Woman’s Work in St. James’ Parish
It would be an
unpardonable omission to leave un-chronicled the part which
women have played in the growth and progress of this old parish,
for certainly no one would wish to intimate that there ever was
a time when woman’s energies have not been a decisive factor,
whether it be in the home, the Church, or the community.
Expressed in terms of
anatomy, women might very fitly be termed the "backbone" of the
parish, for they have individually and through their parish
organizations been instrumental in furnishing much of the
financial support of the Church.
More important than
this has been the whole-hearted support, which the women have
given with intelligence and sacrificial effort to the spiritual
activities of the parish. The attendance of the women at the
services of the Church, which has uniformly exceeded that of the
men by three to one, has always attested to their loyalty and
devotion as a group, and their assistance in the choir, the
Church School and in missionary activities, have all greatly
advanced the spiritual life of the parish.
Though women have not
yet been accorded by diocesan enactment in Vermont the privilege
of serving on the Vestry, yet this delay in thus recognizing
women by the Church is largely due to the fact that the State
has only recently given them recognition.
It is for this reason
chiefly that early historical records, so far as have been
discovered, make no mention of the wives and the mothers of the
Green Mountain Boys, nor do they mention the thrift, the
courage, the grace, beauty and virtues of those mothers who
reared and trained their children with such patience and
prudence that they left as their heritage families strong to
To come from Vermont
stock is quite generally a favorable introduction, and in many
of our cities there are "Societies of Vermonters" who take pride
in rallying together for fellowship, and to voice their loyalty
to the state that gave them birth.
While it would be
impossible to make special mention of all the faithful women who
labored and bore the brunt of the difficulties and
discouragement’s, and conquered the obstacles such as arise
through the coming and going of the years, a few of the
outstanding leaders in the generation that is past have been
chosen as representative of that period of the simple life when
the Church was more nearly than it is now the center of
community life. But first a word should be said of the women’s
The Woman’s Auxiliary
It is probable that
in the early days, say from 1830 to 1860, the missionary work
done by the women was not regularly organized, but it is clear
from the records of the parish that there were in those days
missionary offerings as a part of the Church program.
There is no record at hand of the date of the organization of
the Woman’s Auxiliary of this parish, but it is quite likely
that a group had been formed in the early seventies.
At the Diocesan
Convention of 1877, which met at Rutland in June, a group of
women from the parishes met to consider the advisability of
organizing a Diocesan Woman’s Auxiliary.
They sent a petition
to the convention of the diocese asking the delegates to take
such steps as would enable them to cooperate with the convention
in its missionary work.
One of the signatures
to this petition was that of Mrs. Jesse Burdett of St. James’,
At the diocesan
convention of 1878, which met at Burlington, Bishop Bissell
spoke in approval of the efforts of the women to form a Diocesan
Branch of the Woman’s Auxiliary to work in connection with the
national Woman’s Auxiliary.
He felt that with the
burden resting upon the men to raise money for the extension of
the Church outside the parishes, the men could very properly
invoke the assistance of the women of the Church.
From the year 1878
dates the organization of the Diocesan Branch of the Woman’s
Auxiliary to the Board of Missions, and the parish branch was
undoubtedly then active. The semi-centennial of the organization
of the Diocesan Branch of the Woman’s Auxiliary was held at St.
James Church in June, 1928.
The parish branch
numbered among its early members the following:
Mrs. Ernest Lathrop,
Mrs. May Lathrop, Mrs. Charles Canfield, Mrs. Charles Buck, Mrs.
Henry Farnham, Mrs. Jesse Burdett, Mrs. William MacAuley, Mrs.
Zadock Hard, the Misses Libbie and Abbie Hard, Mrs. J. R.
Judson, Mrs. David Crofut, Mrs. Mary Houghton, Mrs. George
Whitten, Mrs. Reuben Andrew, Mrs. Fred Bronson, Mrs. Ida
Bronson, Mrs. Frank Canfield, Mrs. Warren Bixby, Mrs. George
Holden, and Mrs. Jerome Gault. More recent members have been:
Mrs. Maria S. Goewey, Mrs. Fanny M. Hard, Mrs. Emily M.
Woodworth, Mrs. Nellie Lawrence, Mrs. Jerome Viault, Miss
Lauretta Marble, Mrs. Walter Noyes, Mrs. Louise Bump, Mrs. G. R.
Brush, Miss Sara A. Stone, and Mrs. C. E. Burbank.
This for many years
was the only organization of women in the parish. They were
diligent in their activities, both for the support of the
parish, and in contributing through their own labor at sewing
meetings towards missionary boxes, which they filled with quilts
and garments and other clothing.
St. James’ Guild
During the 90’s the
young women of the parish organized the Daughters of the King.
This society was organized during the rector-ship of the Rev.
Richard C. Searing.
St. James’ Guild was
the successor of the Daughters of the King and was organized
under the advice of the Rector, the Rev. S. Halsted Watkins who
came to Arlington in 1900.
