Super Senior: Gordon Tuthill

Published: Sep. 19, 2019 at 4:12 PM EDT
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Ninety-one year-old Gordon Tuthill is a man on the move. Every Monday he makes himself at home in the Bridgewater town vault. "This is where I work," he said.

The small space holds the earliest history of the town. With assistance from town clerk Nancy Robinson, he pulls out old books of the shelves for his research. "This is 1797, this particular one," he explained. It holds land titles going back just six years after Vermont became a state.

"'Know all men by these presence,'" he said, reading a passage. "'I James Pairs of Bridgewater in the County and State of Vermont --yeoman.' Now, yeoman is a farmer."

Tuthill is an expert on titles and ancient roads. "I've researched great many towns in the state of Vermont," he said.

He grew up poor in neighboring Woodstock. He learned his profession on the job starting way back in the '50s. He later becoming a licensed surveyor, mostly for people who wanted to settle land disputes.

One famous client stood out. -- Hollywood tough guy Charles Bronson. He and his actress wife, Jill Ireland, had a house that straddled both Hartland and West Windsor. "He wanted me to show where the town line went through the house," Tuthill said.

Tuthill says Bronson wanted to put the bed right between the boundaries so he could vote in one town and Jill in the other. "You're residency is determined where you sleep," he said.

Tuthill said Bronson was known to be difficult in person. But once we got out into a wood lot, he was an entirely different person. He loved the woods and he understood the woods," He said.

Bronson is buried in his adopted Vermont. But his story is recent history compared to what Tuthill wants to show me on the road. "Now take the dirt road to the left," he directs. Cellar holes from the distant past high up in the hills of Bridgewater.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Does this keep you going?

Gordon Tuthill: Oh yes, absolutely.

The farther we go, the narrower the roads become. Overgrowth makes it difficult for Tuthill to find the former homes but a stone wall piques his interest. "We're on the old road from Woodstock to Rutland," he said.

Reporter Joe Carroll: This was a busy road way back when.

Gordon Tuthill: How busy it was is debatable, but it was the road in 1800.

Tuthill says the earliest land owners were land speculators, many never stepping foot in Vermont. He has a soft spot for the people who came here and struggled.

Reporter Joe Carroll: The people who lived here had to work together to survive, right?

Gordon Tuthill: Absolutely, absolutely.

Reporter Joe Carroll: You wouldn't want to live back then.

Gordon Tuthill: No, no, no.

Tuthill never did find the cellar holes. It's a project for tomorrow in his continuing search for history.

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