Pittsford Historical Society

Pittsford Historical Society Inc. News

Eaton HallMuseum Hours:
Tuesdays from 9 am to 4 pm, April through October.

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 - Fall 2017

The Museum at Eaton Hall will cease its regular opening hours in early November. Volunteers may still be gathering on Tuesdays for their activities. Visitors can still come to the museum by appointment; please call Anne Pelkey or Steve Belcher ahead of time, for planning (contact info at the end of the newsletter).


Program Schedule

Members’ Meeting:

October 22: 5:30 pm. The Annual members’ meeting is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 22, in the Fellowship Hall of the Congregational Church. We will start with a pot-luck supper at 5:30 pm, to be followed by the Members’ Meeting. This is the occasion on which the Society elects officers for the Board, and there are vacancies: President Bill Powers faces term limits, as do the Vice-President and one or two Trustees. Terri Davis and Rebecca Davenport have agreed to continue as Treasurer and Recording Secretary, respectively, and Jane Welsh is willing to continue as Corresponding Secretary. But members are free present themselves for any positions if they wish; anyone interested should contact the Society.

                The program following the meeting is titled: “Scrapbooks: the Facebook of the Past,” and will present some of the holdings in the Society’s store-rooms with background and illustrative material. Steve Belcher will make the presentation.


Meeting Report

The Florence Chapel, August 6

The Members’ meeting in August was a visit to the former Florence Chapel, that is now owned by Howard Banow and Elizabeth Simpson, who were kind enough to host the gathering. Members may recall that last year Howard offered a presentation on Wright Stevens, a local marble-worker who turned to poetry in his retirement and composed a piece on the then-empty chapel.

                The Chapel was dedicated in 1907, as an expansion of the Congregational Church under Clifford Smith, but closed in 1961. Elizabeth and Howard bought the chapel from Paula Lemay, who had undertaken extensive renovations intended to turn the building into a residence. The left side of the nave has become residential, divided into two levels: storage and kitchen at the ground level; sleeping quarters above. The right side remains a lofty and well-lit open space.

                The Browe family was closely involved with the chapel; during the visit, Tom Browe recalled going to Sunday school and participating in a Nativity pageant (he was a shepherd), which led to an unplanned visit to the basement.

                Tom has been kind enough to offer the following account of the visit:

Visiting the old Congregational Church in Florence was a decades-long dream. My siblings and I were baptized there, attended Sunday School, services, and summer Church School in that small, beautiful building. Then it was abandoned and left untouched for decades. Driving past the lifeless old church was difficult.

Finally, someone loved the building enough to carefully turn it into a home. My family and others were able to visit the building that has been given a new purpose, thanks to the kindness of the new owners. We welcome them to Florence and Pittford.


Society Activities

The Tag Sale, July 15

First of all, our thanks to all who made donations and helped staff the event. Our sales team (Anne, Barb, Monica, Ivy and Tammy) were equipped with cash belts, courtesy of Home Depot; Rebecca, managing the bake-sale, controlled the metal cash box without a belt, and dispensed pies, cookies, brownies, and other edibles.

                Glassware, books, porcelain shepherds and shepherdesses, suitcases, tools, plates, cookware, Christmas decorations (making way for the next year), stuffed animals, sewing gear, posters and paintings. Ivy Dixon’s contribution of spiky plants. Tom Brown’s contribution of antique goods of all sorts. Toys (including a Tiger Shark plastic submarine) and a wonderful wooden train. Many visitors stopped by, navigating safely in and out of the parking lot: all ages and interests were represented.

                The proceedings were interrupted, at one point by Colleen Conway who brought in a puppy that immediately drew all the dog-lovers. Then Bill Gladski proved the value of cell-phones by showing us the weather-map tracking of a storm moving south from Brandon; luckily, Bev Browe turned up with an extra tent to cover a part of the offerings, and there were tarps on hand to protect the other goods during a short but heavy rainstorm. Unsold goods were left to be taken; none remain save the books that were set aside to be added to the Maclure Library book sale scheduled for Sept. 30.


The Cooley Shoe Buckles

by Curator Anne Pelkey

Twenty-eight years before Vermont became a state, Samuel Beach, a Rutland, VT, silversmith made a pair of shoe buckles for his brother-in-law Colonel Benjamin Cooley, one of Pittsford’s first settlers. The buckles were made from silver ornaments worn by an Indian chief whom Mr. Beach killed in a battle during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). I am extremely pleased to announce that the Pittsford Historical Society is now in possession of these shoe buckles and their very important provenance! The buckles were passed down through several generations of the Cooley-Miller families, and ended up with a Michigan antiques dealer when he conducted an estate sale at the Cooley-Miller homestead in Dryden, Michigan.

