Jean Miner: Making sure Hinesburg’s past is not forgotten

Courtesy photo
Jean Miner leads the push for a permanent home for Hinesburg history.

Jean Miner may be 87 years old but she’s not slowing down. For the last 30 years, she has been an integral part of the Hinesburg Historical Society and now she and others are actively looking for a place to house the records and artifacts the society has collected over the years.

Born and raised on a dairy farm in Hinesburg, Miner was part of an 11-student graduating class at Hinesburg High School and maintained family tradition by marrying another Hinesburg dairy farmer.

When her kids were grown and she and her husband sold their farmhouse in favor of a smaller home, she had time on her hands. In 1987, Ruth Murray put a notice in the paper asking for help working on the history of Hinesburg, and Miner volunteered to drive her mother to the meetings at Murray’s house.

The secretary of the group wasn’t able to attend the second or third meeting, so a pen and pad were pushed across the table and Miner suddenly had a title.

When Murray passed away, the meetings moved to Miner’s mother’s home and when she died in 2008, Miner worried about the future of the group. “I thought this was something we shouldn’t lose,” she said, “so it was my turn to put a notice in the paper.”

Miner received many responses including some from members of a younger generation and the Hinesburg Historical Society was revived.

“The joke is that I’m president for life.” Miner said, and there is some truth to that. After Murray’s death, a letter was sent to “Town Historian, Hinesburg, Vermont” and the post office delivered it to Miner.

In addition to her historical society duties, she has taken on other tasks. In the mid 2000s, a building inspector found a box labeled “old documents” in a crack in the wall at Town Hall. The box was turned over to Miner to organize.

“They were town orders for services rendered,” she said. “The early ones were from the 1790s and the amounts were in pounds and shillings. They were written on scraps because paper was expensive.” Those records are now stored in the town vault.

As more and more people became interested in genealogy, Hinesburg residents started going to Town Hall, hoping to trace their ancestors. Once again, Miner was called for assistance and she helped residents track their family history through some of the old documents.

In the 1990s, Cemetery Commissioner and custodian Leon Place was looking for someone to chart the town’s 14 cemeteries. Miner started the work in 1995 and completed the task three years later. Instead of that being the end of a job it was the beginning of a new one as Miner was then asked to take charge of selling plots. She was promised it would only be temporary; last summer, after 18 years, she was finally able to relinquish the role.

Miner doesn’t think her volunteer work is anything extraordinary. “I think a lot of people give a lot more time, but I enjoy setting things straight and getting things in order,” she said.

As for order, Miner does have one request for her fellow citizens. The Historical Society would like a place to store the town’s records and artifacts. The society doesn’t collect dues and therefore doesn’t have enough money to purchase space, but they would love a dedicated location for the collection.

“This stuff should have a good home,” Miner said.

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