Pittsford Historical Society

Pittsford Historical Society Inc. News

Eaton HallMuseum Hours:
by appointment. Current special exhibits include a carry-over from last fall, on World War I, and we are adding another exhibit on the 1961 Pittsford High School Class ‘M’ Basketball Championship (See Newsletter below).

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

Pittsford Historical Society, Inc.

PO Box 423 Pittsford VT 05763 www.pittsfordhistorical.com   802-483-2040
A 501(c) organization since 1961

Fall  2020


Given the preventive measures against Covid-19 currently in force, all scheduled events, including the opening hours of Eaton Hall, are subject to change. We shall do our best to provide a two-week notice of any changed dates.


Eaton Hall

The Museum will end its regular opening hours in early November. It remains accessible for visits by arrangement: contact Anne Pelkey or Steve Belcher (contact info at end of newsletter).


Society Events

The Society meetings planned for the start of the summer did not take place, because of the Covid-19 health precautions. We have recently had a cluster of events in the past weeks, trying to catch up. In order:


September 20: the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of the Historical Society.

A quick recap of the history: The Society was established (without a home) on Sept. 17, 1960. In 1969 the Library offered them exhibit space; in 1981 they bought Eaton Hall to serve as a museum.

            In 1976, commemorating the national Bicentennial, they reprinted Abiel Caverly’s 1872 History of Pittsford , with a new index as a supplementary fascicule. In 1980, the Society published Pittsford Now and Then, a largely photographic collection of images, offering old and new views of extant buildings (and photos of houses that had been lost). The book earned an award from the Vermont Historical Society. In the 1990s, a committee undertook the challenge of adding to the record of Pittsford’s history; the result was Pittsford’s Second Century (1998) that also won an award from the Vermont Historical Society. In 2009, Peg Armitage put together Around Pittsford, a collection of photographs of the town, its people, and their activities over the years.

            Throughout this time, the Society undertook a program of recording the recollections of the older members of the community, and publishing a series of booklets, the ‘Pittsford Gleanings.’ Members of the Society also published books, such as Grace Anderson’s Under the Shadow of Cox Mountain (recounting the stories of the Revolutionary War era, including the abduction of Betsey Cox by Native Americans serving the British). Jean Davies wrote a series of newspaper columns on historical topics, collected in her book, Neighborly Notes. Eaton Hall is now a noteworthy museum, displaying artefacts from Revolutionary times to the present, and still enriched by donations that become the subject of rotating exhibits.

For the event itself:

Tents and tables were set up in front of Eaton Hall. Panels set outside near the Eaton Hall sign showed photos of the founding members and memorable events. On either side of the entry stairway, computer displays ran slide-shows of past PHS activities (these were to entertain people waiting to be admitted to the Museum). There was swag: refrigerator magnets showing an image of Eaton Hall; T-Shirts, showing Eaton Hall in front, with the slogan ‘Forget 2020 – Live in the past’ on the back, and free copies of Pittsford’s Second Century. There was a cake with an impressive computer-generated picture of Eaton Hall on the icing.

Anne Pelkey had no respite from the small-group tours of the interior. Ernie Clerihew acted as gate-keeper. Barb Willis cut the cake.


September 27: Visits to the Belcher House

The house was built in 1880 by Martha Wood Belcher, an artist and art-teacher, and so the house was celebrating its 140th birthday (in part: a studio was added in 1887). Martha achieved less success in her time (the challenges to women) than her daughter Hilda Belcher, who did receive national recognition as a water-color artist in the early years of the last century. The house conserves the legacy of both these artists, largely through the efforts of Martha, and continued by the care of later generations (Hilda’s nieces, Jane and Barbara, were devoted to her).

            Visitors were led in small groups through the front ground floor to see the family portraits (one painting, of Jane Belcher, was stolen from a Philadelphia museum in 1932, but a ‘preliminary study’ has been preserved), the early work of Martha Wood, documented from newspaper accounts of the 1870s, and examples of the later work by Hilda Belcher. They also saw stained glass from two generations of the Belcher family (and two different companies). The building of the house (the original contract and specifications, along with receipts, were on display under a tent outside, with other exhibits intended to entertain/inform those waiting for a tour)

            Eva Belden came, carrying a photo of a painting done by Hilda Belcher in 1926 (‘Hill Child’ or ‘Hungry’). The subject was her mother, Irene Fish, née Alexander. The painting was widely exhibited until its sale in 1930.


October 4: PHS Annual Meeting

The meeting was held not in the Fellowship Hall, but in the nave of the church, where there was enough space to allow social distancing. There were no refreshments, but masks and sanitizer were on hand. Ivy Dixon served as gate-keeper, noting names and phone-numbers in case of the need for contact-tracing.

