is credited with saving Gage’s life after the accident, it took another doctor, Gene Bont, who was the area’s family doctor for approximately 30 years, to find documentation that Gage made his living at times by posing as a curiosity. Bont found a poster advertising Gage as “The World’s Wonder.” For 12 1•2 Cents, “to be had at the door,” you could see Phineas Gage at Rumford Hall where he will exhibit to them, in his own person, one of the greatest wonders of the world! Nothing less than a man who has had a huge iron bar, which he will exhibit, forced through his head from chin to crown; has had, in fact his brains blown out!”

Copies of the Gage poster, 81/2 X 11,” are now being sold by CHS for $5 a piece. Money raised from the sale of the posters will go towards a Phineas Gage website, which will be done by the Cavendish Town Elementary School’s 4th grade class under the direction of their teacher Jenn Harper.

You can purchase a poster at the Museum on Sundays between 2-4 pm or by contacting CHS at 802-226-7807 or

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cavendish Civil War History: Henry B. Atherton

Attending the Duttonsville School, where he excelled, Henry Bridge Atherton was more interested in poetry than farming. During his time at Dartmouth College, he taught the winter school in Duttonsville twice and one winter in Proctorsville. From there he went to the Albany Law School where her received the degree of L.L.B. in 1860.

With an office in Proctorsville, John Brown, the famous abolitionist, and his son Owen came to visit Atherton in late 1856 or early 1857. The purpose of that visit, Atherton describes in a letter to the biographer of Brown, John Redpath, in 1882, was to seek guns and money to help with his anti slavery cause.

When the Civil War began, Atherton offered his services to Governor Fairbanks, who on August 12, 1861, commissioned him to raise a company of three-year men for the Union. Within two weeks he had secured his hundred men and twenty to spare. It was the color Company of the 4th Vermont known as the “Lion Brigade.” Atherton was chosen captain and was mustered into service at Brattleboro in Company “C.” He wrote a great many letters during the war, some of which are available at the on-line Atherton Collection, compiled by Linda Welch.

It is interesting that in 1853, at the age of 16, he wrote a poem, “The Widow,” which would take on a very sad and tragic meaning ten years later, when so many Cavendish wives lost their husband in the war.

The Widow

The widow is a dangerous thing.

With soft, black shinning curls,

And looketh more bewitching

Than an host of romping girls;

Her laugh is so delicious-

So, knowing, clear, beside.

You’d never dream she’s thinking

Soon to become a bride.

Her dress, though made of sables,

Gives roundness to her form-

A touch of something thoughtful,

A witching, winning charm.

And when she sits down by you,

With quiet, easy grace-

A tear may fall unbidden,

Or a smile light up her face.

Her voice is soft melodious-

And lute-like in its tone.

She sometimes sighs: “it’s dreadful

To pass through life alone.”

And she’d tell you, you remind her

Of the loved one dead and gone.

Your step, your form, your features;

Thus the widow will run on.

Oh! Listen, yet be careful,

For well she plays her part-

Her lips distill the nectar

That doth enslave the heart.

Be barded or she’ll win you,

With smiles, and sighs, and tears;

I’l saith she’ll wear the breeches, too,

And box your silly ears!

Severely wounded by a bullet in the groin, he resigned his commission, which was taken over by another Cavendish solder, George Blood French. Atheron accepted the editorial management of the New Hampshire Telegraph, in Nashua, NH. Returning to law practice, Atherton served in the legislature and was even offered the governorship of Alaska by President Harrison. He continued to write, including an article “The Old Indian Road,” covering the history of Vermont and the Crown Point Military Road and the captivity of Mrs. Johns, mother of the first white child born in Vermont.

Atherton died of pneumonia at the age of 71. “He was fulfilling a speaking engagement at the Tremont Temple in Boston, and stepped onto an outside balcony for a breath of fresh air. He suffered a chill, and within ten days he was dead.”