Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My aunt Hattie Jones...Post Mistress and Librarian

This bucolic scene is Windham, Vermont, circa 1920. It was the hometown of my great aunt Hattie. She was the sister of my grandfather who lived in Brattleboro, Vt. with his wife and two daughters...the youngest of these being my mother.

My memories of her are vague, to say the least, but she was a remarkable woman from all the stories that have been handed down in our family. She was the Windham Post Mistress for many years and the office was in her home. I don’t have the actual dates but she must have started her career around 1890.

My oldest sister, who is 81, remembers staying with Aunt Hattie and her son Paul when she was 12. That would make it 1938. She remembers the old white farmhouse that sat close to the road and the portion of the “parlor” reserved for postal needs.

Often, during her stay, meal times would be interrupted by patrons picking up their mail, buying stamps, sending packages or simply passing along the latest news. All the stamps were hand-cancelled then and, although the volume of mail must have been low enough that Aunt Hattie could handle it by herself, it was still a full time job.

However, it didn’t take all of her time because early in her days as post mistress she added a new dimension. She was a great reader and had an extensive personal library. She conceived the idea to catalogue and display her books with the idea of setting up a lending library so that her neighbors and friends could enjoy them too. Our family has been told that it was the first public library in Vermont, although I haven’t been able to confirm that.

I love the picture of the small library as my sister described it to me. She said that Aunt Hattie had hand-made wooden step ladders propped against the wall. The steps of the ladders made perfect shelves for her books and they were displayed in alphabetical order by author.

Aunt Hattie’s house must have been a busy and vital place and I can imagine my sister, at age 12, loving every minute of it.


Blogger fhdogs said...

Hi Ginnie,

I just purchased a house in Windham, VT. Amazingly it still looks very similar. I'm doing some research on the area, and ran into your post. Do yo have any other photos of Windham? I'm looking mostly for images of homes, and other structures.

Thank You!!!!

7:47 AM  
Blogger kenju said...

I have never been to New England, and I enjoy reading about it and seeing photos like this one, Ginnie. My mother's brother was the postmaster for his small town in WV for many years. He knew everyone!

9:11 PM  
Blogger Bud said...

Scenes like that one bring back fond memories of my growing up in New England. Nice story Ginny.

2:04 AM  
Blogger Crayons said...

Hi Ginnie,

This is another beautiful thumbnail portrait -- both of a person and of another time. She sounds like someone I would enjoy having tea with. The whole notion of mail amazes me. Think about the logistics. I also love the idea of a personal lending library.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

I think it would be great if we could find out if it was the first library in Vermont. Let me see what I can find out at this end, we have an historian in the family. Could you send me her last name in an e-mail?

11:20 AM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

I would imagine we would all love a house to be in like that. My Pop's birth house here in North Melbourne was such a place..a hibe of activity always someone visiting, the kettle always on the boil...just wonderful days for us kids. I shall blog it sometime.
Thanks Ginnie for the wonderful reading.

5:21 PM  
Blogger ellen said...

I am delighted to find your blog. I'll be back. Thank you. It is lovely.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those were the days!
What a great story.

Claude from Blogging in Paris

12:43 PM  
Blogger junglequeen said...

Hi Ginnie

What a great blog - I found it looking for Windham Melbourne AU LOL. Wonderul historical information and great to see you getting it out there. Will link to you!

2:03 PM  
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10:46 AM  

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