This Guild was also
composed of the young women of the parish and it was originally
intended that as adults they would become members of the Woman’s
Auxiliary which had been established for over twenty-five years
and was a devoted and earnest body of women.
Many of the members
did this, but St. James’ Guild proved to be a strong and healthy
child and as time has gone on the "Girls," as they call each
other have become a valuable asset in the life of the parish and
by ingenious planning they each year earn a substantial amount
for the support of the church.
The Guild has also of
late years welcomed women whose affiliations have been with
churches not represented in Arlington.
In 1938 the Woman’s
Auxiliary and St. James’ Guild became one organization, the
status of the Woman’s Auxiliary remaining the same, that is, to
cooperate with the Diocesan Branch in missionary work; so that
now the work of St. James’ Guild is two-fold: (1) to plan and
work for the support of the parish, and (2) to carry on the work
of the Woman’s Auxiliary as in the past and as outlined by the
officers of the Diocesan Branch.
List of Members of
the St. James’ Guild:
Bradley Mrs. C. D. Gilchrist Mrs. Norman Rockwell
Mrs. Clifford Atkins Miss Sadie F. Hard Mrs. Clyde Putnam
Mrs. 0. R. Baker Mrs. George Howard Miss Maude Smith
Mrs. Elizabeth Bettridge Mrs. E. Orvis Hogbin Mrs. Dorothy
Mrs. William Bevis Mrs. Burton Immen Mrs. Frank White
Mrs. Harold Bottum Mrs. Alfred Coe Mrs. Clifford Wilcox
Mrs. Paul Benjamin Mrs. Meade Shaeffer Mrs. Andrew Wilcox
Mrs. Helene Benjamin Mrs. J. A. Rockwell Mrs. Mary Willson
Mrs. Lawrence Cole Mrs. William Young Mrs. E. C. Woodworth
Mrs. Jacob Cole Mrs. Fred McGuire Mrs. Arthur Wood, Sr.
Mrs. C. E. Burbank Mrs. Melvin King Mrs. Arthur Wood, Jr.
Mrs. Harry Grout Mrs. Philip Fifer
Women in Church Music
Though it is recorded
in the Minutes of the Vestry in the early years of the 19th
century that three or four men were elected annually as
choristers to lead the singing at the services, yet for at least
seventy-five years past the services of women in the choir and
at the organ have been the chief factor in the music of this
Vermont rural parish, as they undoubtedly have been elsewhere.
Mrs. Jesse Burdett
must have been one of the most active women an the parish in the
sixties for in addition to her work in the various projects of
the women to help in the parish support she was for a number of
years the organist. Mrs. Sarah Rogers, mother of Mrs. Frank N.
Canfield, was the organist and leader of the choir in the
Then came Mrs. Clara
Louise Stewart of whom extended mention is made later in this
Since the time when
Mr. Clarence E. Hard severed his connection with this parish as
organist in 1917 after a faithful service of over seventeen
years, the following women have served as organists and choir
Miss Grace Buck
(1919-1927), Mrs. Dorothy Russell (1918 and 1927-1930) and Mrs.
Annie Grout (1930-).
Each of these
musicians labored devotedly, and the present in-cumbent is no
less diligent, to bring the music of the service to a high
standard of efficiency.
The Altar Guild
The holy women who
very early on Easter morning went together to the sepulcher
bringing spices and ointment for the burial of our Lord, have
been an inspiring example through the Christian ages to the
devoted women of the Church, of the Christian vocation of women
in ministering to prepare the altar and the sanctuary for the
administration of the Holy Sacraments.
The reverence, care
and studied accuracy that is so essential to the performance of
these sacred duties has been most generally understood and
appreciated by faithful women who themselves have perceived the
meaning and blessing of the sacraments.
Because of the
peculiar fitness of women for this work the bishops and the
clergy have for a generation or more given attention in various
dioceses to the formation of Altar Guilds.
This purpose has been
aided in large measure by deaconesses and members of Sisterhoods
who are specially trained for this important service. During the
rectorship of the Rev. Richard C. Searing (1888-1893) the women
of the parish were instructed in the duties of the sanctuary,
and in the proper care of the altar and its coverings.
Later, during the
rectorship of the Rev. S. Halsted Watkins, DD (1900-1904), Mrs.
Watkins, his wife, and Deaconess Louisa Brainerd, both trained
in the care of the sacred vessels and in the care of the altar
and the sanctuary, gave valuable instructions to the women of
the parish, and as a result the Rectors since that time have had
the aid of an Altar Guild with leaders who have been devout and
painstaking in the details of their work, thus relieving the
Rectors of many details of preparation and giving them the
opportunity for their very essential spiritual preparation.
Among those who have
been directresses of the Altar Guild in recent years are the
following: Mrs. Clarence D. Gilchrist, Mrs. Edward C. Woodworth,
and Mrs. George R. Brush. The members at this date (1941) are
Mrs. William J.
