LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 33, No.2 - Summer 1987
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
Copyright © 1987 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
THE LITHUANIANS OF ARLINGTON*
From 1899 to 1905, 530 Lithuanians entering United States ports listed Vermont as their ultimate destination.1 These Lithuanian immigrants quickly dispersed around the state, never plentiful enough in any one community to forge a strong group or to incorporate a society. Though elsewhere almost all such immigrant enclaves quickly formed a mutual sick-death benefit organization, the Lithuanians in Vermont apparently never organized such an association.2 Lithuanians at West Rutland and Bellows Falls were mistaken for Poles. Meanwhile, they voluntarily affiliated with the Polish parishes, and for the most part integrated with this larger ethnic group. A few years ago, Anthony Lipnickas, a second-generation Lithuanian resident of West Rutland, spontaneously compiled for this writer a list of fellow ethnics in West Rutland, listing twenty couples and forty individuals. Elsewhere, tiny clusters of Lithuanians had gathered at Barre, Graniteville, and Windsor.3
In 1981, after T.D.S. Bassett completed a massive bibliography of the published material on Vermont's history, he concluded that "one clear need ... is to shape a new, comprehensive image of Vermont with a strong ingredient of ethnic history."4 Recent accounts of Vermont's past have only hinted at the complex and important ethnic mosaic. Earle Williams Newton called Barre "one of the most cosmopolitan cities in New England," and listed by countries of origin Barre residents from Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, and Wales, but the index to his volume included only French, Jews, and Welsh.5 Charles T. Morrissey's 1981 history, written for the national bicentennial, includes index references to French-Canadians, Greeks, Irish, Italians, Hungarians, and Welsh, and his text also mentions Lebanese, Russians, and Rusyn-Carpathians.6 Perry Merrill includes none of these immigrants in his index, though he does name a dozen groups in his narrative.7 Yet none of these historians recognized a Polish presence in West Rutland and Bellows Falls of sufficient size to establish two ethnic churches in 1905 and 1909. One student refers to the "Irish and Polish" who arrived in Bellows Falls seeking jobs in the first decade of the twentieth century.8 Of the 16,500 soldiers from Vermont who participated in World War I at least seventy-five were Slavs and five were Lithuanians. The 650 Vermont fatalities in World War I included a scattering of foreign-born French, Irish, Italians, as well as three Poles. The 870 wounded numbered 4 Poles and 2 Lithuanians.9 Even so, Lithuanians appear to have escaped identification by students of Vermont history.
The Lithuanian immigrants in Arlington found their way to the Hale chair factory.10 The owner of the factory, William F. Smith, apparently recruited them through a steamship company. Travel officials often doubled as employment agents, assembling labor gangs on the docks at the port of entry. Smith, who experienced labor troubles which included a strike in February, 1908, may have tried to find more pliable and willing hands among available immigrants.11 The Lithuanian colony in Arlington began sometime around 1907 when the "Hale Company had some 300 employees, probably 100 of these were Lithuanians."12 Two recognizably Lithuanian names appeared for 1907 in the "Grand List of the Town of Arlington, Vermont Annual Valuation."13 The records described each as a "Swede." In 1908, when five Lithuanians paid the poll tax, an uninformed clerk penciled in the word "Polander."
1908 - 5
1909 - 9
1911 - 30
1912 - 26
1917 - 4
The poll tax records in Table 1 suggest the extent of the Lithuanian colony. The records refer only to males, who by law had to pay the annual assessment. At census time a few, perhaps mischievously, asked the landlord to omit mention of their presence in an effort to avoid payment; therefore, the number may be a bit low. Father Patrick T.Hannon in his short "History of St. Columban's Parish" commented that "About 1914 a number of Polish and Lithuanian families moved into the parish."14 The year was incorrect, and his mention of Poles was gratuitous, as hardly a single Pole lived in Arlington, but Father Hannon at least recognized a separate ethnic group of "Lithuanians." Starting with the first wedding, Father Bernard Kelly consistently inscribed his sacramental register with the word "Lithuanians."
Since the vast majority of Lithuanians were Roman Catholics, they attended the nearest Catholic church, St. Columban in nearby Manchester. The church marriage records provide a clue to the early arrivals and their numbers. As early as January 18, 1908, the first Lithuanian immigrant marriage took place between Adam Wilkes (Adomas Vilkas), age 31, and Casimira Eudes (probably "Juodis"), age 22. Father Bernard Kelly officiated at the Arlington ceremony, probably in a home. The first recorded birth of immigrant parents was the son of this couple. Born in October, 1908, his name was Michael Wilkes.
