What with Alex’s visit and our trips to Bromley, the 4th of July in Plymouth Notch, some planned adventures this coming week in Vermont, why would I be back in Vermont today you ask? Easy – the 238th anniversary of the Battle of Hubbardton fought on 7 July 1777. The only Revolutionary War battle fought in Vermont (of course you know the Battle of Bennington [VT] was really fought in New York!) this was the first event that eventually lead to the British defeat at Saratoga.



I was last at the battlefield 24 August 2013, and you may wish to reread that post but the battle reenactment seemed a good reason to exercise BLUE BELLE. Do we need a good reason? NO!

We  pulled out of town shortly after 9 AM. Traveling through Chester, this 1858 General Store was open (usually closed when I pass through). Of course I stopped.


and the interior. Original fixtures, but now mostly gift type items and a few select overpriced antiques.


We (that is BB2 and I – albeit alone) arrived in remote Hubbardton (west of Rutland) about an hour and a half later. There is a super slab stretch of US4 heading west out of Rutland, and BB2 likes it when she can legally travel at 65-70 MPH.

We parked (I answered questions about my “ride” to inquisitive folks) and headed to the battlefield (parking was north of where you usually park due to the festivities). We walked south towards the visitor center.



Note to self — check space on SD cards often. Along with my trusty Canon S95 I brought my Nikon D3100 for some close up (telephoto) uniform shots.  If your shutter will not work, you will discover that your SD card is full. Well, I put my D3100 back in BB2’s Boot – less to carry.

We first saw the Rebel troops mustering.


I chatted with this Rebel for awhile. He portrayed an individual from Attleboro who was in the battle. I learned from him that a musket does not have rifling. That is the terminology difference, and you know that you never know which way a musket ball will go (since there is no rifling to stabilize it), thus the close firing range (50-80 yards) and shooting in volleys throwing lots of lead out.


What is wrong with this camp fire?


Usually at encampments I see nice blocks of turf dug out and set aside, and the fire low in the ground. Thus it does not spread, and the heat is concentrated. The fires here were on metal plates.  Well, it seems as though this battlefield (basically unchanged in 238 years) is now hallowed ground. At this time in history, bodies were often just left on the battlefield – that happened here. The family that owned the land returned 7 years later and found bones everywhere on their farm land. They gathered them, and buried them. As a result the entire area is considered sacred ground even though no bones have been found as yet. The State of Vermont started acquiring this land in the 1950s.

On the south side of the visitor center the British soldiers were camped for the weekend. They did remain, however, at the site for two days after the battle in 1777. Here arms are being inspected.


The same view you would have seen 238 years ago. The split rail fence you see surrounds the site of the original farmhouse from 1777 when this was farmed just before the battle as the Americans were retreating from Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence followed by the British and Germans. Remember, most of the uniforms and clothing were wool – great for those 70 and 80 degree days.


(Editorial Note (well this is all editorial notes) — how can you not be enamored by the views?) My video of the concert on July 5th has been my most watched video. Here is today’s Fife and Drum group:

And, I enjoy looking at the sutler’s wares:



Today’s military actions were just showing 18th century maneuvers. Tomorrow morning will be the actual battle reenactment starting at 8 AM with the troops assembling and marching at 7 AM.  To see that, BB2 and I would have to leave shortly after 6 AM — THERE IS A LIMIT TO SHUNPIKING !!!


I chatted with the owners of this brass cannon that was found in a house in Dorset 40-45 years ago. It is possible this is the 4th cannon (and the one “missing”) used at the Battle of Bennington. They are still researching it – what a treasure.


Well, we had no plans after Hubbardton Battlefield, but BLUE BELLE was whining that I had never taken her to New York State – she said, “are you afraid of the Mann Act?”  I reminded her that: 1) we had crossed state lines before; and, 2) she was of age (don’t remind a lady of that — as we left the parking field she choked, and we coasted this time to a shady spot. I now know where to tap her – so I popped the bonnet, rapped on the Dashpots, and off we went).

BLUE BELLE applied her brakes to get this shot (even though spelled wrong)

BLUE BELLE applied her brakes to get this shot (even though spelled wrong)



To save you having to get your maps out, I have marked one up for you below. Not having seen the west side of Lake Bomoseen before, off we went. I hoped it would be nicer than the eastern shore, and with Victorian cottages. Yes it was nicer and we saw some.



You can see my route (partially) into Rutland, out on Route 4 (65-70) up to the Battlefield, then around the lake down to Fair Haven, across the border to Whitehall, NY, and then back to Putney to pick up Route 140 (great road) back to VT 103 and home. Follow that?

Fairhaven I have to learn about – great 19th century brick buildings.


Then we arrived in Whitehall – the Birthplace of the US Navy


Lake Champlain ends here, and the Champlain Canal begins, connecting the lake to the Hudson River.


I chatted for awhile with a local resident, and then with the owner of these Clydsedales – I spent a half hour learning about these uncommon black Clydesdales (only about 255 in the states) and horse behavior, horse shoe replacement (nailed into what would be finger/toe nails) and the frequency, types of horses the Amish prefer, and on and on.  I love having no schedule and just visiting with strangers. He was here to later give rides before the fireworks.


Driving into town, for the first time I saw Skene Manor high up above town. The local resident said there were tours, so once all my conversations were done I headed up the mountain. I got there at 4:20, and should have gone there on the way into town first – it is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Noon to 4 – next time.

Skene Manor, Whitehall, NH

Skene Manor, Whitehall, NH

And, looking back from the front door to Whitehall and the Champlain Canal.


Well (back to the map above) back east on Route 4, south on 22A, cut over to Poultney, VT to pick up 140.  I love 140 (check out that last trip in 2013) and to 103 and home. Wanted to eat out, but nothing appealed to me, and I had one leftover meal waiting for me at home.

I arrived home having experienced 238 Years of History in 298 Kilometers (185 miles). Checking my garden I made my first harvest.


Let me see, $36 plus for plants divided by one summer squash and two cherry tomatoes. Average $12 each. A start, can’t wait to be down to 12 cents each.

RAY RECOMMENDS – A day trip to Hubbardton Battlefield and environs. So close, but so far back in time.

and, RAY RECOMMENDS – “like” Vermont State Historic Sites on Facebook. That way you can plan you next adventure at one of these great venues.

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When moving to New Hampshire 13 years ago my Dad was concerned I was moving to remote woods (I almost am) asking, “whatever are you going to do?” The question really should be WHATEVER AM I GOING TO DO? There are too many choices! You may have realized that I am pretty much always on the go, but doing things that bring me pleasure — and, I cannot do it all, the choices are just too many.

I had a great week with grandson, Alex, and on 2 July on the way back from taking him home – I scouted for books, and explored. A few stops on the other side of the state proved profitable, and the books I found, once sold, will pay for more adventures. At the New Hampshire Antique Co-Op I found another great set of

Frye's Measure Mill, Wilton, NH

Frye’s Measure Mill, Wilton, NH

candlesticks that fit in nicely on my granite center island in the kitchen – now only 31 candles in the kitchen – “hopeless romantic” that I am. When in Wilton (New Hampshire, not my hometown in Connecticut) I decided to backroad on Route 31 and stop at Frye’s Measure Mill – it had been maybe 10 years since the last stop. What a great place, since 1858, and the last remaining measures mill in the United States. I have to go back for a Saturday tour of the mill itself, but touring the old building and the wonderful decorator displays of goods for sale is worth the trip. Two floors showcase wonderful accessories for the home. Below is a work table where you can see the finishing of one of the measure containers.