Bevis, directress; Mrs. John Henderson, Miss Eloise Henderson,
Miss Dorothy Leake, Mrs. Cora DuBois, Mrs. Alfred Coe, Mrs.
Burton Immen, Mrs. Harold Bottum, Mrs. Herbert W. Congdon, Mrs.
Philip T. Fifer, Mrs. Dorothy Squiers, Miss Betty Cole, Mrs.
George A. Russell.
Among the many women
who took responsibility, and showed organizing ability or talent
for holding groups together, ingenuity in fresh ways of raising
money, care and devotion in looking after property, or other of
the hundred gifts and graces women do expend in the Church’s
service in every parish in the land, here are a handful briefly
sketched in a few lines of reminiscence by members of the town
and parish who remember them best or remember their records:
For the few mentioned
many more must be imagined doing as quietly and unstintingly the
same sort of wholehearted work and thought.
Betsey Canfield, daughter of Nathan, and sister of Galen
Canfield, was born in 1800 and lived all her long life,
eighty-six years, in Arlington. Her house was the one now called
the Harry Lathrop house.
The Church was the
center of her life. She greatly prized its services and worship.
She was the first contributor to its Endowment Fund; though,
oddly enough, the record places her subscription two years after
Deming, wife of Sylvester Deming, 2nd, was one of the most
active women of the forties and fifties. She took care of the
altar linen, and kept the carpets and cushions in repair. She
and others in the early days often spent the day at the Church
cleaning it and dusting the furniture.
Martin H. Deming, who
became Warden and Lay Reader of the parish, was one of her sons.
(Another, Sylvester, 3rd, was Treasurer of the Panama Railroad.)
Mrs. Virginia Judson,
the wife of Jefferson Judson, who was at one time Warden of the
parish, was another of the very active women, working in the
church in the eighties and nineties.
Mrs. Jesse Burdett
was another; though not a native, she lived most of her life in
Arlington, and was long a teacher in the Sunday School. She was
one of the chief promoters of the plan to build the recess
chancel, and succeeded in raising money by soliciting
contributions for this purpose. It was she who gave to the
parish the house called the Elmore house, which was used as the
Rectory for over thirty years; in fact, until the Burdett house
was bequeathed to the parish by Mr. John Lathrop Burdett for the
George B. and Marion
Rule Holden, who lived in the house now the home of Dr. Russell,
were both lifelong residents of Arlington and members of St.
James. They were among the few couples, both of who were
baptized, confirmed, married and buried from the Church.
Alma Davis Hard, wife of Zadok Hard, was born, lived and died in
Arlington, a devoted member - like her husband - of St. James.’
She was one of the first members - and a very active one - of
the Auxiliary, and was always ready to do her full share in any
work to be done for the Church; whether it was many hours of
sewing for the missionary boxes the Auxiliary filled with the
best they could buy and make; or the summer bazaars held every
year to raise money for the Church; or its care and beautifying
for the great festivals and memorials of the Christian year.
At Christmas time,
she was always one of the women who took their lunch and spent
days winding the long ropes and wreaths of evergreen for the
beautiful decorations still every year provided at St. James’ -
one of its loveliest traditions; sometimes lunch was arranged at
the house of someone living near the Church, and brushing the
twigs of fragrant hemlock and pine off their dresses, they all
adjourned to rest and be refreshed. Mrs. Mary Deming was one who
often thus entertained her colleagues. Very pleasant the social
side must have been - and still is - of this Christmas work,
however early mothers of families must have risen on dark
mornings to care for their households first, and reach the
church early for a day of winding greens. The fragrance of the
greens clings still to the memory of the group who wound them!
Miss Sarah Cleghorn,
who has kindly and diligently collaborated with the author in
piecing out the mosaic of this chapter, contributes the
following reminiscence of forty years ago:
"St. James’ Auxiliary
suppers at the turn of the century were the same appetizing,
cordial, cheerful affairs they are now. The one I best remember
was held at the home of those famous churchwomen, Miss Libbie
and Miss Abbie Hard - the house now occupied by the Lawrence
magnifies that supper, or the house was pleasantly crowded with
all ages. Children abounded in Arlington then as now, and were a
great element in the church. Among the children present at the
supper, I seem to remember little Annie Mattison (now Mrs. Harry
Grout, the organist and choir director), Mary Watkins, the
Rector’s daughter, little Herman Cullinan, Leone Viault (now
Mrs. Atkins), and her brother Jerome, and Cora Sargood (now Mrs.
Dubois). Among the grown-ups hastening along with ourselves into
the dining room were probably Mrs. Mary Adams and her sister
Florence Holden, Maude Adams (now Mrs. LaBatt), the J. K.
Batchelders, and Charles Bucks, the Frank Canfields, and Miss
Mattie, Mrs. Deming, the Goeweys, the Z. Hards, with their
daughters; the Lathrops, MeAuleys, the Phillipses, younger and
older, the Rector and Mrs. Watkins, the Woodworths, and Mrs. Ida
Brownson and her daughter May (now Mrs. Jolley), under whose
wing my Aunt and I appeared at the supper. Like all the other
mothers and daughters in town, as it seemed to us, the Brownsons
were always doing something for the Church. May sang in the
choir, and she had a dozen other duties at St. James".
