The following is from "The Family of Willis Vernon Farr" by Jayne E. Bickford:
There is a bridge between Westminster, Vermont, and Walpole, New Hampshire, over the Connecticut River. I find in my mothers papers, originally belonging to her father, Willis Vernon, newspaper Items concerning this bridge, and I quote them here for your interest. It would appear that an article was printed in the Brattleboro Phoenix in 1910 with which Willis disagreed, so he wrote an article for publication.
“Historical Fects About the Old Bridge
“Some facts of historical interest concerning the Walpole and Westminster bridge which was burned a few days ago are given herewith: After the second loss in the destruction of the eastern section of the bridge the Walpole and Westminster Bridge corporation, which had owned and controlled the toll bridge many years, became anxious to give it up and offered to sell it for a small sum. The town of Walpole, having held a town meeting and having voted to pay two-thirds of' the expense of building a new bridge and of buying the corporate interest in the old one. this town, at its annual town meeting, March 1, 1870, voted to appropriate the sum of $1500 and instructed its selectmen to unite with the selectmen of Walpole in buying the interests lin the old bridge corporation. At a speclal town meeting held April 23, 1870, it was voted to approtpiate an additional sum of $700 to carry out an agreement which had been signed by the selectmen of both towns and had been accepted and ratified at this special meeting, which read as follows:
"Whereas the Walpole and Westminster bridge corporation and the stockholders of said corporation have signified their desire to give up said corporate prorerty for a nominal sum in consideration of having a public highway laid and built over said franchise, and certain Individuals in Walpole having pledged themselves to pay two thousand dollars, Cheshire railroad to furnish one thousand dollars in material and labor and individuals in Westrninster and Rockingham one thousand dollars for the purpose of having, and maintaining said public highway, therefore, we, the selectmen of the respective towns aforesaid, agree to the following arrangement, to wit: The selectmen of Walpole, New Hampshire, to survey and lay out upon the line of the late bridge belonging to said corporation a public highway to the west line of New Hampshire: and the selectmen of Westminster, Vermont, to survey and lay out a public highway to the line of said bridge to the east line of Vermont: and further In behalf of said towns do hereby agree to build and maintain a public highway or free bridge over said route in the proportion of two-thirds of the expense to be borne by the said town of Walpole and one-third by the said town of Westminster, said agreement to be in force and virtue until either of said towns shall vote to discontinue said highway and they further agree that the necessary measures shall be taken by said towns to secure acts or laws by the legislature of their respective states legalizing this agreement (if not so now) and making such laws as shall be necessary to regulate the care and maintenance of said bridge hereafter as a public highway in the foregoing proportions.
"Given under our hands at Walpole and Westminster this 23d day of April, A. D. 1870. Charles Fisk Frederick Watkins, Neheatab Royce, selectmen of Walpole; Henry C. Lane, D. C. Gorham, Nathan Fisher, selectmen of Westminster.
“At a special town meeting June 20, following, called for the purpose of appropriating a further sum for the above purpose, the town voted to interest its selectmen to do nothing further about the matter and refused to aprropriate any more money toward building the bride. This action caused considerable feeling, culminating in the calling of the third town meeting held on July 8, following, which resulted In rescinding the action taken at the former meeting, and the selectmen were authorized and instructed to carry out the provisions of the above agreement and draw their orders on the treasury for a sufficient sum for the same. The bridge was built and opened for travel in the fall of 1870 with a grand celebration, and at the time of its destruction it had nearly reached Its 40th birthday anniversary.
“The Westminster-Walpole Bridge.
“Editor of the Phoenix:
“I read with interest the article in your issue of the 15th inst. entitled 'HIstorical Facts about the old bridge. ' The article fails to give all the facts and for that reason I ask for space in your paper to add other facts to the history of the 'Old Bridge. I have in my possession a copy of the original survey of the bridge road, so called, through the land of Ezra T. Cone in Westminster, Vt.:
“Beginning on the east side of the main street at the south bar-post leading into Ezra T. Cone's meadow, from thence South 69 degrees, east 74 rods to the southwest corner of the bridge which is contemplated to be built across the Connecticut river between Walpole and Westminster. Said road is laid three rods wide lying on the northerly side of said line. Surveyed April 25th, 1806, by Nicanor Townsley, Aaron Hitchcock, Nathaniel McNeil, selectmen.
