Sunday, March 6, 2016

Stone Buildings of Cavendish

Throughout Cavendish are a number of buildings made of “sneckered Ashlar” construction. This technique refers to walls 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 indicates that Scottish stonemasons working in Canada were responsible for introducing the technique into Vermont.

While there are several local sources for the mica schist stone, it is believed that the former quarry at the end of Tierney Rd in Cavendish was the source for the stone for at least the Cavendish Stone Church and Glimmerstone. 

Information about the Stone Buildings in Chester, VT is available  at “The Stone Village.” 

Below is a history of a few of the stone buildings in Cavendish:

Cavendish Stone Church 1844: The mason John Adams, over saw the construction of the church. Working with him was another mason Clark Wardner, from Reading.  Together, they also built “Glimmerstone” on route 131, as well as other places in Chester and Reading Vermont.

The cost to construct the Church was $1,515. Money for the construction and maintenance, was raised by selling pews, which ranged in price from $30-$90, depending on the pew’s location to the pulpit. Because this was considered “property,” owners were required to pay a tax on their pew. Of the 48 pews, 26 still bear the original nameplates of the first owners.

The abolitionist Rev. Warren Skinner, laid the first corner stone and preached the first sermon in the church.

By the 1930’s, the church was primarily being used in the summers only. This was also the time period when the church was wired for electricity. The Church was decommissioned April 22, 1966 as there were only a few Universalist members in the area.  On June 10, 1971, the Church was leased to the Cavendish Historical Society.

On May 11, 2013, the Universalist/Unitarian Convention of Vermont and Quebec met at the Stone Church and agreed to deed the Church to the Town.

The interior of the church continues to be largely unchanged since it’s construction. It is currently being restored and will be the future home of the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn exhibit and a small venue space for community use.

Glimmerstone  1845: Located on route 131, it was originally built for Henry N. Fullerton, at that time manager of the Black River Manufacturing and Canal Company in Duttonsvile (today known as Cavendish Village). American Gothic in style, the designer was Lucius Paige, a local carpenter-inventor. The masons were John Adams and Clark Warner.

The house has had a number of owners and has served multiple purposes. During the prohibition era, Art Hadley, who would later become extremely wealthy as the inventor of the expansion bracelet, used it as part of a rum running operation. His sister, Una Gay, was married to Leon Gay, one of owners of the Gay Brothers Mill, which took the place of the Black River Manufacturing and Canal Company. Pictures of the home as in appeared in 1910 and during the time the Gays lived there, are available on-line. 

In the last 20 years, Glimmerstone has undergone major renovations to restore it to its original configuration, but with modifications for a modern kitchen, brew pub etc., so that it could operate as an inn. It is currently a private residence that is available for weddings and whole house rentals.

The Spaulding Place: Located in Cavendish village, next to the town office, on High St., was built in 1830 for Asa Wheeler and Salmon Dutton by Hail Bates. In 1833 Hail bought the house from Wheeler and Dutton for $50 and resold it the next day to Otis Robbins for $750. The house has always been a private residence.

Black River Health Center Building: Erected in 1839 as a store by Daniel Wheeler and George Davis, in the 1870s, Walker Bent ran a drug store there. He sold the building to George Mandigo and his wife for $1,500 in 1891 with “the express understanding that said premises are to be fitted up immediately for hotel purposes.” Large porches were added along with a livery stable. It was named the Hotel Elliott in 1902.

The hotel burned in 1908 and was rebuilt as a boarding house in 1912. The Gay Brothers Mill purchases the building for storage and eventually a hotel. It’s operated as the Cavendish Inn starting in 1928 until 1948, being used by teachers and Mill workers.

The building went with the Gay Brothers Mill property when it was sold to Kenwood Mills  in 1951. In 1956, the current Mill owners donated the building for use as the Black River Health Center. Members of the community donated their time to renovate the building while workers at Kenwood Mills had $1 a week withheld from their pay to help for the establishment of the Health Center.

Doctors Bont and Lawrence Bixby set up practice in 1957, obtaining a 501 (c) 3 non-profit status in the 1970s. In 1988, Dr. Bont and his wife Phyllis, a nurse practitioner left BRHC to work at Albany Medical Center.

Over the ensuing years, various medical groups tried to maintain a health center but were not successful. The Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) was housed there for a short while. The longest standing occupant since the Bonts left was Opportunities in Learning (OIL), a school for students whose needs were better met outside the traditional classroom. The facility currently houses mental health counselors and alternative care practitioners.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Winter 2016 CHS Newsletter

Annual Plant Sale
While it may be the dead of winter, plans are underway for the annual Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) Plant Sale, which will take place at the Museum on Saturday, July 2. If you are a local gardener and have plants you would like to donate for the sale, please contact us by calling 802-226-7807 or e-mailing Since the tomatoes were such a success this past year, we will be growing more for this sale along with herbs. With several “nurseries” in place now, we’ll know in the next few months what we will have for sale. Check the CHS blog for updates.

