Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cavendish Ghost Stories: Charlie

The Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) has been collecting ghost stories since the summer. We’ve learned about Homer who has haunted the Proctorsville Fire Department for years, though he hasn’t been heard from recently. Supposedly there was a murder in this building, which was once a carriage barn.

Robert, so named because he looks like Robert Redford from an old western, still makes his presence known at the Golden Stage Inn along with a “ghost cat” and a strange mist that photographs quite well in one room. Lots of other eerie things-people who call your name and talk to you, but when you turn around no one is there. Clearly this Inn deserves its reputation as one of the most haunted places to stay in Vermont. 

Lena is actually written into the deed of the house she occupies-she has full access to the front bedroom and parlor-though she hasn’t been alive for many years. In short, we have a very long list of ghosts and spirits who seem to like calling Cavendish home.

Of all the stories, the one we want to share this Halloween features Charlie and his pennies. Maybe we liked this one so much because CHS plays a role in it.

In June 2014, CHS was contacted by a man looking for information about his ancestors and wanting to know if any possible relatives still lived in town. Though a descendant of the Dutton and Proctor union, he and his parents visited Proctorsville as a child to see aunts, uncles and cousins. Falling on hard times, the family ultimately moved to Florida, where both parents died in 1969.

A few questions about his Parker line confirmed that he was in fact part of the same family as CHS board member Gail Woods. As we stood in her kitchen, he tells Gail his mother's maiden name-Carmine June Cook. "I knew Carmine,” Gail replies. “ She had a son Greg Roche." To which he excitedly pointed to himself repeating, "that's me, that’s me!" 

As Greg asks about names from his childhood, Gail’s husband Woodie pieces together that the “Aunt Adie” has a granddaughter-Janet Pipkin- now living in the old family home on Depot Street.

An e-mail and phone call, resulted in Janet posting the following to Facebook, What a night... Almost 50 years ago, my mom's cousin [Carmine June Cook] disappeared and cut ties with the family. So my mom never knew what happened to her and her son.

One of my strongest childhood memories is my mom always looking up their names in phone books whenever we were staying at a motel in another city. "You never know, they might be in here," she would say.

Greg Roche and Ann, Janet's Mom
Today a man from California visited the Cavendish Historical Society to look up some family history, and thanks to Margo [Margo Caulfield is the coordinator of CHS] he not only got the history, he got the family! It is my mom's cousin's son. I got to meet him and we called my mom together.
Mom was so overjoyed to hear from him. She has wondered for so long how he was. And on Sunday, she will find out when she gets to see him again after all this time. Just amazing.

So now for the ghostly part, which is provided by Janet Pipkin

While driving in snow on Route 131, Charlie Cook (1882-1923) had an accident. He was taken to his home at 145 Depot Street in Proctorsville but, unfortunately, due to massive internal injuries, he died several days later surrounded by his wife and young daughter.

Janet took residence in the house in 1991, as she was the granddaughter of Adelaide Cook Brittain, Charlie’s sister. The house has always been in the family, primarily the residence of another sister, Grace Cook, who died in the 1980s.

Soon after moving in, Janet noticed pennies around the house. She thought nothing of it; loose change did not seem like a big deal, until things became weirder. Having vacuumed one of the bedrooms, Janet left the room to put the vacuum away. Returning to the freshly vacuumed room she discovered pennies right in the middle of the rug. While cleaning a window, a penny fell from above, landing on the floor by her feet. Not being a real believer of spirits, it struck her as odd and curious, but defying any logical explanation.

While driving to Manchester, she remembered in a panic that she had put a potato in the oven to bake over an hour ago. Fearing fire, she turned around and went home. By now it had been two hours since she put the potato in the oven. Rushing into the kitchen, she found the stove turned off and a perfectly cooked potato. This was illogical. She had only put it in 20 minutes before she left. If she had shut off the oven, how could it possibly have been fully cooked? And if she didn’t, why was the oven shut off and the potato not burnt?

The final incident that pushed Janet from non-believer to believer was breaking glass. Having just gone to bed, she heard the distinctive sound of breaking glass. Figuring it was one of the cats breaking something, she ran downstairs and saw her roommate also rapidly descending the stairs. Searching the house from top to bottom, neither saw any signs of broken glass.

Janet called her mother, Ann (Adelaide’s daughter, Charlie’s niece) and told her what happened. Ann wasn’t surprised. Soon after Grace had died Ann had come to the Depot Street house to do some packing and cleaning. It was the first night when she heard the sound of breaking glass. Like Janet, she searched and found no explanation of the noise.

In discussing the situation with her Mom, Janet wondered it if could possible be a ghost. Ann related the story of Charlie’s death. He died in the front bedroom of the house, and sadly, his wife and young daughter were never the same again. The daughter ended up living her own tragic life wrapped up in drug and alcohol abuse and had disappeared in the 1960s.

