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.

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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.

Biographical Sketch of E. T. Ide

The author of this biographical sketch of E. T. Ide, possibly a school project, is unknown but believed to be Katherine Ide Sprague. Katherine was the daughter of Fanny Knights and Oliver Mitchell Wentworth Sprague. She was born in Tokyo, Japan, and lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a girl.

Original typed manuscript: My Grandfather: A Biographical Sketch

MY GRANDFATHER: A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

My grandfather, Elmore T. Ide, was one of those sterling characters for which Hew England, and, in particular, Vermont, is noted. His life was not rich in incidents, nor did he ever do anything that will make his name go down in history, along with those of Washington and Emerson, but, in all the simple happenings of his ordinary, homely life, he was the embodiment of that best kind of American, of whom we think in connection with Abraham Lincoln.

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Millers for a Century

Timothy, Jacob and Elmore T. Ide, Three Generations, Have Conducted Milling Business For 100 Years.


Timothy Ide Purchased Small Mill at Passumpsic, Dec. 22, 1813. — Business Taken up by Son and Developed from Small Custom Mill to a Large Grinding and Distributing Industry — Three Mills Destroyed By Fire — Business Removed to St. Johnsbury where Large Tract of Land was Developed for Manufacturing and Building Purposes — After 53 Years Connection with the Business E. T. Ide Still Actively Connected with Conduct of the Business.


One hundred years ago next Monday Timothy Ide purchased the grist mill at Passumpsic, conducted the business until his death when it was purchased by his son, Jacob Ide, and later purchased by his son, Elmore T. Ide. who for 53 years has been the manager of the business. The close of a century’s ownership finds Elmore T. Ide 74 years old but still at his desk giving the business the benefit of his long and successful experience. The thoroughly modern mill of E. T. & H. K. Ide is a. creditable monument for a century’s effort but Mr. Ide has still wider success to his credit. He has built up a large coal business, has developed a tract of three acres of apparently worthless land into an important manufacturing and building center. He is also president of the Merchants National Bank, one of the village’s strong financial institutions  Not only can Mr. Ide look back upon the accomplishments of over half a century but he has associated with him a son and son-in-law which assures a much longer term of successful business in the name of the Ide family.

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