Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sugaring in Cavendish

Spring time and maple syrup, also know as sugaring, have been part of the Vermont landscape ever since the Eastern Woodland Indians discovered that maple sap cooked over an open fire produces sugar.

This year, with zero degrees nights, and below freezing temperatures during the day, many have wondered if this is unusual and if we’ll even have a sugar season. According to Barbara Kingsbury’s book “Chubb Hill Farm and Cavendish, Vermont: A Family and Town History 1876-1960,” sugar season fluctuated from year to year for the Kingsbury family.  From 1879 until 1949 Homer Kingsbury and his descendants’ records showed a great fluctuation in production, weather, length of season as well a pricing. In 1877, the price of a gallon was. 80¢. and by 1948, it had risen to $5 a gallon. Below is a sampling of sugaring on the Kingsbury Farm, located on Chubb Hill Road:

1877: Homer sent maple syrup to other parts of the state and Boston by train. He sold a gallon of maple syrup for .80¢  to Boston merchants.

1879: Produced 800 pounds of sugar and 40 gallons of syrup

1890: Boston merchants Blake and Ripley wrote to Homer saying, “The market has been quite well supplied and Syrup has been selling from 75 to 90 cents but we were able to get $1.00 for yours, on account of its excellent quality.”

1891: Blake and Ripley again wrote to Homer stating, “We think  we can sell all your neighbors can send, if it is of as good quality as yours, at a good price also. Your goods have a reputation on this market of which you may be justly proud, as is proved by the price.” A gallon of Homer’s syrup retailed for $1.10.

1934: Alfred Kingsbury, Homer’s son,  sold 14 gallons of syrup to First National Store in Ludlow at $1.23 per gallon.

1935: The Spauldings produced more maple syrup than most of their neighbors, averaging 2400 taps.

1936: Heavy snow in January and February. Alfred sugared in March. Grade A syrup now sold for $1.50 a gallon.

1937: In March, Alfred and his boys tapped a total of 557 buckets with a gallon now costing $1.75

1938: A good year for sugaring. Produced a great deal of Fancy and Grade A syrup. The price of Grade A was now $2 a gallon.

1941: The weather was not suitable for sugaring until March 24 and the season ended by April 15 when the temperature reached 79 degrees. They made 584 taps.

1942: 565 taps. Syrup was now $2.50 a gallon for Grade A.

1943: By April 1, there was still no good sap weather; it did run well a few days later, though, and a gallon of syrup brought $2.90.

1944: 750 taps in late March-there were more orders for syrup because of sugar rationing due to WWII.

1946: Sugared in March. Received $3.39 per gallon for Fancy syrup.

1947: 550 buckets out. Good sugar season.

1948: Sugaring season was short as the weather was too warm by April 2. They did get $5 a gallon for their best syrup.

1949: Ansel (Alfred’s son, Homer’s grandson) tapped only 20 buckets in March and finished it off on the old wood range, which they had moved to the cellar. They boiled up five and a half gallons for themselves; sugaring was not practical with no other to help with it.

Dan Churchill, who was a child during the 1940’s, recalled how shocked people were that a gallon of maple syrup sold for $5. Today’s price per gallon for Vermont syrup is close to $60.

Local sugaring is just getting underway. Keith Varga (226-7135), who is on Chubb Hill, started on March 21, while the Tyrrells (226-7409) are hoping to start this coming weekend.

Sugar on Snow Supper: All over Vermont, with the taping of maple trees, March is the month of the annual Sugar-on-Snow Supper held at various churches, grange halls, schools and community centers. The meal generally includes a menu of ham, potatoes, baked beans, various side dishes and of course, what everyone comes for, hot maple syrup poured over shaved ice and served with a homemade doughnut and pickle. Why the pickle? No one knows for sure, but it probably helps cut the sweetness of the maple candy. 

The Cavendish Baptist Church has held an annual Sugar-on-Snow Supper for as long as people can remember.  According to Sandra Stearns, “I know is has been a tradition since I was old enough to wait on tables, at about age 13 or 14, about 1952.  Before that Will Atkinson used to bring down some of his ponies and give pony rides, [with the] fees donated to the church.  I spent a  number of years helping him lead that "riders" around the block - from the church around the parsonage and back.” Mildred Fitzgibbons, who is 90,  recalls May Atkinson walking from her home on Atkinson Road  to the Cavendish Baptist Church and spending the day cooking for suppers. Her husband Will sugared as did many other people in town.  