Next to the Jews, the Lithuanians in America tended to have the lowest rate of intermarriage.15 Even in a settlement as isolated as Arlington, not one immigrant chose a spouse outside the ethnic group. In the brief sojourn of Lithuanians there, twenty-two couples wed, including two pairs who exchanged vows before a justice of the peace, and one couple who used the services of a Baptist minister. These last three ceremonies caused raised eyebrows in the Lithuanian community, which did not regard them as genuine marriages, as they took place outside the authority of the Catholic church. The other nineteen weddings occurred in the presence of Father Kelly. See Table 2.
|1908 - 1
1909 - 0
1910 - 4
1911 - 2
1914 - 2
These civil certificates of marriage listed only the groom's occupation and nine men described themselves as "shophand," one did "shopwork," seven called themselves "laborers," one each indicated "painter" and "woodworker," while three were undesignated. Most likely all of them worked at the Hale factory.
Not long after Smith brought the Lithuanians to Arlington his wife built a large "block" as a dormitory for as many as one hundred workers, chiefly if not exclusively for the Lithuanians. Prosper Deschenes, who has recorded his recollections of these years, taught some of the more eager Lithuanians the basics of arithmetic. "One of the factors," he recalled, "was in making out time slips in the factory, and having to write down the chair numbers, packing department, etc." Certain ones worked in the packing room, others as firemen, watchmen, painters, and sprayers, Deschenes thought the Lithuanians were an industrious and dependable crew.16
Deschenes kindly took further note of the needs of these newcomers "by conducting a class for naturalization and inducing a clerk from the court in Rutland, Vermont, to come here (Arlington) and in turn hold a court session in the Hale Company office, and in that way they got their first papers."17 Not a single Lithuanian immigrant, however, seems to have followed through to final certification, at least while residing in Vermont.
Generally lacking anything beyond the rudiments of literacy, the Lithuanians had to be reliable employees to support themselves and their families. During their stay at Arlington, twenty-two sets of parents gave birth to thirty-four children: fourteen boys and twenty girls. These infants were christened at the Catholic Church in Manchester, with a few exceptions from parents who neglected the required rite. As with the marriages outside the requirements of the Catholic church, these instances of baptismal negligence occasioned gossip and controversy. In an age when a midwife often assisted at birth, occasionally neither she nor the parents recorded the birth at the town hall. Thus in each of the years from 1908 to 1912 inclusive there was a baptism with no corresponding civil record, and in 1913 there were two such baptisms.
|1908 - 1
1909 - 1
1910 - 1
1911 - 2
1912 - 5
1913 - 6
The Lithuanian workers put in long days. "In 1908 the wage was $1.35 per day and the factory hours were 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily, including Saturdays, ten hours per day, six days a week, with one hour for dinner at noon."18 Perhaps "by the standards of the time, Hale was paying good wages. Factory hands were getting $1.35 a day." The laborers "hadn't always had it so good. They'd been getting ninety-nine cents a day,"19 and other workers had walked out in a dispute with Hale management.
Despite insignificant pay, the Lithuanians, by practicing strict thrift, managed to build a community. The more disciplined zealously saved all they could spare, and in a short time a few managed to buy land for farming as a second occupation, or a modest plot with a cottage. The first two property owners were Adam Wilkes and Raymond Baltrun. Wilkes purchased real estate for $120 on April 16, 1912; Baltrun followed with a $300 purchase on April 25 of the same year.20 Several others subsequently acquired property, but Raymond Baltrun enjoyed his moment of prosperity only briefly. He died on December 9,1915, at the age of only forty-five, suffering a fatal ruptured duodenal ulcer.21
Apart from these property owners, the majority of Lithuanians lived in modest circumstances. Some underwent the indignity of seeking public welfare. Town records, which contain hospital and doctors' bills as well as funeral expenses assumed by the Overseer of the Poor, mention few Lithuanians. In 1913 one unfortunate woman received treatment for illness at a Brattleboro hospital and the town covered the costs.22
Despite the illiteracy of the majority, a few, probably self-taught, were capable of transmitting simple correspondence to their ethnic press. D.J. Aleksis, H. Bučieraitis, and J. Kaminskas all wrote to the one major Lithuanian weekly in New England, the socialist Keleivis published in South Boston. From 1912 to 1916, this paper carried seventeen notices from East Arlington and these fragments help reconstruct something of the social life of these immigrants.
