75 Hillside Road, Quechee, VT
The Burtch-Udall Homestead (the Theron Boyd House) is a unique historic site that will provide insight into 200 years of Vermont life when it is formally opened to the public.
The town of Hartford was still very much on the frontier in 1765 when Benjamin Burtch arrived with his family from Stonington, Connecticut. He acquired a considerable amount of land on the remote central western border of town, now Quechee, where he built a log cabin in 1768, soon replaced by a frame house that he ran as a tavern.
William Burtch, Benjamin’s son, built what we now know as the Burtch-Udall Homestead. William was a successful merchant, selling, among other things, medicinal ginseng, in addition to operating a pottery and several pot ash works and a brickyard. In 1800, he was one of the largest taxpayers in Hartford and had 22 people staying in his house.
But hard times fell on the Burtch family, and by 1805, the entire farm, about 500 acres, was mortgaged to William’s prosperous uncle, Samuel Udall. Three years later, William moved his entire family to Ohio, but while traveling on to Indiana, they contracted “the fever” – and all but two children died.
On his deathbed in 1805, just three months after purchasing the farm, Samuel Udall deeded it to his 26 year old son, making arrangements for his widow to continue to live there. James and his wife, Sophia Downer Champlin, had 10 children over a period of 24 years. He bred Merino sheep, Durham cattle and Morgan horses, plus tried to turn the brickyard into a more prosperous business and taught at local schools. Still, he was forced to take out a series of heavy mortgages on the property, and by 1845, the farm was down to 200 acres. In 1862, his youngest son, Henry, took it over, selling two different parcels to local mill owner J.D. Parker.
Henry sold the farm then reduced to 35 acres, to his widowed sister Sophia and his sister Lydia’s husband, sculptor Henry Kirk Brown. Sophia ran the farm until her death in 1893. In 1898, it was sold at auction to neighbors Mary and Albert Cowdray and their daughter Florence.
Theron Boyd (1901-1989) was born in the Burtch Udall house and became its sole occupant in 1932. On principle, he never added central heat, electricity or plumbing.
Florence’s son, Theron Boyd, was born in the house in 1901 and was raised by his grandmother, Mary Cowdray, and his great-uncle, George Morgan. After Florence’s marriage to Willis Bagley the couple moved to Lebanon, NH. Theron lived on the Quechee property until the 1980’s when, after refusing to sell to a land developer, he engaged in a complicated arrangement in exchange for his elderly care that eventually brought the property to the Vermont Land Trust for preservation. Theron died at Mertens House in Woodstock at the age of 88.
The two-story timber frame Burtch-Udall House is in the transitional Georgian/Federal style, one of the few of its kind in the Upper Valley. It was constructed of local materials, the Burtches operated both a brickyard and a sawmill, and imported glass for its 12/12 sash windows. The house is capped with a hipped roof punctuated by a massive central chimney.
The only known layer of paint, ochre with white trim, was probably added during William Burtch’s tenure on the property. Between 1805 -1810, James Udall completed the interior, adding transoms and decorative detailing to the exterior doorways and two five-plate stoves to heat the east and west parlors.
The brick ell, in Federal Period style, was added in the 1830’s – the upper floor burned in a major fire caused by lightening in 1936.
The Cowdrays added a Colonial Revival entry porch on the front of the house, built a picket fence and installed a kitchen sink and gravity fed water line. After the 1936 fire in the brick ell, the carriage bays were enclosed by plank doors. In 1920 Theron Boyd built a sugar house on the property which was destroyed by fire in 2006. The entry porch rotted and fell down in 1942.
The barn was constructed around 1786 and by 1989 had partially fallen in. The Vermont Land Trust, with the advice of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, hired Jan Lewandoski of Greensboro to dismantle the barn, restore the deteriorated wood and re-erect the barn.
In 1989 the Vermont Land Trust deeded the property to the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation so the property could become one of the State-owned Historic Sites. Basic stabilization has been done to the house and eventually when funding is received the property will formally open to the public.
Open by Appointment from late May - Mid October
For more information please call 802-828-3051