Walking tour booklets available at Jamaica History Day


JAMAICA -- Over the past couple of years, members of the Jamaica Historical Foundation were tasked with putting together a booklet to complement a village walking tour.

"They're finishing up the database on the vital records for the historical website. That's where a lot of the info was really pulled together for the tour booklet," Historical Foundation member Alice Abraham said. "But (foundation president) Karen Ameden knows everyone in the village and historically knows a lot of different generations of families."

According to Abraham, Ameden triple checked all the maps and information received throughout the database creation process.

"She's the engine that drives the rest of us," said foundation member Sylvia Burton.

The booklet, which contains 110 historical buildings, will be available for $10 on Saturday during Jamaica History Day. Events and tours will be going on from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

During that time, a demonstration will be led by Richard Muto and David Lima, two fiber artists from Rhode Island who conducted a fiber arts workshop for children during the summer reading camp at Jamaica Memorial Library last year.

"There are lots of people coming from local spinning and weaving guilds," Abraham said, adding that Muto and Lima are well known throughout New England for their work.

The duo will show the process of turning fleece into a scarf using a historic Crowninshield spinning wheel that was donated to the historical foundation this year. It took approximately one week for Muto to restore that spinning wheel.

"It's a great wheel, also known as a walking wheel," he said. "I've put it into running order so it can be used for spinning."

The handcrafted scarf will be the prize of a raffle. Other tools will also be used during the demonstration. The fleece is made from cross breed sheep. It was purchased at Maybelle Farm in Wardsboro.

On using the spinning wheel, Muto said it looks much easier than it is.

"It takes a lot of practice," he added.

The Jamaica Historical Foundation's museum will be open during the day. It is located inside the Historic West River Bank Building on Main Street. Some exhibits will also be on display inside the Jamaica Memorial Library.

The bed and breakfast known as Jamaica House is celebrating its 200th year anniversary. Refreshments will be served there throughout the day. The Heislers currently own it and have renovated the building, which is located in the middle of the village and has three guest rooms.

The historical foundation is always looking for people to share photographs and stories in town. The latest exhibit displayed photographs taken by the late Rebecca Lepkoff. She died on Sunday but celebrated her 98th birthday event, where her photographs taken in the Pike Falls region of Jamaica were shown.

"We're just fortunate the exhibit is still up in tribute to her," said Abraham.

Foundation member Herb Burton took photographs for the booklet project and also assisted with its layout. He said the narrative came from old-timers talking with Ameden and other foundation members. There is also information pertaining to architectural and decorative details as one member is well versed in design.

Burton's photographs showcase the current conditions of village buildings. And although he and his wife Sylvia only live in Jamaica during the summer, they stay involved in the historical foundation by hosting visitors at the foundation's museum.

Members typically take turns working at the museum when its opened on Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. from Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day Weekend. Inside the museum, old farming and other pieces of equipment can be found as well as photographs. Much of it comes from things found buried in attics and barns, Burton told the Reformer.

"I think people are interested in the old industries in Jamaica. There was, at one time, between 15 and 20 mills that made all types of wood products," he said. "Chairs, tennis rackets, wash tubs. It was an interesting sort of history. All of those many mills were destroyed in various floods. It seems like every 10 years, there's a flood here."

Burton said people are also interested in the ups and downs that towns experience and mentioned Jamaica having a huge sheep industry in the middle 1800s, in which Merino wool was produced and shipped.

"That coincided with the Civil War, when you couldn't get cotton," he added. "Here, where we had a lot of floods and a lot of disasters that wiped people out, they'd recover and do something else."

The Burtons live in a house on Pike Falls Road that has historical significance. After a flood in 1949, a smaller house was built by Red Cross after the family living there had their home destroyed and wash away. The Burtons have since then added onto it.

Vital records and more information can be found at jamaicahf.info. The records database project has taken nearly a decade to complete. It is the foundation's aim to have every structure in the whole town entered into it.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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