By Barbara Emery Moseley
During World War II, in Vernon there was a U. S. Post Office, a gas pump, and a few grocery items were available, such as bread, milk and candy for neighborhood children. The operation was owned by Hattie Dunklee and her son, Hazen Nesbitt.
It was located on Fort Bridgman Road (Route 142) just south of what is the elementary school recreation field today. Mrs. Dunklee noticed there were two men coming in for gas and she overheard them mentioning “sewing machines.” That piqued her suspicions and she notified Sheriff O’Keefe in Brattleboro. His investigation located numerous sewing machines in the third floor of the abandoned Whithed Mill, a little farther south, where the current post office is today. Awaiting their return that night, the sheriff arrested them and took them to the county jail in Newfane.
However, the old Whithed Mill soon took on a new life, and it would become known as Bushnell’s Mill. Jason Bushnell was the owner of a popular grocery store on Elliot Street in Brattleboro. His pastime was attending auctions in the area, usually waiting for near the end, when “odd lots” of items that had not had bids were sold. In that way, he acquired lots of kerosene lamps or bizarre items like a stuffed crocodile and many stuffed deer heads, to which he might add a fancy hat. Somehow he acquired the official copper dry measures of Vermont.
All of this and much more he housed in the former Whithed Mill and called it “Bushnell’s Museum,” and the mill became Bushnell’s Mill. An apartment for him and his wife Florence was carved out as a pleasant summer place, cooler than their home in Brattleboro. Other employees ran the store while they stayed at the Mill.
Jason Bushnell provided Vernon’s first fireworks display, in an open field about where the Vernon firehouse is today. Only one house was in the area, and no doubt its occupants enjoyed the show as well. They were shot off in the direction of the railroad tracks. There was plenty of parking. Bushnell also allowed swimming in the mill pond, which as fed by the water of the Cold Brook.
However, the mill and all its contents burned in August 1962. The fire was probably due to faulty wiring. Only the dam and pit remained, and pleasant memories for many people.
Stay tuned for the next chapter!