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Exploring Ludlow's storied past

LUDLOW - Every small town boasts a favorite son or daughter, those locally famous or wider known points of light. But few towns can claim a U.S. President as their own - in the case of Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, Ludlow has a firm hold.

Ok, you sticklers, Plymouth Notch, Vt., is indeed Cool Cal's birthplace, but the president who was weaned on a pickle spent a lot of time in Ludlow; he was a stirling member of the class of 1890 of the historic Black River Academy on High Street.

I am sure a day doesn't pass when a few of us Vermonters think about Mr. Coolidge's common-sense approach to skippering the nation's helm. Coolidge's rural New England values of hard work and self reliance, coupled with pro-business and anti-tax policies, helped ignite a prosperous decade during the 1920s - far from the nation's current wayward course. Sure, the shine on the prosperity apple was gone by the end of the Roaring '20s, but for one brief shining moment, it was 'Keep Cool with Coolidge' and pedal-to-the-medal happy days.

Lesser known, but a genuine native Ludlow son, was Richard Franklin Pettigrew.

Old Pett was a brilliant surveyor, lawyer, and land speculator. And after his family left Vermont's impoverished economy in the 1850s, he moved farther west by 1869. Later, he represented Deadwood mining interests and the rest of Dakota Territory as a U.S. Congressman. When Dakota was split into two states and north and south units were admitted into the union, Pett served as the first U.S. Senator from South Dakota. Even while riding tall in the saddle throughout the Dakota badlands, Pett never forgot his Ludlow roots.

But wait - there's a lot more to the story of Ludlow and you can learn more about it on Saturday, July 24, at 7 p.m., at the Black River Academy Museum.

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