Sunday, August 2, 2020

CHS Briefs August 1, 2020

UPCOMING EVENTS: Note all events require attendees to wear a mask and practice social distancing. All Sunday events begin at 2 pm.

Store in the Academy Building
Aug. 9 (Sunday): Cavendish Village Historic Walking Tour. Cavendish village is home to some of the oldest buildings in town-Academy Building (started in 1782); the Cavendish Historical Society Museum (1834) and the Cavendish Stone Church (1844). In addition, there is the boarding house where Phineas Gage was taken after the tamping rod went through head as well as the site where the Dutton House once stood. Now at the Shelburne Museum, it was believed to have been haunted and it seems the spirits have remained with the house, as many volunteers and staff at its current location prefer not to work in the building. In addition to the buildings noted above, other locations include Gay Brothers Mill, a history of stone buildings including Black River Health Center, Hickernell House (and no Mr. Hickernell is not buried in the basement), Stone Church (yes you can have a peak) and Spaulding House. Also included will be the Cavendish Cemetery and more. This is a little over a mile walk.

Sept. 13 (Sunday): Annual Phineas Gage Walk & Talk. We will walk to the site of the accident, approximately ¾ of a mile from the Museum, as well as visit the site of his boarding house and Dr. Harlow’s Surgery.

Oct. 11 (Sunday): From Smallpox to Covid-19: The Impact of Pandemics/Epidemics on the American Indigenous Peoples. This will be an outdoor presentation weather permitting. In the event of rain, the event will be held at the Cavendish Stone Church.

Nov. 8 (Sunday): Epidemics/Pandemics & Their Impact on History: This is a topic that many are interested in. The talk, which will be done via Zoom in collaboration with Okemo Valley TV, will combine the talks in July and October. There will be plenty of time for questions & answers.

THANK YOU: If you’ve driven by and seen the changes to the front of the Cavendish Stone Church, be sure to thank Dave Gallagher and Ana for the incredible job they are doing scrapping and painting. We do need some type of scaffolding so they can reach shutters above the window. Anyone have some they can borrow? Note. Dave said based on the nails, as well as how they are numbered, he believes these were the original shutters.

Special thanks to our gardeners-Becky Plunkard for the flower pots in front of the Stone Church; Svetlana Phillips for tending the War Memorial and those gorgeous pot of geraniums in front of the Museum; and to our town crew for keeping the lawns mowed.

CARMINE GUICA YOUNG HISTORIANS PROGRAM: Covid-19 will make things a bit different this year, though we will be doing many outdoor programs in September and October. We are working with CTES teachers and home school families now to plan for the fall.

We are not forgetting our annual holiday for CTES. This year’s theme will be in honor of the Christmas of 1918-The Peace Christmas, also called the Forgotten Christmas. Between the flu pandemic and many soldiers still in Europe, even though WWI had ended in November, celebrating the holidays wasn’t a priority as it was in other years. Further, the country was in a recession. However, the government encouraged people to do early Christmas shopping and shopkeepers offered deals to make things a bit more affordable and enticing.

DO YOU HAVE A CAVENDISH HISTORY QUESTION? To teach our young historians how to be history detectives, we want them to have projects to work on. We will not being doing genealogy research, unless it directly relates to a specific question about a place or event. In short, no they aren’t going to research your Cavendish family for you, though we do have a website to help you do that.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

What Epidemics/Pandemics Have in Common

On July 12, the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) hosted a talk on Epidemics/Pandemics and their impact on history. As a follow up to this talk, below is an article on the characteristics common to these events.

In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day, CHS will be hosting a talk on the impact of the small pox epidemic that killed close to 90% of the Native Americans. We are also planning to repeat the Epidemics/Pandemics talk by Zoom in November.

The pandemic began in the East, sweeping through cities and towns, disrupting daily life and sowing fear and uncertainty throughout much of the known world. 

Sound familiar? However, it is a description of the Antonine Plague, which lasted for 15 years during the 2nd century.

Whether it was small pox, measles or a combination of the two is unknown, but the reaction of people then, during the Black Death (Plague), the small pox epidemic that killed almost 90% of the indigenous Americans, the flu pandemic of 1918 and even Covid-19, are surprisingly similar. After all, they have the same common denominator, humans.

