The snowplow

Ted Spaulding’s father Ed was an auctioneer while running the Town Farm and his Star Route Mail contract. Ed sold out many area homes in the 1940s into the early 1960s. Along the way, Ed picked up a few antiques he found interesting. One of those antiques is the snowplow model pictured with this article.

snow plow
Willard snow plow model. Photo provided by Ted Spaulding

Many of us will know about horses drawing a snow-roller in the old days. Many photos and stories exist about snow-rollers. The salesman’s sample snowplow pictured with this article illustrates how a horse-drawn snowplow operated.

It measures about 24 inches long without the pole and about 12 inches wide at the widest point. It is expertly crafted and made of cherry. The front end has the pole that the horses were harnessed to. On the back end, you’ll notice a platform where the driver stood. In front of him are five hand levers. These levers control raising or lowering each side of the plow wings or widening the path of snow plowed.

There’s an old string tag attached that reads: “Willards Model Snow Plow used between Weston and Andover, Vt. 1895.”

Peter Farrar, Danny Clemons, and I went to work to track down this illusive snowplow maker. At Weston Town Hall, we found a little in the 1896 Weston Town Report. There are multiple listings for “breaking out the road.” One listing stands out: “H.J. Batchelder, Snow plow, Simonds got $7.” This is the only mention we found of a snowplow.

In the 2011 “History of Chester,” we found a little information about Clinton J. Willard. He was born in West Windsor in 1842. During the Civil War, he was in Company A of the 12th Regiment Vermont Volunteers. After the war he was in the lumber business in Ludlow and Weston. In 1888, he came to Chester where he was a dealer in livestock and an agent for the “Deering Horse Rake and Mowing Machine,” a machine said to be the best on the market.

His wife Elizabeth ran a millinery shop in what used to be the Hilton House on Main Street in Chester. His daughter Pearl worked in the shop. Eventually Pearl would have her own millinery in what is now Chester House next to Hugging Bear Inn. Pearl Willard is a name well known to the historical society.

It was with some luck when I was reading a scrapbook of old newspaper clippings kept by Mary Harris that I found this news article from the Feb. 4, 1898 Vermont Phoenix. The area had been clobbered with a blizzard and sub-zero temperatures. Here is the article as printed:

“Wednesday the blockade was broken and our three stages came in and the communication with Boston was opened. Our streets look as if the town were preparing for a siege as many of the houses are barricaded by snow walls that bid defiance to intruders, and nothing less than the snow king can enter there. Among the thoroughly protected we note Dr. F.P. Mather’s, Charlie Miller’s and Joseph Butterfield’s residences, the tops of whose abiding-places are just visible above the skylights.

  “The sidewalks on Main Street were greatly improved by the timely arrival of C.J. Willard’s snow plows from St. Albans Wednesday. Although the walks had been broken out by the old fashioned scraper and roller, the snow was that deep that the scraper made a cat’s path with walls of snow on either side and the roller did no better work. But when Willards plow was used the walks were widened out and scraped to the hard trodden walk, leaving a clean path sufficiently wide for two pedestrians to walk abreast.”

We can conclude while Willard had been a lumberman and livestock dealer, he was also an inventor. In his day, snow-covered roads were rolled not plowed. In 1895, Willard was a leader in snowplow development in New England. I found nothing about Willard or his snowplows online.

Ted felt the snowplow model should go to the Weston Historical Society. I have had it now for a couple months. I told Ted when I saw it that I wanted to write the history of this snowplow and then I would turn it over to Weston along with the article. Weston, call me.

I heard this week’s old saying years ago when I was loading an antique cast iron stove by myself in my truck. When I told the farmer how heavy it was, he said, “Yep, it’s 16 ounces to the pound.”

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