"May Brownson and I, as we sat at the plentiful table, found
ourselves in too high spirits, running into giggles. Some
seriously meant conversation occurred at our end of the table,
which struck us as extremely amusing, and prolonged our
unmannerly mirth. I was afraid Miss Abbie and Miss Libbie would
think it rude and ignorant of us to be almost at the point of
having to stuff our handkerchiefs into our mouths; but if so,
their sweet elderly faces, eloquent of health, good sense and
goodwill, showed no disapproval of May, who was young enough to
be excusable, or of me, who was old enough to know better".
has always had the pleasant reputation - at least among us
Manchester people - of being hospitable to fun and frolic, and
pleased at the sound of mirth".
"For some reason,
that characteristic Church party at the Misses Hards’ has always
hung in my memory in a bright frame. I can’t but think the
brightness radiated from those two attractive sisters; for their
faces, seen only a few times by me, and now long unseen by
mortal eyes, remain as clear to mc as those of intimate friends.
There was a happy glow of active contentment in their
expressions; their faces, different from each other, individual,
were alike in this, that they beamed with understanding of life
and comradeship with people".
"So Christians should
regard one another."
For something like
fifty years Miss Libbie and her sister between them taught the
infant class in the Sunday School. If one of them couldn’t take
it, the other did. Thus half a century of Arlingtonians came
once a week, for two or three impressionable years, under their
gentle wisdom, and received the influence of their sunny,
practical, every-day-lived religion. Wasn’t it a famous educator
who said "Give me a child until he is seven years old, and I
will answer for him for life"? To one who has had the pleasure
of seeing something of what is being accomplished by the
untiring and resourceful present-day Arlingtonians, it is
eloquent to hear so many of them say, "I had Miss Libbie and
Miss Abbie for my first Sunday School teachers."
Mrs. Clara Louise
Mrs. Stewart was one
of the faithful women in the eighties and nineties, who
volunteered her services for seventeen years as organist and
director of the choir. Mrs. Stewart spent her early life in
Brooklyn, New York. She was educated in a young lady’s school at
Jamaica, Long Island, and here she developed her musical
talents, which were to be the joy of her later life.
She married Capt.
Bernard W. Ward, whom she met on a sea voyage. Of this union
were born Clara Collins, and Charles, who died in early
Her life was a very
useful and varied one. She accompanied her husband on many of
his voyages, visiting many foreign countries.
In 1861, leaving this
country at the outbreak of the Civil War, she went to China just
as another war was beginning there, known as the Taeping
witnessed many of the horrible scenes of this war and was
obliged to stay at the Consulate as the slaughter of every
"foreign devil" had been decreed.
At about this time
she was afflicted by the death of her husband.
After her return from
China in 1868, she married James Stewart, M.D., a physician in
Brooklyn, New York. About 1880, she and her husband came to
Arlington where they settled and spent many happy years.
The Rev. John
Randall, who was Rector of St. James’ Church, invited her to
become a member of the congregation, and here she was baptized
and later confirmed by Bishop Bissell.
She gave her services
as organist for seventeen years. She was a Sunday School teacher
for about the same period. She was also generous in her
financial help and was ready to give in difficult periods.
The Rev. Richard C.
Searing said of her: "When I think of Mrs. Stewart it is to
recall a sweet, kind face, always smiling cheerfully, with a
keen interest in the welfare of her friends. In dear old St.
James’ Church the Rector always loved her services at the organ,
which she played with so much taste and skill as to add much
beauty as well as smoothness to our worship."
Mrs. Stewart died in
Boston, April first, 1903, and the funeral was held at St.
James’ Church where she labored so long and faithfully. The Rev.
S. Halsted Watkins, who was at that time Rector of the parish,
It has been possible
to secure a real character sketch of one of the devoted and
successful women in the history of the parish, done with
intimate knowledge by her niece, Dorothy Canfield Fisher. All
the more one must regret that such a portrait, bringing out of
the past a personality and life, is the only one I have been
able to obtain.
It must stand
therefore as the prototype of the whole gallery our readers
would have liked to find in this book, both of the men and women
associated so usefully and loyally with the corporate life of
Martha Hulme Canfield
was the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Eli Hawley Canfield and Martha
Crafts Hulme, and was born in 1850 in New York City where her
father was Rector of a church. Brought up in the city, through
her childhood and youth, she was nevertheless a lifelong
Arlingtonian, for like all the Canfields she felt steadfastly
that Arlington was her real home.
She was continually
brought back here for long vacations by her father, to the brick
house across the street from St. James’, where his mother, Mrs.
Almera Hawley Canfield, his aunt, Miss Pauline Hawley, his
sister, Miss Mary Ann Canfield, his brother, Mr. Zadok Canfield,
all lived together in a typical old-time family group.
