From April 18, 1902, published in the Brattleboro Phoenix, a discussion of necessary repairs for the fire department:
"Your bailiffs report that during the last year they have thoroughly renovated the engine house on Elliot Street, repainting both its interior and exterior, putting on a new roof, putting in a bath room and improving the accommodations for the men permanently on duty there’ this house had not been painted for six years and the roof had not been renewed for ten, thus making there repairs absolutely necessary. The expense connected with this was about $1400. The repairs from the Estey Organ company’s steamer, which was damaged in the Crosby block fire, was another extra expense in connection with the fire department....
Guard House, April 17th, 1864.
The guard house is my place until tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock. That is the time we change guard now. I have been pretty bad off for some ten days with boils. I was a little better for one day, that was my turn on guard, so I have not missed any duty and have not been on the sick list. I did not want the doctor hold of my boils. I had the management of them myself. I hope that I have had the last one. I did go to the Doctor sometime since and told him I wanted him to tell me whether I had the itch or not. He said that he thought that it was. He says that most of the men in the first company had it. He gave me some sulphur ointment and advised me to get some yellow dock. I have not taken any yet.
Brattleboro, April 3rd, 1864.
I believe I was in Washington, when I quit writing there I was within a few hundred yards of Jacob I suppose and could not go and see him. That came of being trustworthy. Had to take charge of the men, keep them from running round. I could have fixed them, for I could have taken them to the barracks and I should have laughed to have seen them get out before I or the Captain came, but that would not be doing as I would be done by. At 8 o'clock the Captain came and we took the cars for home. Got into New York the next morning about 8 o'clock and stopped until the next day at 11, and in that time we all had the chance to go where we pleased. I was glad to lie still. I was as tired as I ever was in my life feet so sore that I could hardly step.
I found this letter in an 1874 edition of the Phoenix, and it struck me as being somewhat familiar to contemporary opinion pieces.
This letter has it all - citizen concerns, a question of taxes, a call for protest if needed, and a request to do public improvements. Substitute any current town project for the sidewalks mentioned here and it could, with minor edits, be recycled and re-used in 2014.
Brattleboro, Mar. 30th, 1864.
Dearest Abiah, -
I received a letter from you this evening. It came in last night. You were wondering why I did not write, and before you get this you will wonder more, I am afraid. The fact is, last Thursday I was ordered to go out with a detachment of recruits to the Army of the Potomac. Had to hurry to get ready There was no time to spare. I got back last night. I am well, but pretty well tired out. Have not been paid off yet. Expected to have been paid while I was gone. Left an order with Lieutenant Fisher. I will give you an account of the trip.
Authors Note: An Eidetic Memory is the ability to remember the intricate details of sights, sounds, and conversations during the adolescent’s years with no relationship to the child’s intelligence or learning skills. It is estimated that between two to ten percent of children are born with this aptitude. In the medical profession this memory phenomena is diagnosed as HSAM or Highly Superior Autobiographic Memory that some health professionals dispute.
As a follow-up to the high school student interview in Part 2, the one sided dialogue in Part #3 is with the same individual who discussed the events surrounding the implementation of the Vermont Sales Tax in 1971. When asked one question about the Hinsdale Raceway, the twenty-six hundred word response revealed an incredible detailed description of what transpired during a three hour timeframe fifty-four years ago. This is a very personal and poignant remembrance about growing up in Brattleboro.
Brattleboro, Mar. 16, 1864
I seat myself this pleasant morning to write. Shall I say that I am homesick? The weather has been of the
finest kind for several days. It is just the weather to make a man that has been accustomed to out door life feel a little gloomy. We are not shut up, but the barracks and camp generally look gloomy enough, you can imagine how much so as well as I can write.
This is Part II of the story of Representative Town Meeting in Brattleboro. You can read Part I: Origins and Adoption here.
Meet Edgar Lawton
Representative Town Meeting passed, but not everyone approved of the outcome. One of its critics was Edgar Lawton.
Although we don’t hear much about Edgar Lawton today, his name is ever-present in the minutes and agendas of Selectboard and Town Meeting reports throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Why does Brattleboro have Representative Town Meeting? Why not a regular, open Town Meeting like the rest of Vermont? These questions led me on a search through old newspapers and town records to look at Brattleboro’s town meetings in the 1950’s to see if there was some obvious answer.
