In early February I received an email from Robin ‘Rowell’ Smith of Maryland. Robin had inherited many items that had descended in the Rowell family.
Many readers will be aware of Rowell’s Inn in Simonsville. This is Robin’s ancestry. In her email she asked if Chester Historical Society would be interested in having her collection of Rowell items. She included her phone number so I gave her a call.
Robin gave me an idea what she had including: an old sampler, dozens of photos and documents including Rowell’s Inn and the Fullerton Hotel in Chester. Another item and neatly framed is a collection of ‘Reward of Merit’ cards. In the late 1800s teachers gave students these cards, somewhat like a teacher would give an ‘A’ today. Many of these cards are to “Freddie” and include the teacher’s name. Freddie would be Fred Rowell who credit can be given as promoting the hotel business in this area.
Fred was born in 1864 in Andover and died in Rutland in 1919. Rowell’s Inn was built circa 1820 and while operated by several owners, today it is known as Rowell’s Inn.
Below is from Chester Historical Society’s, 2011 Chester, Vermont History book. It was copied from the 1899 Vermont Tribune, Chester Past and Present.
“Feed and stable, F.A. Rowell, proprietor:
“It was with feeling of rare enjoyment that we strolled through Mr. Rowell’s stable and looked over his sleek, handsome and well groomed horses, and noted the many evidences of care and good judgement of the stable. Mr. Rowell knows and likes good horses and has been very successful in buying, matching and selling. He is a native of Andover, son of Abram Rowell, a veteran of the 16th Vermont Regiment and a life-long farmer and resident of Andover.
“At 20 years of age F.A. Rowell became proprietor and driver of a stage route between Weston and Chester. He came to Chester in 1891 and bought the Fullerton livery and has conducted it ever since. In April, ’92, he leased “The Fullerton,” at that time with a small patronage, and, by liberal methods, built up a thriving business and conducted the house until December, ’97. Al Bigelow has been his right hand man since he started in the hotel. Rowell makes a specialty of matched spans and gentlemen’s drivers. His robes, harness and carriages are in apple pie order.
“He can furnish any kind of a turnout, from a light buggy to an elegant four-in-hand three-seater. He is always ready to sell a sleigh or a carriage, representing such standard houses as the Excelsior, Courtland, the Binghampton and H. A. Mover.
“Mr. Rowell possesses those fine requisites of a good hotel or livery man, agreeable manners, fairness and good horse sense, and he knows the country around Chester. He is a deputy sheriff of the county. He married Abbie I., daughter of John Rounds of Chester, and they have two sons, John A. and Orlando L.”
Fred’s son, John A. Rowell would take over his father’s hotel business, exactly what year I don’t know. John expanded the hotel business to include Rowell’s Inn in Simonsville, The Fullerton in Chester and The Charlemont Inn in Charlemont, Massachusetts.
In Robin’s donation are a number of tour cards for all three hotels Rowell owned. In the 1920s the automobile was rapidly becoming a viable way to tour the country. Rowell took advantage of this new found freedom and steered tourists from one of his hotels to another.
Of course this was accomplished by promoting scenic routes or historical sites near each hotel. Also in the donation are menus for the three different inns and prices.
Hotel Fullerton menu: Boiled ox tongue, home cured ham, pressed corn beef. Lobster salad or ham salad, queen olives horse radish and Parker House rolls. Ice cream or lemon sherbert, cakes for dessert and tea or coffee. All for $1.75
One foldout brochure shows Rowell’s Inn and the smaller building to the right. Both buildings still stand today although in varying conditions. I always wondered about the smaller building. Now we know. It was called “The Annex” and was used for overflow customers. I wish someone would step forward, buy the inn and restore it.
The members of the Chester Historical Society are grateful that Robin was secure in donating these family treasures to us. I should mention the genealogy of the Rowell family from their arrival in this country in the 1600s was included in this donation.
This week’s old saying. “Squirrels at a bird feeder are like in-laws. They don’t leave till the food is all gone.”