Cemetery Stone Discovered

During the clean up and leveling of the Pi building grounds, a cemetery stone was found buried deep in the ground. Luckily it was brought here to the WHC and we were able to verify what it was. The small stone belonged to Charles Ebenezer Richmond who lived for only 15 months (March 12, 1851-June 3, 1852). He was the son of Lorenzo and Ursula Richmond who lived at 39 Elm Street. We found a new stone dedicated to "Charlie" in the Riverstreet Cemetery. The old stone could have been discarded and used later as fill. There is really no way of knowing. But it was nice to find Charlie and see that he was with his family.

The West Woodstock Bridge

For the last few years, I have had to cross the West WoodstockBridge nearly every day. You will not likely find tourists standing in front of it to pose for a photo. I am glad for that because it would take away from the sense of enjoyment I find in coming around the bend in the road, to see if there is another vehicle waiting to cross on the other side. You see, the bridge only allows for one vehicle to cross at a time. Tourists would prove to be a distraction at that crossing. I have found that the iron bridge makes me stop and notice my surroundings. I hear the rumble of the steel beneath my wheels and I notice how high or low the river is according to how much rain we have had.  Before turning either way on College Hill Road, I usually get a final wave of thanks to a neighbor for letting me pass once more over the Ottauquechee River. For the few years I have been living here, I have begun to think of this bridge as a neighborhood structure, not another wooden box for a selfie opportunity. In an odd way, it has become a part of my Woodstock identity. Living here now seems more permanent, and this old bridge and I are starting to share time together.  And this bridge has seen some time-  a 117 years of back and forth traffic. I wonder if the tourists who take the same photos over and over again of all the other bridges know that this iron bridge is 70 years older than the Middle Bridge (located on The Green). Perhaps they don't know that the West Woodstock Bridge was modeled after a similar iron bridge that was on that same site. That bridge lasted from 1877 to 1969 when the Rockefellers tore it down to build the new one. I guess the Rockefellers liked wooden bridges better than girdered truss bridges. But this is not a declaration about which type of bridge people should like or which is more aesthetically pleasing (that survivor over in Taftsville is a beauty).  I just find that the West Woodstock Bridge and the surrounding area is extremely interesting. Although the dam, pond and complex of mill buildings are now gone, the bridge remains.  And it has a story.


According to Henry Swan Dana's The History of Woodstock, the current bridge has been built upon the foundations of earlier works...

"A few rods above Aaron Whitney's shop, on the north bank of the river may yet be seen the remains of a log abutment to a bridge that once spanned the river at this point. The logs are still in perfect preservation, and even a plank pinned to two of them to keep them in place, is as sound as ever, pins and all. This abutment was laid eighty years ago by Jabez Bennett, who the present generation has well nigh forgotten. The bridge was a great convenience to the public at the time. It stood a few years and then was swept away by the ice. It was rebuilt forthwith by Mr. Bennett. One winter when the snow was very deep the bridge got overloaded and giving away under the pressure it fell flat on the ice. This accident happened in the evening and sometime during the winter of 1802-1803. The bridge was never rebuilt after this, but twenty years later, a sort of pontoon bridge was used for some time by the people of the neighborhood on crossing back and forth at this point."

For almost a hundred years, this section of town only had a suspension bridge for foot traffic. This foot bridge had been built below the dam in 1885, but it washed away in 1899. Townspeople then moved to build a vehicular bridge in that area, and it proved to be a great benefit to the farmers of West Woodstock and South Woodstock.

Charles Cobb, a local West Woodstock resident, noted; "The greatest gain on account of it accrues to the farmers of School District No. 9 and others on the hill roads to South Woodstock, whose lumber and other products will be much more available than before and the value of all the farms will be considerably raised, thus benefiting the town by increasing its grand list."
Charles M. Cobb, "New Iron Bridge at West Woodstock, Vermont", Vol. II, No. 3, Inter-State Journal, January, 1901. 

Charles Cobb once again states in the Inter-State Journal article, "But more than this the people of the valley nearly all wanted a highway bridge at this point for the addition it would make to the attractive 'drives' of the town, which is one of the most romantic and picturesque in New England (the Switzerland of America) and is getting to be a summer resort of considerable consequence."   