Janet became use to the pennies showing up everywhere. She even spoke to Charlie trying to explain that a penny doesn’t have a lot of value and quarters would be more appreciated, but no luck. “Off” events or incidents just were attributed to “that Charlie.” A visitor to the house, upon leaving, touched Janet softly on the arm saying, “I don’t mean to alarm you but I can feel spirits and I have to tell you that you have a haunting that seems to originate in your front bedroom.” Janet replied, “Oh, that’s just Charlie!”

After twenty years of living in the house, Janet met her long lost cousin Greg, as related above. Not only did this bring closure to the many years of searching by Janet’s Mom, but there was another member of the family that needed “closure.” Since Greg was Charlie’s grandson- Greg mother Carmine, was the daughter of Charlie- he agreed to go to Janet’s house and have a chat.

Greg told Janet (as well as Charlie) about his life’s successes as well as what had happened to his mother. He talked about his wife and children and how content he was with his life in California as a leather artist.

Since then, Janet doesn’t see many pennies anymore. She runs across one every now and then and wonders it is still Charlie. There seem to be no more noises or strange incidents. Janet wants to believe that Charlie finally managed to get the news he needed to be at peace. But she still keeps listening for that possible sound of broken glass.

Check out CHS’s 2015 Halloween Story The Cavendish Witch

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Visiting Historic Cavendish

Whether it’s to see the site of the famous Phineas Gage accident, the town where Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn lived or to research family genealogy, Cavendish is a small town with a big history that attracts people from all over the world. To help visitors interested in Cavendish history, below are resources to assist you in planning a trip. 

Note that the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) Museum, 1958 Main Street (route 131), is open from Memorial weekend to Columbus weekend on Sundays from 2-4 pm and by appointment at other times. Because the building is unheated during the winter months, we recommend visiting at other times. If we make arrangements to open the Museum and meet with you, we appreciate notifications if you are going to be delayed.

If you have questions or need more information, call 802-226-7807 or e-mail

General Resources
Visitor’s Guide to Cavendish: Provides information on places to stay, eat and recreate.

 What’s Nearby:  While it has many merits of its own; Cavendish is centrally located to places like Okemo Mountain Ski Resort, Woodstock and Hanover, NH.

Cavendish Connects: Includes a calendar of events, the latest news and other types of information.

Phineas Gage
Each year, the Sunday closest to Gage’s accident (Sept 13, 1848) is CHS’s annual “Walk and Talk.”

Self Guided Phineas Gage Walking Tour  For best visibility, it is recommended that you visit in the spring or fall when the leaves do not block views.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Museum has an exhibit as well as the archives of his time in Cavendish. There is also a selection of videos that can be screened. Note that the permanent exhibit will be at the Cavendish Stone Church, which is currently undergoing restoration/preservation. Both the Museum and Stone Church can be visited. With enough advanced notice, we can arrange for translators.

In planning your visit, start by checking out the sidebar of the CHS Blog’s Solzhenitsyn section which includes links to videos, speeches, writings etc.

Other CHS websites on Solzhenitsyn include:

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Writer Who Changed History: CHS’s newest publication, this is a biography of Solzhenitsyn for students in grades 4-7. However, it contains many pictures from the family’s private collection, some of which have never been seen in the West.

Please be advised that we do not give directions to Solzhenitsyn’s home.

Researching Cavendish Families: Includes a list of CHS publications, links to sites and contact information for genealogist and author of the series "Families of Cavendish."

Cemeteries of Cavendish Vermont: This is a good resource to find where ancestors are buried. Note that cemeteries are generally closed for the winter on Oct. 15 and don’t reopen until May. Dates can vary due to weather.  Best to contact CHS if you are unsure of an ancestor’s burial location and/or if the cemeteries are open. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Book A Community Wrote About a Writer Who Changed History

 Cavendish, Vermont is known for having been the home of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Soviet dissident and Nobel Prize winner who lived there for almost 18 of the 20 years after being exiled from Russia. The town’s willingness to protect his privacy from outsiders is legendary and as a recent visitor to the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) Museum noted, “there is little on the Internet about Solzhenitsyn’s time here, other than people wouldn’t give directions to his house.” 

That is about to change, with the publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Writer Who Changed History. The author, Margo Caulfield, the Coordinator of CHS, explains that this is a community effort that started in the 1970s when a group of volunteers met weekly and clipped articles pertaining to Cavendish. Through their efforts, Solzhenitsyn’s time in Cavendish was well documented and these archives were key in writing the chapter “Life in the West.”