This coming Saturday, March 29, from 5:30-7 pm, will be the Annual Sugar-on-Snow Supper at the Cavendish Baptist Church. There aren’t too many traditions that date back at least 75 years or more, but this is one of them. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children 6-12 and free for those younger. FMI:226-7724

Monday, March 24, 2014

IWAW Newsletter 3/24/14

Welcome to the Cavendish Historical Society’s (CHS) e-newsletter “I Wrote and Waited.”

For nearly 18 of the 20 years he was in exile, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Soviet dissident and Nobel prize winner in literature, lived with his family in Cavendish, VT. Information about Solzhenitsyn’s life in America is one of the most frequent requests CHS receives. Consequently, in 2012, CHS began working with the Solzhenitsyn family in developing a program- I Wrote and Waited-which consists of the following:: A permanent exhibit to be located at the former Cavendish Universalist “Stone” Church; Archives, including oral histories, for future generations, scholars etc.; and public awareness, particularly for students.

Subscriber information appears at the end of this post. 

The 3/24/14 Edition Contains the Following:
1. The Writer Who Changed History: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn-The Story Behind the Story
2. Ignat Solzhenitsyn Talk March 28
3. Cavendish Stone Church
4. May 25: Opening Day of the Museum
5. Solzhenitsyn in “The Vermont Movie: Freedom & Unity”
6. Supporting the CHS Solzhenitsyn Initiative
7. Contact Information

1. THE WRITER WHO CHANGED HISTORY-The Story Behind the Story
 In May 2013, while teaching a WWII unit for home school students, third grader Isabelle Gross became very upset when she learned of Solzhenitsyn’s arrest and imprisonment while serving as a Captain in the Russian Army . She kept on saying “this is unfair” and had a hard time understanding that he eventually was released, wrote of his experiences, which helped to free his country from communism, and lived in Cavendish for almost 18 years. Even though she knew his grandchildren, she had a hard time moving beyond his gulag experience.

Isabelle’s strong reaction to Solzhenitsyn’s story was the catalyst for the children’s biography The Writer Who Changed History: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Having a book she could read, might be a better way for her and other students to understand that Solzhenitsyn’s experience in the war was literally just one chapter in a very amazing life.

Through donations and a grant award from the Cavendish Community Fund, the book is in the last stages of being edited. Layout will be provided by Julia Gignoux of  Freedom Hill Press. The goal is to have the book available for purchase, in print and e-book form, before the start of school in September. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go towards CHS’s “I Wrote and Waited” project.

The biography is geared for children in grades 4-7. However, given the volume of pictures and other materials included in the book we anticipate that older students as well as parents will find the book of interest. Thanks to a grant from the Vermont Humanities Council, an on-line curriculum guide, various teaching tools, lots of “hands-on” activities, and resources will be available for use by teachers, librarians and readers. Because so many teachers, librarians and parents use Pinterest, a site has already been established.  In addition to the web and Pinterest sites, there will also be a Facebook page offering opportunities for discussion among readers.

Many people have and continue to work on making this book a reality. Thank you to the Solzhenitsyn family; Yuliya Ballou; Robin Bebo-Long; Margo Caulfield; the Cavendish Community Fund; Julia Gignoux; Isabelle Gross; Jenn Harper; Bob Naess; Kim and Svetlana Phillips, Ann Thompson,; and the Vermont Humanities Council

The Vermont Humanities Council’s First Wednesday’s series had to cancel Ignat Solzhenitsyn’s February talk due to snow. It has been rescheduled for Friday,  March 28, 7 pm at Brattleboro’s BrooksMemorial Library.  Conductor and pianist Ignat Solzhenitsyn recollects his father's painstaking crafting of the Red Wheel—a history of the Russian Revolution—and his family's life in Cavendish in the 1980s. The Cavendish Historical Society is organizing rides for this event. If you interested in attending and need a ride, please call or e-mail margoc@tds.net or 802-226-7807.

The future home of the permanent Solzhenitsyn exhibit, as well as small venue space for the community, is the Cavendish Stone Church, located on Main Street in Cavendish. Built in 1844, it is is a recognized landmark and appears on both the state and national historic registries.

