Saturday, February 18, 2017

Murdock Returns to Proctorsville

In 1886, Herbert T Murdock bought into the firm of Hayward, Taft, and Burbank and took over the management, which owned the Proctorsville Mill. By 1890, Murdock had complete control over the Mill and added a large brick addition of four stories. Machinery was increased by 12 sets of cards and sixty broad looms employing 175 people. The Proctorsville Mill was considered to “rank second in the state.” Dependent on waterpower with steam as an auxiliary source of power, the expansion of this mill, along with the Gay Brothers Mill in Cavendish, were part of the town’s the population boom.

By 1916, the Proctorsville’s Mill, locally known as Murdock’s was specializing in cassimere and doeskins. H.T., as he was known, was an influential member of the community. His wife Cora promoted culture and social advancements and even purchased what today is Crows Bakery and Cafe to be used as a library and social gathering spot for employees and community.

Unfortunately, Murdock’s death in 1916, brought an abrupt end to the mill, as it revealed the shoddy practices of the second in command.

The mill operated during WWII and changed hands several times, becoming the Bear Woolen Mill. However, by 1938, this mill had fallen on hard times and Proctorsville village purchased the building. Various businesses operated out of it, with the last one being Acousti Phase. A fire destroyed the property in 1982.

However, out of the ashes come great things, and thus, under the direction of the town manager at the time, Rich Svec, the Proctorsville Green was born, along with the revitalization of Proctorsville Village. Directly across from the Green’s gazebo is now the home of Murdock’s Pub in what was once an original Mill building.

As with so many things with the Cavendish Historical Society, there is a twist.

After talking with Etienne Ting, the owner of Murdock’s, CHS thought this was a good time to educate the town about its mill history. As the summer exhibit was being mounted, who walks into the Museum but the descendants of H.T. Murdock, donating both the original keys to the Mill along with portraits of him! With them was Linda Welch, CHS’s genealogist, who provided the family’s history.  Talk about dumb struck. You couldn’t script something like this.

Note that the timeline of the Cavendish/Proctorsville Mills is being serialized in the Scribbler II, the CHS newsletter.

Murdock’s on the Green opened on February 17, 2017 to the cheers of many in Cavendish who have wanted a local place to escape to for a few hours, grab a quick bite and catch up with friends. Currently open from 4-10 pm, Murdock’s is offering craft beers, fine wines and the all-important comfort food.

The owner is Etienne Ting, who with his wife Pang, owns Moonlite Meadows Farms in Cavendish. So yes, this is a farm to table pub.

When we told Murdock’s descendants about the new “Murdock’s” they were pleased to know that their family once again “lives” in Proctorsville. We agree that H.T. would be thrilled to see how his old mill building continues to serve the people of Cavendish.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Scribbler II Winter 2016


The Annual Meeting of the Cavendish Historical Society will be March 5 (Sunday) from 3-5 pm. We will once again be returning to the Cavendish Baptist Church, which hosted so many meetings for CHS over the years. After a significant renovation, the downstairs parish hall is now handicap accessible.

While this edition of the newsletter contains the President’s Letter, the budget is still being worked on and will be made available at the meeting. In addition to the business agenda, there will be a special program Cavendish Believe It or Not! -see the article below.  In addition to the review of CHS’s finances, the business agenda will include:
• How to honor Carmine Guica-Suggestions to date have included: restoration project; renaming Young Historians to the Carmine Guica Young Historians Program; scholarship fund; fund to help local kids research aspects of Cavendish history
• The 100th Birthday of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and how we would like to recognize that
• The renovation of the Stone Church 


Alexis St. Marten
When ever something unique, strange, funny or unusual happens in town, board member Bruce McEnaney’s comment is “it’s going in the book.” When Bruce has time to write this book remains to be seen, but in the interim, we’ve borrowed the title “Cavendish: Believe it or Not!” to be the theme for the Annual Meeting program.

There are many Cavendish stories that people don’t know about. Yes, Phineas Gage’s and his famous accident ushered in the age of brain research. However, another medical curiosity lived here for at least 10 years. Alexis St. Martin revolutionized the understanding of gastroenterology with his permanent hole in his gut. A bit gory, and definitely strange, but oh so fascinating.

