Pittsford Historical Society

Pittsford Historical Society Inc. News - Winter 2016-7

Eaton HallMuseum Hours:
Regular visiting hours are 9 am to 4 pm.

During this time, volunteers gather for a variety of constructive activities, and company is always welcome. Visitors to town outside normal hours should contact our Curator, Anne Pelkey, or Steve Belcher, for access to the museum.

Located in Eaton Hall, 3399 US Route 7.
Address mail to:
PO Box 423, Pittsford, VT   05763
(802) 483-2040

Curator: Anne Pelkey 483-6178
Membership: Steve Belcher
Newsletter: Steve Belcher, spbelcher4@myfairpoint.net 483-2852
Genealogy Research: Peggy Armitage 483-2108. peggy.armitage@gmail.com

Pittsford Historical Society, Inc.

 PO Box 423, Pittsford, VT 05763    802.483-2040    www.pittsfordhistorical.com


Newsletter - Winter 2016-7

Museum Hours

The Museum is now closed for the winter, although volunteers will probably still gather on Tuesdays for preservation and sorting activities. Visitors are welcome and the museum can be opened on off-hours, by pre-arrangement, for out-of-town travelers who pass through. Please contact Anne Pelkey or Steve Belcher (contact info at end of newsletter).

Members Business

The last members’ meeting of the 2016 year was held on Oct. 26, later than usual (but we were trying to avoid conflict with other local festivities).
The members ratified the slate of candidates. Bill Powers will continue as President, and Ernie Clerihew as Vice President. Each of them now enters a third year in office and must step down in October 2017, so we invite members to consider whether they might present themselves for those positions (and openings on the Board of Trustees) in the next year.

President’s Message

Once again I was honored to be reelected president of the Pittsford Historical Society (PHS). This past year the society’s volunteers expanded its ability to make Crockett greeting cards available to the public at large. This has proven to be a boon to Pittsford residents and an excellent way to support the operating expenses of the PHS.
The PHS contributed to the placement of two historical markers in town that pay tribute to the industrious nature of Pittsford residents. Congratulations to all Pittsfordites!!
I encourage your support to help identify Pittsford veterans that have been honored by the new Veterans’ Monument erected by the town this year. The PHS is the repository for the information on the veterans. Let us know about Pittsford veterans!!!
Come join us in the coming year for our events. Once again, we want to bring Pittsford’s honored past to you.
Thank you.
William (Bill) J. Powers, Jr.

Curator’s Report

Eaton Hall continues to be a place where visitors come in to look at our exhibits, donate items with Pittsford significance, and research family genealogy. I wish to acknowledge the following donors who contributed to the museum’s collections in 2016:

$ William Neil, son of Barney Neil who was born in Pittsford in 1923, donated a beautiful military display case which holds his father’s very impressive collection of WWII medals and ribbons, one of them being the Distinguished Flying Cross. Barney served in the U.S. Air Corps from 1942-1945.

$ Diana (Dickerman) Massarenti who lives in the state of Washington sent us seven daguerreotypes and ambrotypes of her great great great grandfather Orlin Smith’s family. She also sent Orlin’s 1834 family bible. The museum is very fortunate to have several artifacts from Orlin’s family, among them a beautiful dresser made for Orlin and Mary Smith when they got married in Pittsford in 1831.

$ Jeff Gagnon of Connecticut and Florence Vt. donated four climate ledgers found in his Florence home on West Creek Rd that belonged to his great-great grandfather Thomas Denny Hall. Thomas recorded the weather for the Town of Pittsford and the ledgers date from 1885-1915. It appears that Thomas’s son David Dorr Hall also made entries both before and after his father passed away in 1903. These ledgers were of great interest to Pittsford’s Dr. Alan Betts, the state’s leading Climate Scientist, who at the suggestion of board member Monica Freson was asked to take a look at them. He was sure the state climatologist at UVM would be very interested in the data they contained, and has taken them to UVM to have them scanned and recorded and will return them to the museum once the process has been completed.

$ Sylvia Kallen donated her late husband Charlie’s PHS basketball uniform from the mid 40’s. Charlie began his career for the US Postal Service in 1947 and served as Pittsford’s Postmaster from 1969-1982.

$ Our recording secretary, Rebecca Davenport brought in a dear little photo album that belonged to her grandmother Ida Heath Mahler who was born in 1880. The pictures are only an inch square and it is likely the smallest photo album we have in our collection.
We received several sports photographs from Lothrop teacher Audrey Alaire daughter of the late Bob Sharrow, who was a teacher and coach at Pittsford High School and Otter Valley. Most of the photos are of the 1960-1961 basketball games when the team was competing for the State title. In March of 1961 the team went on to win the first and only state championship in school history.

Meetings Reports

At the October Meeting, Steve Belcher offered a presentation on Dr. Henry Haven Swift and his times. The presentation was inspired by an item in the Society’s collections: a ledger of accounts that we at first thought was Dr. Swift’s (it had his card pinned in the front). But the dates did not match: they were too early. Our investigations uncovered a mixed family history and transition: the young Henry Swift came to Pittsford in 1877 to visit a relative (Charles Thomas Colburn) and met Abiel Caverly, the doctor and Pittsford historian. Dr. Caverly inspired the young Swift to study medicine at UVM, from which he graduated in 1881. One may wonder whether Dr. Caverly’s daughter Caroline may not have swayed the young man’s preference; he married her in 1881, two years after the death of Dr. Caverly. He then took over Dr. Caverly’s practice (which explains his card in the ledger). Dr. Caverly’s son Charles also became a doctor and rose to become President of the Vermont Board of Health. He died in the influenza epidemic of 1918.

