Wednesday, September 12, 2012

End of Journey Report on Vermont A.A. History-Christian Recovery Workshops

International Christian Recovery Coalition

Vermont A.A. History and Christian Recovery September 2012 Workshops


By Dick B.

© 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved


Special Observations at the End of the Journey


Locations we visited, did research at, or identified since our previous trip to Vermont in June 2008:


            Emerald Lake State Park, about 3 ½ miles north of East Dorset, Vermont


Where Lois Burnham Wilson’s family--the Burnhams--had two bungalows for vacation; where Ebby Thacher’s family—the Thachers--owned a vacation property; where Bill Wilson visited with some frequency after Bertha's death; where Bill's friend Mark Whalon delivered mail and visited; and where Bill became a good friend of Lois's brother Rogers Burnham.


            Rutland, about 27 miles north of East Dorset, Vermont


Bill's father, Gilman B. (Gilly) Wilson, got a job in Rutland managing the Rutland-Florence quarry. Gilly, Bill's mother Emily Griffith Wilson, Bill's sister Dorothy, and Bill moved there in 1903 and lived at 42 Chestnut Avenue. Bill attended the Longfellow School—also known as the Church Street School—at 6 Church Street. After Bill’s parents separated, Emily, Bill, and Dorothy moved back to East Dorset in 1906. We took photos of the Longfellow School, of the Wilson home, and of the Congregational Church nearby. (We have been working for several years to determine whether the Wilson family attended that church and/or whether Bill attended Sunday school there—since the family had attended the Congregational church in East Dorset, and Bill had attended its Sunday school. The pastor is checking for us.)


Burlington—the Bailey Howe Library on the Central Campus of the University of Vermont


The campus and its architecture and grounds are extraordinarily beautiful and well kept. The Bailey Howe Library is filled with students, a cafe, hundreds of computers, and a tremendous library search system and stacks. It also has excellent reference and archives areas. I was able to review three books about the great evangelists Moody and Sankey—having just visited the Northfield Seminary for girls and the Mount Hermon School for boys (now combined in Gill, Massachusetts) founded by Dwight L. Moody. At the Bailey Howe  Library, I was able to see the track records of many of the prominent teachers at Moody's schools. I saw the tremendous work of Moody’s professor Henry Drummond. I was also able to see the backdrop of Drummond’s famous sermon on 1 Corinthians 13—“The Greatest Thing in the World” (which was later made into a very popular book). I was reminded also by my son Ken that Dr. Bob's foster-sister, Amanda Carolyn Northrop—after having taught briefly at the St. Johnsbury Academy—taught at the Northfield Seminary for girls from 1885 to 1889. I saw the work of Robert E. Speer, the original author of The Principles of Jesus--source of the Four Absolutes. I noted that Speer had been a teacher, a trustee, and vice president of the Board at the Moody Schools in Massachusetts. We will be reporting soon a good deal of the Moody materials we found at the Bailey Howe Library. And my son Ken is working now with the reference librarian on some of the relevant materials. Col. Franklin Fairbanks of St. Johnsbury—who was a member of the International Sunday School Lesson Committee and for years the superintendent of the Sunday school of North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury—where Bob Smith, his parents, and Amanda Northrop had attended.


Three special credits are extended here to workshop participants during our journeys and visits. All had long been sober and involved in A.A.–with two being Christian leaders as well.


Jim H., from the State of Washington receives the first credit. Jim came all the way from Auburn, Washington, to Vermont to participate. He was with us every step of the way. He took some 800 pictures which we will be placing on the Web and elsewhere. The pictures included signs, campuses, libraries, buildings, photos, and text in many books and newspapers and articles. Jim has served A.A. in many capacities, particularly as an Archivist and service person. He has sponsored many members of A.A. and led many meetings. He is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and A.A. archivist. Jim and others traveled to research and report the East Dorset part in depth. He not only visited but took many pictures of the Wilson House, the Griffith House Library, the East Dorset Congregational Church, and the cemetery where all the Wilson relatives are buried--including the Wilsons, the Griffiths, Dr. Leonard Strong and his wife Dorothy (Bill’s sister). Even Bill’s mother and step-mother are buried there. In closing, Jim H. is one of the sponsors of our trip and is a participant in the International Christian Recovery Coalition. He will continue to work with several workshop participants in receiving and organizing and helping us to publish all the photos on the Web and elsewhere. Three dozen cheers for the enjoyable help and company of Jim in these workshops.


