Clyde River Has Industrial Past
Story by Robin Smith, Staff Writer
NEWPORT CITY - The Clyde River in Newport City has been known for its huge salmon runs of the last century.
And hydroelectric dams on the Clyde have been known for killing off the salmon runs that made the Clyde famous.
But history paints a different story about the Clyde, says historian Scott Wheeler.
The Clyde River should be known for its industrial past and the many mills that tapped the cascading falls above Lake Memphremagog beginning almost 200 years ago.
"The Clyde River was the industrial center of the region," Wheeler said during a trip in early May to the point where the river emerges from Clyde Pond dam above the city and falls through cascades down to the lake.
A pond and dam were built in 1818-1819. Mills churning out pulp, lumber and linens sprouted along what is now Clyde Street.
The river keeps the names of some of those who came to make their fortune. Arnold Falls below the pond is named for Kelvin Arnold, an industrialist who built dams and mills on the Clyde in the early 1800s, Wheeler said. In 1824, Arnold built a house near the Clyde that stands to this day next to the pond dam on Crawford Farm Road.
Those dams and mills tamed the Clyde River and hindered fish runs long before power companies came in the 1890s to tap the hydroelectric potential, Wheeler said.
True, the river was rightly known for fishing.
"There's no disputing that during the late 1920s, '30s, and '40s the Clyde River was a first class salmon river," Wheeler said. "People caught salmon here bigger than we'll ever see."
But blaming the dams for the loss of a native salmon run isn't entirely right, Wheeler said. Wheeler said his research shows that the massive salmon runs that spawned the river's fame were from stocked salmon, not native salmon.
There probably were some land-locked "native" salmon, which came up from the St. Lawrence in Quebec to Lake Memphremagog to be fished by the Native Americans, Wheeler said.
Newspaper articles from 70 years ago talk of stocking the river for local prosperity, Wheeler said.
The salmon run was a huge tourist attraction to the city, filling hotels and the bellies of locals at the same time," Wheeler said.
"People still alive today say the only way they survived the Depression was salmon," he said.
The state also had a hand in the end of the salmon runs, he said. The state used to trap salmon in Before Hole on the Clyde and strip out the eggs for hatcheries, he said.
Locals also fished heavily, he said. "Some photos show people with 10 salmon each."
By the time that Citizens constructed its big dam in 1956, the salmon population was very low, he said. The dam's masters dropped the water so low in the summer that fish and spawn died, killing off the runs, he said.
Since then, the big No. 11 dam was removed, after it failed. And in the last 10 years, Wheeler said Citizens and now current owner Great Bay Hydro have been much better at managing the river's flow at the remaining dams.
Wheeler's interest in the Clyde is personal. He grew up on the Clyde River in Newport City, in what was Arnold's Mills Schoolhouse, built in 1826. He played in Arnold's Forest.
As a journalist during the debates about the dams on the Clyde in the 1990s, Wheeler said he unknowingly perpetuated some of its myths. Now, he is researching the Clyde for a book, his second about the area. The first was on border smugglers during Prohibition.
Wheeler said he has spoken to locals such as octogenarian Freddy Carter, former game warden Normand Moreau, who strictly enforced the rules in the 1960s-1980s during a more modern run of walleye on the river, and Al Flory, who ran the dams for Citizens years ago.
Wheeler hopes to contact others who have other tales to tell about the Clyde.
"Environmental groups told stories that didn't jive with what I know and what older fishermen knew about the Clyde from the Clyde Pond on down," Wheeler said.
"The myth of the Clyde River has become far bigger than the fish that ever swam here," Wheeler said.
Story by Anne L. Square, Express Staff Writer
The Town of Charleston celebrated its Bicentennial Saturday under sunny skies and larger-than-anticipated crowds.
The celebration began with a parade, complete with floats from several churches, the Charleston School Marching Bank, Mt. Sinai #3 Shriners on their tiny fire trucks, and Little Read Bookmobile, and candy for the onlookers down School Street.
Once at the school, people had chances to watch displays of dance from the North Country School of Dance, Ed Larkin and his Old Time Contra Dance group, and the Bits & Pieces 4H Club.
The food booth was so popular they sold out early, closing by 3:00 p.m.
There were sales of homemade cookies, plants and yard sale items. Many people were in costume from the floats, as well as a handful of local Abenakis dressed in traditional 18th century regalia. The Abenakis also had a song presentation in the afternoon. The governor spoke at 4:00 p.m., and many local politicians came out to hear him and to be seen.
Many people came with their lawn chairs and sat talking to the neighbors for the day. The sun was bright, but not terribly hot, making it enjoyable for all.
