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 - Summer 2017

Museum Hours

Eaton Hall is open; hours are Tuesdays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. The Museum offers displays on the history of Pittsford and its activities and the opportunity for genealogical research. Volunteers interested in helping are always welcome. Please note: we have suspended the Sunday afternoon hours (too few visitors), but are ready to open the museum by appointment, especially for out-of-town visitors. Please call Anne Pelkey or Steve Belcher (contact info given at the end of the newsletter).

Program Schedule

Members’ Meetings and Presentations:

August 6: 2-4 pm: a visit to the Florence Chapel, built in 1907 and now the property of Elizabeth Simpson and Howard Banow. Elizabeth and Howard bought the building in 2012 and have turned it into a beautiful second home. Directions: take the Florence truck route west from Route 7/Kendall Hill road, and turn right on West Creek Road. Pass Markowski Excavating on the right, then a mobile home; the Chapel/residence is next.
N.B. Elizabeth and Howard do ask that you not park on their lawn or along the street. There is a Markowski parking lot not too far away; otherwise, this might be a good occasion for car-pooling.

October 22: Annual Members’ Meeting and Program, starting with a pot luck supper at 5:30 in the basement of the Congregational Church.
‘Scrapbooks: the Facebook of the Past.’ Barb Willis has been going through the scrapbooks donated to the PHS, and with Steve Belcher and others. We plan to put together a presentation on some of the noted delights that past Pittsfordites wanted to preserve.

Other Activities:

July 15, Tag and Bake Sale, 9:00-2:00 at Eaton Hall.
We are grateful for donations of goods to be sold, including edibles (yes, they get sold and contribute substantially to the day’s take). Also help with sorting and pricing the donations, setting up, etc. would be most welcome.
August 12: Pittsford Day

The Society will have a table for Pittsford Day, and will be participating in later activities such as the Harvest Festival and the Christmas bazaars.

Meeting Reports

Bill Powers and the Plane Crash

The Society met in the Fellowship Hall of the Congregational Church on April 2 for a pot-luck supper, a brief business meeting, and a fascinating presentation on a 1957 plane crash and its later developments. He has told the story before, but new material arises.

In 1957, a plane (a US Army De Havilland L-20 Beaver) carrying three Air Force officers north for a presentation at Norwich Academy went off course in bad weather, and crashed into a mountain north of Chittenden. Because of an error in reporting the plane’s identification, the search was delayed for some days (it was believed to be in Hartford, CT).

The delay may have cost the life of one officer, who survived the crash but was found dead of exposure when the various agencies did find the wreckage. A young Bill was present at the initial examination: his father was the Medical Examiner for Rutland County and so was called upon to do his duty. Bill has photos of the crash site (part of the story) and recently discovered some film-footage which he has had digitized. Dale Christie helped make it a slo-mo projection, to allow appreciation of details.

The pilot of the plane, Capt. Eual Cathey, left a widow and four sons, several of whom entered the armed forces. In 2,000 the sons, led by Jeff Cathey, began to wonder where their father had died, and so contacted various people, including, eventually, Bill. Initial searches of the mountains were misdirected by a mistaken identification of a mountain in one of the 1957 photos. Not surprisingly, nothing was found.

Then by chance Bill took a dowsing class, out of general interest, and presented the problem of the plane-crash to one of the more gifted participants. Using a map, the dowser identified a site south of the Brandon Gap, well north of the area previously searched (remember, the photos of the crash site misled observers).

A team went out, combing the mountain. They found the wreckage. Much of the aluminum had been removed years before by an entrepreneur, but the heavier parts still remained. Word went out to the family; a reunion was organized. A son (a rugby-player) carried a 120 lb. strut from the crash site to their cars (and another such item has since been reclaimed).

For the record, there have been hundreds of plane crashes in our Green Mountains; Brian Lindner, an occasional co-presenter with Bill, has been recording them.

Joe Gagnon and the A. Langlois Aluminum Foundry

On June 11, following a pot-luck supper and a brief business meeting, Joe Gagnon offered an informative and entertaining presentation on the aluminum foundry operated by his grandfather on a site at the southern end of Pittsford, now taken over by a Christmas tree farm. His grandfather, Alphonse Langlois, began work in childhood, plucking dandelions for neighbors.

He later went to work for the Rutland Railroad as a carpenter, and realized early that he could make more money if he learned how to create the patterns and models for the items to be manufactured. At the time, when the railroad wanted a locomotive, they did not buy one ready-made: they bought the plans and constructed it themselves. Alphonse learned to read blue-prints, and profited. Around 1929 he acquired some land, and in the 1930s he set up an aluminum foundry with his sons David, a skilled welder, and later George, who returned from Ohio to join the business. They produced many items, largely replicas of 19th century cast-iron merchandise. Joe offered a wonderful display, spread over two tables, of the smaller items (ornate frames, vases, planters, as well as tea-tables and chairs).

