Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Judy Rushby McLaughlin, one of my sisters, wrote the following reminiscence about the Orthodox Quaker fellowship at South Starksboro VT in the late 1960s.
South Starksboro Through a Child's Eyes.
We roared over ribbony road toward the mountains from New York State. They were mountains that we always looked at from afar off, but seldom went to. The Volkswagen Beetle crawled at a quick clip and struggled up the hill that led to Bristol. After going through that little town, and past the Lord's Prayer Rock, we turned, first right, then left, off the climbing Vermont road onto a creaky bridged road. We were ready to go up the windy hill and veer to the left.
Mr. Orvis and Helen Russell's house sat back around a long driveway curved to the right. It seems that all of the elderly Quaker women in South Starksboro had wood cook stoves. It's probably the origin of my fascination with them. I remember the old, Vermont homey feeling. As my brother Bill talked with the people up there, I took in the surroundings.
The atmosphere and surroundings painted a Tasha Tudor prototype in my blonde braided head. It seems, as I recall, the Jerusalem artichoke patch was to the right of the driveway where we parked.
The other lady was Elizabeth Young. She lived up from the meeting house, on the road to the right; it was named after her husband, Robert Young. Their house sat up off the road, and we went there one Sunday after church. As I recall, she had Hancock type thumb back wooden chairs and a wood floor. The house was quaintly antiquated in a real, no nonsense way. In the air, the scent of a ham cooking in the woodstove wafted through the little white clapboard house. The house had a pretty view out the paned windows to the south.
After what seemed like long conversations, a table was set up with a spread that would challenge Mennonite women. The air hung heavy with warmth and moisture as Mrs. Young seated us. A silent prayer was offered, and our bodies were fed.
I liked the inside of the Friends meeting house. Wood dominated. The blackened stovepipe traversed the ceiling from front to back. A stove sat somewhere! The smell was of old church wood. You've smelled it before. Out back was the outhouse! That's how it was!
Another favorite part of South Starksboro for me was walking up and down the old, gravel road under the canopy of jagged barked, aged maples. Bees buzzed in the wild flowers, and my dream was to live near little pastures like the ones lining the road. And up beyond the meeting house was a big, old, weathered barn. Someday I wanted one.
When my daughter Ruth was little, about nine or so, we drove the Jeep over there during the peak of foliage season. Sadly, things had changed. The old Friends had passed on. The Orthodox meeting is no more; these days a liberal Quaker congregation occupies the building.
Now my daughter Ruth lives in the shadow of South Starksboro, about a half hour away. She has a little farmhouse with wood floors. She has the meadows and the wild flowers. I have the wood cook stove. We travel the same roads, just not as far.
I hope to restore a Jerusalem artichoke patch, from a chosen few of the rhizomes from Mr. Orvis's patch. Funny, we know friends of a strong, independent mind from up that way in Lincoln. They go to a little coffee house type church on the outskirts of Bristol. They remind me of the sturdy South Starksboro people. They don't fit into a mold, they're too independent. : )