The little Mattie’s
mother, Dr. Canfield’s beloved wife, died when her daughter was
only seven years old, so the child had but little recol-lection
of her mother.
It was one of her
sayings that she had been brought up by a father, a grandmother,
two aunts, one uncle and an elderly Irish housekeeper, the
faithful Rebecca, who ran Dr. Canfield’s New York home for many
As was natural for a
child with all these elderly guardians, in many ways "Miss
Mattie," as she was always called, belonged to the genera-tion
of older people; and yet at the same time (because she was and
remained nearly all her life the only "child" in the home with
people ranging from twenty to sixty years older than she) she
also kept a singular child-like quality of bright, cheerful,
unquestioning acceptance of what she found around her.
Her brother, Dr.
James Hulme Canfield, used to say of her, fondly and yet with
some anxiety about what life might be to her, when left alone by
the death of her elderly protectors, "Mattie at fifty-five is
just the same ‘good dutiful child’ she was at ten." The "old
folks" who made up the family at the Brick House lived to a
fabulously venerable age, all of them, so that it was not until
Miss Mattie was an old lady herself that she was left alone in
the large old home. By that time her niece, Dorothy Canfield
Fisher, who like Miss Mattie had always spent much of her
childhood and youth in Arlington had married and settled
permanently with her husband and family in the North District of
Arlington, so that Miss Mattie always had some of her close
kindred very near her.
By that time also,
the pattern of her life had set into a sustaining firmness,
which was in no way changed till the day of her death at
sixty-nine years of age. Her main interest was the Church. As if
she were still, as she had been in her childhood, the daughter
of the Rector, she never missed a service. Nor was she ever
late, Nor early. Punctual to the instant, when the last bell
began its summons, Miss Mattie, prayer book in gloved hand,
stepped from the front door of the Brick House and crossed the
street. If she was a little too early in getting ready, she
always sat down in the "front parlor" and waited till the
familiar bell began to sound. She never was too late.
With the same
unvarying regularity and punctuality, she taught her boys’
Sunday School class. It would have been unthinkable for her to
have missed it. Saturday evening she always "studied" the next
day’s prepared Sunday School lesson on the printed leaflet - she
never needed to re-read the Bible story, for that was as
familiar to her as the air she breathed. The boys she taught
felt in her a simplicity of personality, a cheerful "young"
uncomplicated attitude towards life, so much like their own that
she seemed very close to them. She never helped any young person
over one of those periods of gloomy self-questioning doubts
about the significance of life and the truth of religious dogmas
in which temperamental adolescents are apt to suffer. She would
have been incapable of giving such help, for she was incapable
of feeling any such doubts, herself, or even of conceiving of
them; and when they were mentioned in her presence, her instinct
was to turn away quickly from any talk about them as being
"morbid." But somehow, in her young, smiling presence, looking
into her sunny clear blue eyes, feeling the emanation from her
of that perfect confidence in the structure of life and the
universe which, in more intellectual people is conscious
religious "faith in God," the troubled adolescent felt his
anxious doubts and fears dissolving away. Everybody "felt more
cheerful" as the saying went, after a chat with Miss Mattie. And
for her class of lively, vital, ten and twelve-year-old boys,
too young to guess at the existence of dark psychological
complexities, Miss Mattie was an ideal teacher. She was
sincerely and wholeheartedly interested in them and the kind of
problems they faced. She was thoroughly at home with them and
they with her. They enjoyed each other, year after year, decade
after decade; and those who watched her used to think that the
constant example she set of visibly enjoying her life in the
Church as a good daughter enjoys being at home in her father’s
house, had as truly "religious" an influence on the young, as
the most skillful, sound theological scholar could bring to bear
on older members of the parish.
She was brought up in
the mid-nineteenth century way, without ever having been taught
any useful skills by which to earn her living, and for many
years in her middle maturity was entirely occupied (again in the
nineteenth-century tradition for unmarried daughters and nieces)
by care for the older people of the family. Her father was a
bed-ridden and wheel-chair invalid for many years, devotedly
attended by his stout, middle-aged daughter, who dressed and
undressed him, helped him eat, read aloud to him for hours of
every day. It would hardly be accurate to say that she did this
uncomplainingly, for that word implies the thought that some
other way of life might have been possible. Miss Mattie simply
accepted this duty as a natural one, which she never questioned,
or debated or analyzed, any more than she did the religious
faith to which she had been brought up, and which was her
spiritual shelter, home and refuge always.