The West Woodstock Bridge was constructed in 1900 as a Pennsylvania metal through truss bridge. It was built by the Groton Bridge and Manufacturing Company of New York, and it is one of two Vermont bridges built by that firm (the other in Cavendish). On May 26, 1899, at a special town meeting in Woodstock's new Town Hall, the town voted to build the new bridge. Work on the abutments began on August 9, 1899, and was completed about September 15. The abutments (blue limestone and concrete) were built on top of hemlock foundation logs placed there in 1789 by Jabez Bennett. The abutments were built high enough so the bridge would be above the highwater mark of the ice jam of 1866, the highest water level of the previous fifty years.

"The bridge was purchased by the Selectman of Woodstock of the Groton, N.Y. Mfg. Co., considerably below its cost, under the following circumstances. The company named had sent a similar bridge to a New York town to be 'put on' when a freshet washed away the abutments made there for it, and widened the stream so that it would not do for the place, and the town declined to take the bridge. So it was offered to Woodstock at a good discount, and the offer was accepted. But when the Company ordered the bridge shipped to Woodstock, another place had been found for it and the holders refused to give it up, and a new bridge was made and sent to us on the same terms and at a loss."
Charles M. Cobb, "New Iron Bridge at West Woodstock, Vermont," Vol. II, No. 3, Inter-State Journal, January, 1901. 

 The bridge work began about November 14 by Groton Bridge and Manufacturing Company men under the direction of J.S. Hunter. The bridge was finished and opened for travel on December 7, 1900. The total cost for the bridge and placing it on the site was about $6,000. The bridge is 173 feet in length, 32 feet in height, and 16 feet in width, and weighs more than 50 tons. It was listed on the National Register of Historical Places on September 9, 1982.


A rehabilitation of the "Mill Bridge," or the West Woodstock Bridge was completed in June, 2002. "The renovated bridge will allow small trucks, school buses and fire trucks weighing up to 40,000 pounds to use this bridge. The project is a unique way to maintain the historical integrity of the structure and add carrying capacity to the bridge. The solution that was designed involved building an arch to surround the outside steel members. This arch supports a new floor system and increases the load carrying capacity of the bridge from 3 tons to 20 tons. The total cost of the construction was approximately 1.5 million, and the town paid approximately $75,000. This work could not have been accomplished without the federal and state grants that we received for this project." Annual Report 2001-2002, Town of Woodstock

Paul Revere Bells

Paul Revere Bells

The Bells of Woodstock

Did you know that bells have played an important role in Woodstock's history? As early as 1789, one might have heard a bell from the West Woodstock meetinghouse calling out to its citizens to attend Town Meeting. By 1791, the courthouse located on the corner of The Green and Mountain Avenue would herald the important news of the community.  Henry Swan Dana, author of The History of Woodstock, tells us that people of the village would come out of their houses and businesses to hear the bell and determine why it was being rung. It also served as a fire alarm and marked the opening session of court. There have been many bells of this type over the years, such as the one located in the present-day Court House (built in 1855). Woodstock is also fortunate to have bells that have religious connections including five Revere bells, the most of any town in New England.

The importance of bells as a means of communication in early New England is described by Edward and Evelyn Stickney in 1976. "For our ancestors church bells played an important part in the life of the community and each peal had its own meaning. The gabriel bell woke the people of the parish; the sermon bell announced it was time for the church services; the pardon bell rang before and after the sermon during prayers for the pardoning of sins; the pudding bell, which undoubtedly was the most popular, told the cook to prepare dinner while the church goers headed for home; the passing bell toiled three times at a man's death with a ring for each year of his age."

An etching of the corner of The Green and Mountain Avenue shows the court house bell tower which is located on the left and the school bell tower on the right.  The bell that once graced the belfry on the schoolhouse was taken down and moved to the Orion Grange Hall (it was a schoolhouse before that) in South Woodstock. It was later moved to the Green Mountain Perkins Academy. It was cast by William Blake & Company. Boston. Currently, there are plans underway by the Green Mountain Perkins Academy to restore the bell and belfry.

1. In 1826, the Christian Church (which became the Masonic Temple in 1949) was built on Pleasant Street. Two years later, in 1828, a church member named Eliphalet Dunham purchased an 872-pound bell from Revere of Boston. The clock mechanism was attached to the bell and for some years it would toll the half hour as well as the numbers of each hour.