And, just one view of the great displays of period goods.


Here are samples of the various size measures, and items being auctioned to help fund the restoration of the mill pond.


RAY RECOMMENDS – Lunch at nearby Pickety Place (long overdue for a luncheon there – hint) followed by browsing through Frye’s Measure Mill.

Leaving the mill and looking at the map, I decided to continue on Route 31 through Lyndeborough to Greenfield, and then turn south to Peterborough. No reason to ever be on that route, so off I went. Now, if you were tooling down a road and saw this, would you stop?

Yankee Siege - Greenfield, NH

Yankee Siege – Greenfield, NH

I hope so !!! YANKEE SIEGE, Greenfield, NH. A catapult, actually called a “Trebuchet”, this device is the 2004 World Record Holder (it was most recently used for Pumpkin hurls). Used to throw 250 rocks at castle walls to eventually crumble 6 to 20 foot thick walls. This device set the world record of 1394 feet with a 10 pound pumpkin in 2004 – yes in New Hampshire.

July 3rd – catch-up day at home. July 4th – plan forever has been to head to my favorite Plymouth Notch, Vermont, and Calvin Coolidge’s homestead, for a nostalgic Fourth of July Celebration which is also the birthday of our 30th President. Weather map did not look good, so BLUE BELLE sadly was tucked back inside – boo, hoo, I only had a few miles of rain.


I am going to work on a video of the day’s experience, but here are a few images for the day, and you can also visit my previous visit on the 4th in 2013 on this page (click link).

The parade from the village to the cemetery is about to begin.


Leaving town.


Graveside ceremonies begin with remarks by Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, Adjutant General, Vermont National Guard following the laying of the wreath from the White House. That is the President’s great-granddaughter to the left.


And, then it was back to town, and I partook in the Chicken BBQ.


At 1:30 I headed to the Union Christian Church for famed Coolidge-actor, Jim Cooke’s final performance of “Calvin Coolidge: More than Two Words.” He first performed his solo act thirty years ago on July 4th in Plymouth. The President’s son, John, was in the audience then and remarked, “The actor did very well with his impersonation.” I filmed about 4 minutes of the hour show, and will eventually post here. So, so, very glad I got to see this.

Jim Cooke, famed Calvin Coolidge-actor, in his final performance.

Jim Cooke, famed Calvin Coolidge-actor, in his final performance.

I then figured, “I am here, let me hop on the wagon ride.” And it was fun. This one young lady did her hair for the 4th!


And, you know me and Country Stores. Here is an interior view of the Cilley Country Store in the “center” of town.


I had a slow start on Sunday, July 5th. Discovered a new great mystery writer, Janet Evanovich, and had two chapters to go when I thought, “let me see what concert is at Saint Gaudens this afternoon.” Well, I found out it was the Cornish Colony Family Picnic Day with festivities before the 2PM concert, and at 12:30 the The Knave of 74-14Hearts was to be performed as a “human puppet show” featuring Cornish, Plainfield and Fairlee elementary students with Upper Valley adult actors voicing the parts. Written by Cornish writer Louise Saunders, and illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, I last sold a first edition of the play in 1995 for $1000 — I had to see it.  I knew one friend was busy, and I fired an email off to another before jumping into the shower – I had just enough time to fly up to Cornish. Sadly, when I stopped at my spontaneous friend’s home  on the way out of town, work prevented play – so off I sped over to US 5 in Vermont.

US 5 is a “sports car road” at least from the north end of Rockingham up to
Windsor. Perfect for “blowing out the carbon” – but I did not say that. Roughly in thirds, the best part are the southern most two thirds – Ascutney to Windsor is populated – not fun. My favorite parts are not traveled, beautiful, and made for low flying vehicles. Soon after I left Springfield at the bridge back to Charlestown I flew by two historical markers that I have missed in the past – mental note – come home that way.

RAY RECOMMENDS – Buy a vintage sports car (keep the top down) and travel US 5 from Rockingham to Ascutney

I arrived at Saint Gaudens National Historic Site just after noon, and realized that I have to admit that my pleasure in going here surpasses the Fort at Number 4, and almost ties Plymouth Notch. So, let’s say that I have a tie for number 2 drives, and the fort is alright as a third (remember RLI !!!!). I had quickly packed a lunch and had some in the field where I parked, then headed up to the house and the sculpture’s studio.


The play was to be performed on the pergola of the Little Studio with limited seating. Sometimes there is an advantage of being alone – there was one perfect seat remaining. Presented in “tableaux vivants” (a mime technique in which human figures  “freeze” in poses) adult actors read the parts off to the side. The half hour show was amazing, and the costumes fantastic. Here are some images.




And, the actors lined up in front of St. Gauden’s home when all was done.


And then I had about 1/2 hour before the concert began. I found a shady spot on the edge of the porch with a commanding view.


The best view was this Perfect Picnic.





BUT, note the wine glasses – and the holders. I could not resist, I visited the trio and learned all about their Steady Sticks, and wine glasses with stems that unscrew and then seat in the glass for easy moving/hiking/sports car packing. YES, now on order – you know me. Summer is still young – let the parties begin – hint again.


The concert began, but I only stayed for about a half hour. I had to check out those historical markers.

So, down Route 12 in NH, crossed the Connecticut River to Ascutney, and south on US 5 – did I tell you I love that stretch of road?

First monument will need more research, as to Gen. Morris’ involvement in the 1801 presidential election.




Just south were two markers for the Crown Point Road. This is the first road in 74-25Vermont which was built in 1759 from the Fort at Number 4 to Lake Champlain for the movement of troops and supplies. It was a very important military road which I need to learn more about and travel. I thought it crossed the Connecticut River close to the fort’s reconstruction, but I was wrong. The crossing was at Wentworth Ferry just under a mile north of the current bridge from Charlestown to Springfield. Of course, I have a book on the road, but have yet to study it – still on the list.


Well, a great day, and:

RAY RECOMMENDS – Visit Saint-Gaudens to enjoy the exhibits, house, grounds and just the drive up and down both sides of the Connecticut River  – it cannot get much better.

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ST-8It is if you are going to the CMSGMA (Central Mass. Steam and Gas & Machinery Assoc.) – 39th Annual Yankee Engine-unity Show at the Orange Municipal Airport! But first back three days. “On the list” for maybe six months was to have Alex for the last week plus of June. David and Mari are responsible for a conference in Vancouver, so, of course, I can take care of him. Arriving at their home on Wednesday, David and I walked him to his last day of fourth grade on Thursday, and then I took David and Mari to Logan Airport. The last day was a half day, and after lunch I took Alex to a friend’s pool party. A lovely couple, I stayed and chatted until well after four before we headed home. On Friday, Alex and I took the T from Alewife Station to MIT where he was the “subject” for a study at 1PM (this has been an ongoing project). I walked around the MIT campus for awhile, and when he was done we went to the MIT Museum.

The MIT Museum is small, and since it was a once a year “free Friday” it was packed – but not bad. We enjoyed looking at the development of early robots, and current work on teaching robots to think and respond, particularly for use in space to perform tasks – amazing. We then entered a gallery of “Gestural Engineering” by Arthur Ganson with all sorts of moving contraptions. As the museum was closing we finished in the special photography exhibit.

GESTURAL ENGINEERING - this "wishbone" pulls the contraption back and forth.

GESTURAL ENGINEERING – this “wishbone” pulls the contraption back and forth.

