Jason Bushnell's Museum


Bushnell's Relics Going to N.Y. Fair---

Old Weights, Measures To Be Exhibited in City Building.

Brattleboro will be represented at the New York World's Fair this summer with an exhibit of century-and-a-half-old weights and measures lent by Jason E. Bushnell, it was learned yesterday. The exhibit will be placed in the New York City building inasmuch as Vermont this year has no exhibit.

The articles are now being prepared in Bushnell's store-museum for shipment within a day or two. The exhibit was requested by Alex Pisciotta, director of the fair, and has the approval of H. N. Davis of Montpelier, inspector of weights and measures in the state of Vermont.

The exhibit includes: Eleven hand-hammered copper measures of the following capacities: ½ gill, gill, ½ pint, wine pint, wine quart, ale quart, ½ gallon, gallon, ½ peck, peck and ½ bushel; one brass even-balance scale and one even-balance iron scale with wood platforms.

All these articles were originally purchased in Boston Aug. 7, 1892, by I. Hall, Brattleboro merchant, who resold them on Aug. 31 of that year to Calvin Knowlton, first treasurer of Windham county. They were sealed by Samuel Mattocks of Rutland on March 1, 1793.

Photostatic copies of the bills of sale are included with the exhibit.

Also to be shown are an even balance iron scale to weigh deer, beef and hay, a hand-hammered spring scale which weighs up to 44 pounds on one side of the scale and on up to 400 on the other through an adjustment, and two sets of weights.

Vermont Phoenix, June 14, 1940.


Jason Bushnell

Old Red Mill, Vernon, Vermont, 1939, Photograph By Marguerite Allis.jpg

Old Red Mill, South Vernon, 1939

Photograph By Marguerite Allis

Has Big Curio Collection.

Selectman Jason E. Bushnell Tells Reformer Representative

Something of History of His Relics.

Selectman Jason E. Bushnell, who divides his time between administration of the town's affairs and looking after his Elliot street grocery store, finds recreation in pursuing his avocation of collecting curiosities from all parts of the world.

Collecting has engaged Mr. Bushnell's interest for several years and he has today what is probably one of the largest private collections of freaks of nature and relics of civilization in the state. Every continent is represented, and the geographical range of the collection extends from chop sticks from China to paper money from Germany.

All available space in the office of his grocery store is taken up by the more choice bits of the collection, while the bulk of it is stored in various places for want of a suitable museum. The very variety of the collection makes it defy classification, but Mr. Bushnell has mentally catalogued even the smallest objects, and he moves freely among them, pointing out this and that, relating the history of each and how it came into his possession.

A large section of one wall of the office is marked off with a black border within which are promissory notes, bank checks, stock certificates, German paper marks and sundry other bits of paper. "That," he explained to a Reformer representative, "is the morgue. Everything in it is dead. And there," he continued, pointing to a card prominently displayed, "is the deadest of the lot."

The card bore the legend: "Old Crow, $3 per gallon. Old Puritan, $2 per gallon. Alcohol, $3 per gallon."

The stock certificates, long since worthless, Mr. Bushnell termed as good as any listed on the New York exchange today because they were no longer "a source of worry" to him. He said the notes and checks were dead when they were written but he didn't know it until some time after. Not only are the notes and checks dead, but so are the people who wrote them, he added, explaining that "dead men neither talk nor pay."

A recent addition to the collection which deserves a place in the morgue but has not yet been assigned one, is a tax list for the town of Kirby, Vt., dated 1815. The largest tax assessed was $3.35 and the smallest four cents. Several were under 10 cents.

"That's the mark the selectmen are shooting for in making up next year's budget," he said.

War relics form a large share of the collection. From the Civil war he has a round iron shot imbedded in a section of a sycamore tree from the battlefield of Chattanooga; a hand-made sword carried by Lieutenant Fessenden, a nephew of Vermont's war time governor, Frederick Holbrook; a necklace of round wooden beads carved by a Union soldier during a long period of incarceration in Libby prison; and a number of firearms carried by both Union and Confederate soldiers.

Two war relics, an iron cannon ball and a bayonet, are of doubtful origin. The cannon ball was found more than 50 years ago by Mr. Bushnell's grandfather, who turned it up while plowing in Guilford. It is some two or three inches in diameter and is believed to have been fired from a cannon at Fort Dummer, since the arms there are known to have fired a ball of that size.

