Saturday, August 30, 2008

vermont then and now

So, I had a wonderful trip to Vermont. Part of the allure of this trip for me was that all my life I've been surrounded by grandpa and great-grandpa's paintings of the Greensboro area, as well as Uncle Jack and grandpa's photos of their summers there. In Sara Dana's memoir, her descriptions of growing up in St. Johnsbury and the surrounding towns were so vivid! It was a magnetic kind of place that drew them back year after year. They were also friends with Greensboro's notable Bliss Perry, a professor at Williams College and Princeton who enticed many creative types and intellectuals to the join him in the hills of Vermont. The Perry family, along with numerous other Greensboro residents, appear throughout Uncle Jack's photo album.

You'd think I'd want to get away from libraries during my vacation, but in the 3 days of my trip I visited 3 libraries -- The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, The Abbott Memorial Library in Pomfret, and the Greensboro Free Library, where I discovered new information about our family and these towns where they lived. Coincidentally, while I was at the library in Pomfret I met a library patron who summered in Greensboro, and recognized many of the faces in Uncle Jack's photos. She helped fill in many details for me.

Also coincidentally, the lady who runs the Estabrook House Bed & Breakfast where I stayed is named Maureen Chace Hennings. She lived next door to Halcyon Farm in Lakeville in the late 60s and early 70s, and is a 4th cousin to Aunt Cyndie! She had both Waddah and Uncle John as teachers at Apponequet. How funny is that?

So I poked around St. Johnsbury, where Sara Dana's family moved in 1857 , down from the "howling winds and snowdrifts on the bleak heights" of Danville. St. Johnsbury of today is an interesting mix of grand architecture and culture left over from the Victorian era with sort of weary rural/urban dilapidation at the edges. The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum was a treasure trove of information, in addition to being one of the loveliest libraries I've seen. They have a world class art gallery including the huge and impressive painting, Albert Bierstadt's "The Domes of Yosemite."

While there I visited the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery to see the Dana lot, where the following ancestors are buried or have markers:

  • Charles Smith Dana and Arvilla Sinclair Dana [Sara Dana's parents]
  • Abby Dana Loomis [Sara's sister]
  • Sally Loomis Wilson [Abby's daughter]
  • Israel Putnam Dana [Sara's brother]
  • Chester & Sara Dana Loomis
I visited Pomfret on Thursday, where Isaac Dana and his son John Wincester Dana were two of its earliest proprietors. There is still a Dana Road in North Pomfret. John's Wincester's son Israel Putnam Dana, and his son, Charles Smith Dana, lived in Danville with their families. Arvilla Sinclair's ancestors lived in Greensboro, Hardwick, and Danville, where I visted on my last day.
For more photos in addition to those below, see my Flickr photostream.

Dana House, Main Street, St. Johnsbury-- now known as the Pearl House and broken up into residential apartments

Hills of Vermont -- unfinished oil painting by Chester Loomis
Hills of Danville
Greensboro watercolor by Charles Dana Loomis 1934

Uncle Jack (center) and friends swimming in Caspian Lake, Greensboro circa 1905
Uncle Jack looking dapper -- he subtitled this photo "Dutchman's breeches"

Off on a jaunt, Greensboro

Sketch of Uncle Jack at Greensboro by Grandpa Loomis
Skinny dipping at Bathtub Rocks, Greensboro
Grandpa Loomis with dog and friends, Greensboro circa 1910

Grandpa and Sara Dana return to Caspian Lake circa 1926/7

Grandpa with Esther and Dana, Caspian Lake, circa 1926/7
Hills of Greensboro

Chester Loomis chatting with Justice Wendell Stafford. St. Johnsbury, circa 1906
Dana Marker, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, St. Johnsbury
More photos on my Flickr photostream page.

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