Gary joined us for dinner, and “three” generations had a fun evening following.

Plan for Saturday was to head back home, via the steam and tractor show in Orange. I was so thrilled that Alex showed interest in sharing “something old” with me and learning from it, and jumping ahead, he did have fun.

I have been fascinated by “hit and miss” engines for over 55 years since I first saw one at one of our car shows in Connecticut when I was growing up.

A "hit and miss" engine driving a pump.

A “hit and miss” engine driving a pump.

Today’s show I learned about at a train show I went to in January, and yes, it has been “on the list” since. Mainly there were old stationery gas engines, but also a steam and an antique tractor show, and some Model T Fords.

A Lineup of Tractors being exhibited.

A Lineup of Tractors being exhibited.

And here was a great display with a new steam engine driving the equipment.


I told Alex that these old engines would drive farm equipment of various sorts and were on wheels to be moved from place to place. We started down another “aisle” and here was such an engine husking corn. Do look at these next two videos.

When we heard the announcement for the tractor parade, Alex said, “let’s hurry to see it.” Here is just part of what we saw.

Called “hit and miss” engines because they are not firing on all cycles – on purpose. The single cylinder fires and drives the flywheel which becomes a drive wheel when a belt is attached. The distinctive firing sound comes when the governor on the engine senses that the flywheel is slowing down. Then the fuel and spark are provided, and the engine fires with a puff and bang and the flywheel keeps a constant speed to drive the farm equipment.



The club in 2001 purchased this Cagney steam train. Their goal is to have it running around their club house for rides and steam education.



In the parade was this interesting chain driven cultivator.


After about 3 hours of fun (and fried dough) we headed back home, but first making a grocery stop in Keene.  Was it fun shopping together, and actually smart on my behalf. We planned and purchased meals he wanted, and purchased the brands that he is used to and prefers.

Back home at 4, unpacked, snack time, dinner later, and then a movie. He is “working” on the porch as rain plays on the roof while I am finishing this up. Tomorrow there are no plans, but something will happen. Monday is Alpine Slide “redux” at Bromley – it was a hit last year. Tuesday, who knows – but fun, and on Wednesday we head back to Alex’s house as David and Mari will be getting in late. On the way back there I hope to introduce Alex to the Battle of Lexington & Concord, at least the spot Paul Revere was captured, and the show at the visitor center. Will start talking about it tomorrow.

Believe it or not, this is my 200th post on “Shunpiking with Ray,” and in 7 more “hits” I will have had more than 44,000 page views.

To sum today up, RAY RECOMMENDS:
1] Check out the CMSGMA website, and plan on attending the steam, gas, and machinery show in Orange, Massachusetts in 2016 (unless you run down tomorrow.)

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Today, the weather again was just too perfect – soon to change as remnants of Storm Bill are stirring up outside. BLUE BELLE (BB2) and I left about 11:30, and returned 54 miles and five hours later. Only planned stop was The Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown, NH.

The first Thanksgiving we were in New Hampshire (2002), Cathy and I enjoyed the Thanksgiving Feast by candlelight in the Great Hall at the Fort. We became members, and visited often each year, taking company, enjoying mock battles, additional Thanksgiving Feasts, and the earlier amazing Pickpockets, Rogues & Highwaymen Halloween Evenings.

View of the interior of Fort Number 4 from the Watchtower.

View of the interior of Fort Number 4 from the Watchtower.

As outposts were established along the Connecticut River Valley in the 1700s, the northernmost point was No. 4 (now Charlestown). Walpole was designated No. 3. The original proprietors, due to uneasy peace with Natives and England and France decided to build a fort in 1743. It actually was a fortified village created by pulling the existing homes together, connecting them with other structures, and surrounding it with a log palisade. By 1761, its usefulness had passed, and the fort (originally on Main Street – Route 12) fell into disrepair and was demolished. During the 1960s the fort was reconstructed as a living history museum north of town on a perfect spot on the Connecticut River. I encourage you to read more of the history by clicking on this link. The year after Cathy died the fort closed due to financial problems, but within a year fortunately was saved, and successfully reopened six years ago.

I visited earlier this month on 7 June for the French and Indian War Encampment and mock battle. But, today I returned because I realized I just needed to become a member again. If you believe in something, you should VOTE with YOUR DOLLARS. Recently I have been giving to various historical organizations, maybe from the awareness I have gotten from being Treasurer of the Walpole Historical Society, and the competing need for ever scarcer funds.



You know I enjoy images looking through something. Here is a gun port from the stairway going up into the watchtower. Note the logs of the Palisade (Stockade). They were deliberately spaced apart so muskets could be fired through to the enemy. Also, the spacing prevented snow from drifting against the stockade. A drift would form a ramp allowing attackers to gain entrance over the top. This was learned (sadly) from the 1704 raid at Deerfield, Massachusetts.


A view crossing through the center area heading to the Parker House.


This is the two-story Parker House. Lieutenant Parker was one of the first settlers in the area. I could live in this house.



And, two interior shots of the Parker House. Remember that you can click on my images to enlarge them.

This weekend was General Stark’s Muster and Garrison at the fort. I enjoy reading about both John Stark and Ethan Allen. I never was really interested in the French and Indian War period and the American Revolution until I moved here. Not much has changed in this area in those over 250 years, thus it is easier to understand what happened then. Here is where the General was quartered.


But the troops were in tents outside.


And cooked, etc. outside too.


I have always been fascinated by the Three Sisters, so I am sharing this so you can read about them. (if hard to read, click to enlarge)


Upon leaving I chatted more with Wendy, the Fort’s paid director. I said that I have always wanted to assist in some way, and she promised to call me.

Lunch? I remembered – just cross the river, and stop at The Silver Bullet. Remember I was there on May 16th, and said I would return? Now, how can you not go again for a third and more times when you walk up to the food cart and the owners say, “Hi Ray, nice to see you back.” “You remember me?” “Of course, you did such a great write-up about us.” Their selections are amazing. I had smoked potatoes and a pulled pork and ham sandwich (actually a meal). I did confess that I liked my selection on my first visit more, but I love their interesting creations — not to mention feeling part of a “special club.”  Yes, I will be back, and have to bring a friend or two.  Here is today’s meal (and it is now 11PM and I never needed supper).


BB2 and I then scooted into Springfield, then up over the hills to Chester, and visited the common. I then stopped at the Stone House Antique Center, but did not find any treasures. But it is the hunt!!! You may not know how important this spot is to me, and here is the spot:


when we bumped into a friend (we were on an overnight holiday from Connecticut) who said, “if you have a long range plan, do it now.” Cathy and I looked at each other, our non-verbal communication kicked in and we knew we were going to move. We sold and bought in two weeks, and I have that documented in our miracle story.

It was then down Route 103 to the Vermont Country Store. Always a fun place to browse, and often an afternoon drive for me for a break. I got an old fashion soda, and sat on the porch awhile watching the world go by (and seeing people enjoy looking at BB2).

Then I decided to take Pleasant Valley Road over the hill to Saxtons River, and then head home. But arriving in thriving downtown Saxtons River (that is a joke if you have not been there), I turned left to Vermont Academy to explore the roads beyond it. Well, there was only one, and YEAH it turned into dirt. It could only lead back to Route 103, and probably at the Rockingham Meeting House. Great road, great fields and woods, and I was correct.

1787 Rockingham Meeting House - Rockingham, Vermont

1787 Rockingham Meeting House – Rockingham, Vermont


I peeked in through a window, and it looks like BLUE BELLE was trying to do the same thing.