The bayonet, dug up in Vernon, was found buried about three feet under the surface of the ground and directly beneath a large tree. According to Mr. Bushnell, it answers the description carried by the English soldiers during the French and Indian wars.

"Here is an indispensable surgical instrument of its day," he stated, producing a lancet, a device with many sharply pointed blades which surgeons used for blood letting. "When a person was sick in the old days," he continued, "it was the practice to cut one of his veins. Now you get the cut---10 percent---first and feel sick ever afterward."

On one wall hangs a life preserver which the owner plans to wear any time he decides to attempt suicide by drowning, but it also has a history. It came from the America, of Boston, owned by Gen. Butler, the first yacht to defeat the late Sir Thomas Lipton in his futile quest for international yachting honors.

On the opposite wall is a piece of the block from which the propeller of the N. C. 4, the first airplane to cross the Atlantic, was cut. The block of wood has a latent use as an additional life preserver. Mr. Bushnell figures that if it kept the N. C. 4, out of the Atlantic ocean it ought to keep him out of the river.

"Nothing is ever lost. Everything always comes back," he declared, pointing to a section of a tree with a ten-penny nail in it. "When the Custom laundry was built a large elm tree was cut down and, 40 rings in from the outside, the spike was found. I got a licking for driving it in there. Everything comes back, sometimes with memories.

"And here," he went on, designating a section of a maple tree with an iron rake imbedded in it, "is what happens to tools you lose. Several years ago I lost a rake at my camp in Guilford. Last spring a tree was cut down and there it is." It was probably the best way to lose a rake, he observed, his usual procedure being to lean it against a building and then to step on the tilted teeth some dark night, the handle making itself known by hitting him on the nose.

Of all his collection, Mr. Bushnell considers the register of the town liquor agency for 1898 the most valuable. It is a large volume and contains the names of many prominent citizens. It has a large market value, he says, because there are so many people who would pay good money to see it destroyed.

Oddly shaped stones, Indian arrowheads and tomahawks, oddities of countless other curios comprise the balance of the collection. Nothing is too small to draw his interest, and any article which has some uncommon characteristic, either in physical properties or in history, can find a place on the Bushnell shelves.

Brattleboro Daily Reformer, February 14, 1933.


Flat Street Grocery Store

The Vermont Phoenix for December 28, 1900 reported that "The old Frost house on Flat Street has been made into a grocery store by J. E. Bushnell." This photograph was taken in 1900. The nineteen-year-old Bushnell is standing center, with his arms crossed.

Jason Bushnell's first grocery store was established on the south side of Flat Street, in the building formerly occupied by Charles C. Frost for his dwelling house and shoe business. This building is the only documented Brattleboro station on the "Underground Railroad", with forty or so fugitive slaves hiding here in the attic at one time or another.


Following 1915 this building served as a tenement, then as a Ford car garage before burning down in 1941.


Jason Bushnell's Grocery Store And Museum

Photograph December 8, 1939

Protector No. 1 Hook & Ladder Fire Station

Jason Bushnell employed many clerks over the years---Cleve E. Shipman, Paul Mosher, and Charles Dana among them.

In Bushnell's museum was displayed a pair of flintlock pistols that once belonged to Dr. John Wilson, the former Scottish highwayman known---along with Michael Martin---as "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot".


Ruud Fishes On Elliot Street.

Pond Marked "Private" by J. E. Bushnell---

Declines to Loan Fisherman Road Map to Hot Place.

Fishing on Elliot street? Surely! Passers-by were astonished and amused Wednesday to see N. E. Ruud, Elliot street furniture dealer, standing on the curb opposite the Watercure site with rod in hand and the end of the line in a large puddle of muddy water in the street, while being photographed by Carl Gates. The fisherman said he had a large hook but no bait, as he was angling for suckers, of which there were many in Brattleboro.

J. E. Bushnell, Elliot street grocer, previously had tacked a sign reading, "No Fishing---Private" on the electric light pole near-by. Mr. Ruud was leaning up against the pole bearing the sign, nonchalantly smoking his pipe while enjoying his first fishing of the season, with an interested crowd of spectators.