                Enter David Beckley and his late wife Faith Sutherland, a descendent of Benjamin and Ruth Cooley’s daughter Naomi, who married Colonel Andrew Sutherland. David and Faith purchased the buckles in 2011. Sadly, Faith passed away in November of 2012, and David felt very strongly that the final home for the buckles should be the Pittsford Historical Society. As a result of the generosity of society members over the last couple of years (we thank Ron Smith, Jane Tucker, and a donation made in memory of Dick and Joyce Fifield) and a final recent donation, we were able to purchase the buckles this past August from David, and they are now prominently displayed in the museum along with Benjamin Cooley’s powder horn, tin lantern, and weaponry. We invite everyone, especially Cooley descendents, to come take a look at these pristine and historic shoe-buckles made over 250 years ago.


Town notes

Pittsford Day, August 16

The activities for Pittsford day started with a National Guard medical helicopter, piloted by Kevin Carvey, that landed in the playground of the Lothrop School, above the Pittsford Day venue next to the Fire Station. Inflatable fun-house (sponsored by the National Guard) and an arena for gladiatorial combat in the style of the TV show (with foam-rubber implements). A magician, balloon constructions, face-painting (a Maclure standard) that produced many cats, a silent auction with donations from many local organizations, ice-cream, dispensed by library associates. The dunking-booth was very popular; unfortunately, none of our political representatives presented themselves, as has happened in the past. Still, a never-ending stream of small volunteers in bathing suits presented themselves for immersion. We have no information on sibling grudges or playground rivalries that may have been settled by the dunk. In the late afternoon, Achilles the police-dog showed his stuff, as he did last year. There was music: the Woodchuck’s Revenge traveled all the way down from the Village Green. Satin and Steel provided the musical lead-in to the fireworks.

                The fireworks were not rained out, and were magnificent. The last salvos, however, were rather low, and shells could be seen landing on the ground next to Lothrop. Butch Shaw got a call on his cell-phone, and suddenly firemen very discreetly slipped off to the truck parked up the street and went off to investigate the report of a fire. It proved to be a false alarm (quite probably a family incinerating marshmallows), but they still went out the next morning to check the area along Field Ave. for smouldering debris.


Community Gathering at Forrest Farm, Sept. 10

Baird Morgan and his wife have acquired the Forrest Farm, just across Elm St. from Kamuda’s store.  The building was originally the home of Dr. Abiel Caverly, who wrote the first history of Pittsford, and then of his son-in-law Dr. Henry Haven Swift and his wife, Caroline Caverly Swift. The Morgans would like to see this centrally-located piece of property become some sort of community asset, and so they hosted an ice-cream social enlivened with music, face-painting, and the opportunity to stroll the grounds and see the magnificent view of the west mountains. Anne Pelkey brought down a collection of older photos of the building, from the time of the Swift family occupancy.


Vermont Archaeology month

September, as it happens, is Vermont Archaeology Month, and Pittsford was associated with two events in this program.


Silver Lake Archaeology Walk. Sept. 10

Bill Powers, our President and the author of Silver Lake: Beyond the Myths, teamed up with Dave Lacy, a long-time member and recently retired archaeologist with the U.S. Forest Service, for a presentation on archaeological findings on Silver Lake. The lake lies east, and well above, Lake Dunmore, and for a period of 80 years or so, was the site of a hotel and Revivalist meeting camp, until it burned down in the 1940s. Bill led a surprisingly large group (with many canine companions) up the hill and past the Falls of Lana to the lake, where Dave Lacy awaited the group, having driven up with cases of artifacts. The most interesting items he described – two dugout canoes – were not visible; they remain sunk in the water somewhere across the lake, which is the safest place for them. The big question was whether the pitchers and pots he displayed had been disposed of on land or in the water. They were mostly intact, which argues for disposal in water: had they been dumped on the land they would have been reduced to potsherds. The changes in the water level of the lake are a factor in this question; since the hydro-electric dam was built, the water level has risen and an old access road has been flooded.


Ellie Spensley Moriarty, Sept. 14, MacLure Library.

Maclure Library hosted a talk by Ellie (Ellen) Spensley Moriarty, a Pittsford native who was bitten by the archaeology bug at some point, and has spent years working in Guatemala. Circumstances have recently allowed her and her husband to return to the Pittsford area, and in association with Castleton College and the Community College of Vermont, they are conducting an archaeological investigation of a site at Galicks Farm in West Haven, on the water-route that would have been used by the native Americans in pre-colonial times. She was very informative on the methods used by archaeologists and their rationale – ‘it’s not what you find, it’s what you find out’ – and discouraged thoughts of tomb-raiding. Findings are still preliminary; they have just completed their second season of digging, and much lab work remains to be done to analyze the materials they have collected. The program is the Southern Champlaine Historical Ecology Program, and they invite volunteers to help with the digs during the summer.

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.


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A 501(c)(3) organization since 1960