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Hattie Brown, newspapers’ eyes on Lincoln, retires after 30 years

LINCOLN — Harriett “Hattie” Brown has delivered the news from Lincoln for three decades as the town correspondent for the Addison Independent. The 94-year-old is sharp as a tack and more active than most people in their 10th decade; but she decided recently that she is ready to pass the job on to another Lincoln resident.
Her last installment of the Lincoln News appeared in this past Thursday’s edition.
Brown said she appreciated all the tidbits that her fellow Lincoln residents sent her about goings on at the church, the Ladies’ Aid Industria and all over town.
“People were very good about giving me good news,” she said.
Kathy Mikkelsen, who pitched in one week this past summer while Brown was away, will take over duties as the new Lincoln correspondent. Anyone who has Lincoln community news to share with the Independent should call Kathy at 453-4014.
Brown said the job is pretty straightforward.
“Kathy asked me how we get it (the news),” she said. “Well, you just talk to people.”
Addison Independent editor Angelo Lynn said Brown must have done a good job talking, because she was the epitome of the weekly newspaper town correspondent. She filed dispatches like clockwork every Monday morning. There was always at least a couple of different news items in her correspondence, and some were so long that you would think Brown went hoarse gathering the news.
“We really appreciate everything Hattie has done for the Independent,” Lynn said. “She was our eyes and ears in Lincoln and we could always count on her. Her community should be proud of her.”
While a fixture in the town now, Brown is not a Lincoln native. She was born in Buel’s Gore on April 10, 1919; a half-brother who had fought in World War I was still in Europe at the time waiting for his demobilization. Her father ran a dairy farm, but he auctioned off the cows when she was very young and moved the family to Bethel looking for better employment. Brown’s mother did home nursing, and young Harriett traveled with her to some assignments and went to school in whatever town her mother was working in. She attended four different schools one year.
Brown and her mother arrived for a job in Lincoln in late October of 1927 — the week before the great flood that marked the most devastating natural disaster in Vermont history before 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene. Brown recalls walking home from school as a third- or fourth-grader and having to make her way through high water.
“The water was up to my knees,” she said. “Someone shouted to me to climb over a fence, but I didn’t want to climb the fence.”
When it came time for high school, Brown boarded with several different families in Bristol and attended Bristol High School. It was not unusual in that era for young people to trade a little bit of work for their host families in exchange for a place to stay and board while attending high school.
“I washed dishes and worked doing different things for Dr. Williamson and for his son, Dr. Harold Williamson,” Brown recalled. “They were so good to me.”
After high school she went to Teachers College in Johnson. But Hattie Purrington found it difficult to live so far away from Fletcher Brown, a young man in Lincoln who farmed with his father. Hattie and Fletcher were married and lived in matrimonial bliss for 64 years before Fletcher passed away.
She had all the usual duties around the farm that she and her husband operated on West Hill, plus they raised a daughter, Pat. Hattie and Fletcher also helped build the house in which they lived, plus a brother’s house, and the houses of two grandchildren. Brown and her husband were also both licensed lay ministers and served as interim pastors of the Panton Church during the 1960s.
She also put her education to its best use, as well
Before becoming the Independent’s Lincoln correspondent, Brown taught grade school locally for 17 years, and then was a substitute teacher for 17 years after that.
In a time before school consolidation there were several small grade schools serving each town in Vermont. Brown started out teaching first through eighth grade in the one-room South Lincoln School. Then she went on to the West Lincoln School and the Corner School on Downingsville Road before ending up at the Lincoln Community School in the center of town. Her years subbing took her farther afield to schools throughout the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union.
“I liked fourth to sixth grade best,” she said. “But I taught all eight grades.”
Brown said she is looking forward to a break from gathering the weekly news in Lincoln.
“I don’t have to plan anything,” she said with satisfaction.
Her daughter, Pat Rainville, knows that her mother won’t really slow down much, particularly with her job at Maple Landmark Woodcraft in Middlebury. Rainville drives her mother down the mountain to Middlebury each morning to work at the factory, which makes wooden toys.
“She works more than anybody else,” Rainville said. “She’s there every day.”
While she looks forward to moving on, Brown responded to a query about the most satisfying aspect of being the Lincoln correspondent with a reply that any newsman could appreciate.
“Just knowing that somebody wanted it in the newspaper and that somebody read it,” Brown said. “That’s it.”
Editor’s note: The Addison Independent could not do half as good a job covering the news in Addison County without our town correspondents. In an age when people seem to be so busy commuting here and there and working on this and that, people in our smaller town sometimes feel they are losing a sense of community. The half-dozen town correspondents we have help gather and disseminate some of the smaller stories that we simply don’t have the time or staff to cover, but which are important to the people who live in those towns. Maybe there is a play or holiday program going on at the school, or someone has an unusually good garden this year, or the town is looking for a new dog warden or fence viewer — these are stories that town correspondents can send into the newspaper and help build their communities.
We need more town correspondents. If you want to be that go-to person for the local news in your town, contact us — by email at [email protected] or call 388-4944 and ask for news editor John McCright. You won’t get rich, but you will enrich your community.

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