Archive for the ‘History and Events’ Category

Drowning at Sumner’s Falls - Charles Barber

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

“An interesting bit of history came to light in connection with the death of a riverman many years ago at Sumner’s Falls in the Connecticut River, near this town.
“Mr. J.G. Underwood, who heard the story in a hotel in Groveton, a small town in northern New Hampshire, tells it as follows.
“As we sat talking, one of my acquaintances asked me where I was living now. When I told him Hartland, an old man who sat near us said “Isn’t there a Falls in the river there? I buried a man there.”

“When asked how it happened, he explained. “It was in 1874. (The stone clearly says 1895. C.Y.M.) I had charge of the rear of the drive. One of our men went into the water near Wilder.”
“This was a characteristic expression meaning that he fell into the water and was drowned.

“Several days later the body was found at the Falls in Hartland. They sent for me. His name was Barber, a nice boy, —Fred, I think they called him, but he was a fine boy. I tied the body to a tree and sent for the selectmen. But the authorities wouldn’t let the boy be buried in their cemetery, and the minister wouldn’t even come and say a few words over him. Some people in those days didn’t think much of river men. Course, we had some that were tough sometimes, but as a general thing we were a pretty good sort of folks.”
“The narrator went on: “The boy’s father came down. He was a hard man, a mean man. The boys had chipped in, two dollars apiece, to buy the boy a casket.  When the father asked how much pay was coming to him I passed the word around to the boys and we all took back our two dollars, so that the father wouldn’t get it himself. We bought the casket afterwards, but the father didn’t want any casket, and wouldn’t even pay for taking the body home. So we buried the boy where he was, on high ground near the river bank. We put stones over the casket first, before filling in with dirt. I have visited the grave a number of times since and kept it in repair.”
“When was the last time you visited it?” he was asked. “Let’s see. I’m seventy-six now. I was forty-eight then. How many does that make?” Twenty-eight, he was told.

“Yes, twenty-eight years ago. Is the grave still there?” He was assured that it was, and in
good condition.

“We put up a stone and marked it.” He said, “Is it still there?” He seemed gratified that the stone was still there after so many years. “The speaker is a fine looking old man. Strong and well preserved.
“As for the boy’s name, it was found to be Charlie, not Fred and old residents remember
the circumstances well. They also tell of several Hartland men who were expert river men in former times, among whom were Fred Freeman and Milton Short. It was a job which called for quick thinking, good judgment, strength and courage.”


Extracted from the Spring 2012 Hartland Historical Society Newsletter.   Another published version of this story is here.

A Farmer’s Manifesto

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Visiting the Hartland Historical Society in Vermont, historian Bill Hosley of Enfield, Ct., came upon a paper written in 1907 by a prominent local farmer, Byron P. Ruggles.

It was a hand-typed, 10-page manuscript with the less-than-compelling title “Modern vs. Conservative Dairying.” Hosley began reading.

One of the joys of poking around in the archives of a local historical society is that almost invariably you come upon something – letters, old photos, documents, something – that amounts to a revealing window into long-ago life. Sometimes that window gives us perspective; sometimes it helps explain how we got where we are, for better or worse.

The Ruggles paper, Hosley discovered, was one of those windows. He photocopied it.

In it, Ruggles , who was born in 1838 and died in 1917, was skeptical of the advice farmers were getting from academia, government and commerce.

Farmers were told: “We must use a seed drill, a land roller, a corn-planter, a corn-weeder, a cultivator, a corn harvester, a corn husker, a potato planter, potato hoer, potato digger, a reaper, mowing machine, hay tender, horse rake, horse pitchfork, ensilage cutter, threshing machine, drag and circular saws, and an engine to run some of the machines. We must have a silo. It would not do to think of stock or dairy farming without it.” He goes on for two pages complaining of what he was supposed to be buying, doing and not doing.

Most notably, though, Ruggles was bothered by the advice “to own and run large farms; that small farms are not profitable.” That of course became the government mantra of the 20th century, and led to the industrial farming dominant today. Industrial farming may be good at producing lots of food comparatively inexpensively, but it is fair to say, I think, that we are still sorting out the hidden and not-so-hidden environmental, nutritional and societal costs of the bigger-is-necessarily-better philosophy of farming.

Ruggles was one of those independent, civic-minded old New Englanders, the kind of guy, Hosley learned, who also founded the Hartland Nature Club and assembled its impressive natural history collections. He was an influential local leader in a small town along the Connecticut River that remains to this day a community of only 3,223 people. He also was a photographer. But first, he was a farmer. Bigger is better? After decades of farming, Ruggles figured he could shuck nonsense as easily as an ear of corn. He offered his own advice.

