“I see many folks here today who are descended from those captured or living here at the time of the Royalton Raid,” said historian John Dumville, as selectboard chair Larry Trottier used a saw and pliers to open a soldered copper box on the Ellis Bandstand recently in South Royalton.
Two time capsules were found within the Handy Memorial while it was being dismantled for restoration on July 23. In a town with so many residents descended from early settlers, it’s no wonder historic artifacts like the capsules would arouse such interest.
The horseshoe-shaped Handy Memorial was dedicated during “Old Home Week” held August 15- 20, 1915.
“There are lots of records of the dedication, posters and photos,” Dumville told the large crowd on the green, “but we don’t know who manufactured and installed it, so hopefully that kind of information will be inside.”
Hannah Handy, sometimes spelled “Hendee,” and her husband signed documents with x’s because they couldn’t write, Dumville explained, which is possibly why the spelling of their name isn’t consistent. Handy convinced the British officer, Lt. Horton, to release nine small boys who were taken captive during the October 16, 1780 burning of Royalton.
Evelyn Lovejoy, author of the 1911 “History of Royalton,” donated proceeds from the sale of the history to erect the monument honoring Handy. The Lovejoy family is descended from Robert Havens, the first settler of Royalton, whose First Branch home was the second to be attacked during the raid. Haven’s son, Daniel, escaped, but neighbor Thomas Pember was killed.
It was no surprise to Dumville that there would be a time capsule, as it was a common practice at the time. The contractors, the Calcagni family of Barre Granite Corporation, realized there was a space inside the structure as they were dismantling the base, and were able to reveal the capsules without much damage.
The opening was scheduled between the weekly South Royalton Farmer’s Market and the last band concert of the season, drawing a large crowd complete with lawn chairs, cell phones, and video cameras, along with the selectboard, and members of the press from The Herald, The Valley News, and The Mountain Times of Killington.
The capsules contained mainly paper materials, some damaged by moisture, such as a Bible which is largely unreadable, also a copy of The Herald dated August 12, 1915; and an unbound copy of “Lovejoy’s History.” A poster for Old Home Week lists events scheduled— speakers, baseball games, family reunions, picnics, dances, and concerts, plus a re-enactment of the Burning of Royalton, and the dedication of the memorial.
Among the papers are minutes from the Royalton Historical Association and the Women’s Club pertinent to the memorial, where it was found that the monument was made by Adams & McNichol of South Royalton, who once worked from the basement of the Knight’s Opera House, for $445.
The Royalton Historical Association recorded that Mrs. Daniel Wild of New York also donated funds for the memorial. Daniel Wild was descended from Garner Rix, captured in the raid, who later lived at the house below the Back River Road, before the Johnson Hill turn.
The Women’s Club was given power to transact business pertaining to the memorial in 1905, so the project obviously took several years to complete.
Other documents include William West Culver’s script for the re-enactment of the Burning of Royalton.
The August 12, 1915 issue of The Herald contains an advertisement for the event, and the national news of the day, “Warsaw Captured.”
South Royalton news from that issue includes that the Royalton Historical Association had received a generous donation toward the Handy Memorial from Miss Ellen Pierce, descendant of Dr. Phinneas Parkhurst. Although shot in the abdomen during the raid, Parkhurst rode to Lebanon to sound the alarm.
Local news contains long lists of who visited who in all The Herald’s community columns, and state news, in one long article, relates car and train accidents, burglaries and other sensational stuff. It is noticeable that the news wasn’t broken into articles with prominent headlines as it is today.
Advertisements from SoRo stores reveal that salt pork then cost 12¢ per pound at F.W. Sargent’s, compared to $5.49 today at RB’s Deli; a dozen canning jars went for 60¢ at Geo. H. Dewey’s, selling for $10.49 at Welch Bros. Hardware now; and canned peaches were 10¢ a can, while fresh peaches sell for $2.99 per pound at the Co-op today.
At Thursday’s gathering, Peter Chap said he wished the people in 1915 had made guesses of what South Royalton would be like in a hundred years. Paul Whitney thought there should have been an Indian head penny. Others were hoping to find something on their genealogy.
John Dumville is now making plans for a time capsule to be buried in the new foundation for the monument, but intends that the contents will be kept secret. Suggestions for items to be included may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, in the next week.
Work will continue this week to restore the monument, with some foundation work donated by Norm Hibbard, whose ancestor, John Hibbard, traveled to New York State to pick up Royalton’s charter in 1779.
The memorial was originally separated from the street by a swath of grass, but that grass was lost to a widening of the street to make more parking space in the 1970s. When restored, the monument will be set back from the street by about six feet.
-- JO LEVASSEUR
Jo Levasseur is a descendant of Nehemiah Leavitt, who built the brick house on the Harlow Road in 1799.