Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Celebrating Luella Butler's 105th Birthday: More than a Century of Cavendish History

Luella Butler with three of her sons taken in 2013
On Thursday June 19, Proctorsville resident Luella Butler will celebrate her 105th birthday. If you haven't stopped by the town office to sign her birthday scroll, do so as soon as possible. 

Luella has lived more than a century of Cavendish history. Working at Gay Brothers and a life time member of the Grange, she witnessed some of the most astonishing advances in many fields. At the time of her birth in 1909, the average life expectancy was around 42. Thanks to vaccinations and the eradication of many childhood diseases, by the end of the century, the average life expectancy was closer to 76 years of age and by 2014 it's closer to 80. 

Even though horse drawn carriages would have been part of Luella's childhood, she could have seen Lindbergh fly across town in 1927, the same year as the flood. Less than forty years later, astronauts and space exploration was underway. The telephone came to Cavendish when she was a child. Today, people are discontinuing their landlines in favor of the Internet and cell phones. 

Below is a Cavendish Historical timeline of what Luella has witnessed starting with her birth up until today.
1909: Electric light poles started being installed in Cavendish and Whitesville. Electric lights were installed in the Town Hall in 1910, but it took until the 1940’s and some stretches even later, for electricity to be available town wide.

1910: Cavendish population 1,208
• The telephone comes to Vermont. There is evidence that Ludlow Telephone was in operation by 1913. Because of the costs, telephone service was slow to come to the rural areas. Most places had phone service by the mid 1940’s. Ludlow Telephone Company was eventually sold to TDS Telecom in the 1990’s.

 1911: Activities for the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Cavendish Charter are postponed due to a small pox epidemic. Festivities are held in 1912, which are documented in “The Vermonter.”

1914: Proctor Piper State Forest, with the donation of 424 acres, established. A second gift from Leon S. Gay in the mid 1930’s added 300 acres and additional purchases of property added another 700 acres.

1917-1919 (WWI): 57 men and one woman from Cavendish joined the military. The flu epidemic of 1918 took the lives of three of the four Cavendish servicemen that were to die during the war. Food and coal rationing were required. The latter was not an issue for local farmers, who burned wood, but it was difficult for those in the villages. Daylight Saving Time was started on April 1, 1918.

The mills were operating at full tilt for the war effort. Business was in a boom period through 1920. Most of the Cavendish servicemen returned home.

 1918: Cavendish elected its first woman selectman, Gertrude Foster.

1920: Cavendish population 1,319

1923: WWI Memorial dedicated in Proctorsville. Redfield Proctor, Jr donated the monument.

1927: The largest flood on record in Vermont caused heavy damage in the Black River Valley, particularly Cavendish. A quarter mile long channel avulsion bypassing the Cavendish Gorge eroded approximately 2 million tons of sediment down to bedrock leaving a channel 150 feed deep and 600 feet wide. Seven houses were washed away and the Duttonsville School ended up protruding over the edge of a high sandbank. Redfield Proctor, former Vermont governor, offered $10,000 to restore the schoolhouse. Olin Gay, Chairman of the School Board, proposed using this gift to move the school to a new location. He also proposed that the town raise an additional $5,000 by taxes to put in an auditorium basement, modernize the heating system and install toilets. The school building was moved on big rollers by oxen and horses 400 feet back to a safer location. It had much better facilities than before the flood. A Vermont Standard School until 1928, thanks to the renovations after the flood, Duttonsville was upgraded to a “Superior School,” a status it retained until closing in 1971.

• President Calvin Coolidge telegraphs his cousin, Park Pollard, after the flood, wanting to know what he can do for Cavendish. He sent Herbert Hoover, his Secretary of Commerce, to visit the region and to make recommendations. Two Army engineers came to give technical help about relocating the state road

• Charles Lindbergh flies over Cavendish

• Radio Station WLAK begins in Bellows Falls. Cavendish has radio service. Many farmers make their own “crystal” radios. They would use their car batteries to power them.

