Monday, May 10, 2021

An Insect-free World Could Wipe Out Unemployment


The Insect Apocolypse is Here. What does it mean for the rest of life on earth? So reads the 2018 feature article in the New York Times. The title article is printed white against a black background, perhaps with good reason. Nearly wiping out insects could bring perhaps some good results (sort of) against a background of devastating results. 


"Indeed, most biologists agree that the world has entered its sixth mass extinction event, the first since the end of the Cretaceous Period 66 million years ago, when more than 80% of all species, including the nonavian dinosaurs, perished." Insect decline in the Anthropocene: Death by a thousand cuts. Dave Wagner (and other authors).

The good result (sort of) of an insect-free world is that perhaps unemployment could be wiped out. SERVICES LIKE POLLINATION PROVIDED BY INSECTS TODAY WOULD THEN NEED TO BE DONE BY PEOPLE.

Are all insect species on the brink of being exterminated? Is the volume of insects, pound per pound going from heavyweight to featherweight class in our lifetime? Many scientific reports give an explanation to what we laypeople notice already, cleaner windshields, insect guide books against which there are fewer live examples to compare to, greatly diminished and diminishing caterpillars, butterflies, birds, and many other natural world species.

We are only just beginning to notice a dwindling workforce that provides us with free services, from waste recycling, to pollination; Will we regret not taking the time now, to recognize and appreciate, while we still have the chance, a diversity of life that David Attenborough describes as "...[The natural world] is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of life. that makes life worth living"?

Do we even know what is still here providing the services we depend on for life every day in our own community? Enter citizen scientist - you. 

From May 8 - May 23 the Jericho Conservation Commission and the Jericho Mobbs Committee are sponsoring a Bio Blitz* at Mobbs Park. Open to and depending on public volunteers, to walk in the park, observe life forms, from insects to birds, to plants - any life form, take photos of what is observed, and post the photos onto iNaturalist*.    

*A Bioblitz is a great way for people of all ages to contribute their observations to the broader scientific community while learning about the diversity of a local place. Learn more about this fun and educational event at the Jericho web page link: https://jerichovt.org/bioblitz.

*iNaturalist is a )easy to use) crowdsourced species identification system and an organism occurrence recording tool. You can use it to record your own observations, get help with identifications (I rarely know the Id at the time I post an observation), collaborate with others to collect this kind of information for a common purpose, or access the observational data collected by iNaturalist users.

Photo from the fall of 2020 Mobbs Bio Blitz

THE TOWN AND RESIDENTS OF JERICHO have made a major commitment to conserving ecosystems already, like the action to conserve Mobbs Farm for current and future generations of Jericho residents and wildlife. This bio blitz is an opportunity to participate in observing and recording some of the biodiversity at Mobbs that enriches our lives today, much of which could be lost to us if current trends continue. It is said that we cannot or perhaps are less likely to love and care for life that we do not see or know of. This bio blitz is a chance to get to know our natural world neighbors who do so very much for us. It is like going to the zoo, without the cages, to see a diversity of life in its natural habitat and bringing home photos to share with neighbors and friends, and scientists. 

Pollinators and other beneficial insects including native bees and butterflies are facing threats due to habitat fragmentation, degradation, and loss.  Lack of native vegetation for food and nesting sites threatens their viability (according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service). 

Threats to pollinators become threats to our food supply. Many pollinators including bumblebees are extremely efficient at pollinating crops. However, these bees rely on native plants for forage and nesting as they are unable to feed on most non-native plants and grasses.  Native plants are essential for pollinator viability and success and are therefore also essential to the success of the human food supply. Locally of particular concern, tomatoes, squash, apples, and blueberries.

Threats to biodiversity affect the entire web of life. We depend on the work of ecosystems of plants and animals. Ignoring their peril is to ignore our own.  

I found Dave Wagner's (Conn. Entomologist) report "Insect decline in the Anthropocene: Death by a thousand cuts" illuminating. I think it is critical that we raise awareness of the importance of insects as well as their beauty, complexity, and amazing examples of life diversity. 

Join the Jericho Conservation Committee and Mobbs Committee and your fellow neighbors of all ages from May 8 - May 23 at Mobbs to observe and record LIFE while it still exists at Mobbs! Even observing insects in our backyard, I have found and recorded species seldom if ever recorded in Vermont (on iNaturalist). What might you observe at Mobbs?  If you take a close look and listen, The Natural World Will Astound You. 

Bernie

Observing life in nature.

Connecting native habitat, wildlife, and community.

Further Reading & Watching

Wild Things Going On in Jericho Backyards. 

Bee Conservation in Vermont (Video) VT Center of Ecostudies


Saturday, May 8, 2021

Create a Backyard Nature Sanctuary for pollinators (and other insects), birds, wild life


Save Earth. Rescue Nature. Protect native flora and fauna - the habitat that each species requires for life. Introduction

What can we do as individual landowners (small to large)? There may be many answers, though as Dr. Douglas Tallamy states, “We may be nature’s last hope”. Maeve and I continually explore what is in our capacity to do, and work, sometimes creatively, to make it happen on our one-acre lot in Jericho, Vermont. 

Like many others, we want a diverse and greater population of pollinators, and other beneficial insects, birds, amphibians, and other wildlife. 

Therefore we set out, three years ago, to build a backyard nature sanctuary for wildlife, and for ourselves.

2021 update, here are some of our spring 2021 plantings


Also, (2) Thalictrum dioicum (Early Meadow Rue), (1) Thalictrum pubescens (Tall Meadow Rue), (1) Veronicastrum virginicum (Culvers Root), (1) Clematis virgiania, (1)Asclepias Incarnata (Swamp milkweed). (Raffle prize).

Also planted 3 bare root Redbud trees and a Carolina Spicebush, sourced from Michigan Bulb Co. 


  Wintergreen. They like acidic soil and shade to part shade.

                  Pussy willow stems harvested locally for planting. 

A recent study in biodiversity states "Consequently, functional diversity metrics incorporating functional traits and species abundance provide an indirect way to measure resilience and integrity (Standish et al., 2014), and are increasingly used in large‐scale assessments of North American bird and ecological communities (Schipper et al., 2016; Schleuter et al., 2010). Metrics for Conservation Success... 