The Writer Who Changed History
We’re hoping that by the time you read this newsletter, the long awaited biography-The Writer Who Changed History: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn- for students in grades 4-7, will be available for sale. You will be able to purchase the book from, which you can link to from the book's website. It’s been a long process but we think it’s worth it. There are many pictures, thanks to the Solzhenitsyn family as well as to past members of CHS who carefully documented his time in Cavendish by clipping newspaper and magazine articles from 1976 until 1994. Particular thanks to Julia Gignoux for her outstanding job with the book’s layout and design. This was truly a community effort. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the CHS Solzhenitsyn Project.

Happy 225th Birthday Vermont
 On March 4, 1791, Vermont became the 14th state. In 1777, Cavendish’s first settler John Coffeen was among the representatives and signers of Vermont’s Constitution. Meeting in Windsor, VT, the Constitution said that Vermont was an independent state and not part of New York or New Hampshire. Based on Pennsylvania’s 1776 Constitution, Vermont’s founding document had several radical innovations including a prohibition on slavery and universal manhood suffrage unencumbered by property qualifications. The Constitution also provided a mechanism for proposing amendments, if needed, every seven years. In 1793, the VT constitution was amended to reflect it’s joining the United States two years prior. This revised Constitution remains the core of the current Constitution.

CHS’s Archivist PJ Pollard
We couldn’t be more thrilled to have PJ Pollard organizing the CHS archives. Having just completed her master’s degree in criminology-in London no less-PJ was looking for something to do while she job searches. With a background in consolidating current and archived information for NewsBank in Chester, VT, she has an eye for detail and is making short work of an amazing backlog of photographs, letters etc.

If you recognize the last name and are wondering if she’s related to the Proctorsville Pollards, she is married to the great nephew of Ermine Pollard and they live in one of the houses in Proctorsville that have been in the Pollard family for many generations.

Welcome PJ and many thanks for your much needed help and talent.

Detecting Cavendish History: Peter Tumbo (Tumber)
In honor of Black History Month, Margo Caulfield wrote another short story based on information from Phyllis Bont about a runaway slave who found a home in Cavendish. She and her husband Dr. Gene Bont once owned property off the S. Reading Rd.  that was between the old Cady Farm, also known as the Five Sees, and the Coffeen property (now known as Forxford Farm or Durkins). According to Hazel Cady, who related the story to Phyllis, a runaway slave had come to Cavendish, became pregnant, and was given a town woodlot for a homestead.

Cady related similar information to Sandy Stearns but also included the names of Charlotte Tumbo and her father Peter, who were referred to as Tumber in Cavendish records. Sandy believes that Hazel learned about them from her parents and grandparents, who might have known Charlotte.

While the short story Safe at Last in Cavendish provides considerable factual information about Cavendish’s abolitionist history, the writing of it piqued our interest about what might be factual about the runaway slave.

Sandy and Margo started digging into town records and making inquiries. Below is the information they’ve found to date.

• Peter Tumbo (referred to in legal documents as Peter Tumber) purchased land from Lake and Zilpah Coffeen in 1805. In 1823 this land was transferred to Cavendish. Source: Cavendish Town Records

• On Jan 30, 1832, Peter Tumbo, “colored man”, aged 106 died in Cavendish, VT. Source: “The Vermont Watchman & State Gazette” as well as “The Liberator,” an abolitionist newspaper printed from 1831-1865.

• In 1850, Charlotte Tumber filed a petition with the US Government for her father’s pension. Could this have been for service in the Revolutionary War? Source: Cavendish Town Records

• Estimated to have been born in 1804 in Windsor, VT, Charlotte Tumber was born to Peter and Philasta Source: Charlotte’s Death Certificate

• According to records from the Dedham Historical Society & Museum’s, “The Diary of Nathaniel Ames of Dedham Massachusetts 1758-1822, a Peter Tumbo or Tumber worked for Dr. Ames. A “Free Negro of Roxbury” as Dr. Ames subtitled him on his ledger account: married at Dedham (1780) Phyllis Vaughn: multiple children were delivered by Dr. Ames, according to his ledger, but most of said birth are (curiously) recorded in neither Dedham nor Roxbury: Peter’s medical account runs from 1781 to 1795 and payment were made in ditching, cutting wood, mowing, planting, weeding corn, “dressin 11 lb. of flax,” etc. The Dedham Board of Selectmen issued a warrant 3/25/1795 to have him, his wife and his children warned out.” This same Peter Tumbo (Tumber) appears to have served in the Continental Army for three years, mustering out of Dedham, MA. Boston Globe “Recalling Black Role in Revolution”

• According to Mary Churchill, the person who wrote “Cemeteries of Cavendish, Vermont 1776-1976 Bicentennial Project,” her father Walton Green, related the following information “In the Coffeen Cemetery are buried Capt. John Coffeen and wife and several others. 2 others are Charlotte Tumbo, an escaped slave who first settled on the road through the Densmore (Cady) back pasture, and her sister are buried there...”