After arduous hours of toil the immigrants found little outlet for their limited leisure hours. Some sought solace in the bottle. Although Arlington was "dry," with no saloons in town, an agent from another community came to take orders. On weekends certain Lithuanian homes "pulsated" with the flow of whiskey and beer. "There's no lack of brawling and other ugly results of drunkenness," lamented one anonymous scribe in 1912. Nor was card playing for money unknown in the immigrant quarters. While weddings and baptisms furnished occasion for merrymaking, at times these became occasions for misconduct. Even the sacred season of Christmas was not immune to the misuse of alcohol.23
Part of the Lithuanians' problems with alcohol stemmed from inadequate working conditions and wages, a common topic of conversation. Early in 1912, when business at the chair factory had slowed considerably, other Lithuanians were warned not to come to Arlington in search of work. As soon as the climate improved, the company encouraged new arrivals with the promise of paying them $1 to $1.75 for a ten-hour day. Though the Lithuanians were not organized in any sort of union, when grievances mounted, they would act as a group. Their so-called Christmas bonus of December, 1915, when each received an hour off from work and a cigar, created general dissatisfaction. "You see what wholeheartedness is!" one of the workers wrote sarcastically. Later another observer ridiculed the wealthy summer residents, especially the factory owner's family, during whose visit the factory whistle was reportedly reduced in volume by four times so it would not intrude on their play.
When their work week was cut back to just four days, with pay reduced to a dollar for ten hours, the Lithuanians spoke up demandingly. Meanwhile, with rosy promises the owners had recruited a few Russian immigrants from New York state. The Russians, on seeing the poor working conditions, left. When the employer reluctantly added a few pennies to Lithuanian wages, he cautioned them not to tell any other workers. But the immigrants' concern went beyond their immediate needs. They had a sense of solidarity with laborers elsewhere. In 1913 they took up a collection to aid the New York garment workers' strike fund. Gifts of thirty donors, collected by the trio of D.J. Aleksis, J. Mikaitis, and A. Pašakarnis, ranged from twenty cents to a whole dollar, and altogether totaled $11.35.24
Though toil in the same factory produced a certain camaraderie, it did not meet the workers' need to enrich their lives. Raymond Baltrun, before his untimely death, had acquired some learning. On his own initiative he sought to enlighten his ethnic peers by gathering them to listen to talks on nature, monologues and readings. Only a few responded to these worthy efforts.25 Another group formed an Improvement Circle ("Lavinimosi Ratelis"). But by early 1916 the group disbanded. It had eight original members, rose to sixteen, but then steadily lost membership as the active participants moved out of town.26 Several other leaders strove to induce a formal sense of community by instigating local chapters of nationwide organizations. In 1912 six immigrants united as members of the Homeland Patriots Society, and as such affiliated with the Lithuanian Alliance of America, receiving number twenty-five for their chapter. They dreamt of starting a library, planning Sunday talks, and even beginning a little school, though evidently they never achieved any of these projects.27 The Arlington groups suffered from a split between churchgoers and liberals or freethinkers a fissure typical of the immigrant diaspora in the United States. Within a year of the founding of the local chapter of the Alliance, the religionists asserted themselves. Since the Alliance bylaws forbade two chapters in the same community, the majority transferred allegiance to the Catholic counterpart, the Lithuanian Roman Catholic Alliance, in January, 1914.28
The disunity of the Lithuanians at times echoed in the factory itself. Some of the fervent evidently voiced complaints to the foremen against the socialist-minded. In a bitter lament one partisan socialist cried out rhetorically, asking who was inscribing hostile grafitti on factory walls such as: Keleivio redaktorius ("Editor of Keleivis"), socialistų motina ("socialists' mother"), and socialistas ("the socialist").29
Underneath the occasional outbursts and the division within the community, the shared religion of the Lithuanians provided a sense of belonging. The godparents' names in the church register demonstrate that most of those invited to be sponsors at a christening came from within the colony, and the more prominent among them were chosen more than once. For instance, Anna Daniels (Lithuanian name not clear) acted as godmother five times; both Raymond Baltrun and Michael Genis filled the role of godfather three times each; while eight others each served as sponsors twice. Evidence for some degree of close association also appeared in the choice of wedding witnesses, often chosen from inside the Arlington enclave.30
Before the third decade of the twentieth century almost all of the Lithuanians had left Arlington; a few of their children stayed. Ann Danuinas Webb and Zelma E. Hannan remained, and Ann's brother, John, though still a property owner in Arlington, now lives in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Otherwise, when the Lithuanians departed from Arlington, they left for good. Perhaps the most noted Lithuanian-American from the Arlington group was Sonia Baltrun(as) Kaross, in 1914 a grammar school graduate of West Arlington at age thirteen. She went to work "sandpapering chairs in a factory (Hale), a backbreaking task that involved hoisting heavy furniture. The boss happened to notice her excellent handwriting and sent her to the office to mark down work totals. Then he taught her rudimentary bookkeeping. For this job, she earned $4 for a 60-hour week." In adult life she became a socialist, then a communist, and to this day she remains active as an ardent agitator in Oakland, California, and other west coast cities.31
Thus some one hundred or more immigrants from Lithuania came to the southern Vermont village of Arlington, helped manufacture chairs and related furniture for the convenience and pleasure of countless unknown buyers, and after a ten-year span quietly slipped away, leaving barely a trace of their presence.