The only gray note was the washout of Route 111 in Morgan, the next town north, which was discussed by many long-term residents of the area. A former owner of the Morgan property where the dam burst said she had to let the water out each spring to make sure it didn't get too high.
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All Washed Out! It remains to be seen whether officials will declare this area on Route 111 in Morgan a disaster, but there is no doubt this washout is disastrous for anyone who depends on the highway for traveling.
- Photo by Josh Brainard
Michael and Beverly Rondeau of Morgan look over an area on their property that was once the home of a beaver dam. That beaver dam broke Friday evening, causing extensive damage to Vermont Route 111.
- Photo by Christopher Roy
Story by Christopher Roy, Express Correspondent
A burst beaver dam is being blamed for causing a section of Vermont Route 111 in Morgan to be washed out completely closing the state highway Friday evening.
Vermont State Police report that around 8:15 p.m. a large beaver pond, located north of the highway near Oxbow Lane, near the public beach gave way. Police said the dam took out an entire section of Route 111 and the beach was destroyed.
Senior Vermont State Police Trooper, Sean Selby, said they received a call just after 8:00 p.m., that an approximate 20 acre beaver dam had let go.
"I got here 10 minutes after it had let go and there was water, trees, stones and everything coming down - it was a tremendous mess," said Selby, noting another state trooper had just passed through that section of road about five to 10 minutes earlier.
Michael Rondeau, owner of the property where the beaver dam was located, said he heard a noise that sounded similar to a tornado.
"I looked at the brook that runs through my property and noticed there was an awful volume of water coming through, he said. "I called for my wife to tell her I believe the beaver dam broke."
Rondeau said there was a 12-fot brook, 12 feet wide and 10 feet deep running through his property. Ordinarily there is a six0inch deep, three-foot-wide stream.
He said it caught him by surprise, noting that Vermont Route 111 was engulfed in water.
Rep. Nancy Sheltra (Orleans-1) said the large amount of water went across Vermont Route 111, leaving eight- to 10-foot-deep ravines on either side of the highway.
Once on the scene, Selby and some other troopers made sure everything was okay and made sure the camp owners were aware of the situation. They then closed that section of road and secured the scene until the Agency of Transportation arrived on the scene and put up warning signs.
"I was totally astonished when I walked up there," stated Sheltra. "Nobody could tell you how bad it looks, you have to walk up and see it for yourself."
However, that is exactly what officials are discouraging people from doing.
"We are very concerned for citizens, noted Selby. "That road could give away; nothing is holding that blacktop. All it takes is one section and that whole thing could go down. It is not worth someone risking their life."
The official cost of damage was not available as of press time; however, Selby noted it would be a tremendous expense. There were not injuries reported, and there was no serious property damage, according to Selby, noting if it had been dark when the incident occurred it could have been a lot worse.
However, Sheltra said there was some property damage and land owners in the area cannot get flood insurance.
"That is because the property owners in the area are not in a flood zone," explained Rep. Loren Shaw (Orleans-1), noting that some residents wanted to trap the beavers but were told by State Fish & Game Wardens that could only be done in season. Shaw, however, questions that accuracy.
Selby, a 10-year veteran with the state police, said he has seen a lot of washouts, but nothing to this extent.
Sheltra said that particular road has been on a list of roads that were in need of repair.
"This road would have probably held up under normal circumstances, " she noted. "But the water and the pressure of the water caused this catastrophe."
Sheltra said she believes the state should be able to apply for some disaster relief to get the read repaired.
The highway is also closed to commercial vehicles, an edict that will be strictly enforced.
"We have a lot of truck traffic going through here, so it will be a hard situation," she said, noting if it had been dark and someone happened to be traveling on that section of road, they could have been killed.
Shaw echoed the sentiment that such things as the highway can be replaced, but lives can't be replaced, noting anybody in the path of the water would have been killed.
Police said Vermont Route 111 will be closed until further notice, which Selby estimated would be about two weeks.
"There is a lot of work ahead to do," according to Sheltra. "There is going to be a lot of clean up."
Gov. Jim Douglas, who was visiting the region to attend the Bicentennial celebration in Charleston, was advised of the situation. When officials presented him with photographs of the catastrophe, Douglas said he would be talking to officials from the Agency of Transportation on Monday to see where the situation stood.
"A stat highway being blocked like that is a serious situation, and I want to stay on top of it," stated Douglas.
The road is expected to be closed at least tow and a half weeks, according to some officials. A side road will be used for light traffic, but that will be closed to commercial vehicles.
Rondeau reported that the beavers were already back rebuilding their dam on Saturday morning.