"I asked the town manager if I could fish in the pond," Mr. Ruud declared, "and he told me it was a private pool. Then I asked him how it could be private when it was right in the middle of the street. I asked Mr. Bushnell what right he had to mark it private and he told me to go to hell. I tried to borrow his road map to go there with, but he wouldn't let me take it."

Vermont Phoenix, March 8, 1929.

Newton E. Ruud conducted a furniture shop at 116 Elliot Street. Eli Ruud and Comilla lived in the house at 103 Main Street. Comilla gave piano lessons.


Bushnell Collects Curio.

Displays Porcupine Captured Alive in Townshend---

Has Liquor Agency Ledger of Many Names.

J. E. Bushnell, the Elliot street grocer, formally opened Saturday a season of curio gathering with the display outside his store building of a Canadian porcupine captured alive Friday on his lot in Townshend. The animal, which weighs between 8 and 10 pounds, was captured by Charles Brown of 112 Elliot street.

The porcupine was secured by placing a washtub over it as it attempted to make its escape. A piece of oilcloth was then slid under the tub and the porcupine put into a box, in which it was brought here.

Mr. Bushnell recently uncovered another curio from among his belongings. It is in the form of a ledger book, sold to him for a nickel at an auction almost two years ago. The book contains a list of more than 8,000 names, many of them duplicated several times, of persons who patronized the Brattleboro liquor agency in the town hall building, beginning Oct. 4, 1898.

A brief perusal of the book reveals the names of many Brattleboro persons well known today. A local business man, upon looking through the pages a few days ago, remarked to Mr. Bushnell that the ledger constituted almost a directory of Brattleboro.

Vermont Phoenix, June 25, 1926.


Bushnell Family

Edward Bushnell was a printer and foreman for the local and successful womens' magazine called "The Household". He later established the publishers Durfee & Bushnell.

Rebecca Bushnell built a two-and-a-half-story wood frame house in 1879 along the south side of Elliot Street. Jason and Rebecca lived here for nineteen years. The depth of the house was doubled in 1887, and a boarding house was opened.


Opened Store In 1900

He first opened a store in 1900 on Flat Street, moving the business to its present location on Elliot Street in 1915. For a long time Mr. Bushnell personally took orders and made deliveries by horse and wagon. He added many lines of goods making the store general in character, although specializing in groceries and meat, and employed a large force of clerks.

Former president of the Brattleboro Association of Grocers, he had also held the offices of vice-president and president of the Vermont State Retail Grocerys' Association. In addition to his mercantile business, Mr. Bushnell had owned at various times many timber lots, a number of summer camps and at one period a roadside stand in Vernon.

Although he worked long hours in conducting his own business, Mr. Bushnell found time to take active part in civic affairs. From 1931-34 he served as a member of the Board of Selectmen and in this capacity served as overseer of the poor for one year; manager of the town farm for the full three-year period and also supervisor of the police department.

For 12 years he was Brattleboro's health officer and as such he declined to accept the full fee allowed by law, setting his own fee of one-half the amount. As health officer, Mr. Bushnell repeatedly brought to the attention of the public the desirability of cleaning Whetstone Brook and eliminating an "open sewer" through the town.

Headed C Of C

Named a director of the Chamber of Commerce in 1932, he later served two terms as president. During World War I, he was a member of the Red Cross disaster Relief Committee and was secretary-treasurer of the Windham County Code Authority.

He was a former Windham County jail commissioner; a former member of the Vermont State Liquor Commission, and in recent years had served as town agent for the town of Vernon. He also had held the post of chairman of Windham County Boy Scouts. Mr. Bushnell had served on several federal boards and as a director of the New England Retail Food Council.

Born in a small house on Elliot Street which became part of the store building he later owned, he was one of the four children of Edward and Rebecca P. (Welch) Bushnell. After attending public elementary schools and Miss Sawyer's Private School, he took a course at the Childs Business College in Springfield, Mass.

Because of his lifetime interest in relics of the past, Mr. Bushnell's store office and adjoining rooms became a veritable "curiosity shop." The great variety of articles collected in his early years formed the nucleus of the collection for which he later established his museum.

Collected Indian Relics

Among his accumulations were several thousand old Brattleboro photographs and one of the largest collections of Indian relics in the area. His interest in Indian lore increased after he found relics on his own property on Broad Brook, Vernon, that led to the uncovering of a camp site of the Squakheag tribe.

