The tradition of the Presentation Tent at the Vermont History Expo has been to offer a quality history experience in the midst of the fairgrounds. Scholars, authors, and professionals discuss their work with thoughtful, engaging for those who take a seat and learn amidst the busy activity of Expo.
The Presentation Tent is generously sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council.
10:30 AM “Ben's Mill: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow” – Hiram Allen
Hiram Allen will tell the story of Ben’s Mill, an important site that sheds light on the use of water power throughout Vermont’s history. He will discuss the origins of the site of Ben’s Mill, and what made it suitable for water power, what was made at the mill over the years in relation to changing times, and what the nonprofit that manages the site dreams for its future.
11:30 AM “Tales of Shipwrecks from Lake Champlain” – Art Cohn
Our "Great Lake" has witnessed military events that defined the New World and maritime commercial activity that helped define our State. This intense maritime activity has left us a legacy of intact wooden shipwrecks that connect us to these past societies. Art will explore this shipwreck connection and the challenges and opportunities to manage this cultural collection for future generations.
1:00 PM “Seven Years of Grace: The Inspired Mission of Achsa W. Sprague” – Sara Rath
Seven Years of Grace is a dramatized account of the life of Achsa Sprague (1827–1862), who in the decade preceding the American Civil War lectured to audiences of thousands on Spiritualism, the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, and prison reform. She presented herself as a medium, lecturing and singing hymns in a state of trance. Alone on stage, she drew acclaim and admiration but also jeers, ridicule, and condemnation. A skeptic in Oswego, New York, asked, “Why is it that all the world should run nightly mad to hear her in a pretended trance?” A Milwaukee newspaper proclaimed her words “profound twaddle from beginning to end.” Yet Achsa’s crowds continued to grow in size and enthusiasm. Grounded in the extensive collection of Achsa Sprague’s papers at the Vermont Historical Society, Seven Years of Grace is both a fascinating tale and a revealing window into the past.
Sara Rath is the author of fifteen books, including H.H. Bennett, Photographer: His American Landscape. The Vermont Historical Society awarded her its Weston A. Cate Fellowship to support her research on Achsa W. Sprague. She lives in Spring Green, Wisconsin.
2:00 PM “The Aftermath of the Civil War in Vermont” – Howard Coffin
Vermont’s acclaimed Civil War historian Howard Coffin will discuss the events, characters, and changes that followed the end of the Civil War. What happened to the men of Vermont when they returned home after many years of battle? How did they adjust back to their daily life – what monuments were erected across the state to honor their service, and how did they find solace in reunions and commemorations? Who was the last veteran of the Civil War in Vermont? Coffin will also touch on the broader political changes wrought by the war, such as the evolution of the new Republican Party created by Lincoln.
3:00 PM “The Elephant Bridge” – Annette Spaulding
Why is an historic bridge built in 1812, recently found by scuba divers, one of the most unusual bridges in New England? What did the divers find out in their research, once it was located, that made it the most unusual bridge they have ever found? The mystery will be answered in this presentation dedicated to "Horatio,” the main character of the mystery uncovered underwater in Southern Vermont in the Connecticut River
4:00 PM “Myth, Legend, and Wild Truths of 15-Mile Falls” – Beth Kanell
Early maps of Vermont marked the Fifteen Mile Falls section of the Connecticut River, north of Barnet, as "impassable." But the wild days of river logging turned the waterway into an exhilarating route for massive trees to ride from the north woods to the lumber mills, guided and even ridden by teams of river men wearing spiked boots. Northeast Kingdom historian and novelist Beth Kanell retells the tales and true stories of timber millionaire George Van Dyke and his crew. Follow the tale-spinning into the next stage of Fifteen Mile Falls, too, as giant hydro dams were built (1930 and 1954) to take advantage of the 400-foot drop in elevation over this torrential and rocky portion of the great river. Local myths -- some of them sworn as truth! -- involve deaths and drowned villages. But the history is even wilder than this, including French Canadians, Mohawks, Herbert Hoover, and three states worth of financial speculation. You'll see the upper Connecticut River in a whole new way, once you catch up with what's already happened along Fifteen Mile Falls.
10:30 AM “Walking Tour: Mills on the First Branch River” - Euclid Farnham
Tunbridge native Euclid Farnham will lead a history walk around the fairgrounds and the First Branch River that borders its edges, with particular emphasis on the history of water power in Tunbridge. Meet at the Presentation Tent and be prepared for a walk over varied terrain.
11:30 AM “A Flood of Records: Researching Natural Disasters in the Vermont State Archives” – Rachel Muse and Sally Blanchard-O’Brien
This August marks the 5th anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene and the wide-scale flooding that devastated some Vermont communities. Eighty-four years before Irene, Vermont experienced a legendary flood that forever changed the state’s landscape. Archivists Rachel Muse and Sally Blanchard-O’Brien will take you through a tour of records held by the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration that describe the State’s response to these and other natural disasters and how the recovery shaped the land and spirit of Vermont.
1:00 PM “Snowmaking in Vermont” – Brian Lindner and Scott Reeves, Vice President of Operations, Stowe Mountain Resort
Snowmaking has become critical to every Vermont ski area. This past winter was an example of how there would have been virtually no skiing or riding without man-made snow. It is as much a science as it is an art form. Scott Reeves, Vice President of Operations at Stowe Mountain Resort and Brian Lindner, Historian for Stowe Mountain Resort, will discuss the history, science and art of making snow in Vermont.
2:00 PM “Honoring Vermont Civil War Veterans” – Deborah Hardy & Jim Woodman
Cemeteries are memorials that offer a unique view of our history, culture and way of life. They are important reminders of our past and provide a sense of who we are. More importantly, cemeteries represent a physical legacy for future generations and must be preserved as a historical resource. Deborah Hardy and Jim Woodman organized Honoring Vermont Civil War Veterans in 2014. The organization's mission is to identify and clean and/ or repair gravestones of all Civil War veterans buried in Vermont. Gravestones for veterans whose monuments have disappeared over time or were never installed on the gravesite are provided. To date, over 140 gravestones of Civil War veterans buried in Chittenden, Addison and Franklin counties have been restored. Deborah and Jim's presentation will include resources and methods of identifying the veterans’ gravestones, monument types, the step-by-step process of gravestone restoration, and the proper care and cleaning a monument for a loved one.
3:00 PM “Protestant Relics: The Art of Mourning in the Early American Republic” – Jamie Brummitt
Protestants put relics – corporeal and non-corporeal remains of the dead – to work as powerful material objects in domestic and public mourning practices. This talk examines how Protestant relics operated as material memories in a sacred economy of exchange that legitimated an American past, present, and future. You will hear about the bones of Washington, mourning embroideries, mourning quilts, mourning lithographs, hair jewelry, and post-mortem photographs. Jamie Brummitt is a 2016 New England Regional Fellowship Consortium scholar conducting research at the Vermont Historical Society.