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CHARLESTON BAND, EAST CHARLESTON, VERMONT, circa 1920
FRONT ROW: George Johnson, Willie Stoddard, Joel Whitcomb, Harry "Had" Piper
BACK ROW: Mr. Tripp, Clifton Colburn, Ivan Buck, John Hall, Kenneth Wilson, Walter Whitcomb, Stanley Wilson, Gordon Colburn, Ernest Colburn, Carl Hall (behind Had Piper), Mr. Carroll, leader and pastor at Plymouth Church.
Mrs. Alvin Moulton in front with hat.
Reprinted from the Charleston Historical Society, Inc. Newsletter - Spring 2002
May 19, 1924. On Monday, the little village of West Charleston was visited by a conflagration which wiped out nearly all the business section, destroyed the hotel, one church and several residences.
The fire started at about two o'clock in the Bowen blacksmith shop on the bank of the Clyde River, directly back of the Clyde River Hotel, and was soon beyond control. It spread to the livery stable connected with the hotel, which burned like tinder, then attacked the hotel, the Walter Hildreth store and barn adjoining the hotel. In less than an hour these buildings were destroyed. A north-west wind was blowing at almost a gale, and notwithstanding the fact that the river running through the center of the village is very accessible, only a small bucket brigade was available, and of course was wholly inadequate to cope with such a situation. Help from Island Pond, Derby, Newport, Derby Line and Orleans was soon on the ground, and did royal service, but the fire swept on to the old Daniel Webster homestead, destroying both house and outbuildings. This property was on the south side of the square, at least a hundred and fifty feet away, but the wind did its work of distribution. The fire then jumped across the street and burned the barn of John Smith, all the Pock Page livery barns, the residence of John LaFlamme, the block in which was located the meat market of Alvin Woodard, the post office and Jenkins' store, and the public library, with over 3,000 books. These buildings were on the east side of the street. The next building south, with a harness shop and pool room, then fell prey to the flames.
The Congregational Church was the next building in the course of the fire. It was fully 150 feet away, and it seemed that the fire could be stopped at this point, but the building was soon ablaze. Two men who went up into the belfry to pass water to the roof, soon found their position untenable on account of the heat. The body of the building was a seething mass of flame, and for a moment they seemed to be trapped, but a little later a rope had been pulled up on a small chemical hose, and with this fastened to the belfry, they let themselves down to the ground. At the old homestead of the Bennett family, which sets back from the street about 150 feet, on the east side, the house was saved, but all the outbuildings were burned. The next house south of the church was only about 30 feet away, and was soon burning; this was the home of Mrs. William Nelson, and one of the finest properties in the village. The store of I. O. Weymouth, which was only a few feet south of the Nelson house followed, the entire stock as well as the building, being destroyed. The extent of the open space between this and the next building enabled the firemen to stop the fire. In the course of the afternoon, a barn located over behind the cemetery hill, at least a quarter of a mile away, caught fire, probably from a brand carried by the gale, and was burned, but fortunately no other buildings were near.
People were obliged to fight the fire, and were not able to give attention to removal of the contents of the buildings in its path, consequently very little was saved from the buildings burned. While the village presents a sad looking spectacle, there are some things to be thankful for; only five families were driven from their homes and tenements. Had the homes, instead of business places, been the mark of the fire, more suffering and inconvenience would have resulted.
Nineteen buildings were burned, very little of their contents being saved. Estimates of the loss have varied from $60,000 to $150,000. A fairly careful computation shows a total of very nearly $100,000, while the cost of replacement would probably exceed that amount. The insurance is less than 30 per cent of the loss, as far as can be learned at present. Citizens were so dazed over the loss that there was very little courageous talk over the situation. The hotel was unoccupied; possibly someone will open their home to those needing accommodations of this kind. The one church left is adequate to accommodate all in the village, and perhaps the effort for federation may rise successfully from the ashes of this disaster.
Several unusual things happened. The wind sometimes carried the flames into interiors, through openings, and often the interior would be all afire without warning. A squad of courageous women saved the home of Harry Ruiter by forming a bucket brigade and standing by loyally. This house is located on the east side of the river, opposite the Weymouth store. Hardly a building in the whole village escaped ignition at some time during the three hours the flames were raging. The fire did its work so thoroughly that the sites of the burned buildings were left practically free from refuse.