“Hence you see that the Westminster survey referred to amounted to a few feet from the southwest corner of the bridge to low water mark.
“In the allusion to the old bridge company your article of the 15th carries the idea that the company was seeking to profit by a sale of their rights to the towns without telling what actually was done. My parents were stockholders in that bridge company and as soon as my father, the late John Vernon Farr, could get to Walpole after two- thirds of the toll bridge had gone down stream he called on the late Herbert Bellows, who was the owner of the largest block of stock in the bridge, and offered to donate his stock and as much more in money towards establishIng a free bridge between the two towns If Mr. Bellows would do likewise. Mr. Bellows replied that he put his money into the bridge as an Investment and he was 'going to have it out.' My father replied: 'You are worth dollars to me cents, but I have traveled 16 years and appreciate the benefIts of a free bridge. Father went home discouraged for he knew that with the largest stock-holder against him he had an up-hill task to secure a free bridge. But his parting words had the desired effect. The following morning Mr. Bellows drove around via Bellows Falls to return my father's call. As he drove into the yard he accosted father with the remark, Well, Farr, I have thought better of your proposition and am ready to do your bidding.
'Hence they agreed to each start a paper in their respective towns heading them with their own subscription of stock and cash. Through the efforts of the two men not only was the stock in the toll bridge donated, but a large amount of money was secured toward constructing a free bridge. These contributions were turned over to the towns of Walpole and Westminster on condition that a free bridge be constructed and maintained between them. The offer was accepted and not only has a free bridge been enjoyed by Walpole and Westminster nearly 40 years, but it has been enjoyed also by tourists on their way from Boston to the Champlain Valley or from New York to the White mountains.
“Trusting that what I have written will add to, rather than detract from, the interest of your readers in the first free bridge to span the Connecticut river between Cheshire county, New Hampshire, and Windham County, Vermont, I am Yours for the public good,
WIILLIS V. FARR.
Burlington, Vt., April 25, 1910”
And another item concerning the bridge which appeared in the Bellows Falls Times of 12 May 1910:
“We have read with interest the letter in a recent issue of the TIMES by W. V. Farr. The facts given in the historical sketch also publIshed in this paper are correct as can be shown by the town records and by consulting with the older residents of the town. The survey of the highway referred to in Mr. Farr's letter was superceded by another made by the late M. W. Davis July 22, 1870, and immediately following the closing of the contract for the building of the bridge which was recently burned. The survey was made to the west abutment of the Walpole and Westminster bridge and the selectmen laid out and opened the same for travel at once in accordance with the survey then made. There were many others besides those named in Mr. Farr's communication who did valiant service in the work of rebuilding the brIdge. We could name more than two score who gave freely of their time and money for the enterprise. Nearly all of these have passed on and joined the great majority and only a very few are now living who were in active life at that time. The years that have come and gone since the stirring events which took place before the bridge could be built show now that they builded well, even far better than they anticipated and it is for the resent generation to maintain the same standard.
The following is also from "The Family of Willis Vernon Farr" by Jayne E. Bickford:
Among my mother's papers I find a license for Willis V. Farr to teach any Common School in Westminster, Vt. until 1 Jun 1885, and I understand he did teach for a short time. This license is headed “State of Vermont” and is signed by John B. Morse, Town Superintendent. The license was issued as the result of Willis having taken an oral and written examination, at Fayetteville on the “1st day of April last, “ and the license is dated 7 Nov 1884 (when Willis would have been 18 years of age). The results of the written examination are shown:
Us. & C. Gov 90
General Average 82
It obviously was Willis' lack of knowledge of physiology which pulled his general average down.
After my father's death when I lacked twelve days of being one year old, my mother and I lived with my Farr grandparents (Willis and Ethel). Before my father's death, he and my mother lived in a small apartment on the second floor of my grandparents borne at 83 North Union Street, Burlington, Vermont, and I was, in fact, born in my grandfather's first floor bedroom in the same house. When my grandparents began going to Florida winters, my mother and I went with them. Growing up with ny grandparents brought me In contact with many family members, family outings and recollections which in all probability would not have been mine had my father lived, for I understand my father was about to buy a store and move to Ludlow, Vermont.
