The Cavendish Historical Society's accepts tax-deductible contributions to help preserve our history. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org 802-226-7807 or PO Box 472 Cavendish, VT 05142 The CHS Museum is located at 1958 Main Street (Route 131) in Cavendish.
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Fall 2019 Newsletter
It is with sadness that
we report the passing of former Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) board member
Mike Pember. Mike quietly went about getting things done, be it the painting of
the fence around the War Memorial, or getting the right things we needed for
the Grange Hall Curtain. However, he had two questions. “What are you gonna do
with it?” was his favorite as we’d go through collections. The second and more
frequent question was“Where are those
doors?” The doors to the Museum have been installed and painted and will beremembered as “Mike’s doors.” Our condolences
to his wife Sandra Russo, to his children and to his many friends and family.
HICKERNELL IS NOT BURIED IN THE BASEMENT
We posted this story on
the CHS website, linking it to several Facebook sites. There was an incredible
response with people posting about the HIckernells, who lived in the Gothic
revival stone house that can be seen from 131. Below is the story with the addition
of various comments made.
past winter, while talking with Phyllis Bont, we learned about what happened
when Mr. Hickernell died. Supposedly he went missing around the same time Mrs.
Hickernell had a cement floor poured in the basement. Not surprisingly, the
rumor ensued that Mr. Hickernell was murdered and buried in the basement.
Phyllis was quick to reply that Mr. Hickernell had died in the garage, as her
husband Dr. Gene Bont, responded to the incident.
Hickernell, who claimed to have been from Austria and educated in private
schools, had issues with Gene over the funding of public schools. Needless to
say, it was a bit challenging for her to have him respond and ask what would
have felt like extremely personal questions,, yet they were required in order
for him to render the most appropriate care. “She just said all sorts of things
to people about Gene after that,” Phyllis explained. “Fortunately, people knew
what she was like.”
CHS board member Bruce McEnaney, when learning of how Mr. Hickernell actually
died, was disappointed to see “a perfectly good story wrecked,” he was
surprised at what we were able to learn about Theresa Hickernell thanks to
various leads Phyllis provided.
it turned out, there is no evidence that Theresa Ruth Swetitch Hickernell-Smith
was raised in Austria. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri on July 22, 1912 and
died in St. Louis County, Minnesota Jul 22, 2003 at the age of 90.
the stories she told of being part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)
in WWII, we found records that showed she was a trainee in the WFTD Class 43-4
being a “Washback from 43-2.” With no evidence that she graduated from the
program, she was a regular contributor to the WASP Newsletter. In March 1980 she wrote the following:
"Yes, I was in the
1943 class of 43-2 at Houston Airport. From Houston, I flew to Goldsboro, NC,
to be married to Francis Nelson Hickernell by a real Irish priest in a Catholic
chapel. We had been married nine days when he was shipped overseas for four
years. In the meantime, I had become associated with an accounting firm in
Houston. I was later contacted by one of the generals in Whitehorse, Yukon
Territory, to do some auditing, flew to Whitehorse, stayed for two and really got to
see the country in the rough. From there down to Seattle to some more flying -
even soloed in a seaplane in Ketchikan, Alaska. Then headed for Baranoff
Island, Alaska, for special work in accounting and found out how the commercial
salmon industry works. Back in Seattle, I started mountain climbing in the
Cascades. When the war was finally over, my husband and I met after all those
years and decided upon a second honeymoon. We started out in December and ended
in June, meanwhile looking for a place to settle and go into business. We
decided on Richmond, VA, where we opened up a flower shop that was so
successful that after we had had the shop only ten years we were able to close
it regularly and do a great deal of traveling. I've been around the world nine
times and have made thirteen trips to Europe. After having the shop for 20
years, we retired to Cavendish, VT.
I've climbed many of
the high mountains, but the one I take special pride in is Mount Everest. In
1967 & 1968. I was a lone trekker with 8 porters, a cook, and head Sherpa.
Although there was a ban on the peak, I was allowed to climb to 21,000 feet. I1
have 2800 feet of color film of this trek.
My husband and I both
own a fire opal mine. We do gem hunting and go big-game sport fishing. Again
this year I am trying to break the women's world record of 1170 pounds on giant
blue fin tuna. Have landed many in the 900 class but I'm still trying for the
These are only a small
part of my adventures. I'd love to hear more about 43-2.
Mr. Hickernell's grave
Francis Nelson Hickernell died on April 8, 1982, approximately two years after
his wife submitted her note to WASP Newsletter. He is buried in
Lewistown Mifflin County, PA.
would marry twice more, divorcing her second husband. Her last spouse, Ralph
Smith made the decision to move from Cavendish back to his hometown in
Minnesota as Theresa had developed Alzheimer’s Disease and he needed assistance
caring for her.
the original post, Phyllis talked about how her son, Geno, deviled Mrs.
Hickernell. As it turns out, Carole Bont was the organizer.
writes, I do remember hearing about Mr. Hickernell's death in his
garage. I was also part of an earlier large group of teens who stood
across the street from the back of her house while she threatened us with
arrest. I believe some deputized adult came by and told us we could not go on
her property. After the group of kids I was with left and went elsewhere, we
came back by her house on our way home and I saw that someone had covered the
top of her fence with shaving cream. She was her own worst enemy. If she had
been remotely nice to any of us she would not have attracted our negative
I grew up right next to her house, she used to threaten us kids and leave rat
poison for our dogs. One time she told me and my dad she was going to skin our
dog alive in front of us.
We were scared of her when we walked by her house after getting off the bus.
She usually yelled something at us.
She never smiled at all.