The insurance was largely carried by companies represented by George L. Dyer of Island Pond, although George O. Burton of Derby, and some of the brokers at Newport had some of the risks. The church society carried $1,300 on the buildings and contents; it would cost at least $10,000 to replace the building alone. After the fire, the creamery was the only place where anything could be bought for family use, and there only flour was available. Not even a yeast cake was to be had Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Weymouth will have the old Bennett store, which has been used as a garage for some time, until recently. He will soon be doing business again. Mrs. Jenkins, the postmaster, has taken as an office the room formerly used by the late Charles Carpenter when he was manager of the Vermont Emery Wheel Co., and town clerk. This is located quite well for the purpose. Mr. Weymouth expects to rebuild soon. We are quite sure that the West Village will not be outdone in its show of enterprise by the village at the east end of the town which showed such real courage in its come-back from the fire three years ago.
Great Fire at West Charleston: During the progress of the fire at West Charleston, Monday, Ben Hazen and Harley Ames of the Derby Line brigade climbed to the belfry of the Congregational Church. When their position became untenable on account of flame and smoke, they found that the ladders upon which they had ascended had been carried away. They called for help and a rope tied to a small hose was drawn up and fastened to the belfry. Upon this they reached the ground, practically exhausted. Commenting on this act next day, a Derby Line businessman said: "Ben Hazen is going to get killed some day. He is a good fireman, but too careless." Carelessness of self seems to be one of the qualifications of a good fireman. At West Charleston the ladders, it is said, were removed by two Newport firemen who had been in the building and supposed they were the last to leave.
Reprinted from the Charleston Historical Society, Inc. Newsletter - Spring 2001
I don't know how many of you know, or perhaps even care, but on Wednesday afternoon, June 8, 1921 nearly the entire village of East Charleston was destroyed by a fire that raged nearly unchecked for three hours - destroying 26 buildings including the hotel, four tenement blocks, four individual homes, two blacksmith shops, a woodworking shop, the feed mill, a shingle mill, two barns, three garages, a sawmill and the town's cider mill.
The Village of East Charleston had nothing in the way of fire protection and the bucket brigade that was formed from the river in the village to the scene of the inferno in the business section did little to quell the blaze. The buildings at the time were nearly all connected or within a few feet of each other and the flames spread from one wooden structure to another with comparative ease. The buildings, most all considered old even then, were tinder dry and the water from the valiant bucket brigade formed by nearly every resident in town was to no avail.
The fire which had originated in Pinard's woodworking shop was thought to have started from a spark from his forge in his blacksmith shop when he was forging steel runners for a sleigh he was making. The flames spread so rapidly that hardly a thing was saved in any of the buildings including the homes where the residents fled into the street and the intense heat kept any from recovering any personal belongings.
The flames, fanned by a strong wind, leaped across the street and quickly spread to a five-tenement block and then the blaze went in both directions. On one side a general store caught fire almost immediately and on the other the grain and feed mill nearly exploded from the accumulation of the years of dust that covered the interior of of the aged wooden structure the moment the flames reached it. This was followed by the old hotel and an adjacent two-family house which burst into flames almost immediately.
When the fire was discovered, help was summoned from Derby, Island Pond and Newport fire departments. Newport responded immediately and made the 16-mile trip loaded with men and equipment in 22 minutes, according to the account in the June 10 edition of the Express and Standard. It was evident to the firemen, upon arrival, that there was nothing that was already on fire that they had a chance to save. They immediately turned their attention to about the only building left, as yet not on fire; that was the church and meeting house.
Our Newport Fire Department had no ladders long enough to reach to the top of this combination church and meeting hall structure and every wooden ladder in town appeared to have burned in the other businesses before the firefighters had arrived.
They were finally able to strap some ladders together so that they could reach the belfry in the steeple, and between the bucket brigade and the Derby firemen's chemical extinguishers, they saved the old wooden structure; nearly the only building left in the business district. Reportedly when the steeple caught fire, the firefighters sere obliged to use nearly every other bucket on themselves as the heat became so intense in the bell tower.
The Island Pond hand pumper arrived on the scene, but it was then discovered that they were cut off by the flames and had to make a two-mile detour to get around the street filled with flaming debris. By the time they finally did get set up by the river's bank and started pumping water, a gasket broke in the old hand pumper, rendering that piece of equipment inoperable. After slightly more than three hours of this flaming disaster, the Ranney residence, the church-meeting house and Stoddard's General Store were the only buildings left standing in the center of the village and 17 families were homeless.
The town fathers attempted to call Barton and Orleans for further aid, but the fire had put the telephone service totally out of operation as poles and wires were burned and fell over into the street. This eliminated any chances of reaching these towns for any additional assistance for that day. Someone had to go all the way to Island Pond before they could call Newport for more soda and acid to refuel their fire extinguishers. True and Blanchard's store in Newport provided the ingredients for the chemical extinguishers and a truck was dispatched to the scent; but by the time it arrived in East Charleston, the need was all over. The reporter compared the scene to Dante's Inferno as there was nothing left but smoldering ruins but, luckily, not a life had been lost.
