The Chester town-owned property commonly referred to today as the Jeffrey barn needs to be torn down. I have a plan for this property.
Here I propose a few things that could be done immediately for very little money using only town labor. There are a number of native trees growing on the property. The scruffier/dying trees should be cut to allow the healthier trees to thrive.
There are several young elm trees. Most of these elms die of disease before growing very large. On this property is an elm about 18 inches at the butt. This should be looked at by someone from the Elm Society to see if it is disease free. It’s the largest elm I’ve seen in decades.
There are a couple ancient apple trees that would benefit if cleared out around them. These old apple trees provide food and habitat for wildlife as well as being visually pleasing. And when they bloom in the spring, it would be a great “Welcome to Chester.”
For the property on the south side of the barn: In front of one of the side doors of the barn is a 6 feet long by two feet wide by 12 inches thick, very flat stepping stone.
Move this stone out in the yard and stand it up on end. I envision four feet of this stone above the surface of the ground with a good footing. After this stone is set in place, I would have a bronze tablet made and mounted to the surface of this stone with words to this effect:
“For thousands of years, Native Americans camped in the meadow below on their way to the fishing grounds in Bellows Falls.
“In 1763, Jabez Sargeant and Thomas Chandler, the first white settlers in town built log cabins in the meadow below.
“In 1889, Merrill Stevens built a large and stately barn on this location. In the early 1900s Guy Earle built the brick silo.”
The bronze plaque might cost as much as a $1,000. I suggest the Chester Historical Society pay for the plaque.
At the Chester Historical Society, we have a collection of Indian arrowheads that were unearthed in this meadow years ago when farmers tilled the soil. Some of these arrowheads are thousands of years old. This is Chester’s most historic site.
The first thing to do is mow the grass and clean up the junk timber piles. Once the grass is mowed, an old rusty hay rake or manure spreader should be placed in the yard. Keep in mind I’m drawing on my memory how these old Vermont farms used to look. This site could also use a few more granite fence posts.
Another thing I would do is clear away all the brush growing on the ramp. Like everything else Merrill Stevens did, he overbuilt the ramp. Overgrown and impossible to see is a wonderful stone structure that is the ramp. You could drive a Sherman tank over it.
Close to the highway there’s a small concrete foundation that was probably the milk house. This needs to be filled in so no one will fall into it.
When Merrill Stevens’ barn was new, it would have been an impressive site for travelers north and south. Today, this site could regain that status. Imagine the barn gone, exposing the view of the brick silo, the barn’s stone foundation, select trees and the meadow below.
The brick silo is a work of art. People driving by today can hardly see it. But once the brush around it is removed, it would really stand out.
I would like to oversee this plan should the town adopt it. It should be done the Vermont way. Over the years Vermont has been sanitized to the point, well, the old Vermont is gone. But this property has not been sanitized. Let’s preserve this small piece of property. This would be a fitting tribute to our ancestors and Native Americans.
Knowing Vermonters as I do, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone stepped up to donate the granite fence posts, hay rake, or manure spreader. I could ask through this column.
The next meeting of the Chester Historical Society is Thursday, June 27 at 7 p.m. at the Academy Building at 230 Main Street. The monthly slideshow will include photos of area brick silos showing their construction. I will also include photos of the Jeffrey barn and its features I mention above. Come see and hear my plan for this property. All are welcome whether members or not.
This week’s old saying is from an auctioneer I knew years ago. When he announced and upcoming auction, he would always say, “Be there or be square.”