Well, we felt like sliding home, and that is what we did. A perfect day out BB2 and I.

1] Visit The Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown, NH, and become a member
2] If you believe in an organization or cause, become a member and/or donate. Good causes, museums, etc. will only survive if we give whatever we can.
3] Attend functions at The Fort at No. 4 — here are a few images from my visit on 7 June during the French and Indian War Encampment




And, a movie as all the “players” were leaving the battlefield.

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This, 13-14 June, was a perfect weekend weather-wise. Yesterday, Saturday, I was invited to a graduation party for a young man who has been with us in The Walpole Players since moving to town in 2007 – and a wonderful family. It was an honor to be invited, and I enjoyed the afternoon. Today, however, I started thinking about “filling in the map” with a number of local places I knew about, but had not been to. You know the old story about people never experiencing what is in their back yard – cannot be me!

But, first I must share a frustration. You have not yet heard about the end of my Hudson River adventure. I do too much, and want to share too much. I always provide hyper-links for you to click on to read more about a place, museum, or area – but I want to write about it too, and provide large galleries of images. It is time consuming to write and process the images, and I don’t want to bore you. I seem to have drifted away from quick and concise posts, so here is an attempt to get back to that. The end of the Hudson River adventure will await a toned-down version. Actually, I reviewed my similar adventures on 27 September 2014, and liked that concise post. So, here goes with today’s 80 Blue Belle miles in 6 hours.

FD-1BB2 and I left home at 10:30 and jogged off Route 12 onto River Road. Our first stop Boggy Meadow Farm, just 3 miles from home – but I had never stopped. The farm has been owned by the same family since 1822. Now, hopefully you are sitting down. Their shop is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and on the honor system with a cash box on a table (yes, make your own change). But you can also order on-line. Donna, heard me come in, greeted me, and we chatted awhile. The milk from their dairy cows is used for making cheese from one day, and a night’s milking – the rest being sold. Their cheese, of course, all hand-made from fresh raw milk. Since I was going to be out all day, I did not make a purchase, but could go back some sleepless night. Below is the shop with cheese making room in the background behind glass, and cash-box to the left.

Boggy Meadow Farm Cheese Shop, Walpole, NH

Boggy Meadow Farm Cheese Shop, Walpole, NH


I continued down the entire length of River Road (just so great) up onto Route 12 for a short distance turning off on Route 63 to Westmoreland. There are two “centers” and the first you come to is Park Hill with the meeting house built in 1764 (9 miles from home).


You need to drive down to see the wonderful 19th century homes surrounding this area. Sadly at least three are for sale, and (I think) bargains at $359,000 or less. In another one and a half miles (still on Route 63) you get to the Village Center with church, town offices, post office and general store. Just south of the village (11 miles from home) I turned left on Spofford Road.

You know I can smell an old car miles away.



This is an early 1920s (or earlier) Maxim Motor Company fire truck built in Middleboro, Massachusetts. The company was founded in 1914, with an interesting history.

Just before getting to Route 9, on what would have been the old route is Spofford Village. I took this image to provide some history of the town, but you have to stop to see the great houses – and at least one is for sale.


My destination on Route 9 was the Chesterfield Gorge – again, never been there in my 13 years living in New Hampshire. Ironically, after 11 years of being closed, the state reopened the visitor center yesterday. A private group has kept the trails up and clean, and I was impressed. I walked the path down, across two foot bridges, snapped this image of the gorge and traipsed back up. Not the Flume, and not the New Preston Waterfall that I owned, but a nice walk.

Chesterfield Gorge, Chesterfield, NH

Chesterfield Gorge, Chesterfield, NH

RAY RECOMMENDS – Take this hike with a “special” friend, and maybe even pack a picnic lunch.

Chesterfield, NH Post Office

Chesterfield, NH Post Office


Then I headed west on Route 9 to turn south on Route 63 into Chesterfield. My destination was Madame Sherri’s Castle. Chesterfield is pretty, and the views from the center of town off to the west are amazing. Passing through the village I turned right on Stage Road, and shortly picked up Castle Road (YEAH — DIRT!!!) and you continue onto Gulf Road, looking for the sign.

The Castle was built in 1931 as a retreat by

FD-8an actress and theatrical costume designer. A few years ago I read a book about her exploits and eventual reclusive life here. Sadly the Castle burned in 1962, and Madame died in 1965. Click on this link for the gist of her story.

Remaining stairs of Madame Sherri's Castle

Remaining stairs of Madame Sherri’s Castle

RAY RECOMMENDS – Read Madame Sherri’s story – fun read – but unless you want to hike this great area there is no reason to visit.

The next stop on the day’s agenda was the ESTEY ORGAN MUSEUM in Brattleboro, VT which is only open Saturday and Sundays from 2 to 4.  In business from 1846 to 1960, the company was the main employer in Brattleboro, and produced the majority of the organs found in Victorian homes – over 1/2 million. Pipe organs were made beginning in the 20th century, but brass reeds produced the sound in most organs.

The Estey Organ Company complex fronting Birge Street in Brattleboro.

The Estey Organ Company complex fronting Birge Street in Brattleboro.

This image is of a “high end” organ. Most of the top part is simply cabinetry – and wonderful.


I had to take this image of an organ encased in a faux Bible. If you have ever seem my formal parlor with bookshelves, I have told you that the books you see are not books at all, but objects made to look like books serving other purposes. I have collected them for 25 years, calling them “book-alikes.”


I looked out a window, and could not believe what I saw. All the siding on the buildings was slate. Replacing earlier buildings destroyed by fire, the extant buildings are sided in slate to retard fire. AMAZING – and you know that I like color and texture in my images. Open this gallery if you wish.

and, here is a video of a pipe organ, expanded so you can walk inside.

RAY RECOMMENDS – Visit the Estey Organ Museum in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Next – yes, more on today’s list – I wanted to find the Fort Dummer Monument on US 5 below Guilford, Vermont. Not finding it I pulled over, shut BLUE BELLE down, and checked my maps and notes. I turned around, started north, and she decided to feign a siesta – NOT GOOD. Fuel was not flowing – like vapor lock, but not quite. Let her rest a few moments, she would start and run rough just a tad, then quit. I finally popped the bonnet to pretend I knew what I was doing (I know enough to be dangerous). Found Number 4 Spark Wire with a bad connection that I want to replace, but it was not a misfiring problem. Looking at the dual carbs for a problem, I tapped with my knuckles on the top of the dashpots. Getting back in, BB2 turned over running smoothly – I did not shut her off until we returned home. Those stuck dashpots will get attention this week – John H. said he would help me.

Sometimes when it says "Private Property" we comply.

Sometimes when it says “Private Property” we comply.

So, through Brattleboro on US 5, and turning left before the rotary with Route 9 onto Black Mountain Road to find Kipling Road.  YES – as in Rudyard Kipling. While honeymooning in Brattleboro in 1892, the couple fell in love with the area and purchased property building NAULAKHA in 1893.  It is in this house that Kipling wrote CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS, THE JUNGLE BOOKS, A DAY’S WORK, and THE SEVEN SEAS. He also worked on KIM and THE JUST SO STORIES.  A dispute lead to his departure in 1896 back to England. In 1992 the Landmark Trust became owners of the property, and make it (with much of the original furnishings) available for rentals. Three night minimums – four bedrooms – I cannot wait to get a group of special friends together to experience it (been on the list for years).

A distance back from the road, and trees now blocking the views into New Hampshire, even with my little camera the telephoto is pretty good.

