Feature Story

Photo By Morton

Eleanor Brodeur of Eleanor's Antiques in Milton is a well-known and highly regarded dealer of old postcards and Vermontiana. You will find her at the Maple Festival in St. Albans, in Quechee, Burlington, and elsewhere in upper New England, in her booth, with lots of joy for deltiologists, philatelists, bibliophiles, and ephemera-ologists, or whatever you call the folks who collect old trade cards, posters, or stock certificates. Last Saturday morning we walked into the Folsom School in South Hero, as we do most years, to enjoy the Annual Champlain Islands Antique Show. Eleanor's booth was there, a shining beacon of light, beckoning us, with boxes and boxes of old Vermont postcards. I seated myself in front of Burlington. My wife seated herself in front of Rutland. We proceeded to tour through a one-hundred-year-old pictoral history. Almost immediately, I came across six or seven different views of Ethan Allen's memorial in Greenmount Cemetery in Burlington. I realized that I was looking at dozens and dozens of headstones fronting the view of his monument, a view from one hundred years ago. The golden age of postcards was in the 1910s and the 1920s, when millions upon millions of photo postcards were shot and mailed. I shoved those into my pile while I continued my tour.

When checkout time came, I handed my pile of 20 or so cards to Eleanor. As we got to talking, I mentioned the Greenmount cards and said those are doubly-interesting because I am a member of the Vermont Old Cemetery Association.
"Do you know Tom Giffin?" Eleanor said.
"Do you know Barbara Giffin?"
"I am a member of the Vermont DAR and we recognized Tom last year for his work at VOCA with our Historic Preservation Recognition Award." Eleanor said.
"No kidding!"
"You should look at the real photo postcard of the cemetery in Underhill in that 3-ring binder over there."
I did.
I bought it, too, of course.

The card is inscribed Cemetery Underhill Center, Vt Photo by Morton. I found out from Eleanor that Morton was William J. Morton, from Jericho. He was a native Vermonter who produced real photo postcards from Jericho, Westford, Underhill, Fletcher, and Cambridge. He was a professional photographer per the 1910 US census. He left Vermont for Canada and disappeared, after registering for the Draft in WW I. His photographic postcards are few in number, usually only a small number of each view were printed.

Morton was one of the era's many local photographers who supplemented their income by producing real photo postcards. The subject matter of these real photo postcards was typically your house, your horse, your business, your family out on the porch, the latest train wreck, the fire in the downtown business block, the massive icicles and ice flows on the burned-out buildings the day after, the 1927 flood, the World War I parade, or the first airplane to land in your town. I don't think I have seen a real photo postcard of a Vermont cemetery before, other than the Calvin Coolidge plot over in Plymouth, and those cards were mass produced.

On Sunday, I spent the early afternoon pouring over the postcard with a magnifying glass, trying to read names on the headstones, and researching maps and documents. After 2-1/2 hours I was pretty sure that this was the Underhill Cemetery, a town cemetery, which was not in Underhill Center, but that didn't bother me. Underhill is Underhill. I took my tentative conclusion out to the kitchen table and asked my son and wife to look in the magnifying glass. My son says, 'that looks like Shanley on that headstone, that one is Fitzsimonds, that's Duffey.' My wife says, 'those are Irish names, those are Catholics. Underhill has three Catholic cemeteries and that Underhill Cemetery is not one of them.' Racing back to the computer, I put those names into Find A Grave and within minutes concluded that this wonderful, century-old, real photo postcard was a picture of St. Thomas Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery, in Underhill Center. ROAD TRIP!!!!!!

We got to St. Thomas Cemetery on Range Road at about 5 in the afternoon and positioned ourselves in the road as if we were Morton about to take the shot. Things had changed a bit in the photo postcard. Several big trees had grown up in the middle of the cemetery. The cemetery's barren backdrop was completely reforested. They changed out the fence. There are a lot more headstones. However, other than a bit of lichen, among the unchanged was Shanley, Fitzsimonds, and Duffey!

I gave Eleanor my email address and told her to let me know when she has another road trip for me. In the meantime I am headed over to Greenmount.


JULY 2017



by Barry, Kathy and Clayton Trutor
VOCA Members