Welcome to December’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 our new permanent home at 421 Summer Street as of August. We officially opened our doors to the public on November 1st. We are still a work in progress but it was time for us to show you what your volunteer efforts or monetary gifts have accomplished. For the present time, the Center will be open Monday through Wednesdays from 10:00a.m. to 4:00 p.m. As we build our volunteer base and spring nears, we will open more days. 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. We hope you will join us for the Holiday Open House on December 12th from 1 – 4. 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.
Last month we talked about the Belknaps and their talented hands and noted that they are resting under the shadow off the old towering spruce. Before we leave that area, right beside the Belknaps is a stone to the memory of Hubbard Lawrence and family. There is a marble headstone specifically to the memory of Hubbard. I believe if you were to search all fifty acres of Mt. Pleasant Cemetery for words of perfection of a departed soul – Hubbard would be hard to beat:
Deac. Hubbard Lawrence
an affectionate Husband.
a faithful Father, an exemplary Christian.
an officer of the Church & a
valuable Member of society.
died Sept. 20, 1816
aged 43 years
leaving a wid^ ow & 9 children
Think mortals what it is to die.
To the left of the marble headstone, there is another stone for the family, it is on this one that we find that Hubbard was born in Winchester, New Hampshire on March 7, 1773. Hubbard ran a tannery on what is now Western Avenue on the site of the Elks’ home today. The “home” was Pinehurst, former home of Horace Fairbanks and family. Town records tell us that Ralph Merry operated a tannery as early as 1795. Merry sold it to Philip Bean in 1797 and Hubbard became the owner about 1802. Leather was used for multiple goods including saddles, harnesses, shoes, boots, belts, aprons, etc. Edward Fairbanks’s History of St. Johnsbury tells us that Hubbard marked his hides with a G or a B, representing that of good or bad quality.
In 2008, a bit of history was unearthed – literally! Ray Heath of Heath Construction walked through the Fairbanks Museum doors inquiring if we knew what had been on Western Avenue in the long ago. I knew there had been a tannery site so into his pickup I climbed. While trying to divert water on the lawn of the Elks Home, they discovered four boxes beneath the sod. They were surrounded by blue clay and had what appeared to be peat now but would have been bark originally. Three were about eight feet in length, eighteen to twenty- four inches wide with a like depth. We were all convinced that the tannery site had been found as the tannery used lots of water, which there still was, vats were sunk to ground level and separated by walkways. We all wished there had been more time to dig around some more and see if there had been more to the story.
Hubbard earned the title of Deacon as he was a leader in the first Meetinghouse in the Center. He served as moderator and Deacon. It was six years before the Church had a minister and Hubbard along with David Stowell kept the church going. Later, there was a house on the Plain that was used for worship, first being at the head of the Plain and then moved to the top of Maple Street. Hubbard brought bark and fire wood from his tannery and kept the fire and used his sleigh to go and get those who could not walk to the “Church”.
One should not forget the widow, Mary, with nine children who lived in a house near the old burial ground (now the Court House). Fairbanks’s History quotes Milo Jewett’s memory of her: “My childhood recollection of Mrs. Lawrence brings her before me as a model woman, a type of all that is strong and noble and sweet in womanhood and in full sympathy with childhood. However noisy or rude our sports, she was always patient, carrying an air of authority tempered with gentleness.”
Hope to see you at the St. Johnsbury’s History & Heritage Center on December 12th. Ornament making, music and refreshments can be found at 421 Summer Street.
– Peggy Pearl