I'm sure help came from other sources as well, but the Express and Standard only told of the efforts of Newporters to aid the victims of East Charleston. According to the account, that same day, before the sun had set, Newporters had gathered up three truckloads of clothes, furniture and other necessities and a purse of more than $400 and delivered it all to those in need in East Charleston.
It is hard to imagine fighting a fire of that magnitude with buckets of water, but that is what is recorded. So the next time you have occasion to drive to Island Pond via East Charleston, just take a look at that small neighbor of us all and try, if you can, to imagine that scene of devastation. Keeping in mind that the village was much larger then than now, it is hard to picture what resulted from a spark from a smith's forge on a summer's day more than 65 years ago.
This article was written by Charles Moore and appeared in the Newport Daily Express on February 12, 1987.
May 5, 2001
Your letter of December 20th to Mrs. Comeau was not answered because she has been sick. Our first meeting of 2001 was this week and I was given it. I am the Treasurer of the historical society.
We have little on the round barn except what the Leadership Center has given us - which is what Nita and Ruth have given them. So you probably already have it.
I am well acquainted with your family. Are you Raymond's son? Adelbert and Raymond were my age. We went to church and Sunday School together at the Plymouth Congregational Church. Adelbert helped us in haying one summer. Raymond and I went to a Sunday School rally at North Troy for a weekend. I remember the three of us sang a song together in church on an Easter Sunday. At this time we were probably 12-14 years old!
Our historical society has one of your newsletters - can't say which one. My sister, Gertrude Broome, was at one time a care giver for Homer Johnson and she gave the newsletter as it told about East Charleston.
Sorry, but better late than never!
Sincerely, Richard A. Colburn, Sr.
Treasurer, Charleston Historical Society
(See the Winter 2001 issue of the Gardner Newsletter to learn about the Lang Round Barn on "Ten Mile Square Road.")
The old settlers say, “They built them round so the devil couldn’t corner you.” Believers in old superstitions find the round barn a fertile hiding place for old witches’ tales. Actually, there were no hiding places, - because in round buildings there are no corners to hide in, and therein lies the real reason for the existence of what few round barns are left today.
Like the old covered bridge, the remaining barrel barns are eventually headed for oblivion. As the march of progress has overtaken all ancient structures, so has it crept up on old bridges and barns, and outmoded all such landmarks according to our present-day standards. Today no farmer would consider building a circular barn, even though the present owners heartily endorse the many conveniences not found in the conventional barn.
Easier to clean (no corners to sweep); easier feeding from the center silo; easier loading of hay into the barn, are a few of the many advantages of the round barn. The hay is carted to the second floor, where it is unloaded to the center silo and then pulled out below as needed.
The foundation is built entirely different from the regular barn, and no framework of the usual type is used. Most of the structures are painted, the usual country red, and one owner at East Calais, seventy-six years young, said that his barn should be painted every five years, - but with all the cows, horses and chickens to care for, he just doesn’t find the extra time to do much painting.
Most of these structures were built around the turn of the century, and practically all of them are in the northern part of Vermont, near the border of Canada. These peculiar round barns, unique, in a way to Vermont, have been found in oddly separated townships. East Calais has two, both painted red. Jay and Fairlee also have red barns, while Irasburg has two close together and, like the one in Weathersfield, unpainted, with the wood left to weather like the old covered bridges. Other round barns have been found at Newport, North Troy, and on the road between Albany and Craftsbury Common.
Vermont farmers are conservative in all details, and that also applies to their property. The writer observed one round barn in Thetford Mines, P. Q., last summer that not only had two flying horses painted on the outside wall, but had large signs telling the world that the owner sold horses and cows. No such markings have been observed on any of these Vermont landmarks. (Vermont farmers seem to prefer to keep their property unspoiled by advertising), and these barns certainly add another bit of quaint Americana to the Vermont scene.
Occasionally people have digressed from round barns to build themselves a circular house, but most of these have been octagonal, rather than completely round. However, in the town of Brookline an old schoolmaster who, before he entered the teaching profession was known as the highway brigand “Thunderbolt Wilson,” erected a round brick schoolhouse purportedly to make himself less easily apprehended or, as legend has it, less easily “cornered.”
Whatever the reason for making these structures circular, the fact remains that they are fast disappearing, and no new ones are being built. Facetious remarks notwithstanding, there were and still are definite advantages to these round structures, and their owners to this day not only are great boosters for them, but advocate unsuccessfully that more be built.
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