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East Dummerston

Historic Photos of the Center and Slab Hollow

The originals of these photographs date from the late 19th century to the mid-20th. These pictures provide much obvious information about our ancestors' lives: homes, dress, landscape, work, and pastimes. One striking difference from today, perhaps not immediately apparent, is how much more closely people were connected to the town. Although not isolated from the outside world, they were much more likely to work, shop, and entertain themselves close to home. There were, of course, many more farms but also stores and mills, now long gone. A number of families, for example, raised chickens, commercially, for eggs and meat; Loomis, Evans, Newton, and Wojtowitz come to mind. Today it is difficult to compete with Frank Perdue. The magnetic force of bigger communities has pulled much of the variety out of small-town America. 

Another apparent difference, if one studies the notes that accompany the photographs, is the social density. Although many descendants of the old families still live here, the web of relationships has loosened. Reading about the families of this period creates the impression, no doubt exaggerated, that everybody was related to everybody else. Some attempt was made to link those shown in photographs to their relatives living today, especially to the donors and lenders of pictures. Thorough documentation was impossible.

There are very few unposed photographs; people may be at work haying or washing sap buckets, but they stopped in mid-gesture for the picture. This was partly to allow for slow camera speeds, but it was also to acknowledge the importance of picture-taking. Significant moments are deliberately captured for future reflection and enjoyment. Formal studio portraits are often quite elegant, but even on more modest occasions, people sometimes donned garments finer than their everyday work clothes, wore serious expressions, and often included prized possessions: a gun, a horse, a dog. (Dummerston resident and historian Tom Johnson tells us that not only the solemnity of the occasion but the common absence of teeth would cause people to refrain from smiling.) Photography from its invention has always served as a record of family and community life, but more obviously than with today's snapshots, we sense that we are present at two occasions, the work or social gathering captured and the picture-taking event itself. The older the picture, the truer this seems to be. 

As noted elsewhere on this site, the photos featured here are only thirty or so of the society's hundreds of photos. Our purpose is to present a varied sampling from our archives and to present the depicted scene as clearly as possible, not to show old photographs as historic artifacts themselves. All pictures were scanned and edited. The damage of the years – dust marks, stains, scratches, and fading – was corrected when possible.

– Written by Charles Fish & Dummerston Historical Society, June 2010 

    Edited by Madeline Conley, January 2017

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