“Do not be a farmer unless you like the business and prefer it to another trade or occupation.”

“Do not buy a farm larger than you can do all the work on yourself.”

“Do not have a great multiplicity of farming tools. A plow, a harrow, a roller, a cultivator and a hoe are all the tools you need for working the soil.”

“Do not use any commercial fertilizers. You can raise good crops and increase the fertility of the soil without them.”

“Do not buy any meal or grain feed for your cows. Feed them with what you raise on the farm; that is what your farm is for. They must have good pasturage in summer; plenty of nutritious grasses… They must have good water to drink, such as you would drink yourself.”

“Do not keep cows in the barn all of the time in winter, nor most of the time. You cannot raise good calves from cows so kept. Let them out in the yard at least five or six hours a day except in stormy or very cold weather for sun and air and water and salt and exercise and general enjoyment.”

The Ruggles message was fundamental: respect the land, treat farm animals humanely.

It all sounds a lot like the kind of small, sustainable agriculture emerging in Connecticut and many parts of the country in recent years. I think, for example, of Megan Haney growing vegetables and flowers on three acres of land along the Housatonic River in Kent, Ct.

She starts and ends a long hot day in the field with a sunbonnet and a smile.

Oh, when she was starting out the representative of one federal agency told her that if her farm store wasn’t open every day she could fail. But her Marble Valley Farm store is open to the general public only two days a week in the growing season. After three years she has no plans to change; she is doing fine. Her Community Supported Agriculture program, in which families pay a farmer up-front for a season’s worth of vegetables provided weekly during the growing season, attracts more customers every year. Her farm store is a hit.

She uses a 60-year-old Allis Chalmers G tractor with 11- or 12-horsepower that looks, as she says, more like a Go-Kart than a serious farm tractor. It helps, for sure, but most work, all of the planting and much of the weeding is done by hand anyway. She farms organically. She does most of the work. She keeps it simple.

Her farm and her philosophy, it seems, are not unlike what Byron Ruggles was talking about all those years ago.

Reprinted with permission from the April 7, 2010 blog by Steve Grant, a freelance writer living in Farmington, Ct.,

Digging Deep: Unearthing the Mysteries of Burial and Cemetery Law

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Copied from the introduction to the 2007 document by the Vermont Secretary of State:

Dear Readers:
There is no better way to connect with the history of a place than to visit its cemetery. Indeed, when Vermont was first settled in the 1700s one of the first signs of community life was the creation of a cemetery. Many of these early cemeteries still exist today, and a visit to these old burial grounds can tell us a lot about life in Vermont at the time. While most Vermonters will visit a cemetery at one time or another, many people do not realize that most of Vermont’s cemeteries are managed by volunteer boards.
There are over 1,900 cemeteries in Vermont, and we ask a lot of our cemetery commissioners and cemetery associations. The laws governing Vermont’s cemeteries are complex. They are meant to protect the public health and safety, and also seek to ensure that the individuals who have bought plots and families who have loved ones buried in the cemetery, have a reasonable guarantee that the cemetery will be maintained into the future.

With this publication we hope to assist the many volunteers who oversee our cemeteries by explaining the various rules and requirements that apply to burials and cemeteries in  Vermont. I want to thank Rich McCoy from the Vermont Department of Health for his  review of this booklet; and I want to thank Patrick Healy, director of the Green Mount Cemetery, and Joy Fagan, president of the Vermont Cemetery Association, for encouraging this office to focus on the needs of the people who care for our state’s cemeteries.

Deborah L. Markowitz
Vermont Secretary of State

To see the complete document, updated in 2010, click here.

Civil War Picture: soldiers drilling in Hartland

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

About the oldest photograph in the Hartland Historical Society’s collection, this picture shows the C. W. Warren - Floyd Best - Schouten home on the left and the Shedd - Crosby house on the right. It shows civil War soldiers practicing and the public watching them. It is on Route 12  in what was known as Foundryville.

Civil War Soldiers drilling in Hartland

Civil War Soldiers drilling in Hartland - Click picture for larger image.

Wild Turkeys

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Looking at the wild turkeys seen throughout Vermont, you wouldn’t think that at one time there were no wild turkeys in Vermont. Due to clearing of their natural habitat, they totally died off. This portion of a Vermont Fish and Wildlife brochure describes how they became extinct, how they came back, and their current condition. It has been added to with contributions from Bev Lasure and others to add Hartland’s involvement.

