St. Johnsbury Poets of the Past – March 2015 Edition of History & Heritage
Updated: Apr 18
Welcome to March’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. Ongoing work includes wiring and new ceiling in the classroom/meeting room in the back of the house; a handicapped bathroom and entrance ramp is being readied; wiring for lights in the barn has begun and the manufacture of cabinets to hold the exhibits for display is taking place. 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.
St. Johnsbury Poets of the Past
St. Johnsbury is a Poem Town for the month of April (additional information can be found on the Catamount Arts web site). Asked if I knew any past poets, three immediately came to mind from stories my parents had told me and reciting my father had often done. For this edition, I have chosen Charles H. Horton and Charles Braley for their timeless themes.
Charles Braley was born in 1868 in South Royalton, Vt. The family came to St. Johnsbury in the 1880’s. After attending schools in Minnesota and Albany, NY, Charles returned to St. Johnsbury around 1896 to enter the shoe business. In 1896, he married Edith Ross, youngest daughter of Jonathan and Eliza Ross. They had three children. Fast forward to 1909 when he won a hotly contested election for Town Clerk and Treasurer over incumbent Herbert W. Blodgett. For Town Clerk, 13 votes separated them, 523 – 510. Remember, this was before women could vote. He retired from this position in 1940. Charles put together some of his writings in a booklet form and called it “Haze on the Hills.” He wrote on the death of a friend My neighbor heard the evening bell that called him from the field, And with a smile he answered it, his reluctance concealed. From whence we come or wither go, ‘tis just enough for us to know, Behind the veil across the door, we’ll meet a friend gone on before.
Although he did not have a license, he kept a car and many a young man would take Mr. & Mrs. Braley for a ride, my father being one of them. He liked to go to Victory and this poem speaks of the area after the log mills had closed down and farms had been abandoned.
A Forsaken LandFar up on Umpier’s rugged slope a whip-o-will is calling,It’s plaintive note, responsive to the hush of night that’s falling,O’er a land made desolate by the greedy hand of man,Now denuded of her forests, left to heal as Nature can. These meadows once their bounty gave, the hills their flocks maintaining,
Have ceased to yield all else but tares, there is little now remaining.
Her people heard the luring call of a greater world without,
Have native heath and hearth disclaimed, without one fear or doubt.
The moon breeds phantoms in the homes, now crumbling in decay,
The weed-choked door, the sunken floor, accord them fullest sway.
A land bereft of peasantry, a mother in her weeds,
With outstretched hands, in suppliance, makes known her gravest needs.
And who will populate, if ever, these hills and fields again?
And what will be the stimulus, of what sort will be the men?
Who will enter, and preempting, bear the hardships settlers do?
An owl on perch within “The Bog”, makes doleful query, Who, Who?
Charles H. Horton was born March 11, 1856 and educated in St. Johnsbury schools. Upon graduation, he went to work for the E. & T. Fairbanks Company where he was employed for 52 years. His career began as a cashier in the Company’s general store and rose to purchasing agent in the general office. He was a pillar in the town serving in many organizations such as YMCA President and Chairman of the lecture Committee. He held positions on the Athenaeum and Fairbanks Museum Boards. He was very active in the South Congregational Church serving as a deacon and member of the choir. His obituary read “He knew something of everything and everything about something.” He was a lover of nature especially birds and sponsored the Horton Bird contest from 1906 -1926 at the Museum. He married Bernice Ranlet and this union bore three children Claire, Adelaide and Charles. Claire became Claire Moore and was a kindergarten teacher to many including yours truly! He published a book of “Poems” dedicated to the memory of his wife, Bessie Ranlet Horton (January 22, 1880 – August 22, 1923). The stars have fallen from the skies; A cloud obscures the sun; A veil is drawn o’er earth’s fair form; My day of joy is done.
His sense of humor is revealed in the following.
My Children Noisy, and selfish as they can be,What troubles they do bring to me!They pick my fruit before it’s ripe;They’re sure to break my favorite pipe!They scratch the floors, they mark the doors,They leave their things out when it pours:But what are things, compared to kids?God bless ‘em, how I love ‘em! Why can’t they learn to pick up things–Their dolls and pictures, blocks and strings?What makes them break up all their toys—Do so many things that just annoys?They take my things and leave them ‘roundSo when I want them they can’t be found.But what are things, compared to kids?God bless ‘em, how I love ‘em! All hours of day they want to feed!They’re noisy when I want to read.They did deep holes out on the lawn,They wake me up at earliest dawn.I get so mad! O gee! Oh gee!I say words (never coined by me.)But what on earth compares with kids?God bless ‘em, how I love ‘em!
To be continued might be the way this will end for now for the third is well worth mentioning – Wendell Phillips Stafford. The unusual thing to me is that the final resting place of all three is Mt. Pleasant Cemetery and all within sight of each other!