By Lois De Heer
Many people are aware of the presence of our historical society in Waitsfield. We realize there have been many new full-time residents in the past few years and thought perhaps we should introduce ourselves to them and to those that aren’t aware of what we are all about.
First of all, our office and museum are on the main floor of the General Wait House at the northern end of the historic village. The house was built by our town’s founder, General Benjamin Wait in 1793. It originally stood up in the meadow across Route 100 and was a one-story house. It was moved to its present location in the early 1830s and a second level added. The story of our quaint little town, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is one that you may enjoy reading about in the book written by Matt Bushnell Jones, “History of Waitsfield -- 1782-1908.” We have the book for sale, and it is also on our website if you prefer; “waitsfieldhistoricalsociety.com”
We truly thank Ruth and Fletcher Joslin for having the foresight to start the Waitsfield Historical Society back in 1970. From that time on we have received an abundant collection of items which belonged to many early former residents. Our main goal is “to collect, preserve and display the history of our town.” We even have an item that belonged to our founder from his early war time, and items from the men that came after him from the Civil war, such as letters sent back and forth from family members. One of our members happened to come upon hundreds of glass negatives that someone was getting rid of. He purchased them and donated them to our society. Thank you, Malcolm! These were made into slides and are now on our website for all to view.
History is exciting, especially when you can read about the history of the town you live in. The genealogy section in the back of the book is a way that many people have been able to track their ancestors in the process of their research. We have people living in our town today that are related to folks that lived here 100-plus years ago.
Historical societies are rarely boring as some may think. We receive phone calls, emails, and visitors from across the United States researching ancestors and those just wanting to learn something about another town that preserves history. Those folks leave our office with information they were so pleased to add to their research. Many become members of the historical society and gladly leave a donation. All members will receive the newsletters we send out annually.
In order to do things like this it takes volunteers willing and anxious to be a part of giving to the town they live in. We are a nonprofit organization with no paid members. Our board members meet only five times a year. Although, we are presently looking to fill some positions. Our next board meeting will be Wednesday, October 4, at 2 p.m. at the Wait House Meeting Room (our last for 2023). Please feel free to join us.
Some things we do is change or add to our museum displays when ideas come up. Certain times of the year we have had programs, which are free of charge for the public to attend, with a donation jar for those wishing to do so. We hope to get back to having potluck dinners that we usually had at the Waitsfield United Church of Christ Village Meeting House.
At present, we are anxious, in any way we can, to help the town with the needs of the General Wait House that the town purchased in 1995. Our historical society had a fundraiser and received over $50,000 of which was put toward the purchase. Over the past 28 years, time crept up where expensive repairs are surely needed. The immediate concern is the Wait House desperately needs a new roof, which many of us have experienced with our own home.
If you find it possible to help keep and preserve our (your) town’s oldest piece of history, any donation would be welcomed and your donation would be tax deductible. From this article we hope some interest in the historical society will be generated and grow our membership. Our mailing address is Waitsfield Historical Society, P. O. Box 816, Waitsfield, VT 05673. If you have any questions please contact us at “
We look forward to greeting new people.
De Heer is the president of Waitsfield Historical Society.