Precious papers open a window into Vt.'s past - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Precious papers open a window into Vt.'s past

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When Robert Kottkamp began digging through records of the United Church of Ludlow looking for information on the 1940s, he had no idea how far back in time the dig would really take him.

"I'm a history buff and this is just... heaven," he said.

Tucked away in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet was what Kottkamp calls a real gem. It's a simple, worn, leather bound record of church "publishments," but for Kottkamp, it was buried treasure.

"It says Peter T. Washburn of Ludlow and Miss Alvira Ferris of Swanton. Ludlow, Vermont, Windsor County, July 27, 1839," Kottkamp read.

A record of marriage of Peter Washburn to his first wife. Washburn was a Ludlow resident later elected governor after serving as one of Vermont's most influential forces in the Civil War.

"It's just fascinating that he would have known somebody from that far away," Kottkamp said.

From Ludlow to Swanton is about a 150-mile trek, which 173 years ago was quite the journey.

"When you look at the records of marriages for that period, it's almost always within a 15 miles. This is Ludlow. They were from Cavendish, sometimes Chester, Mount Holly," Kottkamp said.

At the time of the governor's marriage, the church was located on High Street. It's one of the oldest streets in the town. But as it turns out, the governor probably wasn't married in a church at all.

"Weddings were not held in churches until fairly recently," Kottkamp said. "They were typically in homes or in the pastor's home."

Washburn spent most of his life in Ludlow in one home. Fifty years after his marriage, his family donated their backyard to the then new and still present home of the United Church. And unbeknownst to Kottkamp, also the home of important Washburn family documents.

"That's what's fun about it. It's just serendipity and fun and oh my goodness look what's here," Kottkamp said.

Kottkamp says he's going to keep looking through old records to see who else may have passed through the church's doors.

Washburn was a top lawyer in the state before and after the war, but was governor for just one year-- 1869 to 1870. He died while in office and is buried in Woodstock.

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