The first few years of my grandparents' married life were filled with frequent relocations. You will note that my mother, Vina, the first child, was born at Fairfax, Vermont. At this time her parents were living with Ethel's parents. The next child, John, was born on Champlain Street, Burlington, which Ethel's parents gave to her and her husband for a wedding present. By the time the third child, Mary Delphine, was born, Ethel and Willis were living in Westminster (I think in the home of John Vernon Farr). By 1904 they had returned to Fairfax to care for Ethel 's father, her mother having died, and their son Robert was born there. In 1905 they were back in Westminster (this time in the house now owned by John E. Farr) and Nattie was born there.
Subsequently Willis and Ethel bought a house at 77 Buell Street, Burlington, and in 1910 daughter Thelma's birth blessed the household. In 1912 daughter Alma was born in the sane house. Then Willis and Ethel sold the Buell Street house and bought the house at 83 North Union Street, a sixteen-room, four story building, with plenty of room for their large family. Frank was born there in 1914. The Farrs continued to live in this house until 1936 when they sold it and moved their belongings to their summer place at Hinesburg. Until World War II and gas rationing kept them in Florida, they wintered in Florida and summered at Hinesburg. Until December of 1943 when their daughter Delphine and her husband died two days apart, they were content with this arrangement, although they missed not seeing their children in the North more. But soon after these tragic deaths, my grandparents sold their Florida property and bought a house at 376 South Winooski Avenue, Burlington. They also sold the Hinesburg property. And this house at 376 South Winooski Avenue was where Willis Vernon Farr died about a month after it had become necessary to amputate one of his legs. I had gone to Washington, D. C. to work in 1942 so I was not with my mother and my grandparents when they made this relocation. After my grandfather's death, my grandmother sold the Winooski Avenue house and moved into one-halt of her son John's home at Westminster, Vermont.
In 1936 when the Farrs sold their North Union Street home, the following item appeared in the Burlington Free Press with a picture of my grandfather, Willis Vernon Farr:
“HINESBURG, Sept. 1.--When Willis V. Farr moved here this week from Burlington he lacked only five months of completing half a century of residence in the Queen City. Closing their home at 83 North Union Street, in which they have lived for more than two decades, Mr. and Mrs. Farr have transferred their furniture and personal belongings to their summer home 'Few Acres,' here where they expect to remain until next week when they plan to go to Florida for the winter.
“Along with Mr. and Mrs. Farr, Hinesburg has gained a choice collection of antique furniture and historical curios. Most of the items in the Farr collection have a Vermont history, having been gathered by Mr. Farr during his travels about the State as subscription solicator and office representative of the Free Press. Besides several Boston rockers, Windsor chairs and maple tables, the items include a leg-stand safe of curly birch from Starksboro, a half dozen fiddle-back chairs from Brandon, an old-fashioned high office desk, a cane-bottom chair from the Chester Arthur home in Fairfield, a cabinetmaker's bench said to have belonged to Gov. Thomas Chittenden, a large copper kettle used for making soap in Westminster, a mortar and pestle from the Gov. Chittenden home, a Federal license to butcher issued to Elbridge Rugg in 1866, several Currier & Ives prints, a 'Walton's Vermont Register and Farmer's Almanack' of 1824 and a draft of the first school in Huntington dated 1821.
“Coming to Burlington from his home in Westminster in January, 1888, at the age of 21, Mr. Farr, during that same year, entered the employ of the Free Press, securing subscriptions for the weekly edition of the paper. His first subscription was secured in Shelburne from the late Henry Saxton and since then he has secured hundreds of subscriptions in all parts of northern and central Vermont. Travelling by train, by horse and by foot, and in later days by automobile, Mr. Farr has covered thousands of miles in the State and interviewed thousands of Vermonters. In 1808 while travelling over Lincoln mountain by foot, he was caught in a blizzard and had a narrow escape from serious injury.
