Rod & Gun Club history

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

Here are minutes from a 1954 to 1965 Chester Rod & Gun secretary’s book in my collection. These were different times. Dues were $1 per year. Game suppers were $1.50 adults and $0.75 for kids. Land could be bought for $100 an acre. Yearly wages were $5,000 to $6,000.

The 1950 Chester Rod & Gun Club pin
The 1950 Chester Rod & Gun Club pin. Photo by Ron Patch

Meetings were held at the Grange Hall, now VITICA. When the grange raised the rent from $4 to $5, the meetings were moved to the American Legion Hall, which today is Free Range.

“April 12, 1955… The matter of stocking the kids brook was discussed. A motion was made and 2nd. [T]he secretary make an application to the state for some trout for this brook. It was also decided to stock it from the swimming pool to Henry Thomas camp this year.”

The kids’ brook is the Lovers Lane Brook behind Buttonwood Farm. Some years as many as 175 kids registered. The swimming pool mentioned is not the one we have today. The old swimming pool was located further up on the same side. It was a concrete bottom pool with water taken in from the brook. I remember catching trout in the swimming pool.

“May 10, 1955… It was voted to donate $10.00 to the Boy Scouts to help send a boy to camp specifying it be used for a Chester boy.” To this day the Rod & Gun Club sends kids to Conservation Camp.

  “March 13, 1956… It was decided that the Secretary order 250 new membership pins.”

  “May 8th, 1956…Allie Hawkes land was discussed and a motion was made and second that the directors purchase the land. Also check on lines and survey it if necessary.”

“June 12th, 1956… It was suggested that there might be a chance to make a little money for the club by building a camp to raffle off this fall, as the Lions Club does not plan to do it this year.”

I remember Chester Rod & Gun building camps up in Popple Dungeon. Up Dodge Road on the right the Rod & Gun built two or three camps. A few years ago, Tom Hildreth and I hiked from High Street over to the Dungeon. At that time, there was still one camp the R&G had built.

  “Aug 12, 1958… Motion made and seconded that the Club buy the Richard Fields land located where the Rifle Range is now.”

  “Jan 12, 1960… A bag of Purina Dog Chow was raffled off it was won by John Benson.” After meetings, they had a raffle and showed sportsman’s movies on their projector.

  “September 13, 1960… The Chester Rod & Gun Club voted to sponsor the Hunter Safety Course with the school, it was voted to donate $20.00 to the course.” I took this course at the elementary school in 1962.

Wood and marble plaque reads "Thunder Hill Skip Bessey Memorial Track 1964"
The marble plaque for Skip Bessey mentioned in the minutes. Photo provided

“Nov 8, 1960… The 300 cinder blocks were delivered to the Range.”

  “January 14, 1964… President Stowell reported that work on the Motor Cycle Scramble Course was progressing satisfactorily… Charlie Richardson reported that he had collected old hot water tanks to be used on the project.”

“7 April 1964… Dates for the motorcycle scrambles are set for May 17th, July 5th, August 9th, September 13th, and October 5th.”

  “August 11, 1964… There was discussion of ‘Skip’ Bessey appreciation day which was planned for August 30th. Larry Fuller suggested snow fence as a protection of spectators. Bill Arrison moved, Charlie Richardson seconded, that all profits except the concession receipts go to Skip Bessey or his family… President Stowell outlined the part ‘Skip’ Bessey played in laying out the Club’s scramble track and in organizing the meets. He suggested the track should be named for ‘Skip’ Bessey.”

  “Sept. 8, 1964… A letter of thanks to the Club from Martha Bessey was read. Bill Arrison said the new name for the area owned by the Club, Thunder Hill, should be entered in the Club’s records. Also that the name ‘Skip’ Bessey Memorial Scrambles Tract should be written in the records. It was so voted.”

“Dec ’64… Motion was made and seconded that a sign be made this winter to be erected next spring in regards to Thunder Hill, Skip Bessey Track.”

  “Jan 12, ’65… Larry Fuller showed a diagram of a plaque which was designed to mark Thunder Hill and the Skip Bessey track. It was so voted.”

This week’s old saying is from Pat Decatur. Pat was telling me something – I forget what now. I interrupted her to ask a question. Pat said, “Try to keep up.”

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