Men at work…

By now I’m sure most readers will know about Ted Spaulding’s donation of family items to the Chester Historical Society. There are hundreds of photos. There are over a dozen scrapbooks of old newspaper clippings, Chester Town Farm records, early mail route ledgers, and Yosemite Fire Department photos.

I thought I’d give you an idea how we are dealing with all this material. Danny Clemons picked up at Lisai’s Market in Bellows Falls a number of what I call “soda flats.” These are the shallow boxes that cases of beer and soda come in.

Danny and Peter sharing information. Photo by Ron Patch.

We’re doing this work downstairs at my place because the Academy Building is not heated. It’s warm here and we have all of my resources handy. The 1869 Beers Atlas of Windsor and Windham counties are one source. Other sources: 1884 Child’s Windsor County Gazetteer, Virginia Clark’s History of Popple Dungeon and the 1996 Chester High School Alumni catalog. This catalog is a list of all who graduated Chester High School since 1889.

Another great source is the early 1900s Chester business directories. These directories give names and addresses for Chester businesses and residents.

Danny Clemons, Peter Farrar, and I sat down and started sorting photos and documents. I cut out small pieces of heavy paper. Then I wrote a title on that paper and stapled it to the front of the flat. For example we have a flat for Popple Dungeon. We also have flats for photos and documents of Popple Dungeon families: Clark, Marshall, Fletcher, and a large assortment of District #15 school material, so flats were created for each of these categories.

Because space is limited at my place, we stacked the flats kitty corner making the piles rather high. This worked well. We have over two-dozen categories. Danny said he felt like he was sorting mail at the Post Office.

Each of us had a pile of photos and documents in front of us to work on. After we got going, it went rather smoothly.

Danny grew up in the Depot so he knows that end of town well. Peter’s strength is West Chester and Andover. I offer a more general knowledge of the area. Together, we make a great team.

Danny would have a photo of someone that had a note on the reverse. Danny would ask us, “Dimick, who were they?”

Peter would chime in with, “Oh, that’s a Windham/Popple Dungeon family,” so another flat was created. Peter has been a historian since he was 18 and brings a lot to the table. Danny, being older than Peter and I, remembers people or events we never knew.


Danny and Peter illustrating how we piled soda flats. Photo by Ron Patch.

The scrapbooks of old newspaper clippings are a great resource. Many of these scrapbooks contain over 300 clippings and there are a dozen of these scrapbooks. We sit and read all of this material, sometimes out loud. One of these scrapbooks alone has produced several articles for me already.

The next step will be to archive all of this material. Carolyn Frisa of Works on Paper in Bellows Falls stopped by my place to look at the project. Carolyn made a list of archival materials we need. We will purchase these materials shortly.

Ted’s Popple Dungeon material is substantial. When Perry Foster passed a few years ago, his heirs donated to the historical society another large quantity of Popple Dungeon photos and documents. When we get back at the Academy Building this spring, we will combine both lots together.

Cataloging will be a long process. We hope to find a volunteer who has the skills required. Some interest in local history would be helpful.

Perhaps an index file box of 3-by-5 cards arranged alphabetically is the way to go. These cards would give the location of the item being sought. Many categories would need to be cross-referenced. Louis Marshall photos would be a separate category, but it would need to be cross-referenced to his father Albert Marshall and their Spaulding connection.

Lynn Russell has volunteered to tackle the scrapbooks. First, she numbers each page. Then she creates a document describing what is on each page. This document can then be searched on the computer. If someone is looking for say, Yosemite Firehouse, we type that in the search bar and immediately will know which scrapbook and page that clipping is located.

Instead of an old saying I answer a question going about Chester these days. It has been asked, “Who was Hessie?”

  Claire Hesselton was Hessie. He was involved in town affairs in Chester for decades. He was a fireman and a 50-year mason in town. If you have to ask who Hessie was, you haven’t lived in town long.

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