When she was finally
left alone by the death of the last of the older generation, she
had, to live on, only one of those traditionally tiny New
England old-maid’s incomes. It was far too small to cope
adequately with the steadily increasing cost of living in modern
days. But this ordeal of material narrowness and meagerness of
resources, always one of the hardest of the un-dramatic
difficulties of life to sustain without bitterness or
impatience, this too Miss Mattie met and conquered by accepting
it as so natural that she was practically unaware of it. If
there was not enough money for new clothes, well, there were
plenty of old ones left. She would have liked to be able to "do"
more for the library which by that time had come to be her
second great interest in life, and in which she worked as
devotedly, as ‘naturally" as she had eared for the feebleness of
her kinsfolk in their old age. But even without money, with her
own inexhaustible willingness to serve, with volunteer help from
younger neighbors who were drawn by her into work among the
books, the library grew, became more and more useful to the
town, to which Miss Mattie belonged as to her own family. She
never had time to fret because she had little money, because she
was growing old, because she was alone. Useful, busy,
untroubled, zestful, cheerful, she trotted indefatigably with
that quick short step of hers, familiar to generations of
Arlingtonians, from library to home, from home to Church, from
Church to library, till death came for her, with a kind,
merciful suddenness and total unexpectedness. She died
instantly, with one mild exclamation as of surprise ... "Oh!"
... without having had to live an hour, an instant in the dark
shadow of the foreboding of death, and passed, smiling and
sunny, from the life she had known so well how to live."
Some of the residents
of Arlington or those who lived here in their youth have been
asked to give their personal impressions of Miss Can-field as
they remember her.
Mrs. Henry LaBatt
says: "Miss Mattie or Aunt Mattie, as she was known by all,
especially the children, was dearly loved. Any time one cared to
run in, step to the front door, pull the bell, ting-a-ling, open
the door, go down the spacious hall to the living room in the
South Wing of the ‘Brick House,’ which was her home, one was
sure to be a welcome guest; for Miss Mattie, always smiling, was
ready to have a heart to heart visit, especially on subjects
that were of most interest to the children. I remember what good
times we used to have up in the attic, playing house with dolls
or other things that came into a child’s mind. Some of my
happiest memories as a child and then through the years,
memories that I vividly recall, are of Aunt Mattie. She would
almost always have candy, nuts and raisins on the table, and
these would be passed to the delight of the children.
"On Sundays in Sunday
School as a teacher she would have the same gentle way of
teaching the children in her class.
"In her passing all
mourned the great loss that came to the community as well as to
Mrs. Alfred Buck: "I
remember that Aunt Mattie was collecting books for a library as
long as forty years ago. This seemed to be her great desire for
the community - a library. She began with thirty books. When the
number had increased to fifty she said to me: ‘Maggie, I have
fifty books now.’ Aunt Mattie liked people and people liked to
drop in and visit with her. She saw the good in people; was very
tactful and had the faculty of getting along with people, and
often was able to adjust their differences.
"Her uncle Zed
Canfield met me on the sidewalk one day wheeling my baby in the
carriage. He said to me: ‘0, you are just like all the women,
you are bringing up your children on the street.’
"I was very much
vexed at this remark for my baby was only six months old. So I
went right down to Aunt Mattie to tell her. What did Aunt Mattie
say? She laughed and said ‘Why, you know Uncle Zed.’ When I left
Aunt Mattie I was smiling."
Professor Charles A.
Adams, of Middlebury College:
"Your letter from the
‘Brick House’ brought back tender memories. To me, ‘the Brick
House means Miss Mattie,’ as we all called her, a title showing
the respect and love we all felt for her. I see her now through
the eyes of childhood. It is in the evening and we have gone to
make a call. I love to listen to her clear sympathetic voice as
she inquires about every one in the family or as she talks about
some town matter of common interest. I see her opening the front
door, and with her short business-like step, walking to the
store to do her errands, stopping every now and then to chat
with and encourage some neighbor.
"Again I see her on
Sunday, crossing the street to St. James’, and one did not need
to hurry then for there were no cars to disturb one’s thoughts
"Or, again, when it
was time to decorate the church, at Christmas, working with ‘the
greens’ in the Town Hall or later in the basement of the church,
there she was, ever cheerful and encouraging and happy.
"When shall we see
her like again?"
From Clarence E.
Hard: "When Miss Martha H. Canfield passed away St. James’
Church suffered an irreparable loss. Her faithfulness and
devotion to the church were shown in many ways. She not only
gave generously to the support of the church but was also
untiring in the care of certain church properties. Her record as
teacher in the Church School would be hard to parallel.
faithfully as teacher for many, many years. My earliest
recollections of Miss Canfield go back to the time when as a
pupil in Sr. James’ Church School, I became a member of her
class. Her knowledge of the Bible was truly wonderful. It seems
to me that one outstanding feature of her teaching was the
stress she laid on memorizing the Collects for each Sunday.
There was a certain freshness of mind and spirit about Miss
Canfield that was an inspiration to young and old. I have often
felt that much of the best tradition died with her. She was
verily a sweet and loveable gentlewoman."
From Mrs. Georgia F.
Rice: "I remember Miss Mattie as a very amiable, even tempered
person, very sincere in all her dealings. She not only believed
the teachings of Christ but also lived them. Consequently she
was one of the most selfless persons I’ve ever met.
