Starring My Town

takes an eastern route

to “the prettiest small town

in America”!

 


Woodstock, Vermont


spring


summer


autumn


winter

From the long, long ago....

Eleven thousand years ago, be exact (or exact as we can be) Native Americans inhabited Vermont. How they got there is unknown. Native Americans believe they were always there. Many paleontologists believe the ancient peoples (called Paleo-Indians) were survivors of the Ice Age who lived on the Bering Land Bridge until the sea levels rose and then migrated to the Americas.

Archaeological discoveries in Vermont seem to bear that out.

Hunting the wooly mammoths and glyptodon


Family time

Chert and quartzite for tools


Hunting deer

But everywhere these ancient people went, their art was sure to go!


In Nevada


...in Utah..


...in Colorado


...in Minnesota


...in Georgia


...in Rhode Island


..and in Bellow Falls, Vermont!

The Abenaki....

….(“The People of the Dawnlands”) that inhabited Vermont were part of a larger group called Wabanaki that extended into Quebec and included all of New Hampshire and Maine. Like the Algonquin of New England, they cultivated

crops for food, located their villages near rivers and fished or hunted. In winter, they moved further inland. Unlike the Iroquois, males inherited hunting territories from their fathers. For shelter, most used dome-shaped, bark-covered wigwams although a few used the oval-shaped long houses.

Life in the Abenaki villages

The white man cometh!

The first European to visit what is now Vermont was probably Jacques Cartier in 1535,but it was Samuel de Champlain who claimed the lands for the French in 1609. He called it “les Verts Monts” (the Green Mountains). The Abenaki tribes had formed a tight coalition against their enemies the Iroquois. To cement a new alliance with them, Champlain shot and killed an Iroquois chief, creating an enmity between the French and Iroquois that would echo for over a century.


Jacques Cartier


Cartier arrives in the New World


Samuel de Champlain


Champlain in Quebec

In 1614 the Abenaki were attacked by night by the Tarrantines from Acadia who killed the tribal leaders, and decimated the villages leaving the survivors without food or shelter. That was followed in 1616 by a famine and a mysterious pestilence that spread inland and lasted three years. It almost destroyed the thirteen tribes of the Connecticut River Valley and White Mountain. Those who were left formed a new tribal alliance under Passaconaway, who would lead them until 1660.


Passaconaway


Fort Ste. Anne

The French erected Fort Sainte Anne on Isle La Motte in 1666 and claimed Vermont as part of New France but by 1690 there were frequent skirmishes between the French and English making Vermont a mini-battleground. Soon the French settlements were abandoned and Vermont became a thoroughfare between French and Native American settlements to the north and English settlements to the south. By the time of the American Revolution Vermont had been largely settled by English colonists and what was left of the native tribes had retreated back to Canada.

..to the birth of Woodstock, the town.

Woodstock took its name from a town in Oxfordshire, England, a tribute to George Spencer, fourth Duke of Marlborough. The town was first chartered on July 10, 1761 as a New Hampshire land grant to David Page and 61 other English colonists. But disputes arose because the same land was also claimed by the Province of New York. A militia group called the Green Mountain Boys formed in the late 1760s and led by Ethan Allen fought New York's attempts to control the area and were responsible for the establishment of the Vermont Republic. The headquarters of the Green Mountain Boys, the Catamount tavern,
burned in 1871, is now marked by a granite and copper statue. The militia and Allen himself gained more glory at the Battle of Ticonderoga during the Revolutionary War. The Vermont Republic operated for 14 years, before being admitted in 1791 to the United States as the 14th State.


George Spencer 4th Duke of Marlborough

Ethan Allen


Green Mountain Boys


old Catamount Tavern


At Ethan Allen's grave as well as other monuments and historical places, Ethan Allen is claimed to have demanded the surrender of Fort Ticonderoga “in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress”. But a soldier standing near him, Israel Harris later told his grandson (the late Professor James D. Butler of Madison, Wisconsin) that Allen's exact words were “Come out of there, you goddam old rat!”*

*Historian and folklorist B.A. Botkin

 


Surrender at Fort Ticonderoga

The Revolutionary War slowed settlement in Woodstock but things picked up rapidly once hostilities ceased. In 1776, Major Joab Hoisington built a grist mill
(a bank sits there now). That was soon followed by a sawmill on the south branch of the Ottauquechee River where waterfalls produced power. Mills and factories grew year by year. In 1785 Woodstock became the shire town or county seat for Windsor County. In 1824 Alvin Adams established the first stage express carrying tourists as well as freight back and forth and in 1837 the town was incorporated.


