Welcome to this month’s edition of the History & Heritage Center. 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 a 501(c)(3) status.
Please join us this Friday September 20th at 7:00p.m. at the St. Johnsbury School on Western Avenue for a Vermont Humanities Council event hosted by us entitled “A High Price to Pay, A Heavy Burden to Bear: One Family’s Civil War Story” featuring David Book’s portrayal of Abel Morrill of Cabot.
Please check out our web site, stjhistory.org for past articles, upcoming events, information and pictures. We have started the 250 Club where we are seeking $1000.00 each from individuals, clubs, businesses, etc. in order to buy a place to protect, preserve, and exhibit St. Johnsbury’s historical artifacts. Please consider joining this Club. To date we have received $25,000.00 towards our goal. Our phone number is 802 – 424 – 1090 and our office is located in the lower floor of the Summer Street School Building. Our mailing address is St. Johnsbury History & Heritage Center, P.O. Box 223, St. Johnsbury, Vt. 05819.
Everyone Should Have Known a Character Growing Up
When the worries of trying to accomplish the goals of the History & Heritage Center overtake me, I tend to recharge myself by reflecting back on the lighter side of history and the things and people that have shaped my historical memories of growing up in St. Johnsbury. I think it is important to have known a character in your youth. That person may have been imprinted on your memory by stature, his or her habits, or just a kid’s view of curious. My character was Eleanor Meecham. Now, having revealed her name, I would love to be able to plug into your memories of her as you read her name! Her life spanned from 1904 until 1971. As a young child in the fifties, she made a lasting impression on my youth. She was a resident of Mt. Pleasant Street Extension; her residence was down in the dip before you crested the hill where the Old Century Farm stood on the right. A former schoolhouse still stands on the left as you leave the top of the hill.
Peggy and Eleanor
My family lived on Mt. Pleasant Street, the last house before you could enter the cemetery, and our house was one she passed every time she went to town. Her commute was either by horse and wagon or on foot. Her voice was high pitched and reminded me of a cackle; it was one of the things that intimidated me. Many knew her as the egg lady; I did not as we had our own hens and delivered eggs to our neighbors. However one of my classmates, when she was six or seven, on Boynton Ave. elected to tell Eleanor that “your eggs stink”. Eleanor was not about to let that pass and went to the back door and told her mother. My classmate got her behind whacked and got to spend the rest of the day in her room but the eggs kept coming. The “stink” or smell part of this story was true. You always got the idea that she might have lived in the barn. Her hygiene was not perfect and might have been a reason that when Eleanor occasionally attended North Church, there was considerable space around her!
Her fur coat as well as the one seen in the picture retained the odor just mentioned and could be shared if you got close enough. My experience with this was the day Eleanor asked my father for a ride home; in my innocence I asked to accompany him in the cab of the cemetery pickup (might have been a ’54 Chevrolet). By the time we returned, some of it had rubbed off on me and I was instructed to deliver a dozen eggs to the Becks but not to go in! Another time the pickup went to Eleanor’s was to look at a calf that she wanted to sell. My recollection of the barn was to wonder what was holding it up but we went in and there was a cute jersey calf looking like it needed several good feedings. My Dad told Eleanor that he would give her five dollars if it lived. We put it in a grain bag where it lay at my feet in the pickup. Yes, it lived and was one of those situations where you just couldn’t say no.
Another memory was the horse and wagon. The neighborhood kids were playing and we asked Eleanor if we might have a ride. She obliged and we jumped in but as we neared the intersection of Summer Street and Mt. Pleasant – she did not heed our calls to get out so we all bailed out in front of the Brooks home, now the Higgs.
My last memory that is as plain as yesterday was looking out the living room window and seeing Eleanor coming down the street in a dress, heels and a hat. I yelled, “Mommy, come look!” She did and was as surprised to see her looking so fine. It was a far cry from the fur coat and big buckle boots! She was a conundrum!
I never knew her story nor the conditions that she grew up in. All I knew was that her home turned into quite an unhealthy situation with a dirt floor and ten plus cats that were not allowed to see the out of doors. The firemen built a house out in back of the fire station and it was hauled to the other side of the road, opposite her present home. Eleanor was encouraged and convinced to live there. She did but sadly her habits did not improve. All I know is that she made an indelible impression on me and became a part of my childhood memories that now bring a smile to my face and many others. She never got nor sought fame but everyone knew her and few forgot her.