Colchester Historical Society
Summer in Colchester
Here is our latest newsletter. Find out what has been happening at the Historical Society and some interesting tidbits about Colchester history.
Several Historical Society members learned how to properly clean cemetery monuments under the instruction of VOCA. Here are a few of them.
The envelope below just sold at auction for $6500.00!
We are curious about the contents of the letter in this evelope It was sent to John H Lyon of Colchester on Oct 5, 1861 via Pony Express from Mount Ophir, California, a former gold mining town and the site of the Mount Ophir Mint. It was obviously important because the Pony Express was not a cheap way to mail a letter. The only other ways from California at the time were the much slower stage coach or boat mail services so time must have been important.
Contact us if you know anything about it.
Once -- and only once -- upon a time when the Pony Express came to Vermont, it came to Colchester. Here's the story from Elissa Borden at WCAX TV:
FYI, the Pony Express went out of business 21 days after this letter was mailed, Oct 26, 1861, and just after the transcontinental telegraph started operation on Oct 24, 1861. Railroad mail service started much later, 1869, upon completion of the transcontinental railroad.
At our April meeting Rick Heh presented a history of coins from antiquity to the present day, showed us some of his extensive collection, and provided some collecting tips.
This new addition to our Historical Society House was donated to us by Martha Mazza. The medicine cabinet was rescued from Clarey's Bayside after it burned down in 1964.
If you are not already a member of the Historical Society, please think about joining. It is easy. Just click here or use the Member Application Link at the left and print the application. Then send it along with your dues to the address listed. For current members, don't forget that annual dues are now due: $15 per person or $25 for a family.
In case you missed the November meeting with Dick Mazza presenting the history and some stories about his family's store on Lakeshore Drive here is a link to a recording provided by Pam Heinrich MacPherson. Thank you, Pam.
We are still looking for the following:
1601 West Lakeshore Drive was at one time a hot spot for eating and dancing. Does anyone remember eating or dancing at "Sonny's" in the 1930's to 1960's? Later it was known as Finney's Fine Foods. The Historical Society and the present owner are looking for memories and photos from that earlier time. Check out the newsletter for more details about this request plus find out what your historical society is planning in the next several months.
Also, we are looking for photos or memories from another eating establishment, the Sombrero, that used to be just on the Colchester side of the Heineberg bridge. Any takers?
We are still trying to find out who these people are. These paintings were found in the attic of the former parsonage of the Congregational Church. Details are in the Summer 2022 newsletter.
Have you checked out the Driving Tours of Colchester yet? There are still no lines and no charge and many interesting spots are just waiting for you to visit. And by the way, we are proud to announce that the Vermont Historical Society recently presented us with a League of Local Historical Societies & Museums Award of Merit for our Self-Guided Historical Driving Tour. So start touring around and find out more about your town!
You can find a link to several Driving Tours of Colchester on the left panel. There are tours of Colchester Center, the Malletts Bay Area, the Airport Park Area, the Fort Ethan Allen Area and even the Town Cemeteries. You can download the files for your navigator (not the driver!) to use as you drive around to the locations described. We hope you enjoy finding more about the historical locations of our great town.
Here are some interesting historical documents and links that you should check out:
- There is a lot of interesting historical information available online on this website and our Facebook page . Also checkout the Vermont Historical Society website which you can access here.
- The historic Log Schoolhouse at Airport Park is now closed for the season but you can still take virtual tours by selecting the Log Schoolhouse Restoration link in the left menu.
- Have program suggestions? Contact Suzanne Furst at 802-658-3706.
- Don't forget to browse our Vintage Photos section. If you have photos to add contact Bob Furst by email or phone: 802-658-3706.
- If want to join the society dues are only $15.00 a year for one person, $25.00 for a family.
To become a member print the form from the link on the left. Fill out the form and bring it to a meeting or send it to the address shown.
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Tuesday, October 15, the Historical Society members took a road trip to the Vermont Granite Museum in Barre, plus a side trip to the famous Hope Cemetery. The museum has undergone a major renovation and has plans for working with Vermont colleges to implement a course in the art and crafting of granite. Director Scott McLaughlin showed us around the facility and described the various processes involved in producing a granite product - slabs of granite or works of art. Of course the Hope Cemetery is the local showcase of the skills of the granite artists.
September 9, 2019: Dr. Carleton Young told us a fascinating story of finding in his parents’ attic a box of approximately 250 letters, written by two civil war soldiers from Williamstown, VT serving in the Vermont Brigade. Carleton and some friends spent several years transcribing the letters and exploring the sites described by the soldiers. He subsequently published "Voices from the Attic" which contains excerpts of many of the letters. Reading from several letters, Carleton provided us a view through the eyes of the two brothers of the action of Vermont Brigade: life in the camps, thoughts about their commanders, and about the Civil War in general.