Penguin Ski Hill
With the snows of February, its fun to remember that at one time Cavendish had both a top notch bobsled run and its very own skihill. As part of February’s Black History Month, we have once again revisited the amazing story how an African slave, Peter Tumber (Tumbo) became free, moved to Cavendish and died here in 1832 at the age of 106. We’ve learned a lot in the past year that adds even more understanding to the Tumber’s story we published this time last year. Then there is Clarence Adams. Just who is buried in his grave? Turns out he visited with a friend in Montreal after his supposed death and was spotted in Nova Scotia and still later in Florida.

In the last few days we learned that a “zombie” movie was partially filmed in the Proctor Cemetery in Proctorsville. We’re trying to obtain a copy of this short film to screen at the meeting. If you have other tales you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them.


The Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) “Preserving Cavendish Heritage” committee has made incredible strides this year. The Civil War Memorial was cleaned, lights replaced and decorated for the holidays for the first time in many years. The Cavendish Stone Church’s belfry is undergoing a replacement of beams, resetting of the bell and making it possible to once again ring it. Rounding out the activities is the replacement of the doors to the CHS Museum. A dedicated team of volunteers, headed by master craftsman Dave Stern, spent the summer and fall restoring doors from the same era as the building. Both the door installation and the exterior work on the Stone Church Belfry will take place in the spring.  Also on the 2017 preservation “to do list” is the extension of a stonewall in the new portion of the Twenty Mile Stream Cemetery.

In June, CHS published Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Writer Who Changed History, a biography for students in grades 4-7. However, many adults are purchasing the book and the reviews have been positive. I got the book yesterday and it is so beautiful. I am really impressed with the layout, the photos, the prose and the way the inside covers feature Solzhenitsyn's writing, in his own hand. It makes you feel like you are getting a glimpse into his private diary.

4th graders with archeologist, chaperones
and volunteers. Every student found
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 5th graders joining the 6th graders in RiverSweep. Through the “Pick Your Own Blueberries,” sponsored by Bruce and Betty McEnaney, we were able to take the 6th graders to Sturbridge Village once again. While cemetery cleaning has primarily focused on Hillcrest or Proctor Cemeteries, this spring, the students placed flags on veterans’ graves and cleaned up debris in six of the seven town cemeteries. 

CHS volunteers are working on the South Champlain Historical Ecology Project, an archeological dig over 12,000 years old. As a result, CTES 4th graders were able to visit the site and participate in the dig. One of the archeologists visited the 5th grade to discuss Mayan Ball Courts. In the spring, we hope to offer more archeological experiences to other grades.

People come from around the world to visit the Museum. Because Cavendish history has such international appeal, CHS maintains a very strong web presence (see URLs above) including various Facebook pages, websites and even posting lots of historical photos and history to the Cavendish VT Facebook page. Use of these Internet resources is rapidly growing with thousands using the sites every week, if not daily.

CHS relies heavily on contributions from individual donors as well as the town. Whenever possible we use in-kind donations and volunteers to meet our mission. While we’d normally list the names of all those who make CHS possible, this year we want to acknowledge the incredible contribution of Carmine Guica who died, at the age of 95, in November..

A founding member of CHS, Carmine was also President for a number of years. He has been an invaluable source of information, researching any request made of him. Thank you Carmine for making such a difference to our community.


In October we had a group of Chinese dissidents who came to visit the Solzhenitsyn exhibit. We loved what they wrote in the guest book. Special thanks to Pang Ting and Sze Pang for the translations.

Because we share Solzhenitsyn’s trials and ideals, because like him we are living as exiles, we are the true bearer of Solzhenitsyn’s mantel. Yi Zheng writer

The Chinese have an honorific title, we add the word ‘old’ in front of a person’s name to express our respect. I call Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn ‘Old Sol.’

Od Sol belongs not only to Russia, he belongs to China. He belongs to all suffering humanity seeking redemption.

The town of Cavendish Vermont is very fortunate to be the one to have given refuge to and welcomed the great writer old Sol.

Today the seven of us have made the pilgrimage to the sacred ground where Old Sol lived and was inspired. We are honored by this privilege. Wang Kang Scholar

He has left
His voice still echoes throughout the valleys
Faintly across the centuries
Faintly from the ends of the earth Yi Ping poet

Cavendish’s Woolen Mills Timeline: Part II

Part I of the Cavendish Woolen Mills timeline appeared in the Scribbler II Summer 2016. This issue covers the turbulence period of 1933-1937.

