Email: Vickie & Jon Walluck, Innkeepers, The Waitsfield Inn
Toll Free: (800) 758-3801 | Phone: (802) 496-3979
PO Box 969, 5267 Main Street, Route 100, Waitsfield, VT 05673 | Fax: (802) 496-3970
FROM PARSONAGE TO INN
THE STORY OF A
GREAT AMERICAN HOME
This history is designed to be a self-guided tour through this historical home. Please feel free while staying with us to follow its directions through the upstairs hallway, the downstairs dining room and into the Great Room. Personal histories on this page are also posted outside the bedroom doors. We hope you enjoy reliving the history that surrounds the Inn.
This area of Vermont, up until the end of thirteen-hundreds, was a wilderness, touched by only Indians, explorers, and military expeditions passing through the valley. In the mid-seventeen-hundreds, settlements sprang up along the Winooski River: there was also a great interest in the nearby Mad River Valley. Portions of the valley were chartered in 1780 and 1781 (incorporated into Vermont territory's legislation and sectioned off into townships for the purpose of legal settlement as regulated the land office), and the area that eventually was to be known as Waitsfield was chartered in 1782.
Surveying of the land, to divide it into lots, didn't occur until 1788. The 23,850 acres in the WAITSFIELD Township were divided into 159 lots of 150 acres each. However, because the surveyor, William Strong, was inclined to engage the contents of various bottles that composed of a fair portion of his equipage, the lots marked out were of odd sizes, ranging from one-hundred and fifteen to two-hundred acres. This caused some trouble, as the settlers later contested which portions of land were rightfully theirs.
The first settler in this area was Benjamin Wait, a former Green Mountain Boy and Revolutionary War hero, who brought his family here in order to settle down and find a better life. In the spring of 1789, he and his children (six sons and two daughters) built the first building, a log cabin, on what is now the Old Road, and four years later replaced it with the first wooden frame house built in this area, which still exists on the north end of town.
He soon began to attract old friends and comrades to the valley, and by 1791 thirteen families were living here — a total of sixty-one people. By 1795, the number had grown to fifty-seven families, by 1900 ninety-five families, and by 1805 one-hundred and sixteen families.
In 1809, when there were roughly five-hundred people in Waitsfield, the area started to be serviced by traveling circuit preachers. On October 11, 1824, the people of the Moretown circuit, which consisted of the towns of Moretown, Waitsfield, Fayston, and Warren, voted to build a house for preachers at a second location — Waitsfield.
Stephen Herrick, Nathaniel Stearns, and Ira Richardson Sr. were chosen to select a site, and in April of 1825, reported in favor of a location on the Rufus Barret Farm. A Methodist elder who lived in Peachblow House, (which still exists on the north-west corner of Route 100 and Bragg Hill). Rufus supervised the construction of a two story, flat-roofed, wooden house, with a wood shed on the back. It was completed in January, 1829 at a cost of only $26.05.
Church services were always held in local one-room houses, but by the time the parsonage was finished, these meetings had become so crowded that people started to meet in Rufus Barret's barn (still standing at the Peachblow House). In 1832, the congregation voted to build a church and get themselves out of the barn. Rufus again donated the land and supervised the building's construction. They started it in 1833, and finished in 1835, according to town records (1834 appears on the building and is probably the year that it actually was built, as town records typically include periods of planning, preparation, and dedications, which often occurred several months after construction was completed).
Now the Parsons had a home to live in, and a church next door. It should be noted that the church was shaped and built exactly like a barn, and if you visit The Store you will see that this is true. People who wished to get out of the barn, built a barn for their services, for that was the type of large-scale construction they were capable of at the time. But of course this barn had pews instead of stalls, people instead of horses, and a gallery for their choir instead of a loft or hay. It served their purpose very nicely. It is worth a visit to The Store just to see and experience an early Nineteenth Century church where our American ancestors worshipped, and if you look above the entrance, you will see the supports that once held the spire.
For twenty years the Methodist community in Waitsfield hired women to tend to the parson's cooking and cleaning needs. They lived in the back portion of the house. It proved to be a considerable problem, as it was a drain on the church's finances, and it was hard to keep women consistently.
In March of 1846, the problem was solved. The Richardson family was brought in to live here full time. The church had actually sold the property to one of its elders, Roderick Richardson, Jr., who was also a State Senator at the time, thus compensating for the cost of running the parsonage with church donations. Roderick converted the barn (added on to the woodshed in 1839) into a dairy, and it continued to be an operating dairy for one-hundred and twenty years.