• Murdock’s Mill now becomes Proctor Mill

1928: In September, almost ten months after the flood, President Coolidge comes to Cavendish to view the damage. He looked at the washed out areas, but characteristically, did not say much.

1929: Stock market crash. This did not have an immediate impact on Cavendish. Few people had investments to lose, and for the Gay Brothers Woolen Mill, 1929 was the best year, financially, in the history of their business. It took several years before the depression was felt. Cash was scarce, but for many farmers, that had always been the case. Frugality was part of the depression, but it wasn’t caused by it.

1930: Cavendish Population 1,418

1932: Black Bear Woolen Mill replaces Proctor Mill and operates until 1937. Even though the mill functions was thought to be productive, it closes in 1937 possibility because of union strikes the year before. The building is sold to Proctorsville and is never used for textiles again. It was eventually used by Proctor Reels to make reels and furniture.

1933: A Civilian Conservation Corps camp was established in the Proctor-Piper Forest in Proctorsville. One hundred twenty five unmarried men, between the ages of 18-25, came from New York to join local men in clearing trails for horse back riding and hiking and to create a recreational area.

 1938: A hurricane struck the Town. The winds blew down thousands of trees, blocking nearly every road.

1940: Cavendish Population 1,398

1941-1945 WWII Era: One hundred and sixty-eight men and one woman served in the war. Imogene Baxendale served as an Army nurse. Six men were killed in action and several were wounded. They served in every branch of the armed services and in nearly every area where American soldiers, sailors and flyers were sent.

• Gay Brothers Mill was described as “the chief war industry of the town where 300 people worked producing 30,000 yards of woolen blankets, Navy uniform cloth and Khaki flannels each week for the United States Government. 37% of the workers served in the military. In need of workers, women worked in the mills, many men had second jobs there and all high school students over 16 were asked to work at the mill whenever possible.

• Due to its proximity to Precision Valley, as well as the mills in the Villages, Cavendish was viewed as being at risk for enemy bombing. Three spotter towers were erected and were staffed by volunteers (women, high school students, and men not in the service) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The towers were located above the Duttonsville School, across from Moonlite Meadows Farm, on East Road, and at the end of Blood Terrace off of Maple Street in Proctorsville.

1946: Allen Wilcox becomes the first town manager hired. Each year the town would vote whether they wanted a paid town manager. Some years they had one and many  years they didn’t. In 1960, Donald Ellison became town manager and held the post for quite some time.

1950: Cavendish population 1,374
Dutton House moved from the Cavendish Green to the Shelburne Museum.

1950-1953: Korean War. Fifty four men from Cavendish served in this war. All returned home safely.

1951: Gay Brothers Mill closes. The mill is sold to F. C. Hyuck and Sons and becomes known as Kenwood Mills.

1953: Rutland Railroad stops passenger service, ending passenger service in Proctorsville and Cavendish. Depots in both towns are dismantled.

1954: First Television set comes to Cavendish. Vermont’s first television station, was established in 1954 when WCAX-TV began broadcasting from Burlington. Joseph Warren on Twenty Mile Stream owned the first TV set in Cavendish.

1955: Cavendish Historical Society established. Atherton Bemis is the first president.

• Cavendish Town Office built in its current location on High Street in Cavendish.

1956-1957: Physician serving the Cavendish/Proctorsville area dies. Two fatal car accidents occurred and Cavendish found they could not rely on Ludlow for medical coverage. Community leaders meet with the University of Vermont Medical School about the situation.  They were advised to equip a medical office and then solicit a physician. Kenwood Mills, who purchased Gay Brothers Mills and its holdings in 1951, donates the stone building to help form the new Black River Health Center. Members of the community donated their time to renovate the building. Workers at Kenwood Mills had $1 a week withheld from their pay to help establish the Health Center. Dr. Eugene Bont and Dr. Lawrence Bixby set up practice.

1957: Kenwood Mills, formerly Gay Brothers Woolen Mill, once the leading employer for the town is sold and closed by the new owners.