Lithuanians Living in Arlington, Vermont
The first column lists the first name in correct Lithuanian, followed by the English equivalent in brackets. Where applicable, there follows in parentheses one or another of the variant spellings of names and surnames found in various documents. Lithuanian grammar reveals the female marital status by the ending of the surname affixed to the stem of the family name. Nevertheless, clarity suggests that for the women the family surname itself be used in this roster. The parentheses sometimes shows an attempt in English language sources to express the maiden suffix such as "aitė," "iūtė," or "ytė." The name "Mary" presents a special case. Although many females were given the Lithuanian "Marija" out of respect for the Holy Virgin among Roman Catholics, this same intense deference precluded the actual use of the name. Instead a variant, usually the equivalent of "Marion" ("Marijona"), was used in practice. A few names were impossible to decipher.
1) F. (?)
2) Aleksandras (Alexander)
3) D.J. (?)
4) Juozas (Joseph)
5) E. (?) (female)
6) Elzbieta (Elizabeth) (Lizzie)
7) Viktorija (Victoria)
8) Uršulė (Ursula)
9) Raimundas (Raymond) or
10) Jadvyga? (Hedwig)
11) A. (?)
12) Ona (Anna)
13) Rožė (Rose)
14) Pranas (Frank)
15) Juozafina (Josephine) (Josie)
16) Jonas (John)
17) Juozas (Joseph)
18) J. (?) male
19) Jonas (John)
20) Ona (Anna) (Daniels)
21) Juozas (Joseph)
23) Ona (Anna)
24) Rozalija (Rosalie)
25) K? male
25a) female, wife of above?
26) V. (?)
27) Mykolas (Michael) (Mike)
28) Jurgis (George)
29) Pilypas (Philip)
30) Juozas (Joseph) (Joe)
31) Kazimieras (Casimir) (Charlie)
32) Antanas (Anthony)
33) Agnietė (Agnes)
34) J. (?) male
35) V. (?) male
36) Steponas (Stephen)
37) Tomas (Thomas)
38) Kazimira (Casimira) (Charlene)
39) Uršulė (Ursula)
40) Mykolas (Michael)
41) W. (?) male
42) Aleksandras (Alexander)
43) Simonas (Simon)
44) J. (?) male
45) T. (?) male
46) Jurgis (George)
47) Juozas (Joseph)
48) Antanas (Anthony)
49) Ignotas (Ignatius)
50) J. (?) male
52) Juozafina (Josephine)
53) Juozas (Joseph)
54) Viktoras (Victor)
55) Elzbieta (Elizabeth)
56) Antanas (Anthony)
57) Amelija (Amelia)
58) Jonas (John)
59) Antanas (Anthony)
60) Marijona (Mary)?
61) Magdė (Magdalen)
62) Jonas (John)
63) Zigmas (Zigmant) (Ygmas)
64) Jonas (John)
65) Juozas (Joseph) (Joe)
66) J. (?) male
67) Juozas (Joseph)
69) Magdė (Magdalen) (Maggie)
70) Pranas (Frank)
71) Veronika (Veronica)
72) Tomas (Thomas)
73) Juozas (Joseph)
74) Barbora (Barbara)
75) Juozas (Joseph)
76) Elzbieta (Elizabeth)
77) A. (?) male
78) Mykolas (Michael)
79) Tomas (Thomas)
80) Marijona (Mary)
81) ? male
82) J. (?) male
83) Margarita (Margaret)
84) Pranė (Frances)
85) Juozas (Joseph)
86) Kazimieras (Casimir) (Charles)
87) Amelija (Amelia)
88) Veronika (Veronica)
89) D. (?) male
90) A. (?) male
91) Juozas (Joseph)
92) Feliksas (Felix)
93) Domicėlė (Domicella)
94) Boleslvas (Boleslaw)
95) Elzbieta (Elizabeth) (Lizzie)
96) Mykolas (Michael)
97) Paulina (Pauline)
98) Marijona (Mary)
99) Karolina (Caroline)
100) Dominikas (Dominic)
101) V. (?) male
102) Vincas (Vincent) (William)
103) Marijona (Mary)
104) Aleksandras (Alexander) (Toney)
105) Magdė (Magdalen)
106) Amelija (Amelia)
107) Adomas (Adam)
108) A. (?) male
109) Marijona (Mary)
Aleksis or Aleksaitis
Maiden name lacking
(Maiden name lacking)
Gikis or Gerkis
Gricius or Greičius
Kovas (Kavas, Kavos)
* Originally appeared in: The Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society, Summer, 1986, Vol. 54, No. 3, pp. 164-174. Reprinted by permission.
