Guest article by Andrew Dussault
The former Railroad Street property, now known as 98 Mill Street (previously 13 Mill Street), as well as other sites on both sides of the Passumpsic River, were developed by the Ramsay family during the 19th century. The west side of the river is where Charles F. Ramsay (March 24, 1826-Aug. 9, 1903) left his mark. The H.F. Walling map of 1858 conveys the image that the Ramsay family had possession of a major portion of the land between the railroad line and the river. That same rendering informs us that C.F. Ramsay had the only building on the upper level of Perkins Street, onto the knob of land known as Hooker Hill. The 1875 Beers Atlas reveals that the property was occupied by Dr. J. L. Perkins at that later date.
Charles’s father, Captain James Ramsay (Nov. 20, 1778 – Aug. 3, 1860), arrived in St. Johnsbury during 1817. “Capt. Ramsey (sic) was a man of strong convictions. He felt strongly against slavery, and some of his neighbors suspected that his house was a station on the Underground Railroad, the elaborate system set up in the 1850’s to help slaves escape to Canada. This suspicion, which had persisted through the years, was proven correct in 1930 when that old house was torn down to provide the site for Woodbury & Benoit’s garage. (It was known as St. Johnsbury Garage and currently in the name of Wakeman Realty Trust.) There, below the usual cellar, was another cellar area with no windows – a completely safe hiding place for slaves trying to make their way to freedom. The neighbors had not been wrong.” (Claire Dunne Johnson’s book, volume, I See By The Paper)
The plaque over the large entrance in the brick wall on the southerly end of the building at 98 Mill Street, says, “C. F. Ramsay 1853”. This inscription reminds the reader that Charles Ramsay constructed this edifice 170 years ago. The municipal birth records inform us that Mr. Ramsay was a millwright when his wife, Aurilla B. Ramsay, of Monroe, gave birth to a daughter, Jessie, on Dec. 27, 1869. Jessie married John Graves, of St. Johnsbury, on March 18, 1889.
Charles conveyed the “land” and “the machine shop, blacksmith shop, pickle room, foundry core and coal shed now standing on said premises”, etc., to our well known, and first long time occupant, Luke Buzzell – like in Buzzell Street – in 1855. After a nearly 25 year stint, Mr. Buzzell quitclaimed the property in 1880 to the First National Bank due to foreclosure action. This former mill/shop still contains the overhead pulleys, drive shafts, belts and electric motors that made it a productive establishment for many, many decades.
It took a while, but in 1884 the bank sold the “Buzzell foundary” to Michael Hynes, et al, and that group lasted until 1902 with the sale to Connell Lynch. Mr. Lynch sold out in 1906, only to regain ownership in 1919 from E.T. & H.K. Ide.
Arthur Hevey (1906-1992) was hired by Mr. Lynch, I expect, as an apprentice. Like many young men of his era, he had already “found himself.” During the late 1960s, Mr. Hevey told me he had started working for Lynch Woodworking at the age of 15. His obituary states, “Mr. Hevey was owner/operator of Lynch Woodworking on Mill Street in St. Johnsbury for over 50 years.”
In 1945, Florence I. Lynch, widow, sold to Arthur Hevey, Jr., and Dora Hevey, the property her husband had originally purchased in 1902. In essence, the deed indicates that the Hevey’s purchased the property “lock, stock and barrel.”