A Vermont Milling Dynasty

Above is main plant of E. T. & H. K. Ide, Inc., at St. Johnsbury, Vt., that supplies livestock and poultry feeds to northern and central Vermont feeders.
Main plant of E. T. & H. K. Ide, Inc., at St. Johnsbury, Vt., that supplies livestock and poultry feeds to northern and central Vermont feeders.

Reprinted from the September, 1958, Issue of Eastern Feed Merchant. Link to pdf of scanned original:  A Vermont Milling Dynasty

A Vermont Milling Dynasty

By Charles Stratton and Austin Carpenter
Reprinted from the September, 1958, Issue of Eastern Feed Merchant

E. T. & H. K. Ide, Inc., St. Johnsbury feed manufacturer and retailer, has been successfully operating for 145 years as a five-generation business


Lighting the Village

This post describes the electrification of St. Johnsbury streets in 1889, and a proposal by E. T. & H. K. Ide to install and power the lights from the water power in Passumpsic. It’s interesting to think “what if?” but in some respects supplying power was an important part of the business anyway–the Ides sold power to a neighboring business, the water power was eventually sold for a favorable price, and coal became a lucrative part of the business.

The most interesting part of this post, to me, is the letter E. T. & H. K. Ide sent to the Caledonian because it provides some details about the water power and how it worked to power the mill, and reveals that the mill and water power were very under-utilized because a planned flouring mill had not been installed.

The year before our mill burned in 1883 we had put in a new flume, of 4 and 6 inch plank, and attached to it were four iron water wheels. Also we had a place prepared and new race-way built for another and larger wheel which we have never utilized, but in which a water wheel could be “set” in two days time.


Large Fire 1883

This article is transcribed from a newspaper clipping in a scrapbook. I am fairly sure it did not come from the Caledonian, since they ran a large article about the fire, and the St. Johnsbury Republican was first published in 1885. My main interest in the article is that it provides a complete history of the ownership of the original mill:


1796 First recorded sale of water power rights from John Stevens to Potter, William Kendall and son. Mill built soon after.
1804 Potter sold to William Kendall and son, mill known as Kendall’s Mill.
1808–1810 William Kendall Jr. sold to Joseph Armstrong.
Armstrong sold to Jacob Kendall.
Kendall sold to Josiah Thurston.
1810 Thurston sold to Ira Harvey and John Woods
1813 Harvey and Woods sold to Timothy Ide.


New Photo of Passumpsic Mill

A summer or two ago, I purchased several 5×4″ glass dry plate negatives from a dealer. He had approximately 200 slides, but I only purchased several showing the aftermath of the 1904 fire–basically I purchased pictures of something that was no longer there. It was difficult to examine the plates without a light box, but I also selected one that I thought showed the valley and might show the mill. Now that I’ve scanned it, I’ve discovered that it’s an excellent image of the mill from a different angle. I don’t know the exact date of the photo, but I believe it was taken around 1900. Curiously, the mill does not appear to have its two-tone paint job.

Big Fire at Passumpsic 1904

Loss Will Exceed $75,000

The Ide Mill and Fiber Leather Plant in Ashes.

The continuous blowing of the steam whistle at the Fiber Leather mill at Passumpsic just after 6 Monday morning gave the general alarm of fire at that mill and within an hour both the plant of the Passumpsic Fiber Leather Company and the adjoining grist mill of E. T. and H. K. Ide were burned to the ground. So quickly did the flames spread that all that was saved at the leather factory was a carload of finished product which was pushed down the side track away from the hot flames and a few bags of meal at the grist mill. The only part of the burned district that is standing today is the boiler house of the leather board factory and the boilers are believed to be in good condition.


Elmore and Cynthia Ide Family Portrait

Elmore and Cynthia Ide family portrait
Elmore and Cynthia Ide family portrait

Elmore and Cynthia Ide’s family portrait circa 1895. From top left:

Henry Clay Ide II, 1869 – 1907. Henry was a physician who died young due to heart problems.

Fanny Knight Ide (Sprague), 1876-1942. Fanny was an artist and illustrator and married Oliver M. W. Sprague, a Harvard University professor of economics.

George Peabody Ide, 1867-1967. George was a very successful businessman, although he almost bankrupted his father in the process.

Katharine Darling Ide (Gray), 1863-1950. Katharine was a founder of Maple Grove Farms and married George M. Gray, who joined the business in 1888 and was instrumental in building it.

Mary Ellen Ide (Gates), 1871-1963. Mary Ellen was the second wife of Charles Winslow Gates, who was Governor of Vermont from 1915-1917.

William Adams Ide, 1881-1957. William Adams succeeded E. T. Ide in the presidency of E. T. & H. K. Ide.

Elmore Timothy Ide, 1839 – 1923.

Cynthia Lois Adams Ide, 1844-1916. Cynthia was the only child of William and Mary Felch Adams.

Trucks loaded with Ide Feed at St. Johnsbury mill.

St. Johnsbury Mill in 1953

This large image shows the St. Johnsbury plant with a steam engine moving boxcars along the siding. An alternate image taken minutes apart was used in Millers for Five Generations, so it can be dated to 1953 or earlier. Note that in the alternate image, the logo on the side of the elevator has been edited. The days of steam were drawing to a close and this once-proud engine was relegated to switchyard work. The large format negative is highly detailed and I was able to extract a few interesting vignettes.

Passumpsic Grange Hall curtain with E. T. & H. K. Ide advertisement.

Passumpsic Grange Hall Theater Curtain

Passumpsic Grange Hall curtain with E. T. & H. K. Ide advertisement.
Passumpsic Grange Hall curtain, courtesy of Curtains Without Borders

A recent article in Seven Days, A New Book Documents Restored Theater Curtains, reminded me that way back in 2013, I found an image of the Passumpsic Grange Hall curtain that has an advertisement for E. T. & H. K. Ide in the lower left corner. At the time, I contacted Christine Hadsel, Director of Curtains Without Borders, who graciously granted permission to reproduce the image here. Curtains Without Borders has a new art book out, which can be purchased on amazon.