Because names were often misspelled, it is very possible that Peter Tumbo’s wife’s name was spelled Philasta in Vermont and Phyllis in Mass. It would have also made sense for Peter to bring his family to Vermont, which had a very strong anti slavery movement and to Cavendish specifically, which was known for its abolitionist community. Many questions remain.

President’s Report for 2015
 Board member Bruce McEnaney likes to say that we do what we can to preserve the town’s history as best as we can until others can step forward to take over. To that end, the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) “Preserving Cavendish Heritage” committee has been hard at work and has set a very aggressive program for 2016, which includes the following preservation/restoration activities:
• Stone Church Preservation (Belfry, Cupola, Painting and Roof)

• Museum (Painting, repointing of bricks, door replacement)

• Civil War Memorial (cleaning)

• Cemeteries (Cleaning of grave stones; building a stone wall for Twenty Mile Stream Cemetery). Note that cleaning takes place as long as the cemeteries are open-May through Columbus weekend. The building of a stonewall for the Twenty Mile Stream Cemetery will be a volunteer effort taking place in July. This is a great opportunity for those interested in learning how to build a mortar less wall.

Replacing the door of the Museum has been an on going concern. Fortunately, we found the original doors to the Museum this summer. They are being restored over the winter and scheduled for installation spring/summer 2016. We did purchase a “back up” set of double doors from a salvage company, just in case we encounter a problem. 

The CHS Young Historians program at Cavendish Town Elementary School (CTES) continues as a way to teach town history as well as encourage stewardship. New this year was the 6th graders participation in RiverSweep, where they cleaned a “beach” on the Black River dating back to the 1800s. Special thanks to Pang Ting, Sandy Stearns, Jessica and Craig Goodman and Bruce McEnaney for their help with this program.

The “Pick Your Own Blueberries,” sponsored by Bruce and Betty McEnaney, provided sufficient funds to take the 6th graders to Sturbridge Village in November. In 2016, we hope to expand the program so that there can be trips for 4th and 5th graders to historic sites that fit with their respective curriculum.

From February to September, Philip Tiemann’s “Memoirs of Coming into Vermont (Cavendish),” his family’s experiences of moving to Cavendish from New Jersey during the height of the Depression, were serialized on the CHS blog. This was the inspiration for the past year’s theme “Yankee Thrift”-Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” and for the day long workshop at CTES in December. Every grade engaged in an activity that Depression era children would have made as part of their holiday celebrations.

Thanks to the help of incredible volunteers, particularly Pieter van Schaik, the tradition of the CHS Plant Sale, which dates back more than 35 years, is back in full swing. Special thanks to Kem and Svetlana Phillips who have been volunteering their time to eliminate the orange mold problem in the Cavendish Village Cemetery. 

Cavendish Historical Society: Financial Report 2015

Income 1/1/15-12/31/15
Endowment & Savings
Checking (end of year)
Jeld Wen Grant *
Williams Fund
Plant Sale


Pick U Own Blueberries



* The Jeld Wen Grant is for the restoration/preservation of the Cavendish Stone Church.

CHS’s finances have improved since 2014.  It’s taken a while to re establish the Plant Sale, which was once a major fundraiser. However, with new nursery beds established, the goal is to double our profits this year. We are continuing to write grants to help the various restoration activities

It’s difficult to put a price on the incredible in-kind donations that take place throughout the year. Without volunteers like Bob Naess, who keeps the Museum’s water system going and is our “go to guy” for general repairs, Hollis Quinn who is working with Bruce McEnaney to restore the original doors to the Museum, and Pang Ting who reorganized the Museum this past summer, with some muscle from Bob Naess and Etienne Ting, it would be hard to keep the doors open to the Museum. The on-going work in the cemeteries, which our school children help with, is restoring an important part of our history. The Young Historian’s program at Cavendish Elementary, which teaches not only history but also stewardship, wouldn’t be possible without the help of our guest speakers and volunteers. Linda Welch, our genealogist, spends considerable time helping people discover their Cavendish roots. And the list could go on.

Special thanks to the CHS Board [Dan Churchill, Jen Harper, Bruce McEnaney, Kem Phillips; and Gail Woods], Linda Welch, the Solzhenitsyn family, Sandra Stearns, Pang & Etienne Ting, Rich Svec, Rolf, Pieter, and Ernestine van Schaik, Betty McEnanney; Svetlana Phillips, Seymour Leven, Jim Hasson, Norma Randall, Bob and Cooper Naess, Hollis Quinn and to all those who make a donation every year.

Expenditures 1/1/15-12/31/15
Contractual: Web Design
Sturbridge Village Trip
Museum Doors & Materials
Other (Gas/Membership Dues etc.)