Welcome to July’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 in the Summer Street School building while renovations are being made before we move to our new permanent home at 421 Summer Street. It took a community along with friends and alumni to make this dream a reality. We encourage your support in making this historic home a wonderful place for exhibiting, preserving and collecting St. Johnsbury’s history. Our last exhibit cases are being built now. We plan to move our office in August and are anxious to be open sometime this fall. Check out our web site at www.stjhistory.org and our Facebook page. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 223, St. Johnsbury, Vt., 05819 and phone number is 802 – 424 – 1090.
More Stories Behind Stones
Get ready for an evening of local history on August 15 at 7 pm at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. As we prepared for this year’s Ghost Walk event, we decided to focus for the third time on St. Johnsbury soldiers who served in the Civil War. We saw it fitting to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War by sharing the stories of these soldiers and their families.
With over 125 Civil War soldiers who served in the Civil War buried in Mt. Pleasant cemetery, it is always difficult to narrow down our list of personalities for the Ghost Walk, but we choose the soldiers to highlight based on how much information we can share with you and look for those with especially interesting experiences to share.
Finding military service records is the first step. The National Parks Service’s Civil War website is a great place to start; it allows one to search by name or regiment. From there, the quest for information truly begins.
Albert G. Chadwick’s The Soldiers’ Record of the Town of St. Johnsbury, Vermont includes brief entries about the service of many of the Civil War soldiers buried in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. To fill in more about the lives of these men and their families, we turn to old newspapers. The Chronicling America project by the Library of Congress contains digitized copies of newspapers from 1836 to 1922, including the St Johnsbury Caledonian and the St. Johnsbury Republican. Genealogy websites like Ancestry.com allow one to search for marriage licenses and birth certificates; such documents help fill in the details of the family lives of our soldiers.
The most exciting finds were in the Personal War Sketches: Grand Army of the Republic book presented by Franklin Fairbanks to the St. Johnsbury Grand Army of the Republic Chamberlin Post chapter in 1894. The book contains personal accounts of dozens of soldiers, either in the form of commemorative speeches or autobiographical sketches. These narratives offer first-hand accounts of the lives of these soldiers.
The stones all have stories to tell. Find out about Thomas Bishop and Charles Carpenter, two brothers-in-law who share a gravestone. Learn more about St. Johnsbury and Vermont’s commitment to the Civil War from the perspective of Erastus Fairbanks, who was governor of Vermont when the war began.
Oliver Heyer’s story is a complex one, involving leaving the 3rd Vermont Regiment to serve on the Frigate Wabash, only to be taken prisoner at Fort Sumter. After a harrowing escape, how did he make his way back north? And how did he end up traveling around the world after the war? Heyer is buried next to another Civil War veteran, Willard Chaffee, allowing the two actors portraying them to tell their stories as a conversation between these soldiers.
How did Sherman Parkhurst find his way back to Vermont after working as a railroad conductor in the South at the start of the Civil War? What fault was he wrongfully accused of that so offended his friends and comrades?
We hope you’ll join us at 7 pm on Saturday, August 15 at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery entrance to learn more about these Civil War soldiers, their families, and our town’s history. Admission is by donation.
This piece was written by Denise Scavitto, a Board member of St. Johnsbury History & Heritage.