While Covid hasn’t caused anywhere near the deaths of plague (the number one pandemic killer) and other epidemics, it’s impact on society and culture will be just as significant.   

Below is a list of 10 characteristics these type of events share.

1. Panic & fear result in fight, flight, blame, despair, and cruelty. As much as possible, people flee where the outbreak is happening to a place perceived to be safer. Unfortunately, this helps to spread disease.  

Jews being tortured and killed during the Black Death
They also will “fight” in an effort to have some sense of control over a situation that is very much out of their control. This can have disastrous consequences, such as the burning down of the Jewish ghettos during the Black Death. During the Antonine Plague in Rome, people smeared thin needles with infected fluids and tried to stab their victims unnoticed. When they contracted the disease, it was hoped nobody would suspect foul play. The plague literally allowed unscrupulous people to get away with murder.

During the small pox pandemic, Native Americans, like the ancient Romans, looked at it through the lens of their gods and cosmologies. The belief that their gods had forsaken them caused some to commit suicide.

The outbreaks of plague in Renaissance Europe sparked rumors of malicious plague spreaders, thus focusing on a wide variety of insiders and outsiders from high-ranking officers and doctors to the lowest levels of health workers – plague cleaners, cartmen and gravediggers– were singled out, accused of perpetuating the disease for a variety of reasons including self-interested gain.

As recently as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, hate and fear were engendered against what became known as  the five H’s-homosexuals, heroin addicts, Haitians, hemophiliacs and hookers.

These type of events can cause societies to break apart, scapegoating immigrants, minorities and others who are thought to be suspicious. The poor will often revolt and cruelty abounds.

However, certain factor can mitigate these reactions. The 1918 Flu pandemic and the flu of 1831 that swept through Paris did not lead to any recorded social violence, blaming or hatred. In both cases, there were other major factors at play-WWI in 1918 and the July Revolt in 1831.

While the extremes seen in past epidemics/pandemics are not as pronounced during Covid, they are none the less at play and concerning to many. Without normal routines and jobs, dwindling finances, the mandates to “stay at home” and reduce travel,  combined with fear and anxiety, people can act in ways they normally wouldn’t. The recent influx of calls to suicide hotlines, protests, riots as well as a fierce “cancel culture,” are very much in line with how people respond during pandemics.

Christians helping the sick during the Antione Plague
This does not mean that good does not occur during these events. The Christians during Antonine Plague converted many to their beliefs as they saw how they cared for the sick. Today, many individuals and communities have done an incredible job making sure people are safe and have access to food and care.

It’s not surprising that people are more concerned about the damaging effects of the pandemic rather than the incredible contributions many are making. Our brains are wired for a negative bias, as remembering threats to safety and well-being were key to early human’s survival. 

2. People act in their own interests. In the most extreme situations, such as the Plague, surrounded by death and suffering, inevitably people begin to question the rules of law and morality. During the 1918s, there were "anti-mask" meetings. When there was a polio outbreak in Vermont in 1917, and quarantine was ordered, a civil suit was filed  by Community Chautauquas. Today there are groups who believe mask wearing is a civil liberties issue with little regard to public health.

3. Scammers abound. The more risky the situation the more snake oil salesmen surface. With the Internet, they're having a field day at the moment.

Glycon Statue
Alexander of Abonutichus started the cult of Glycon in the 2nd century. A mystic, magician and charlatan, he literally was pedaling snake oil. He created Glycon, a snake god, that was basically a glove puppet. Among his sales items was a charm that could be hung over the door to your house to protect you from plague. Turns out those who had the plaque over their threshold were more likely to die from the plague, probably because they went about business as usual thinking they were protected.

4. Misinformation abounds. Causes, treatments, cures are all over the map. Many do not take the time to separate fact from fiction and untold damage is done by misinformation and the spreading of it.

 As seen in 1-4, the humans can treat each other terribly. As Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor,  noted in the 2nd century, however bad the physical disease surely was, one thing was even worse-the mental plague of corruption, vice and moral decay.