We believe the process of building a backyard nature sanctuary begins and ends with amending and otherwise helping to improve the health of the soil; while at the same time planting native shrubs, native trees, native grasses, and native wildflowers to give greater balance against the onslaught of non-native plants that in general are of no or little benefit to our native wildlife. Combatting if not eradicating invasive plants from our property is another thread of our patchwork effort to improve the habitat that we can directly influence. Read about invasive ID and management on the Vermont Invasives webpage. 

"What we contemplate here is more than ecological restoration; it is the restoration of relationship between plants and people. Scientists have made a dent in understanding how to put ecosystems back together, but our experiments focus on soil pH and hydrology-matter, to the exclusion of spirit. We are dreaming of a time when the land might give thanks for the people." Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass.

Let us ensure the Biodiversity of all Life. All Life Matters. ~Bernie

Building Soil Health - soil structure and soil microbes - by minimizing soil disturbance, while maximizing soil cover and biodiversity. 

1. No-till or at least greatly reduce tillage. Tillage can wipe out all gains from the actions listed below.

2. Keep soil covered with residue (holds moisture in the soil, provides organic matter for soil microbes). 

3. Keep *living roots in the soil as many months of the year as you can (feeds microbes-maintains living soil, builds soil structure). *Living roots, help water and nutrient infiltration. Deep roots help water and nutrient infiltration to go deeper into the soil. 

4. Diverse native plantings including cover crops - supports beneficial insect species and soil microbes. 

5. Livestock - speeds up increased diversity, feeding the soil microbes, improving soil health.   

This series of upcoming postings will describe our efforts, some with success stories, some with failures, and many that we will be measuring each year to determine if we are indeed meeting our goals. 

Are we experts in any of these areas? By no means. We aim to share with you what we have done, experimented with, experienced, observed, and hopefully give you a sense of the pleasure we obtain every day from collaborating with nature and just being outdoors. My motto is Stop, Look, and Listen. From close and frequent observations, nature will often please you if not occasionally astound you. We recommend “Step outdoors as often as you can and give her a try”. 


Some common themes throughout are: 

We try to work with nature using her examples and her locally sourced raw materials. 

We accept that like trees, we are in this for the long game and try to be patient in accepting growth measured in years.

Nature is resilient, but she also has some pretty firm rules and behaviors regardless of how we think processes should work and how we think landscapes should look like. 


Topics we will address include:

Raw Products. Finding, acquiring, and then incorporating raw products to improve the soil in our yard including a novel theory I have about growing trees from cardboard, and how to build a ski slope in your yard without a permit. All the while, having fun and learning about living organisms (beyond human life).

Humor. Some of the topics, like the first one about cardboard, will incorporate my sense of humor through storytelling. 

Community. In each of our segments, we are likely to mention the support we get from our neighbors throughout our small town and the towns nearby in terms of providing much of the raw materials we utilize. We are indeed grateful for our Vermont community.


Observing life in our backyard. This year (2020), I made a concerted effort to observe and record the insects on our property from spring through summer. By comparing the results each year we hope to measure whether the biodiversity and quantity of pollinators and other beneficial insects changes as our native plantings (improved habitat) become more established.

Native Plants. Choosing, purchasing (where to purchase), and growing locally sourced native plants. Identifying which plants are native to Vermont, or at least native to the North-eastern United States. 

Growing wildflowers from seed. Where to purchase native seed, how to prepare a plot, how to plant wildflower seeds.


Learning, and being inspired by others with similar missions - neighbors, local farmers, homesteaders, those who write books with gleams of insight from science and tested methods. 

Invasives. Fighting a war of many battles with invasive plants of which we have about a half dozen, one or two of which are particularly good at blocking native plants from growing and are particularly difficult to diminish never mind eradicate. 

Growing blueberries of gold when you have clay soil.

Growing fruit and vegetables and the beneficial insects including pollinators that we need as collaborators, and that we enjoy viewing. 

Building raised beds from locally grown and sourced wood. Building hugelkultur mounds (pronounced Hoo-gul-culture). - think very high raised bed built incorporating logs, sticks, branches, leaves, grass cuttings, unwanted scrap cotton clothing, food scraps from the compost pile, composted used coffee grounds, and other materials.  

The funny thing(s) that happened on the way to creating our Eden.

Chipmunks - one of nature’s adorable creatures until they come for dinner and never go home. 

Birds. Sit and watch, there is more to see in your own backyard than you might have thought or so we found out thanks in part to Covid. Why we grow plants for caterpillars - for baby birds, beautiful moths, and butterflies.

Critter houses and brush/woodpiles, shallow watering stations, - both man-made and nature-made - for native bees, bumblebees, frogs, toads, butterflies, and other critters. 

Mowing reduction. We only mow paths - similar to trails in the forest. Removing the shackles of lawn care for a more natural pleasing look, greater diversity of plants and animals, and more free time for us. 

Water in a climate-changing world - too much, too little, how we are preparing for summer weather extremes.

Composting food scraps and composting leaves. We like simple, no-fuss methods.

Are we brave enough to raise chickens? (It must be easier than raising kids, right?)

We will discuss the resource materials we have put together. I created a list of plants that are native to Vermont, noting relationships between individual native plants and the pollinators and other insect species. We also maintain a blog about birds and birding (VT Birds and Words). I frequently post pollinator and related plant information on this Jericho Vermont blog. 

Beyond the backyard - adding native diversity and color to our greenbelts (area between the roadway and the sidewalk). 

Over this winter and next spring and summer, we will map the entire yard on a spreadsheet with each cell representing and naming a plant in the yard.

Conservation can happen in your own yard. I hope you enjoy learning about our adventures in building a backyard nature sanctuary for insects, pollinators, birds, and other wildlife - as well as for our own well-being. 


Bernie and Maeve

We will be outside until it is time to hibernate and to write upcoming posts about the aforementioned topics. We hope you make plans to build a wildlife habitat in your backyard. Perhaps you might share the lessons and results with us. 



Recommended viewing: 

Gardening For Life: What we can do (in our backyards) about wildlife losses. For a brief overview of the wildlife losses since 1970 and what we can do about it, read this two-page article by Prof. Douglas Tallamy. 

https://homegrownnationalpark.com/tallamy/not-in-our-yard-doug-tallamy


Farming for the future. (Improving soil at home as well as on farms). Gabe Brown delivers the keynote address “Regenerative Agriculture – Letting Nature Work For You” at Farming For The Future 2020 in Lawrence, MI. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExXwGkJ1oGI


Composting: 

https://www.tenthacrefarm.com/building-the-right-compost-bin/?utm_source=ml&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=6_ways_to_build_a_compost_system&utm_term=


iNaturalist: To view my observation postings on iNaturalist

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?user_id=bepaquet

iNaturalist - what is being seen, what we hope to find, how you can help, learn, and find greater enjoyment in what you observe and record of life in nature. As well as to see what others are observing. I observed and recorded over 350 species of insects in our yard this year (2020). How many forms of life will you discover in your backyard?