1933: The workers at Gay Brothers (Cavendish) walked out on a strike followed by the millworkers in Proctorsville and Ludlow. The workers were afraid that their mill owners were not going to follow the code provided for in the National Recovery Act (NRA). Leon Gay assured the workers he was going to sign this agreement and immediately announced a 10% wage increase and a 40 hour week. The other mill owners followed suit.

1934: In September, there was a general strike of textile workers throughout much of Vermont. Ludlow and Cavendish had not yet joined. Some Ludlow mill workers only made 10¢ an hour for their work, and although they worked 60 hours a week, they couldn’t feed their families. Wages were higher in the Cavendish mills. The National Recovery Act set 35¢ an hour as minimum wage. Many workers were ready to join the United Textile Workers Union and fight for better pay. The Black Bear employees asked for a union representative to come down and organize them as they wanted to join the strike. Louis Guilmet,  union organizer, and about a hundred other union men left Winooski at night to come to the support of their fellow workers in Proctorsville. Management was prepared and met the visitors with state troopers. Ninety workers were deputized and told to bring clubs. “Attempts to force the closing of Black Bear Mill failed Tuesday, September 11) for the third time in three days when “flying squadrons,” approximately 300 men from idle mills in Burlington, Winooski, and Claremont were met at the entrance of the village by armed deputies and ordered to return to their homes. (Vermont Tribune). The state trooper would not allow the Winooski men to come near the mill and Guilmet was advised by the County Sheriff to withdraw. Guilmet and his party did so and there was no violence.

Some Gay Brothers workers met Louis Guilmet before he left town and asked him to meet with them about forming a union. To avoid problems, 27 men met with Guilmet at a farm in Plymouth a week after the Black Bear incident and officially organized as Local No. 162, Textile Workers Union of America. Their leaders advised them that it was not an opportune time to join the general strike. On September 29, 150 mill workers met in the Cavendish Town Hall to hear a speech by Guilment, who told them they had the right to unionize under the National Recovery Act.

1935: A public meeting was held at the Cavendish Town Hall to protest the firing of a weaver by Gay Brothers. They voted to strike, production was stopped and a committee, accompanied by Guilment, called on the Gays. The surprise ending to this incident is that the Gays did not call out the state troopers but listened to the complaints and worked out a compromise satisfactory to both sides. The weaver, who had more than one serious violation of company policy, was given a six week lay-off and then re-instated. With no written agreement, the Gays had recognized and to a degree that the union was now part of the Mill. Among mill owners of the time, this was an unusual stance.

• The Wagner Act was passed in July 1935, which reaffirmed the rights of labor to join unions and choose their own representative for collective bargaining.

1936: In March, 150 workers of the Black Bear Woolen Mill (Proctorsville) did not report to work. Later that day, 14 of the union leaders were fired. The union had been trying to see the owner to negotiate a wage increase. The owner, Gordon Brown, had two other mills in New Hampshire, which also went on strike at the same time. Later in March, it was reported that the mill officials had agreed to confer with the union. They evidentially changed their minds as on March 26, the strikers reported that the main issue was no longer wages  but full recognition of the union. Instead of talking with the union, the officials now posted a notice of dismissing all employees who were out “on holiday.” By now 180 men, almost the entire work force had joined the striking group. They were paid .35¢ an hour, which gave them $14 for a 40 hour week. Other local mills were paying $16 a week. The workers returned to work on April 2 when the mill officials agreed to talk with the union leaders. Gordon Brown died and his sons took over the running of the Black Bear Mill.

1937: In November, the Black River Mill closed leaving 200 workers without jobs. Lack of orders and modern equipment were given as reasons for the closing. Although there were rumors that the mill would reopen, it never did.
BECOME A MEMBER, RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP, DONATE: If you have not joined the Cavendish Historical Society, need to renew your membership, and/or would like to be a volunteer, please complete the form below and sending a check, payable to CHS, to CHS, PO Box 472, Cavendish, VT 05142. All contributions are tax deductible.

