Robbins & Marsh

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

The Chester Historical Society has just purchased an important antique sign. It’s the sign for “Robbins & Marsh.” Philemon H. Robbins built what we know today as Cummings Hardware in 1858. Below is history from the 2011 History of Chester and our Yosemite ledger.

P.H. Robbins

“Philemon H. Robbins was educated in the common schools, supplemented by a few terms at Chester Academy. At the age of fifteen he left school and took entire charge of the business of his father, who was incapacitated by paralysis. He began his mercantile career as clerk in a general store in Chester. Subsequently he was a clerk, and later engaged in trade in Cuttingsville until 1858, when he returned to Chester. Mr. Robbins built his present store and engaged in the hardware, iron, steel, flour, grain and grocery business, which gradually became very extensive.

Geo. D. Barton was a partner from 1863 to 1865, and F.W. Marsh from 1865 to 1888. Mr. Robbins sold to E.J. Davis and retired from the business in 1897.”

Robbins & Marsh sign. Photo provided

  From the Yosemite ledger

“Chester Depot Vt. Aug 25th 1900

“Yo Semite Engine Co. met at their hall at 7-30 P.M. Meeting called to order by H.A. Bond foreman Roll call and minutes of last meeting read and approved.

“The committee on Resolutions on the death of Philemon H. Robbins made the following report which was accepted.


“In the course of events our friend and brother Philemon H. Robbins has been removed by death from us, we contemplate his death with sadness and deeply feel our loss. It is therefore hereby resolved that we have ever found him one of our most active members, being always a regular attendant at our monthly and special meetings and one of the first to respond to an alarm of fire.


“That for 24 years he has ever performed his duties as clerk and Treasurer of the company cheerfully and faithfully.


“That while we deeply lament his death we would recognize the Hand of Divine Providence and humbly submit trusting that our loss is his eternal gain.


“That a copy of these resolutions be kept for record and a copy to be sent to his son Chas Robbins of Brattleboro, Vt. Also a copy to be sent to the Chester Advertiser and Ludlow Tribune for publication.

“H.A. Bond elected a committee to interview Mr. Moore in regard to account of P.H. Robbins with fire Co. Roll call and adjourned to last Sat. in Sept. at 7-30 P.M.

“Attest F.A. Leland clerk”

You are the first people to read the above entry in a hundred years. Neat, ain’t it?

F. W. Marsh

“Frederick W. Marsh was born in Chesterfield, N.H. in 1831. At the age of eighteen he began his mercantile career as a clerk at Brattleboro. In 1852 he went to California, but returned the same year, and became a member of the mercantile firm of J.L. Pierce & Co., at Londonderry until 1859. Mr. Marsh came to Chester in 1864, and a year later formed a partnership in the hardware and iron trade with P.H. Robbins, which continued prosperously for twenty-three years. A democrat in politics, but a man of independent views, he has been called upon to fill various offices in town, although in the minority in politics.

“He was postmaster at Chester Depot under President Cleveland, has been trial justice of the peace for nearly a score of years, and his mind is a storehouse of reminiscences of Chester. He is a Universalist in religious belief. He was a leading spirit, and from the first president of the steam power company, was active in the town hall contest, and was the first to advocate and push the movement for a good sidewalk from Chester Depot to South Street (now Main St.), thus enabling the residents of the two villages to visit without getting stuck in the muddy highway.”

This Robbins & Marsh sign was likely used after 1888 when Marsh retired. It was probably replaced when E.J. Davis took over. Chester Historical Society will display this 13-foot-long sign upstairs of Town Hall.

Henry Bond was constable, farmer, auctioneer, and a Civil War veteran. He lived where Jeff Holden lives today. Fred Leland was sheriff and ran what is Lisai’s Market today. Leland died of a heart attack while making an arrest. Frederick Marsh built the large home next to Town Hall.


This week’s old saying is from Ed Peck. The word is “Hornswoggled.” I haven’t heard it in years. It means cheated, swindled, or bamboozled.

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