Local historian and author Jane (Bolton) Brown will be at the Cabot Library on Wednesday March 28 at 7:00, presenting her work as co-author of the award-winning book "West Danville: Then and Now, 1791-2021".
Jane is a fifth-generation Vermonter and the third generation to grow up and live in Cabot.
As a child, Jane loved being outside. Her great-grandfather, John Bolton, first came to Cabot around 1865, after serving in the Civil War, and began farming on 120 acres of land on Cabot Plain. Over the years, his youngest son, Aaron, (Jane’s Grandfather) increased the property to become one of the largest and most successful farms in Cabot. He milked “upwards of 50” registered holsteins on 960 acres on the Plain. It was the highest working farm in Vermont, having at one time or another cattle, horses, turkeys, chickens, swine and sheep.
Jane grew up on the farm. She was an only child and enjoyed hunting, fishing and working on the farm with her father. Her mother, Arletta Bolton, grew up in East Barre and became a schoolteacher. “I drove tractors and drove horses. I would do almost anything to get out of doing housework,” Jane said. “But I didn’t milk. My mother said that would ruin my hands. She was afraid I would end up as a farmer’s wife.”
Jane enjoyed her childhood in Cabot. “Those were wonderful years, endless days of being kids. After work we would go swimming in the pond, usually I was with a host of cousins. We were responsible for getting the cows in and doing some farm work.” Her mother’s first teaching job was at the Plains School where she had 31 students. She also taught in West Danville and later in Cabot Village.
The Plains school was a standard school built on land donated by Jane’s grandparents. “My mother was definitely hands on and had control of her students. I’m sure she would have been fired today,” she said. “Everyone walked to school. In the winter our boots and mittens were frozen. We always knew the older kids had our backs,” she remembered.
Jane graduated from eighth grade in the Plains School in 1944 and then went to Cabot Village for high school, and rode her bike to the village every day (more than four miles each way) until snowfall. “Then I boarded in town until the roads were passable again in the spring. I boarded with Ned and Julia Barnett, who lived one house up Whittier Hill Road from what was Dr. Burbank’s, where Westervelts live now. Ned was overseer of the poor and operated a small dairy farm there. I helped Julia with housework, and they had another high school student, Dick Blodgett, living there who helped Ned on the farm, and they also took care of an elderly woman, so there was plenty of work to do.”
Although Jane describes herself as “a cut-up” in class, she stayed out of serious trouble. “We were taught to be respectful, there was not a lot of disruption,” she said. Her class started out with 14 members and at graduation in 1948 they were down to six. She graduated with Jeannette Bickford, Howard Carpenter, Murial Pike, Larry Thompson, and Beverly Walter.
“My mother wanted me to be a nurse. Fortunately for me, I couldn’t get into the fall class in 1948 and I was all set to work on the farm with my dad; but my mother was a force of nature. When our class got home from our graduation trip to New York City, I was told I was enrolled in the Burlington Business School. So, I learned bookkeeping, shorthand and typing, skills that helped me the rest of my life.”
Her first job was for Fairbanks Scales in St Johnsbury, where they called her “that corn-fed Cabot girl.”
“In the 1950s I got an itch to be an airline stewardess,” she remembered. She attended McConnell Airline School in Minneapolis. “I was only 20, but Eastern Airlines hired me and assigned me to a ticket office in New York City until my 21st birthday, when I’d be old enough to be a stewardess. I soon discovered I couldn’t make enough money there to support myself, so I came home.”
She married Raymond Dimick in 1953 and they had three children – Bill, Bob, and Jamie, all of whom now live close by. Her husband died in 1969 when he was 42 years old. “The boys, then 11, 9 and 5, and I were on our own for about 13 years.”
She held numerous jobs during those years, often more than one at a time, in St. Johnsbury area, including working for the school district and operating a cross-country ski shop. She also worked in Peacham for William J. Lederer, the author of “The Ugly American.” In 1979 she started working for the Social Security Administration in Montpelier. She met her second husband, Fred Brown, there and they were married in 1983 and lived in a mostly unwinterized cottage at Joe’s Pond, in Cabot.
Her mother died in 1991 and her father died four years later. Jane and Fred moved into the house her father had built in 1962, overlooking Joe’s Pond. “I had always enjoyed writing and while at Social Security I took various adult education courses, including journalism.” She ended up writing freelance for area newspapers, something she continues to do today.
She was active in the Joe’s Pond Association (JPA), serving as co-chair of the boat parade, Ice-Out Contest, and recently retired after 20 years as secretary. She still maintains a blog, “Joe’s Pond Reflections.”
“Around 1995 Velma Smith approached me to work with her to update burial records in Cabot’s seven cemeteries. They were all in sad shape at the time and Velma was working to restore and reclaim each one. “We got permission from Peg Abbott and May Wheeler to use the documentation they had done in 1984, and updated burials; then we constructed maps of each cemetery showing numbered lots and placements, indexing accordingly. “Those maps are still being used in the town office. After completing the updating and mapping, I put all the information into a database to be used at the town clerk's office. I don't know what happened to that. At one time there was a dedicated computer set up for public use to aid in researching.”
She was also an auditor for the town for a number of years. She co-authored “Cabot, Vermont, A Collection of Memories from the Century Past” (published 1999) and most recently co-authored, “West Danville, Vermont: Then and Now 1781 – 2021,” which took eight years to research and write.
She became active in the Cabot Historical Society (CHS). “I began collecting, archiving and digitizing documents and photographs, perhaps in 2006 or so. I'm guessing I've put together perhaps three dozen albums altogether, and still consider myself the CHS archivist. I also published several books and pamphlets for the CHS, created their original website, and made a DVD of old photos of the town.
“I had a good working relationship with Bonnie and Peter Dannenberg for many years. When Fred became ill, I turned the website over to CHS and Peter has done a great job continuing it.
Fred Brown died in 2020.
“I have a wonderful family and many friends, and I appreciate that I get to live where I do, in a town and state that I love, and that I can spend my time writing, painting, reading, lunching with friends, or whatever else I choose to do,” she said recently.
Her friends describe her as “energetic and smart,” “phenomenally sharp,” and “a really practical problem solver.” “Above all she is really kind,” concluded Diane Rossi of Joe’s Pond.