During the years that the parsons and the housemaids, and then later the Richardson family lived here, the house was divided in half so that the parsons could live in relative seclusion. The parsons lived in the front part, using the front staircase. The front three bedrooms were separated from the back three by a solid wall. The halllway did not go through, and in fact, the front and back hallways were not even aligned with one another. This was discovered during the 1972 renovations, and to make the two hallways meet, a portion of a bedroom (the Roderick Room) had to be removed, giving the hallway its present zig-zag appearance.
Also, the front and back portions were not at the same level (the front or main part of the house was built in 1825-1826; the back part was added in 1828). During the renovations, the back hallway and bedroom floors were elevated twenty-three inches to minimize the difference, and still a ramp had to be added so that the two floors met. The top portico of the back staircase (now the main entrance), which in the Richardson's time was only half of its present width, was the original level of the floor. If you go down the back hallway, you will find four stairs descending to the original floor level.
When you are at the top of our main staircase, it is also worth noting that the two closest bedrooms were moved over three feet during the 1972 renovation to create a walkway around the banister. Try to imagine things as the way they were, with the bedrooms at the portico's edge and level, and envision the narrow staircase and narrow short hallway with which the Richardson's were so familiar. Even with the bedrooms at the stair's edge, the original bedrooms were only eight feet wide. During renovation, these rooms were extended thirteen and one half feet to give them their present shape. This addition of the east wing also doubled the size of the kitchen on the main floor. If you examine the outside of the building, you will see that the builder tried to match the exterior appearance with the original, but subtle differences will tell you the east wing is new.
With the back bedrooms so small, one must wonder how all of the Richardson family fit into them. They didn't. During the years that they lived here, only one person per year lived here with them (1862 being the only exception). The parents lived in one of the front bedrooms (note that Roderick's room is in the front; it was originally larger than it is now, as part of it was cut off to make room for the hallway), and there was an additional room for guests. Lovila Richardson, Roderick's cousin, was the first guest to occupy that room, and thus it is named after her. That room was originally square, as the area surrounding the front staircase and banister was an open library.
From 1825 to 1872, when a new parsonage was purchased next to the new church (built in 1870), in the downtown area of Waitsfield, forty-four parsons had lived here in this house. The Richardson family had lived here from 1846 until 1959. The order of ownership is as follows:
* Roderick Richardson Jr.: March 30 1846 — 1855.
* To his cousin — Ira Richardson Jr.: 1855 - July 20, 1876.
* To his son — Meriden Richardson: July 20, 1826 — August 25, 1904.
* To his son — Clayton Richardson: August 25, 1904 — May 25, 1944.
* To his wife — Maud (Boyce) Richardson: May 25, 1944 — July 25, 1959.
The story of the Richardson's is typical of many early American families where a home remained in their possession for many generations. Many people were born here in this house, grew up here, married here, raised their children here, grew old here, and died here.
The individual stories of many of the people who lived here in this marvelous home, rich in the history of America, are related in Part Two.
The first picture is the earliest known photograph of the Richardson home (circa 1880). Note that new shutters are being added. The original shutters are still in place to this day (in 1986 when the then owners attempted to replace them, the Waitsfield Historical Society forbade it, as preservation of the original part of the building is closely guarded).
The second photograph, taken one month later, shows all of the shutters in place.
The woman in the sleigh is believed to be Fora Ellen, wife of Meriden Lee Richardson, who probably was the photographer. The porch beside her is now part of the dining room. The two doors behind her led to the two-room woodshed, now the men's and women's rest rooms, and the barn door (open in this picture, closed in the first one, revealing all three original 1839 barn windows, which are still in place) is where the fireplaces are now. This picture was taken from a slightly different angle. The tree so prominent in the foreground of the first picture is now just out of the picture and to the right.
With these pictures as a guide we can visualize the construction and additions made to the buildings over the years. They are as follows:
* 1825 — A one-story building consisting of four rooms, plus a cellar which contained a six-hundred-gallon holding tank that supplied water to the house and was fed by a pipeline from an artesian well one quarter mile away. This tank still exists in the front cellar.