• Passenger and freight train service no longer available in Cavendish.

• Art Briggs is elected Fire Chief for Fire District #2 (Cavendish). With his experience fighting fires in WWII, he creates a well organized group and legally incorporates the Fire Department. An active Auxiliary is formed. Prior to Briggs arrival, Cavendish stored fire fighting equipment at various locations in town and depended heavily on Fire District #1 and the Gay Brothers Mill for putting out fires.

• Hawks Mountain Fire, which started on the Cavendish side and spread to Perkinsville. The National Guard had to be called for help. The fire started on May 7 and wasn’t fully extinguished until May 11.

1960: The new Proctorsville Elementary School building opens. Duttonsville School is still open, but will close in 1971. As the Cavendish village students enter the school in Proctorsville, the school becomes known as the Cavendish Town Elementary School.

• Cavendish Population 1,223, the lowest since 1910.

• New Route 103 extension added, no longer requiring traffic to go down Proctorsville’s Depot Street to a stop light, where drivers turned left for Ludlow or right for Cavendish. Depot Street becomes a town road and no longer a state highway.

1961: The town celebrates its 200th anniversary.

1962: Mack Molding opens in the Gay’s Brother Mill complex.

1963-1973: Vietnam War Era. Sixty four men and three women (Harriet Dockum, Linda Tyrell and Rachel Strong) served in this conflict.

1967: On December 12, the voters of the Cavendish Town School District approved, by a margin of 122 to 73, the formation of a union high school district, grades 7-12, with the town School Districts of Andover and Chester and the Duttonsville Independent School District.

1970: Cavendish population 1,264
The Cavendish Historical Society leases the old town hall building for its Museum. Shortly thereafter, the Old Stone Church (Universalist Church) is leased to the Historical Society for preservation. 

• Vermont passes Act 250, known as the Land Use and Development Act, as a result of the increasing development of resort and second home housing. This expansion was putting a heavy burden on small towns, particularly in the southern part of the state, who would need to significantly expand infrastructures to meet the expansion. One of the first projects was the Black River Estates off of Pratt Hill in Proctorsville. In subsequent years, this law is used to stop development thought to be inappropriate for Cavendish.

1973: Major flood, which washed out many roads and bridges.

1976: Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Prize winner and Soviet dissident, settles in Cavendish with his wife, children and mother-in-law. His home becomes a place of refuge for other Soviet dissidents.

• Green Mountain Union High School opens in Chester.

1977: Cavendish and Weathersfield residents learn that Springfield is planning to build a hydroelectric plant on the Black River from the media. Concerned Citizens of the Black River Valley (CCBRV) is formed to keep Springfield from building the generating project. Six units were proposed, the largest of which was Hawks Mountain Dam located on the Cavendish/Weathersfield town line. This dam would have been of earth fill construction, 165 feet in height and 900 feet in length at the crest and would have flooded five miles in Cavendish. CCBRV included citizens of the Towns of Cavendish, Weathersfield, and Springfield. Their slogan was “Save the Valley.”

• Stepping Stones Preschool opens in Ludlow to serve area children. The school will eventually move to a building on the border of Cavendish and Ludlow and today primarily serves Cavendish.

1978: Singleton’s general store opens on Main Street in Proctorsville. This marks the beginning of the Proctorsville revitalization effort.

1980:         Cavendish population 1,355

1981: Lisa Ballantine becomes the first female fire fighter for the Cavendish Fire Department (District #2).

• The Southern Windsor/Windham Counties Solid Waste Management District is formed in order to provide solid waste management authority, services, and planning to its member towns, one of which is Cavendish.

1982: The Mueller’s purchase the Okemo Ski area in Ludlow and begin to turn it into a resort. This will have a significant impact on Cavendish in subsequent years. The 1980s saw a new potential economy-tourism-as Okemo Mountain became a prominent ski area. Increasingly, people looked to Cavendish for vacation and seasonal housing. Today, non-residents own 60% of the town’s property.

• Acousti-Phase, the old mill building on what is now the Proctorsville Green, burns down.