5. The health impacts won’t be known for decades. “Look back” studies show that those that had the flu of 1918 as children had considerably more health issues as adults then non infected contemporaries. Interestingly, flu survivors were less likely to get cancer. You can't get shingles unless you had chicken pox at some point. On the plus side, descendants of plague survivors seem to carry a gene that made them more likely to be “non progressors”-don’t develop full blown disease- when they contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

6. Most at risk are those living on the margins: The reasons are varied but can include: inability to escape from where the pandemic is occurring; poor living conditions, including overcrowding and dense pack; more likely to have other health issues; malnutrition; no access to information due to language and literacy barriers; and discrimination.

Depending on the epidemic certain groups will be more at risk than others. In the 1918 flu, the most at risk group were young adults, particularly those in their twenties and thirties. Pregnant women were at particularly high risk. The death records for Cavendish show that at least two women who were pregnant died during the 1918 flu pandemic.

7. Every storm runs out of rain (Maya Angelou) Pandemics/epidemics don't last forever

8. Change follows. The Antonine plague was the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire while at the same time ushering in Christianity. The black death of the middle ages made the Renaissance possible. It also paved the way for
- literacy (all the clothes that were left could be turned into paper)
- a middle class (they needed a work force and the serfs demanded a living wage)’
- the beginning of the shift from the “old scholars” approach to medicine to empirical based evidence.   

The flu of 1918 made major changes in health care in the US and historically, because of the damage it did to President Wilson, the treaty of Versailles laid the foundation for WWII.

Protesting that lead to FDA changes
The AIDS epidemic revolutionized health care, from new means of treatments for cancer and other diseases, to how the FDA fast tracks drugs and allowing compassionate use. It also ushered in the age of HIPAA and confidentiality.

We’re only at the beginning of how this pandemic will change our culture and society, but already we are seeing a lot more people telecommuting. Businesses are learning that it's cheaper for them to have their employees telecommute so office buildings are being closed. There are those that prefer remote learning and so a hybrid approach to education is potentially here to stay. Thanks to forecasting and remote learning-snow days may be a thing of the past. Masking will become part of flu season etc.

9. All of this has happened before. And will happen again As noted by Marcus Aurelius,—the same plot from beginning to end, the identical staging.

10. No matter the situation-war, extreme loss, devastation, crisis-the number one response of the humans is resiliency. This is true across the board for all cultures. It's wired into the human DNA. It would have to be because of reactions 1-4.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Scribbler II-Summer 2020


Due to Covid-19, and Stay at Home orders, we were unable to provide a spring newsletter. However, we’ve been collecting stories and information, which will be archived for future generations. We’ve also been posting special Covid related articles to the Cavendish Historical Society Blog (URL above).

We’re having to adjust to new ways of doing things. Consequently, the Museum is only available by appointment (numbers above) and those coming must adhere to Covid prevention protocols-wearing a mask, physically distancing, coughing into your elbow, hand washing and staying home if not feeling well.

July 12 (Sunday): Epidemics & Pandemics: Their History and Their Impact; 2 pm at the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) Museum. This talk is in memory of Phyllis Bont who worked in two epidemics- polio and AIDS.

August 9 (Sunday): Program to be announced.

September 13 (Sunday): Annual Phineas Gage Walk & Talk, 2 pm at the Museum

October 11 (Sunday): Last day the Museum is open for the season. Indigenous Peoples Day Program.


It is with deep sadness that we report the passing of Phyllis Bont on June 6. In March 2018, Phyllis was among the first group of women we honored during March (Women’s History Month) with what has become an annual feature-“Cavendish Women You Should Know.”

Phyllis Flint was born in Grand Rapids Michigan. Attending Wayne State in Michigan and Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. Phyllis became a nurse and married the love of her life Dr. Eugene (Gene) Bont, whom she had known since she was 4. They came to Cavendish in 1957.

Raising seven children, along with providing foster care and entertaining many of the neighborhood kids, she also served the critical role of the “country doctor’s wife.” When Dr. Bont recognized the critical need of the physician’s assistant (PA), Phyllis worked  with him, the VT Medical Society, the VT State Legislature and Springfield Hospital to design a program that would allow PAs to work at an unprecedented level of independence in a community setting and to get the Vermont Physician Assistant Practice Act passed. A corresponding Act for Nurse Practitioners (NPs), made it possible for Phyllis to become one of the first registered nurse practitioners (RNP) in the state. While she had pursued  the degree to expand her knowledge as a home health nurse, she ultimately joined Dr. Bont at the Black River Health Center. Together, they moved to Albany, NY, where she worked as an RNP for the Albany Medical Center’s Family Practice program, seeing patients, and teaching/mentoring residents and future RNPs.

