Heartbeat of History Clear At Fairfax Society Meeting
(From A March 27, 2007 Edition Of The St. Albans Messenger)
Left to Right: Mike Cain, Lucien Hebert, Al Daniels, Judy Alderman, Mike Marshall, Colleen Steen, Elaine Kirkpatrick, Marvin Alderman and Henry Raymond
BY NAT WORMAN - St. Albans Messenger Correspondent
FAIRFAX - What was clear here Sunday at the quarterly meeting of the Fairfax Historical Society was the heartbeat of history.
"My telephone's in there: 11 ring three," said Malcolm (Mike) Marshall, 78.
"I'll bet nobody in your family ever picked up and listened. I'll bet your mother was there with her hand over the receiver, saying, 'Shhh,'" to keep the household quiet."
"Your father had seven or eight children?" someone asked.
"Fifteen," said Marshall to laughter, adding, "Well there was no television then."
Bright sun shone outside, bright memories inside at the Fairfax Community Library, a spacious room of Bellows Free Academy.
Michael (Mike) Cain, 46, president of the Society since 1993, conducted the meeting from a table covered by albums and historical papers. He read a paper on the New Hampton Institute, purported to be Vermont's finest institution of college-level courses between 1853 and its decline at the time of the Civil War.
Nine Society members, from 46 to 80 years old, sat between rows of books, within sight of the bearded portrait of Hiram Bellows and brought to life with their own words a history of the community they know well. Their words were a moving picture of people, their houses and businesses, one rising here, another falling into decay there.
"That's the barn," said Bellows Free Academy teacher for 31 years, Alfred Daniels, indicating a dull red structure seen from the library window. It had been mentioned moments ago as belonging to an even 75 years ago.
Henry Raymond who runs a website on Fairfax History and never gives up digging for more facts said, "If you go where St. Luke's Catholic Church is now - across the road there is what they call the Old Hubbert house with the big front lawn - they're putting a development there - there's a little space in between there, that's where he (Marshall) was born and the place burnt."
"All but one," Mike says when asked if they were all born at home. "We had Dr. Swizzler of St. Albans, and Dr. Taylor up on the hill and there was Dr Abernathy of Bakersfield."
"That was my first doctor," Raymond said. "All my sisters were born with Dr. Ab at home in Fairfield Center. He used to come, and actually they had midwives - and Mrs. Morin was there when I was born because my mother had long labors - we were born at home, except the youngest one and she went to Dr. George Berkley in St. Albans, and he said you should never have had those children without a caesarian. Because of the long labors, I only had two sisters that lived. Two sisters and myself lived, and three others were born, they lived, and they died."
And he pinned down exactly where Dr. Landon Abernathy had lived in Bakersfield: "Right on the corner near the cemetery." "He carried all his medications in a little black bag. He had brown pills for a cold."
"Yes," says Marshall musing. "There were eleven boys and four girls in our family. One died at childbirth."
His mother was Florence, Florence Gould, he said, who died at 59
Across the room, Marvin Alderman, 68, listened intently. From 1902 until it closed in the early 1960s, his family ran Marvin's IGA. A young man, he worked at the store. (After a Navy stint of two years, he was principal of Georgia Elementary School for 30 years. Next to him, sat his wife, Judy, who taught in Fairfax and Georgia).
" I can remember your mother and father coming into the grocery store," he said to Marshall, adding that they bought a pile of groceries.
"Dad loved baked beans," Marshall said. "Or whatever was put on the table. One time there was a cattle dealer, Harold Allen at our house when we lived up at Sanderson Corner. Harold Allen was the cattle dealer. My father came out on the porch and said, 'Alan, dinner's ready. You want to stay and have lunch with us?' 'What're you having?' Alan asked. The old man says, if you're that fussy, you drive right back to St. Albans!'"
A visitor asks, "What year would that have been?"
And he says in a dreamy sort of noting the passing years, "For-ty two, for-ty three."
And Raymond's words put the place on the map: "They lived on the Swamp Rd., up near Sanderson's Corners. When I moved to Fairfax, they were still living on the Swamp Road."
They had mostly Jersey cows, Marshall said. "He bought that farm in 1942, I think, from Will Popple, Howard Popple, remember? There was 110 acres and all horse-drawn equipment for twenty-seven hundred dollars. The bank told him he would never pay for it and Mr. Popple signed the second mortgage and he paid it off."
Raymond: "The interesting thing, I was listening to the tapes of the old Vermonters and one said that Jerseys were the animals you bought when you couldn't afford cows."
"My father," Marshall continued, "bought fifty acres off John Rowley, for ten dollars an acre."
Said Colleen Steen, "We bought the old Baptist parsonage in 1977 for $25,000." It was built in 1850. "I'm interested in historical preservation," she said. She restored the parsonage to its period style, sitting snugly, its delicate colors winking, a little below road level on Main Street.
The Marvin Store was on the corner, in the center of the village. "There were two or three stores in the town," Alderman said. "One was Parson's and the other was Faye Marvin's and Mr. Howard on top of the hill owned another store.
Lucien Hebert, 80, chimed in. "That Howard Store, that was quite a store. They had a soda fountain with ice cream and you could sit there at the counter. Really amazing," he said. "He sold grain there. He had everything there. Howard was a very rich man,"
Hebert was one of 11 children. Was two when his family came from Canada and settled on the Goose Pond Road. The house still stands; the place is a vegetable farm today.
"My father would give me a gallon can and I would go to the Howard Store and get a gallon of kerosene for a nickel," Marshall said.
"O.K., now which building you talking about - the Howard Store," asked Elaine Kirkpatrick, a BFA math teacher for 19 years.
Several voices all answer at once. It was the house, made into an apartment, just North of the Historical Society Museum.
"I see there's a for sale sign out in front of it today," said Daniels.
And Raymond, always on the trail of history, remarks that he didn't know the matrimonial state of someone connected to the building, but apparently was married now and living up in Swanton.
At meeting's end, Marshall pointed to a photo of a curly headed boy, himself. Climbing stairs, a kerosene lamp in one hand, her son held next to her by the other, she stumbled, and his hair caught fire. Now he leans forward, and taps a red spot on his skull, where the fire left its sign.
Such are the details - and the passions which pursue them - of which history is made.
Henry A. Raymond
March 29, 2007