Brattleboro Daily Reformer, April 19, 1960.



Spherical Stones Arouse Discussion

Bushnell Buys Find That May Have Been English Gun Shot

Sixteen spherical stones over an inch in diameter, unearthed by boys digging on the bank of the Whetstone brook are the subject of discussion between Jason E. Bushnell, Brattleboro merchant, who bought them for his personal museum, and John E. Gale of Guilford, president of the Historical Society of Windham County.

The stones, smooth and round, are of green and gray hornblende, and they are similar to those used for cannon shot in England many years ago, the historian declared. Neither Gale nor Bushnell, who has around 20,000 specimens of uncommon objects in his museum, was able definitely to classify the stones but believed they were hidden at the spot where found.

A request for a possible identification of the stones by the Smithsonian institution at Washington will be made.

Vermont Phoenix, May 17, 1940.



Acquires Big Rock Meteor

Fell to Earth 35 Years Ago on Townshend Farm

Bushnell Adds It to Collection---

Half-ton Stone Said to Have Dropped in Pasture During Winter of 1901.

A half-ton chunk of stone, supposed to be a rock meteor which fell to the earth in Townshend 35 years ago, has been acquired by Jason E. Bushnell, local collector of curios, antiques, historical relics and curiosities, and was placed on display in a window of his grocery store on Elliot street late Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Bushnell heard of the existence of the specimen a number of weeks ago, and gained possession of it through Russell Blood of Townshend. The great rock fell, according to Mr. Blood who remembers the occasion, during a winter night 35 years ago on the Frank Pierce place in Townshend, now owned by Perley Allbee. As far as is known as yet, no one saw the object on its earthward trajectory, but Mr. Pierce and Mr. Blood found it embedded in the ground in the pasture. The snow had been melted in the immediate vicinity and the ground blackened by the intense heat.

Mr. Pierce drew the heavy object to his house with a pair of oxen, and there it has remained ever since, apparently gradually losing significance in the minds of more recent occupants of the premises. The place is now an abandoned farm, used partly as pasture. the spot where the stone was left by Mr. Pierce is inaccessible, and half a mile from the road.

The meteor was brought from Townshend under Mr. Blood's direction. Four men were required yesterday to put it in place on several planks in the store window. It is somewhat variable in color, there being patches of white, brown and gray, and more or less egg-shaped; its weight was estimated by Emil Hellen, employed at the Presbrey-Leland Studios, at nearly 1,000 pounds. He computes its volume at about six cubic feet, and said such material would weigh about 150 pounds per cubic foot. Its smallest circumference is six feet and its greatest about nine and one-half.

Marble, granite, silicon, sandstone, mica and thin seams of quarzite are included in its composition. Its surface is indented with many "thumbprints" characteristic of such objects. Its new owner plans to keep it on display for some time, and has written several authorities on meteors for further information.

Scientists claim that objects such as this travel through the earth's atmosphere at speeds of from two to seven miles per second, and are heated by friction with the air at this enormous speed to temperatures as high as 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the British Museum, Mr. Bushnell says, 94 per cent of all the meteors hitting the earth are rock meteors of not more than a few pounds weight, the remaining six per cent being of the metallic variety. Of those found, however, which make only a very small number, half are of the rock and half of the metallic kind. So far as is known, no such object as this has ever been previously found in this locality.

Mr. Bushnell also has on display two small metallic meteorites which he obtained recently from W. E. Clark in Buckland, Mass. the latter saw them land in his pasture in 1928 and recovered them.

Vermont Phoenix, August 28, 1936.


To Test Samples Of Meteorite

Harvard Bureau of Meteorology Investigating Its Composition---

Affidavits Signed.

Samples of the half-ton rock meteorite which fell in Townshend 35 years ago and which was obtained last week by Jason E. Bushnell of this town, were forwarded to the Harvard Bureau of Meteorology Saturday by Mr. Bushnell for tests by that institution. An offer to buy the huge stone, conditional on the result of the tests, was made by the institution.

