Pittsford Historical Society

Pittsford Historical Society Inc. News

Eaton HallMuseum Hours:
Tuesdays from 9 am to 4 pm, and by appointment.

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  2018

Museum Schedule

Eaton Hall is open on Tuesdays, 9-4, and by appointment. The Museum will also open on Sunday, Nov. 11, following the Veterans’ Day ceremonies at the monument at the town offices on Plains Rd. until 3:00 pm. The Museum will close for the winter in mid-November, but can still be visited by appointment.

Upcoming Activities

On Oct. 21,
the PHS will host a book-signing for Allen Mills at Eaton Hall, from 2-4. The title of his new book is Barnyards, Bare Feet, and Bluejeans: A Horse’s Tale. It is autobiographical, covering the operations of a family dairy-farm (he represents the fourth generation) at a time before mechanization.

The PHS will also have goods for sale at or during the craft fairs on:

Nov. 17 at the Lothrop Craft Fair in the gymnasium, and also at St. Alphonsus Parish Hall

Nov. 19, 6:00 pm, at Maclure Library, with a display of Crockett cards

Dec. 1 at the Lothrop School

Dec. 15 in Eaton Hall, during the Farmer’s Market show in the Lothrop Gym


Members’ Meetings

Our Third Meeting, on Sept. 9, was less a meeting than an excursion:

Bill Powers led a large group on a tour of the archaeological remains of the first Brandon settlers on Hawk Hill, that rises behind the Otter Valley High School. The walking tour began on the other side of the hill, at the end of the Old Brandon Road, where – by no coincidence – the hill faces Otter Creek; water was a principal means of transport for goods until railways extended their reach. No structures above ground are to be found in the area, but cellar-holes and wells and stone foundations are there. Bill was able to provide the family histories of the former occupants. Part one of the tour ended at the June cemetery, on the south end of the hill. This is a site that Bill has been tending for years, and here again he could offer a wealth of detail on the families involved. There is, however, no body count on the interred remains.
He then led a hardy remainder of the group on a sort of nature walk, up one of the trails around the hill (it is used for cross-country practice by the OVUHS students) that led past a magnificent old oak and a number of geological features such as slate and marble outcroppings. The event, incidentally, was listed on activities in the Vermont Archaeology Month.

September 30: Annual Members’ Meeting

The scheduled speaker was Brian Kamuda, to talk about the store at the center of town, but the best-laid plans...
Ernie Clerihew offered and presided over a number of reports (Treasurer, Curator, Membership, President: to be covered in the next newsletter) and then the members voted on a slate of officers that was approved. Anne Pelkey introduced Kevin Thornton to speak about a planned commemoration of the 1961 Pittsford High School basketball championship; there will be more information about these plans in the next newsletter.
Julia Purdy then gave a presentation on ‘Potash and Pearls,’ a subject on which she has talked earlier, defending Pittsford’s claim to Samuel Hopkins and the first US patent (granted for a potash-making machine). On this occasion, she focussed more upon the effects of the Jefferson Embargo of 1807 and 1808, that banned trade with Europe and then included Canada; it was disastrous for the Vermont economy, which relied on potash as a cash-product that was widely exported. The Burlington Centinel led the protests from the press, and their cause was taken up by many towns in Vermont. A wide-spread smuggling industry grew up, involving boats, roads, and – most imaginatively – ‘collapsing sheds,’ built on a slope above the border, that then sledded down into Canada. One of the most dramatic incidents involved the seizure of the ‘Black Snake,’ a bateau used in smuggling potash; after federal agents seized the boat, the smugglers fought back (they even had a cannon) and several men were killed. Preliminary court actions took place in Rutland, where the smugglers would have fewer sympathizers. Several men were sentenced (and later reprieved); one was executed: the second execution in Vermont.
In later years, Europe developed alternatives to potash, just as Vermont was receiving its first merino sheep, and the industry lost its importance.

Society Activities

July 17: The Tag-and-Bake Sale

For much of the early summer, Eaton Hall was less a museum than a warehouse. Donations – gratefully received, always – filled the spaces around the exhibits, save for the central station where a dedicated crew sorted and priced the goods. Rebecca Davenport anchored the operation, assisted by Ivy Dixon, Barb Willis, Monica Freson, Tammy Hitchcock and occasionally others. Monica’s cell-phone was put to use checking the values of items.

The day of the sale was warm but tolerable. No rain until that night. Many, many visitors, some going, leaving, and then returning. One woman bought a jello- (or cake?) mold, in an act of understated domestic aggression: she planned to hang it in her husband’s workshop. Elizabeth Simpson managed the bake-sale, standing in for Rebecca. The event, unfortunately, coincided with the memorial service of Mary Cadwell, which forced choices on our crew.

The combined proceeds of the tag and the bake sales ran to just under $1200.

There is an odd postscript to the sale. Sunday morning, Anne Pelkey, Barb Willis, and Steve Belcher met at Eaton Hall to sort through the rain-soaked left-overs from the sale. As they were doing so, a fire-truck came down Rte. 7, and then backed into the driveway of the house at the corner of Rte. 7 and Furnace Road (the old Casey house, now owned by Charity Eugair). Our view was obscured by a thick-leaved maple tree, but we could see the truck extend its ladder. A fireman climbed the ladder and removed a white blob from an elevated branch of a pine-tree. A few minutes later, we could see the fireman, on the ground, handing a very limp cat (held by the nape) to its owner.