 1985: Donna Blanchard is the first female fire fighter for the Proctorsville Fire Department. Her sister Amy was the second female fire fighter.

1986: Proctorsville ceases to be an incorporated village and, with Vermont State Legislative approval, the governmental entity is merged into the Town of Cavendish.

1987: Proctorsville’s water system has to be abandoned due to contamination from road salt. Combined with the Cavendish Municipal Water system.

1988: Dr. Bont and his wife Phyllis Bont, a nurse practitioner, leave Black River Health Center to work at Albany Medical Center. In the coming years, various medical groups try to establish a health center but are short lived. The longest standing occupant since the Bonts left has been Opportunities in Learning (OIL) a school for students who do not function well in a regular classroom. In 2010, several mental health counselors set up their practices in the building. Many people receive care via the Springfield Medical Care Systems, which includes federally qualified health care system at the Ludlow Health Center and various offices in Springfield.

• Richard Svec becomes town manager, a position that he continues to hold. He has now served longer than any other town manager in Cavendish history.

1989-1990: Twenty eight Cavendish residents served in the Lebanon and Granada conflicts. This included five women-Amy and Donna Blanchard, Valerie Scales, Norma Westcott and Nicola Woodell.

1990: Cavendish population 1,323

1991: Bi-Centennial of Vermont Statehood. Cavendish celebrates with a parade. Solzhenitsyn is one of the speakers.

1994: Solzhenitsyn returns to Russia with his wife. Solzhenitsyn addresses Town Meeting and national media once again come to town to capture this event. Mike Wallace, of “Sixty Minutes” is not allowed to use the Cavendish Post Office bathroom, because it is a Federal building.

 1995: Sovernet Communications opens in Bellows Falls and offers internet access via “land lines.” The availability of internet service makes it possible for more people to “telecommute” from home.

1996-1998: Proctorsville revitalizing projects undertaken. With matching funds and in-kind matches provided by the Town and the private sector, the Town was able to change the vacant Proctorsville mill site into a handsome, well-designed village green with recreational space. Affordable housing is strategically placed adjacent to the green with the move of the historic Freeman House from next to the Cavendish Pointe Hotel to the Green in 1997.

1996: Act 60, also known as the Equal Educational Opportunity Act, is signed into law. The Legislature drafted the law in response to a Vermont Supreme Court decision that said Vermont's existing educational funding system was unconstitutional. The court, in Brigham v. State of Vermont, concluded that the state must provide "substantially equal access" to education for all Vermont students, regardless of where they reside. Initially Cavendish is not impacted by the bill but in subsequent years, particularly with the growing resort second home owner community associated with the mountain, residents started to be “taxed” out.

2000: Cavendish population 1,470  

2001: LPC-TV is launched. A public access television station for the towns of Ludlow, Plymouth and Cavendish, local school board, select board and town meetings can now be seen on television along with other community events. This is made possible by Comcast. LPC-TV establishes a website www, and is one of the few public access channels that includes the videos of events and meetings, which means people don’t have to be a subscriber to Comcast in order to watch events.

• In response to 9/11-the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in New York City and damage to the Pentagon, Cavendish churches hold an ecumenical service. Many knew people that were hurt, and in at least one case, killed.

2002: McLean Quarry proposes to build a quarry at the end of Tierney Road, which would extend onto route 103 (Main Street) between the two villages. Residents, whose property who would be directly impacted by the proposed quarry, form Concerned Cavendish Citizens (CCC). Leaders of this group included Robin Timko, April Hensel, Will Hunter and Suzanne Meaney. When the quarry was finally defeated in 2006, CCC became CCCA (Cavendish Community and Conservation Association). CCCA, in addition to its conservation efforts, started the Cavendish Community Fund, which provides small grants to Cavendish organizations and individuals.

As part of keeping people informed about Quarry matters, Margo Caulfield started an electronic newsletter called “Quarry Update.” As there was limited local news coverage for Cavendish, this e-mail newsletter evolved into the “Cavendish Update,” which provides not only weekly news but also is used in times of emergency.

