St. Johnsbury, Vermont
The Town of St. Johnsbury, Vt., a Review of One Hundred Twenty-Five Years to the Anniversary Pageant 1912, by Edward T. Fairbanks, 1914, 8vo., 604 pages, including a ten-page index and six interleaved images. Digital Edition on CD-ROM © May 2004.
Young Mr. Fairbanks, age twenty-four, began compiling his history of Saint Johnsbury in 1860. Wisely, he started his project by interviewing the octogenarians and nonagenarians of the town. From this activity, "sundry floating items were picked up." But, he said, "the prolific source of information was found in the voluminous discourse and the manuscript collections of a man ninety miles away, who had never lived here, but who knew more of St. Johnsbury than all the rest of us put together -- Henry Stevens, a native of Barnet; an eccentric genius, an accomplished antiquary, founder and president of the Vermont Historical Society; into whose capacious hopper old traditions, stories, facts, records, letters, documents seemed to flow like brooks into the Passumpsic." Mr. Fairbanks mined this source, fortunately, before Mr. Steven's heirs sold most of the collection to the British Museum.
It took Mr. Fairbanks fifty-four years to finish and publish his history. During this time, however, he also served as principal of St. Johnsbury's Union School, pastor of St. Johnsbury Congregational churches (the First Congregational Church, 1868-1874, and South Church, 1874-1902), Librarian of the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, and State Senator (1908).
Classic town and county histories are of immense value to those of us who seek information about our origins: they supply a context for the lives of our ancestors that we do not often find in genealogical compilations (as in "Descendants of John Doe"). Fairbank's history is exceptional in that it supplies not only the context, but the texture of life in a nineteenth century Vermont village -- the sites and sounds of the place; the work, recreations, and celebrations of its residents; their political and social affections; their triumphs and tribulations; how they coped with a capricious climate. Genealogical researchers who have no ancestral to Saint Johnsbury will still find in Fairbank's work a worthwhile history of New Englandculture, and the author's engaging anecdotal style makes the book a pleasure to read.
Families that figure prominently in the history of St. Johnsbury include: ARMINGTON, ARNOLD, CHADWICK, CHAMBERLIN, FAIRBANKS, IDE, JEWETT, KITTREDGE, LAWRENCE, MORRILL, PADDOCK, RICE, STEVENS, STONE, and WARNER.
The Digital Edition: Complete with three text files (1.5 Mb) and six image files (950 Kb)
Enhancements: "Quick Links" to help with navigation. Because the index of this volume is rudimentary at best, researchers will appreciate the search capabilities of their word processing software.
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Another publication of interest to St. Johnsbury researchers: the Digital Edition of The Fairbanks Family in America
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