NAULAKHA - Dummerston, Vermont

NAULAKHA – Dummerston, Vermont

So, back (dirt) roads back to US 5 – north to Westminster, and across the Connecticut River and home. A great day, and a story easily woven around a few images and links for your further research. And, posted same day.

Thanks for reading, as always, yours, RAY


Posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


I had hoped to be narrow boating in England and Wales the end of this week, but that did not work out (hopefully now Sept/Oct) so I booked a Road Scholar trip I had been watching, Historic Mansions on the Hudson. Over the last 20 years while living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, and more recently during mini-vacations at The Red Lion Lion I have explored along the Hudson. There is so much to see and do, and I realize that I will never be able to do it all. I have visited many of the mansions, but this trip includes eight, thus my signing up. Glad I did (I think) but have mixed thoughts which I will share later on.

Commitments kept me home until 31 May when I departed for a 4:30 check-in at the Warwick Conference Center in Warwick, NY. My plan was to stop at the Museum Village at Smith’s Clove, Monroe, NY.  I told you back in January that I was there with my 4th and 5th grade teachers 60 years ago. They wanted to check the potential for school trips. I fondly remember the trip and wanted to see it again.


But it was so different. I remembered an open large common. It was smaller now, and had trees – sugar maples that probably were saplings when I was there last. The village grew from the collecting and dream of Roscoe William Smith who made his fortune building the first electric company in the area in 1905. He loved early tools and industry, and collecting things and buildings when easy and cheap. He began his village in 1940, but the war interrupted his efforts, and the opening did not occur until 1950.

There were only a few people there, and a docent was leading a tour for a young couple with two nice children, and I joined in.  My favorite stop was Vernon Drugs moved complete from Florida, New York.

VERNON DRUGS from Florida, New York.

VERNON DRUGS from Florida, New York.

Upon entering, this is the view, and if you know me (by now you should) you know I have always loved 19th century country stores.



I am sure that it was the impression I had from this store, the 1875 Merritt Store below, and my 1957 visit to Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village that influenced my love affair with country stores. You can click on any image to see these interior shots larger size.

My docent had been at the village for maybe 30 years and was wonderful with the young family. I commented how wonderful the parents were too exposing their children to history, and encouraging them to ask questions and learn. The kids were good, and attentive. Here are some of the stops we made.

In the natural history building is Harry.  He is 1 of 3 complete Mastodon specimens in the world. He was unearthed just a few miles down the road in Harriman NY in 1952.


Here are a few more shots around the village:

RAY RECOMMENDS: Visit Museum Village in Monroe, New York (hint to Dave and Julie).

Owned by the Reformed Church, the Warwick Conference Center is an almost 500 acre retreat, just 50 miles from NYC on the New Jersey border. It was established in 1959. Originally, it was built in the early 1920s by the phone company as a vacation center for switchboard operators as part of their salary package.

The facilities have seen better days, but are clean with a devoted staff. Utilized mainly on the weekends, to generate needed funds, for years it has been a program provider to Road Scholars with programs during the week about half the year. In talking to the coordinators, I came to understand then why so many programs are based from this location. BUT, the downside is spending 2-3 hours a day on a bus traveling to the various historic homes on the Hudson River for this program. My only real complaint, but let’s call it a disappointment. But that keeps the program cost down for meals, lodging (both institutional, but fine), transportation and admissions.  And, in retrospect, to see all these mansions at once, considering the distances involved, this is a good way, particularly for the folks coming to the area for the first time from far away.  But, my other frustration has been the limited time at each place – more on that later.

I also attended because I wanted to attend the lectures on The Robber Barons. Having sold business and financial histories and biography books since 1980, I am pretty familiar with this business era. But, I knew what the Monday morning lecturer was trying to convey (basically a year long course in a few hours), but those not familiar may have not comprehended what he was trying to share.

Monday afternoon we headed to Boscobel in Garrison, NY.


Deteriorated and torn down and stored, this home was resited just above West Point. Here is the view from the front looking down the Hudson River (West Point is off to the right).


Pretty nice. I was here about 15-16 years ago, and the home has been reinterpreted since more in keeping with what would have originally been in the home. The furnishings are one of the nation’s leading collections of Federal period furniture and decorative arts. But, this is a rebuilt home, with massive replacements, and correct furniture, but not original to the house. I love original. Remember – click on an image to open large views.

Tuesday, June 2nd, was our busiest day visiting three historic homes. First stop was Locust Grove, Samuel Morse’s home in Poughkeepsie, NY.

LOCUST GROVE - Poughkeepsie, NY

LOCUST GROVE – Poughkeepsie, NY

Known as the American Leonardo, Morse never made it as an artist, but his success with the telegraph and its code enabled him to buy this home in 1847. His family used it as a summer retreat for 25 years. The Young family were the next caretakers. Annette Young lived there until 1975 preserving the house with her family’s original furnishings. She made it possible for the estate to become a time-capsule museum for the ages.

The next stop for the day was Wilderstein in Rhinebeck, NY.

Wilderstein, Rhinebeck, NY

Wilderstein, Rhinebeck, NY

Originally built in 1852 as an Italianate Villa, it was transformed in 1888 into the Queen Anne Victorian seen today. Three generations of the Suckley family lived there. The last owner, Margaret Lynch Suckley was born there in 1891, and died in 1991. To preserve things as they were, in 1983 she donated the estate to a non-profit for its preservation. Margaret was a “close friend” of FDR working at his library, keeping him company at Hyde Park and in DC. She gave Roosevelt his famous Scottie, Fala, and was at Warm Springs when he died. Untouched, the interior is a treasure trove of history, as it was. Outside, work was needed. Last painted in 1910, in 1985 extensive exterior repairs were made, and re-painting accomplished.

The final stop for the day was down the road in Staatsburgh, NY, at Staatsburgh, the 79-room Gilded Age mansion of financier and philanthropist Ogden Mills and his socially prominent wife, Ruth Livingston Mills.  The Livingston family received original patents for extensive land holdings in the area (old money based on land). Originally built in 1832, the Mills Mansion was expanded in 1896 in the Beaux Arts style. In social circles, Ruth took on Mrs. Astor and her “400” but never beat her at her own social game.

The Mills Mansion in Staatsburgh, NY

The Mills Mansion in Staatsburgh, NY

A long day, and with about 3 bus hours too. Four mansions down, and four to go. On Wednesday FDR’s Hyde Park and the Vanderbilt Mansion. Thursday to Tarrytown for Lyndhurst and Kykuit, the estate of  four Rockefeller generations.

I will be giving you more analysis and recommendations you should follow. But, I am having a harder time getting to writing because of all I do in a day, so I will not finish writing about those four mansions and the trip home on Friday and Saturday until well after my return. Sorry you will have to wait, but you will not be disappointed. As always, yours, RAY


Posted in 2015-a - HUDSON RIVER VALLEY EXPLORATIONS (June) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


I am sitting on my porch, enjoying a breeze, while finally getting to write about my fun day with Number Two Son, Gary, this past Sunday.  A couple weeks ago he emailed saying, “let’s get together on May 24th.” “Perfect,” I replied,”only day on the long weekend that I do not have 3 events scheduled. But he and I were both so busy that we never had the time to plan what to do, and where to meet. The day approached, we threw ideas back and forth. At one point I suggested America’s Stonehenge in Salem, NH, but having stopped only at the gift shop and entrance last year, I was not impressed and did not want to waste the time. It was almost Sunday and I mentioned museums in Manchester and Merrimack, but it was going to be too nice a day to be inside. We decided on America’s Stonehenge – you need to at least say you were there. But, where to meet. It was going to be lunch time when we met, so as I was walking out the door, a quick Google search and I picked the COACH STOP in Londonderry, and emailed Gary. Built in 1810, then inn sounded just like what I like.