It turns out, there was no single reason that led to the “representative form of government” in Brattleboro. There were many factors, personalities, and coincidences unique to Brattleboro that contributed to its adoption.
Arguments made in favor of representative town meeting were sometimes specific to Brattleboro, such as outgrowing the public meeting hall. Other times they were more lofty, arguing that representative government would be more fair and better able to deal with complex issues, while giving voters a greater say in how the town operates.
Another night has passed, and such a night of storm. It commenced raining about 7 o'clock and rained very hard and snowed all night. This morning it is snowing very fast and thawing. The whole face of the ground is covered with snow and water. No drilling today. It is the best weather to make the sap run I ever saw. Well, I dated my letter wrong, should have been Sunday 6th. It is now Wednesday 9th. I have got in debt to you now two letters certain, one Saturday night, and I was made glad again tonight by another which has reminded me that I must hurry up this. I do not think that I shall hardly get it finished, as I have to go on guard tomorrow and I must get this off by half past 8 o'clock. I go on guard at nine tomorrow morning and come off at nine Friday morning.
Brattleboro, March 7, 1864.
I received your most welcome letter last night. I was in luck for I got a letter from Catherine at the same time. I was glad to hear that you were well, except for that headache. Hope that is no more than a head ache. You cannot know how anxious I am when I get a letter and how quickly I glance over its contents to see that you are all well. I am afraid that you work too hard how does the money hold out If you are like to run short, perhaps I can borrow it and not wait for pay day.
I did intend to have gone to Hinsdale today, but the mud was too deep. There is but little snow here, but plenty of mud and the road to Hinsdale looks long and besides, I wished to fill this sheet of paper with something. Yesterday morning the robins were singing, and it appeared like the right time to tap the sugar place and it was. I hear that most of the sugar places were tapped yesterday and day before and the sap has run very fast and is running now. We had a little rain last night. I felt pretty homesick yesterday morning. I expect to have many such mornings this spring, but you will not pity me I suppose. Well, I do not deserve any, but I am sick of Brattleboro.
It was on this day in 1791 that Vermont became the 14th state to join the Union — the first aside from the original 13 colonies.
It has an eccentric political history. It was an independent nation, the Vermont Republic, for 14 years (1777-1791). It had its own money, sovereign government, and a constitution that explicitly forbade slavery — almost a century before the United States did. It also required government taxes to support public schools.
Brattleboro, Mar. 4, 1864
I have let too long a time elapse without writing to you. I received a letter from Mary Ann last week. The reason that I did not write, I was expecting to go up to Burton to arrest a deserter Saturday. I was ordered to report to Captain Clark and get transportation and to take the five o'clock train and go to Burton. When I told Capt. Jenne that no train left for Burton until Monday morning there was a fix then. I was to go Monday. I told them fairly that I did not believe there was any deserter there, and finally they all came to the same conclusion, but of this you need say nothing, for he may be nabbed yet. I was to have a chance to go home if I went up. Should like to have caught the fellow, but hated to go up and come home without him. It will be no small job for one man to take him. He is a cool, desperate fellow.
Joseph Sullivan, the CEO of Hinsdale Greyhound Park, agreed to be interviewed by a Keene High School student in his corporate office on October 26, 2004. The American Studies assignment required the students to interview various owners of dissimilar businesses located throughout Cheshire County. Their objective was to gain an understanding of the impact these various businesses have on their respective communities from an economic, social, and historical perspective. Upon completion of the class project, the student interviews would be published in the Keene Sentinel which did not happen.
Interviewer [RLElkins]: “Where did you derive your historical knowledge about the origin of the sales tax in Vermont?”
Interviewee [Unidentified]: “As a college intern majoring in political science with unrestricted access to the inner workings of the Vermont Statehouse from 1968 through 1970. Unbeknownst to my legislative benefactors, a detail journal of the briefings, hearings, and confidential discussions in Montpelier, some that the press did not have access too, were dictated into a tape recorder every night and later transcribed onto Eaton Typing Paper for my college thesis.”
“What was the title of your college thesis?”
“Vermont Sales Tax – The Dazzling New Legislative Toothpaste for Budget Decay.”
“What grade did you receive?”