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The Man From Vermont
Charles Ross Taggart (b. March 19, 1871, Washington, D.C.; d. July 4, 1953, Kents Hill, Maine)

The Old Country Fiddler

At right is a scan from a photocopy of a 1927 issue of The Vermonter—"The State Magazine"—which featured a lengthy story about Charles Ross Taggart, my maternal grandfather—"Grandpa" to me. The caption under the photo reads, "The Old Country Fiddler Hears His Own Voice." (The title "Going Thro Hell and High Water" refers to another story about a serious flood the region had experienced, as noted at the bottom.)

He made several records for Victor, or Victrola, plus a few for Columbia and I gather a couple of others. I have most of them somewhere, I believe. In the 1960s my brother and I had several of them taped for a set of LPs that we distributed among family members; I don't know what's happened to them, either, though I have the tapes (reel-to-reel), and may have one set of the LPs in my collection, if I can find it. I've sebsequently found a number of MP3s of the originals online, including a few on YouTube.

Vermonter magazine cover

The Man From Vermont
The caption reads, "'The Man from Vermont' in his back yard at Elmbank trying out a jig-tune." This picture, also scanned from the same photocopied article as the above, would have been taken about 10 years before I was born, and while I did eventually get to see from the street the to-me legendary house called Elm Bank, in Newbury, Vermont, while in my mid-teens, it had long been sold and occupied by a new family.
Here is my grandfather in front of his beloved home, ElmBank, in Newbury, VT, on his last visit in 1953. He passed away on July 4 of that year, in Kents Hill, ME.
CRT at Elmbank

I also never saw him with his red/auburn hair, which was white by the time I showed up. But although he'd retired for health reasons by the time I got to know him, I did get to hear him play, over the years, as he constantly continued to practice, strapping the bow to his hand with a loose rubber band since he'd lost most of the feeling in it when he'd had his stroke. I only wish I'd learned something of his music, then.

serious promotional portrait
Despite his serious mien in this promotional portrait, he had a great sense of humor, as seen in the first pictures above, and in the promotional spread below. Among his other talents, he was a photographer, and loved to do trick photography, as in the several shots that he provided for this feature where he is interacting with himself. No Photoshop in those days!
Plays many parts

The Old Country Fiddler lives again
Adam Boyce as CRT

thanks to Adam Boyce, a fiddler and entertainer from the Vermont and New Hampshire area who has made a study of Charles Ross Taggart. Between square dance and other entertainments, he has been performing what he calls a Living History of my grandfather's life and acts in churches and town halls around the area, much as his subject did in the first decades of the 20th Century. Above he is shown performing in character at one of these. He includes in the performances biographical information on him, a considerable amount of which is actually beyond what I was previously aware of.

Some portions of these performances are available on You Tube, such as this video clip which brings to modern audiences a routine my grandfather did for Lee DeForest's PhonoFilm shorts in the 1920s.

Mr. Boyce found a version of this page early in his researches, and I was able to help him track some of the information and provide some recollections. He also was instrumental (no pun intended) in getting a day proclaimed in my grandfather's name in Vermont, and historical markers placed at Elm Bank in Newbury and at the town hall in Topsham, where Charles Ross Tagart first appeared as an entertainer.

Plaque at ElmBankPlaque at Topsham Town Office

Adam Boyce has written a biography of my grandfather, titled The Man From Vermont. It has a lot more information about Charles Ross Taggart's life and background, with many photos, some of his poems (he was a real fan of the style of Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha) and transcriptions of some of his monologues. I wrote a preface for it as well, which I had also recorded for Mr. Boyce to use in connection with his Living History presentations on occasion.
For more information about the book, or if you'd like to get it (please do! It's definitely a picture of an era you're unlikely to find elsewhere!), click on the cover shot.
The Man from Vermont book cover.

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