Once extinct in Vermont, the turkey population is triving due to conservation actions.

Once extinct in Vermont, the turkey population is triving due to conservation actions.


Wild turkeys are prey to a long list of predators including coyotes, bobcats, foxes, fisher, weasels, skunks, opossum, raccoons, snakes, hawks, owls, dogs, and people. As a major prey species, the turkey fulfills it natural role in the ecosystem by providing sustenance for other animals.

Through the process of natural selection, wild turkeys have co-evolved with predators over millions of years. In this long, evolutionary process, predators have had a tremendous influence in shaping the development and behavior of the wild turkey. Producing large numbers of young, re-nesting (laying another clutch of eggs if the first set is destroyed), roosting in trees, and flocking, are all survival strategies resulting from eons of predation. Many of the qualities that people admire about wild turkeys, such as their incredible eyesight, wariness, and ability to detect movement, are the product of evolution with natural predators.

Many people express concern that predators will harm the turkey population. It is clear that in spite of predation, our turkey population in Vermont continues to flourish.

Management Efforts

Early settlers cleared Vermont forests for farmland and lumber. By the mid-1800s, more than 75% of Vermont was open land. As a result, wildlife habitat was scarce, especially the forests that turkeys needed to survive. By 1854, the last of Vermont’s turkeys disappeared. Loss of habitat and uncontrolled hunting wiped them out.

In the 1950s a private effort by well meaning people and fish and game clubs to reestablish turkeys in Vermont, included the release of hundreds of “game farm” turkeys throughout the state. Most of these birds were several generations removed form the wild, and therefore lacked the ability to survive Vermont’s rugged winters. No game farm turkeys succeeded in establishing populations in Vermont.

Following these attempts, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department investigated the possibility of reintroducing wild turkeys to Vermont. The department worked with the New York State Conservation Department to trap wild turkeys during the winter of 1969 - 1970. The first winter’s trapping captured 17 turkeys that were released in Pawlet, Vermont. The second winter of trapping resulted in 14 birds that were released in Hubbardton, Vermont.

These initial populations expanded rapidly, both in number and occupied area. In 1973, the population was estimated at more than 600 turkeys. Since 1973, additional efforts and the refinement of trapping equipment enabled Vermont Fish & Wildlife staff to capture as many as 100 turkeys in one trapping season for release in various areas of the state.

Hartland’s Involvement

The Hartland Fish and Game Club has been significant part of life in Hartland for many years. Hial Lobdell graciously let the members use an outbuilding on his property for several years to hold meetings.

Wild turkeys became almost extinct in Vermont. The State of Vermont offered wild turkeys to the various clubs for release into the wild. The Hartland Fish and Game club accepted the offer and in the 60’s got their batch. The Hartland Historical Society has pictures of this event. They show Hial Lobdell, Lee Lasure and others releasing the birds.

The Hartland Fish and Game Club maintains the Hammond Cove shooting Range in town along the Connecticut River.

If anyone else can add information to this article please email me, Bev Lasure, at You can either write the information down for me to interpret or add to the article. The Hartland Fish and Game has played an important part in more recent history and it would be nice to preserve information. I know that at one time we had the original incorporation papers at home and we had Avery Howe come to the house and pick them up so that they would stay with club records. Someone surely know more information about this organization than I can remember.

Hunting Season Reestablished

A spring turkey-hunting season was established in 1973. This was the first time wild turkeys had been hunted in Vermont in more than a century. Fall “either sex” turkey hunting began in 1975. Spring and fall hunting seasons have continued every year since. Both spring and fall turkey seasons provide a recreational opportunity for hunters and serve as a population management tool.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Vermont’s turkey population remained relatively stable, at an estimated 9,000 to 12, 000 birds. Unusually harsh winters reduced the population in 1993-1994, but a combination of limited hunting seasons and milder winters caused the population to rebound quickly. Vermont’s turkey population has risen each year since 1994 to its highest level in recent history, and is now estimated at some 35, 000 birds.

From year to year the number of wild turkeys in Vermont will fluctuate because of a combination of random environmental factors, such as weather changes that affect nesting success, or severity of the winter that affect survival. Long-term population trends, however, are most influenced by changes in habitat and the overall landscape. Relatively mature forests now dominate 80% of the state, with only about 15% in an open, non-forested condition, such as croplands, hay fields, or pastures. Although the wild turkey is primarily regarded as a forest dwelling bird, ideal habitat conditions include a mix of forest and agricultural land, which provides the greatest opportunities for feeding, nesting, and brooding.