Tom Hooker, the retired head of the Fire Department, was directing traffic – barefoot and in shorts, since it was, after all, a Sunday morning. He confirmed that they had retrieved a cat that had been up in the tree for several days, and that this was not the first time the Fire Department had been called out to save a cat in a tree.


Now that the floor of the exhibits room in Eaton Hall is clear, Anne Pelkey and her assistants have set up an exhibition on World War I. This year marks the centennial of the armistice and cease-fire – at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – that ended the hostilities in 1918; Americans now honor the day as Veterans’ Day. Some sixty or seventy Pittsfordites were involved in that action, and they have left us a number of artefacts from the period: helmets (American and German), uniforms, pictures, documents. We do not have records for all those involved. We do, however, have diaries and letters from the period: Corinne Denison and others recorded the town’s engagement in the war effort, and Barb Willis has a letter written by her grandmother to her grandfather (serving in Europe) on the day of the Armistice.

Town Notes

  1. The weather
    The summer newsletter omitted mention of the weather, although it is always a concern of resident Vermonters. The spring was remarkably wet, and mud-season protracted. June brought a sudden and welcome transition to lovely and sunny weather. July, on the other hand, brought a heat-wave with high humidity, that extended oppressively into August and September. But late September has brought some gloriously beautiful days as we transition to the foliage season and the arrival of tour-buses.
  2. Pittsford Day – August 16
    Events began in the morning, with a 5-K run starting at the Rec Area (as shown last year in the cover photo of the Pittsford Town Report). The finish-line was in the exit-lane of Lothrop’s driveway. A number of contestants – not winners – trotted in accompanied by two dogs, on leashes. Deb Alexander, principal of Lothrop, finished in the middle of the pack.
    In the afternoon, people wandered down to the Fire Department. The Historical Society had a table, and sold some books. The Library served out ice-cream and painted the faces of children, including Curator Anne Pelkey’s grandson, Luke. A square-dancing group tried to recruit volunteers. There were not one, but TWO inflatable child-entertainment devices, on either side of Pleasant Ave., but we have no first-hand reports of the experience afforded. The Mosquito Control Board (Pittsford just joined the group) sent Will Mathis and the Argo, an amphibious vehicle used to distribute larvicide. Kevin Carvey landed a National Guard Medical helicopter on the Lothrop playgrounds, somehow missing the children. Alas, no politicians presented themselves for the dunk-bucket. The last one noted, some years back, was Peg Flory, sporting a T-shirt that read “Embarassing my Grandchildren. Just one of my services.”
    Then dinner. Classic cook-out foods: hamburgers and hot-dogs and salads and desserts. Followed by music, performed by Satin and Steel (they are regulars and the songs are oldies). And the fireworks. They are always impressive and delightful.
    As a footnote, when the firemen came the next morning to retrieve the truck that had been parked at the end of Field Ave., they freed a pigeon whose foot had been caught in the grille of a bird-feeder, just as a cat was creeping up on it.
  3. The Dollar General proposal
    Just before the deadline, the Zoning Board of Administration approved the Dollar General permit for a store at the south-east side of the junction of Rte. 7 and Plains Rd. The permit is being appealed. Dollar General, however, has withdrawn from the project, leaving the developer, Von Turkovich, to see what he can retrieve. Word has it that he is planning some sort of retail outfit, on the basis of the permit.
  4. September 29: Harvest Fair, Library Book Sale, and Village Farm Flea-Market
    Sept. 29 saw a cluster of events in the center of town. The Farmers’ Market organized the annual Harvest Fair on the grounds of the Congregational Church, at the same time that Maclure Library held its annual book sale; the Village Farm group added to the activities with a flea-market off Elm St.

    In the flea-market, Anne Pelkey supervised a table at the flea-market, with choice items that had not sold at the Tag Sale. At the Harvest Fair by the Church, the crafts and goods available ranged from the seasonal-and-local (pumpkins, maple syrup) to the curious (a birdhouse on a short pillar, decorated for the wedding of cardinal birds) and the challenging: a cookie taste-off at the Congregational Church stand. The books in the Library sale, unusually, were arranged not by type or genre, but almost purely by size: so that they could stack easily in the library basement before the sale. The library also took the precaution of putting the more valuable books inside the building, under the watchful eye of Tom Browe, and thus foiled the wiles of unscrupulous book-dealers.
    Anne Pelkey did sell a ceramic statuette of a sea-captain to Seth Hopkins, who is running as a Republican for a house seat. Other State politicians were wandering around. Butch Shaw was being kind to Brian Collamore, who hopes to replace Peg Flory. Stephanie Jerome (Democratic candidate for the house) was working her way down from the Congregational Church while other supporters met on Arch St. below the library sale.

Christmas shopping season approaches! Please remember that we have a large stock of Crockett Cards (many on Christmas themes) as well as the award-winning Pittsford’s Second Century and other items such as maps.

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:
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A 501(c)(3) organization since 1960