Chapter Nine

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 endure.

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 organizations.


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’, Arlington.

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:

Mrs. Elizabeth 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 Squiers
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 seventies.

Then came Mrs. Clara Louise Stewart of whom extended mention is made later in this chapter.

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 directors:

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 the following:

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 her death.

Mary Chittenden 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 present Rectory.

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 Cole family".

"Either memory 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".

"Indeed, Arlington 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 Stewart


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 childhood.

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 Rebellion.

Mrs. Stewart 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, officiated.

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 the Church.

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 years.

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 the Church."

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 safety.

"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.

"She served 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 honest himself."

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 Shaftsbury."

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.

In these 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 holy fruit.

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 years ago.

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. James’ Parish.




(The first chapter of "Nothing Ever Happens" by Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Sarah Cleghorn.
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.

My Great-grandmother 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 her.

"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 the back.

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 absolutely necessary.

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 blue stovepipe.

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 them."

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 church.



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