Vermont justice

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

It’s probably 20 years since Hessie told me a story about Ernie Duprey. When I was a kid, Ernie lived where the brick bank is today on Main Street in Chester. I remember walking by his house. He always had a backhoe or other piece of equipment in his yard.

Ted Spaulding remembered the story Hessie told me. Ted knew the people involved and witnessed the aftermath. It occurred about 1953 on Route 10 between Gassetts and North Springfield.

Ernie owned a woodlot on Route 103 about where you enter Proctorsville Gulf when headed north. This is near the area where today there’s a taxidermist.

Ernie had his firewood cut and stacked in rows. He sold firewood and delivered it in the area with his dump truck. One day, Ernie noticed he was missing some firewood. At this same time, the state was cutting trees in the gulf. You may recall in recent years when the state cut the trees in the gulf. In Ernie’s day, the state gave the wood away. You could stop and take what you wanted.

The Lovely place today on Ted's property.
The Lovely place today on Ted’s property. Photo by Ron Patch

On Route 10, opposite where Ted and Nonie Spaulding live today was the Lovely place. Ted’s folks ran the town farm at the time. The Lovelys were Elleck and his wife Nellie.

Ernie couldn’t afford losing firewood, so he did as some Vermonters would have done in that day and age. He took a chunk of wood off the end of the woodpile. With his drill, he bored a hole in the end of the chunk and packed the hole with gunpowder. Then he drove a wooden plug into the hole to hide his handiwork and put the chunk back in the woodpile.

Time passed until one day there was an explosion at the Lovely place. Ted went to see the damage done within hours of the explosion. Below is what Ted told me.

The woodstove was what Ted calls an “end heater.” This stove was a narrow, oblong cook stove with two griddles on top for cooking. The stove had a cast iron firebox. It was made to look like a modern appliance with a white enamel cabinet enclosing the stove. This kitchen area was in an addition.

When Ted walked into the kitchen, soot was everywhere. When the stove blew, the griddles were blown upward through the ceiling. The ceiling was made of what was known as “stone wallboard.” This wallboard was an asbestos product about a quarter-inch thick. The end of the stove was spread wide open. There were some plastic dishes in the sink that melted when embers landed in the sink. Lovely couldn’t complain for if he did he would be admitting to stealing. No one was injured in the blast.

In 1967, the Lovely place came up for sale. Ted and Nonie bought the property to protect their view. Originally, Nonie was going to open her yarn shop here. By 1973, the taxes were getting too high. Ted decided to dismantle the home. It’s a post and beam construction with eight-inch by eight-inch timbers. Ted numbered all of the timbers and other building components. It had been a barn before it was moved to the Lovely site in the early 1900s.

He used his brother’s truck in the beginning to move the building’s components over to his property. Jerry Stewart had a heavy-duty trailer he used to move his equipment. Ted borrowed Jerry’s trailer and loaded it with building materials and drew it up to his place.

In the past I have seen a number of old buildings dismantled and set up in a new location as Ted did. It’s a big job even for an experienced crew. Every timber and board has to be numbered so it can be reassembled as it was. It’s a giant jigsaw puzzle.

I quizzed Ted as to how he did it by himself. It was rather ingenious how he did it. Today, the Lovely place sits on Ted’s property as a workshop. It’s a fine looking building as you can see in the photo with this article. I love the saltbox profile. It is a classic early New England design.

  This week’s old saying is something Ted mentioned to me when we were talking on the phone last week. He was telling me about someone he used to know. When I asked Ted if the man ever married, Ted replied, “He was married for a few minutes.”

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