Of the many old photos Ted Spaulding has recently donated to the Chester Historical Society the photo with this article stood out. Written on the negative is, “Town Hall Weston VT. Tower painted by Steeple Jack Marshall 1932.” First I’ll give you a little history on the building and then tell you about Steeplejack Marshall.
The majority of the history below is taken from a book titled, “Waters of the Lonely Way” by Ernestine Dunaway Pannes. In March of 1800 Weston citizens voted at town meeting to build a meetinghouse. Soon after, a group of landowners established the Weston and Landgrove United Society for building a meetinghouse. Proceeding with some deliberation (a period of fourteen years from 1801 to 1815) to develop their plans, the subscribers of the Society finally held a decisive meeting.
Nathaniel Watts was chosen as the builder. I found another source that claims Nathanial Tucker was the builder. Anyway construction began in 1816 and was completed by 1832. Both sources I used agreed that the builder was paid $2,605,75. Payment though was half cash with the balance being barter. The barter was paid in salable meat stock (calves) or materials for building the house or both.
The plans of the meetinghouse: “Fifty feet long and forty wide, to contain sixty-four pews.” There was a balcony on three sides and it became known as the Weston-Landgrove Union Meetinghouse.
In 1866 the meetinghouse was deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church with a second floor built at balcony level. The second floor was used for church services; the first floor was sold to the Town and became Town Hall. The Town paid half of maintenance costs.
In 1938, Weston built the new town office we know today. Ted Spaulding was a young boy living in Weston at the time and questions the 1938 date. Later, town meetings were moved from the first floor of the church to the Weston Playhouse. The town no longer needed the first floor of the church so it was sold back to the Methodist Church. The upper floor was removed, reopening the balcony and restoring the sanctuary as we know it today. It sure is a beautiful building rich in history.
Now a little about steeplejack Marshall. If you look in the photo with this article you’ll notice a man standing just below the tower clock. This is Louie Marshall. Louie was a house-painter and a steeplejack. Quite a bit is known about Louie thanks to Ted Spaulding.
In Ted’s recent donation of photos to the Chester Historical Society were several photos of Louie Marshall on steeples in the area. You might wonder why Ted would have so many photos of Louie Marshall.
Louie Marshall’s father, Albert, was brother to Ted’s grandmother, Hettie Spaulding. At one time Louie spent some time living at the Town Farm on Route-10 in Chester that Ted’s parents ran. It was during this time that Ted heard Louie’s life story.
Ted told me years and years ago there was an annual circus that came to Bellows Falls on what was known as Morgan Field. This would be the area that today is Morgan Street. Anyway, one time when the circus left Bellows Falls Louie went with them.
Most anyone my age or older who grew up in the Chester/Bartonsville area will remember Louie Marshall. He used to ride his horse, Blondie, into Chester dressed in his western style with cowboy hat.
Before Louie became a steeplejack it seems he was with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. During this time he was also with Pawnee Bill at the 101 Ranch. The historical society and others have photos of Louie as a bucking bronco.
I remember as a young boy visiting Louie at his log cabin on the road from upper Bartonsville over to Cambridgeport. Wow! Louie had many Wild West items hanging on the walls. I should also mention Louie built the log cabins at Danny Bagley’s Spaghetti House.
This photo of the Parish Church in Weston is one of about eighty photos of Weston to be included in our book, ‘Pictorial History of Chester, Andover, Simonsville, Weston and Londonderry.’ This book will be published later this year. It’ll be the best photographic history published in many years.
Instead of an old saying I have a pet peeve bothering me. You will often see in print or hear someone say “a book entitled.” This is quite often from a learned person. Well I’m not much on using proper English but I know the difference between ‘titled’ and ‘entitled.’ We can do better.