Chester reservoir

Local History by Ron Patch. Ron Patch is a Chester native, Chester Historical Society president, and a lifelong antiques dealer. He can be reached at 802-374-0119 or email

At the Chester Historical Society, we have a 1915 photo of men building the upper reservoir. Prior to this 1915 reservoir, there was a smaller reservoir below. I believe the first reservoir was located about where the current concrete, domed water tank is today.

1915 photo of workmen building the new reservoir. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society

The upper reservoir

The photo with this article is the 1915 photo of men building the new reservoir. Written on the reverse:

“1915 – Building of upper reservoir (2nd) Dixon & Douglas Const Co of Springfield, VT. Team of horses on left owned by Clarence Balch, Roy Murtha (14/15 years old) drove team Clarence Balch foreman

  “Reddy Bryant, 2nd on left front row Paul Jeffrey between middle and right team”

Older natives will remember Clarence Balch. Many will know his granddaughter Kathy Goodell. Roy Murtha was a new name for me so I called Ted Spaulding. Ted remembered Murtha. Ted said he was a few years younger than Ted’s father and a nice man. He worked in the woods drawing logs. Here he is at age 14 or 15 and already he’s a teamster.

Paul Jeffrey will be a name familiar to many. Paul dealt in cattle, horses, and bought and sold area farms. He lived in the home where the Comstocks live today. This would be near the Stone Village Farmers Market run by Squatty and Anna.

The reservoir today

Today, the reservoir is no longer used as Chester’s water supply. When I was young, it was our water supply. If you went there in those days, there was a sign: “No swimming. Fly fishing only.”

I remember going there with my father. Arnold liked to fly fish. Actually, he tied his own flies. He made his own arrows as well. This he taught me. I remember fletching and the smell.

What a great asset for the town the reservoir is. While it isn’t widely used today, there are a few of us who go there to fish, canoe, or kayak.

I’ve been up there several times this spring. As usual, there’s a pair of Canadian geese in residence. How they he-honk when a predator approaches. There are three ducks including a pair of black and white ducks. The odd duck swims with the pair. He is a different species. In recent years, I’ve seen bald eagles here, but I haven’t seen them this spring.

  The Fishing Derby

For many years, Vermont Fish & Wildlife has stocked the reservoir with brook trout for the annual May Fishing Derby. This is sponsored by the Chester Rod & Gun Club.

For several years, Danny Clemons and I have made a point of going to the Fishing Derby. We enjoy watching the kids fishing. Some are as young as 4. Of course, we see ourselves in some of the kids’ actions.

Some kids’ casts are reminiscent of a teamster cracking his bullwhip. The kids really get to thrashing. Occasionally, a kid gets excited, missteps, and falls in the cold water. No problem. The kid regains his form and returns to fishing.

The excitement they exhibit as they catch fish is priceless. It doesn’t matter if it’s a four-inch pumpkinseed or a nine-inch trout. It’s all-good.

  My theory

Every spring for many years, the state has stocked the reservoir with 300 trout. Perhaps a few dozen are caught during the derby. Adults fish the reservoir in the days after the Fishing Derby. Maybe another 150 of the stocked trout are caught. Mink and otter will claim a few more.

It’s my theory that there are a few trout each year that escape being caught. These trout have been in the reservoir a few years and are now huge. I believe there’s a brook trout in the reservoir that would weigh five pounds. This is what I fish for. If I caught him, I’d let him go. There has to be a few lunkers in the reservoir. These are wild trout – even if originally stocked, they have become wild.

For many years, I have been applying this theory. So far I’ve been skunked. I’ve been using night crawlers. I’m going to try live bait next.

I took my twin 4-year-old grandsons, Ian and Evan, fishing there last summer. Those kids had a blast catching perch, pumpkinseeds, and bass. I taught them each species of fish they caught. Soon Ian was saying “Punkinhead” instead of pumpkinseed.

This week’s old saying is the pronunciation of reservoir. The old Vermonters, who I often write about, pronounced reservoir two ways. I used to hear “Resevoi” or “Resevah.”

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