2015 Annual Meeting
Story and Photos by Sharon Campbell Biron
Seventy enthusiastic visitors joined with members and volunteers of the Island Pond Historical Society for their 48th annual meeting at Legion Post #80 in Brighton on Sunday, Aug. 2.
Guest Speaker, Dr. Chris Dale, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Adjutant Professor of Sociology at Bentley University, and contributing scholar at the UVM center for Research on Vermont. He treated the audience to a breakdown of his recent work, a 419 page History of Island Pond, to be published by L. Brown & Sons of Barre, Vt. later this year. The hardback book encompassing the history and development of Island Pond from the 1600s up to 1930s, was first envisioned fifteen years ago during a conversation between Dr. Dale and his late father Dr. Porter H. Dale, and John Carbonneau, president emeritus of the Island Pond historical society. Carbonneau resides in Florida with his wife Elaine.
Professor Dale’s talk began with the pre-contact period and the Abenaki hunter gatherers whose migratory path traveled between Canada, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Between 1600 and 1700 the Abenaki, who were one of 89 different tribes, fought their fiercest battles with the Mohawk, and then with the French in their battles against the English. Dale described how contact with disease-affected Europeans killed thousands of Abenaki, far more than perished through warfare. After treating the audience to a powerpoint presentation on the granting of ‘Gilead’ (as Island Pond was known in 1780) to Elihu Marwin for the grand sum of four English pounds and ten shillings, Dale surprised the audience with the hitherto unknown fact that one of the area’s earliest land owners, Cyprian Sterry, a trader of Providence, Rhode Island, was instrumental in the evil practice of slave trading. From just 17 sea voyages that were financed by Cyprian Sterry 1,543 men women and children were sold into a life of misery and captivity in America, earning Cyprian Sterry a fortune.
Other aspects of Dale’s fascinating talk covered early boundary maps of Island Pond - revealing that much of the village had previously been in Wenlock, once a tiny hamlet of just 26 people. Historical documents containing the names of first settlers, such as Ezra Carter, were also shown while another topic covered by Dale was the momentous event that took place on August 5, 1851, when the cash strapped Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railroad sold out to the Canadian National Railroad and, in doing so, changed the course of history because the sale ensured that the railroad traveled not through Colebrook and Canaan, as originally planned, but through North Stratford and Island Pond, turning the town into a center of prosperity by bringing employment to hundreds, as well as necessitating a train station and customs house, and supporting the development of logging and lumber yards, plus the construction of hotels, stores, libraries, and schools, and attracting fresh blood in the form of workers from Ireland, France, Scotland and Canada.
Dale then described how the men and women of Island Pond began flocking to other towns and states, lured away either by adverts for cheap land or good wages in the textile mills, and by dreams of riches to be made in the California gold rush. Others left this area for far away states such as Ohio and Utah where they helped establish the Mormon church. Many other locals fought in the civil war, the Mexican revolution, and as far away as China in the Fall of Peking or during WWI and WWII.
Among the audience were a diverse range of age groups. The many guests included Bill Smith and his son and his grandson Nathaniel, Peter Dale, Susan Dale Kenyon, Tim Dale, former Society president Clifford Biron, Newsletter Editor and former Society president Mark Biron and his wife Sharon Campbell Biron, a local author and TV producer. Rene Roy, Stanton Johnson, state representative Paul Lefebvre, Vincent Illuzi, Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Susan Vera, Alan and Virginia Wing, Mac and Cynthia McDonald, Bradley Reynolds, Frank Allard, Pat Carbonneau, Muriel O’Gorman, Mike Bresette, Gordon and Rebecca Tracy Lefebvre, IPHS secretary Michael Strait, Legion Post Commander Jim Worth, and Mike and Jan Seguin Clarke whose antique 150 year old "Guest Register of Island Pond House’ was the star of the show.
Visitors lined up to be photographed next to the heavy leather bound Register and read the copper plate signatures of early notables who stayed at the hotel such as Thomas Holt, a famous designer of Italianate church steeples, and G.W. Noyes who compiled the notes of his ancestor John Humphrey Noyes, founder of the Oneida Community. Among the many notable guests who stayed at the Island Pond House in 1865 were Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his wife and family. The registrar is signed on behalf of General Grant by his military secretary. At a time when fires were rife and fire fighting services were in short supply, many other hotels such as the Green Mountain and the Vermont House burned down. The Island Pond House however survived well into the 20th century and became a popular venue.
Other exhibits enjoyed by the appreciative audience included an antique map dating back to 1878 that was donated by Professor Chris Dale and his sister Susan Dale, a camera donated by Lawrence Dale of Colorado, a collection of year book photos from St Mary’s Convent, rare photographs from the Mike Clarke collection, and a 1970’s mirrored Disco Ball from the now demolished Grand View on East Brighton Road that was donated to the Island Pond Historical Society by Mark & Jackie Vaillancourt.
Closing business of the meeting saw the Island Pond Historical Society’s Vice President Mr. Craig Goulet, proprietor of the Brighton Garage, present a crystal clock in a blue silk lined case to the outgoing president Linda Leavens Bresette as thanks for her service from 2011-2015, there was the annual Officers’ and Progress report by treasurer Virginia Wing, and the draw of three door prizes including an artfully decorated large slate pizza board by painter Mrs. Rebecca Tracy Lefebvre, a gallon of Whitehill’s Maple Syrup purchased from the Kingdom Supermarket, and a $25 coupon purchased from the The Hearth & Home Country Store. The meeting ended with a vote on membership dues and the election of new officers. A warm welcome was extended to the incoming president, Mrs. Betty Goupee Gilfillan of Island Pond, who thanked Professor Chris Dale for his excellent presentation. Before departing, guests and members enjoyed a buffet of fresh fruit, assorted sandwiches, cookies, cakes, hot drinks and iced water especially prepared for the occasion by caterer Amanda Phillabaum and her daughter.
Betty Gilfillan, Virginia Wing, Muriel O'Gorman and Craig Goulet welcome guests and members to the annual meeting August 2, 2015..
President Linda Leavens Bresette (standing in far right addresses the gathering.
Pat Carbonneau (above standing) announced that she was present at the first historical society meeting forty-eight years ago.
Mike Clarke points out where an Aide to General Ulysses S. Grant signed the names of General Grant and family and members of his staff when they briefly stopped over at the Island Pond House August 5, 1865 on their way to Quebec, Canada.