Westminster Historical Society






The William Czar Bradley Law Office in the center of Westminster Village  was a busy place on Thursday, April 10th, 2014. Trustees were inside the office making preparations for representatives from the State of Vermont to see inside. This was the day for the State of Vermont to transfer ownership of the building, contents and the land it sits on to the Westminster Historical Society. 


At 11:00 a.m. in the Town Hall, the transfer began. John Dumville, Manager of the Historic Sites Preservation office, Dale Azaria, General Counsel for the Division for Historic Preservation and Laura Trieschmann, State Historic Preservation Officer represented the State of Vermont while Virginia Lisai, President and Attorney Fletcher Proctor represented the Westminster Historical Society. Westminster Historical Society members present were: Secretary Barbara Greenough, Alice Caggiano, Lisa Calchera, Trustees Ruth Grandy, Dan Axtell, Karen Larson, Richard Michelman and Bob and Pat Haas.  Also present was Town Manager Russ Hodgkins and Jessie Haas, author of our new book

William Czar Bradley’s Law Office will be open for viewing every Sunday from 2:00 - 4:00 pm July 6th through August 31st. 

Please visit this historic gem!

"Westminster, Vermont, 1735-2000, Township # 1". Reporters from the Rutland Herald and the Brattleboro Reformer were there to record the occasion.  The old town hall benches were filled to busting and everyone was very happy about the transfer of the building, as it had finally happened after years of waiting. Hurrah!!


We thank Fletcher Proctor for his help and guidance with this complicated process.




Recently, I attended the funeral of one of our celebrated ninety year olds.  It was a joy to hear one of her daughters read a poem that she had written in fifth grade and had presented to her mother on Mother’s Day many years ago.  One can picture the love of that moment!


Every once in a while when looking through papers and pictures of old, I come across my great grandmother’s journal.  What a treat it is every time! I actually take time to sit down and look through it again.  From this journal I know that the temperature in Homewood, KS during the summer of 1934 was over 100 degrees for three months.  I know that my great grandfather, Ira, went to town in a car about once or twice a week.  I know that my mom, then a young girl, went over to the grand parent’s house in the forenoon to help with the laundry, preparing meals for the farm hands and quilting later. These words just pull me into my family’s past and give me such a sense of connectedness.  A joke in our family is why did Ira go to town so often??


This connectedness is easy to lose when we clear out our homes to downsize or when we pass on.  Our Best Little Vermont Historical Society here in Westminster likes to receive postcards, letters and pictures of people and buildings pertaining to Westminster.  Newspaper clippings, with dates are items we don’t see much of any more.  The clippings were very important to Jessie Haas when she wrote “Westminster, Vermont 1735 – 2000”.  From these snippets we can put tidbits together and discover who lived where or businesses that were thriving here.  From one particular poster and news report we know that four thousand people attended the Westminster Fourth of July and Old Home Days Celebration in 1920.  That must have taken some planning.

The handwritten word is disappearing! Let’s all make an effort to be thoughtful before we “throw it out” and save letters and cards that have what seems to be unimportant information on them. A simple date or note can give us a glimpse of the past, an ancestor’s personality, or some historic incident.  And it Keeps The Ties That Bind.  I know that I feel honored to have my name in the index of Jessie’s book.


Our historical society meets on the second Tuesday of every month at the Institute.  If you have an item you think we might be interested in, you can bring it to the meeting and the acquisition committee will decide on its importance to the museum. -  Karen Walters


Charles "Artie" Aiken --- Framed commendation from the State of Vt. for his 100th birthday.  Framed, signed, 100th birthday plaque from the White House.  Framed 100th birthday letter from the Railroad Retirement Board to Charles A. Aiken.  Oil portrait of Charles Aiken painted by Barbara Greenough.


Brattleboro Historical Society --- One hundred fifty five black and white negative photos of Westminster, originally from the newspaper, Brattleboro Reformer.


Chittenden Historical Society --- One black and white photograph of Westminster's main street.


Regina Cote --- Black and white photo of the Saxtons River Bridge, Bellows Falls.  B & W photo of Gage's dam, North Westminster. B & W photo of Twin Falls, North Westminster.   


Robert Gay --- Collection of miscellaneous photographs. Scenes mostly of North Westminster, including Gay's Express and school photos.


Barbara Greenough --- Supplement to Bellows Falls Times, 1959, about Gay’s new terminal, 36 Grange ribbons won by Barbara Shattuck Greenough, 1948-1952 and a 1963 National Grange Needlework blue ribbon won by Alice Shattuck, mother of Barbara Shattuck Greenough; a small photo album, “1948 Classmates”, of Westminster Center School “Room 3” class.


