by Ann Gotham
His full name is Edward Sohier Bryant and he was truly an interesting character. I learned about him by digging through real estate records at the Bolton Town Clerks Office, newspaper articles, UVM Bailey Howe Library Special Collections and through various postings on the internet from Harvard and Olmsted entries.
Edward Bryant was born on August 6th, 1883 in Cohasset, Massachusetts and had 2 older brothers.
Son of a physician father, John Bryant and mother, Charlotte Olmsted Bryant. His mother, Charlotte was the Daughter of John C and Mary Olmsted. John died early in life. John’s brother, Frederick Law Olmsted (the renowned landscape architect), Married John’s widow adopting Charlotte and her brothers as young children. This made Edward both a grand nephew as well as a step grandson of Frederick Law Olmsted. Charlotte had mental health problems and was committed to an asylum while Edward was an infant.
He attended St Mark’s School in Southborough, Ma. Graduated from Harvard with an AB in 1906, and then graduated from the Harvard School of Forestry in 1907. After graduating, opened up a Forestry Consulting business (Fisher, Cary, Bryant) and was assisted by his uncle, Frederick Olmsted Jr. Business was located at 141 Milk St in Boston. In 1914 he entered the US Forest Service whose territory was the US, East of the Mississippi.
In 1917 he was commissioned as an army officer in Plattsburgh, NY. Served in WW1 In the Engineers Division subheading “Forestry and Timber Service” stationed in France. Was discharged in 1919 as a Captain. In 1920 his address was 99 Warren St, Boston, residing in the home of his uncle, Frederick Olmsted, Jr.
How did Edward Sohier Bryant arrive in Bolton VT? Who knows? One can only speculate. Did he visit VT during the time when William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb hired Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds of Shelburne Farms? Did he work in VT while employed by the US Forest Service? He spent time in Plattsburgh while commissioned as an army officer. Perhaps gazing across the lake, he could see the tree-less mountains and decided to return after the war?
There are multiple entries for Edward Bryant in Volumes #17-20 of the Town of Bolton records. He began buying land in Bolton in 1922, purchasing 4,400 acres for $24,000 from a Connecticut based timber company, named American Brass Co. During the later 1800s and early 20th century, this area had been nearly clear cut of all valuable timber. While owning the land, he allowed reforestation and was particularly interested in Spruce stands. He continued to purchase acreage and broker right of ways through the 1920s and 1930s. This acreage included at least part of Bolton Mt.
In 1939 He sold a parcel of land to the State of VT in “The Valley of the Little River otherwise known as Waterbury River, above the dam for purposes of flood control” His land holdings must have been extensive.
During the 1940 census, he was listed as age 56, born in Cohasset, Ma and a border of Allie B Thompson, age 72. (husband deceased). The Thompson house still stands, the first house on the left at the bottom of the Bolton Access Rd. She and her husband had previously rented rooms in their house to early Long Trail hikers.
In 1942 Edward Sohier Bryant is listed for draft registration for WW ll in the Town of Bolton. After the war, he tried but failed to get backing to build a rope tow and a base lodge. Base lodge was started and construction was halted. The Deslaurier Family had at one time a piece of timber from the unfinished lodge.
He died either in late 1951 or Early 1952. Was never married, nor had children, although he left money to various sisters in law and relatives. I found no information of where he died or where his remains were buried. His Last Will and Testament is listed in the Bolton Town Records (Vol. 20 p. 269) dated November, 1951. At the time, he had land holdings in Boston, Maine, as well as in Bolton. Executor of his Estate was Richard C Keller. Per the wishes of Mr Bryant, Mr Keller sold the Bolton land holdings to Plant and Griffith Lumber Company “for use of any timber except standing Spruce”. In 1968 Plant and Griffith sold this parcel to Bolton Valley Corporation. And so begins the History of Bolton Valley Ski Area.
So…. what about Bryant Cabin? I can not find a specific date when it was built. It was the upper most of 3 cabins built by Mr. Bryant. From word of mouth, the first cabin was built down low, fairly near to rte 2. The next was built fairly close to Bolton Lodge, the upper most is the only one remaining, “our” Bryant Cabin. A rugged road was built where cars with adventurous drivers could climb to an area just below the Bolton Lodge. From there, travel was by foot or ski.
Gardiner Lane’s History of Bolton Chapter 6 covered the Bryant years. In it, Gardiner was able to interview some “old timer” Bolton residents about Mr. Bryant. He describes Mr Bryant living in the Union League Club in NYC, although I have not found any record of him living there. Gardiner also gave me a copy of a rough ski trail map dated 1947 hand penned (most likely by Mr Bryant) with ~ a dozen trails that also displays the “Upper Cabin” Map shows the intersection “Bolton Mt Trail” with the Long Trail (looks about the same area where current day “Raven’s Wind” meets the Long Trail). Clem Holden, one of the “Old Goats” recalls skiing up to the upper cabin in the 1930s as a boy scout. UVM Outing Club members in the early 1950s recall skiing to the upper Bryant Cabin. I was told by a librarian at UVM Special Collections, there was small announcement written about Bryant Cabins ~ 1930s by GMC enthusiast, (either Theron Dean or Herbert Wheaton Congdon). I searched boxes of their writings and was unable to locate the article. What we do know is the Cabin and ski trails were well established from the map of 1947.
To date, this is the information I found of Pre-Bolton Valley era ski history. Hope you enjoy. Ann Gotham, August 2014