Affidavits have been obtained from Charles Cutler and Edward Holden of Townhend stating that they knew about the great stone's fall to earth at the time 35 years ago, and that they knew Frank Pierce on whose farm the object landed. Russell Blood of Townshend has also expressed willingness to sign an affidavit. He was with Pierce when the meteorite was first seen in his pasture one winter's morning. The snow was completely melted for a distance of six feet around the spot by the intense heat.

Although some persons have professed the belief that such a rock would have buried itself far below the surface of the ground if it really were a meteorite, it is pointed out by Mr. Bushnell that the ground was very rocky pasture land, and frozen at that time of year, and hence the rock was probably prevented from burrowing more than a foot or two into the earth.

Vermont Phoenix, September 4, 1936.



Odd, Unusual And Old

Jason Bushnell's museum,

perhaps the oddest in the country,

has been called an evidence

"of the packrat instinct at its worst."

Written & Photographed

by Ben Brown

"This museum that you are about to enter," Jason will begin without prompting, "is the result of about 50 hobbies. The first thing I collected was bruises at the age of 4. Fell down the stairs."

Thus, the next two hours take shape. You gawk, fondle, point and listen. And Jason Bushnell, owner and creator of Bushnell's Mill at Vernon, Vermont, conducts the personally-guided tour which thousands of visitors from all over the world remember with pleasure and awe.

"This mill has historic background. Three-purpose mill. Only one in New England. Basement was grist mill. First floor was saw mill. Second floor for village dances and fairs. Cost $7000 in 1845. Foundation, including pit and dam, was $6500. Building included slate roof. Cost only $100. Stone mason received $1.25 a day. Ox team same. Mortised timbers. 108 years old. No reason it isn't good for as many more."


Picking your way up rickety stairs, past stuffed animals, funny branches, roots and ancient swords, you recall the moments before when you swung down scenic and winding Vermont highway 142, drove in past the landscaped mill pond and found this place. The entrance was nearly hidden by odd, unusual and old things too big to put through the doors. Before the door was a totem pole and over the door was a sign, 55 years old, Jason's first grocery shingle hung out when he entered business in April, 1900.

Through the door you caught a glimpse of the mill and it looked like an awful mess. Jason was sitting out front in a comfortable chair, wearing his summer uniform . . .old pants, an undershirt and a strange red hat.

And now here you are in the midst of it all. It is overwhelming. Everywhere there is stuff, hanging from the ceiling, resting on the floor, in cabinets and on tables. Big stuff, old stuff, tiny things. Old price tags, sale bills, crazy slogans and stage coach schedules grace the walls and posts.

"This museum covers a large portion of the world and contains all sorts of odd and unusual things," continues Jason. "Those hand-hammered copper measures are the first legal sets of weights to be registered in Vermont. Bought in Boston in 1791, they were sealed by the State by Samuel Mattox of Rutland.

"Up there's a still. Found that in a good Baptist attic in Brattleboro. Still in good order. Used to make whiskey."

By now you realize this is no ordinary museum and Jason is no ordinary man. There's only one Jason Bushnell and only one Bushnell's Mill.

Some might describe the mill as "the most unusual private museum in the world" or "America's most extensive private curio collection" or dignify it in other terms. But, Jason lays claim to no title. The mill is there.

To some the mill is a wonderful store-house of things, some for sale, and hundreds of enthusiastic collectors have found in his hoard what they have sought for decades.

To others, the mill seems a colossal example of pack-rat instinct in humans at its worst.

Some people probably think Jason very strange.

But, to those who know, here is a magnificent example of a successful American businessman in the best self-made tradition, spending his advanced years in graceful enterprise, always looking forward, and in his enjoyment providing the world with something useful.

"Over here's a case of sea shells . . .five cases full. Every shell is properly labeled with Latin names."

Your host continues. You look. He talks.

Jason Edward Bushnell retired recently from the grocery business, in which he had grown from a boy with a handbasket to one of America's most successful independent food merchants.

He was born in the bay window of the building which eventually became his store. His rise to prominence against great odds gained him renown throughout the grocery world. Courage, vision, resourcefulness, and a sensitivity to the public's wants, coupled with good business methods which never forgot that people were human, carried him up the ladder, pulled him through depressions, brought his store as one of a very few to success against the growth of the mighty chains and established his place of business in a world which hasn't been kind to grocers for the last three decades.

