Chester Carpenter (father of Ora Carpenter)

Johnathan Carpenter    Ora Carpenter

Armed with an axe and 100 dollars, Chester Carpenter, a young man of not quite 21, left his birthplace and boyhood home in Randolph Center, Vermont on a morning in 1808. Having heard of the beauty and fertile soil of the Lake Champlain region, he hoped to establish a home there. A chance encounter changed his plans.

Nightfall found him in Greensboro, Vt., where he stopped at a small tavern. There he met another traveler and told of his plans. The man responded that he had traveled throughout the Champlain Valley, but nowhere had he found so much beauty as in land farther east. He gave such a glowing description of Lake Memphremagog and the surrounding country that in the morning "the axe and the $100." turned eastward over a rough pathway toward Derby, Vt. The young pioneer pushed on till he reached a crest where he got his first view of the lake. Here the axe and money stayed and Chester bought his first land, a 100-acre lot. The payment was to be made in wheat with the price agreed upon each year. Surely he never had reason to regret his change of plans, for this location gave him not only excellent tillage and timber lands, but one of the most beautiful views in Orleans County. On a clear day, farms, water and hills in 20 towns in Vermont and Canada were visible and the area, later known as Darling Hill, became well-known for this panoramic view.

As soon as the land was his, the ambitious young man began his work. Day after day until snowfall the splendid maples came crashing down before that axe, the slash growing to nearly 10 acres. During the winter months, the woodsman became a teacher in Brownington, but in early spring the slashings were burned and that very necessary wheat planted. While the wheat grew, Chester built the barn. When harvest time came, the barn was ready. The wheat was drawn in on an ox sled, threshed with a flail, cleanly fanned and, for lack of a storage place, heaped upon the barn floor until delivery of it could be made upon the mortgage note.
Chester spent all spare time clearing more land and in building a small house, near which he set out seeds and grafts from the apple tree at his boyhood home in Randolph. The next winter, he taught school in his own district, boarded with various families and, eating his meals on the run, returned to his farm daily to feed and water his cow and two steers, or to thresh wheat in the early morning hours or on Saturdays. Like New England's beloved Robert Frost, Chester Carpenter believed in good fences and, with the help of only his two well-trained steers, built a tree-trunk fence which stood many years.

Deacon Nathaniel Kendall, an exhorter of some note who formed a Baptist congregation which met in his barn, came to Derby from Windsor, Vt., bringing a large family. One day while riding with a friend, young Carpenter met the deacon's daughter, Hannah, and afterward the friend said quietly "Chester, there's a girl that would make you a good wife." Whether or not this was Cupid's first suggestion to the young man's heart is unknown, but Chester and Hannah were married Nov. 24, 1811.

The son of Revolutionary War soldier Jonathan Carpenter Jr., who had been imprisoned by the British, it is not surprising that Chester was the first "Derby man to enlist in the War of 1812, enrolling as an orderly in Capt. Hiram Mason's company and serving until the company was discharged, a welcome event to his young wife, Hannah, who had, through times of threatened dangers, passed her days and nights largely alone in the little home on the hill.

Brought up in a tavern, Chester well knew the profit difference between selling oats at ninepence for a half peck and selling other farm products as hot meals at 25c each. Realizing a tavern needed to be on a more traveled road than his hill farm, in 1815 he bought 70 acres down on the main road by the Clyde River. A small inn on the newly-acquired property was first moved to the main street, then to the northern part of the property. Decayed from age, it was eventually torn down and replaced by a good-sized, two-story tavern.
Chester Carpenter's new tavern had a square chimney in the center to carry away smoke from a big brick oven and three wide fireplaces with broad granite hearths and supported by the heavy brick walls of the ash bin and store house. At the bar room door swung a board sign with eagle and shield and the words Carpenter's Inn, 1816. At this inn, weary travelers, friends, beggars and visiting ministers alike found warm meals, satisfactory beds and good care for themselves and their horses.  While still operating the tavern, Chester continued his purchase of land, accumulating upwards of 450 acres of largely unbroken forest which he cleared for pasturage and cultivation.

In 1845, Chester Carpenter sold the home farm, stock and tools, and the inn to his son, Chester Jr., who, like his father, kept an inn "clean morally and otherwise." The inn later passed out of the Carpenter family, was completely destroyed by fire in 1884, and was never rebuilt.
All his life, Chester enjoyed hard work outdoors. In 1820, after the bones of one leg were crushed, he stood upon crutches for days felling trees. In old age, he alternated his days between reading and wood-cutting. During his last earthly summer, at age 85, he cut from the stumps, hewed, set out, framed and fully finished a granery and corn barn with a tool and wagon house underneath.
Following the War of 1812, Chester entered the state militia and was prom-oted to colonel before 1820. He held almost every town office in Derby and was Justice of the Peace for 20 years. In 1837, he gave the Baptist Church, without rent, a perpetual lease on In 1837 , he gave the B a p t i s t Church, without rent, a perpetual lease on land for the church and parsonage, labored at building the church and paid for building materials . He also provided funds, cash, supplies and supervision for the erection of the Derby Academy. Chester died i n 1872. Hannah, a ready helper a t more births and deaths than any woman in Derby, died in 1857. Their children were Marshall, Emeline, Ora, Chester, Fanny and Charles.

The information provided above was found in The Carpenter Family New-Journal Vol. V, No. 4, Marc h 1976