Living on the Land

We note with sadness that since this page was created, several of those mentioned below have passed away. Rather than remove their names, we leave them here as a kind of memorial to the extraordinary people they were.

Mud Season Evenings

Barn - Karin Lindstrom, Nykoping, Sweden

Photo: Karin Lindstrom

Each mud season from 2003 through 2005, the Bennington County Conservation District and friends celebrated our county's rural heritage with a series of evenings of story-telling - on making a living on the land, then and now. We heard about logging with horses, feeding the fire in the one-room schoolhouse, lightning hitting the herd of Holsteins, a cattle drive through Manchester, falling in love at 4-H camp, and jokes enough to fill a book. Art and Kathy Whitman, owners of Whitman's Feed Store in North Bennington, hosted the evenings. Sponsors included the Bennington, Pownal, and Manchester Historical Societies; Bennington Museum; Burdett Commons in Arlington; and the r.k. Miles Company.

And our storytellers? What kinds of people live and work on the land in southwestern Vermont? People like these (in no particular order):

  • Clause Dern, a longtime Dorset resident and a logger, created and produced the cable feature Vermont Forests. He is author of the "One a Night" mystery series, including such thrillers as At the Bottom of It, A Woodford, Vermont Mystery.
  • Bill Downey, originally a "boy from the Bronx," has lived in the shadow of Mt. Equinox most of his life, where he and his wife Lauren own Uphill Farm. There they produce trees, beef, lambs, maple products and extraordinary items from Bill's shop for Manchester Woodcraft, Lauren's family's store.
  • Jim Williamson is a Shaftsbury native whose family has owned State Line Hill Farm since 1939. They milked Holsteins initially, but later switched to Guernseys, and stayed with them for more than five decades.
  • Don Wilson restored antique vehicles, made guitars, and grows hay on the former Hulet farm in Arlington. His grandmother taught at Shaftsbury Elementary School.
  • Keith Armstrong, a Pownal native, was an artificial insemination technician for 33 years. He's sold his own home-grown vegetables at his Pownal farmstand since the late 1970s, and runs about 3000 taps in his sugarbush.
  • Charlie Palmer is a retired dairy and fruit and vegetable farmer whose strawberries - the Honeyes, the Cavendishes - were favorites of generations of locals. He served Pownal, his home town, as a Vermont state legislator for 12 years.
  • Ivan Beattie breeds and raises Morgan horses on his farm in the Batten Kill valley in Manchester. His kids are seventh generation Vermonters.
  • Betty Bolognani grew up in Stamford on her family's farm but has spent her married life in Readsboro. Betty is a former state representative and 4-H educator.
  • In his best year, Bill Clark of Pawlet (just over the county line) made about 2,700 gallons of maple syrup. He won't forget the Sunday in the 1960s when his family hosted 2,000 visitors (!) to the sap house on Maple Sunday.
  • Malcolm Cooper grew up in Dorset Hollow and lives today about half a mile from his childhood home. His family owns JK Adams Co. (maker of fine wood products and seller of fine kitchen products).
  • Wally Dolle has spent all but two of his seventy-plus years in Stamford. His father owned a sawmill, and for many years Wally used draft horses to log in the winter and hay in the summer.
  • Merritt Hewitt lived in Shaftsbury all his life, much of it on his Double TT Farm, where he raised registered Holsteins for many years and for some time ran a dairy. Merritt since passed away.
  • Ted Hopkins has been a carpenter in Manchester for forty-plus years. He says of his storytelling about old Vermont that he "could go on for days."
  • Bob Williams is an educator, author, and curator of the Shaftsbury Historical Society. Bob grew up on a farm on Myers Road in Shaftsbury and has written about those years in his book Chalice of Leaves.
  • Bruce Caler worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 25 years and has a keen interest in logging history. He used to keep three pair of oxen, but now specializes in miniature donkeys.
  • Joe Hall grew up in Bennington on the family dairy farm. He ran a retail milk route for Fairdale Farms for some years. Joe and his wife Mary and family manage two wood lots from which they harvest (and split) nearly twenty cords of wood annually.
  • Leon Jacobs was born on a farm in Bennington. Skunk pelts, among others, paid for his school clothes. He worked for New York Artificial Breeders for many years. He loves nothing more than hunting turkeys.
  • Scott Mayer owned a logging business for 47 years. He "subsidized" his logging with fur trapping, ginseng hunting, cone collecting - anything to keep him in the woods.
  • Russ Record started working for the U.S. Forest Service right out of high school and retired in 2003.
  • Helen Renner learned to walk hanging on to the family cow dog (a collie). She did chores each morning before heading off to school. Renner covered the Pownal beat for the North Adams Transcript newspaper for many years.

Mount Anthony Union High School "Bennington As History" Project

Barn - Anita Levesque

Photo: Anita Levesque

The program expanded in spring 2005 when students in the Mount Anthony Union High School Advanced Placement history and English classes became involved. They interviewed a number of elders, and put those videographs and interviews, photographs and research on a website. You can see some of their work here: MAUHS - Bennington As History