* 1828 — The second story was added, consisting of three bedrooms and a library. Heat from wood stoves on the main floor rose to the upstairs rooms through grates in the ceiling.
* 1828 — The back portion was added, consisting of a new kitchen downstairs and three small upstairs bedrooms/storerooms occupied by housemaids.
* January, 1829 — A woodshed was added on the back of the kitchen.
* 1839 — A barn was added onto the woodshed, with an additional shed attached to the back of the barn (not seen in these pictures).
Now a fully completed working farm, it remained in this form for 134 years.
On July 25, 1959, Maud Richardson (described by locals as a very grand and stately woman), the widow of Clayton and the last of her line to live here in this home, sold the family fair to Earle and Gene Curtis ("Gene" as recorded by the town clerk. The correct spelling is "Jean").
During the nineteen-fifties, due to economic hardships, a prolonged drought, and changing American lifestyles, many family farms fell by the wayside. Most were abandoned or deteriorated, or were torn down, but some were saved by the recreational trends and the accompanying increased need for country inns. The best of the past were then restored, and in the process, a great part of our American heritage was preserved.
The Curtis's changed the Richardson home into a country inn of a particular sort. With no furniture in the bedrooms or the lounges, they called their inn the Bagatelle, or as the joke went the Bag and Tell, since people only rented a three-foot by six-foot spaced marked on the floor covered by a thin mat on which to lay a sleeping bag. For so many transient youths during the 60's and 70's who couldn't afford better accommodations, three dollars for a bag space and breakfast was ideal.
During the ski season it was common to find as many as one-hundred and forty people sleeping on the floors of the bedrooms, the barn loft, and the additional, or second, loft built above the first, and on the main floor of the barn. The upstairs bedrooms, still divided as before, became the men's and women's dorm rooms. Over the woodshed, the Curtis's built two parallel bathrooms, men's and women's, over which were also sleeping areas in the attic. They connected the house at the back staircase with the barn loft, which also was divided into men's and women's sections. The present hallway did not exist then. To get from one side to the other, one had to pass through a bathroom.
On December 17, 1970, the Curtis's sold the inn to Michael and Elaine Cunningham, who continued with the Bagatelle in the same fashion as before. The Cunningham's were responsible for many of the previously mentioned additions, as well as a south wing consisting of an upstairs apartment for themselves, four additional bedrooms on the main floor, and a basement for storage and new furnaces.
Compare this 1982 photo with previous ones, and you can see some of the changes.
* A new chimney was built on the outside of the house for furnaces now in the original cellar. This replaced the central chimney used by wood stoves in the oldest part of the house.
* The porch was enclosed and became a part of the 65-seat dining room.
* A small room was added to store firewood. It was later used to store ski equipment.
* The two parallel bathrooms connecting the house to the barn loft were still in use over the old woodshed, which by this time had become two rest rooms, a furnace room, and a laundry.
* At the upper right is barely visible the new chimney for the fireplace in the large common room, once was the main floor of the barn.
* New windows were added in the barn loft, now a men's and women's dorm.
* From the loft door, a fire escape was installed. Its shadow is on the building's lower right. A second fire escape on the opposite side of the loft and a third on the south wing.
Theodore and Joanne Campbell bought the inn on December 29, 1982, and changed its name to The Waitsfield Inn. Desiring to run a regular Inn instead of bag space, the Campbell's furnished the bedrooms with antique beds, dressers, new drapes, and carpet. The two upstairs bathrooms were removed, and two bedrooms were put in their place running the opposite direction with a hallway now connecting front and back. In addition, they built four bedrooms in the barn loft, two of them still utilizing the upper loft section for children's rooms. The fire escapes were all taken off, and a back porch and balcony added, giving the inn its present form. Besides all of this, the bedrooms were given private baths, reducing their size.
In 1984, a furnace in the attic of the front portion of the house caught fire and gutted the front four bedrooms. The first floor dining rooms received severe smoke damage. Everything was restored as closely to the original as possible, plus a new floor in the front bedroom replaced the badly damaged original.
This 1991 photo shows the inn in its completed form with its 1983 additions. Note that the fire escapes were moved from the barn, and bedroom windows were added. Note also the new windows added to the equipment room as it was turned into a small alcove. A brick chimney was added, rising from two new fireplaces, one in each lounge. Weathered barn wood and one-hundred and fifty-year-old beams were used to decorate the new lounge and fireplaces. On the top floor you can see the higher slanted roof now covering two new bedrooms where once the long parallel bathrooms existed.
