I almost did not make this Guilford Historical Society event, but with possible inclement weather it was postponed to Sunday from Saturday — I had a conflict in town on Saturday which would have kept me here. And, then I thought, no I will not write a post, but Ray thinking to himself, decided, “you need to write about that five hour journey so you remember, and then share and encourage others to explore Guilford, VT, and learn how important this once most populated area in Vermont is to Vermont’s early history. So, here goes, hopefully sparking you to learn more and explore Guilfords’s “approximately seventy-eight miles of roads; sixty miles of which are gravel.” “Gravel” – AKA “dirt” and loved by BLACK BEAUTY and BLUE BELLE who made the journey on the second.
The day’s event was in Celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Carpenter House on Carpenter Hill Road. From 10 until noon tours were given on the first floor of the house, at Noon Carpenter House Stories relating the early ownership and history were related, and following a former resident related his time there. Tours of the Carpenter Hill Cemetery were given, and I attended the 1PM tour. I must quote the publicity which stated, “The Guilford Historical Society and the Guilford Conservation Commission have been working with the owners of the Carpenter House to plan a day of celebration for this beautiful homestead on Carpenter Hill Road. Built in 1772, the house was acquired by Benjamin Carpenter in 1779, the year he became Vermont’s second lieutenant governor.” The owners were overly gracious and generous in opening there home in this manner, and the various nature trails on their property.
Setting the stage, and putting things into perspective, you must remember that the Republic of Vermont (and its disputed territory between New York and New Hampshire) did not become a state until March 4, 1791, becoming the 14th State in the United States. I have written about the border dispute over Vermont lands between NY and NH. Benjamin Carpenter was connected with the government of the “Republic of Vermont.” During the early years of the house’s existence, Guilford was embroiled in the controversy over whether Guilford should be part of New York or the independent Vermont. Because of his position Carpenter was about to be arrested and banished but he hid. In time Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys came to Guilford to put down the Yorker uprising. It is believed he was at the house and gave his ultimatum to Guilford to submit to the authority of Vermont in the upstairs Court Room. Please learn more about Guilford, the Yorkers, and Ethan Allen (a side note – Ethan Allen married his second wife just across the river from me in Westminster, VT, February 16, 1784).
Below is the Carpenter House from the front, and the side showing the rear extensions and barns.
You know I have toured many historic Colonial structures, particularly Historic Deerfield and Old Sturbridge Village, just to mention a few. But the tour in this private home (thus no photos) was exceptional – the home is that wonderful and close to original with its layout, wood paneling, fireplaces and equipment, and the furnishings and accessories. I felt like I was in the early 1800s. Essentially untouched and saved from disrepair in the early 20th century, through many ownerships it was simply preserved and used mainly as a summer home. It was not until the mid-1960s that electricity, plumbing and central heating were added to the home without any noticeable damage or modifications. An absolute treasure.
Thought I would share the original floor plan (not much changed on the first floor except additions). What I found fascinating is the entryway and fireplace layout (you may click to enlarge) — more about that at the end of this post.
Sorry this is getting wordier than I planned, I just want you to be sparked to learn more.
And, it was the cemetery tour that is sparking me to want to learn more. Erin, who was giving the tour, had the booklet you see to the right in her folder. Looked intriguing, and I have a copy in the mail to me already.
So, below are some new things I learned about 18th and 19th century cemeteries. You know I like to explore them, but now can be more knowledgeable about what I see.
Further up Carpenter Hill Road and around a bend is the cemetery, built on a hillside. Why? Hillsides are not ideal for farming or grazing, so a good use of the land.
Below Erin read us Benjamin Carpenter’s epitaph on his stone.
One always sees a large stone – the head stone – and assumes the head of the body is near that with the feet extended towards the viewer. Well, not so here with Mary Carpenter’s large head stone on the left, and the grave and body to its right ending with the foot stone.
and, here a close-up of the “foot stone.” To its rear is a granite post marking the plot boundaries. There were many such posts (this being one of the smallest) marking plot boundaries. Most of the posts were around four feet high. I do not recall seeing these in other cemeteries I have explored.
Erin enjoyed sharing this stone, noting how the stone carver did not plan ahead properly. Can you see? I wonder if the carver was paid at all or a reduced amount for his errors. Do click “gallery” images to enlarge.
I found some new to me Guilford dirt roads to traverse. Came to one T intersection, but don’t believe there was a stop sign since hardly travelled. I turned right on Lee Road and saw an interesting cut off tree with a roof and weathervane. Pulling alongside, it is the most unique little roadside “free library” I have yet to see.
I look forward to more Guilford explorations, and learning more cemetery lore. But now I digress to something I have been struggling with in my house. Benjamin Carpenter’s front entryway with the center chimney and its fireplaces backing up to it brought more into focus what I believe happened to my home in about 1850.
My home, built in 1806, has no fireplaces. I have two small brick chimneys serving as flues only. In my front parlors downstairs are identical mantles on the center wall, and one cast iron stove remains. Upstairs in one bedroom you can see where a flue may have exhausted into the chimney. A 216 year old home without fireplaces? I have been chatting with experts over the years.
At an event at Historic Deerfield I was chatting with an architectural historian. He promised to visit his next time in Walpole. When he entered my front door a few years back he said, “stairway and banister appears to be an 1850 era modernization.” And in May of this year I met the grandson of the founders of Historic Deerfield. He is now retired as former director of Historic Deerfield, and lives across the river. We chatted, and I shared images. He concurred that my mantels and entryway appears mid-19th century. He encouraged me to look for foundry markings on my stove. I did, and with the name information was able to date my remaining stove to c1850.
Below you can see my two front room mantles, what makes no sense in the second floor floorboards (the only “original” that are exposed), and in the last gallery my stove.
What makes most sense to me now (especially since my existing chimneys start at floor level) is that my long central entry hall is “new.” Originally I probably had a shallow entryway like the Benjamin Carpenter home, and others of this era, with a few steps on the left, a right angle turn for the stairs to the second story, or another turn to the second floor as I have oven seen. Then a central fireplace would have backed up to the stairs with on the first floor fireplaces opening to the two front rooms, and one to the rear for the kitchen area. Makes sense. AND, there is a big mound of dirt and stones in the center part of my crawl space, right were footings would have been for such a central chimney. What I need is someone small and not frightened by cobwebs to crawl in and investigate that mound for me. Volunteers?
Hope you got this far:
RAY HIGHLY RECOMMENDS:
1 – Explore Guilford, Vermont, and its sixty miles of dirt roads
2 – Learn early Vermont history and how it became a state
3 – Read about Ethan Allen (yes I have about a dozen books about him in one of my reading piles)
ENJOY, luv, RAY
Ray, Well I learned something new from this post! 18th and 19th rural New England cemeteries are often located on hillsides not suitable for farming or grazing. As you say in the post, it makes sense. Clever, those frugal Yankees! And yes your curiosity keeps you young. Mine does me. George
thanks for looking George. Yes, I have seen cemeteries on deserted roads in strange places, and now starting to understand why. One cemetery in town here was started at the top of a small hill, and the expansion came down the steep slope to the original “turnpike.” Yes, makes sense, but still so much more to learn. And, one thing leads to another – I just “love it.” Stay well, RAY
Interesting how seeing one thing makes you question something else (your lack of central fireplace). Ah the joys of learning!
I can’t say for sure that I’ll scrabble through your crawl space but when we do come see you, try to remind me to bring old clothes and if my fear of the creepy doesn’t get the better of me, I’ll give it a shot.
you are hereby reminded — have set up automatic email reminders to you until mission complete. And the quests and curiosities continue. Time to head out to “Camp 44 – night