Left in Andover: Our town’s heritage of originality

By Susan Leader
©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Dated Aug. 26, 1961, Andover’s bicentennial proclamation seems contemporary in its challenge to town residents to be original in envisioning the future.

The framed scroll is enshrined on the north wall of our Town Hall. It stops time for me with its alphabetized roll call of all the names I grew up with. Of course I am ever the proud daughter as I squint to make out “Herbert Joseph and Miriam Bergman Leader” in the L’s.

A sketch of the old Town Clerk’s 10 by 10 office.

I had just celebrated my 10th birthday when my family joined the festivities honoring the 200th anniversary of the granting of Andover’s original town charter by New Hampshire’s colonial era Gov. Benning Wentworth.

The highlight that day was the dedication of a newly constructed town office and library. This project was the fruition of five years of planning to replace the tiny town clerk’s office housed in a former horse shed attached to Town Hall. A Rutland Herald headline boasted Andover Builds Town Office, Library for Its Bicentennial: Town of 215 Decides To Tie Past to the Future.

My mother costumed for the occasion in a long flowing skirt and frilly blouse to signify her pioneer spirit. Her particular involvement had been as a member of the library committee.

Historically, the balcony of Town Hall hosted Andover Library. The collection had also been scattered around Simonsville, in two private residences and the bookmobile paid regular visits to my one room schoolhouse in Peaseville.

As a member of Andover’s library committee led by Florence Plumb, Mom threw herself into planning and fundraising. She was excited for our library branches to consolidate in a brand new dedicated space. An intellectual renaissance seemed to be in the offing.

This 1961 bicentennial celebration highlighted the rich multi-cultural social fabric of Andover. Town poet Franklin Stevens even penned a poem to memorialize the occasion.

In its full page article about the event, the Rutland Herald recorded that “The dignitaries who cut the ribbon on the opening of the new building were Sherry Williams, 6, and Robert Bentley, 5.”

1961 Andover town scroll

“The Rev. Earnest Wall, a retired minister, walked two miles in the rain to make the dedication speech. The rain, which drove the ceremony indoors to the Grange Hall (see Left in Andover: Grange movement takes hold in tiny Vermont towns) mired the minister’s car at his hillside home.”

“A demonstration of spinning was conducted by Mrs. Lawrence Holloway at the Grange Hall. An evening program featured the Bicentennial Chorus under Mrs. Arthur Hemenway and the Finnish-American dance with Partunen’s Orchestra – a group of area musicians.”

The exquisitely hand-written proclamation scroll, now enshrined on the north wall of Andover Town Hall, reads: “We, the Residents and Property Owners of Andover have heard the Honorable George Amidon, State Treasurer, most fittingly dedicate the new Town Clerk’s Office. May this building be an Earnest of our Faith in the sturdy Virtues of the Pioneers who, two hundred years ago, began taming the wilderness to form the Sovereign State of Vermont. Here, We will treasure the Records of their Courage, Wisdom and Strength as well as their Independent Spirit and Originality in meeting the almost insurmountable Problems of their time. We hope that we may rise to the challenge of our troubled Day in like manner and leave a worthy Heritage for the future Freeman of Vermont.”

A postcard invitation to the Andover celebration.

The inclusion of “Originality” as part of the directive for our little town to attain its next milestone is striking. It implies an extraordinary openness to change on the part of a very traditional town council as yet untouched by the radical inputs of the baby boom generation.

The present transformational influx of pandemic and climate refugees includes a sprinkling of young families. Peddling my pottery at the local farmers markets I keep bumping into them.

Many have been working from home and have yet to interact with any broader community. Will they dare to stay as their children reach school age? I hope so. Their originality and pioneering spirit will help get us to 2061.


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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeLeft in Andover

About the Author: Vermont native and noted potter Susan Leader grew up on Popplewood Farm in Andover. At age 17, she was inspired to take up the potter's wheel by "a charismatic potter" from the Society of Vermont Craftsman. She spent 18 months apprenticing at pottery villages throughout Japan. She returned to Popplewood Farm, where she and her husband, fiddle player John Specker, raised their two daughters.

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  1. Jayne Moye says:

    Another gem! I love you Susan! Write on!