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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Chico Carcoba sent this picture of a Woodbury Pond kayaker on the water Saturday.  The ice is fairly dark and there is apparently a channel through the slush.  Our pond is not quite that far "gone" yet - in fact, this morning I heard from Henretta Splain who lives on a Cove on the north side of the JPA recreation field.  She said that on Saturday there was open water, but this morning it had frozen over again.  I think we'll get some better melting weather by mid-week, according to the forecast.

I came upon an interesting bit of information as I was perusing old issues of the St. Johnsbury Caledonian.  We know that Gilbert and Jenny Hastings bought the B. U. Wells store in October of 1913, and it has been in the family ever since.  In January of 1914, Gilbert and Jenny went with Mr. and Mrs. Milligan (Julia and Fleming, or "Flea" as he was known, and Mrs. Ada Way, all of West Danville, to St. Johnsbury to take the civil service examination.  In March of 1914, Jenny was appointed postmistress at West Danville.  I had known that it was she, and not Gilbert, who took care of the post office, but I had sort of forgotten.  Jane Larrabee's father, Ralph Hastings, took over from Jenny, and then Garey became postmaster.  The Milligans had a store across the street from Hastings, and although I don't know when they arrived in town to operate the store, I think it must have been in November of 1913.  I found where George Borland sold his grist mill to Milligan.  I hadn't known that the building was the grist mill before becoming a grocery store, but it probably was.  We'll check out the deeds just to be certain - or either Dot or Jane Larrabee will  know.  It would seem that there was a friendly competition between the two couples to have the post office. 

The picture above is Gilbert Hastings with a really good looking Holstein - I expect it belonged to him.  He is standing by the end of his store, and across the street you can see the upper story of the Milligan's store.  This was probably about 1917 or a little later.  The next picture, "The Corner Store," is Milligan's store some years later, after the new bridge was built replacing the covered bridge that crossed the brook at the left end of that building.  Julia and Flea lived upstairs over their store, the same as Gilbert and Jenny.  Although both stores did a reasonable business, the village as a whole began to see business decline as the sawmill closed, several large buildings with businesses and tenements burned, and the stone shed closed. The railway station was eventually taken down as fewer trains came through, and some years later they didn't run through West Danville at all anymore.  

West Danville is still a nice little village, and things are buzzing in the summer, but winters can be pretty quiet.  The winter of 1913-14 was reported as one of the coldest ever known in West Danville, with temperatures reaching to 40 degrees below zero and winds that packed roads with snow so even teams couldn't get through  during one cold spell in February that lasted several days.  Some things never change - wind in West Danville is one of them.

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