''When I first went to Grand Isle county,' he said, 'the sand bar bridge was passable only during low water. There were no other bridges connecting the islands with the mainland and the only train was from the north. Grand Isle was the first town In the State, as I remember, to have a rural free delivery service. Brad Jackson and Fred Martell were the carriers. After that South Burlington got R.F.D. service and then other towns.
Delivered Sunday Edition
“'During the Spanish-American war, when the Free Press put out several Sunday editions to serve the public with spot news, I delivered the first Sunday papers that were ever brought into Vergennes on the day of publication, with a pair of grey horses from Smith's livery in Burlington. I was met at the Stevens House by Ramie Martin of Bristol and Charley Rich of Middlebury, who then circulated the papers over Addison county. The following Sunday, after Admiral Dewey's victory, I went to St. Altans with Douglas S. Danforth's horse 'Vanderbilt' met the sleeper and took the Sunday Free Press to Enosburg Falls where I was met by the news agents from Richford and Montgomery Center. I drove back through Bakersfield and was stopped at West Enosburg by the mInister who wanted a copy of the Free Press to take into the pulpit with him for his sermon.
“'During the freshet of 1927 I was the last man to drive a car across the Winooski bridge before it went down. Following the flood I carried the first mail into several isolated villages and continued to serve the communities as far south as Orwell each week day morning until train servIce was restored. I have visited every session of the Legislature since 1888, with the exception of the last session,• when I was out of the State.
“Recalling his first visit to Burlington, Mr. Farr said: 'I first came to Burlington with my father and sister on an excursion.
I am inclined to think Douglas S. Danforth referred to above is a printing error, and that the reference is to Willis' brother-in-law George Douglas Danforth, usually known as Douglas or Doug Danforth. The Danforths lived at Fairfax not far distant from St. Albans, and Douglas was married to Erneline Rugg, sister to Willis' wife. Recent research reveals that Willis and Douglas were also fifth cousins once removed, both having descended from Nicholas Danforth as follows:
Jacob Danforth Brothers Jonathan Danforth
Jacob Danforth 1st cousins Benjamin Danforth
Jesse Danforth 2nd cousins Samuel Danforth
John Danforth 3rd cousins Cyrus Danforth
Nancy Danforth 4th cousins Hiram Danforth
John Vernon Farr 5th cousins George Douglas Danforth
Willis Vernon Farr
At about the same time the above item concerning the Farrs' removal to Hinesburg appeared in the newspaper, the following item was also printed:
“This week marks the completion of 40 years of continuous service of one of the most widely known members of the Free Press staff, Willis V. Farr. During that time Mr. Farr has travelled a distance several tImes around the globe on all types of Vermont roads in the interests of Free Press circulation sales and service. He has seen Vermont rural life enriched with the coming of the rural routes, the telephone, the automobile and mechanical and electrical aids and conveniences. He has played a large part in demonstrating the value of daily newspaper reading to Vermont citizens on farms, in villages, in cities. In his time Free Press circulation has grown from 3,200 to 14,900. We take this occasion to hail one of our co-workers and to wish him many years of continued health and useful service.”
The 40 years referred to in this article is obviously a printing error, for I have heard my mother say that my grandfather worked for the Free Press for over 50 years, and the account which appeared at the tIme of my grandfather's death states that he was with the Free Press Circulation Department over half a century.
My grandfather did not keep all the items he collected. Some he sold and some he gave to his children. One such item is now at the Bennington, Vermont, museum. When I was there in 1974 I inquired concerning a drum used in the Battle of Bennington which I had heard my grandfather had owned and placed at the museum. I was able to see the drum. The museum records concerning the drum read:
Drum, with sticks, used in the Battle of Bennington. Owned for many years by Major Haines French, of Maidstone, Vt. It descended from him to Mrs. Warner French, of Jericho, Vt. who had it for many years. At her decease it was acquired by purchase by W. V. Farr of Burlington, Vt., who had known the drum and its story for more than thirty years. It was purcased from Mr. Farr by John Spargo. Gift of Mr. John Spargo (curator) given to Museum 8-14-1929.”
I am sure this drum had particular significance for my grandfather, for he joined the Sons of the American Revolution through his ancestor, Daniel Farr, who was at the Battle of Bennington.