Rev. Warren Skinner, a well-known abolitionist, organized the building of the church. To raise money, pews were sold ranging in price from $15 to $60, with the total cost being $1,515. Constructed by John Adams using “snecked ashlar” construction, the glimmer stone was quarried in Cavendish. Walls were constructed with exterior and
interior surfaces composed of mortared stone slabs arranged vertically on
edge, tied together with smaller horizontal slabs called "snecks." The space
between the wall surfaces was filled with rubble stone. Oral tradition tells us that Scottish stonemasons working in Canada were responsible for introducing the technique into Vermont.

Decommissioned as a church in the 1960’s, the building was “loaned” to CHS in the 1970’s, who has continued to maintain the building. 

In May 2013, the Vermont-Quebec Universalist Unitarian Convention met in the Stone Church and voted to deed the building to the Town of Cavendish. We are still waiting for the lawyers to finalize the deed transfer. In the mean time, CHS continues to maintain the building and meet with the town committee who is responsible for overseeing the conservation of the building.

According to the various site visits and a report prepared by a representative from the Vermont Historic Trust, the building is in excellent condition, and is probably the last of its type where the interior, including the paint, wallpaper and plaster, is original.

While the official day for opening the CHS Museum, which does contain an exhibit on Solzhenitsyn, is Sunday, May 25, CHS is happy to open it at other times, particularly for school groups and visitors from other parts of the country.

If your school or organization would be interested in a program on Solzhenitsyn, CHS will work with you in developing one that will be of most interest to your students/audience. To arrange a visit or program, please e-mail margoc@tds.net or call 802-226-7807

The Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) has purchased the six part film series “The Vermont Movie: Freedom & Unity-One State Many Visions.” This is the first-ever documentary series about Vermont and is a collaboration of three-dozen critically acclaimed Vermont filmmakers, as well as historians, editors, archivists, animators, composers, and writers. Divided into six segments, Solzhenitsyn is featured in the segment “Welcome to Vermont.”

CHS will be showing segments of the film throughout the next year. We would also like to make it available for “home movie night.” You invite your friends, select the segments you want to watch and a representative from CHS will come with the film and provide relevant Cavendish historical information. 

To arrange a “Home Movie Night,” please e-mail margoc@tds.net or call 802-226-7807.  For more information.

There are a variety of ways you can support the “I Wrote and Waited” project. These include:
• Identifying links and resources that would be good to include in the biography web and Pinterest sites
• Host a fundraiser
• Sending tax-exempt donations to CHS, PO Box 472, Cavendish VT 05142. Be sure to specify the Solzhenitsyn project.

Note that when the permanent exhibit is opened, CHS will be training docents to staff the exhibit.

To learn about CHS and its various programs, please contact:
Margo Caulfield, Coordinator
PO Box 472
Cavendish, VT 05142

Subscribing to the “I Wrote and Waited” E-news can be done by sending an e-mail to margoc@tds.net with “subscribe IWAW” in the subject heading. To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to margoc@tds.net with “unsubscribe IWAW” in the subject heading.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Penguin Hill Ski Tow-Skiing and Bobsledding in Cavendish

Did you know that Cavendish once had a ski area called the Penguin Hill Ski Tow? You can see a video of it on Vimeo. Thank you Pat Moore for posting it to the Cavendish, VT Facebook page.

Promoting Cavendish as a winter destination, an ad for Proctor-Piper Hotel and the Penguin Hill Ski Town (Stearns Gay, Manager) appears in the 1941 Vermont Year Book. Proctor Piper was the new name for the Cottage Hotel on Depot Street, which was renamed the Riverside Inn Hotel in 1944. This property is on the corner of Depot Street and Pratt Hill.

The Penguin Hill Ski Tow sign hung on the corner of what was the Grange Hall (Route 131 and Twenty Mile Stream) directing skiers to the next property (Bidgoods) after the Grange Hall heading north on Twenty Mile Stream.

 In addition to Penguin Hill, there were two other ski areas in Cavendish- one on "Howard HIll" across the Black River opposite Tarbell Hill and the other built by the younger members of the Gay family, behind Glimmerstone. 

In addition to the "ski areas," Cavendish was the first place in New England to offer a bobsled run. This one mile 700 foot drop run was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. The run was located near Hillcrest Cemetery in Proctorsville. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cavendish In the Movies

The Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) has purchased the six part film series “The Vermont Movie: Freedom & Unity-One State Many Visions.” This is the first-ever documentary series about Vermont. The film is a collaboration of three-dozen critically acclaimed Vermont filmmakers, as well as historians, editors, archivists, animators, composers, and writers.