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

What Bumble Bees Need


The Bees Need

Guest Post by 
Judy Sefchick 
Wildlife Biologist, Missisquoi NWR

It’s a grey winter day, cold and snowy; but instead of thinking about snow fleas, my thoughts are of bumble bees.  Why am I dreaming of sunshine, fields of flowers, and fuzzy, buzzy bees?  The answer may not be what you’d expect.  For the first time ever, in 2017, a bumble bee—the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, to be exact—will be listed as a Federally Endangered Species.  Considered one of the most common and widespread bumble bee species in the eastern U.S. and upper Midwest, Rusty Patched now show population declines of 95% and occur only in isolated pockets.   

The news is flabbergasting, to say the least.  For many generations of Americans, this ever-present buzzing bee was just a natural part of the landscape.  After all, bumble bees used to be synonymous with magical childhood summers spent playing outside in fields and forests.  I remember these bees as constant, common, companions; creatures that I took for granted—never once considering their uniqueness, or realizing their valuable role, let alone imagining a world without them! 

Unfortunately, Rusty Patched Bumble Bees are not alone.  In North America, one-third of all bumble bee species are declining, with similar losses reported in Europe, South America, and Asia.  This trend holds true in Vermont as well.  Within the past decade, five of Vermont’s fifteen species have declined or disappeared, with the Rusty Patched, Ashton Cuckoo, and Yellow-Banded Bumble Bees being listed as state threatened and endangered species in 2015.

What do bumble bees have that other bees don’t?  This may come as a surprise, but they are exceptional irreplaceable pollinators.  Being bulky-bodied, a bumble bee can generate heat, allowing it to fly earlier and later in the day, and in colder weather.  By holding a flower in its jaws and vibrating its muscles, it can “buzz pollinate” to forcibly expel pollen.  If you see a bumbling bee, and hear prolonged droning (somewhat akin to a dentists’ drill), consider yourself a buzz pollination bystander!  Remarkably, even plants that self-pollinate produce bigger and better fruits when bumble bees are involved.   

For such a tiny creature, there’s more to a bumble bee than meets the eye.  Did you know it’s the only truly social, native, North American bee?  Or that it gets all of its food from flowers?  That cold bumble bees shiver to warm up their flight muscles?  That their wings beat 130 times or more per second?  How about the fact that they prefer purple, blue, or yellow flowers?  That they have to learn how to get nectar from variously shaped flowers and tend to focus on one or two species at a time?   Did you know that they scent-mark flowers visited, so they and other bees can avoid them?  While non-native honey bees buzz around large (>10,000 individuals) perennial hives, our humble, bumble constructs an annual colony with far fewer (50-500) individuals.  With lots to do and only one year to do it, bumble bees give new meaning to the phrase, “Busy as a bee!”  

It all begins in April, when queens emerge from the ground, find suitable nest sites, collect food, and lay eggs that were fertilized in fall.  As the only adult, the queen does not live like royalty!  For the next 4-5 weeks, her highness works tirelessly—making countless flights back and forth to flowers, collecting pollen for developing larvae, and laying eggs—all to get the colony started.  Since eggs and larvae need a constant temperature of 85-90 degrees F, the queen broods them and uses her wings to fan air in or out.  With only 50% of eggs maturing into adults, it’s a good thing the queens had all winter to rest! Once the larvae mature, the queen can breathe a sigh of relief.  With an all-female staff to collect food, defend the colony, and care for the young, the queen can focus on laying eggs and resting—a role more worthy of her royal status!  

Female workers aren’t so lucky.  With a lifespan of only one or two months, these bees-turned-body-builders can forage 3 or more miles from the nest, while carrying half of their weight, in pollen or nectar.  Busily buzzing about, these black-and-yellow balls of energy do whatever it takes to make the colony grow and thrive.  By late July, the colony is nearing its completion.  With future generations in mind, the queen starts producing males, that will disperse and mate with queens from other colonies.  She also produces females that will become next years’ queens.  Come September, all bees in the colony die, except the newly fertilized queens.  Life goes on for them—hibernating in winter, repeating the cycle in spring, and doing all they can to ensure the survival of their species, during their year of life.  

Since the 1990s, bumble bee populations have experienced drastic declines.  Habitat loss and degradation have contributed to losses, but that’s not the entire story.  The propagation of American bumble bees for greenhouse pollination brought foreign parasites that infected wild, local populations.  If that wasn’t enough, the widespread use of highly toxic neonicotinoid insecticides on agricultural crops, lawns, gardens, orchards, and forests, meant the indiscriminate killing of insects, including bumble bees.  Radio tag research has shown that long-term pesticide exposure prevents bumble bees from learning essential skills, like collecting pollen and knowing which flowers to visit. Listing the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee as an Endangered Species is only the first step in saving it.   

This spring, take some time to look and listen for bumble bees.  If we could understand their buzzing, we may hear a plea, “To be a free bee, I need:  habitats of grasslands, fields, and forests for native flowers, shrubs, and trees; unkempt natural areas—not mowed or raked—with leaf litter, logs, and necessities for nesting and hibernating; pesticide-free places to forage; flowering plants from April to September, to sustain all life stages in the colony.  But most importantly, I need you—allies of citizens and scientists—to collect data, inform the public, and help shape policies for my protection.”  


Threatened and Endangered means there’s still time…it’s up to us.        


Judy Sefchick 

Wildlife Biologist, Missisquoi NWR


View more bumble bee photos taken in Jericho, including Tri-colored, Yellow-banded, and Perplexing Bumble Bees @ https://jerichovermont.blogspot.com/2021/04/observe-and-know-life-in-your-yard.html


The more we know about the life around us, the more we will appreciate the services they provide, and the almost incomprehensible beauty of sight and behavior that life exhibits.       ~ Bernie


Further Reading: Insect Apocalypse? What is Really Happening; Why it Matters and How We All Can Help. 


