Chester’s big day

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

Below is an article I found in the April 1914 Carpenter’s Store News.

Presentation label from Maj Childs to Whiting Library.
Presentation label from Maj Childs to Whiting Library. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society


  “Opening July 18, 1849, of the Champlain and Connecticut River Railroad, Bellows Falls to Gassetts. A Gala Day. A Great and Enthusiastic Crowd.

“To those whose memories go back three score and five years, the story of the coming to Chester of the first passenger train is more or less familiar history.

  “The legislature had chartered ‘The Champlain and Connecticut River Railroad Company’ and subscriptions to the stock were made upon condition that the road should be located from Bellows Falls, up Williams river through Chester to Cavendish.

  “The local subscription books were opened June 12th, 1845, and for six weeks a vigorous campaign was waged in Chester, Andover, Windham and Londonderry by some of the then prominent promoters of Chester.

  “Notwithstanding public sentiment favored the enterprise, subscriptions came slowly and the promised opening was more than once delayed as a consequence, until finally the much anticipated event arrived, –Wednesday, July 18th, 1849.

  “It was indeed a proud day for Chester and long before its inhabitants had finished their hurried breakfasts, all sorts of conveyances began to arrive from neighboring hamlets and towns bringing men, women and children each and all curious and anxious to obtain from the most convenient site their first view of a real train of cars.

  “Selectmen William Mason, Josiah Dana and Albert Onion were astir with the lark and each, attired in his Sunday clothes, endeavored to politely maintain the dignity of his official station by actively circulating among the people, answering a thousand and one questions, the real importance of which, in most instances, was probably as clear and satisfying as the answers.

  “Constable Benjamin B. Sargent was diligent through the occasion hardly demanded stern or even mild service.

  “Superintendent James Robbins and the listers, P.O. Sargent, Jeremiah Kibling and Benjamin F. Armington, were all on hand while Issac Rogers at the South street and Simeon Sherwin at the North street, were kept unusually busy replying to inquiries for letters which really were never expected.

  “‘Uncle Nat’ Fullerton’s conventional tile hat appeared poised with a little more than its accustomed regulation, but whether this was wholly attributable to the railroad celebration or in part to exuberance of spirit over the arrival that day of a little blue eyed granddaughter at the home of his son Frederick would have been difficult to determine. Then too Hugh Henry’s extended stock seemed to have received at the hands of its wearer an additional hoist.

  “Luther Adams, Oramel Hutchinson, Thomas Robinson, J.W. Richardson and Henry E. Houghton were there to represent the legal fraternity while Ptolemy Edson, Abraham Lowell, Thomas T. Barrett, James Robbins and L.G. Whiting were present to speak for the physicians.

  “Rev. S.M. Stone of the local Congregational church and C.D. Ingraham of the Methodist and D. Forbes of the Universalist parishes were entertaining their brother clergymen from Cavendish and Ludlow, the Rev. J. Williams and Rev. H.H. Sanderson.

  “Gov. Carlos Coolidge of Windsor was an honored guest of the occasion as were state Senators Joseph W. Colburn of Springfield and Calvin French of Proctorsville.

  “As the day went on the crowd showed signs of uneasiness for there was a provoking lack of information concerning the expected train. A hundred times or more some one in the throng would vary the monotony by shouting ‘there she comes,’ but the alarm only added to the general impatience. Finally a black puff of smoke was detected away down the track and soon Chester’s first passenger train ‘hove’ in sight. A mighty shout went up and every neck was craned eager to survey every detail and incident of this inspiring occasion.

  “The primitive engine as well as the flat cars were taxed to their full capacity. The board seats were crowded and when the train brought at the little station there was scant room for those invited from Chester to get aboard. However, the delegation was content to stand and did so to the end of the route.

  “Afterwards in relating this experience a Chester passenger told how one of his prominent townsmen nearly lost his life by failing to duck his head when the train passed through one of the covered bridges. Fortunately, however, his tall hat was the only thing to suffer from contact with the bridge.

  “It is said that it took that initial train as long going to and returning from Gassetts as it now takes for a trip from Bellows Falls to Burlington and yet the ‘first train’ on that memorable day seemed to those who observed its progress, to be going at a mighty dangerous rate of speed.

  “Some of us have heard the story, it may have had some little foundation in fact, of how ‘Nat Fullerton’ opposed the survey that would have, had it been followed, carried the railroad through the South street, rather than located it as it now is.

  “Be that as it may there doubtless were good and sufficient reasons for changing if such is the fact.

  “A list of the local subscribers to the stock of the Champlain and Connecticut River Railroad Company is of interest at this time inasmuch as the signatures are generally original and the subscription book is believed to be the only one of its kind extant and it should and probably will find a safe abiding place in Whiting Public library.”

Today, the June 12, 1845 subscription book resides at the Chester Historical Society.

This week’s old saying was said when a plumber died: “He’s snaked his last drain.”

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