The inspiration for The Writer Who Changed History came from former third grader Isabele Gross. As part of CHS’s outreach to children, Solzhenitsyn’s experience as a Captain in the Russian Army during WWII was included along with the stories of other Cavendish veterans. Isabelle became extremely upset about how Solzhenitsyn was arrested on the front lines and imprisoned just because he wrote to a friend about his concerns with Stalin. She kept on saying, “This is unfair!” and had many questions including “Was he okay?” “Did they hurt him?” By showing her pictures of Solzhenitsyn living in Cavendish, his children and grandchildren, her concerns were eased. It became clear that having a book might be a better way for Isabele and other students to understand that Solzhenitsyn’s war experience was literally just one chapter in a very amazing life.

The Cavendish Community Fund provided funding for editing, while the Vermont Humanities Council gave CHS a grant to develop the book’s companion website.  Cavendish resident Katie Hamlin is the webmaster for the site, which includes a study guide and curriculum that teachers and book groups can use. Finally, private donations helped with other costs.

Caulfield states, “There were three things I thought were important. The book needed lots and lots of photographs that on their own could tell the story.” Thanks to the generosity of the Solzhenitsyn family, who provided the majority of the book’s photographs, some of these pictures, until now, have not been seen in the west.

Equally important was the look of the book. “It needs vibrancy and color. We don’t want kids turned off because it appears dark.” Another Cavendish resident, Julia Gignoux, was able to provide the right mix. Responsible for the layout and design, Gignoux made  TheWriter Who Changed History come alive, resulting in a final product that is appealing to all ages.

The third element was that the book had to include Solzhenitsyn’s writing. “When you mention his name, people immediately think of “Gulag Archipelago,”  but his body of work is vast and includes plays, poems and so much more. As much as possible I thought it important to rely on these resources so that Solzhenitsyn gets to tell his own story but at a level children will understand.” TheWriter Who Changed History includes excerpts from speeches, interviews as well as text from his books.

Of most importance are the people of Cavendish. Their cooperation and willingness to protect Solzhenitsyn from the prying eyes of the public, made it possible for him to complete “The Red Wheel.” That same Vermont spirit brought many locals together to make The Writer Who Changed History possible.

“Yes,” in response to a common question posed by longtime local residents, the book does contain a picture of the now famous homemade sign that hung at the entry of the Cavendish General Store “No Directions to the Solzhenitsyn Home.” And, “No,” is still the answer to visitors who ask for those directions.

In addition to having the book and website for students, teachers and anyone interested in Solzhenitsyn, there is a Facebook page and Pinterest board.  CHS plans to use these digital tools as a way to engage students from around the world in discussing issues that were of importance to Solzhenitsyn.

The book is self-published by CHS and is available for purchase locally at the Cavendish Town Office (37 High St); Minibees (1990 Main St), formerly the Cavendish General Store; and the CHS Museum, which is right next to Minibees. The book is available on-line at Create Space and Bulk purchasing is available by calling 802-226-7807 or e-mailing

All proceeds from the sale of the book will be used for the Society’s Solzhenitsyn Project, which includes a permanent exhibit, archives, education and outreach.

Margo Caulfield
Cavendish Historical Society
PO Box 472
Cavendish, VT 05142


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Vermont Celebrates Indigenous People's Day

Indigenous People's Day will be observed in Vermont in lieu of Columbus Day this year.
"Now therefore, I, Peter Shumlin, as Governor of the State of Vermont, do hereby proclaim Oct. 10, 2016, as Indigenous People's Day in Vermont, and on this day traditionally observed as Columbus Day encourage all Vermonters to recognize the sacrifice and contributions of this land," stated a proclamation, signed by Shumlin on Thursday, acknowledging that the Green Mountain State was founded and built upon lands first inhabited by indigenous people, "the Abenaki and their ancestors and allies." 
Vermont is joining other states and towns around the United States in recognizing the second Monday of October as Indigenous People's Day and "re-imagining Columbus Day as an opportunity to celebrate indigenous heritage and resiliency," according to the proclamation.
Columbus Day has been celebrated on the second Monday of October for the last 82 years. Like many towns, Cavendish’s town office and schools will be closed.  However, there is a growing movement to abolish the holiday, replacing it with  “Indigenous People’s Day,” thereby acknowledging and celebrating the millions of people who were already living in the Americas when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean islands (Bahamas) on Oct. 12, 1492. While Columbus made four trips to the “new world,” exploring the Caribbean Islands, the Gulf of Mexico and the South and Central American main land, he never set foot on North America.

Who were the first peoples of Cavendish and where did they come from? What is known is that more than 11,000 years ago, after the ice age ended and the glaciers started receding, Paleo-Indian were in the Okemo Valley (Jackson Gore). Located between Lake Champlain (at one time the Sea of Champlain) and the Connecticut River, Cavendish was part of the Indian road that connected these two points. Archeological evidence indicates that there may have been an Archaic Indian village in Cavendish-dating back about 5,000 years. Learn more about Vermont’s First People.