"The loving care
given to her father and her aunt over a long period of years
with perfect contentment rather belies the modern idea that to
be happy one must selfishly ‘live their own life’ without the
burden of even caring for one’s own. I do nor think Miss Mattie
even thought of the devotion given to her family as a burden,
but rather more as a duty, which she certainly fulfilled.
"Her perfect trust in
people is best shown by the way in which the books in the
Library which she opened to the Town in the wing of her home
were charged. At certain hours (I think in the afternoon) the
door was unlocked. Any resident of the town simply went in, took
his time in choosing a book, and then went to the desk and wrote
down on a pad of paper placed there for that purpose his name
and the name of the book borrowed. It always seemed to me that a
person who could trust others to be honest must be thoroughly
Mrs. Lawrence A.
Cole: "One of the outstanding things in my memory of ‘Aunt
Mattie’ is the recollection of her connection with the Church;
always in her pew, morning and evening services alike. She was a
great worker in the Sunday School. From the first of my going to
St. James and for many years after, Miss Mattie had a class of
older boys. She was always interested in all children, and was
always present and taking part in the Christmas tree festivities
for the Sunday School. She was one that was always sought after
as a sponsor at Baptism and I think if all her Godchildren were
gathered together they would reach from Arlington to
After all is said and
done, it is more in the unexpected encounters of everyday life,
the peculiar opportunities, seldom twice alike, of human
relations, that religion shows best and brightest.
unpredictable situations, more than in the formal meetings and
proceedings of organizations, the spirit of brotherhood and
loving-kindness, which the Church labors to produce, bears its
In a recent book,
"Nothing Ever Happens," by Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Sarah
Cleghorn, the title story, by Mrs. Fisher, illustrates this
point at once quaintly, amusingly and touchingly.
And it so happens
that this delightful tale is an actual incident, drawn straight
out of the everyday life of St. James’ Parish some seventy-five
For these reasons,
and because it took place in the Church itself, I introduce it
here as the ending of the mosaic I have been able to piece
together with such skillful help about women’s work in Sr.
NOTHING EVER HAPPENS
By DOROTHY CANFIELD FISHER
(The first chapter of
"Nothing Ever Happens" by Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Sarah
Publishers: The Unitarian Society, Beacon Press, Boston.)
We live - and as my
father used to say laughingly we have lived for the last hundred
and seventy-five years - in a pleasant, long valley in the Green
Mountains with fields and roads and stone walls and farm-houses
and villages on the lowest slopes, and forests above them. It is
so quiet and our of the way of the stirring modern world that
visitors often say, looking around them, "Well, it certainly
looks as though nothing had ever happened here!" And in a way -
from the city point of view - they’re right, we never have had
anything happen that would fir in the newsreel of a movie. So
when city visitors say that to us, we just nod and let it go.
But really from our
country point of view, lots of things have happened, things
we’re proud of, though they’re not much to tell, things we’re
ashamed of, things that make us laugh when we think of them,
things that make us hang our heads. Here’s a sample. See what
you think of it.
Many years ago when
my Great-grandmother was a brisk little old woman, she heard
that on one of the mountain farms "way up in a hollow" of the
mountain, the farmer’s wife was so timid she never came down to
the village to buy things or to go to church, because she was
afraid people would laugh at her. Her mother had been an Indian,
and her skin was very dark; and they were plain people with very
little money, and she didn’t think her clothes were good enough
to go to church. And now she’d stayed away from people so long
that she was just shy - the way a deer is shy - and felt "queer"
and went into the house quickly and hid, if a stranger, even
one, happened to stop at the farm.
no sooner heard that, than she got into the battered little old
phaeton she used to drive around in and had a boy drive her to
the other end of the valley and up the long, steep, narrow road
to the Hunter farm. Mrs. Hunter was hanging out her clothes on
the line when Great-grandmother drove into the yard and before
she could dodge away and hide, Great-grandmother hopped our of
the low, little carriage and said, "Here, let me help you!" and
in a minute, with her mouth full of clothespins, she was
standing by Mrs. Hunter pinning up sheets and towels and men’s
shirts. "My, how clean you get them!" she said mumbling around
the clothespins. "They’re as white as new milk! What kind of
soap do you use?"
By the time they got
the big basket of wet clothes all hung up, the dark-skinned,
black-haired mountain woman couldn’t feel shy of the
quick-stepping little old woman from the valley and they had a
pleasant time talking in the kitchen as they washed the
breakfast dishes and sat down together to the basket of mending.
The question of going to church came up, Great-grandmother asked
to see the coat and hat Mrs. Hunter had, said they were just as
good as hers, every bit, and before the old visitor had gone,
Mrs. Hunter said she would go to church the next Sunday, if she
could go with Great-grandmother and sir in the same pew with
"Yes, indeed," said
Great-grandmother. "I’ll be waiting for you on the front porch
of our house with my daughter and my little granddaughter, and
we’ll all walk across to church together." For Great-grandmother
lived just across from the church.