Barbara Holton --- Black and white photo of Gulf Gas Station on Route 5, Westminster Village.  Real Estate newspaper clipping for the former home of James and Barbara Holton, Westminster Village.   One large glass milk bottle, Fenn Farms.  Two small glass milk bottles.


Margaret Jager --- Colored photograph of the old water well house in North Westminster.


Michael Lowe --- 3 black and white photographs of Walkers Store fire and 1 invitation to the 60th wedding anniversary celebration of Eugene and Evelyn Metcalf.


Babetta Lynde --- Colored postcard of courthouse monument.  CD of Historic Photos. 


Richard Michelman --- Gold painted spike from Cumberland Courthouse in Westminster.  Hard Cover ledger from James Dinsmore's business. Small black and white photo of the Bradley Law Office.  Vintage Westminster cookbook.                 


Jason L. Smith --- Twenty nine black and white photos, scenes of Vermont.  


Also, found in the wall of the town hall during the insulation process, a vintage hand drill and a horseshoe.




Some of Last Spring’s fundraiser money has been put to use in converting two audio reels found in the Museum. Sam Peng from Canaan Media LLC. worked to restore them to listening quality.   They suffered from “Sticky Shed Syndrome” and had to be baked for twenty four hours at two hundred and twenty five degrees before they could be worked.  Sam donated some of his time to do this project. We are grateful for that as it saved us some money.  One reel is Charlie Holton and Greta Woods speaking.   The other is from the U.S. Bicentennial and the planning that went into it. The second part of the project is still underway.   It involves converting the VHS and cassette tapes to more stable DVDs and CDs.  Kathy Lisai and Lisa Calchera are working on this on-going project.



The Fall Fundraiser this year is offering the following for Prizes:


  • $50 Gift Certificate to Lisai’s Chester Market
  • 1 Month Membership to Greater Rock Fitness
  • Gift Certificate for an Oil Change at Westminster Auto
  • Hand Carved Bottle stopper made and donated by Richard Taylor
  • Quilted wall hanging made and donated by Alice Caggiano
  • $20 in Gift Certificates to the Walpole Scoop Shop.


Tickets are $1 each or 6 for $5. This newsletter includes 2 books at $10. Thank you for your support and good luck!


Volunteer: Your time and memories are always welcome!



Have you paid your dues? Please check your address label, it should show (L) or ‘8/14’ or higher if you have paid more than one year. We depend on you to help us keep the museum in order and care for the artifacts.


$10 Single *  $20 Family *  $50 Business  * $200 Individual Lifetime


Send to Westminster Historical Society, P.O. Box 2, Westminster, VT 05158. Any questions call 387‑5778.


Visit our website: www.WestminsterVTHistory.org   WESTMINSTER HISTORY BLOG: www.westminsterhistory.net




Vol. XV                                         THE                                          NUMBER 1

Westminster Historical Society




Trustees and Officers --  Dan Axtell, Linda Fawcett, Ruth Grandy, Barbara Greenough, Obe Lisai, Patricia Haas, Robert Haas,

 Karen Larson, Richard Michelman, Racheal Scott and Karen Walter


P. O. BOX 2          WESTMINSTER, VT 05158



My first recollection of any 4 H meeting was when I was eleven or so. Ruth Beals had us kids in the kitchen of the Institute and helped us cut small squares of material and sew them together. We all made our first booklet to hold sewing needles. We sewed them by hand and put on a snap. I still have and use mine.


Mrs. Lelia Williams had us at her house many times to teach us manners and cleanliness. We washed each other’s hair and did manicures. We learned about make-up, creams and soap. We took turns preparing meals and learned to cook. We had to properly set the table and come to the table with combed hair and clean hands. In Emily Post fashion, we practiced walking with a book on our head. Good manners were very important for children back then. Robin Bond remembers doing all these things at the home of Signa Buck. Signa Buck helped girls make candles and kaleidoscopes made with paper clips and tissue paper. Different leaders had different kids in their home. 4 H meant so much to us; we all loved it. Quite a lot of Westminster ladies invited us to their homes for cookies and tea, even though this wasn’t a 4H activity. They just wanted to do it for us; Westminster is full of wonderful, kind people.


