Historical Society calls all history detectives (7/30/09)

Chittenden County riddles lead to historic sites

July 30, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

It could be said that all 18 cities and towns in Chittenden County are riddled with history. So much so that a new challenge by the Chittenden County Historical Society asks people to solve history riddles in each of the communities.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
The waterfall pictured above is the answer to a History Mystery riddle for the town of Bolton. In August, the 18 cities and towns of Chittenden County are participating in a history scavenger hunt organized by the Chittenden County Historical Society.

Known as the History Mystery, the event is being held next month in honor of the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial Celebration. It’s designed to give young and old, local residents and Vermont visitors, a chance to learn more about Chittenden County’s varied past. And as the History Mystery pamphlet states, “being attentive will be your prime directive.”

“There’s something to be said about the rush of finding out the answers,” said Ann Arms, the event’s coordinator.

Starting Aug. 1, Chittenden County “history detectives” will be able to pick up an event brochure featuring the history riddles. In most cases, the answers can only be determined by visiting various locations in all 18 cities and towns. Even tiny Buel’s Gore, with its fewer than 20 residents near Appalachian Gap, is in on the fun.

“It’s for everyone,” said Ginger Isham, the event’s Williston Historical Society representative. “We’re hoping families will do it with their children.”

For Williston residents interested in taking part, History Mystery brochures will be available at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library starting this Saturday.

Arms said the Chittenden County Historical Society wanted to do something in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival at the lake that now bears his name. She said the idea was a cooperative effort from many historical society members, with the goal of doing something completely different within the state.

There are riddles for each town and some towns have more than one answer, according to Arms. Some of the riddles provide easy clues. Others will require a little more work, she added.

Within the brochure, participants will be able to fill in the blanks for the answers. There are even a few letters in some of the answers to help participants. Some of the riddles center around a natural wonder in Bolton, a baseball player from Colchester, and a “meteorite” in Underhill.

“We really want to have people from the community learn about the history of the community,” Arms said. “It’s meant to be a fun way to learn something different.”

Arms said while a person may know the history of their own town very well, they may not know much about their neighbors’ communities. She hopes this will connect the cities and towns within Chittenden County.

The authors of the riddles are either historical society members from certain towns, or history buffs with a gift of rhyme. Isham wrote Williston’s history riddle:

    Built in 1976 in preparation

    For the Bicentennial celebration

    Many an ear has listened as tunes were played,

    Some sitting on benches and some in the shade.

The riddle has two answers, and those unfamiliar with Williston will most likely have to visit the history site for at least one of the answers, Isham said.

Participants have the entire month of August to answer all the questions in the brochure. Once completed, the brochures can be dropped off where they were picked up earlier in the month. The final day to turn in answers is Sept. 1.

Those who’ve answered all the riddles correctly will be entered into a drawing to win history related prizes. Each of the county’s cities and towns is providing at least one prize for the drawing.

A celebration of the event, including the prize drawing, will be held on Sunday, Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. in the community room of the Burlington Police Department.

Arms said she hopes locals and visitors will take their time and become history detectives in Chittenden County. They might even learn something about the area they’d never known before through the History Mystery.

“I’m hoping people become fascinated with history,” Arms said.