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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Awful and Naughty Richford

One of the aspects that I love about working for the State, is that fact that I am a new worker, and it is a requirement that any new worker must complete training in order to be qualified to perform certain work.  I am happy to report that this was accomplished on Friday and I returned with a lovely parchment and silver-bordered Certificate of Completion.  

While on break I met a co-worker from Richford who learned about Vermont DeadLine and shared a local mystery with me.  Hence, the subject of today's post.


Richford, Vermont is located on the Quebec border almost centrally between Lake Champlain and Lake Memphremagog.  It's beautiful bucolic countryside could easily be the setting for any horror story; so much so, it is reported that H.P. Lovecraft himself visited the area during the mid 1920's upon hearing of a gryphon like creature [possessing a serpent's tail] and massive 10' wingspan allegedly resting and watching people from treetops and roofs.  

It is said that this creature was the basis upon which Lovecraft thereafter created many of his horror stories and tales. 

The folks from Richford and from the nearby town of Berkshire labeled the beast, "The Awful".   The Awful was first witnessed by three local sawmill workers, strolling across the town's bridge.  The large, ominous creature sat upon the roof of the mill staring down at them.  So terrified was one poor bloke that he suffered a heart attack right there and then.  For some time after, he awoke many a night screaming, much to the chagrin of his wife and children.  

After the three men told this tale, others beheld the creature flying over the homes and fields and landing on rooftops to gaze upon them, while going about their regular business.  No doubt this must have been unsettling and the majority of the town was terrified. 

"...according to records of old, was a winged creature that resembled "a very large Griffin-like creature with grayish wings that each spanned ten-feet." The creature possessed "a serpent like tail that equaled its wing length" and "huge claws that could easily grip a milk can’s girth."

Horrifically, someone during that time claims to have witnessed The Awful flying overhead clutching what appeared to be a human baby in it's claws.  No reports of any missing infants were ever given, and after the hysteria died down, they decided that it must have been an animal of some sort.


After the 1920's sightings waned and fell out of fashion until around 2006 when someone claimed the return of The Awful.  The claim has not been entirely substantiated, so I will leave any further research to the reader, respectfully, other than a suspicious, petrified jawbone was discovered by a logger in the Richford area, alleging to have a number of large teeth. The jawbone was transported to the University of Vermont to be examined by an expert.  I cannot personally find one iota of information as to the conclusion or the results of the examination. 

Richford's Naughty Past 

""Queen Lil", Lillian Miner, was born on a farm at Steven's Mills  in 1866. She married a man named A. G. Shipley and they traveled the country, staging medicine shows. Shipley had a reputation for grave-robbing, horse stealing and worse. 

Not an actual photo of "The Palace" 

His wife Lil was an enterprising woman, gambling and ended up in Boston working as a madam in a Boston brothel. 

At a certain point, arrest was imminent as the Boston police closed in. Lil escaped in the night and made her way back to Richford.

In 1911 she purchased land which sat on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the border. There she constructed a building which stood three stories high. The lot had once held a hotel, which had burned to the ground. 

Photo for demonstration only
The federal government passed a law making it unlawful to build on a international boundary, but Queen Lil contested the government's correctness in this case. The ensuing court proceedings ended in her favor when she was able to argue that she had not built a new structure, but had simply repaired an existing structure.

The structure itself had a bar downstairs, and two upper floors of rooms where the girls, most from Boston and Montreal, could entertain privately. It did not take long for the word to get out, producing many visitors, among them railroad men, woodsmen, and local gents. 

Lillian's place was particularly popular during prohibition. Queen Lil ran her place with a sharp eye for business, and she and her workers fared well.

Lillian Minor Shipley operated a successful hotel, bar, and brothel on the Vermont -Canadian border in the early twentieth century. The daughter of William and Mary Minor, she was born in Stevens Mills, Richford in 1866. 

As a young woman, she left her family and married A. G. Shipley, a peddler of patent medicines and entertainer with a reputation for horse thieving and grave robbing. The couple traveled widely, staging a medicine show. 

By the turn of the century, Lillian had become involved in prostitution and managed a brothel in Boston until 1910, when local authorities shut down much of the illegal business in the city. Returning to Vermont, she purchased and restored a three-story hotel straddling the Canadian border in Richford. From 1911 until the end of prohibition in 1933, she operated "Lill's Palace," a bar, hotel, and bordello which benefited from its stategic location on the Canadian-Pacific railroad line between Montreal and the cities of the Northeast. 

Known as "Queen Lil," she served clients from the local area as well as urban business travelers. To take advantage of the demand for illegal liquor, she piped supplies from Canada under the Missisquoi River and operated her own bottling plant, selling to New England bootleggers. 

Shipley was known for carrying a pistol and flaunting her hard-earned wealth in a fancy automobile. She largely evaded the law by bribing federal officials, but after an international raid in 1925 she was forced to plead guilty and was fined for violating the Mann Act against trafficking in prostitutes. Shipley retired after the end of prohibition diminished her business. She bought several farms with her earnings, married farmer Levi Fleury, and lived with him and his two children until her death."

Source: http://womenshistory.vermont.gov/