"There's a picture of Brattleboro before the flooding of the lowlands when they built the Vernon dam. Hand-painted and carved fungus growths. Birds. All kinds. 150 varieties. All sorts of odd and unusual things."

Back in the days when Brattleboro looked like that picture, a boy of 6 bought a box, contents unknown, for 10c. He found the box to contain 50 packages of silver polish . . .sold these and opened with those profits his first bank book which he still possesses. That's how Jason got his start.

"There's some stone money from Borneo. Value: 3 women. Women here cost $3.00 apiece. I collect everything but women. Only collected one of them. And I married just one of her family.

"Got six children so far. Three boys and three girls. Came within one of having twins six times."

It's Jason's way of telling you his story. Today, under ownership and management of two of his well-trained sons, the grocery store continues to adapt its policies to changing times.

"Got books downstairs. All kinds of books. Got 500 books on insanity alone."

Coursing through his relics, you learn that Jason always loved to sell and loved to collect. You learn that all through his active life as a grocer, health officer, selectman, police commissioner, tree warden, manager of the town farm, member of the public works board, board of civil authority, civil works board and liquor commission, overseer of the poor, secretary and treasurer of the county code authority, Red Cross disaster relief committee member, chairman of county Scout committee, director of unemployed relief and the milk depot, chamber of commence president, welfare officer, fence viewer and other full and part-time activities, he talked with people, looked into their attics, and picked up things which were (1) odd (2) unusual and/or (3) old.

These were the only criteria.

He kept things in boxes, then in closets and finally in a back room of his store. He sold a few things but bought more than he sold and by the time he bought the old mill for $700 from the Town of Vernon, he had 187 truckloads of stuff to move into the new quarters.

This stuff has no formal classification. It has been inventoried only loosely. But, the stuff just nicely fills the mill.

"There's a toucan head. Hand carved. Has a teak base. From Chungking, China. That variety has been extinct for 200 years."

"Those gadgets women used to use for curling hair, rubbing off double chins, making spit curls. Collection of matches. Those are bird points for light arrows, collected by A. J. Miller. Got 250 perfume bottles. Those are beaded bags dating back 200 years. That one was made in France and is made of crystal and amythst beads. Original cost was $50.

"There's snakes over here. If you don't like snakes, look the other way. Got skulls, both Indian and white."

"Shoes, dating back to Colonial times . . .very well-made. Log barrel made in East Dover, Vt., 153 years ago. Swords, bayonets, warlike weapons, blackjacks . . .methods of death. Shackles from Andersonville Prison. Lots of Civil War relics."


Collecting stuff, reading about stuff and heandling these items has been Jason's education. Today he is an authority of note. There are 50,000 or more items in the mill and he knows the stories, uses and details of all but a few. Such knowledge carries with it a grasp of history, social customs, geology, anthropology, zoology, military science and human progress in man's conquest of his environment. True enough, Jason's store of facts is as miscellaneous as his collection, but when professors falter, he can often suppy the missing detail and back it with a story.

The mill itself is odd, unusual and old. It was a "white elephant" . . .a drain on the town's coffers until Jason took over. Today, the mill contains his stuff and an apartment for him and Mrs. Bushnell during the warmer months.

It also contains an education for visitors.

Got corals, combs, hair ornaments . . .wood samples covering wide territory . . .almost every country in the world. Overhead is a handmade sled made on Carpenter farm in Guilford by ancestors of Coolidge. There's a propeller from a plane that crashed in Brattleboro, killing 3 people.

"Here's a collection of handmade tools and utensils made in the country one to 200 years ago. Some apple-paring machines . . .very unusual. Wooden and hand-hammered nails, bolts, screws, door fasteners. Know what that is? Didn't think you would. It's a machine for making ribbon candy. Made in Sweden. There's some small spoons. Don't know what that is . . .you got any idea? Lots of people tell me about things. Learn a lot from people. People are more interesting than things."


Slightly altered skull of "equus caballus"
is typical Bushnell humor. He hugely enjoys
explaining what an "equus caballus" is.

Stories punctuate the tour and relics here and there bring to mind tales only vaguely related to the mill. There are many stories about people. There are also stories about psychology, and animals and travel and fishing. The stories are saved for the moments in the tour when you follow him upstairs to tarry too long at one spot.