For a long time it was believed that the first Americans came across the Bering Strait land bridge from Asia approximately 15,000 years ago using an “ice-free corridor.” However, two new studies refute that. In July, the journal Nature published Postglacial Viability and Colonization in North America’s Ice-Free Corridor, which shows that the corridor was incapable of sustaining human life until about 12,600 years ago. A second study, “Bison Phylogeography Constrains Dispersal and Viability of the Ice Free Corridor in Western Canada,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates it closer to 13,000 years ago. Either way, the Americas were already settled by the time the land bridge would have been accessible for crossing. In fact, there is new evidence that there was human occupation in Florida 14,550 years ago. (Science Mag

So how were the Americas populated? One theory is that the Indians migrated in boats down along the Pacific coast about 15,000 years ago. Regardless of what DNA and archeological research finds, what is clear is that Columbus did not “discover America.”

Interestingly, 269 years after Columbus landed in the Caribbean, on October 12, 1761 the charter for Cavendish was issued by New Hampshire and signed by King George III. While Cavendish celebrates its 255th birthday this year, keep in mind that this land has been occupied for thousands of years and that our “first people” were not the Coffeens.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

CHS Briefs: October 1, 2016

Bill Jansak cleaning the
 The Civil War Memorial is now clean!!! Under the direction of CHS board member and Assistant Town Manager, Bruce McEnaney, the Civil War Memorial was cleaned on Wed., Sept. 28. No one seems to know the last time this was undertaken. For comparison, the Washington, D.C. Lincoln Memorial is power washed (no more than 300 psi) twice a year. The goal is to wash the Civil War Memorial at least every three years, but more if possible, in order to avoid the build up of mold, lichens etc. As noted in last month’s Briefs, “spalling” is occurring. Acid rain” speeds weathering, resulting in stones being permanently damaged, as it leaves a rough, pitted surface, making writing and art harder to distinguish. Don't expect to see a white monument as to obtain this you need to use chemicals that could further damage the stone. CHS follows the National Park Service’s guidelines for cleaning.  See the Cavendish Facebook page for more photos. 

Kem and Svetlana Phillips working on a test patch.
Chalkboards drying after 1st coat
of unsanded grout and paint.
• The Young Historians program is in full swing, with the CTES 4th graders participating in a museum “scavenger hunt” 5th and 6th graders learning community stewardships by participating in RiverSweep. and the 3rd graders learning about one-room schoolhouses by reading Sandra Stearns’ book “Field Hill Farm” and making their own chalkboards. The home school group will be making a tiny Library and Pantry. Do you have an old cabinet or something else that would be could be used for this project? Have carpentry skills that could assist the kids in building? The pantry will ultimately be housed at the Cavendish Baptist Church while the Library will be outside the museum. 
4th graders treasure hunt inside the Museum

• The Phineas Gage Annual Walk & Talk was well attended. This was done twice in order to accommodate those who weren’t able to walk.

•  Kem and Svetlana Phillips have been planting at the Stone Church, including a lovely mock orange bush that will help to hide the electric meter.
Mock Orange planted at the Stone Church

• The Museum doors are finally clean and all the holes filled in. The custom made latch has arrived and so the next step is painting and working on the casing that will house the doors. Dave Stern has done an amazing job on these doors and we hope to have them hung in the spring.

Oct.  3 (Monday): Annual Fitton Mill tour for the 6th grade.

Oct. 7 (Friday): CTES 4th graders will be taking a site visit to the archeological dig that CHS continues to provide volunteers to. Located in West Haven, VT, this is a very rich site containing Paleo-Indian –European settlement artifacts.

Oct. 9 (Sunday): Cavendish: Creepy, Eerie and Haunted. Since the summer, CHS has been collecting stories about places that are believed to be haunted and/or have a creepy feel to them. Who knew that both the Proctorsville Fire Dept. and the Golden Stage Inn have “visitors” that go by the names of Homer and George respectively? Various people have described the unseen children that laugh and talk in what was once a classroom at the Duttonsville School. This is just a few of the tales we’ve uncovered. On the last day the Museum is open, we will share the stories we’ve collected and look forward to hearing from members of the audience. The event takes place from 2-4 pm at the CHS Museum. This is a free event open to the public. 

Oct. 17 (Monday): Thanks to Bruce and Betty McEnaney’s blueberry fundraiser, the 6th graders will be taking a field trip to Sturbridge Village.

For any of the items below, please e-mail or call 802-226-7807.

• Board Members/Volunteers: Want to have a more active role in CHS? Become a board member. There are also numerous volunteer opportunities.