Agricultural lands on active farms provide most of the remaining open acreage in the state that is ideal habitat for wild turkeys. As the number of Vermont farms declines and the trend toward increased forestation continues, availability of open land may increasingly limit habitat for wild turkeys. Keeping active working dairy farms in Vermont will help maintain excellent wild turkey habitat.

Public Shooting Range Opens in Hartland - November 7, 2012

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Public Shooting Range Opens in Hartland

A new fully-accessible public shooting range is now open, according to an announcement from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

The Hammond Cove Shooting Range in Hartland is a true milestone for the state’s hunters and shooters. Originally purchased in the late 1960’s, the site had long been popular with shooters from both sides of the Connecticut River, and it now boasts a state-owned shooting range designed solely for public shooting.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of this facility to Vermont’s hunters and shooters, and to the future of our hunting heritage,” said Vermont Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry. “It’s also hard to overstate the importance of the National Rifle Association and the Hartland Fish and Game Club in helping to make this range a reality.”

The upgrades include a covered, six-port 100-yard rifle range with 20-foot side berms and a 60-foot plus high backstop. Public range use is free. Range rules are posted at the site.

“And there’s still time to get some extra practice in before the upcoming November rifle and December muzzleloading deer seasons,” said Berry.

Funds used to improve this site were provided by a National Rifle Association Public Range Grant that was used to match Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act funds. Also known as Pittman-Robertson, this money is generated through a dedicated excise tax on sporting guns and ammunition. Hartland Fish and Game Club members will act as the range stewards.

Hammond Cove is a key part of a larger department initiative to improve access to public shooting ranges in Vermont. The department has two limited use ranges at its Green Mountain Conservation Camp facilities.

A grand opening is planned for the spring [2013]. The Hammond Cove Shooting Range rules can be found at

Lady in a donkey cart

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

This undated photograph shows Geneva Merritt (1910-1982) riding through Hartland in her donkey cart.

Lady in donkey cart.  Click picture for larger image.

Lady in donkey cart. Click picture for larger image.

Mrs. Ithamar Marcy

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Mrs. Marcy had a few pieces of pewter ware. There were two teapots. One she always used for hot water at mealtime. She also had a few pewter plates. For a number of years she had a skin cancer in the middle of her nose. She went to several cancer specialists, but to no avail. One day an herb doctor stopped there, examined it and said:

“If you’ll do just as I tell you I’ll guarantee I can cure it. You go out in the fields and gather a small bunch of red sorrel, press the juice out on something of pewter, nothing else. Make a poultice of it twice a day and put it on for six months and you’ll be cured.” She did just as he said and she was cured.

It was what is known as a spider cancer. It is quite possible the “herb doctor” was Dr. Nelson Gardiner. No one remembers but he was a local doctor who used herbs exclusively and was considered by some to be a “quack”. Dr. Gardner is buried in the Walker cemetery.

From Howland Atwood’s notes. Extracted from the Spring 2006 Hartland Historical Society Newsletter.

Hartland Graveyards - editorial by Byron Ruggles 1907

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

We have been extremely fortunate to have had surveys [of our graveyards] made at different times over the years. Stones that were present in the 1907 survey by Byron Ruggles are not always still to be found. If a stone breaks and falls over, it doesn’t take long for nature to do its job of hiding it forever under leaves and grass that turn to dirt. People who are interested enough to carefully probe can sometimes find these stones and bring them back to light. The following was written by Byron Ruggles in 1907.