"Inca vase over there 800 years old. Whistle there started the Battle of Wounded Knee. No survivors from that battle."

"Mohawk rattle from windpipe of eagle. Sioux rattle from turtle shell. Wampum. Medicine men's bags. House idols of Nicaraguans. Pestles found near dam at Vernon. All sort os odd and unusual things."

"Got more things upstairs. Wait'll I turn on the light."

"Flatirons, sadirons, charcoal irons . . .turtle shells from India, Tahiti, Samoa, Hawaii . . .tobacco, small pipe there belonged to Scotchman who used it to loan somebody a pipeful . . .big one there he used to borrow."

"Lots of different eggs. Ostrich eggs rom Africa, Florida . . .there's an emu egg from Australia. Cassowary eggs, tern eggs, hundreds of eggs. All sorts of odd and unusual things."

"Lava and pumice from great volcanoes. Sea fans from Tarpon Springs. Shovel for live coals, paper cutters, letter openers. Minerals."

"Photographs of this section . . .got 3,000 of them. Case or two full of miniatures. Programs, newspapers, letters, documents. Sword canes, carved canes from Mexico. Jewel box made by local man. Bought it from his wife for $1. Jeweler in here once offered me $100 for it."

"Collection of India things . . .anklets, ear plugs, finger rings, toe rings, nose rings . . .bought in 1863 by missionary named Coleman. There's a mummified child's hand from Egypt. Witch doctor's hand from Africa. Hatchet from Ft. Dummer dates to 1763. All sorts of old and unusual things."

"Always interested in animals. Read in a magazine where they'd found remains of a mammoth at foot of glacier in Alaska. Wrote to man and bought three pieces, including two sections of vertebrae. These were grown together, showing the mammoth had been injured in battle."

"Pens from Lincoln's desk given by his widow to friend in Chicago who sent them to Dr. Rockwell of Brattleboro. Two Lincoln campaign buttons. Miniature copper teapot hammered out of a penny. Civil War hardtack."

"Badge of office there for Night Watchman of London. Small jacknife. Two boys had contest to see who made the smallest knife and scissors. There's the winner."

"That's a fleam, owned and used by Dr. Gale. Chain-drive watch. Tree climbing outfit. There's a scorpion. Fetish doll of Nicaraguan Indians, make you get well. Fiber rain coat from South Seas. Nose of saw fish killed by Moravian missionary with ax."

"Got bottle openers, scales, cow tail holders, block made in Newfane for pounding corn. There's a cane Mayor Curley of Boston sent to Ireland to get, to give to consituents. Man became dissatisfied . . .gave me cane. Didn't want to hear more of Curley."

"Armadillo baskets, handmade saw from Jamaica (Vt.) Surveyor's chain made in England used by Washington. Tumbleweed from Texas."

"Wooden leg worn by woman in Brattleboro. Pair of copper-toed boots. Soapstone pipes from Minnesota. All sort of odd and unusual things."

"That's a stunner made by Sioux for squaws to knock wounded in head with after battles. Handmade dolls. Moccasins owned by Sitting Bull. Also have his signature. Three pottery gods, Aztecs', not very handsome but probably served their purpose."

"Got more things over here. Watch out for that beam. Haven't gotten around to sorting stuff up here. Those are bathtubs. Had stoves built in. Butter churns. Early washing machines. Lots of interesting things."

"Various fish. In this dam by the old mill a few years after I bought the property, I caught in my hands two trout, one 15 inches and one 15 3/4 inches long. I have not told you we were drawing water from the pond and these two fish got back of a sandbar."

"Want to go out back? Keep big things out there. Careful where you step."

"Those were ice tools. Early logging tools. Jars. Some of these things out here are for sale. Traps. Bells. Wagon wheels. All sorts of odd and unusual things."

Back at the entrance to the mill you look over into the pit where the wheels used to turn. Somehow, you hesitate to ask about the totem pole. But you cannot resist. Everybody asks about the pole.

"Totem pole genuine?" you ask.

Everybody asks if it is genuine.

"Yes, it's a genuine totem pole . . .my own. And here's its story."

"The head of every Vermont family is a nosey old guy. He thinks he knows everything. Next is a happy-go-lucky member of the family. What does he care as long as he can spend the old man's money? The field of yellow and green dots are your friends. Some are yellow and some are green. Below is the grouch of the family. He either did or did not get married but he didn't like it. At the bottom is a snake. We all have either our wife's or husband's relatives."