2003: A Class I tornado, a ferocious storm with heavy rain, lightning and very severe winds, left a path of damage from the Black River all the way to Brook Road in Cavendish. One mobile home was destroyed. Acres of trees were felled, leaving town roads closed until clean up could take place.

• Act 68 is passed amending Act 60, to relieve some of the burden placed on local school districts.

2004: Cavendish Town Elementary School has an extensive renovation and addition.

• Village Center Designation is awarded to the villages of Cavendish and Proctorsville. This designation offers a variety of benefits including tax credits for historic buildings and commercial properties renovating to code and priority consideration for certain types of state grants.

2006: Outdoor classroom constructed at the Cavendish Town Elementary School.

2007: Ancient Roads Committee Formed.
 Old Home Day tradition begun by the Cavendish Historical Society.

2008: The Cavendish Update becomes a blog at

 • Partnering with the Rockingham Area Land Trust (RALT), Cavendish develops a variety of affordable housing-townhouses, apartments and senior housing-around the Proctorsville Green.

• Alexander Solzhenitsyn dies in Russia and once again the town is inundated with reporters and television crews. A private town service is held to remember Solzhenitsyn.

2009: New sidewalks and curbs are installed in Proctorsville. The project took nine years from grant application to project completion.

• Water filtration project completed. A bond was passed in 2002, which began the town’s efforts to improve water quality, due to high levels of iron and manganese, as well as replace asbestos pipes and the Proctorsville water tower.

2010: Cavendish population 1,367, a decline of 7% from 2000.

2011: Tropical Storm Irene causes considerable damage, including the loss of several homes and millions of dollars worth of damage to the town’s infrastructure (water, sewer, electricity and power) as well as roads. The flooding waters creates a “canyon” similar to the one in 1927. A shelter is open for 10 days at the Cavendish Town Elementary School. One of its functions is to house the National Guard brought in to help rebuild the roads. In spite of the devastation, Cavendish holds a four day 250th anniversary celebration in October. While the parade route had to be modified and shortened considerably, many lined Depot Street, an area that sustained heavy damage, and cheered.

• Cavendish VT Facebook page is started initially because of the events surrounding the town’s 250th anniversary. It takes on a new way for the town to communicate during Irene.

2012: At the end of the year, the Universalist Church agrees to transfer the deed of the Stone Church to the town. The actual transfer will take place on May 11, 2013. The building will be the future home of the permanent Solzhenitsyn Exhibit and will also serve as a small venue space for concerts, lectures, films, plays etc.

• The Rutland Windsor Supervisory Union (Ludlow, Mt. Holly and Plymouth) merges with the Windsor Southwest Supervisory Union (Chester,/Andover, Cavendish and Londonderry) to create the Two Rivers Supervisory Union.

• Extensive rebuilding of the town’s infrastructure following Irene. Includes mountains of paperwork for the town offices as they comply with FEMA and other agencies relating to the funding of the recovery.

• Jim Ballentine, very active in town politics for many years, dies while serving as chair of the Cavendish Selectboard.

2013: In March, voters agree to accept the donation of the Cavendish Universalist Church, also known as the “Stone Church.” It’s purpose is to be for permanent home of the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn exhibit as well as small venue space for talks, theater, films, concerts . The Universalist Church Convention is held in at the Cavendish Stone Church in May. While a voice vote is agreement to transfer the deed of the church to the town, nothing is finalized by the end of the year.

• The entrance of Chubb Hill off of route 131 is moved so that it bisects Donnie Davis’s field.

• To reduce Cavendish’s carbon footprint, Zero sort recycling begins at the Cavendish Transfer Station and enters into an agreement with Soveren Solar of Putney to establish a 150 solar array on town property-south facing slope just below the Cavendish Waster Water facility.

2014: A snowy and cold winter contributes to numerous fires, including the destruction of two historic homes on Main Street, one in each of the villages.

Additional Timelines

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