Same topic on You Tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7wt2QvuVww












When is a Bumble Bee not a Bumble Bee?


Hover like an indecisive bee, buzz like a bee if not louder, look just like a bumblebee; must be a bumble bee right? When is a Bumble Bee not a Bumble Bee?


While photographing bumblebees in our backyard I captured photos of this, which at first, before viewing the photo, appeared to be a common eastern Bumblebee,  Bombus Impatiens

And in fact, that is what nature or evolution appears to have intended, as this is a Criorhina nigentris, (Bare-cheeked Bumble Fly) a mimic of an eastern Bombus (bumblebee.) 

While most insects have four wings, flies have only two. Syrphids usually have large heads, large eyes, and short antennae. Skevington & Locke

Bare-cheeked Bumble Fly  

Criorhina nigriventris

Click on the link above for iNaturalist post. 


According to The Field Guide to the Flower Flies of Northeastern North America, Skevington & Locke,  flies carry out about one-third of our pollination services


Among the flies, syrphids are usually the most important. The larvae of many of them are predators of aphids and other pests, some recycle sewage, some are bacterial filter feeders in sap runs.  Skevington & Locke

The Field Guide covers 413 species of flower flies (syrphid), also known as hover flies, while there are 6,300 species known in the world. The species shown here is listed as uncommon. 



According to Skevington & Locke, most adult syrphids mimic wasps or bees in some way, and some are perfect mimicry, looking and behaving almost exactly the same as their models as is the case in this specimen I was fortunate to observe. Some flower flies have different color morphs to match the morphs of the bumblebees they are mimicking. 

Note: No syrphids bite or sting!



So much to discover in our backyards! We look for life in the stars while our own yards are immensely underexplored for the countless species that live there. 


Bernie
Observing life in nature.
Connecting native habitat, wildlife, and community.

Guest post by Don Miller, 
field-oriented ecologist/zoologist and naturalist.

Mimics

Many species of syrphidae: so-called flower flies or hover flies mimic bees and wasps as does the wonderful example that Bernie has recently shared.  Many are not merely almost exact color mimics of a specific species of bee or wasp but some exhibit other patterns of mimicry, such as acoustic or other behavioral patterns.  Some species of flower flies extend their front legs forward and waggle them the same as some stinging wasps.   The above are generally referred to as perfect mimics. 


However, many other species of flower flies seem to have a general appearance or a gestalt of a bee or a wasp if you will.  This has raised some questions as to whether it is classic mimicry at all or if so, how does it function.  In other words, how is that general resemblance maintained in an evolutionary sense? And then, given a large number of species of flower flies, it is not surprising to learn that many species don't resemble bees or wasps at all, at least to the human observer.  These are almost inevitably overlooked in general surveys. 


I  noticed the phenomenon of mimicry perhaps 50 yrs ago, especially in the Victory Bog WMA when I was first becoming aware of syrphids and how many were incredible mimics, to the point of completely fooling me. 


For example, when I first handled with great trepidation what I thought was a stinging hymenopteran, I soon learned that not only is mimicry based on shape, pilosity, and color patterns but with many some mimics there is a distinct behavioral difference.  I learned that some of the mimics buzz like a bee much more loudly than the real thing. In fact and somewhat paradoxically, this was often the tip-off that I could safely touch the individual without fear of being stung. 


One might even think this could be counter selective because a predator of the harmless fly, might learn that indeed by its extraordinary louder buzzing, in fact, it is not a bee or wasp. One knows that one can cry wolf just so many times if no wolf is present before the shout is ignored.  At what evolutionary stage does the loudly protesting mimic have to change its behavior?  Certainly, not all hover fly mimics are not acoustic mimics of the buzzing of bees say. Why is that the situation? 


The phenomenon of mimicry in flower flies is just one example of how little we know about them as a group. And the evolutionary significance of the variety of mimicry patterns in the animal worlds has been studies and dated for decades by scientists.  Syrphidae represent an ideal group to clarify many of these perennial questions about mimicry as a general biological pattern in many animal-and even plant groups.  And this area of research is now a very active one with the syrphidae.  Why does man do this? Well, supposedly he wishes to understand as completely as possible the world that he shares with other organisms. Paradoxically, we are still living on a very mysterious planet, despite what many may think. 


They are an extraordinary diverse major family of insects with many major differences in their biology. In general, they impact ecosystem functioning and services in many ways, and we know little about most of these. In fact, new species of flower flies are still being discovered here in N. America every year, even in this general area. We hardly know anything about the ecology of most.  In fact, we don't even know how many species there are in Vermont except at a very general level of documentation. 


Citizen scientists could greatly help in documenting the number of genera and even many species in the State, by simply taking very good photographs of actual or suspected flower flies in their gardens or other habitats around their property. 


If possible photographs should include frontal, lateral, and top or dorsal aspects. of individual flies. Most naturalists take the latter which is generally good enough for identifying an individual to genus by even non-specialists who have the Skevington et al Field Guide. In fact, I would encourage simply photographing any insect following the criteria mentioned here, not just those thought to be flower flies. Better to err, than to miss documenting a genus of flower fly previously unknown in the State  Keep in mind that some species of flower flies do not regularly visit flowers or never do. Look for them on stumps in the woods and places like that, as well. 


Don Miller

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View more about Syrphid Flies (flower flies) from the U.S. Forest Service at https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/syrphid-fly.shtml


See earlier posting of 5 species of BumbleBees I recorded at https://jerichovermont.blogspot.com/2021/04/observe-and-know-life-in-your-yard.html

Bernie

Monday, May 3, 2021

Green Up Day Photos - Jericho, Underhill, Richmond

 

Maggie Swanke (Faculty Liaison) connected the MMU Global Service Club with the Jericho Green Up Day on May 1st dividing it into 3 teams; one for Underhill, one for Jericho, and one for Richmond.

Photos provided by Maggie. 

Nature gets a welcome helping hand, actually many hands helping to maintain 
her beautiful and inviting habitat.


You take the high road, I'll take the low road, 
we will meet at the junction of Clean & Green Vermont.


                       The call went out for help and the folks in the
               MMU Global Service Club sprang to action.





The MMU Global Service Club is students interested in Global volunteerism, intercultural experiences, and using their time, energy, and efforts to positively impact people and places in need. In the past we have traveled to Tanzania, Africa to build cisterns, to the Dominican Republic for environmental work, Operation Restoration; to Ecuador to provide sustainable agricultural support in a mountain community, to Morocco to help build a school. 

