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 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 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 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 with “subscribe IWAW” in the subject heading. To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to with “unsubscribe IWAW” in the subject heading.

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