I took photos of this house which was clearly empty of occupants. After
developing the film I noticed a white image of a person standing in the window
looking out at me. He is still there. Protecting his precious gem collection
I lived next door for 6 years never saw her outside. When I was younger I was
in the church youth group and we went to her home and she was very nice, she
played a small instrument sort of like a harp but very small after that I
wasn't afraid of her or that house.
I helped build those stone walls... Working for Boy Towle and Melvin Buck... Mr.
H was ok... Mrs. H definitely did not like kids... If you wanted to get in
trouble, just walk on their lawn....
Old lady Hickernell was a miserable old gal lol. I remember being a child and
walking by her house when her husband had a heart attack shoveling....he wasn’t
buried in the basement. Although I wouldn’t have put it past her lol
If I remember correctly the day Theresa Hickernell died Cavendish experienced
the "tornado" that caused all of the damage up through Cavendish
Center. [July 2003]….Knowing Tess for many years, we always said that that
microburst was Tess coming through Cavendish, one last time!!
I grew up on the other side of her and learned that she was nice as long as you
were respectful of her. She even invited my parents, Sonia and myself over for
Almendetto wine one night, I was probably 13 at the time! Worse stuff ever!!!
We were always cordial and she even liked my boys.
When we were kids we would say “Hi, nice day.” to Mr. Hickernell. He would say
“Nice day for a murder”. Didn’t think he was serious.
I remember one time Christmas caroling (I think the youth group from Cavendish
Baptist) and she actually invited us into the house for refreshments and gave
us a small tour of part of the house. I think we were there a while and she was
I painted her house in the early 80's, such a warm, kind, loving and giving
woman, just adored my children and insisted that she pay twice the quote I gave
for her house. None of this is true, of course, except that I did paint her
I was driving on High St by Frank Guica's house and she was out walking. She
turned and saw my car and continued walking down the middle of the road and
made me wait until she was ready to move to the side.
CARMINE GUICA YOUNG
first months of the new school year are very busy, and this year is no
exception. New this year is the Preserve
Program where students serve each other,
their families, community, state and country. In so doing, they learn basic
civics, how their community functions and what type of citizens we want them to
become. The students in 5th & 6th graders have been
doing fall chores for residents, while the 4th grade is maintaining
the school gardens. Grades 2-6 made bracelets, which they sold and raised $317
to help Team Rubicon provide hurricane relief efforts in the Bahamas. The 6th
grade participated in RiverSweep, helping to preserve the Black River.
Trips so far have included: Calvin Coolidge
Homestead; Tings Farm; Fitton Mill; Foliage Train; and Sturbridge Village. We
have brought incredible speakers to the school, including the Chief of the
Elnu, Roger Longtoe Sheehan, and experimental archaeologist Charlie Paquin.
our holiday program this year, we will be celebrating “Winter Solstice.” The
students will be making luminaries. If you have any Oui Yogurt glass jars,
please drop them off at CTES or contact us at the address above to arrange for
CAVENDISH SCHOOLS: Part III Center
Inspired by the paintings of John Snarksi,
which were recently re hung in the Cavendish Town Elementary School (CTES), the
spring edition of The Scribbler included the histories of The Cavendish
Academy, Wheeler School; Fittonsville School; Duttonsville School; and the
Rumke School. The summer edition of this newsletter included Tarbell Hill,
featuring stories from Carmine Guica. This issue features stories from Sandra
Stearns’ book “ Cavendish Hillside
Iattended the Center
School, a rural one room school for eight years. We had no physical education,
as such, but a walk of a mile each end of the day probably filled the need.
Jannette, my sister, got married the same year I finished fifth grade. Thereafter
I had to walk horses during the winter months before school each morning to
clean the barn and feed the heifers there. After school there was wood to lug
in, calves and horses to feed, cows to water and milking to be done.
walked to school, rain or shine, balmy days and sub-zero. Often the roads were
not plowed and we waded through snow up to our knees, sometimes almost to our
waist. The larger, older ones (Jannette and later Donald Ackley) would go first
and break the trail.
below zero days we wasted no time on the trip and still arrived half frozen.
Our fingers would be numb; our ears, nose, cheeks and chin tingling with the
cold. When we arrived, if we were lucky, the wood stove in the corner would be
burning briskly and our chills soon chased away. However, on the coldest days
it took almost all day to reheat the room that had had no heat since the
previous afternoon. Usually one of the Johnson children, who lived nearest to
the school, was janitor. It was their job to lug wood in from the woodshed,
build the fire in the morning and lug water by pail from Quinns. The janitor
also had to sweep the floors each day after school and cleaned the chalkboards
oil heater was installed in 1947. Thereafter oil was lugged from the large storage
tank in the woodshed and the fire kept going throughout the night, turned low.
It went out over the weekend, but the janitor started it late Sunday afternoon
in the winter time. ..
did not have hot lunch. The Johnson children and usually Charlotte Quinn,
living so close to the schoolhouse, went home for lunch. The rest of us carried
a lunchbox and usually athermos of milk. Those thermoses were glass lined and
often times did not survive the trips to and from school.
have never regretted the eight years I spent at the Center School. There were
sometimes eight grades, usually only 6 or 7, with 15 or 20 students. The older
students, when their work was finished, helped the younger ones practice
phonics or listened to them read. They provided help with crafts and at
was the only one in my grade for seven years so it was quite a challenge when I
started high school. I had the best of both world. I did my own work and often
did work with the grade above me. I also got to help the grades below me. I
could work at my own pace and generally finished with each subject book ever
studied reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, history, geography, health and
language. In the eighth grade we always had a semester of Vermont and local
history. Our spare time was filled with craft projects and reading books.
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.