U.S. News & World Report
Dec. 6, 1976, p. 72
In Vermont, The Passing of a Dynasty
After 106 years of family control, the marble company that has been the life-blood of this village is being sold to a Swiss firm.
The sale of the Proctor familys 70 per cent ownership in Vermont Marble Company to Pluess-Staufer, made public in early October, has caused a stir that reaches far beyond this community of 2,000 people.
For, in addition to building the homes and all the other facilities that make up a company town, the marble firm has been a political powerhouse.
Beginning with Redfield Proctor, who started the company in 1970, four members of the proctor family became Vermont Governors. The current company president, F. Ray Keyser, who will stay on under the new ownership, is also a former Governor of the State.
Residents say that the town was referred to as the "Proctor machine," solidly Republican.
Yet surprisingly for a State that has grown increasingly suspicious of outsiders flooding into Vermont, the sale is being viewed as a good thing, particularly by the residents of Proctor.
"Ever since the Proctors got out of the day-to-day management of the company [in the early 1960s], the spark has been gone from this town," says Barbara Burns, librarian and a resident of many years.
"New blood, new ideas." Sidney Jones, the town clerk, notes that some people were afraid at first, thinking that the new owners might cut back the operation. Now he believes the change will bring "new blood and new ideas."
Company stock had not been yielding dividens in recent years, and employees said the firm was stagnating.
Pluess-Staufer has promised to continue present operations which include Vermont Marbles building-products division that supplied marble for the U.S. Supreme Court Building, the Jefferson Memorial, the United Nations Secretariat and other distinctive public and private buildings.
In addition, the Swiss firm is a world leader in the production of superfine ground marble, used in plastics, paints and other materials. Many residents believe that the firm will expand that process in Proctor perhaps creating new jobs. Vermont Marble now employs 600, compared with a high of 2,500 in the early 1920s.
The sale ends an era of paternalism which, although fading in recent years, once touched nearly every aspect of the lives of the people in Proctor.
From the company or the Proctor family came community gifts of every sort, a library, social clubs for men and women, homes for crippled children and tuberculosis patients, and generous donations of money and building materials for schools and churches. A community hospital for many years gave free care to workers and their families. In addition, dozens of families received private gifts to defray the costs of college expenses and special medical problems.
Mr. French, a retired schoolteacher whose father worked for Vermont Marble says: "People look back fondly on those days, because we were protected." Mrs. Sara Stafford, the only member of the Proctor family still living in town, says it got "tougher and tougher" as years went by for the family to keep up that kind of help. "Every time someone died, Uncle Sam would take a chunk out of the estate."
Then, too, as local unions became stronger, the Proctor familys benevolence was seen by some as a substitute for higher wages.
Mrs. Stafford points to a family bequest that was used to reward local teachers who showed outstanding performance. Payments have been blocked, pending a decision on a suit by the teachers union challenging the merit system used for making the awards.
Mrs. Stafford hopes that Pluess-Staufer, a family-owned firm, will take the kind of personal interest in the town that the Proctors once did. She adds: "We didnt want to let the town down and sell to some big public company that would swallow up everything."