The Once and Future President Bill Powers presided at a meeting in which several reports were presented in absentia. Vice-President Barb Willis read the President’s Report, the Treasurer’s Report (we are solvent, despite maintenance expenses on Eaton Hall), and the Curator’s report. Steve Belcher reported on membership levels (unfortunately declining), and noted members who have passed away in this year. The proposed slate of new officers was elected. These reports and the election results will appear in the Winter Newsletter.

            Michael Dwyer then made a presentation on his experiences in using DNA-tracing services (and he reported the results for several companies offering the service) to explore genealogy. He illustrated the issues with pictures of jig-saw puzzle pieces, mostly unconnected. He started with a family (brother and two sisters) of known 12-generations French-Canadian ancestry. The brother’s test, for ‘ethnicity’, came back all over the map; later updates from the company (as their data-base expanded and their algorithms for matching improved) were more credible. The same proved true for the two sisters (one of whom had claimed to be ‘more French’ than her sister). These illustrations included how the numbers associated with autosomal DNA, the DNA we inherit from both parents, are measured with units called centomorgans, cMs. The higher the number, the closer relationship between two people.

            He then moved into his own family, trying to find recognition of an ancestor from the Azores (Portuguese islands in the Atlantic) in his mother’s genome. It took some effort. The challenge with the ‘ethnicity’ category is that each company uses a different data-base and categorization, and that – the jig-saw puzzle – they don’t have all the pieces in place. Not to mention that the term ‘race’ (as in ‘Irish race’, used in the past) isn’t supported by biology.

            Then he moved on to the issue of Surprises: that a bachelor uncle proved to be the biological father of an otherwise un-related individual (the genetics of paternity are more reliable than the genetics of ethnicity, and perhaps more embarrassing). He concluded with the category of Discoveries, examples of DNA connections to descendants of long-lost relatives in Ireland. Lastly, Michael gave a passing mention to DNA used for determining hereditary illnesses. At the conclusion of the presentation questions followed.


Pittsford Notes

The Covid-19 situation has led to the cancellation of almost all public events. This is a precaution; on the VT Health Dept. website mapping, Pittsford is colored in the 1-5 cases shade of pink, and this assessment has not changed in months. Rutland County has experienced a small increase in cases (to 131), largely because of people partying in the Killington area. Vermont, thanks to precautions taken by the state government, remains one of the places in which the virus has had least effect: the state death toll has remained at 58 since early August.

Town Activities

There was no Memorial Day celebration, nor a Pittsford Day (although the Blanchards offered a fireworks display, behind the Congregational Church). The Village Farm has attempted at least one event, with music. But the Fire Department’s Haunted House has been cancelled: the preparation for the events (the essential but invisible part of a show) entailed too much risk. The Pittsford Haunted House this year will be visited only by ghosts. However, there will a a Trunk-or-Treat drive by in the town office space.


The Vermont Primary in Pittsford (in August) went smoothly, helped by the layout of the town office: an easy U-turn. Voters entered one driveway, passed through a tent under which they were given a clipboard with the ballot of their choice (the primary is a partisan election; Vermont has not adopted open primaries) and a pencil. They then parked behind the office, filled out the ballot, and proceeded around the building to another tent, where they delivered their clipboard and ballot. The pencil was theirs to keep. Bill Drummond shuttled the clipboards from one tent to the other, perhaps with assistance.

            For the November Election, mail-in ballots have been delivered to all registered voters. They can be used for early voting, through the simple operation of delivering them to the Town Clerk’s office (while masked), while in-person voting (probably under the conditions described above) remains an option. Mailboxes are being filled with campaign flyers, and electoral signs are sprouting along the roadsides.


Lothrop has re-opened. We understand that some 80% of the students are now attending, in limited hours. Tents are set up on the grounds along access and egress points, for the temperature checks of students entering and departing. Students whose parents cannot provide care in the afternoons are kept in a special program until later in the day. There has been a decrease in student numbers; grades 3 and 4 are now combined, as are grades 5-6.

Public Works

The Town was authorized to solicit bids for side-walk repair along Rte. 7. We have no word on planned work. But some agency did repaint the street-crossing signs along Rte. 7. On Kendall Hill Rd., they are working on the railway crossing, stabilizing the bed and adding warning lights that don’t yet work. This is part of a plan to restore rail service from Rutland to Burlington.

Nature Notes

Foliage is the seasonal topic, and in certain places and times it has been spectacular. Elsewhere, the glow has been damped by rainfall, tearing down the leaves. The roads have not been cluttered with sight-seeing buses; Vermont relaxed restrictions on visitors, but perhaps too late for the organization of tours.

And the birds that went north in the spring are coming back south. Vultures, many hawks, and songbirds of all sorts. Hummingbirds were still reported in mid-September.



Pittsford Historical Society Board of Directors 2020-01-01


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