In 2020 MMUGSC focused on 'Helping at Home', participating in various local service projects: a Mills Riverside Park Project Day, 'Random Acts of Raking' for local senior citizens, JOY Baskets for Mansfield Place Senior Citizens, Valentines Cookie Decorating Kits for Spectrum and ANEW Place, a free Community Easter Egg Hunt, and, of course Green Up Day. We hope to return to the international scene and are planning 'Construction in Cairo' #Egypt2022 to work at an international peace center as well as a small village school.

The Green Up Day went FANTASTIC!! As you can see we had 15 of our members participate at 3 different sites across the district! Lots of strange finds and green bags filled!!

Maggie

Got Masks. 
Got Green Up Bags. 
Got Great Volunteers.




Clean water is a must for fish, amphibians, birds, mammals, people. 
Thank You for slogging in
and taking the trash out!






                                    We found lots of litter and loads of fun. 

                                  Green & Clean Mission Accomplished!

 

Green Up Message from Bernie: 

Plastic often becomes litter, entering many natural environments including our waterways and eventually the oceans. As it breaks down to microplastics fish and other marine animals as well as birds, turtles, and other creatures ingest it or get tangled in larger pieces of plastic.

Consider sending emails or snail mail to manufacturers telling them that you want their products, not their plastic. Ask them to offer alternatives to plastic. Recycling is not sufficient to keep plastics out of our natural environments. For more information and to see a sample letter visit my "End Plastic Food Packaging" post at  https://litterwithastorytotell.blogspot.com/2019/01/end-plastic-food-packaging.html

Thank You for helping keep Vermont Green & Clean!
& Thank You G.U.D. Sponsors
Bernie


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Heritage in Historic Homes of Jericho Vermont: Barney Hotel/Beach House

      

     I found some information on the Barney Hotel/Beach House in the deed when looking up some information at the town hall several years ago.  Before that, it had just been an interesting old picture or two, but the description of what was in the hotel seemed to bring it a bit more to life, and then later finding all of the tidbits in the two local newspapers fleshed it out a bit more. 

     Putting it all together makes you think that in its day it must have been to the village something like what JCAT is today, a place where area folks could gather for some good food and companionship.  Your blog seems like a good means to pass on this information to a whole group that today don't realize that the hotel even existed.

~ Gary Irish


The History of the Barney Hotel / Beach House 

By Gary Irish

Edited by Bernie Paquette, Maeve Kim

Historic photos used with permission from Gary Irish


     The old hotel was located on the north side of the corner of Main and Church Streets, what is today Route 15 beside the present location of Joe’s Snack Bar.  It was built by Truman Barney sometime before 1817 and was one of Jericho’s most famous landmarks in the early days.  Before the railroad, the arrival of the stagecoach was a noteworthy event, as it also brought the news.  The hotel was sold by Martin Chittenden to Truman Barney’s son Martin Barney on July 8, 1829.  This deed mentions the property extended on the “north to the fence which divides the tavern stand from the brickyard”.  Nothing is known about this brickyard, but likely it is where brick for some of Jericho Corners’ early brick houses was made. 



This shows the building when it was the Barney Hotel.  The photographer would have been standing about what today would be in Lee River Road at the intersection of Plains Road, so you can see the little park that is still there, where the war memorial is now located.

     The hotel, at that time known as the Barney Hotel, was operated by Martin and his brothers Lucius, Albert, and Solomon Barney over the years, but most notably by Martin and his wife Maria (Young) Barney, who operated it as a tavern and hotel as well as a livery stable from 1852 to 1870.  It was noted that Mr. Barney was a genial landlord and Mrs. Barney was a woman of great executive ability that made it possible to run a successful business.  In 1880 the hotel was sold to local businessman Ferdinand Beach and became known as the Beach House.  He hired a succession of managers for the hotel:  Clarence Percival in 1880, F.D. Gilson in 1884, in 1886 Edgar Blakey and H.S. Manley in 1888. 



 My guess is that this is a few years later when it had become the Beach House.  If you notice in the first picture, there is an enclosure above the porch, which is now gone in this picture, and it appears to be an entirely new porch.  The building on the right is the end of the post office block.

     In 1889, the hotel was sold to J.H. May.  Mr. May seems to have been a wheeler-dealer, dabbling in any number of enterprises, but particularly interested in horses and wagons.  The hotel appears to have been just one of his interests, and perhaps his main interest in it was the attached livery stable, as an ad in the March 13, 1889, Chittenden Reporter stated “Beach House Jericho Vt. J.H. May, proprietor.  A good livery in connection with the house.  Also dealer in horses, carriages, and wagons.”  

     In an ad on August 24, 1892, Chittenden Reporter stated:  “Closing out sale.  The hotel at Jericho Corners known as the Beach House must be sold within the next three months.  $1500 cash down and easy payments for the balance.  J.H. May, Underhill, Vt. July 18, 1892” At that time, Z.F. Hapgood was the hotel manager.

     In April 1893 May was advertising that he was selling carriages, wagons, and harnesses of all kinds in Underhill.  On October 25, he advertised an auction at his residence in Underhill where he was selling 13 horses and colts, 33 wagons, and 25 sets of harnesses, as well as furniture and farming tools.  And he also advertised that he was selling off a lot of wagons and harnesses at 52 Merchant Street in Burlington.  He further announced that he was moving to Jericho on November 1st.

     Meanwhile, in November 1893, a local news item mentioned that "The name of our hotel has been changed from Beach House to Hotel Jericho."

     Apparently, he was unable to sell it, as another ad in July 1894 said that “J.H. May advertises his hotel for sale” and records seem to show that Mr. May sold the hotel to E.H. Smith of Burlington in September 1894, with Mr. Smith to take possession on October 1st.   On September 15, Mr. May held an auction at the Hotel Jericho stables (he was also an auctioneer), where he was selling horses, wagons, sleighs, harnesses, and robes.  But two curious news items appeared in the Green Mountain Press – on October 23, 1894 “J.H. May will close his hotel November 1st unless the charge now in court is not pressed” and on November 6 “The hotel has been closed and the sign taken down.”