During WWII their output included hatch-covers for tanks. After 1945, their principal item was a replica of one of the small slave-boy/groom figures that now may cause discomfort. Joe at this point invited Peg Armitage to recount the start of that line and she did so. Her family had one of the figurines (acquired through the Pinckney line, which was related to a governor of South Carolina who had owned the figurine), and somehow the chest had become damaged, needing welding. They took it to the Langlois, and David the welder fixed it. And the foundry offered a deal: let them make a model of the piece, for reproduction, and the welding would be free. Peg’s family accepted the offer (in the story told at the meeting, she said the figurine belonged to her grand-mother, but she has later corrected herself: it belonged to an aunt), and the Langlois foundry went to work. They created patterns – molds into which the liquid aluminum might be poured – using sand and preserving the molds in plaster. (Arms and legs were molded separately). Joe had a price-list; wired for a lantern, the figure cost $150; without the wire, $140.

The foundry employed a dozen or more employees at its height. Joe himself worked there – for pennies, he said – making molds, and he showed us a pair of book-ends in the shape of scotty dogs that he himself had cast. Unfortunately, when brother George came into the business (he had been living in Ohio), he brought one Bert Prentice as an investor and then a financial manager. The Langois were more interested in the process and the metal and the products (who wouldn’t be?) and details of management ... could be delegated. However, the numbers failed to add up. Joe did not point fingers in his talk, but Pittsford’s Second Century suggests that Bert’s accounting may not have included sums he skimmed.

At any rate, the foundry went bankrupt around 1949. The buildings of the foundry burned down soon after, which seemed suspicious, although no-one was ever charged. The land is now the Christmas tree farm west of Route 7, near the Rutland line. There are still one or two of the jockey/slave boy figurines to be seen around the area, and the original, belonging to Peg Armitage’s family, is preserved in an undisclosed location.

Memorial Day Ceremonies

The doubtful weather led Fire Chief Tom Hooker to cancel the parade down from the Village Green to the Fire Station. People gathered inside, many with umbrellas. Some of the bicycles that had been bedecked with bunting at the Library on Saturday did come riding by later. The Otter Valley UHS band took their place in the back of the station and performed wonderfully (acoustically, and therefore not deafening).

The Lothrop School contest winners were identified: for Grade 4, Laura Allen; Grade 5, Shyan Buzzell; Grade 6, Isabelle Watson. Unfortunately, only Laura Allen was present to read her essay on the origin of Memorial Day. Cathy Rider, who served in the Navy and then the Navy Reserves, gave the address, dedicating it to the veterans of Korea and Vietnam whose service, she felt, had never been properly recognized (where were the parades, the welcome home?).

She also discussed the challenges of being a woman entering a service overwhelmingly dominated by men, and in which the available paths seemed to be largely secretarial – although being a record keeper did take her out of the office and into unusual experiences such as documenting post-mortems and accidents.

The ceremonies were followed by cookies and other treats.

Society Business Notes

Our trustworthy Treasurer, Terri Davis, reports the checkbook balance, as of May 31, as $25,578.78, which seems healthy. A possibly major (four figure) upcoming expense will be maintenance and repair of the chimney, which needs to be cleaned and probably needs a lining. During the business meeting on June 11, the question of this expense and of our endowment through the Vermont Community Foundation was raised by Peg Armitage. Our endowment is around $54,000 dollars, and yields a return of some $3,000 a year, which has been most useful for the society.

However, the VCF makes it very difficult to draw on the principal for any need short of the building burning down. President Bill Powers organized a meeting with a VCF representative, who noted that over the term of our investment, the Society has received some $30,000 in returns on that endowment. But the representative also offered the possibility of a different form of fund that would allow the society to draw on the principal at need; this fund requires a minimum investment of $10,000.

The money put into the insulation of Eaton Hall in the past few years is proving well-spent: our heating bills have dropped drastically. We also receive funds from the town of Pittsford. Your membership dues, the sales of Crockett cards, and the proceeds from the tag-and-bake sale all help to make ours a financially healthy Society. Money, however, is not the only measure of success. We do rely on your continued interest and participation. Our exhibits evolve – what do you think they should show? Should we try to provide publications? (the Pittsford Gleanings series, which some may remember, is long defunct).

Town Notes

Spring has been wet and gray. The lilacs came at the end of May, which seems late (but we have not been keeping detailed records).

The Fire Department was deprived of their parade on Memorial Day. They had a consolation prize. Around 11 pm on the night of June 12, nine fire trucks (the combined forces of Pittsford and Brandon) came roaring down Rte. 7, the sirens howling and their horns blaring (they aren’t allowed to do this during the Memorial Day parade). They were accompanied by police cars and – most importantly – by a school bus carrying a VICTORIOUS Division II State Championship Baseball team from OVUHS. Many of the players, we hear, were risking their lives by leaning out the windows and brandishing the trophy. The occasion was noisy, delightful, and brief. We congratulate the team.

The Town-wide yard sale took place on June 24. A day that started with rain proved sunny, but we have no reports on whether people profited.

Unlike Maine and New Jersey, Vermont has avoided a shut-down. Gov. Phil Scott and the legislature came to terms over the controversial proposal to centralize health-care negotiations for the teachers’ union.

Membership Notes

We would like to thank all the members who have renewed, with extra thanks to those who have sent in an additional donation. We would like to see you all at Eaton Hall, or at a Members’ Meeting, this year. And we would love to have news, questions, requests, and the like. Please be in touch.


Barb Willis has been organizing our collection of Pittsford Paragons, the yearbook of the Pittsford High School, and we are missing a few years: 1955-58. We would be grateful for copies, or the opportunity to copy them.

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

A 501(c)(3) organization since 1960