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Women of Mt. Pleasant Cemetery – July 2016 Edition of History & Heritage

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Welcome to the July 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. We officially opened our doors to the public on November 1st. At the present time, the Center is open Monday through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. thanks to a wonderful staff of volunteers. 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. The carriage barn is a work in progress but the horse drawn vehicles and the ice cutting exhibit are ready for your visit. The installation of a permanent platform wagon scale will begin in August. 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.

Women of Mt. Pleasant Cemetery

This year’s Ghost Walk will tell stories behind the stones of some of the women of our area. This yearly event will take place at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery at 7:00 p.m. on August 6th. Denise Scavitto, a Board member, is often chosen to provide the background of the ghosts. This year’s walk will return us to some of the earliest women of St. Johnsbury’s history as well as others that lived in the 20th century.

In the words of Denise – “The evening will be filled with wonderful and powerful stories – many of which were difficult to track down. Unlike the many of the Civil War soldiers of previous Ghost Walks, it was often challenging to find a paper trail about these women’s lives. Beyond basic vital documents like birth and death records, sometimes only snippets of these stories appeared in the public record. While their male counterparts were often the subjects of news stories and biographies, much of women’s history was relegated to the private life of the home. The newspaper might note social events and church gatherings and those brief entries might be the only glimpses into their public roles. The closer we get to the modern era, however, the more public these women’s lives became. It is interesting to follow the lives and careers of women like Charlotte Fairbanks and Katherine Ide Gray, reading the stories as they tracked careers that challenged traditional gender roles, carving out both public and private lives.”

Edward Fairbanks in his History of St. Johnsbury provides us with anecdotes of some of St. Johnsbury’s early folks and we get a more human glimpse of early St. Johnsbury residents. This source has been helpful in some of the earliest women. I, myself, marvel at Phebe Fairbanks, mother of Erastus, Thaddeus and Joseph, traveling by wagon to St. Johnsbury in 1815 from Brimfield, Mass. and then living to the age of 93! She needed a lengthy obituary – unfortunately such was not the case.

wagon

Gravestones as a rule do not reveal much except birth and death dates; sometimes a maiden name and once in a while a place from which they may have originated. Sometimes these early stones may have a symbol of death on them such as a weeping willow tree, dove, gates, etc. This is especially true of early stones; today one may find a picture of something meaningful in their life such as a church, animal, home, etc. So this is why the detective work of Denise is so important in the portrayal of these ghosts. Looking at the grass level marker of Welthea Glines, born in 1828 and dying in 1903, one would never know she was part of the Lowell Mills, abroad in London and Paris, in Texas in 1861 and much more before she became a resident of the Sunset Home.

Visiting Rebecca Pike Fairbanks, the stone reveals that she was the wife of William Fairbanks but he is not there in the plot! Her home was Brantview where she brought up three children. Her story is very interesting to the history of St. Johnsbury.

rebecca_fairbanks

Early accidents did not involve cars but usually horses and one is revealed on our walk. Please join us as we visit a photographer, one who sweetened us up, one who kept the lights on when needed, a Doctor and the lady of the first brick house in St. Johnsbury and more. We will meet at the chapel of the Mt. Pleasant Street entrance at 7:00 p.m. on August 6th. You might want to bring a flashlight as shadows fall! The walk is by donation which helps to keep the Center moving forward.

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