When you visit the large common room, you may find it interesting to search for the following things that help to remind us of the history of this fine building.
First of all, the barn door once was where the fireplace is now. Thousands of times over, horses, cows, wagons, buggies, and sleighs went in and out at this point. To keep this room as authentic as possible, the original wood floor, walls, and ceiling were all carefully preserved. If you look at the ceiling, you will see the marks of hundreds of buggy whips. This does not mean that the horses were whipped. It simply means that the long-handled, old-fashioned whips, when placed in their holders scraped the ceiling. The floor at this point is badly damaged from heavy use during the one-hundred and twenty years that this was a barn.
Next, looking toward the back wall and moving to the far right corner, you can see where the original staircase once ascended to the loft. If you look at the wall, you can see the impression of the staircase. It was removed in 1983. Moving down the back wall, you come to the center door. This is the original exit from the back of the barn, but not the original door.
A little farther down the wall you will find two wooden doors. These are the original 1839 doors leading to the shed which was then attached to the back of the barn. The shed was torn down in 1972 when the back edition was added.
On the east side where the four small windows are, you will find where the horse stalls stood. The marks from the partitions are still on the ceiling and wall. Try to envision what it looked like here. The partitions went to the ceiling, but the walls dividing the stalls were only four feet high. Also note that for obvious reasons the floors near the stalls had to be replaced. The boards in this section are from 1900 by the wall and 1930 farther out.
Now notice the posts supporting the ceiling. Originally, there was only one in the center but it was badly chewed and rubbed by horses and other animals, and was replaced by these three posts in 1983.
Lastly, this room was used as a tavern from 1972 until 1983 and was decorated with a ram's head on the west wall and a stuffed black bear which stood in front of the shed doors. If you examine the floor in the corner nearest the entrance, you will see where the bar then stood.
On September 18, 1986, the Campbell's sold the in to Bill and Judy Knapp, who, with their two sons, Andrew and Aaron continued to operate the Waitsfield Inn as one of the finest in Vermont. Under their direction, the Waitsfield Inn was recognized as one of the top one hundred inns in the United States.
In time, the sons went off to college, and difficulties in the relationship led also to Bill's departure. Judy courageously continued to run the inn by herself, and during a time of great personal hardship, kept it open for two-and-one-half more years until Vermont Federal Bank assumed responsibility for it.
Upon Judy's departure, on November 12, 1991, she was quoted as saying quite tearfully, "When you live someplace and work hard at making it a home, it becomes a part of you, like the hands that did the work, and the heart that loved it so. Both good times and bad endear you to things you love, and make leaving all the harder."
Everyone who had lived here, and those who have visited this marvelous home, all sense that it is very special. That is how we in the present must continue to treat the places that speak to us of our past, and will bring us comfort in the future. Those who visit here often express how the experience has given them the fondest memories. That is the result of quality. It is my sincere wish that all people who come to visit this wonderful Inn will sense that special quality, and leave with fond memories of their own.
The twelve upstairs rooms at the Inn are named in remembrance of people who have lived in the home at various times during its history. Their biographies are a window into the life and times of long ago. Below is a floor plan of the second floor of the Waitsfield Inn. Take a walk down the hall while you are here and read the history outside of each room.
Lovely Lovila Richardson was the daughter of Ira Richardson Sr., after whom this little hamlet of Irasville was named. Her mother was Rachel Durkee from Moretown, and on March 17, 1826, Lovila became the sixth of their nine children.
Ira died in 1844, and Rachel, with her youngest children, moved back in with her family in Moretown. Lovila, now eighteen, did not desire such a move, and instead moved in with her cousin, Roderick Richardson Jr., here at the parsonage. Roderick was a state senator at the time, and lived here with his widowed mother, Anna Davis, his wife, Harriet Emeline, and four small children.
Lovila lived here with this family for two years, helping with the household chores and tending to the babies. In the fall of 1846, it became obvious that she herself was with child, and being unmarried, cause considerable scandal. It is believed that the parson who dwelt here for those two years with the Richardson family, one Harvey Hitchcock, was Lovila's lover. Roderick confronted his parson with an ultimatum, and the two fought a long and bloody battle among the horses and cows in the barn, which is now the large common room. In a fit of anger, Hitchcock burst out into the night, and was never to be seen again. His fate is unknown, but is believed by some that while alone and unarmed, and walking in deep contemplation, he fell victim to the jaws of a panther.
