Fire protection

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

In the old days Chester had a number of wells around town for fire protection. In some cases these were watering troughs. These were circular wells with wooden lift-up covers. In those days horses were the mode of transportation. Watering troughs were the gas stations of the day.

We have photos of a well on the south end of the green, the intersection of Routes 11 and 103 near the new Jiffy Mart and one out on the island in front of Salon 2000. These were the only wells we could document.

Looking toward Springfield showing well in left foreground circa 1910. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society

Working on our upcoming book, “History of Chester Fire Departments,” we found an old typewritten document. The author is unknown but he or she recorded a number of his or her Chester memories. Mentioned is Chester having seven wells but not where they were.

One was on the green directly in front of the hotel. In recent years the town filled in this well. This was a large diameter well of dry laid-up stone. Laying up circular stone wells was a specialized skill.

On the south end of the green near the flagpole was another well of similar construction. We have a number of photos from different angles of this end of the green showing the well. One postcard dated 1908 shows a hydrant at this location instead of the well. Progress.

I called Ted Spaulding to see what wells he might know. Ted knew of a watering trough at the intersection of Grafton and Main streets. This trough was destroyed when struck by an inebriated Chesterite and his Buick.

Down in the Depot, there was a well on the island in front of what today is Salon 2000. In 1886 the Chester House was at the Salon 2000 location. In our Yo-Semite ledger I found this entry:

  “Chester Depot, Vt June 26th, 1886

  “Yo Semite Engine Company met at their Hall at 7 PM regular meeting + for practice. The Engine was taken to the reservoir in front of Chester House + was tried + water was thrown over the eagle on Town Hall. The Engine was reported to be in good condition.”

Another entry:

  “Chester Depot, Vt Feb 23rd 1891

  “Fire alarm was sounded from Steam Mill at one PM for a fire in the barn of Mrs. Marsh on North St, better known as the Dr. Edson place. The Yo-Semite Engine and Company HR Barney foreman were promptly on the spot and set the Engine at the reservoir near the schoolhouse using the Y and playing two very effective streams onto the fire and in about twenty minutes the Steamer Aid Co came from the So Street and set in the same reservoir with our tub but the water was soon exhausted and then the Yo-Semite was taken to the river and was soon doing good work and the fire nearly under control. The Steamer was set at the reservoir near the cemetery and after both engines got reset the fire was fully under control in a short time…”

So one well was near the stone schoolhouse. The cemetery well is next to Frank Bidwell’s and is still there today.

I didn’t know where Blaisdell’s was so I asked Ted. Blaisdell’s is the home across the street from Smitty’s Chester Market. Ted told me the well was out in front of the house. Another entry from the Yo-Semite ledger:

  “May 12th 1889

  “Yo-Semite Engine Co met at engine house for practice Roll called at 7PM Engine was taken to the reservoir in front of Chester House + practiced some then was taken to reservoir in front of Blaisdells + some practice was had, the Engine was again reset at the reservoir near Chester House + some very good playing was done + then the Engine was taken back to Engine House…”

Another document we found mentions a well on First Avenue and one on Elm Street – exactly where we don’t yet know. For our upcoming book, this information will be included. I estimate Chester might have had a total of 15 wells. Most of these have been filled in and forgotten today. At one time years ago this was our fire protection. If you know of a well, please contact me.

The photo with this article is the well in the road at the intersection of Routes 11 and 103 near the new Jiffy Mart. You are looking toward Springfield.

  This week’s old saying: “It’s better to have goals and not achieve them than to have no goals at all.”

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