1 V.K. Račkauskas, America arba rinkinys įvairių faktų (New York, 1915), pp. 202-05.
2 Files, Secretary of State, Montpelier, Vermont.
3 On Bellows Falls, see Keleivis, September 24, 1908; September 16, October 21, November 25, 1909; January 6, 1910; and August 28, September 11, 1913; on Barre, July 26, 1912 and June 5, 1913; on Graniteville, see March 7, 1912; on West Rutland, see August 19,1909; and on Windsor, October 31, 1917.
4 T. D. Seymour Bassett, ed., Vermont, A Bibliography of Its History (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1981), p. xx.
5 Earle W. Newton, The Vermont Story: A History of the People of the Green Mountain State (Montpelier, 1949), p. 152.
6 Charles T. Morrissey, Vermont A Bicentennial History (W. W. Norton, New York, 1981) pp. 115-17.
7 Perry Merrill, Vermont Under Four Flags: A History of the Green Mountain State 1635-1975 (Montpelier, 1975), pp. 124-28.
8 Allison M. Deen, "The Story of the 1921 (sic; should be 1912) Strike Against the International Paper Company in Bellows Falls, Vermont," 1983, p. 2, photocopy of 25-page typescript at Vermont Historical Society, Montpelier, Vermont.
9 See Herbert T. Johnson, Roster of Vermont Men and Women in the Military and Naval Service of the United States and Allies in the World War 1917-1919 (Montpelier, 1927), passim; and Eds. John T. Cushing and Arthur F. Store, Vermont in the World War 1917-1919 (Burlington, 1928), pp. 303, 318, 320 and 302-45.
10 Prosper E. Deschenes, Hale of Vermont (n.p., 1973) pp. 8-9, Russell Vermontiana Collection, Arlington Public Library, Arlington, Vermont. This unusual fifty-four page reminiscence of an eighty-six year old lifelong Hale employee gives several references to Lithuanians.
11 Tyler Resch, The Shires of Bennington: A Sampler of Green Mountain Heritage (Bennington, 1975), p. 82.
12 Prosper E. Deschenes, "A History of Happenings That Occurred Over a Period of 65 Years, While Employed by the Hale Company, Inc. 1908-1973," p. 4. 88-page typescript, Russell Vermontiana Collection, Arlington, Vermont.
13 Antonius Petranis and P. Yenitisius, the correct Lithuanian probably "Petronis" and "Janušis."
14 Fourteen-page mimeographed paper, 1914?, p. 7, Russell Vermontiana Collection, Arlington, Vermont.
15 William Wolkovich-Valkavičius, "Lithuanians of Worcester, Massachusetts: A Socio-historic Glimpse at Marriage Records, 1910-1914 and 1930-1934," in Lituanus, summer, 1980, 63-87.
16 Deschenes, "A History of Happenings," p. 4; and interview with Deschenes, July 10, 1984, Prospect Nursing Home, Bennington, Vermont.
17 Ibid, p. 4.
18 Ibid, p. 3.
19 Deschenes, Hale of Vermont, p. 6.
20 Land Records, Vol. 20, p. 280; p. 266; Arlington, Vermont.
21 Death Records, Arlington, Vermont.
22 See Town Report, 1911 and 1914.
23 Keleivis, February 15, August 22, 1912; July 24, 1913; February 12, 1914; and January 12, 1916.
24 Ibid., March 14, May 2, 1912; and January 12, May 31, August 9, 1916.
25 Ibid., February 6 and July 24, 1913.
26 Ibid., February 6, 1916.
27 Ibid., October 24, 1912; and February 13, 1913.
28 Ibid., February 12, 1914.
29 Ibid., June 28, 1916.
30 Registers of Baptism and Marriage, St. Paul Church, Manchester. This name succeeded the earlier name of St. Columban.
31 Laisvė (a communist publication from Ozone Park, New York), March 30, 1984.
**Perhaps the informant misunderstood the clerk's query, and gave the married name for this woman, since her husband's surname is the same.
*** No. 56 may well be the same as No. 32.