Each day Lovila looked out of her windows and impatiently walked the halls, awaiting the return of her lover. She never lost faith that he would return and marry her. The very cold winter of 1846/47 seemed longer than ever, and on February 22, 1847, Lovila died in childbirth in the front bedroom, asking till the last if her lover had yet returned to her. The child died also. Lovila was twenty years, nine months, and five days old.
Lovila Richardson is buried in the cemetery one-half a block north-east of The Waitsfield Inn.
This room is dedicated to the parsons who lived here from 1825 until 1872. They are as follows:
* 1825 — John Foster and Darius Barker.
* 1826 — Isaac Barker and Lemuel Harlow.
* 1827 — David Leslie.
* 1828 — David Leslie and John Cummings.
* 1829 — John Cummings and Ashur Smith.
* 1830 — Abel Heath.
* 1831/32 — Joseph Baker.
* 1833 — Nathan Howe and E.G. Page.
The above parsons traveled the circuit on horseback up and down the valley, holding their meetings in one room schoolhouses or in barns, jus as their predecessors had since 1809. But unlike their predecessors, who stayed in people's homes along the circuit and ate whatever those folks provided, the building of this centrally located parsonage gave them a home base from which to operate. In 1834, the Methodist congregation built the church next door (now The Store), but the parsons still had to travel the circuit, preaching here one quarter of the time.
* 1834 — E.G. Page and John Nason.
* 1835/36 — Moses Sanderson and Israel Rust.
* 1837 — Cyrus Liscomb and A.C. Smith.
* 1839 — P. Mason and I. Beard.
* 1840 — P. Mason, I. Beard and E. Tucker.
* 1841 — Henry Wooley, Jon Perrin and Cornelius Fuller.
* 1842 — Henry Wooley and Albert Carter.
* 1843/44 — William Blake and Otis Legate.
In June of 1844, the circuit was dissolved and Waitsfield became a separate charge. Two or three parsons were no longer needed for the demands of traveling and schedules, and services where then held on a regular basis next door.
* 1845/46 — Harvey Hitchcock
Prior to this time, the Methodists paid several women over time to cook and clean for the parsons. The lived in the back portion of the house. In 1846, the Richardson family moved in and took over those chores full time.
* 1847/48 — Homer Jones.
* 1849 — Dyer Willis.
* 1850 — Plyan Granger.
* 1851/52 — Andrew Copeland.
* (A spire was added to the church at this time)
* 1853/54 — Charles Kellogg.
* 1855 — William Kidder.
* 1856/57 — Peter Merrill.
* 1858/59 — Nathan Scott.
* 1860/61 — Harvey Webster.
* 1862 — C.S. Buswell and Frank Roberts
* 1863/65 — Lewis Hill.
* 1866- Ben Spaulding.
* 1867 — N. M. Granger.
* 1868/69 — Fred Miller. (Who started the first Sunday School for children).
* 1870/71 — Joseph Hamilton.
* 1872/74 — Elisha Folsom.
In 1872, a new parsonage was purchases next to the new church (built in the downtown area in 1870), and their home from then on was the Richardson family farm.
Born in Stafford, Connecticut, on August 7, 1807, Roderick Richardson Jr. came to Waitsfield while still an infant. His father, an early settler of Waitsfield, was very active in business. When Roderick came of age, he became his father's partner. The two ran a lumber mill (still in operation near the junction of Routes 17 and 100), and were responsible for the construction of many of the buildings in this area, including what is now the Masonic Lodge, which the Richardson's ran as a general store from 1831 — 1845, the covered bridge built in 1833, nine of the homes in the downtown area, the parsonage (now the Waitsfield Inn), the building across the street (now Inverness Ski Shop & PURE Snowboard Shop), which the Richardson's ran as a grocery, and the church next door (now The Store).
The father and son team were also saddle and harness makers, town leaders, active in religious and political affairs, built the union meeting hours in 1836, and at the time of his father's death in 1844, Roderick Jr. was a state senator.
A very industrious family, the Richardson's acquired and operated many properties (including General Waits house upon his death in 1822, at which time they moved it to its present location and added the second floor), and were given credit for making Waitsfield a commercial center for the surrounding farm areas.
