June 2020

While many museums in Vermont remain closed, including the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury; Burlington's Shelburne, and many Vermont historical society museums, the 'behind the scenes' work at the IPHS is still ongoing; endlessly fascinating, and never seems to end!

Our Memorial Dept. Chairperson Jan Clarke, who retires this autumn for a well earned rest after twenty five years of excellent service is still busily replying to the memorial donation letters that arrive in, the latest being from the relatives of the late Joan L. Stafford who was born on June 28, 1949 in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

Joan passed away on May 2, 2020 and was predeceased by her parents, L. Nicholas Stafford and Mary (O’Gorman), by her infant twin sister Joann, her brothers (twins) Gordon Stafford and Gregory (McGee) Stafford and her nephew-in-law, Timothy Sabol.

Joan is survived by her daughter Heather Stafford, son and daughter-in-law, Gary and Linnea Aubut, her grandchildren, Ian and Lucy, her sister and brother-in-law Jane (Stafford) and Richard Othot and sister-in-law, Rita Stafford. She also leaves behind adoring nieces and nephews, Timothy, Paul, Paula and Sharon Stafford and Steven, Sharon (Sabol), Jason, Brian, and Liz Othot, and loving Aunts Muriel and Dot O’Gorman.














Recent deaths included Rendall H. Nicholls, 87, of Derby, VT. Rendall passed away at his home on May 11, 2020 in Derby. He was born March 1, 1933 in Brighton, VT., to the late Howard Nichols and Bertha (Lassande) Nichols. 


Ouida Ewens Testut also passed away on May 24th following a very tragic car accident on May 19 on Route 105 in Derby.   I know that you and your fellow members join with myself and the IPHS executive in expressing our sincere sympathies to each of the bereaved families.










Here in Island Pond the bereaved are treated very gently, as I know very well myself. Life right now, however, is a little subdued. Yet the town is looking very well, including the church as seen above, and the town hall, seen below. We seem to have weathered the winter very nicely you'll be pleased to see.








If you visit, you will notice things are still very quiet. Very little has returned to normal. Slowly, life will resume, but until that happens we must remain patient especially now that the covid-19 virus appears to be decreasing. There were, apparently, only 2 cases of covid-19 registered in Essex County.








Worryingly, twenty new cases of covid-19 were reported in Winooski a day or two ago so the message is clear - we here in Essex County must remain vigilant and not make the mistake of letting our guard down yet!

The IPHS is also busy with the Headstone & Floral Tributes dept. run by IPHS Trustee James O'Gorman. His son Austin graduated from UVM in May with a business degree! Like many graduates Austin didn't have a 'proper' UVM ceremony due to social distancing, but he did have a big party here!


Later this year, when Jan retires, Austin's father James will take over as Chairman of the Memorial dept. For now, James is writing grants and doing a wonderful job of restoring new life into old headstones such as this one.

In this photo James is seen at the Maw family headstone. Perhaps you remember the Maw family? Charlie Maw was Roundhouse manager and selectman for 27 years.

If you remember Charlie get in touch with your memories. Likewise, if you recall Wilbur Frey we'd love to hear from you. One of his sons - Geoffrey, is very good at keeping in touch, so contact iphspresident@yahoo.com Your memories of Wilbur could appear in the Winter 2020 IPHS newsletter.


On Memorial day May 25 Muriel Maw O'Gorman and I visited my late husband Mark's grave in Arlington. I'd never visited the cemetery on Memorial Day before and was shocked by the miles long lines of cars, each bearing family members who wanted to pay their respects to dearly loved lost ones.







Just as promised, flags had been placed on every grave including Mark's, seen above. The whole cemetery was decorated with flags, I was very moved. The grass around Mark's headstone has now grown, and I was able to leave white roses in memory of Mark. It was very hot that day! Muriel sat in the shade, this was her first return to D.C in 82 years! 








After visiting Arlington, Muriel and I were joined by her son, James, for a brief trip to Weems - not far from Williamsburg, in Virginia, where we visited the historic Christ Church - built by Robert 'King' Carter, and met the executive director of Christ Church, Robert Teagle, who was a most informative and learned fellow. This church is a colonial masterpiece, an absolute National Treasure that Mark and I had often returned to over the fourteen years we were married.







The building is curious, according to some it was built from a plan by Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul's cathedral. He was largely responsible for rebuilding the city of London after the Great Fire of 1666.  It is said that Christ Church was  constructed using sacred geometry, hence visitors are able to tell 'the time, date, and month' from the way shadows fall across the brick work!

Interestingly, the church keyhole - when peeped through, reveals the absolute center of the altar! Here is IPHS Trustee James H. O'Gorman checking the feature for himself!



Whether or not Robert Teagle ever gets to the bottom of the mystery builder of Christ Church is a good question. This is a beautiful church and such a rarity. In this photo, Muriel can be seen wearing her IPHS shirt at Christ Church!


Other pertinent news up here was the historic announcement from Travis Bingham - acting Chief of Police in Newport, and from the Vermont Trooper's Association in which they 'strongly condemned the death of George Floyd'. 







This welcome news from Travis and the Vermont Trooper's Association is something we can be proud of, it was here in Vermont that Slavery was banned outright upon the founding of Vermont in July 1777. By a further Constitutional provision (existing) male slaves became free at age 21 and females at the age of 18.

In human rights, Vermont has led the way. In issuing their statement the Vermont Trooper's Association have gained new respect. They said: "Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck. Four officers are now charged in Floyd's death and all four were fired. We stand with all marginalized communities in their outrage regarding the disturbing and indefensible actions as well as the systemic racism in our nation that contributed to this tragedy." 


Later, Vermont's Governor Scott condemned Floyd's death. He called for all of the officers to be charged, saying "George Floyd's death was barbaric and inexcusable."







Me and good friend Travis Bingham.

As president of this society I am only too aware of the sentiments of the members, some of whom have contacted me privately to say how upset and outraged they were both by the manner of George Floyd's death and by the frightening riots that broke out across this nation.


I am certain all IPHS members were distressed by this horrible tragedy. Many demonstrations have taken place - not only in American cities, but in cities all around the world as protestors have gathered to make their voices heard. Not all of those protests were peaceful but, here in Vermont, you will be pleased to know that among the most peaceful of these was the demonstration that took place in Newport on Sunday June 7th when I joined with NEK teachers; professionals, students, and Vermonters of all ages and backgrounds to take part in a March for Peace and Healing.







The march was organized by Miss Kayla Birk, a 16 year old student. It was wonderful, too, to meet up with Travis again. Pam Ladds and many others acted as safety marshalls and other attendees included the  friends of the IPHS's own late Dr. Manfred Rieder von Starhamberg who left his model train and watches collection to the IPHS museum.







I was proud to be there in a personal capacity to remind the world that it was here in Vermont in 1777 - during the founding of this state, that the rights of Black men and women were recognized. 

That wonderful historical record is something which all Vermonters and IPHS members can be very proud of indeed!


Sharon J. Biron

IPHS President 

© 2018 by Island Pond Historical Society