As I approached the inn I realized that Gary and I had dined there before prior to attending a concert. He got there first, and realized the same thing – much laughter followed. But we had loved it. The Coach Stop is great. We ate in the dining room before so decided to check out the tavern on the second floor – wonderful ambience. And then we saw the covered deck off the bar. That is where we settled in. Ironically we narrowed in on the same Coach Burger, and decided to have nachos as an appetizer. Here are our meals, with nachos partially eaten.


I recently read that pictures of meals are second only to “selfies” on social media. But who knows? I just like to share my meal experiences.

We then headed off to America’s Stonehenge in North Salem.


How else would you enter an ancient megalithic site but through a faux log cabin?


Now, to be honest (I always am) I have become fascinated with the History Channel 2 series, ANCIENT ALIENS, and their AMERICA UNEARTHED. So much we did not learn in school, and so much has been discovered and analyzed since. There is something to the numerous similar sites around the globe of similar construction and astronomical alignment. And the precise structures are amazing, and defy understanding as to how they were constructed. But this site in New Hampshire does not seem to have the same stature, nor precision of construction. It leaves more questions than delivering answers. But we went in anyway.

Here is a model of the site in the somewhat poor and deficient visitor center.


We paid our admission, watched the also poor introductory video (about 20 years old), and then entered the site.


Briefly, the site does not show up in the histories until the early 19th century. The mid-19th century owner sold off stones, assembled his own structures – basically doing what he wanted. Before we went I assembled a list of websites to read, and let me just present these for your exploration in making up your own mind:

Mystery Hill – America’s Stonehenge
Curious Places – America’s Stonehenge
And, one last one

As we entered we first came across an area set up like an Indian camp for school group education. But how can you take something seriously when an old rug is used for a buffalo hide? And when seeing a chipmunk crossing sign as you enter an ancient site, come on. We were cracking up.  But, here are images of what we saw, and click on any one to open a slide show of larger images.

Alright, we can now say that we have been there. A nice walk in the woods ending at the Alpaca area (again, get serious). And if you wish, you can snowshoe in the winter.

You guessed it, I am still skeptical, only because I have been to “the” Stonehenge several times, and other early archeological sites of importance. There is no comparison to the quality of workmanship or site organization elsewhere. BUT, I have now been there, and got to share the time with Gary.

We headed out to catch a small bite to eat before heading our own ways home. But we cherish our day visits, and will do it again soon. And, the COACH STOP may even be the beginning or end of our next fun exploration.

Then it was Memorial Day, and I “played” in two different centuries. These pictures tell all.

At the Memorial Day parade in town, CORNELIA and I raised $107.32 in donations for the Fall Mountain Food Shelf, and Our Place Drop-In Center from popcorn customers.


And in the evening I attended Benjamin Bellows’ 303rd birthday party at the Bellows-Walpole Inn. Tara and I were asked to add to the period touch.

Memorial-Day-2 So, more fun, more to share, and remember I write for myself, but enjoy sharing. Hope you had fun too, check out America’s Stonehenge (on-line) and see what you think. More coming soon, yours, RAY

Posted in Miscellaneous Musings | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment


Hello Friends,

Hard to believe the beginning of summer is here – winter, and snow melt, just ended. I have plans this weekend, and in fact am “over-booked.”  But, as you know, I keep busy, and love to learn.  I am zeroing in on how I will present video tours of the area to you. And, that is in part thanks to the great course I took last week at Fact8TV in Bellows Falls. Thank you so much Alex and Brian.

So, as a result of that course, here is my first video attempt complete with editing, sound, and voice overs. But, most important, I want to support my young friend Joan, and her new business in town – Joanie Joan’s Baked Goods Company.  (click on arrow on image to start video)

Have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend, and watch for my further adventures, Yours, RAY

Posted in Miscellaneous Musings | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments


But I am also going to need your help – read that at the end, hint to read through.

Today when I awoke it looked like an inside day, but the weather radar maps told a different story. By about noon I decided to head off – somewhere. I had no plans, but thought, “lunch in Chester and browse the antique shop there.” Never made it to either one.

I have been driving LADY RAB in town a great deal recently, but she sometimes, very unladylike, spits out her mouth. A new radiator cap arrived today, and I am hoping that will keep her under control. BLACK BEAUTY acts out strangely when cold, but BLUE BELLE recently had an expensive doctor’s visit, and she performs lovely (and she is my favorite drive – don’t tell BB1).  So, off we went. Arriving at the bridge to Bellows Falls, instead of crossing we continued north on Rt. 12. I decided to cross in Charlestown instead, but then?

I crossed the river and pulled into the combination bait shop and antique shop (only in Vermont), only to find that they were liquidating their stock. I need nothing, but am always looking, and bought 17 cars that I couldn’t afford not to buy. Either have or have had all of them, but original boxes, most assembled, and worth the price.  Remember last year when I packed over 200 books in BLACK BEAUTY?


I now know I can get 17 cars in BLUE BELLE !!!


You know I check out little food huts alongside the road whenever I can, and have never been disappointed. In the same spot as the antique shop is THE SILVER BULLET – now this was the best, and I encourage you to check their Facebook page, and take the short ride and enjoy. I got today’s special – CORNED BEEF REUBEN – and also their new  APPLE WOOD SMOKED POTATO SALAD (potatoes smoked only !! not boiled too – I asked). Total price $9 ($6 and $3).

THE SILVER BULLET Food Truck, 6 Connecticut River Road, Springfield, VT

THE SILVER BULLET Food Truck, 6 Connecticut River Road, Springfield, VT

A friendly enjoyable couple who purchased the business last fall, and stayed open all winter serving locals and ice fishermen. They use all local products and have the most interesting and tasty menu (yes if you have to, they have hamburgers). Check them out – they are close, and tell them Ray (the travel blogger) sent you. As I was leaving after another chat she gave me some wonderful potato wedges and sauce – just had them – yummy!

Then we (that is BLUE BELLE and I – plus 17 additional cars) went through Springfield picking up 106 and continuing on 10 to Gassetts (only a crossroad intersection) where we turned right on Route 103. Approaching the side road to Proctorsville, BLUE BELLE, in tears cried, “you always take BLACK BEAUTY’s picture at Crows. I want my picture there too.” I listen to the ladies, so here she is.

BLUE BELLE at Crows Bakery and Opera House Cafe at Proctorsville, VT

BLUE BELLE at Crows Bakery and Opera House Cafe at Proctorsville, VT

And, here is BLACK BEAUTY on our first “shunpiking” report on April 10, 2011.

Proctorsville, VT - Crows Bakery and Cafe - April 10, 2011

Proctorsville, VT – Crows Bakery and Cafe – April 10, 2011

It was then back onto Route 103 to Ludlow where we decided to head south on Route 100 to Weston. But after a couple miles there was a sign pointing left “To Andover.” Now, never having gone into Andover (just a few houses in an old village setting – not unique) from this direction — off we went on what ended up being East Hill Road. Miles (many miles) of dirt, but then the views, and it was overcast sadly – have to go back.

The most magnificent view was across from the East Hill Cemetery.



And, hard to believe, behind me and across the road, the former residents have a view of Mount Monadnock.