One of Roderick's acquisitions was this parsonage, which he purchased in March of 1846, and moved in with his wife, Harriet Emeline, and four sons. Prior to this time, the Methodist had hired a housemaid to cook and clean for the parsonage. Now Harriet took over that chore, while Roderick turned the property into an operating dairy farm. They continued to live here until moving to Montpelier in 1855. This home remained in the Richardson family until July, 1959.
The son of a state senator for whom this hamlet of Irasville was named, Ira Richardson Jr., born in Waitsfield on October 6, 1816, acquired this property in 1855 when his cousin, Roderick Jr., sold it to him and moved to Montpelier. The Methodist parsons continued to live here until moving into another parsonage near the new church in November 1872.
Ira's wife, Harriet Chapman, not only raised her family here (five sons and a daughter who died here of an illness at the age of four), but tended the parsons' needs by cooking and cleaning for them. Ira himself, besides running this farm and the store across the street, took over the operation of the family lumber mill, was active in town politics, was a Washington County judge and, like his father, became a state senator in his later years.
In July of 1876, he transferred the title of this property to his youngest son, Meriden. As was common practice in those days, he continued to live with his son's family and his wife until the he died here on December 17, 1877. His funeral took place in the front parlor, now part of the dining room. He s buried in the Richardson family plot, one-half block northeast of The Waitsfield Inn.
This room is named after Meriden Lee Richardson, who was born in this house on September 8, 1854 and died in this room on August 25, 1904.
He was the son of Ira Richardson Jr., a state senator, and Harriet Chapman. Harriet and Ira produced five boys in a row, of which Meriden was the last. The only daughter in the family came along three years later, making Harriet very happy. Unfortunately, little Harriet died of an illness in this house at the age of four, and, like all funerals in those days, hers took place in the front parlor before her little coffin was taken to the family plot one-half block northeast of here, where you can still visit her and eleven other members of this family.
Meriden inherited this property on July 20, 1876, just prior to his father's death. As was tradition in those days, the elders continued to live in the family home until their deaths, even though the title had been transferred to the next generation. Ira passed away some four and one-half years later, on August 8, 1882.
Family life for many generations consisted of extended families within one household. Many people were born here, lived their lives here, and died here. When people were injured, they did not run off to the hospital, they were tended right here at home by the matriarch of the family, who did everything from deliver babies, to setting broken bones.
Special occasions also took place at home: birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and even weddings. People are still getting married here in this house, following a tradition started by Meriden and Flora Allen, who on November 14, 1874, decided not to marry in a church, but rather at home. They raised two sons here, Roy and Clayton, and, continuing the inheritance of property from one generation to the next, at the time of their father's death in 1904, the two young bachelors were co-owners of this property.
Born on August 7, 1779, in Stafford, Connecticut, Anna Davis grew up there and married late in life (for those days) at the age of twenty-two. She married a local boy her same age, an industrious fellow named Roderick Richardson, and bore three children for him there in Stafford before moving to Waitsfield in 1807. A fourth child came along seven years later, rounding the family off to two boys and two girls.
A merchant, lumberman, and builder, Roderick was instrumental n transforming Waitsfield from a sleepy hamlet into a commercial center for the valley, while providing a decent home for his family. He died, however, on June 8, 1844, and Anna continued to live with her second son, also named Roderick, and his family. It was a common practice in those days for the parents to live with their children and grandchildren until they died. There were no nursing homes or hospitals, and families took care of their own.
In March of 1846, Roderick Jr. bought the parsonage and the family moved in here with the then resident parson, a young man ……… front bedroom with her niece, Lovila. On February 22, 1847, when Lovila was in labor with her first child, the local doctor, Frederick Richardson, Lovila's uncle and Anna's brother-in-law, was detained by a storm. Anna and her daughter-in-law, Harriet Emeline, Roderick's wife, set to work to deliver the child themselves (it was standard practice in those days for the women of the family to take care of childbirth, injuries, and illness). In this case, it ended very sadly, as the baby was born dead, and Lovila, regardless of their efforts died soon after. This is one of the mot tragic episodes in the Richardson family history.
Anna continued to live with Roderick and Harriet until her death in Montpelier on October 11, 1857.
Meriden Lee Richardson inherited this home father, Ira Jr., on the same day that his first child, Roy, was born here on July 20, 1876. Two years later, on May 27, 1878, a second son Clayton, was also born here in this home.