     Whatever the “charge now in court” might have been, it appears that the sale to Mr. Smith did not go through, as on December 18, 1894, it was noted that Mr. May had rented his hotel to William Folsom of Essex for 3 years, and the next week the Green Mountain Press noted that “Wm. Folsom of Essex is now proprietor of the hotel, he having moved in last week.  He has the house well-furnished and will spare no pains for the comfort of his patrons.”  Mr. Folsom apparently continued to operate the hotel for three years, as it was reported in March 1898, just over three years later, that “Wm. Folsom expects to vacate the hotel about the middle of April.  He expects to move onto his farm in Essex.” 

     However, there was an auction on January 30, 1897, where “the hotel and residence were bid off by V.A. Bullard, for Miss Nellie May, who takes the property, subject to encumbrances.”  Perhaps one encumbrance was the lease to Mr. Folsom.  Then on January 18, 1899, Mr. May bought the hotel once more, from Nellie & Joel D. Remington.  He then turned around and sold it to Olive Folsom on February 18, 1899, for $4000.  A few years ago, I was looking up something in the Jericho land records and came across the deed when the hotel was sold to Mrs. Folsom.  Besides the usual "the property is bounded on the west by..." sort of description, it also included the following:

     "Included one coal stove, and pipe, 6 dining room chairs, one extension table, one [unreadable] , 18 oyster plates, one kitchen range and pipe, one hair covered sofa, one hair covered rocker, 3 wooden bottom chairs in office, 1 large table in kitchen, 2 large tables in cellar, 12 extra chairs, 4 hardwood chamber sets with 2 chairs and rocker, 1 softwood chamber set with 2 chairs and rocker, 5 woven wire springs, 5 wood top mattresses, 16 window shades upstairs, 2 wash bowls and pitchers, 5 chambers, carpets in rooms 3-4-5-6 & 7, hall matting upstairs, hall oil cloth, 12 window shades below, No. 12 street lamp in archway, No. 2 hanging lamp, case and [unclear – maybe ‘chairs’] in hall, 2 bracket hanging lamps, hanging lamps in bar-room, 2 hanging lamps in chandelier in dining room, 2 bracket lamps in kitchen, 2 iron spittoons in office, 1 earthen spittoon in bar-room, 14 small glasses, 6 beer mugs, ½ pint measure and ½ pint tunnel, 1 show case, 1 large cork screw, 2 tobacco cutters, 1 small refrigerator, 1 large Baldwin refrigerator, 1 writing desk, 1 stool in office, 1 mirror, 1 clock, 1 stove and pipe in office, ice in ice house, shelves & counters in grocery store, possession to be given March 1st, 1899.”

     This gives at least a glimpse of what the hotel might have looked like at the time.  And now for a bit of what the times there were like.

From the October 13, 1886 edition of the Chittenden Reporter:

     "The Beach House was the recipient of a surprise party last Friday evening.  About 40 partook of the supper, and some 15 couples enjoyed themselves by a dance in the dining room.  All seemed satisfied with the evening's pleasures."

And from November 3, 1886, Chittenden Reporter:

     "Although the night was not very auspicious for such an entertainment last Wednesday, the music rendered in this village by the Underhill Band was very entertaining, and quite a crowd gathered from far and near to hear them.  For the length of time that they have been in practice, and considering that they have no out-of-town talent to assist them, the boys played well.  

      The proprietors of the Beach House fairly out done [sic] themselves in the way of entertainment, providing a splendid repast not only for the members of the band but also for a large number of invited leading citizens of the village.  A table seating 28 was loaded with good things, in the middle of which was a large cake bearing the inscription 'Underhill Band Boys'.  At the close of the oyster supper, the house furnished cigars for their guests and a pleasant chit-chat followed.  The band furnished music both before and after supper, and at the close of their playing they were presented with a contribution from those present amounting to $13.25." [That would equal somewhere around $375 today.]


The same era as the second photo, just taken in winter.  These three pictures are the only ones known of the hotel.


     Other examples were in March 1896 “a party of eighteen young people from Westford, coming in a four-horse team, had supper at the hotel last night.”  And that December, “After the special Masonic meeting Thursday night to work the first degree, the Masons repaired to the Hotel Jericho, where landlord Folsom had prepared a bountiful supper.”  Also noted at that time was that “Armand Jackson and Miss Emma Davis, who have been working at the hotel, have resigned.  They will be married tomorrow.”  And so the next week “Miss Flynn [was] working at the hotel.”  Again, in November 1897, “Forty-five took supper at the hotel Thursday night.”  Such stories make one think that, in its day, it would have reminded one of JCAT today.

But besides such pleasant times, there was the following, from the April 9, 1889 edition of the Green Mountain Press:

     Sheriff Reeves arrived in town on the 9:24 mail train this forenoon, having with him a bench warrant from the Chittenden County Court, directing him to take to Burlington J.H. May.  They went down on the following train.  The hotel was searched last Tuesday by Sheriffs Reeves and Galusha, during the absence of the proprietor.  The only find was a jug said to contain cider.

And the next week, the paper reported:

     "At county court last Tuesday, J.H. May was fined $50 and costs."

Although the same paper also noted that "The Beach House passenger conveyance is now at every train."

     July 16, 1889, Green Mountain Press had a story about liquor being stolen in North Williston, and Officer Wheeler of Burlington came to the Beach House in search of it.  "The terrified proprietor had a bottle of liquid in his possession which he did not want the officer to have, and he threw it through the window.  Mr. Wheeler proceeded after it, but before getting it, Mrs. May had emerged from another door and emptied the bottle."

     Another story in the November 26, 1889 paper tells of the hotel being searched again for liquor, with some being found in a closet.  J.H. May was to go on trial the next day, but the December 3rd paper reported that he did not appear at the hearing on the liquor seizure.

An interesting incident was reported in May 1, 1894, Green Mountain Press:

     “About 7:30 o’clock Saturday evening Thomas Casey entered the hotel and called for whiskey, which Mrs. May declined to furnish.  A knockdown followed in which May discharged his revolver, but missed and hit the floor.  May’s son dealt Casey a blow on the head with a poker which left a wound taken for the bullet hole.  Sunday Drs. Nay & Burdick determined no bullet had struck Casey.”

One item in January 20, 1891, Green Mountain Press gives mention of another curious Jericho institution:

     "The supper given by Jericho members of the Iron Hall to the Hall of Winooski Friday evening at the Beach House is pronounced one of the nicest suppers ever given in the village, and Mr. Hapgood, who keeps the house, is to be highly congratulated for his efforts.  There were sixty-two who sat down to table.  The Winooski lodge has invited this one to return the visit next Monday evening."