Upon retirement to Cavendish, Phyllis embarked on a second career as a full time weaver/fiber artist. She was one of the founders of Six Loose Ladies, creating weavings as well as teaching the skill to others. The gorgeous shawls and scarves she made where her way to continually “wrap someone in loving kindness,” as she liked to say.

In the last few years we have been grateful for the many hours Phyllis donated to CHS by answering questions and sitting through countless interviews. She gave us much needed information on a number of topics and she put an end to the local lore about Mr. Hickernell. No, he is not buried in the basement.

A last thank you to Phyllis and Gene. Not only was it one of the great love affairs to witness, but you made our community stronger and healthier during the 63 years you lived here. We miss you and regret we will no longer be able to call, or stop by, and say, “Do you know anything about…”


In the midst of Covid-19, we’ve been asked how Cavendish weathered the flu of 1918. Where there many deaths?

There aren’t diaries and other resource documents to look through, which is part of the reason we are asking people now to keep journals and share with CHS so that future generations will know how things were in Cavendish during the Covid pandemic.

Just as this past January, where the media was obsessed with presidential impeachment hearings, so too was the focus on World War I (WWI) when the first cases of flu were reported from Kansas.

Incorrectly labeled the “Spanish Flu,” Spain was not involved in WWI conflict so their media was free to report on it, hence the name. There is evidence, however, that the flu actually started in Haskell, Kansas.

Haskell farmers raised hogs. “The county sits on a major migratory flyway for 17 bird species, including sand hill cranes and mallards. Scientists today understand that bird influenza viruses, like human influenza viruses, can also infect hogs, and when a bird virus and a human virus infect the same pig cell, their different genes can be shuffled and exchanged like playing cards, resulting in a new, perhaps especially lethal, virus.”

We cannot say for certain that that happened in 1918 in Haskell County, but we do know that an influenza outbreak struck in January, an outbreak so severe that, although influenza was not then a “reportable” disease, a local physician named Loring Miner…went to the trouble of alerting the U.S. Public Health Service. The report itself no longer exists, but it stands as the first recorded notice anywhere in the world of unusual influenza activity that year. … Several Haskell men who had been exposed to influenza went to Camp Funston, in central Kansas. Days later, on March 4, the first soldier known to have influenza reported ill.  John M Barry, Smithsonian Magazine November 2017 At Camp Funston in March of 1918, in three weeks, over 1,100 of 56,000 troops were admitted to the hospital and 38 of them died.

On Sept. 21, 1918, Charles Dalton, secretary of the Vermont State Board of Health, ordered local health officers to report any influenza cases. While the state’s newspapers carried his warning that the epidemic would reach Vermont in the coming days or weeks, the flu was already here. At the same time the papers posted Dalton’s warnings, they were also including that 40 students at Middlebury and 60 at Norwich University were already sick from it.  More than 50,000 Vermonters would contract the flu and more than 2,100 would die.

As we have seen Vermont’s government struggle with closing down schools during the Covid-19 epidemic, their predecessors had the same fears. The 1918 Governor, Horace Graham, wrote to Dalton on Sept. 26, “Do you not think some general action ought to be taken by the Board with reference to this epidemic. If it is contagious what about permitting all these conventions and meetings(?)” The Governor had other issues to consider as he was worried what effect banning gatherings would have on the sale of Liberty Bonds for the war effort.

Dalton issued an order to local health officials stating they had the right to close schools, churches, and other places of public assembly. Note that the state was leaving this in the hands of the health officers. Dalton also stated, “Health officers should make it plain to all persons that the disease is spread by coughing and sneezing in public or around other people.”

Funerals were allowed, though if you were sick you couldn’t attend. The massive numbers of deaths took precedence over war news.

Finally, on Oct. 4, Dalton ordered the type of “stay at home” order we experienced from March through May, as he ordered all schools, churches and theaters closed, and prohibited all public gatherings. The ban was lifted on Oct. 31.

