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Film Clip

Montgomery: Dexter's March


Introduction

The Eighth grade students at Montgomery Elementary School, in conjunction with The Montgomery Historical Society, teachers Roberta Cota and Susan Zeineth-Collins, and filmmaker, Bill Killon, have been involved with the Vermont History Project since they were in the sixth grade. The road to the final project has taken many turns. In the end, after much research, the team decided upon an original script and subsequent short film, which encompasses the history and the culture of Montgomery in the mid to late nineteenth century. The stories, used as the basis for the script, were provided by community members who had heard them from their grandparents and older family members. The students searched various local and state resources to find the names and the locations of several of the events. However, there were some areas where class decisions were made using known facts, when information could not be found.

bridge photo

The covered bridges of Montgomery greet visitors with a welcoming image of a vanished era and remind residents of a special heritage. Seven of the original thirteen bridges remain, including one in storage. They span both streams and time, beside highways and along the back roads providing a ready trail to Montgomery's past. The traveler to this history finds of course a stark contrast to our own time and even that of much of the 21st century--no automobiles or paved roads, no electricity or telephones. But the image of a bucolic yesterday belies the reality of life in Montgomery during the time when her bridges were built and underestimates the vitality and complexity of town life during what Bill Branthoover and Sara Taylor have aptly termed "her golden years."

It was, in fact, a time of more residents, fewer forests, and greater economic activity. From the crisis of the Civil War to the transformation of America in the industrial age, Montgomery also grew. Hillsides were cleared of forests, the trees brought to sawmills, where they were made into butter tubs and veneer. Farmers worked the newly cleared land, and brought milk to the creamery, where it was shipped to markets as distant as Boston.

All of this activity required better access to markets and the flourishing mills in town. And this meant crossing rivers. Savanard and Sheldon Jewett worked in their sawmill on West Hill to hew the lumber that they would use to build Montgomery's lattice type bridges. In 1863 the Jewett brothers built the Comstock Bridge, in 1890 the Fuller Bridge, and eleven others in between.

The students of Montgomery's 8th grade class have been looking at the late 19th century and, with the bridges as a backdrop, exploring our local history. What follows is an imagined scene in one of the covered bridges based on several known events and characters in the mid to late 1800s. Dinsmore Austin was a temperance preacher a local church in the 1870s'. Hazens Notch School (?) had just hired a teacher in the 1890s who was a boxer and who reportedly employed this skill with a couple of students. Dexter Davis was a Civil War veteran and Confederate prisoner who returned home to Montgomery in 1865. The dialogue and script have been created by the 8th grade students under the guidance of Susan Zeineth-Collins.