There was a fascinating history on the post there. The cemetery was established in 1791 with the earliest gravestone dated 1797 (and we are in nowhere). I found interesting that originally the graves were just marked with field stones, but later on there were traveling stone carvers who toured around selling and engraving stones. Since this could be many years after a death often the dates are wrong due to poor memories. Many of the families moved from Jaffrey, NH, thus looking off toward Monadnock they are looking back to their original homes. Read this history below by clicking on an image to open the slideshow.

Winding down the hill from Andover and back onto Route 100 you enter Weston, famous for its theater and the Vermont Country Store.  I was first at the Vermont Country Store in 1963 in my 1929 Model A Ford. There I met the founder, Vrest Orton, who founded the store in 1946 (a good year). He also founded VERMONT LIFE, and said he had met my great-grandfather – Franz Boas.  Oh, once a shunpiker, always a shunpiker.


When we got to Londonderry I turned east on Route 11 with the intention of picking up a really back road to Grafton. I think I was on Route 121 before, but it did not look familiar at first – all woods. Nine miles of it are dirt, and I love it when there are no more telephone poles and power lines. Then you know you are really shunpiking.


Eventually (well on rough dirt you do keep it under 2o MPH – boo-hoo) we rolled into “downtown” Grafton. In the center of this image you see The Grafton Inn, and some of you know its importance to me – the reason I am here today.

Arriving in Grafton, Vermont on Route 121.

Arriving in Grafton, Vermont on Route 121.

I still need to find Chevy Chase’s farm house from FUNNY FARM which was filmed in Grafton, so I decided to explore the other dirt roads fanning out behind this spot. Glad I did, and could not believe the serenity and beauty.  Doubling back on Middletown Road I found this plaque on a rock indicating where the original village was.


I found the cemetery, but nothing else still exists. But heading back to the current village this is typical of some of the homes I saw.


Well, from Grafton I headed home, getting back at about 5:30 – thus a good 5 1/2 hour adventure with 103 miles (165 kilometers for my British fans), but first I had to find these ruins for research I am doing for my next “Did you know that…” for my newspaper, THE WALPOLE CLARION.


Well, hopefully you got this far, because I said I needed your help.  Awhile back I asked the director of FACT8-TV  (the public access TV station in Bellows Falls, Vermont) if he would be interested in televising my shunpiking adventures. The station for years has graciously filmed my Walpole Players productions and televised them, and assisted us with other projects. And, just this past week I took a beginning video and editing course at the station – now I am really hooked.

I am trying to figure out how to turn my words that you have read into a show with video, stills, and expanding my words on what I have seen and experienced. So, any thoughts and suggestions you may have on how I can approach this (hopefully award winning) show would be great. And, anyone who would like to assist as a cameraman (or hopefully lady) please let me know.  You know I love Plymouth Notch, Vermont, so I would like that to be my first show.  Guess where I will be filming on the Fourth of July?

Thanks for reading, as always, yours, RAY

PS – and let me know if you want to join me for lunch at The Silver Bullet.

Posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

FAIRHAVEN – NEW BEDFORD – ROUND HILL, MASSACHUSETTS on the way home 28-29 April 2015

I get busy — and it has taken a week to get this post done, and posted on 7 May 2015 – sorry.

Plan on Tuesday (April 28th) was to spend more time in Oak Bluffs prior to queuing for the ferry at 11:30.  I followed the coast from Edgartown up, and first came to Ocean Park, and its surrounding homes on Ocean Avenue.  WOW. It was in the 40s, big wind off the ocean, and overcast. But, still images worth capturing, and by now you know what type of architecture and time period I enjoy.


Architectural eye candy for sure, and I could not stop taking pictures. So, here is a gallery of them, and remember you can click on any of them to open up and see larger size.

And, then I got to see The Wesley Hotel built in 1879 – a “grand hotel” and my kind of establishment.

The Wesley Hotel, Oak Bluffs, Massachsetts

The Wesley Hotel, Oak Bluffs, Massachsetts

It was still closed for the season, but I was able to get some pictures through the windows. Then I saw a note on the door that said “office open in rear.” I walked around back, found a door unlocked and went in. Never found an office, but did get two interior shots from the inside. Here for my memory is what I saw (remember you can click to enlarge).

Upon arriving back on the mainland in Woods Hole, I toured through the small village and discovered that essentially every building is associated with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, or the Marine Biological Laboratory – all impressive. Crossing the Bourne Bridge, and now really back on the mainland, I opted (of course) to travel on the old US 6 instead of I-195 to Fairhaven and New Bedford. Now you do not have to take that route because I have discovered for you that there is nothing to see. I did detour down to Marion which is a lovely little former artist’s colony on Buzzards Bay, and I am sure that there are many little roads to remote spots on the bay.

Fairhaven is on the east side of the Acushnet River which empties into Buzzards Bay, and New Bedford is on the west side. My first stop (as usual) was the visitor’s center, and my good fortune lead me to spending about an hour with the director of tourism, Chris Richard. He has been “on the job” 19 years and was so knowledgeable. I learned a great deal, and what I must see.

It seems like everywhere I go is full of “firsts” and home to “someone important.” Born in Fairhaven in 1840, Henry Huttleston Rogers became one of John D. Rockefeller’s top men in Standard Oil. Rogers became quite a benefactor of Fairhaven building a number of impressive buildings.

The Town Hall (1894), which Chris encouraged me to see inside, has a fantastic interior.

Fairhaven, Massachusetts Town Hall

Fairhaven, Massachusetts Town Hall

Mark Twain was a close friend of Rogers, and was the keynote speaker on this stage for the dedication on February 22, 1894.


Following the dedication they went across the street to The Millicent Library (1893) also donated by Rogers’ in memory of his daughter who died in 1890 at age 17.


I was overwhelmed with the interior, and need to redecorate my bookshop along these lines.



There are wonderful things all around the reading rooms:

Twain’s letter reads, in part: “It is an ideal library, I think.”

Then I went to Fort Phoenix. In the waters off the fort the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War took place May 13-14, 1775. The break wall you see is new, to protect the river and towns from hurricane flooding.

Fort Phoenix, Fairhaven, MA. Looking north up Acushnet River and New Bedford.

Fort Phoenix, Fairhaven, MA. Looking north up Acushnet River and New Bedford.

Click below to enlarge.

My next recommended stop was Poverty Point on the river. Again, so much history. The first Japanese person to live in America, Manjiro Nakahama, was brought here by a whaler in 1843. Charlie M. had recently told me the story, so it was a treat to see the area. You should read about him – he helped open Japan when Commodore Perry visited in 1854. There too, Capt. Joshua Slocum rebuilt an old oyster boat, the Spray, in which he became the first person to sail around the world alone, completing his three year voyage in 1895. And settling here in 1652, John Cooke is supposedly buried here. Arriving on the Mayflower at age 14, he was supposedly at his death in 1695, the last surviving male passenger on the Mayflower.

Just up the road is the Riverside Cemetery. Yes,  Rogers is there, but also the Delano Family Tomb, built in 1859 by an uncle of FDR. Most all of the family is there except FDR’s mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, who is with her son in Hyde Park.

But, it was time to cross the river and check into my B&B –  Captain Haskell’s Octagon House.

Captain Haskell's Octagon House, New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Captain Haskell’s Octagon House, New Bedford, Massachusetts.