Mrs. Julia Thompson did the sewing classes at her house. Our mothers taught us most of the household chores, which we did before we went out to play, but 4 H leaders taught us even more. We bought our sewing material at the “Square Yard’ shop in Bellows Falls. This shop was owned by Etta Harlow. Our first project at Mrs. Thompson’s house was a tablecloth. We pulled threads all around the edges to make fringe on the yellow material. We used stencils and fabric paint to make leaves and vines around the edge of it. Mrs. Thompson was an artist who painted in oils on canvas; her paintings can be found here and there around town today. Our next projects were a simple apron, a ‘broom stick’ skirt and a simple sundress. We progressed to more complicated dresses and play suits with shorts and tops. The broom stick skirts were popular for a while. They had several rows of elastic around the waist. I loved mine until I wore it while riding my bike up Grout Street in front of the fire station and the skirt got caught in the chain. It wound around the chain and pulled the skirt down around my legs – I went down on the road like a ton of bricks! There were several firemen at the station, including my father who rushed to tear the skirt out of the chain, getting covered with grease and laughing. I went home, embarrassed to death with skinned knees. That was the end of the broomstick skirt for me.


Mrs. Alice Cote taught us needle work: crocheting, knitting and embroidery. All the leaders helped to drive us to 4 H events. The largest and most memorable event was the State get-together in Randolph, VT, which was held every year. While we were there, we took our handmade items and put them on display. Everything was judged and pinned with the proper ribbon. We modeled the fashions we had made. We exhibited flowers, fresh produce, canned foods, animals carved from soap and doll houses. We also did an ‘entertainment’ during the all-day affair. I remember one play in particular that was so funny. We made an old car out of our own bodies. There was a boy and a girl that rode in the car and they had a lot of trouble on the trip. I was a tire on the car and I had to go flat and be pumped up before the car could continue. There was trouble with the hood and engine also. These plays and displays also took place periodically at the Institute.


Barbara won all these ribbons in one summer at the age of eleven.

Probably the most exciting time was when Bruce Buchanon came up from Brattleboro with a clipboard, unannounced to check on our bed rooms. Lord! He had a written account of what kind of housekeeper we were. He came to our house, got down on his hands and knees and looked under our bed. To make matters worse, the person whose house he had just come from was allowed to come to your house and also look under your bed! How utterly embarrassing! All the telephones of the 4 H kids were busy with mothers trying to pass a warning that the ‘dreaded Bruce’ was on his way. Whistles were all blowing to get kids home before Mr. Buchanan arrived. Of course, this all reflected on our mother’s housekeeping talents. My mother was a great housekeeper and I couldn’t go outdoors to play on Saturday until I dusted the living room and the ‘what-not’ stand.


Bruce Buchanon, Agricultural Farm Extension Agent, was our official 4 H leader, out of Brattleboro. He also was in charge of the Grange Home Demonstrations groups. Leaders in Westminster were Ruth (Beals) Wells, Lelia Williams, Julia Thompson, Alice Cote and Signa Buck. The 4 ‘H’s are Head, Heart, Health and Hands.


People who were in the Arbtus Club that I remember and that you may know are: Robin (Wood) Boyd, Jane (Rice) Lawrence, Joan (Rice) Sumner, Elaine Lord, Sylvia (Slaight) Lawrence, Heidi and Paulette Wettach, Anna Perizzello, Irene Thompson, Nancy Demmond, Ruth Brandon, Loretta Webster, Bernice (Cobb) Cook, Ann Gibbs, Sandy Cobb, Lucy (Hopewell) Greenwood, Barbara Prior, Rolyn (Wood) Ring and Sheila (Metcalf) Banik.


Ah! Those were the days of ‘no fear freedom’. We went anywhere in town, whether on foot or on our bikes, as long as we were home by 5:00 pm. We couldn’t do anything wrong anyway because some other mother would find out and call our mother to tell on us. Now-a-days, at the age of 76, living is my aim and laughter is my game. Play on!




The Westminster Historical Society held it’s drawing for first annual Spring Fundraiser Raffle at the meeting on May 14th. The lucky winners are as follows:  the lap quilt went to Barbara Rogers, Sandy Furlong won the one month membership to Greater Rock Fitness and Lori Larue won the gift basket full of wonderful items.  Overall $584.00 was raised!  The Society would like to thank all who took chances and those that donated prizes.

Enclosed in this newsletter you will find tickets for the upcoming Fall Raffle.   The drawing will be for six prizes this time and items are listed on the tickets.   These have been donated again by individuals and community business. 