Name: _______________________________________

Address: _______________________________________________

Phone Number: _____________________    E-Mail: ____________________________
Membership Level
__ Individual Member $10  ___ Senior Member 65+ $5  ___ Sustaining Member $500
__ Household Member $15  ___ Contributing Member $250                            

___ I would be interested in serving, as a volunteer .I would be interested in serving on the following committee(s):__ Program Planning  __ Fundraising    __ Building (Museum)
__Archives                       _ Budget           ­­–– Cemetery    __ Hands on History

Donations are always welcome and can be designated as follows:
__ For general purposes                   __ Educational Programs           __Publications
__ Archeological Activities                _ Museum & Archival             __ Special Events
__ Rankin Fund                             __  Williams Fund                             __ Solzhenitsyn Project
__ Other (please specify)                   __ Cemetery Restoration        __ Preservation Projects


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Podcast for Solzhenitsyn Book

If you haven't listened to the Podcast/ interview of Margo Caulfield, the author of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Writer Who Changed History, check it out below.

Note that the book can be purchased directly from the Cavendish HIstorical Society by sending a check for $17 ($15 for the book and $2 for shipping and handling) to PO Box 472, Cavendish, VT 05142.

 If you are local, it's available at the town office and you can call 802-226-7807 or e-mail to arrange for a local pickup and save on the Shipping costs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Please also check the Cavendish VT Facebook page for photo albums of various CHS activities.

While tomorrow, Feb. 2, is thought of as Groundhog’s Day – how long winter will continue depends on whether the groundhog sees his shadow-it is also known as Candlemas, Day, the official end of the 40 day Christmas-Epiphany season. Churches throughout the world often bless candles on this day along with other traditions such as day of crepes in France and St. Brigit’s Day in Ireland. Like many traditions it actually relates to the changing seasons. Feb. 2 is a “cross-quarter,” day meaning it is half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. In many ancient cultures, these quarter dates carried great significance. In addition to Groundhog’s Day on Feb. 2, there is May Day on May 1, Lammas on Aug. 1 and Halloween (All Souls’ Day) on Oct. 31.

February is Black History Month.  Be sure to check out the article on Peter Tumber, that summarizes a year’s worth of research in trying to confirm aspects of his story. He was an African, sold into slavery, a Revolutionary War veteran, a Cavendish landowner and he died here at the age of 106. Through all of our research, we have yet to fine a death or burial certificate. We’re not sure if we have enough information to obtain a stone from the Veteran’s administration.


Sketching ideas for the pantry
School Program: Three new projects are underway. We’re working with LPC-TV and the 6th grade to tape the ghost stories CHS and the students have been collecting. At the end of Feb, we will doing a program with the 6th graders on the importance of passing on factual information, which help to reduce frustration for future historians of the town. Finally, the homeschoolers are hard at work building a mini food pantry that will be placed by the Cavendish Baptist Church in the spring. CHS include programs for students that not only teach history but also town stewardship.

Solzhenitsyn Book: Margo Caulfield was interviewed by Tom Woods for a podcast on the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Writer Who Changed History.” The interview should be available at the podcast website on Feb. 2.  If you are interested in arranging for a talk call 802-226-7807 or e-mail

One of the beams for the belfry
Cavendish Stone Church: While work has ceased for the moment in the Church, the beams for the belfry have been cut and are now wintering over in the aisles. Other staging has been done in the belfry area and will be completed in the spring. During a routine inspection this month, we discovered evidence of “powderpost” beetles in a cupboard in the Church’s vestibule. As soon as weather permits, the wood will be treated. 

Cavendish Believe It or Not: CHS is currently collecting strange tales of Cavendish. The first in our series is about Alexis St. Martin who lived in Cavendish from at least 1870 until 1879. What Phineas Gage did for the science of brain injury, St. Martin's stomach did for the field of gastroenterology. Learn more about St. Martin's story, which is both strange and gory at the CHS blog post Believe it or Not: Alexis St.Martin. If you have a strange tale about Cavendish please e-mail it to or call 802-226-7807.

Annual Meeting: The Annual meeting is being planned for March 5. 3-5 pm at the Cavendish Baptist Church parish hall. In addition to a short business meeting, we will have a program Cavendish Believe it or Not!

If you can help with any of the following, please contact CHS; 802-226-7807 or PO Box 472, Cavendish, VT 05142

• It may seem far off by we’re already thinking about the Annual Plant Sale, which will be July 2 (Saturday). Do you have plants you like to contribute? Are their plants you’d like to see us carry this year? Other suggestions?

• CHS is looking for new board members as well as volunteers who can help with various activities.

• Please attend the Annual Meeting on March 5, 3-5 pm at the Cavendish Baptist Church Parish Hall.