Town Meetin’

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 select minutes from 1870s Chester Town Meetings. For our upcoming book, “History of Chester’s Fire Departments” we will include these and other relevant minutes. This article existed in one form or another for several years. I think readers will find it interesting. Fire District #2 is Yo-Semite Engine Hall.


History of Chester's Fire Departments book cover.
History of Chester’s Fire Departments book cover. Photo provided

Town Meeting March 23, 1873

Article 4: “To see if the town will vote to authorize and instruct the selectmen to draw on the Town Treasury for the amount not to exceed $1500. As the town may vote payable to the treasurer of Fire District #2 for the purpose defraying a portion of the expense said district has incurred in the purchase of a Fire Engine and other apparatus for the extinguishment of fires. Voted to dismiss the article.”

  Town Meeting March 5, 1878

Article 10: “To see if the town will vote to raise $800. Or any other sum of money for the purpose of Assisting Fire District #2 in said Chester in building an Engine House. Voted to dismiss.”

  Town Meeting March 25, 1878

“To see if the town will vote to pay Fire District #2 any part of the expense of erecting their Engine House. Or be paid when engine house is completed. Voted to dismiss the article.”

The following article I found in Mary Harris’s scrapbook. This tragic story, while not a structure fire, will be included in our upcoming book. This occurred near Bailey’s Mills, north of Kim Kendall.

  Mary Harris’ scrapbook May 1, 1908

“The town was horrified over the terrible accident which caused the death of Mrs. Davis Burke the past week. Mrs. Burke who was living for some time with her sister, Miss Marcia Bailey on the Bailey farm two miles north of the town, was raking leaves Friday noon out in the yard behind the barn and unbeknown to her, her sister decided to burn them. The fire ran along the dry grass towards the barn and fearing the building would catch, Mrs. Burke turned to the house for water to stop the fire.

“When near the shed which opens into the kitchen, she discovered that the back of clothing was ablaze. Running into the shed she sat down in the tub, which was used to catch the running water, but this only served to drive the flames toward the front. She then ran into kitchen and took the dipper and returning to the tub tried to throw water upon herself. Her sister who was visiting a neighbor Mrs. Bernice Earle in the front of the house heard the dipper rattle in sink and at the same time Mrs. Earle thought she heard Mrs. Burke call ‘Marcia.’

“They hurried into the kitchen to find it full of smoke and Mrs. Burke at the door with her clothing all burned off except for her shoes and part of her corsets. The flesh was burned that it fell away from her. In spite of the intense suffering her first thought was for the fire which was creeping toward the barn and Mrs. Earle hurried out to call help for that which Miss Bailey was telephoning for the Doctor, Mrs. Burke walked up the stairs and removed what was left of her corsets and put on a wrapper.

“Dr. Havens dressed her burns as well as he could but the back and lower part of her body was literally cooked and not until the next day when he assisted by Dr. Ray made a more thorough examination did they realize how terrible she was burned.

“Her suffering for the first twenty-four hours was beyond description as she was conscious all the time and realizing everything. Her death which occurred at midnight Saturday was merciful. Mrs. Burke was fifty-eight years old a daughter of Mrs. Willard, Bailey’s Mills who [died] last winter. She was a widow of the late Theron Davis and leaves one daughter Allie Davis now Mrs. Waldo Stevens. She later married Mr. Sidney Burke who had one daughter Abbie Burke a schoolgirl who Mrs. Burke has been a devoted stepmother and three sons, Aden, Sidney, and Fred Burke. Mr. Burke died several years ago. Much sympathy is expressed for the relatives, for the shock of the terrible death will be long felt. The funeral was held in the Congregational church Tuesday at two o’clock, the pastor Rev. H. I. Ballou officiated assisted by Rev. I. P. Booth of the Universalist church.”

This week’s old saying is from Don Webster: “I never have had an original thought.”

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