Just as scammers are quite active during Covid-19, the charlatans of their day promoted Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills to “ease the stress of families of the ill.” A clothier in Barre insisted everyone needed a raincoat as dampness was linked to illness. Vick’s VapoRub was another cure all being promoted.

Global travel as we know it today, did not exist then. However, because of WWI, the troops brought it with them and it quickly spread throughout the United States, Europe and the rest of the world.

The flu came in three waves with the first in the early months of 1918, the second in the fall of 1918 and the third in early 1919. Of the three phases, the most-deadly was the second wave.
According to the Vermont Historical Society, First noted in reports coming from Fort Devens, Massachusetts, where American troops were assembled for transport to Europe to fight in World War I, the disease quickly spread into Vermont through the transportation centers of St. Johnsbury, St. Albans, White River Junction, Rutland, in the more densely populated communities of Burlington and its neighboring towns, and—most severely hit of all—Barre and Montpelier.

The disease typically ran its course in three weeks, but could kill victims in three days or less. Without the aid of antibiotics or antiviral medicines, physicians were unable to treat cases of flu or its complications, most frequently pneumonia. They were therefore reduced to making diagnoses, treating symptoms, and recording the cause of death. Newspapers carried advertisements for patent medicines, none of which was truly effective in preventing or curing the flu. Makeshift clinics were assembled in churches, libraries, and other buildings. The hospitals in Barre and Montpelier hastily constructed new wings or added a floor to accommodate the flood of patients. In Burlington, the mayor took the unusual and controversial step of opening a dispensary where flu victims with signed notes from their doctors could acquire carefully measured quantities of alcoholic beverages, thought to be a preventative medicine. A critical shortage of doctors, nurses, and medical facilities developed by mid-September, so that Vermont Governor Horace F. Graham turned down the desperate call of Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Calvin Coolidge for doctors from Vermont. The senior class of medical students at the University of Vermont was pressed into field service; newspapers called on healthy and capable women to take on nursing duties.

By the end of September and into early October, town medical officers began exercising their authority to close all public meeting places—schools, churches, places of entertainment—and a statewide ban on public meetings went into effect. The Vermont Supreme Court, after postponing its October term several times, finally cancelled it altogether. Middlebury College was quarantined, and the University of Vermont postponed opening its autumn term.

The flu subsided in November—just as World War I came to an end—but scattered and less severe outbreaks persisted into February 1919. Statistics reported by the Board of Health for 1918 show the devastation. In a state with a population of 355,956 in the 1910 census, there were 43,735 cases of influenza in 1918, resulting in 1,772 deaths. The disease thus attacked 13 percent of the population and accounted for 25 percent of deaths for the year. These were approximate figures only, and do not include cases and deaths from pneumonia.

The epidemic had devastating effects on social and family life in Vermont. Because the Spanish flu had the peculiar pattern of fatally attacking people in the middle years, many children were left with one or no parents and were sent off to live with relatives elsewhere. In hard-hit communities, the deaths came so rapidly, in such great number, and under the stress of quarantine, that funeral ceremonies and interments were frequently performed unattended by mourners.

Cavendish was impacted just as much as the rest of the state and country. Of the four Cavendish men who died in WWI, three died from flu. As Barbara Kingsbury noted in her book, “Chubb Hill Farm and Cavendish, Vermont,” The Civilian population was hit hard by “Spanish influenza, too, though it spread the quickest in the crowded Army barracks and camps. The epidemic caused much more suffering on the “home front” than any fuel and food shortages.
A review of the town’s death certificates for 1917-1920, for causes listed as influenza, la ’grippe, flu, pneumonia, and/or chronic bronchitis, found at least 15 pandemic flu deaths. As can be seen in Table 1, the age of flu deaths in Cavendish in 1918-1919 reflected a younger age, as well as several women who were pregnant, including one where the child was stillborn and the mother died shortly thereafter.

Table 1: Flu Related Deaths from Flu 1017-1920
Total Deaths
Flu Related
Age Range
1 June 5 Sept-Dec
10 Jan-June, 1 Sept, 1 Nov
4 Mos-79


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