On Monday, May 11, 2019 the Colchester Historical Society and Burnham Memorial Library co-hosted an Appraisal Night! People from the community brought in their "treasured items" and Peter O'Brien and Mike Heath of Estate Sales & Consignments shared with the group their estimate of its origin and value. It was fascinating to hear an explanation of each item and its value as a collectible.
Monday evening, April 15, 2019 we traveled back in time with Martha Lang, who told us about life at the Lang Family Camp on Spaulding West Shore or was it Spalding West Shore? It depended on who was writing about it.
On Mar 9, 2019 members traveled to the Fort Ethan Allen Museum. Dr William Parkinson took us on a virtual tour of the Fort, showing then-and-now photos and details of happenings at each place. The museum is located in the old pump house for the stone water tower.
Feb 9, 2019 Reid Allen presented the history of the Heineberg Bridge. Actually, there have been 4 bridges: the first was built in 1853 - named the Heineberg bridge presumably because Dr J.B. Heineberg was instrumental in getting it built. He had a farm off Porter's Point road and wanted to have a bridge across the Winooski instead of using the Richardson ferry. The second was built in 1862 to replace the original bridge which burned down that year. Then in 1935 the old wooden bridge was replaced by a steel bridge. Finally in the mid-1980's the steel bridge was replace by the current concrete bridge as part of the Burlington Beltline project. Reid presented the society with a framed copy of the original bridge. A digital file of this presentation is available at the Historical Society.
Nov 12, 2018: A special Veteran's Day program was presented by Rick Heh about his father, Lt Richard J Heh, "A Prisoner Log of World War II POW". Lt Heh, a navigator on a B17, spent the last year of WW II as a POW after his plane was shot down on a mission over occupied Belgium. While a prisoner, he kept a log of his activity. After his release, he shared his logs with his family. His son Rick shared them with the Historical Society in a fascinating and moving account of life in Stalag Luf III. As a point of interest, this was the prison which was the site of the "Great Escape," which occurred shortly before Lt Heh was incarcerated there. Check out the Past & Present Events link for some pages from the presentation.
May 14 2018: Bob Furst presented the results of his study of Marble Quarries and Lime Kilns in Colchester. There was a large commercial Lime Kiln and quarry located at the northern end of Lime Kiln Rd that was in operation until 1970 when a lost contract caused it to shut down. The site was cleared and one of the two quarries was filled in. In the Bay area several attempts were made to quarry marble at Malletts Head and Marble Island in particular. The material while beautiful when polished was actually dolomite and not a pure marble. It was much harder to cut and polish. In the late 1800's a processing plant was built on Malletts Head but costs drove it out of business by 1900. The plant was converted into a club house which existed until 1976 when it burned down. The walls of the NY State House in Albany are lined with marble from the Malletts Bay quarries. This presentation was recorded and available at the Historical Society on a DVD.
April 9, 2018: The North Country involvement in the War of 1812 was the topic for the April meeting. History and civics teacher Jason Barney presented the story of the origins and first year of the War of 1812 and Vermont's role in it. If you missed this talk, you missed an interesting introduction to the war. Great Britain started taking US sailors off merchant ships to man their war ships in their war with France. In response the Federal government restricted trade with Britain (Canada in this case for Vermonters). This affected the livelihood of many Northern Vermonters as Canada was their biggest trading partner. Smuggling goods to and from Canada became a way of life for many. The Black Snake was a notorious smuggling vessel that drew the attention of the Feds. The locals had to deal with both the Feds and Great Britain. So began the story.
March 10, 2018: Researching Your Family History was the topic for the March meeting of the Historical Society. Christine Eldred, Colchester High School librarian, demonstrated how to begin researching family histories using methods from her own family history research. Her presentation focused on the best places and ways to get started with genealogy research. She also pointed out many of the free resources that are available to investigate your own family tree.
February 10, 2018: Carmen Brunelle told us all about the First 30 Years of Barbie Dolls illustrated by selections from her large collection. In 2003 she set a goal of collecting Barbies from the first one in 1959 but stopped when she reached 30 years of them. The original Barbie was modeled after a German doll, Lilli, but had her own unique features which continued to evolve over time. Many of the early dolls had very expensive, well made clothing, some being designed by well known designers such as Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. It was a fascinating story. This presentation was recorded for future researchers.