Vermont Life, Volume IX, Number IV, Summer 1955, pp. 11-15.



Bushnell Museum Lost In Blaze

Thousands Of Irreplaceable Articles Burn

Thousands of collectors' items, including many authenticated articles of great historical significance, were reduced to rubble and ashes in a fire that swept through Bushnell's Museum in Vernon early today.

The blaze, investigation of which is under way by the State Fire Marshal's office, destroyed the vast collection of memorabilia acquired over a period of many years by the late Jason E. Bushnell, local merchant.

The Vernon Fire Department, called at 1:30 a.m., was powerless to control the blaze which had already engulfed the large old mill housing the museum.

The roof at the rear of the building had caved in when the firemen reached there. At noon today they were still pouring water on the ruins.

Brattleboro's department, called in to aid the Vernon firemen at 1:50, sent a tank truck which remained at the scene until 5:14.

Mrs. Harry Corey of Power Station Road phone the Vernon department after a neighbor, Harry Eldridge, discovered the blaze and reported to her. About 30 Vernon firemen responded.

Fire Chief Michael Zaluzny said today that he had notified the State Fire Marshal's office because the cause of the blaze could not be determined in a preliminary investigation.

Former Mill

The famed private museum occupied a building constructed in the 1830's as a combined grist and sawmill.

Mr. Bushnell opened the museum nearly 20 years ago, moving there from his Brattleboro property his varied collections acquired at auctions and by buying out entire contents of attics and cellars in the area. He continued to acquire articles for display until shortly before his death in April, 1960.

Mr. Bushnell's children had continued to operate the museum for three days every weekend. It was open last weekend and last visited by a member of the family Monday night.

J. Paul Bushnell, speaking for the family, said today that the loss could not be measured in dollars and that the insurance carried on the building and contents would not cover it "within thousands of dollars."

"We had documented proof of the authenticity of many of the items," he explained, "and they and others are irreplaceable."

He expressed doubt that few if any items could be reclaimed because the intense heat at the height of the blaze would have ruined even articles that were reasonably fireproof.

Among the valuables lost were several hundred local Indian relics, some of which had been dug up by Mr. Bushnell on property he owned on Broad Brook, Squakheak campsite in pre-Revolutionary days.

A self-styled "Yankee trader," Mr. Bushnell had made many purchases from other collectors to augment his exhibits.

Among the choicest was the largest known collection of copper measures, documented as having been used as official measures by the town of Brattleboro in 1792.

Priceless historical objects from old Fort Dummer, built in 1724, were among the treasures. These had been already designated by the family as gifts to the replica of the fort, now in the planning stage as a tourist attraction.

Fisk Items Gone

Lincolniana, thousands of books and belongings of the late Jim Fisk were other collections lost.

The books, Paul Bushnell, said, included several hundred printed in Brattleboro and other Vermont towns in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These had been set aside for eventual distribution to public museums.

Early photographs also numbered in the thousands, as did Mr. Bushnell's collection of tools.

Since Mr. Bushnell's death his sons and daughters had spent long hours rearranging the collections to display them more advantageously.

They also had presented a number of articles to the Vermont Historical Society and had planned to distribute others. The gifts have included a valuable collection of hand wrought tools of early Vermont, including blacksmith's artifacts, which went to the Farmers' Museum in Plymouth operated by the Vermont Historic Sites Commission.

The state historical society and several public museums had shown interest in other exhibits.

A representative of the Peabody Museum of Natural Hidtory recently inspected and expressed interest in acquiring a large collection of seashells. These were lost along with choice rocks and minerals.

Nearly all of the museum's guns---a large collection and very valuable---had been removed from the mill for exhibit elsewhere after the theft of a half dozen guns from the building.

Also removed and presented to Smithsonian Institution, Washington, was a router, device used in the old mill days to pin beams and also employed similarly to a lathe.

The three floors and atttic of the mill were literally jammed with the collections listed and many others, all painstakingly acquired as a lifetime hobby of one man and all destroyed in a matter of minutes.

Brattleboro Daily Reformer and Vermont Phoenix, August 9, 1962.









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