Yosemite history

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 knotz69@gmail.com.

Among the many donations, Ted Spaulding has made to the Chester Historical Society are many photos, documents, and records regarding Yosemite Firehouse.

Ted’s father Ed was a fireman at Yosemite. I found this entry in the Yosemite ledger the historical society has in its collection: “Aug 26, 1915 Edward Spaulding presented for membership and voted in.”

This ledger is chockablock full of Yosemite history. All of the firemen are listed – many names I recognize – fires they fought, meetings, parades and more. Over the years, there were several recording clerks. Ed Bates couldn’t spell worth a hill of beans, but his entries are fun to read. He spelled parade as “praid.” Roll called is “roale caled. Practice is “practis.”

1904 photo of W.R. Spaulding sitting on the hand-pumper at Yosemite with his team of white horses. Photo provided by Ted Spaulding
1904 photo of W.R. Spaulding sitting on the hand-pumper at Yosemite with his team of white horses. Photo provided by Ted Spaulding

Ed Spaulding kept three notebooks in the 1930s, which Ted has given us. The rest of this article is taken from those notebooks.

In the 1930s, Ed lived in the house across from Lisai’s Market. It was the Depression and money was tight. As I have written before, Ed took most any work to get by. Below are some of his duties at Yosemite.

In the winter, the fires at Yosemite had to be kept burning 24 hours a day. It appears Yosemite firemen totaled some 25-plus men. Many would have lived a mile or more away. They needed someone who lived close by to tend fires, shovel snow, and to do janitor work.

Ed was that fireman. The fires had to be kept burning so the wet, canvas hoses could dry once hung. Otherwise, they would freeze, rendering them useless if needed.

Many nights, Ed would have gotten out of bed at least once and walked down to Yosemite to stoke the fires. On colder nights, Ed probably fed the fires at 9 p.m., midnight, and three in the morning. These estimated times are based on my own experiences burning wood. Imagine getting out of a warm bed at 20 below zero and walking down to stoke the fires and at 25 cents per hour.

Ed records his janitor work and other duties and how much he was paid. One entry: “Paid January 8, 1934 for fighting fires 1933 $18.”

He also records several fires he fought. “Jan 26, 1934 Fire at Sherwin Market. Two hours on hose.”

Sherwin’s Market was located where Southern Pie Company is today.

Other entries: “3 hrs putting hose on truck.” He records hanging hoses and rolling them when dry.

“2 hrs on truck,” “2 hrs on tub putting it in form.”

This entry records something previously unknown to me. From Ed’s notebook: “Mar 10, 1934 Dance 3 hrs.” There are several entries for dances held upstairs of Yosemite. I did not know they held dances there.

I can picture the 25 or so firemen with their wives going to a dance at Yosemite. It was probably a fiddle band playing lively music accompanied with guitar and banjo. Some lived close enough to walk to the dance. Most would have driven a car. I bet they were fun dances.

The door

The photo with this article was taken in 1904. You’ll notice the door is not as wide as it is today. In this photo, you can clearly see the right side of the door ends before the upper window. Today the door is much wider and extended to be under the upper window. When was the door widened?

In Ed’s notebook, I found this entry: “Nov 7-8, 1934. Putting up tracks for door 3 hrs.” Ed told Ted the door was of the rolling style.

Ted told me the track hung from the ceiling. This door would have had individual panels maybe 18 inches wide. At the top of each door panel were the rollers that rode on the track.

The door, when opened, would make the curve on the end near the street. The track was just inside the door opening along the inside of the wall parallel to the street. As you opened the door, the panels would follow the track inside the station.

The photo with this article shows Ted’s grandfather, W.R. Spaulding, sitting on our 1849 hand-pumper with his matched pair of white horses. It is one of the many photos in “Pictorial History of Chester, Andover, Weston, & Londonderry.”

They are available at Lisai’s Markets in Bellows Falls and Chester, Erskine’s Feed Store, Stonehouse Antiques Center, Blair Books & More, Chester Hardware, The Framery of Vermont, Mike and Tammie’s in Londonderry, and Weston Marketplace.

  This week’s old saying I found in a 1925 schoolgirls autograph book:

“Ashes to ashes

Dust to dust

There isn’t a man

A woman can trust”

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