The two brothers grew up on this farm, cutting firewood, tending livestock, and milking the cows so valuable to a dairy. Vermonters in those days were very agricultural and were part of a very tranquil, pastoral scene. Vermont was a marvelous place in which to grow up. Warm fires and hot chocolate in the winter; swimming in the river's crystal pools in the summer; these are things which guests to this inn can still enjoy. But it also took a great deal of work to live with no electricity or modern conveniences.
At the time of their Father's death, on August 25, 1904, the two bothers, then in their late twenties and both still bachelors, became co-owners and operators of the Richardson dairy. Only part of the Richardson dairy was here at the parsonage. The bulk of it was across the street in the huge barn that stood in the large area, and ran parallel to the white house, then owned by the relatives. It was torn down in 1972, being beyond repair, but interestingly, the shopping center built there is an exact replica so that we might still imagine what it looked like.
Several years later, when Clayton had married Maud Boyce, Roy and his new wife continued to live here a while longer, but eventually moved out on their own, leaving Clayton the sole owner of this property. Clayton and Maud raised their son Conwell here, but unlike past generations, the son didn't stay here when he grew to manhood. Times were changing and during the late 30's and early 40's, the children everywhere were striking out to create their own household. Clayton and Maud were left to run the farm on their own.
When Clayton died on May 25, 1944, Maud inherited the property, the first woman to hold the title. That was the end of the farm as a working dairy. Maud continued to live here alone until she sold it o Earle and Jean Curtis on July 25, 1959. They turned the home into an inn, ending one hundred and thirteen years of Richardson's.
Once upon a time in a faraway land known as Nineteenth Century America, the people remained faithful to ideas such as chastity and virtue. Believing in family and marriage, they devoted themselves to their children and felt secure in the knowledge that they would remain with their spouses for life. The prevailing attitudes of the time created emotional bonds that could not be broken. Even after one spouse had died, the emotional attachment remained, and the surviving spouse continued to be faithful until the time that they would be reunited in the next world. There were expectations, and always will be, but for the masses, their beliefs regarding the way life should be were strong enough that they possessed a profound security and sense of well being.
So it was with Flora Allen and Meriden Lee Richardson. She grew up in Warren, and he here in Waitsfield, and after a three year courtship of buggy rides, picnics, and sitting under the moon and stars, they married here at Meriden's home on November 14, 1874. They lived here, raising two sons, and growing old together for nearly thirty years.
A lifetime seems long, and yet, many lifetimes have come and gone here in this one-hundred-and-sixty-seven year old home. Meriden for example, was born here on September 9, 1854, back when it was still a parsonage and the Richardson family tended to the parsons' needs while also running the farm for their own livelihood. He lived here all his life, and even died here on August 24, 1904. When people visit this great American home, they are invited to envision things as the were before, and to reevaluate current values and priorities to see if we in the present may still benefit from preserving the things in our heritage that enhance our quality of life.
Born on July 31, 1811, Harriet Emeline Taylor spent her childhood and young womanhood here in Waitsfield at a time when it was little more than a small settlement out in a distant wilderness. A remarkably beautiful young woman, she had multiple suitors, but with virtues "as tight as her corset," she would not commit herself until the right man came along. That man proved to be Roderick Richardson Jr., a very industrious and profitable merchant and lumberman. After a prolonged five-year courtship, they married in the Methodist church next door on February 28, 1839. Emeline was married unusually old age of twenty-seven. Roderick was even older, thirty-two.
For five years they lived with Roderick's parents, Roderick Sr. and Anna Davis, in the upstairs of their general store in Waitsfield. In 1844, Roderick Sr. died, and Roderick Jr. continued to run the store and lumber mills on his own. Anna continued to live with them, while Emeline during these years had produced four sons. In 1845, their store burned down, and they moved in with Roderick's cousin, Ira Richardson, in the Valley Reporter.
On the same location as their old home, Roderick built a new brick house and again used it as a general store (it is now the Masonic Lodge). As his brother, Dan, was running that store, Roderick opened in Irasville (now Showcase Video and the Inverness Ski Store), and in March of 1846 purchased and moved into the parsonage (now the Waitsfield Inn).
