Posted by Carrie Fenn on Feb 19, 2020
President-elect Chris Davis with Museum Director Catherine Brooks

February 19, 2020
Charlotte Shelburne Hinesburg Rotary Trinity Episcopal Church, Shelburne VT

Our guests today are Jim Ross, Annette Hanna
Bobb Ibarra from Burlington Sunrise Rotary and Mike Isham from Williston Richmond Rotary

This morning’s devotional is Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a Dream.”

Pies for Breakfast is March 14- PR post haste! Jim D will check in Diana to see what the plan is.

Bobby Ibarra is here to promote the Rotary Spelling Bee- a fundraiser for Imagination Library. The event is March 25 from 6-8:30. Go to for more information. Burlington Sunrise is looking for a Rotary sponsorship. $500 sponsorship receives 4 tickets plus one speller. It’s a great evening and really fun. Dinner by UVM catering team at the Maple Ballroom in the Davis Center.

Williston Richmond Rotary ski challenge is March 27- the race is held at Bolton Valley and is open to teams of 4 Rotary members. This event is the primary fundraiser for heating assistance in Chittenden County, and helps support Thanksgiving baskets, Rotary holiday dinner and Easter baskets.

Race and Dinner is $47 to per person,$30 for dinner only. CSH Rotary is invited to have a team and sponsor a gate.

T-shirts have been ordered- 27 people answered the survey. Shirts should be here at the end of the month. $25 each, summer weight polo shirts.

Catherine Brooks from the Rokeby Museum is our speaker today.
Cathy ’s dad was a Rotarian and a recipient of the Paul Harris award.
The Rokeby Museum opened in 1963. The backside of the main house was built in the 1780’s by the Dakins and purchased in 1791 by Thomas Robinson. The Robinsons built the addition, the front of the main house in 1810.
Rokeby Museum is a 98 acre site with interpretive walking trails, where guests can learn “how a farm becomes a forest.”
Once a very successful sheep farm, now the land is mostly wooded.
Recent additions include a new education center, galleries, office space; all these have made a big difference to what the museum is able to do.

Tom Visser, director of historic preservation at UVM, said Rokeby is a “place where you can go to actually see the buildings that were used for farming.” The farm buildings were restored and preserved, so guests can actually experience what life on the farm was like.


Robinson was an entrepreneur, and one of the first sheep farmers in Vermont. He had a relative buy Merino sheep off the boat from France, spending the equivalent of $10,000 of today’s dollars per sheep. He bought some ewes and a ram and eventually he would have more than 1000 sheep at the farm.

The next generation to live at Rokeby was Rowland Thomas Robinson and his wife Rachel. The Robinsons were Quakers and abolitionists. The property had a strong Underground Railroad history, and the Robinsons often took in fugitives from slavery. When Frederick Douglass came to Vermont he met with derision in Middlebury but was welcomed in Ferrisburg due to Rowland and Rachel’s work.

Rowland and Rachel’s son Rowland Evans Robinson was an illustrator. He went to NYC and took his drawings around to Field and Stream and other outdoor magazines. He became a very successful illustrator and essayist.
He and his wife Anna were radical abolitionists, and quit their Quaker Meeting because the group felt that slavery should be “dismantled” as opposed to abolished.

Rowland went blind later in life and so became a writer. He is honored in the stained glass window at Fletcher Free Library for literature.

Rowland and Anna’s children were the last generation to live at Rokeby.
Rowly, Rowland and Anna’s son, died in 1951, and Elizabeth, his wife, passed in 1961. She left the estate to become a museum.

The Robinsons never cleaned out the house, and when volunteers went to work to create the museum they found 15,000 family letters. These letters became an incredible resource for culture and history of New England, and are catalogued and stored at Middlebury College where they are used by visitors and scholars. There was also a vast amount of material culture that was left behind in the form of paintings and art.

In this past season at Rokeby, the museum presented a Multi media exhibit: Free & Safe, the Underground Railroad in Vermont. The exhibit blows apart some of the myths of the Underground Railroad. Because not many fugitives actually made it to Vermont, those that did were able to live out in the open. Slave catchers didn’t come to Vermont.

One Robinson story shares a conundrum of slavery. Jessie, a slave, escaped from Northern Maryland. The Robinsons hired him on, and Jessie lived and worked for a year, saving $150 to buy his freedom. Robinson wrote a letter to Jessie’s owner, wherein Jessie asked to buy his freedom with the funds he had saved. The slave owner said he was worth $300, but Robinson wouldn’t loan Jessie the money because he didn’t believe that humans should be exchanged for money. Jessie eventually left the farm. The decision bothered Thomas and he put forth a motion years later in the Quaker community that allowed loaning money to slaves to buy their freedom.

Upcoming, the Museum will host exhibit “Mending Fences:” simple and profound acts of repair.
Next month there will be a program about the writings of Rowland Evans Robinson.

The museum is recruiting new volunteer to act as guides this summer. If you or anyone is interested in American history contact Cathy through the website.

We are also pleased to have Allison Gregory, Rokeby’s first full time education and training intern, visiting us today.

The museum’s income comes from giving and grants. The museum is open Mid May to the end of October.

Rokeby is named for a Sir Walter Scott poem about a grand estate; naming of the Rokeby was tongue in cheek.
Rowland’s books were reprinted by Tuttle and are available in used book stores.

The Club presented “Black is the Body” by Emily Bernard to the Charlotte Library.

Our closing thought today:
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

Respectfully submitted, Carrie Fenn