So sure enough the
next Sunday there was Great-grandmother and her young-lady
daughter and her little-girl granddaughter, all in their best
Sunday dresses and bonnets, their prayer books in their hands,
smiling at Mrs. Hunter as Mr. Hunter drove her up in the
lumbering old farm-wagon which was the only way the Hunters had
to get around. Mrs. Hunter had a bonnet on over her sleek black
hair, and her dark face was all creased with those nice
smile-wrinkles, as she climbed out on the hitching block and
starred up the front walk to the house. It was a cool day, she
had put on a warm cloak, her shoes were shined, and (she was a
real country-woman whose idea of dressing up was a perfectly
fresh, clean apron), she had put on a big blue checked-gingham
apron, nicely starched, over her coat, and tied the strings in
My aunt, who was
Great-grandmother’s granddaughter, and who was the little girl
on the front porch that day, used to tell me, when I was a
little girl, about what happened next. She said she and her
young-lady aunt were so astonished to see a woman with a big
apron on, over her coat, that their eyes opened wide, wide, and
they were just ready to put their hands up to their mouths to
hide a laugh, when Great-grandmother said, briskly, as she
always spoke, "Well, girls, would you believe it! We’ve
forgotten to put our aprons on. Just excuse us a minute, Mrs.
Hunter, and we’ll be right with you." And then she hustled them
into the house, and - although they kept saying it was
"terrible" - she made them put gingham aprons on over their
coats, and she herself put on the biggest one she had and tied
the strings in a bow-knot behind, and they sailed across to
church, all four of them, aproned from chin to hem, and went to
church that way, with Great-grandmother looking so hard at
anybody with a surprised expression that people soon got the
idea and even the children stopped giggling.
After the service,
everybody came to shake hands in a friendly way with Mrs. Hunter
(they knew Great-grandmother would have a thing or two to say to
them if they didn’t), and said they were glad to see her out at
church. And after that Mrs. Hunter came every Sunday, the rest
of her life - without an apron, for Great-grandmother
negligently let fall, some time the next week, that it wasn’t
really necessary to wear them on Sundays.
Well, we laugh over
that story, but we’re really very proud of it. And we were
prouder yet when long, long after Great-grandmother and Mrs.
Hunter were both in the old Burying Ground with tombstones over
their graves, we saw another little incident that would make you
think that, when once such a thing happened in a place, the very
place itself is different, almost as if one action could make a
natural channel along which other actions like it could flow
more easily. And of course if that is so, it makes a great
difference what kind of channels get made in any town.
It was this way. One
of the families in our town was very, very poor. The father had
died, the mother was sick, the five children scratched along as
best they could, with what help the neighbors could give them.
But they had to go without things that you’d think were
Not only did they
never have good "dress-up" clothes, but also they never even had
new work-clothes. They wore things that other people had given
up because they were too ragged. Their mother, sitting up in
bed, patched them as best she could, and the children wore them.
When the oldest boy - he was a thin little fellow about fourteen
years old - got a chance to go to work for a farmer around the
mountain from us, he had nothing at all to wear but a very old
shirt, and some faded and much-patched blue denim overalls, and
his thick work-shoes.
The farmer and his
wife had never seen anybody in such poor working-clothes
(although they never dreamed this was all the new hired boy
had), and on Saturday when the farmer’s wife went to the village
to sell some eggs, she bought young David a brand new pair of
blue jeans, so stiff they could almost stand alone - you know
how brand new overalls look. The next day at breakfast they said
they were going to church, and wouldn’t David like to go along.
Yes, indeed he would! So they all went off to their rooms to get
into their Sunday clothes. The farmer was dressed first, and was
sitting by the radio trying to get the time signals to set his
watch, when David walked in. His hair was combed slick and
smooth with lots of water, his heavy work shoes were blacked,
and his face was as clean as a china plate. And he had on those
stiff, new, blue jeans, looking as though they were made out of
The farmer opened his
mouth to say, "You’ll be late if you don’t get dressed for
church. We’re almost ready to start," when he saw David’s face.
It was shining with happy pride in the first new clothes he had
ever owned. He looked down at the blue jeans with a broad smile,
he ran his hand lovingly over their stiffness, he looked up at
the farmer and said, gratefully, "Land! I’m so much obliged to
you for getting me these new clothes in time to go to church in
The farmer sort of
coughed, got out his handkerchief, blew his nose, and said,
"Wait a minute," and went to take off his own nice blue serge
suit and put on a pair of blue jeans. Then he and David walked
into church together, and sat in the same pew, and sang out of
the same hymn-book, and - though they neither of them ever said
a word to me about it - I’m pretty sure from the peaceful, happy
expression on their faces, that they never enjoyed any church
service better, in all their lives after that.
So when visitors from
the city say, "goodness, how quiet the life up here in the
mountains is! Looks as though nothing had ever happened here
since the Year One," we think "Well, now that depends on what
you mean by ‘happen'."
Note - Mrs. Fisher’s
great-grandmother was Mrs. Nathaniel Canfield, who was a Miss
Hawley, coming of a family noted for their devotion to the
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