     The Iron Hall was a fraternal and insurance-based organization, the local branch of which had been formed in Jericho on January 11, 1888, and as part of their one-year anniversary celebration in January 1889, they extended "an earnest invitation...to all, especially the 'skeptical' to be present and learn how the society can give $1000 for $300, and still keep in a thriving financial condition." How they could do this eventually proved to be via a pyramid scheme!  

     But in the meantime, on February 25, 1889 "under the auspices of The Iron Hall, the celebrated dramatical and musical entertainment of the 'Wrens' will be given at Academy Hall...They come highly recommended from many sources...." and in March 1889, they "rented the whole of the second floor of D.E. Rood's harness building as a meeting room.  It will also be used by the ladies branch of that order."  That would be Sisterhood Branch No. 1001, which at that time numbered 17 members. 

      Nationally, the Iron Hall was defunct by about 1892, although an April 16, 1895 article in the Green Mountain Press stated that “the court has decided that all funds of the defunct Iron Hall now in Vermont shall be divided among the members in this state”.   D.E. Rood's harness building was just to the east of the Pierce Block, across the street from the hotel, and was destroyed in the fire that burned the Pierce Block on January 11, 1901.  Academy Hall is what you would know today as the second floor of the present town hall.  But I digress...

     Besides his being in the hotel business, the local paper noted in October 1894 that J.H. May was also fixing over his horse barn into a store, and building a large carriage shed on his property.  By April 1895, he had an ad in the Green Mountain Press for the “Jericho Carriage & Harness Store, J.H. May.”

     In January 1896 it was reported that he had just received a carload of 30 open and top carriages from the H.M. Whitney Co. of Cortland, N.Y. and that he would “sell at auction at his place of business in Jericho, Vt. on Saturday, January 18, 1896, 50 new cutters, work sleds, harnesses, robes, blankets, etc.”  And in the August 25, 1896, Green Mountain Press:  “J.H. & R.H. May started yesterday for Morrisville with a train of wagons.  He will have an auction there Saturday.  Mr. May is known all over northern Vermont as ‘the wagon man’.”



Two views of the Chesmore Block (on left) and the post office block (on right).  In the top photo, you can see that these were actually two separate buildings, although very close together.  It was the right building where J.H. May had his store, as, by that time, E.B. Williams had moved to the store beside the hotel.  These were located where Stan Knapp now lives, his house being the former restaurant building built in the 1930s.




These buildings burned on November 20, 1906, and this is a photo of the aftermath.  You can see the former Woodsmen's Hall, now apartments, in the background, in the intersection of Plains and Lee River Roads.


     In September 1896, Mr. May took over the store known as the Post Office block, formerly occupied by E.B. Williams as a drug store and post office, remodeling the rooms preparatory to putting in a stock of groceries and boots and shoes.  By November, E.H. White had finished painting and was papering May’s new store, and it was reported that it would be very attractive when completed.  By the next March, the store was reported open at last, with a full and complete line of choice family groceries and provisions, and the ad mentioned that Mr. May was still selling carriages, wagons, and harnesses.  In addition, Miss Nellie Dorr of Burlington was dressmaking at J.H. May’s store.

     In 1901, Lafayette Wilbur purchased the northern portion of the hotel property, the area bordering Buel Martin’s home and jewelry store, and built a building for his law office.  He also rented the upstairs to M.E. McMahon for his barbershop (who advertised he was a tonsorial artist and had sharp razors and a light touch, with haircutting a specialty) for a time.  About 1913, this building was purchased by H.T. Chase, who converted it to a general store, which use continues today as Jericho General Store



H.T. Chase's store, what had been built as Lafayette Wilbur's law office.  This is today Mel Mitchell's Jericho General Store.


Jericho lost its landmark on the night of October 8, 1904.  The Burlington Free Press described it as follows:


Big Fire in Jericho

Hotel, Livery Stable and Store-House Burned-Loss Placed At $12,000

     Jericho, Oct. 9 – For the second time within 18 months this village was visited with disastrous fire yesterday.  The only hotel property in town together with livery and mercantile storehouses were burned and a stock of general merchandise practically ruined, involving a conservatively estimated loss of $12,000 and severely crippling the business interests of the village.

     The fire was discovered at about nine o’clock in the attic of the Folsom House, owned and conducted by William Folsom.  It is thought that the origin was in a defective chimney.  At the time of discovery, the fire had spread through the entire attic and this upper story was a mass of flames.  With the inadequate means at hand, attention was immediately turned to saving the surrounding property and the wonder is that the entire village was not wiped out, there being at the time a strong south wind.  A bucket brigade was formed, women passing water in the line from the neighboring mill pond shoulder to shoulder with the men.  

     Just west of the hotel was the general store of E.B. Williams separated only by a driveway from the burning building.  The side of this store was covered with carpeting which was kept saturated with water and here it was that a heroic effort that the fire was stopped in this direction.  The stable immediately in the rear of the hotel was allowed to burn as were the ice house and storehouse of E.B. Williams.  The stock and carriages in the stable and the goods in the store were saved.

     In the second story of the hotel were nine furnished rooms and nothing was saved here.  The personal effects of the proprietor and family were taken out.  Mr. Folsom estimates his loss at $6000 in all.  He had insurance of $2500 on the building and $1000 on the furniture.  He has not yet fully decided but is of the opinion that he will rebuild.  [In fact, he did not rebuild, but moved across the corner to the house at what is now 2 Plains Road, where he continued in the hotel business for a time after the fire.]

     Mr. Williams had a stock of goods valued at about $10,000.  He is at this time confined to his bed by illness and his exact loss cannot be determined.  However, those familiar with his business estimate the amount of damage done in this store at $5,000, all of which is by smoke and water.  It is understood that this loss is covered by insurance in several different companies.

     The building in which the Williams store was located is owned by Mrs. Sarah A. Jackson and she lived in the upper story.  Her goods were nearly all removed with little damage and the building was well insured.



This is the store building that was just to the west of the hotel, separated only by a driveway (as was, in a later time, Joe's Snack Bar, which Joe built in 1950 when his father, Joe, Sr., ran the store).  This store, along with the former drug store just to the west, burned in April 1963.