The item which appeared in the Free Press following my grandfather's death was headed “Was in Free Press Circulation Dept. Over Half Century,” and it read:
Willis V. Farr of 376 South Winooski Ave., for more than 50 years a representative of the Free Press circulation department, died at his home last night, at the age of 79. He was born in Westminster Station Nov. 5, 1866, the son of John and Mary (Watkins) Farr. In 1888 he came to Burlington and started taking subscriptions for the weekly edition of the Free Press. Traveling by train, by horse, by foot and in later days by automobile, Mr. Farr covered thousands of miles, interviewed thousands of Vermonters, and as a - hobby collected many choice antiques and historical curios, most of which have a Vennont history.
“Mr. Farr was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, and a 35-year member of Green Mountain Lodge, lOOP. He attended the Methodist Church.
“He is survived by his widow, Ethel Rugg Farr; three daughters, Mrs. Vina Harrington, Burlington; Mrs. Mattie Hernmingway, Sheldon, and Mrs. Alma Hyer, Roseland, N. 3., a son, John E., Westminster Station; nine grandchildren, Jane and Ethel Harrington, Washington, D. C.; Harriet and Donald Hemmthgway, Jr., Sheldon; John and David Hyer, Roseland, N. J.; Jeanne Farr, Westminster Station; Alice May Brown, Sheldon; Robert Farr Brown, Westminster Station, and Dorothy Deiphine Brown, Roseland, N. J.; two sisters, Miss Harriet N. Farr, Westminster Station, and Mrs. Gertrude M. Hale, Athol, Mass.
“Four other children died several years ago, Thelma Farr and Delphine Farr Brown, Frank Vernon Farr and Robert Hartland Farr.
“Funeral services will be held Wednesday Morning at 11 in the Gurney funeral home, 79 Spruce st. Interment will be in the family lot, Lake View cemetery, T. W. Gurney, Inc. in charge.”
For the sake of accuracy, may I point out that “Hernmingway” is correctly spelled “Hemenway.” “Jane and Ethel Harrington” should have been “Jayne Ethel Harrington.” And “Robert Hartland” should have been “Robert Harlan.”
A few years ago the Free Press printed a receipt made by Willis V. Farr for monies received from Herbert Day for a subscription to the Free Press. The caption under the receipt stated: “Free Press circulation representative, Edmund Miller, recently picked up receipt from Free Press Middlebury area subscriber. It dates back to 1889 when weekly Free Press cost 25¢ for three months or 13 issues. It was signed by if. W. F. V. Farr who traveled rural roads by horse and buggy seeking Free Press Subscribers.”
My grandfather was, a dedicated Free Press employee, and he was deeply interested in the newspaper. I can remember him coming home from a week's work (he didn't always come home every night) muddy, tired and dirty. Vermont roads were not all paved when I was a child, and many times my grandfather's car became stuck in the mud, and he had to work with shovel and sometimes get a horse to get the car out of the mud. Snow, of course, brought a different kind of problem.
If someone wanted a subscription to the newspaper and didn't have the money, Willis would stay in their spare upper chamber (sometimes a cold one in the winter) in exchange for the price of the Subscription, turning his expense money in to pay for the paper, or take a hen which he brought home for Sunday dinner or sold, giving the money to the Free Press for the desired subscriptIon.
My grandfather was also a dedicated family man, anxious to have his family happy and well cared for. I have a letter written by him and postmarked St. Albans January 12, 1902. The envelope is address to “John, Delphine and Vina Farr at Westminster Sta., Vt. It reads:
“Son and dauthters
“I am way up North of Grandpa's but have not seen him. We are having a blizzard here and I don't know whether the train will be able to get through with this letter to you or not. I hope you are well and taking good care of each other and your poor ma ma. Keep in out of the storm and not get sick. Can't you print a nice letter to papa and send up to me when ma is writing some time. Remember Papa thinks of you many times a day wishes he could step in and give you a kiss and hug. Kiss Mama for Papa and save lots for yourselves.
From your loving Father'
“North of Grandpa's” refers to Willis' father-in-law, Elbridge Gerry Rugg, who lived at Fairfax.