Henry Homestead marker celebrates 200 years of a Vermont family’s notable history

The team that installed the sign are, from left, Ben Brackbill, Tuckerman Wunderle and Scott Wunderle, owner of Terrigenous Landscape Architecture. To the far right is the 6th Hugh Henry. In the background is the original Henry home. All photos by Jillian Petroski.

By Jillian Petroski and
Tuckerman Wunderle
©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Along the tree-lined winding dirt road of the Green Mountain Turnpike in Chester stands a prominent new plaque that adds more depth to the history of Vermont, the United
States and six generations of the Henry family.

This new state historic site marker is one of 287 placed throughout Vermont and four in Chester.

On Sept. 1, this marker was installed by Terrigenous Landscape Architecture at the Hugh Henry Homestead, and celebrates 218 years of Vermont’s history, during which there has always been at least one Hugh Henry living in the c. 1780 farmhouse and the adjacent 1890 cottage on Green Mountain Turnpike. In fact, the sixth and last of the Hugh Henrys still lives in the family cottage today.

The team prepares the land to install the marker, with Queen Anne style cottage in the background.

The history of the Henrys’ lives in Chester begins in 1803 with the original Hugh Henry (1767–1847), who hailed from New Hampshire. As the sixth Hugh Henry tells the family tale, his great-great-great grandfather, a merchant, banker and land dealer, “swam across the Connecticut River toward Vermont. Toward the promised land.” Once he arrived on the shores of the Green Mountain State, he purchased the homestead from one Lucy Kimball, the widow of Capt. Thomas Kimball, in 1803.

By making the decision to move his family to Vermont, Henry began a centuries-long legacy filled with social and political importance. His son, Hugh Horatio Henry (1817–1869), was a Vermont state senator and ardent abolitionist who conspired with Horace Greeley to promote the nomination of Abraham Lincoln for president at the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago. He also graduated from Dartmouth College at the age of 19 and went on to become a banker, railroad president and U.S. marshal.

His son, the third Hugh Henry (1838–1920), continued his father’s dedication to his country and community. He served in the Civil War, providing supplies to men on the front lines. He later became a lawyer, probate judge and commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization  of veterans of the Union Army.

One side of the marker with the home in the background.

In 1897, he hosted President William McKinley during a visit to Henry’s home in Chester village for a celebration and reunion of the state’s militia; the only time a sitting U.S. president has visited the village.

The fourth Hugh Henry (1883–1964) would become a prominent lawyer, the first commissioner of weights and measures in the state of Vermont and, only in his mid-20s, the governor’s right-hand man. While pursuing their professional and political interests, the Henrys maintained ownership of the imposing farmhouse at 2206 Green Mountain Turnpike.

The next-door cottage was built in 1890 for Judge Henry’s sister Clara. The two houses remain a symbol of the importance the family placed on their ancestors, the Chester community and their role in shaping our country. However, after the death of the fourth Hugh Henry, his widow, another Clara, sold the farmhouse in 1965. For 20 years, until 2021, it was a bed and breakfast, known as the Henry Farm Inn.

Today, the two houses represent not only the history of the Henry family, but the beautiful architecture of those years as well.

In the past 56 years, the fifth and sixth Hugh Henrys have kept their roots firmly at the cottage. As the most recent Henry puts it, “History continues, and now I’m continuing that history.” The sixth Hugh Henry prepared the application for the state green and yellow marker that now stands between the two houses.

Laura Trieschmann, director of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, says the state historical markers “enable us to educate Vermonters and our tourists about the wonderful history here.”

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  1. Paul and Patricia Dexter says:

    What a nice tribute to the Henry’s long history in Chester!

    As an addition to the story, we purchased the Henry Farm Inn in 2000 and ran it until we sold the property and retired from innkeeping in 2021. But, the farmhouse building was the Henry Farm Inn well before we arrived on the scene; as far back as 1986, we believe. Prior to that, for one winter, it was called the Butternut Acres Inn.

    The historic marker will help answer the question we received from almost every guest: “Tell us about the history of this building – was it always an Inn?

  2. Susan Bailey says:

    Loved the article, as well as Nancy Pennell’s comments of which some made me chuckle.

  3. hUGH H. HENRY says:

    TO THE EDITOR:

    BY HER ANECDOTAL COMMENTS, NANCY PENNELL LIFTS THE FIFTH HUGH HENRY INTO THE FLOW OF THE ARTICLE. MY FATHER, “BUSTER” (1910-2001) NEVER ACHIEVED THE PROFESSIONAL AND POLITICAL STATURE OF HIS PREDECESSORS. NEVERTHELESS,HE CONTRIBUTED IN OTHER MEANINGFUL WAYS TO THE CHESTER COMMUNITY DURING HIS LIFETIME HERE. FROM HIS POSITION BEHIND THE MEAT COUNTER AT THE LOCAL MARKETS, HE OBSERVED AND INTERACTED WITH GENERATIONS OF HIS FELLOW CHESTERITES. AND HIS OFTEN PERSONAL COMMENTS TYPICALLY REFLECTED HIS FRIENDLY, CONGENIAL MANNER. LATER IN LIFE, HIS LOSS OF EYESIGHT FORCED CHANGE YET HE PERSEVERED. HE SHIFTED TO OUTDOOR ACTIVITY, NOTABLY THE MANY BICYCLE TRIPS PURGING THE BOTTLES AND CANS THAT CONTINUE TO LITTER THE LANDSCAPE THAT HE LOVED.

    BUSTER HAS PASSED INTO THE FOLKLORE OF CHESTER, AND WE MISS HIM….

    THE SIXTH HUGH (HOWARD) HENRY

  4. Sharon Jonynas says:

    What a lovely commemorative to a long-standing Chester family. The two houses are beautiful architectural works. I wish Suzie Forlie was still here to see the tribute to her family.

  5. Bob Sartini says:

    If he bought the house in 1803 doesn’t the Henry legacy mark 218 years instead of 200?

  6. Nancy Pennell says:

    Great story. Having lived in Chester for 55 years I certainly knew Hugh “Buster” Henry who I am thinking must have been the 5th Hugh. He deserves some inclusion. He worked at the IGA (where the book store is now) and was the butcher with the owner Al Cross. There are many great stories about Buster, especially when he had cataracts and could not see well. Watching him use a magnifying glass to see the weight markings on the scale or wielding the cleaver to cut the meat was always an adventure. Never saw him not smiling or greeting you personally.

    When he had his cataracts removed and could SEE, my mother was in the store and he greeted her warmly commenting that she looked so much younger than he imagined. My mother smiled – wondering if he really could see clearly – and as she turned away she heard him say the exact same thing to the next woman at the counter!

    The other story we talk about in our family is Who Bought The Duck? My mother asked about duck and Buster said sure, he had a frozen one. Fine said my mother and put the duck along with other items on the counter. She walked away for a moment and heard Al yell to Buster in the back “Who bought the duck?” as though that duck had been in the freezer so long it was a miracle someone finally bought it.

    Buster’s daughter Suzie Henry Forlie owned Forlie Ballou dress shop on the green for many years. All good memories of good people who contributed to life in Chester.

  7. Arlene Mutschler says:

    Interesting. Now I have to drive down there and look for it? Sad, though, it says the “last” one of the family lives in the cottage. SO? the house isnt in the family anymore?Sad.

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