Columns, Our Neighborhood, Walden

Cochrans are Classic Vermonters

photo by Mary Wheeler
Ann Cochran sits with crafts she has made on her Singer treadle sewing machine in her kitchen in Walden.

WALDEN – Ann Cochran lives in Walden with her husband Ronald. They have a long and rich history in the Northeast Kingdom. They married on December 26, 1959, and will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary this year.

Ann is an avid seamstress, knitter and embroiderer. Though today Ann makes items to sell and share, she says crafts keep her busy and she loves doing them. However, her hand crafts and talents began out of necessity.

Ann Lambert Cochran grew up in Marshfield with her parents, two brothers and three sisters. Ann’s father was a wood board sawyer at the local sawmill. Her mother was a homemaker and raised their children. Many years later Ann’s mother would become the bookkeeper for Twinfield School.

Ann attended schools in Marshfield and graduated from Marshfield High School. Ann recalls learning some sewing, knitting and embroidery from her Grandmother Hatch and her mother. Ann believes that most of her skills came from teaching herself and learning through doing.

When Ann and Ronald married, they made their first home in Walden where Ronald had grown up. They shared a three-generation home with Ronald’s mother and their two girls and four boys. Ronald worked as a milk tester. Five out of six of their children attended the Noyesville School through elementary school.

Ann made clothes for her children. She recalled going to rummage sales and buying big dresses with large skirts. She would take them apart and reuse the material to make clothing for the family. Ann added, today it wouldn’t be worth making clothes because the price of a yard of material can cost as much as $14 to $15. Ann knit their mittens, hats and socks.

Ann said that some times were hard but they were hard for everyone. She said, “we didn’t have anything but neither did anybody else. We made do with what we had.” They always had a big garden and Ann would can vegetables and make pickles, jams and jellies each year.

The family moved when Ronald took a job as the head herdsman at the Village Farm in Peacham. Their children attended and graduated from Danville High School. Ann continued to make clothing, quilts and other necessities for their family. All four sons played basketball at Danville HS. Ann recalled the boys doing odd jobs in the Peacham Village to earn money to buy basketball sneakers. Ann and Ronald lived in Peacham for 10 years.

After their children had graduated from high school and were beginning their own lives, Ann and Ronald moved to Vernon so Ronald could take a position as head herdsman. They lived in Vernon for 13 years. In 1996, Ronald retired primarily due to injuries received while farming. They moved back to Walden where they had a small camp. Ann said they added on a room here and a room there. Most of their children live in the surrounding area and she said they are a big help.

Ann continues to make dolls, doll clothes, quilts, baby quilts, Christmas ornaments and many more beautifully crafted items. She sews on a Singer Treadle sewing machine which was handed down to her from her sister in 1969. She said she has an electric sewing machine but only uses it occasionally for button holes or zigzag stitches. Ann knits a variety of mittens and socks. She does beautiful embroidery and pillow case sets. Her crafts can be found at the South Walden School House Gallery, Rowell’s Sugar House in West Danville and at the Top of the Mountain Vegetable Farm and Bakery in Walden. Ann provides jams and jellies for Rowell’s Sugar House.

Ann and Ronald could certainly be described as classic Vermonters. They’ve worked hard all their lives, raised a family, contributed to their community and are now enjoying their quiet life tucked away in Walden and the Northeast Kingdom. Unfortunately, many of the hand crafting skills that Ann exemplifies, sewing, knitting and embroidery, are being lost. These crafts were often taught generationally and traditionally to girls.

Mary Wheeler, Community Journalist

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