‘Hunt’ing Down History, Part 16

By Barbara Emery Moseley

NOTE: This series chronicles the generations of Vernon’s Hunt family, all related to Jonathan Hunt of “Governor Hunt Road” fame. If you’ve missed any installments in this series, you can catch up here!

Severe cold and snow ushered in 1892. Daniel Burnham, construction supervisor at the Columbian Exposition, was living in a construction shanty on the Chicago fair grounds, heated by an immense fireplace. Workmen constructed a moveable enclosure that could be heated, so that “staff” could continue to be applied to the framework of unfinished buildings. Burnham was criticized by both Congress and the local Fair Committee that he was paying wages that were too high. He also built barracks within the park where workers could get three large meals a day and sleep in clean beds in a heated space. They were paid even if kept from working because of injury or illness. It resulted in a loyal work force that gave full measure in its 8-hour day.

Richard Morris Hunt had returned to his New York City office, but kept in touch with architect Charles McKim, who designed the Fair’s Agriculture Building. He visited the shanty and passed on information to Hunt of progress slowly being made.

Lake freighters were unloading wooden crates bearing labels in foreign words and alphabets. Gigantic draft horses drew wagon loads of exhibit materials destined for yet unfinished buildings. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing Down History, Part 15

By Barbara Emery Moseley

NOTE: This series chronicles the generations of Vernon’s Hunt family, all related to Jonathan Hunt of “Governor Hunt Road” fame. If you’ve missed any installments in this series, you can catch up here!

When Congress chose Chicago as the Columbian Exposition site over other contenders, including New York, St. Louis, and Philadelphia, the Chicago Committee received a telegram from Chauncey Depew. He was U.S. Congressman from New York, lawyer for the Vanderbilts, president of the New York Central Railroad, and one of the most witty and celebrated speakers of the day. The message, part of a letter also sent to the Chicago Tribune, warned: “Chicago is like the man who marries a woman with a ready-made family of twelve; the trouble has just begun.” His comment proved to have hit the nail on the head.

Burnham, who had convinced Richard Morris Hunt to be chief architect of the Exposition, and Frederick Law Olmsted its landscape designer, had expected to rely on his charismatic business partner, John Root, for help on the massive project. However, Root died of pneumonia just as preparation of the site was to begin. At least, the two, along with Hunt, had figured out how to combat the quicksand of Jackson Park, making it suitable for the erection of massive buildings. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing Down History, Part 14

By Barbara Emery Moseley

NOTE: This series chronicles the generations of Vernon’s Hunt family, all related to Jonathan Hunt of “Governor Hunt Road” fame. If you’ve missed any installments in this series, you can catch up here!

ILLUSTRATION: World’s Columbian Exposition Administration Building, Chicago, 1893, designed by Richard Morris Hunt

With only two years to create a “dream city” in what was Chicago’s derelict Jackson Park, Richard Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmsted were almost in a state of despair. It was a square mile of desolate land overgrown with a tangle of wild vines and grasses, spotted with a few pockets of various kinds of oaks, many of them dead. Then, there was the soil: a top one-foot layer of black dirt, followed by two feet of sand, then eleven feet of sand so saturated by water it became quicksand. Locally, it was called “gumbo”.

After a dismal tour in the bitter wind, everyone returned to their carriages, driving back to the city at the pace of a funeral cortege. McKim found a telegram awaiting; the message was that his mother had died. He left immediately on the next train to Boston.

That evening, the entire committee convened at the University Club, the first of many lavish dinners that would take place. Avoiding a swarm of reporters, they entered the banquet hall. Hunt and Olmsted were ushered to the head table, where they flanked Lyman Gage, President of the Exposition. All were in tuxedos, and a red rose boutonniere was at each place. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing Down History, Part 13

By Barbara Emery Moseley

NOTE: This series chronicles the generations of Vernon’s Hunt family, all related to Jonathan Hunt of “Governor Hunt Road” fame. If you’ve missed any installments in this series, you can catch up here!

Although George Vanderbilt’s 600-room mansion “Belleville,” in Ashville, NC, still demanded attention from Richard Morris Hunt, in 1893, he also became involved in the plans for buildings at the “World’s Columbian Exposition” in Chicago. Its purpose was to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America. The city, now mostly recovered from its disastrous 1871 fire, had been chosen by Congress. There was pressure, also, to produce a structure that should surpass in every way the iconic Eiffel Tower, which had been built for the 1867 Paris Exposition.

