Welcome to this month’s edition of History & Heritage. Our purpose is to acquaint you with our mission to preserve the town’s rich history, highlight the legacy of those who have gone before and show how our past has shaped our present. We are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.
We are located at 421 Summer Street. Our summer hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. thanks to a wonderful staff of volunteers. Please mark your calendars for two upcoming events: August 25th at 7:00 p.m. for our annual Ghost Walk at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery and September 8th from 10 – 4 will be a special day of traditional craft demonstrations at the Center.
This is your establishment and we encourage your support in making this historic home a wonderful place for exhibiting, preserving and collecting St. Johnsbury’s history. Check out our web site at www.stjhistory.org and our Facebook page. Our mailing address is 421 Summer Street, St. Johnsbury, Vt., 05819 and phone number is 802 – 424 – 1090.
Ghosts of the Past Business World of St. Johnsbury
The annual Ghost Walk event is like going home for me; I lived in the Cemetery house from the age of five until I left the nest at 18. I remember the yellow (push) Lawnboys mowers that kept the grounds looking good; the hand clippers; the graves dug by hand; Adolph Roy and my Dad on the banks with hand scythes in perfect rhythm. Sometimes one’s age is given away by what they remember!! But I digress, this year’s theme, businesses, has the potential for several ghost walks so pick and choose we did knowing that there would have to be a follow-up one later.
Once the theme and path is picked with the associated names then the computer guru, Denise Scavitto, goes on the keyboard to seek out information that will bring these folks to life. The St. Johnsbury Players assist with the dress of the ghosts and the ghosts give up their time and own identity to bring their characters to life. Paul Bergeron outfits the night with his collection of lanterns; volunteers and board members set up and provide refreshments and you could buy a chance on a most colorful quilt on display that night and lastly, we keep our fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate.
In 1891, St. Johnsbury Illustrated was printed having been compiled by Arthur Stone and it gives us an overall view of the town including the Board of Trade. From this group we chose George Cross who owned a bakery business and if you are old enough will bring back memories of “crackers and milk” on Sunday nights. Also on the Board of Trade was William L. Pearl, a dealer in grain, and A. L. Bailey who was best known as a music dealer with stores in St. Johnsbury, Burlington and Littleton, N.H.
In 1876, O. V. Hooker & Son came to St. Johnsbury and set up their small machine shop. This grew to include a blacksmith shop, a foundry, a wood shop and office. They were the manufacturers of the Howard table saw you can see at the History & Heritage Center. If you know your street names, you can figure out the vicinity of their work.
The hard part is the women in the business end of St. Johnsbury; they were there but more behind the scenes! We did find Helen Carpenter in 1891 selling art embroidery and fancy goods. She has a story to tell not only of her business but of her marriage.
Add to these folks the sad tale of the butcher, Lothrop and family, on Main Street; the Johnson of Moore & Johnson dealing in men’s clothing; the Nutt family who held a special recipe for file making and last but by no means least Charles Goss whose building still stands at the corner of Summer and Central Street. He started in the plumbing business along with two brothers for about two years but the car business was his claim to fame!
We hope you will come out to learn a bit of your town’s history and once again realize that behind every stone in the cemetery – there is a story.