Cavendish is featured in two sections. In Part Six, People Power focuses on Irene flood recovery. You will see lots of comments from people at the Shelter, as well as sections of the Cavendish VT Facebook page, the hardest hit areas of our town and most important it shows the incredible resiliency of the people of Cavendish. The dedication of this segment is to a teen from Brattleboro who disappeared during the flood and has not been found. A number of Cavendish’s youth were part of the search and rescue team.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is also featured. It includes parts of his farewell speech, the Cavendish Library and even scenes of Proctorsville.

CHS will be showing the six segments of the film throughout the next year. We would also like to make it available for “home movie night.” You invite your friends, select the segments you want to watch (see list below) and a representative from CHS will come with the film and lead a discussion about Cavendish's history in the topics being explored. 

For more information about the film go to http://www.thevermontmovie.com. To arrange a “Home Movie Night,” please e-mail margoc@tds.net or call 802-226-7807.  

Vermont Movie Short Synopses of Six Parts
Part One – A Very New Idea
Part One explores the roots from which the future state of Vermont grew. Samuel de Champlain steps into a canoe, paving the way for Yankee immersion into native culture. We look at early settlement, native peoples’ resistance, and the little-known history of African American settlers. Pioneer rebel Ethan Allen leads the struggle for independence, resulting in Vermont’s radical constitution- the first to outlaw slavery. Finally, Vermont’s heroic role in the Civil War reminds us that, despite occasional misteps, Freedom & Unity— Vermont’s state motto—continues to chart the state’s course into the present.

Part Two – Under the Surface: Part Two deepens the journey, digging beneath the surface of Vermont’s bucolic image to explore labor wars, eugenics experiments, the McCarthy era, and progressive Republicanism. Covering over a century—from pre-Civil War to 2009—it chronicles the rise of unions and quarry work, Barre’s Socialist Labor Party Hall, the marketing of Vermont, the state’s reaction to New Deal policies, George Aiken's gentle populism, and Republican Ralph Flanders’ heroic stand against Joe McCarthy during the Red Scare. EmigrĂ©s from urban areas, “back-to-the-landers” like Helen and Scott Nearing and filmmaker Nora Jacobson’s father, Nicholas Jacobson, came to Vermont in search of an alternative lifestyle.

Part Three – Refuge, Reinvention and Revolution: In the mid-20th century, political pioneers like Bill Meyer, a Congressman who challenged the Cold War, and Governor Phil Hoff, whose 1962 victory set the stage for historic change, rose to take the lead in state politics. Innovation was everywhere: in the work of “talented tinkerers” like Snowflake Bentley and Thaddeus Fairbanks, in the rise of IBM, and in the creation of the Interstate highways. We see the pros and cons of the highways--the high price of “eminent domain.” Revolution was in the air—rare archival footage provides a vivid look at the "hippies," the realities of communal life and the paths of members of the counter-culture who established roots in Vermont. Who changed whom?

Part Four, Doers and Shapers : Part Four explores the people and institutions that push boundaries. Starting with education, we take an engrossing journey through the philosophy of John Dewey, leading to the hands-on style of Goddard College, the Putney School, and the inseparable connection between education and democracy. We explore other progressive movements: Vermont’s famous Billboard law and Act 250, cultural movements such as Bread and Puppet Theater and finally Vermont’s groundbreaking civil union law. Democracy at work— differing voices, different points of view.

Part Five – Ceres’ Children: Part Five takes a deeper look at some of Vermont’s cherished traditions: participatory democracy and the conservation ethic, from the ideas of George Perkins Marsh, one of America’s first environmentalists, to contemporary volunteer groups and activist movements. The film captures 21st century debates over natural resources, then circles back in time to show how these concerns originate in the ethics of farmers, who depended on the natural world for their survival. The disappearance of dairy farms has raised a tough question: how big is too big? How can Vermont survive in a world economy? Can Vermont be a model for small, local and self-sufficient farming?

Part Six – People’s Power: Part Six tackles contemporary tensions over energy, independence, the environment and the state’s future. Chronicling the struggle to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, it reveals the power of protest, the influence of lobbyists and the importance of town meeting debate and a citizen legislature. It follows the battle over windmills in Lowell—a struggle over scale, aesthetics and environmental impacts—and explores thorny questions about economics, sovereignty and climate change. Finally, the devastating impacts of Hurricane Irene reveal the power not only of nature, but of people and community.