Replacing the housemaids who had always tended the parson's needs, and still tending her own household and children, Emeline had a full-time job. Anna, who still lived with them and as sixty-eight at the time, was some help. Emeline's best helpmate was twenty-year-old Lovila Richardson, Roderick's cousin, who was living with them at the time. When Lovila's child came due on February 22, 1847, a snowfall detained the local doctor and Emeline and Anna set to delivering the child themselves. Tragically the child was born dead, and Lovila died soon afterwards. The tragedy surrounding Lovila's short life was one of the most heartbreaking episodes in the Richardson family history.
Emeline and her family continued to live here at the parsonage until moving to Montpelier in 1855.
Clarence Milton Richardson, born in the white house across the street (now the Valley Reporter) on November 20, 1849, grew up following the footsteps of one of the most prominent families in this area. The Richardson's were not only influential in Waitsfield, but dominated this side of town, which was known as Irasville and was not surprisingly, named after one of heir early patriarchs. The Richardson extended family in this area consisted of one hundred and eight members. They were actively involved in business, construction, religion, and politics. Two were local sheriffs, four were Washington County judges, six were town selectmen, five were state representatives, and two were state senators. Milton himself was a representative in 1888 through 1889, a selectman from 1889 thought 1891, and again in 1903, and was an assistant judge of the Washington County court until his death on November 24, 1908.
Like most of his family, he spent is young manhood working the family farm and for many years helped run the dairy here at the parsonage. In those days families and extended families worked together, planted and harvested together, shared the accompanying feast prepared by the women while their men were in the fields, and shared many holidays in traditional fashion.
This home was a central meeting point for many family gatherings for over one hundred years. Milton and a great many others celebrated many a grand occasion here, and did a great deal of work as well.
On August 13, 1868, he married seventeen-year-old Isabelle Kneeland, and during their forty-year marriage raised three sons and three daughters, and enjoyed many grandchildren.
Roy Richardson, the oldest son of Meriden Lee Richardson and Flora Allen, was born here in this marvelous home on June 20, 1876. He grew up here with his brother Clayton, swimming in the nearby Mad River every summer, and sledding on the hill behind the house every winter. As expected on a farm, the two boys also did a great deal of work. Before modern machinery, running a farm required hard physical labor which ranged from cutting wood all year for their fires, to milking the dairy's cows by hand twice a day, to stacking hay with pith forks. It was a good life, wholesome and secure in the fact that people knew who they were and what was expected of hem.
When their father died in 1904, the two brothers, now twenty-eight and twenty-six years old, and both still bachelors, became co-owners of the farm. Roy married Cora Maxwell (one of the seven sisters who then lived in Peachblow House, now Troll Sportswear), on December 18, 1907. She came here to live with him. Clayton married Maud Boyce two years later, and the two couples then continued to live here together. On March 30, 1918, Clayton and Maud finally had their first child, a son name Conwell. Roy and Cora moved away and nothing more is known of them, except that they, some fifteen years into their marriage, also managed to produce a son, which they named Sheldon. Conwell grew up here an only child, attended Rider College, and then married Lois Pecell on May 30, 1942.
Born on January 6, 1818, in Chelsea, Vermont, Harriet Chapman was twenty-five years old by the time she married twenty-seven-year-old Ira Richardson Jr. of Waitsfield. On the date of their nuptials, April 6, 1843, the couple moved into the white house that is now the Valley Reporter. Harriet bore five sons in that house before the family moved into the parsonage in 1855.
On March 8, 1857, the couple finally had their first daughter, also named Harriet, but called Nattie. Nattie was Harriet's pride and joy. The happiness of the two filled the house. They shared all the joys of childhood together. The nursery at the time was the room now name Meriden, and it was in that room where mother and daughter held their tea parties with various friends, both real and inanimate. Reading books, with little Nattie curled in her mothers arms, was a favorite pastime.
But also in that room, when Nattie was four and one-half years old, she lay with a serious illness, and no matter how much Harriet tended to her darling, little Nattie died on April 20, 1861. Her funeral took place in the front parlor, and she is buried in the family cemetery one-half a block northeast of here.
This was the greatest tragedy of Ira and Harriet's life together and unfortunately in times past, and before modern medicine, such tragedies struck most families. It was a rare family that escaped it.
Ira kept title of the property until July 20, 1876, when he transferred it to his youngest son, Meriden. He and Harriet continued to live here until their deaths, Ira's on December 17, 1877, and Harriet's on August 8, 1882.