The oversight of the massive project and the selection of architects, fell to Daniel Burnham of Chicago, an architect himself. He was told to meet with “the greatest architects America has to offer: George Post, Charles McKim, and Richard Morris Hunt.” Hunt — a scion of the Hunt family in Vernon — was the nation’s “most venerable architect,” and also “a man of legendary irascibility,” Burnham later wrote. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 12

By Barbara Emery Moseley

NOTE: This series chronicles the generations of Vernon’s Hunt family, all related to Jonathan Hunt of “Governor Hunt Road” fame. If you’ve missed any installments in this series, you can catch up here!

Before the Hunt family’s move to Europe, Richard Morris Hunt had attended the prestigious Boston Latin School where, coincidentally, a Hunt cousin of his was headmaster. It was well known as a school that prepared boys for Harvard.

Instead, the family moved to Europe where Richard began his college education in Switzerland. Then, following in the footsteps of his brother, William Morris Hunt, he went to the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. There, he was the pupil and colleague of Hector Martin Lefuel, architect to Napoleon III.

In a letter to his mother, Richard complained that he “had been told America was not ready for the Fine Arts, but I think they are … Why shouldn’t our public buildings rival or even surpass those of Europe?” So, at the age of twenty-seven, he returned to the United States.

It was a disappointing beginning for the 27-year-old, but he resisted the ardent entreaties of his colleagues in Europe, that he return. His persistence was rewarded, and he became known as one of the greatest American architects of the 19th century. (more…)

Miller Farm to celebrate 100 years with an open house July 17

The whole Miller farm family

The whole Miller farm family

Sunday, July 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Miller family has been dairy farming for 100 years at the crossroads of Fort Bridgman Road (Route 142), Governor Hunt Road and the New England Central Railroad.

And on July 17, they’re celebrating with an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to which all residents and interested people are invited.

The celebration features hayride tours and guided walking tours of the farm, a display by Stonyfield Yogurt, and refreshments including anniversary cake, milk, cheese and cookies. There a small petting zoo with heifers and goats, and visitors can “touch a tractor,” play farm games, and of course meet the farmers.

At about 1 p.m. that day, there will be some formalities to mark the occasion, including speeches by John Meyers, president of the Holstein Association USA (the world’s largest cattle breed organization, which is based in Brattleboro) and Ryan Mclaren of Congressman Peter Welch’s staff. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 11

By Barbara Emery Moseley

NOTE: This series chronicles the generations of Vernon’s Hunt family, all related to Jonathan Hunt of “Governor Hunt Road” fame. If you’ve missed any installments in this series, you can catch up here!

Imagine Brattleboro’s Main Street in the Spring of 1822. There are three hotels along its unpaved length. The stagecoach stop is at the Brattleboro House, on the north corner of Main and Elliot. Teams of oxen haul goods from the river landing. Salt cod, sugar, molasses, spices, cloth, glass, black powder, and cigars have been delivered by flatboats. Products going downriver will be lumber, grain, tallow, and pork. A stop may be made in Vernon to pick up roofing slate, brought to the river from the quarries at the Guilford/Vernon border. (It will be a quarter-century before steam trains will deliver passengers and freight to the locality, making commerce and travel easier.)

At the north corner of High and Main Streets, Brattleboro’s downtown residential area begins. First is an imposing two-story white house surrounded by green lawns and shaded by tall elms. It is the new house of Jonathan Hunt II, who was born in Vernon in 1787. He had graduated from Dartmouth, studied law and was admitted to the bar, and married Jane Maria Leavitt of Suffield, Connecticut, in 1821. It will become the birthplace of a remarkable family whose members will experience great acclaim and devastating tragedy. (more…)

Vernon Historians news

The Vernon Historians will have their quarterly meeting on Tuesday, July 12, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Office Building.

Paul Miller will present a short program on the history of the Miller Farm, including pictures and stories.

The Miller Farm will be hold an open house on July 17th to celebrate their 100th anniversary.

Refreshments will be served. This event is free and open to the public.

My hero — the story of Bob “Howie” Howe

By Christiane Howe

Although Bob “Howie” Howe did not die during combat, he did die still fighting the war. This is my tribute to him. I love you and miss you, honey, each and every day. My only solace is that you are no longer fighting and you are at peace and with the Lord you so faithfully served.

Bob Howe grew up in Vernon, VT. He graduated B.U.H.S. class of 1967. By 1968, he was tired of waiting for his draft number to come up and decided to gamble a little and get on with his life and got married. While in Vietnam, Bob was one of our American heroes; while fighting a war, he received a “Dear John” letter, therefore, not only did he battle the Viet Cong, at the same time, he also battled a broken heart. I remember him telling me that he wanted to wander off and never be heard of again. Imagine the pain.

