Celebrating our past

Local history buffs gather on the Newfane common in every-other-year tradition

NEWFANE — On Saturday afternoon, for a few hours, hundreds of people stopped focusing on the here and now.

Instead, as they milled around the Newfane common at the Windham County History Fair, they were in the here and then.

The Historical Society of Windham County, which organized the every-other-year event, joined representatives from local historical societies - including Putney, Jamaica, East Dover, Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, and Townshend - and the Vermont Historical Society in greeting visitors.

Interleaved through the day's schedule were special events like a tour of the old jail, courtesy of Windham County Sheriff Kevin Clark, to a talk about Vermont's pivotal contribution to the Civil War.

Other exhibitors included antiquarian booksellers, vendors of reproductions of historic maps, and the Vermont State Police, with Terry Martin of Brattleboro recalling his days as a young trooper in the 1960s and showing the now-antique 4x5 large-format camera used to capture highly detailed images from crime scenes.

Like a local history Pied Piper, Danny Brooks enthusiastically led several dozen people around Newfane Village, ending up in the 1832 Union Hall, still used every other year for the Annual Town Meeting. (Voters meet in the Willamsville Hall on the alternate years.)

Brooks, a lifelong Newfane resident, has been active with the Historical Society of Windham County for roughly 30 years and serves on the organization's board of directors.

When he became involved in his late 20s, he said, the organization was the only one of its kind in the region.

Since then, he said, most towns have organized their own historical societies, which inspired the county-wide organization to ask, “How can we have everybody be a part of something?”

The result was the first history fair, which took place in 2008.

The event now takes place every other year, alternating with the Vermont Historical Society's biannual Vermont History Expo in Tunbridge.

“Everyone seems to love it,” Brooks said. “There are a lot of local people learning about local history.”

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