O. S. Fowler’s design for octagon houses were very popular in the 1850s. “An octagon house was cheaper to build, allowed for additional living space, received more natural light, was easier to heat, and remained cooler in the summer. These benefits all derive from the geometry of an octagon: the shape encloses space efficiently, minimizing external surface area and consequently heat loss and gain, building costs etc.” I have always been fascinated by this style of architecture too, thus had to stay here. (I last toured an Octagon House (below) in October at the  Genesee County Village and Museum in Mumford, NY.

I started at the Octagon House in the Victorian village area.

I started at the Octagon House in the Victorian village area.

My host, Chuck, was pleasant and informative. Modifications to his home have been made over the years obscuring some of the typical Octagon House features, but the ambience and decoration was wonderful. Why do I show you my rooms? Because of the uniqueness of B&Bs, and to encourage you to travel from one to another whenever possible.

I asked Chuck for dinner suggestions, and in the course of discussion learned that the majority of New Bedford’s population is Portuguese, and has been for centuries (more on that later). It made sense to go to a Portuguese restaurant, and his favorite was Inner Bay on Cove Road.

Soon I was off, but drove around town to get a feel for the next day’s trek. I stopped at Fort Taber, and then swung back up along Clarks Cove off Buzzards Bay to the northernmost part, and there was Inner Bay Cafe & Grill Restaurant. Situated since 1995 in an old brick coffee syrup factory, I entered and was seated. My server, Cathy, told me the specials – there were more specials than entrees on the menu – and most were a “fresh catch.”  I selected grilled tuna. She told me it came with a soup or salad, and a choose the kale soup – WOW.

My grilled tuna at INNER BAY in New Bedford, MA

My grilled tuna at INNER BAY in New Bedford, MA

When I was leaving, a gentleman asked me how I enjoyed my meal – I raved. Ended up he was the owner, Tony Soares. He toured me on the second floor where there was another dining room, party room, and roof top eating (closed that weeknight), and when we got downstairs he said, “join me for a drink.” We had some lovely port, and he introduced me to a number of patrons. I chatted and learned from them all. It could not have been a better more memorable experience. RAY RECOMMENDS: Get a local recommendation for a restaurant, and partake in the local nationality’s food; and, if you have a chance to visit with local strangers, do so and enjoy every moment. And, do take in the INNER BAY in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Visitor Center - New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.

Visitor Center – New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.

Wednesday, April 29th, I was at the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park  when it opened. The whaling capital of the world in the mid-19th century, a number of blocks in New Bedford have been preserved close to what they would have been at that time. The whale oil brought back following 2-3 year voyages “lit the world” and made New Bedford one of the wealthiest of towns. It was the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania in 1859 that lead to its demise as refined kerosine took the place of whale oil.

Around the corner is the renowned New Bedford Whaling Museum.


RAY RECOMMENDS – Plan to spend a half a day at the museum. Its preeminent collection will give you an understanding of this bygone industry.


I had the museum to myself, except for a few school groups. I will always “hang to the rear” of those groups to learn from the docents. I even asked this gentleman a few questions – think he appreciated it. When a whale is spotted, the crew heads off in the whale boat. The harpoon is not to kill the whale, but to “capture” the whale and stay “attached” until the whale begins to tire and the boat can get close to hurl additional projectiles (sorry, forget the terminology – I am good on concepts, not details) to puncture the whale’s lungs thus killing it.

Docent explaining how the whale boat is used.

Docent explaining how the whale boat is used.

One of the original galleries at the museum is the Bourne Building built in 1915-16, with funds donated by Emily Bourne in memory of her father, whaling merchant Jonathan Bourne, Jr. Inside is the LAGODA, an 89-foot, half-scale model of the original ship, and the largest ship model in existence.

The Bark Lagoda

The Bark Lagoda

Exact in every detail. Here are the “trying tanks” where the blubber was reduced to the oil then placed in barrels. Hard to believe the small size of these whaling ships – even in full size – circumnavigating the world.

Trying tanks on the half-scale Bark Lagoda

Trying tanks on the half-scale Bark Lagoda

I mentioned before that the majority of the population of New Bedford is Portuguese. This is because of the sailing route of the whaling ships. The currents would carry them into the Azores and Cape Verde islands. The ships would pick up supplies, and add to their crews. Those crew members would then settle in New Bedford, and later bring their families over on “packet ships.”  So much to learn, here is some information on the museum’s panels if you wish to click and open them up to learn more.

Next I walked around the historic area. This is the Double Bank Building – two banks, two entrances, one for rich, and the other for the not so rich.

Double Bank Building - New Bedford, Massachusetts

Double Bank Building – New Bedford, Massachusetts

The Seamen’s Bethel has served Mariners since 1832 as a house of worship. In 1841, Herman Melville worshipped here, and later mentioned the chapel’s memorials in MOBY DICK.

Seaman's Bethel - New Bedford, Massachusetts

Seaman’s Bethel – New Bedford, Massachusetts

I then had a late lunch in a little soup and sandwich place. Fantastic vegetarian chile, and I had some cucumber salad – now on my list to make.  Meal prices are what I consider a bargain in New Bedford, and worth a side-stop from I-195 if cruising by.

Built in 1836, this is the oldest continuously operating US Custom House.

US CUSTOM HOUSE - New Bedford, Massachusetts

US CUSTOM HOUSE – New Bedford, Massachusetts

You know me, I looked in the door, and it was dark – but the door was unlocked. In I go

Inside US Customs House, New Bedford, Massachusetts

Inside US Customs House, New Bedford, Massachusetts

down the marbled floor to read the history panels in the back. Soon I hear footsteps coming down the stairs, and it is a customs agent who heard the door. “Of course you can look around,” he told me. I later went upstairs to their offices and looked at the original measuring device for helping in describing sailors, and the fine woodwork mainly covered up. GSA has the building for sale. Hum?


There is still more to see and do in New Bedford, but I also wanted to see Round Hill in South Dartmouth. At the whaling museum I found, and purchased, a self-punished book on Colonel “Ned” Green’s mansion. His mother, Hetty Green, was known as the “wicked witch of Wall Street,” and when she died in 1916, Ned and his sister inherited somewhere between 100 and 200 million dollars. I recently read two books on Hetty Green that have been in my library over 15 years, and wrote an article on her connection (and burial) in Bellows Falls, across the river. At the museum I also found a wonderful Historical Map of Dartmouth, Massachusetts with details on all the little villages. Off I went.

Not quite a peninsula, but remote on Buzzards Bay, I recommend a drive through Padanaram down to the point, and back up through Russell’s Mill. I got to the gate of the estate, which is now condominiums with other homes on the grounds.  But the guard just refused to let me in, “but I am a historian writing on Hetty Green,” I told him. “But I will get in trouble,” he said. Sadly I headed down to the beach road and thence to the water’s edge on property that had originally been part of the estate. Very historical, and the property ownership goes back to the 1600s in Hetty’s family. Here is a view of the estate from the main road.


Currently there is a two bedroom condo for sale in the mansion for only $899,000. But remember you get a diligent gate guard with it.

In Russell’s Mills I stumbled into Davoll’s General Store which has been there since 1793, and is currently for sale.



And, then I shot home via Providence, Rhode Island.

If you survived to this point, THANK YOU. Not sure if I write too much, or do too much. There is so much history I stumble onto, I wish I could share more, but hopefully my words will entice you to do some further research and reading – or better yet ROAD TRIP!

And talking about road trips, may I suggest that you read my friends, Scott and Betty’s, wonderful travel blog for some fascinating history. Betty does a great job – AIRSTREAM TOURING WITH SCOTT AND BETTY


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