Fourteen days later, as he put it, “I received greetings from the U.S. Army.” Bob was off to Fort Dix for basic training. From there, it was on to Advanced Infantry training in California where he said he “learned to disarm (not fix) everything from booby traps to mines.” He learned how to escape and evade and spent time in a mock prisoner of war camp that looked authentic and real. He said, “It was a place where soldiers had their feet tied and were hung upside down. They put guys in barrels. They showed us what to expect if we were captured. It was scary stuff and what I learned,” said Bob, “was that there just was no way I was going to get captured. The instructors did their jobs. They had my complete attention.” (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 10

By Barbara Emery Moseley

NOTE: This series chronicles the generations of Vernon’s Hunt family, all related to Jonathan Hunt of “Governor Hunt Road” fame. If you’ve missed any installments in this series, you can catch up here!

The first child of Jonathan and Levinah Hunt was born August 12, 1780, ad name for his father. However, the infant died at three-and-one-half months. Following the custom of the day, the name of a baby boy who did not live to be a year old was given to the next male born to the family. Consequently, the Hunts’ fourth child, born May 12, 1787, was named Jonathan. He became politically prominent, like his father, and established a distinguished family of his own.

Two girls, Ellen and Fanny, followed, in 1781 and 1783, then the “second” Jonathan and, lastly, Arad.

Ellen and Fanny were known as great beauties, in their day. In 1801, when she was twenty, Ellen married the Hon. Lewis R. Morris, congressman from Vermont. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 9

By Barbara Emery Moseley

NOTE: This series chronicles the generations of Vernon’s Hunt family, all related to Jonathan Hunt of “Governor Hunt Road” fame. If you’ve missed any installments in this series, you can catch up here!

At last, the handsome house built near the river and set on hundreds of acres was finished. Jonathan and his bride Levinah were married July 15, 1779. They were among about 100 townspeople at the time, who lived in much simpler farmhouses, mostly scattered along the river valley.

Accompanying the newlyweds was Anna, Hunt’s daughter by a previous marriage. Her mother’s name is unknown, and quite likely she died from complications of childbirth, the common fate of many women at the time. Anna’s name, however, became well-known and is recognized still in Brattleboro, and Vernon.

In 1797, she married Dr. Perley Marsh of Hinsdale. Her dowry was “one good horse, three cows, and good household furniture which amounted to $600.” She and her husband soon moved into a large frame house (on today’s Brattleboro Road, Hinsdale) that rivaled in elegance the one she had left.

At the time, the insane were shut away, sometimes in dungeons or caves, or tied into chairs in their homes. Anna and Dr. Marsh deplored shut inhumane treatment. After her death in 1834, her will provided a sum of $10,000, “to be given for the purpose of erecting and support of a hospital for the insane in Windham County.” It was built and known as the Vermont Asylum for the Insane. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 8

By Barbara Emery Moseley

NOTE: This series chronicles the generations of Vernon’s Hunt family, all related to Jonathan Hunt of “Governor Hunt Road” fame. If you’ve missed any installments in this series, you can catch up here!

In the 1700s, on seeing a bareheaded man, people would assume that either he had lost his hat or his mind! The almost universal headgear was the three-cornered hat, which could be plain, or embellished with braids and cockades, and was easily tucked under an arm.

Made of felt, it was produced through a tedious process of treating beaver fur. Indeed, Fort Dummer, built in 1724, near the northwest corner of what was to become Vernon, traded briskly with the Native Americans for beaver pelts. Hats could be felted from any soft fur, but beaver was preferred because of its soft sheen. (more…)

‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 7

By Barbara Emery Moseley

NOTE: This series chronicles the generations of Vernon’s Hunt family, all related to Jonathan Hunt of “Governor Hunt Road” fame. If you’ve missed any installments in this series, you can catch up here!

Here comes the bride—but is it Levina, Lovinah, Lavinia, or Levinah Swan who will glide into matrimony with Jonathan Hunt on July 14, 1779? All these versions of her name appear in various references. Lovinah is on her tombstone in Vernon’s North (Hunt) Cemetery, but, although “written in stone,” it is incorrect. However, the Vermont Historical Society has in its archives an 1831 letter written from Vernon to her son, U.S. Senator Jonathan Hunt, in Washington, DC. It closes with: “I hope I shall see you all again in good health is the daly [sic] prayer of your aff’nt Mother Levinah Hunt.”

Her great-great grandfather Thomas was the first of the Swan family to arrive in this country, about 1648. He was a doctor, born in Scotland, and educated in England. Settling in Roxbury, a section of Boston, he soon met and married Mary Lamb.

On July 11, 1681, his house was “set on fire” by Maria, a black servant, and “burned with some in it.” For this crime, Maria was sentenced to be burned at the stake. The barbaric punishment was carried out on Boston Common, September 22, 1681. (more…)