Duane C. from New Hampshire joined us at the Bailey Howe Library on the University of Vermont campus in Burlington for a workshop before we left. Duane is involved in A.A. service as a treasurer; and he has been a GSR and a DCM. He is a devoted Christian leader and participant in the International Christian Recovery Coalition. He is an ardent member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association and works with many afflicted members involved with that organization.


Mel B. of Toledo, Ohio, has not been involved in the workshops, but his book Ebby certainly has. It is an excellent resource and has been substantially used in our preparations for and discussions at the workshops.


Questions to Pursue about Vermont, the Christian Origins of A.A., and the Cofounders of A.A.


As some of you know by now, these workshops have made quite clear the origins of early A.A. in the State of Vermont. There is an abundance of linkage between and among A.A. Vermont personalities and places. The links include:


  • Bill Wilson, born November 26, 1896, in East Dorset, Vermont;
  • East Dorset Congregational Church;
  • Mount Aeolus, and Bill's grandfather Wilson's conversion and cure there;
  • Bill’s parents and grandparents on both sides—who were active in the East Dorset Congregational Church;
  • Bill’s young experiences and familiarity with the Bible, salvation, the Word of God, Sunday school, sermons, hymns, Scripture reading, prayers, conversion meetings, temperance meetings, and revivals;
  • Burr and Burton Seminary--now Burr and Burton Academy--and its Congregational church ties, required four-year Bible study course, daily chapel, prayer meetings, and deep connections with the Young Men’s Christian Association;
  • Ebby Thacher;
  • Reverend Sidney K. Perkins with whom Ebby boarded in Manchester;
  • the Burnham family who summered in Manchester and Emerald Lake;
  • the Young Men's Christian Association;
  • the Young Women's Christian Association;
  • the Manchester Congregational Church;
  • Norwich University which was attended by Bill Wilson, Ebby Thacher, and Lois’s brother Rogers Burnham—where there was required daily chapel, and required church attendance;
  • Bill’s strong ties to Bertha Bamford; and to her father, the Episcopal Rector in Manchester; and
  • the community of Manchester where Bill had played baseball and was visited by his friend Mark Whalon of East Dorset.


The Vermont thread also very much included:


  • Ebby Thacher, whose second home was Manchester.
  • Ebby’s close ties to Bill at Burr and Burton Seminary, during the Bertha Bamford mourning period, and at Norwich Military Academy—not to forget the drinking episodes.
  • The Vermont boyhood period of Bill Wilson and Ebby Thacher, involving Bill, Ebby, Bill’s friend Mark Whalon, the Burnhams, the Congregational churches, the Burr and Burton Seminary, Norwich University (a military academy), Rev. Sidney K. Perkins, and the mutual airplane crash involving Bill and Ebby at Manchester.
  • The whole rescue of Ebby from imprisonment at Brattleboro for inebriety which brought Ebby in touch with the Vermont friends—Cebra Graves, Shep  Cornell, and Rowland Hazard--who taught Ebby much about Jesus Christ, the Bible, and prayer (things which he had been taught as a boy, believed, and admired in these men.)
  • The lodging of Ebby in Calvary Mission in New York where Ebby made his decision for Jesus Christ, followed by his message to Bill, Bill’s checking out the message when Ebby gave his

testimony at Shoemaker’s Calvary Church, and then Bill’s following suit by going himself to the Calvary Mission, handing his life over to Jesus Christ, and proclaiming that he had been born again.

  • Ebby’s visiting Bill in Towns Hospital during Bill’s final stay there beginning December 11, 1934. It was during this hospital stay that Bill reported that his room had “blazed with indescribably white light,” he had experienced the presence of God, he was free, and had been cured of alcoholism--as Bill himself proclaimed on page 191 of the fourth edition of Alcoholics Anonymous.


The Vermont thread, of course, included the whole Robert Smith boyhood in St. Johnsbury (1879-1898). A youth which involved experiences remarkably similar to those of both Bill, and even of Ebby:


  • Training and acquaintance with salvation and the Word of God  through family, church, Sunday school,  temperance meetings, revivals, conversion meetings, Bible study, prayer meetings, and sermons;
  • Disciplined Christian requirements at  Dr. Bob’s St. Johnsbury Academy, at Burr and Burton

Seminary, and at Norwich University—particularly the mandatory daily chapel with its sermons, Scripture reading, hymns, and prayers;

  • the Young Men’s Christian Association; and
  • Bible reading.  


There will be much more to come as workshop participants return to their venues, network, train others, and apply the findings to serve and glorify God and help others willing to believe



Gloria Deo

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