Quechee Gorge


Alvin Adams


stage coach express

Churchill House was built on the site of the first grist mill...replaced by the Ottauquechee bank in 1902 but the grand old elm still stands!

In 1869 lawyer and conservationist Frederick Billings purchased the estate of George Perkins March, a pioneer ecologist , and used the 270 acres to work on new ideas about farming and conservation. Billings (and his heirs) also set about purchasing failing farms and reforesting the surrounding hillsides. The mansion later became home to his granddaughter Mary French Rockefeller and her husband, Laurance and today has become the jewel of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park while the farm is both a working dairy farm and museum. The Woodstock Railroad opened up through to White River Junction in 1875.



Woodstock Railway


Railway taxis...from stagecoach to bus!

On a clear and cold February night in 1877, the Boston and Montreal Express train went off the tracks on the Woodstock Bridge at White River Junction and plunged into the river. It was -18F and the ice in the river below was several inches thick. The locomotive, baggage car and postal car broke away from the rest of the train but passenger and sleeper cars were thrown into the White River some 50 feet below. Both the wooden deck bridge and the cars below caught fire and burned. By the time help arrived 42 people had died, most burned beyond recognition. Among the dead was Frank Wesson of the Smith and Wesson gunsmith family and one Charles Hubbard escaping to Canada from a Boston embezzlement charge. Most of the other passengers were headed to Montreal for the carnival. It is still considered the worst railway disaster in Vermont history.

Twas in the dead of night, no words can paint that sight.

The sleeping-cars were filled with living freight; This ill-fated train was dashed to the river with a crash.
And a hundred souls went down to meet their fate
...from“The Woodstock Bridge Disaster” (author unknown)

The Woodstock Inn was built in 1892 by Mary French and Laurence Rockefeller ( who later rebuilt it and also had all power lines in town put underground). The original building was replaced in the 1960s. The village itself was laid out in a rectangle bordering the “The Green” on both sides between the river and the creek allowing many homes to have gardens outback that ran down to the water.


Woodstock Inn



street scene 1906


As it is now.


The Green

...and today everything is “pretty” much the same!

Nestled between lush green hills and the Ottauquechee River, the village of Woodstock, with its historically preserved houses, is picture-perfect through all the seasons.


Spring......

The first sign spring is on the way is “sugaring time” in March when Vermonters gather the sap for their famous maple syrup. Then blossoms break out all over the place.


sugaring at Sugarbush Farm



Tapping the trees


Daffodils at Woodstock Inn


Garden Gates open wide


Shopping

Summer....

Everyone comes home for the summer and they bring the rest of the world with them.


Fourth of July


Summer decor


Old friends meet and greet.


Bballooning over the White River


Summer at the inn

Autumn....

Gorgeous color fills the valley with tourists and photographers sure to follow.


Moonlight in Woodstock, Vermont


a small bridge


Cloudland Road


The Village Green


South Street

Winter....

When the snow flies Woodstock lights up in red and green while the townspeople and the tourists head for the ski slopes.


Elm Street


Christmas sleigh


Dressed for Christmas


Suicide Six ski resort

History repeats itself....

This is a town that keeps the past close to its heart from architecture to home-grown shops and inns. It is like a step back in time.


Taftsville covered bridge, 3rd oldest bridge in Vermont.1836

 

 


Norman Williams Public Library built 1884

 


George Perkins Marsh homestead(March-Billings-Rockefeller House) 1805

 

 


Dana House (now the Woodstock History Center) 1807


First Congregational Church with one of the original Paul Revere bells. 1822

 

 


Town Hall now a state of the art theater with maple syrup popcorn.1900

...and even Hollywood came to call.

Way Down East (1920) Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess

D.W. Griffith Production

White River

Ghost Story (1981) Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

and Patricia Neal. Universal

Woodstock

Funny Farm (1988) Chevy Chase and Madolyn Smith Osborne

Cornelius Productions

Woodstock


Welcome Home (1989) Kris Kristofferson, JoBeth Williams and Brian Keith'

Columbia Pictures

Woodstock

Forrest Gump (1993) Tom Hanks, Rebecca Williams and Sally Field

Paramount

Woodstock

But let's not leave Vermont without a well deserved tribute.