The second half of the presentation turned on another item in our collections: a photo of the guests at the 25th wedding anniversary of Dr. Henry and Caroline (Caverly) Swift, showing some fifty people assembled at the Swift camp on Furnace Brook and identifying a few of them, after also giving some account of the Swift family members and their subsequent history (although not down to current generations).

The audience participated: the Swift camp still stands, recognizable by its magnificent fireplace. A photo of Dr. Swift with a medical team and patient was located by Bill Gladski, who identified the well-windowed porch as that of the hospital in Proctor. And the speaker was immediately corrected when he mis-dated the relocation of the Rutland Regional Medical Center as having happened around 1947; a chorus of audience members corrected the date to the 1950s. The relocation occurred under the supervision of Dr. Swift’s son Charles, on whom we have very little information in our files.

Of Monuments and Markers

Veteran’s Day came on Nov. 11th, and with it the dedication of the new marble monument in front of the town offices on Plains Rd. Close to 100 people turned out for the event, although it was a gusty and chilly day, requiring coats and gloves and ear-muffs. On occasion, the wind swept the leaves into vortices that surrounded the speakers before flying off into the woods. The Town Manager, John Haverstock, presided. Maj. Bill Powers (USAF, ret’d., and incidentally our President) spoke on the meaning of the day, with particular reference to the Vietnam war veterans. Hank Pelkey identified and thanked the various groups and companies that had made the monument possible: Omya, for donating the marble and for providing refreshments at the dedication; Liz Willis and Josh Towne, who gave permission to remove the marble from their property in Florence; Markowski Excavating, for donating time and the equipment to haul the marble blocks to Center Rutland, and then back to Pittsford; to Phil Gawet of Gawet Marble and Granite, who was responsible for the saw-cutting of the components; and Brent Wilson of Proctor Marble, who cut and split the main stone and did all the engraving of the monument and the assembly of the outside benches. There are still costs to be defrayed, so contributions remain welcome. (Veterans Memorial Fund/ Pittsford Town Office / Box 10 / Pittsford, VT 05763).

PHS Curator Anne Pelkey and her brother, Commander Robert Birmingham USN (Ret’d), laid the wreath. Vermont Air National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Carvey gave the keynote address. Cameron Silloway played taps; the other musicians involved were Robert Berardo and Brian Greenfield who despite the cold managed to provide guitar backing for a choral singing of ‘America the Beautiful.’ Rev. Pat Jackman, of the Congregational Church, provided the opening and closing prayers.

The inscription on the marble is appropriately general, covering 240 years worth of wars. The plan is to have some listing of individual names, probably determined by place of residence at time of enlistment. The PHS, in the meantime, is trying to maintain a record of all persons who served and who had some connection with Pittsford, although our current listing does not include all the Revolutionary War soldiers who may have served for 5-6 days as required, nor the 104 men from the Pittsford area who answered the call in 1814, when British forces from Canada invaded New York. This last contingent arrived two days after the battle had been won, and so were dismissed. Shelly Williams at the Maclure Library is expanding our list, using internet databases. The current tally runs around 1300. We continue to welcome photographs (of all periods) and information on current members of the armed forces.

Town Notes

The month following the autumn equinox was spectacular for weather and foliage. There was then an abrupt change to the cold. At this writing, we seem to have a January thaw that is melting what snow had covered the village area.

The Pittsford Sheep Festival came in October, with exhibitions of sheep-herding using cunning border collies, sheep-shearing, demonstrated this year by Tom Bilodeau, who has made a pilgrimage to that Mecca of sheep-shearing, New Zealand (ok, Australia is a competitor too). There were woolen wares, a token rabbit, and new-fangled spinning wheels. And the ‘Leaping of the lambs,’ intended as a competition between two lambs on parallel tracks and complicated by a sheep’s tendency to follow another sheep, so one course had to be re-run.

There was also an election in November, as all of you will have noted. You may be interested in the official results for Pittsford:

Voters: 2,334 registered, of whom 1570 were checked off as voting.
Presidential Election:

Donald Trump and Michael Pence: 669
Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine: 668
Gary Johnson (Libertarian) 65
Jill Stein (Green) 19
Bernie Sanders 72
Nicole Elnicki 1
(there were 19 other write-in names).
(no, Mickey Mouse was not listed. Nor any Pokemon figures).
Otherwise, Peg Flory (Senate) and Butch Shaw (House) were easily re-elected; surprisingly, the twelve names listed for the twelve Justice of the Peace positions also won.

Membership Matters

We have lost a number of members this year; we offer condolences to their families and mourn their absence.
Kay Killoran, Rita Searles, Judi Reynolds, Eddie Keith, Henry Hoare, Emerson Frost

We enclose a membership renewal form with the newsletter. The first newsletter for 2017 should come in March and should have the planned schedule of activities for the year.

Our best wishes to all for the New Year!

Pittsford Historical Society Directory

Pittsford Historical Society Officers and Board Members


Membership in the Society extends over a calendar year. Your dues support the annual operating expenses of Eaton Hall. Please send your check, payable to Pittsford Historical Society to: (Welcome to the new Membership Chairman) Stephen P. Belcher IV. Send dues to

Stephen P. Belcher IV
PO Box 423
Pittsford, VT 05763

We thank you for your continued support.


Street/Apt. #

Town, State and Zip

Please check amount enclosed:
Single $15_____ Family $20 _____ Contributing $25_____
Sponsor $50_____ Life Member $200 (per person) _____

A 501(c)(3) organization since 1960