     When the fire broke out, word was sent to Burlington asking for aid.  A crew immediately left that city with a steamer.  They came by team and made two changes of horses at Essex Junction and at Essex Center, arriving there a little after eleven.  They would have reached here sooner but for the fact that they were stopped at Essex Center by a report that their services were not needed.  Later they were ordered on and arrived here when the fire was under control.  They used a stream for some time in wetting down the ruins and started for home a little after two o’clock.

     A great deal of bravery and persistence was exhibited by those who fought the flames and it is little short of a miracle that the fire was contained to comparatively narrow bounds.  Several times the roofs of surrounding dwellings caught but men were always on hand with buckets of water and hand extinguishers.

     The fire, which occurred here one year and a half ago, was just across the road at the south of today’s conflagration [as noted above, that fire actually happened on January 11, 1901, over three and one-half years before].  The property loss at that time was about twice the amount lost today and the two fires practically wipe out the business section of the village.  It is a severe blow from which the village will not soon recover.”



This is the Pierce Block, built-in 1881 by W.N. Pierce from Jericho Center.  It later became the Home Market and burned on January 11, 1901.  This was across the street from the hotel, approximately where Mane Street Stylists are located today.  On the left of the picture, you can see part of Rood's harness shop, the upstairs of which the Iron Hall rented as their meeting rooms.  On the right is part of Joseph Bissonette's tin shop.




This is an interesting picture, in that it was taken between January 11, 1901, when the Home Market building burned (you can see the foundation of that in the photo), and October 8, 1904, when the hotel burned, as you can see a bit of the hotel on the right.  The photographer would have been standing in what would now be the middle of Route 15 in front of the Jericho General Store, looking down the hill.  

And on the left of the picture, you can see part of the house at 2 Plains Road, which is where the Folsoms moved after the hotel fire, and where they continued to operate a hotel for a time.  As was noted in the Free Press article about the fire, "The personal effects of the proprietor and family were taken out."   There was a rumor that the fire might not have been accidental, as it seemed very convenient that the Folsoms did not lose any of their personal effects, but that may well have been just gossip.




This was an apartment building that stood approximately where the Home Market building had been, perhaps just a bit west of it.  There is the rumor that this was the former woolen mill, and later Bissonette's tin shop, that had stood beside the river, and it was thought that it had been moved up the road just a bit at some point and converted into apartments.  But that has never been verified.

     The hotel lot stood empty after the fire, and was sold by Mrs. Olive Folsom, then of Sheffield, Vt., to E.B. Williams in 1911, and was purchased along with the Williams store by George Woodruff in 1927.  In 1929, the State of Vermont removed the covered bridge across Brown’s River and built the current bridge.  In the process of doing this, they straightened the curve of the road, which meant that they had to remove the blacksmith shop at the west end of the bridge operated by Jed Varney.  So Mr. Varney purchased the hotel lot from Mr. Woodruff and built a new building there.  Part of it housed a new blacksmith shop, but as a concession to the changing times, part of it was also used for automobile repairs. 

 

This is the apartment building currently on the site of the burned building in the previous photo, built after the former building burned in 1985.



Jed Varney's new blacksmith shop and automobile garage, built-in 1929.  You can see the store in the right background, and the location of Joe's Snack Bar would be just out of the photo on the left.



The same building as the prior photo, but after it had been converted to apartments.  This burned in 1968.  Again,  you can see Mel's store in the extreme right of the picture.


     This building was purchased by the Brown’s River Study Club in 1945.  They used part of it for the club meeting rooms, part to house the Brown’s River Library, which they had founded in 1937, and the remainder of the building became the community building.  However, by 1950, the upkeep of the building had become too much for the club, and the building was sold to VFW Post No. 7962, with the stipulation that the library could remain in one room.  The VFW did much work on the building, including laying a hardwood floor in the downstairs area, and many functions were held here.  

     Among other things, the hall was rented to local organizations many times to serve dinners for a large attendance.  But as happened earlier with the Brown’s River Study Club, the VFW found by 1958 that, with their membership dwindling, they were also unable to continue operation of the hall, and at that time it was sold and converted to apartments.  The building was destroyed by fire in 1968 and was replaced with the current apartment building.



The same spot as the two photos above and the first and third photos, as it appears today.   Mel's store is in the right background. 

     I do have a bit more information about the Home Market and the Chesmore and post office blocks, should you ever want that (for example, it appears that Mrs. Sarah Jackson, mentioned in the Free Press article as living above the store, moved to an apartment above the post office, and was living there when that building burned.  Talk about bad luck!

Gary
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There is Heritage in the Historic Homes of Jericho. There are stories (oral and written) that make up the history of this land (even before it became Jericho). Shall we explore together? 

Please consider helping us open the door to this land we now call Jericho, to explore the history of the land and the people who have lived here!

PS Though we have titled this project as Historic Homes in Jericho, we are open to posting photos and stories about any home, and any structure of any age, and land and families thereupon that folks care to submit.

Please contact Bernie Paquette or Maeve Kim if you wish to submit a story, long or short about your Jericho house/home, land, and folks who live there now or in the past.


Emailed Feedback from readers: 
Thanks for the great photos and history of Jericho Corners. I enjoyed it a lot. Terrible that fire did so much damage. Cheers, Julia


My Daughter and I spent the better part of this morning enjoying you postings. I noticed you mentioned Mr. Percival, Who possibly the could be a past owner of the house I currently reside in. Is there anyone who might have the history Plains Road? I would love to see it. 
Reader unknown

Resonse from Gary Irish to reader unknown, 

I am not sure where the Percival reference was, as at a quick glance, I did not find it.  But to answer their question, on page 597 in the town history it says that Timothy Percival lived on what was later known as the Brigham farm on "Jericho Plains", so that well may be what they are looking for.  Below is the link to it:

https://archive.org/details/historyofjericho01jeri/page/n707/mode/2up?view=theater

There were a lot of Percivals who lived in town, and this pretty much gives all of their history.  There is a brief mention of them in volume 2 of the history as well, mainly Fred, who, if memory serves me correctly, lived in what is now the Methodist parsonage beside the Jericho town hall.  I think he is the one that I have heard tell was nearly blind, but had a system set up whereby he could mow the Congregational Church lawn, being guided by a string.

With all of the unknown and no reply in their e-mail, I will let you pass this on to them.  If they have any further questions that I might help with, feel free to pass on my e-mail to them.

Gary