The Historical Society is a 501c3 non-profit organization run by volunteers. It was organized in 1962 for the purpose of collecting and preserving information & objects relating to Westminster History for present and future historians, students and people of Westminster and beyond. We are always looking for new members to help out with the Society. Meetings are held at the Butterfield Institute @ 7:00 on the second Tuesday of the month. The more members we have the better the Society will be; so we would love to see new faces! 


Each Sunday from July 7th through the end of August our museum in Westminster will be open for viewing from 2 to 4 pm.  The museum holds many informative and unique items from the by-gone days in Westminster.  Our collection contains items from as far back as the Westminster Massacre and on into the 20th century.  Remember we are making history today for our museum to display in the future.


Please join us this summer to see our special exhibit “Growing Up in Westminster”, created by Rachel Scott. Most Sundays we will invite friends to bring and share their items from childhood.


Beginning Sunday, July 7th, Rachell Scott and Alice Caggiano will host a show of children’s clothing. Rachel and Alice have some knowledge of vintage clothing, sewing and preserving textiles. You will have an opportunity to look at clothing form our collection that was worn by children of Westminster families. You may be surprises by the expertise of hand sewing. If you have children’s clothing from the past to show and tell us about, please bring it along with your curiosity and any questions you may have.


Also open this first Sunday is The Bradley Law Office. Richard Michelman, retired history teacher and antique collector extraordinaire, will be hosting the law office.


On Sunday, July 14th Bob Haas and Don Anderson will bring old trains they have used and loved and will show and talk about their trains of yester-year.  The trains will be set up for display and operation.


Sunday, July 21st Richard and Barbara Taylor will be hosting the museum and Richard will demonstrate the art of whittling.  Whittling was a pastime for many in the old days but some items were made out of necessity.  Come and watch a master at work and enjoy seeing many of the wooden items we have in our exhibit.


Sunday, July 28th Barbara Greenough, Phyllis Anderson and Jet Vellinga will feature dolls they have from previous generations.                       

Barbara is especially anxious to show dolls that her mother played with right here in Westminster.


Moving into August, Sunday, August 4th, we will feature children’s books and games.  Books will be available to peruse and games will be set up for playing. You may know that we have several famous children’s book authors in our town. Join Karen Walter and Shannon Fuller for an afternoon of fun.


On Sunday, August 11th we will celebrate School Days in Westminster. Our collection contains several photo albums that were kept by Evelyn Metcalf’s teachers while she was teaching at the Westminster Center School.  Stop in and meet classmates and teachers that may be visiting.  Alice Cobb will be hosting.


Ted and Joan Slaght will be host and hostess on Sunday, August 18th.  Ted was active with the 4H Club in Westminster and would be happy to reminisce with past members.  Ted will also bring along several of his creative sculptures, which he makes from old found objects and tools.


On Sunday, August 25th Linda Wilson and Linda Fawcett will share samplers.  Some are old and some are still being created today.  Samplers provided a way for girls to practice their handwork skills in preparation for all the sewing that would be necessary for young women to know.


Our historical society has received accolades from the state for our recent new book Westminster Vermont 1735-2000 Township Number One written by Jessie Haas. Jessie’s book and other items may be purchased at the museum.


We will have the museum and law office open for viewing on Sunday, September 1st and Sunday, October 13th.




If the Westminster Meeting House had survived the lightning strike 125 years ago on June 6, 1888, it would be the "earliest public building in Vermont in nearly original condition" - a claim now found in the younger Rockingham Meeting House’s nomination for the National Register.


As the Westminster correspondent to the Vermont Phoenix wrote after the 1888 fire, "The burning of this old relic is a great loss and it will be greatly missed, not only by the present residents, but by those who occasionally return to visit their native town. Thus one by one, in the twinkling of an eye or by the lightning's flash, these old landmarks are passing away."


The old Westminster Meeting House looking west from Main Street from Richard Michelman's collection. In this undated photo, some window panes are mysteriously missing. This "old relic" burned down 125 years ago on June 6, 1888 after a lightning strike. The current Town Hall is on the same spot. Some pieces of the building were saved and are on display at the Historical Museum.


It was built in 1770 in the middle of the 165-foot-wide right-of-way of the King's Highway. Later it was moved to the exact spot of the today's town hall. Photos of the meeting house tend to confuse anyone new to Westminster. It is not the same building or location as the current church on Main Street (built 1835). And, it is oriented parallel to the road, with the steeple on the northeast side.  The road alongside is indeed Main Street.


The building has now been gone longer than it stood, but it remains a source of pride to our town. That’s why it’s pictured on the cover of the new Town History, where you’ll also find more information and images of our proud, historic meeting house.


Volunteer: Your time and memories are always welcome!