“To the Editor of the Standard;
During the summer of 1907 I visited all of the thirteen graveyards in town and copied the inscriptions on all of the stones I found. Some of the yards are so neglected and overrun with trees and weeds, brush, briars, vines and weeds that I am not sure that I found all of the gravestones, some being broken and down and covered with leaves and brush. Two or three of the yards are in fairly good condition. Two or three are barely passable and others are sadly neglected.
All of the yards are fenced and all but three or four with stone walls, but the walls are not all in a good state of repair. Eight of the yards have stones with dates previous to 1800, three dates at 1800 and the other two started at 1832 and 1844.
There are also from two to seven graves in each of six other places in town with eight or ten lettered stones in all of them I have been told but only a part of them can be found now. Only one of these family lots was ever fenced.
The smallest of the thirteen yards has 19 lettered stones, the next larger has 27 and the others range from 52 up to over 600 in the yard or cemetery at Hartland Village.
I found 2043 graves with stones having inscriptions and counted and estimated 431 graves that never had lettered stones.
Of the lettered stones, the oldest is the wife of Moses Barnes dated 1768. The oldest person is Grace Totman, died in 1832 aged 102 years.
Some of the inscriptions are quite short and some more elaborate. Among the later are those of Judge Elihu Luce, Dr John Harding, Griffin who was killed by the breaking down of a bridge, Elisha Gallup, the founder of the Vermont Medical College (this should be Joseph. CYM), Ephraim Carey, Peter Gilson and Granger Marcy, revolutionary patriots, and Capt. Timothy Lull, the first settler in town.
One of the shortest inscriptions reads: Frederick Remington, on a nicely polished Ascutney granite stone, and another on a marble stone is just Dr. Daniel Hall.
Some of the older gravestones are of hewed slate and soapstone, later sawed slate and soapstone, marble of five varieties, granite of eight varieties and sandstone and zinc.
On the more than two thousand stones there are 345 mottoes, quotations and items of original and selected poetry, from which I give a selection;

“She has left us to dwell with the angels on high,
She has gone to her home beyond the blue sky,
She has gone with the holy, the perfect to dwell,
She has gone and has bade us a final farewell”

Mr Ruggles has many more quotes but I would encourage you to go find your own. Beautiful fall days are a wonderful time to explore your local cemeteries and put yourself back in time. Finding a gravestone can be like opening a book to the story that lies within. The internet, the Clerks office and the Historical Society are great places to discover the life of the person you have just met. With that in mind, I decided to see what I could find out about the Aldrich family that for so many years made their home in one of the most beautiful parts of Hartland.

Extracted from the Fall 2008 Hartland Historical Society Newsletter.

Get your tonsils out at Damon Hall!!

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Some of you may remember this day and may have even taken part. It happened sometime between 1915 and 1922. Let us know if you can pinpoint it better. C.Y.M.

The clinic for the operations on the throat and nose for the benefit of the children of Hartland which was held at Damon Hall, August 9th and 10th, under the auspices of the local branch of American Red Cross, was most successful, as to the number of operations and results obtained. Fifty-one cases were corrected; many being of long standing and some of a very severe type, which would ultimately have proven a serious menace to health. All cases needed immediate attention. While many of the operations were serious, all the children were able to be removed to their homes within a few hours. The expense of the operations was the amount arranged with surgeons and doctors going downward from $15.00. The total expense of the clinic was $442.00 of which $293.00 was borne by the Red Cross, $149.00 being taken at the clinic.

There were in attendance four doctors, six professional nurses, five domestic nurses and many assistants in the various departments. The hall was temporarily converted into a hospital. The dining room was quickly turned into a ward containing 14 beds with all the necessary furnishings. The kitchen was used as the operating room. The Nature Club room was used for a dressing room; and here the children were prepared for the operations. The selectmen’s room was given over to the branch committee where a bountiful lunch was served both days free to all.

The auditorium was used as a rest room, and here was maintained the business office in charge of Mrs. H. H. Miller and Mrs. A.W. Martin. The offices of the Hartland branch American Red Cross take this opportunity to express their thanks and appreciation to all who rendered aid during the clinic. Never was anything conducted in Hartland that received more hearty co-operation or a better response from the citizens. Aside from the doctors, all services were given. We are glad to make public acknowledgment to the following who rendered valued assistance.
(This was followed by a great list of people who assisted in various ways. I will finish with the section that dealt with special thanks)

Especially did we appreciate the use of the Martin truck in getting furnishings to and from the hall, also the help of Miss Florence Sturtevant whose car was stationed in front of the hall both days to be on call when needed, and was frequently used. Miss Regis Daley, in charge of the preparatory work at No .Hartland, gave most substantial assistance, both before and during the clinic. Dr. Carlton was the operating surgeon, assisted by Miss Horton. Dr’s Ward and Eastman gave the ether, assisted by Miss Brown. Dr. Kidder, health officer, whose services were given, was in charge of the ward, also rendered efficient aid helping in various places as occasion demanded, thereby making it easier for the management. Miss Jacques, public health nurse, is deserving of special mention for the interest manifested and painstaking efforts to further the work of the clinic.
Public Health Committee (No record of who wrote this.)

Extracted from the Spring 2006 Hartland Historical Society Newsletter.