Local History: Chester Historical Society calendar

The 2022 Chester Historical Society calendars are here. The photo with this article is one of the photos included. They are available at Framery of Vermont, Salon 2000, Erskines, Smitty’s, Blair Books & More, Chester Hardware, and Stone House Antiques Center.

The photo is at the intersection of Maple and Main streets in Chester. Ted Spaulding heard tell of a man by the name of John Aikman living here. Aikman was treasurer of the Vermont Talc Company.

The first Catholic Church in Chester. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society
The first Catholic Church in Chester. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society

  The photo

The photo would date to 1908 give or take a couple years. You can see the landscape shows evidence of recent construction. It’s safe to conclude this photo was taken when it was newly built. The peaks of the gable ends exhibit a rather fancy ornamentation. On the left gable you can see a triangular design with a horse’s head in profile.

If you look up today, the horse head is still present. I wonder if this place was built as a horse farm. That is one possible explanation. The door on the right at ground level has oval glass. This door is still present.

The old church

By 1946, the Catholic Church had purchased the property. Work soon began on building an addition for the church on the left gable end. It was probably at this time when the ornamental trim was removed.

Ted told me an interesting bit of history. The stained glass windows for this Catholic Church came from the Protestant Church in Ludlow. This building was a movie theater years ago. Today, it is Mojo Café, Mountain Cycology, and Ironmasters Gym.

The first mass was held June 29, 1947.

The carnival

Recalling the 1950s and early 1960s, the Catholic Church held a large carnival every summer in the field where the new stone Catholic Church is today.

The carnival was a big deal in those days. All of us kids went along with many people from surrounding towns. I remember walking to the carnival as a boy. As I got closer, I could hear the music. My excitement increased when I saw the top of the Ferris wheel.

As you walked in, there was a ticket booth. Along with the Ferris wheel were swings and a merry-go-round. There was cotton candy, games of skill, and a bingo tent.

One of my favorites was gambling. This game was tended by Abby Butterfield. There was a large table covered with muffin tins. Each muffin tin had six cups. Around the perimeter of the table was a rope fence maybe six inches high.

The bottoms of the muffin tin cups were painted different colors: red, blue, yellow, green, or black. There was a counter where you placed your bets.

Painted on the counter were colored circles maybe four inches in diameter. These colored circles corresponded with the colors in the bottoms of the muffin tins. Not all colors in the muffin tins were of equal number. There might have been 14 blue, six yellow, and two black as an example. You placed your bet on the color of your choice.

There was a narrow ramp that a four-inch diameter rubber ball was rolled down. That ball would bounce around on top of the muffin tins as well as bounce off the rope fence. Eventually the ball would come to rest on top of a muffin tin. Whatever color the ball landed on determined the winner. This was fun stuff.

I remember older teenage boys strolling around with their “steady.” Some of these older kids had a pack of cigarettes rolled up under the sleeve of their T-shirts. Their dungarees were rolled up as well.

Al Cross, Elmer Butler, and Jim Lovett were always there to man the many different booths. Danny Clemons remembers helping tear down the carnival when it was over. Bud Nadeau also helped. I always avoided work if I could, so I didn’t take part.

For those who would like more history of the Catholic Church, they should see page 93 of the “History of Chester, Vermont,” available at Blair Books & More.


This week’s old saying is from a book I’m reading, “What the Old-Timer Said,” written by Allen R. Foley. It’s full of humorous Vermont anecdotes.

  “A farmer and his hired hand were by the road when a motorist inquired if he was on the right road for Jericho Center, and the farmer gave affirmative reply.

  “After he had driven on the hired man remarked, ‘You didn’t tell him the bridge was out.’

  “‘Nope,’ said the farmer. ‘He didn’t ask.’”

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