40th Annual Webster Fall Festival Honors Gloria Brigham


By Dave Polley

This year’s 40th Annual Webster Fall Festival will be dedicated to Gloria Brigham, aged 93. Brigham and her late husband Jack recalled the excitement of the early discussions on preserving some of the history and earlier life of Webster Township.

“Jim Parker and Rev. John Gardner, along with my friend Marjorie Smyth were key people in making this a reality.” Brigham remembers when May Mast sold land to relocate the Wheeler Blacksmith Shop from North Territorial to the grounds. “We hired Amish men from near Coldwater to take the shop down board by board and then rebuild it in the present location. Each night they were driven back to Coldwater. They worked so hard.”

Gloria Brigham. Courtesy of Webster Historical Society.

A particularly fond memory of previous Fall Festivals for Brigham was the second one in 1983 which featured a local Homes Tour. The Brigham house, off of Webster Church Road, was one of the featured homes. A few years prior, Gloria had seen ads in the magazine Early American Life for a New England Bow House kit – one in which the roof is bowed in the shape of a ship. The Brighams and their four children were living on Merkel Road at the time. After much discussion over some time with regular ads continuing to be posted in the magazine, Gloria was finally able to convince Jack to order the kit. Their Merkel Road place sold much faster than anticipated. They purchased land from church friend May Mast. Jack scouted out where a fox den was located on the property with the belief that foxes would favor “perkable” ground. Jack found a den and that is near where their house stands today surrounded by Gloria’s beautiful gardens. “We have never had a problem with that septic field,” Gloria states.

“That year was crazy,” recalls Gloria. “What were we thinking?! We unloaded the truck in one October day and lived that winter in a trailer behind the house. Jack did most of the work on my dream home.”

The nearness to Troop 477 Scout Cabin was quite convenient for Jack who was the leader and Scout Master for over 60 years. Many Eagle Scout projects dot both the grounds of the historic Webster Village and Webster Church along with the Scadin parsonage property to the north. There is a large plaque noting the various Eagle Scout Projects on the interior west wall of May’s Barn.

Gloria Brigham’s eyes twinkle and face quickly grins as she recalls the moving of Podunk School and the Old Town Hall from their historic locations to Webster Village. She also heartily commends Dave Calhoun and Dan Chapman for their work in seeing the dream of a general store become realized in the fundraising and construction of Kleinschmidt’s General Store. “That was quite a group of people that came together to start all this,” Brigham reminiscences.

The Webster Township Historical Society and the Webster United Church of Christ invite everyone to the 40th annual Webster Fall Festival. A 10AM auction kicks off a fun-filled day complete with several musical performances from the Dieterle Corncrib, inside the church sanctuary, to the steps of the Boy Scout Cabin. Those wanting a school lesson of yesteryear are invited by the school marms to classes in the one room Podunk Schoolhouse. Pioneering and homesteading skills of wool dyeing, blacksmithing, log hewing, tatting, and scrub board washing will be on display. Locally grown popcorn, hot dogs, pulled pork and many different options at the Taste of Webster will be available to folks.

This event is very child-friendly with farm animals, face painting, discovery tables, stilts, Old Fashioned candies at the General Store and hayrides. Other rare activities will include watching a baseball game played by 1860 rules, sheepdog herding demonstrations, a handpan and singing bowls concert, and a labyrinth walk. Favorites such as the Rummage Sale, Artisan booths, and the RFD Boys will return.

The festival takes place on the grounds of the Webster United Church of Christ, the Webster Township Hall, and the Webster Historical Society all near where Farrell and Webster Church Roads intersect. Parking and admission are free. The grounds of the historic Webster Village look different from years past. Today there are paved walkways to each building coming off a paved ellipse in the center of the grounds. Inside the ellipse is May’s Garden (reminiscent of gardens in the late 1800’s), straw bale mountain for kid climbing pleasure, and performances by Sweet Pea. Gloria Brigham will be honored about 5:15 on the stage of the Corncrib. A Flaming Arts Show by Sweet Pea in the Village Green will wrap up the day’s festivities. 

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