2. St. James Episcopal Church
The St. James Episcopal Church purchased its bell through members, Stearns and Blake, a year after their new stone building was erected in 1826. There is conflicted information about how much it weighs. One source states that the bell weighs 693 pounds and another 619 pounds. Supposedly, the bell was first rung from the belfry at the 1827 Christmas service. It is inscribed "Revere Boston".

3. The Unitarian Universalist Church was built in 1835, and its bell weighs in at 1,021 pounds.

4. The Congregational Church on Elm Street was designed and built by Nathaniel Smith in 1807. The bell, the oldest in Woodstock, may be found displayed near the entrance to the Congregational Church. The bell was purchased by a member, Willis Hall, from Revere and Sons of Boston in 1818. It weighs 711 pounds and cost at the time .45 a pound.  After it cracked, the bell was replaced with one from Holland. The cost of that bell was $9.13 a pound. A similar bell, which is Vermont's earliest, hangs in the Norwich Congregational Church and was tuned to "C." It is interesting to note that when Norwich found it necessary to reframe its bell, an oak timber from an old Woodstock covered bridge was provided for that purpose. A new bell was installed at the Congregational Church in 1975-1976.

5. Woodstock Inn
This bell, which used to reside in the garden behind the Woodstock Inn, was purchased by philanthropist and resident Laurance Rockefeller in the 1960s. It was cast in 1823 by the Boston Foundry for a church in Newburyport, Massachusetts. It weighs 1,463 pounds and has the key of G.

The Village Hotel & Fairbanks Block


Did you know that the Eagle Hotel, on the site of the Woodstock Inn, was not the only major hotel in Woodstock in the 19th century? In fact, a wood-framed hotel dominated the corner of Central and Elm Streets. Elisha Taylor built this hotel in 1796. Taylor named it the Village Hotel. “When the house was ready to be opened, he announced the fact in the following manner:--
The subscriber hereby informs his friends and the public that he has erected a large and convenient House on the east end of Woodstock Green, in the County of Windsor, for the purpose of keeping a
                                      HOUSE OF ENTERTAINMENT,
by the name of VILLAGE HOTEL, at the Sign of the EAGLE, which will be open for the reception of Gentlemen and Ladies of all denominations, on Monday, the 19th day of December instant: Where on account of the largeness of his House, and the strictness of attention that will be paid to all denominations of people (especially travelers) [he] flatters himself that he shall give general satisfaction--- for which Gentlemen and Ladies please to call and see for yourselves.     E. TAYLOR.
          Woodstock, December 14, 1796”
                                    The History of Woodstock, Henry Swan Dana

Interestingly, the large eagle carved by Moody Taylor associated with Richardson’s Tavern (which became the Eagle Hotel, site of the now Woodstock Inn) was not placed on top of that building until 1830. Therefore, we can assume that the origins of the use of the eagle as a sign for our local lodging establishments started with the Village Hotel.

Taylor also erected a brick block next to his hotel (current TD Bank branch located on Elm Street) in 1807 for selling merchandise. The building was constructed with brick ends, having a storeroom and small office on the lower floor, and in the second story a single apartment fitted for a Masonic Hall. This hall was occupied by Governor Smith and the Council during the session of the Legislature for 1807.

Eliakim Spooner took over management of the Village Hotel in August 1815 until his death in 1820. Spooner supposedly created a water system that served the hotel, which possibly originated from the aqueduct on the Marsh property (now Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park). “Mr. Spooner was among the first inhabitants in Vermont, having settled within the limits of the State prior to the organization of a State government. He was of a very social and companionable disposition, yet withal a man of stern, republican integrity, qualities that furnished him a passport to many of the responsible offices within the gift of the State. He was possessed of an original turn of mind, and it is understood that the aqueduct so much in use sixty years ago along this neighborhood and elsewhere, composed of logs perforated with an auger, was an invention of his. He died in this town, January 3, 1820, in the eightieth year of his age.”
                                   The History of Woodstock, Henry Swan Dana

Spooner sold the Village Hotel in 1819 to Robert Barker. Robert Barker (b. Feb. 1, 1790-d. Jan. 25, 1870) originally came from Bedford, Massachusetts, and moved to Vermont when he was sixteen years old. He came to live with the family of Dudley Chase in Randolph. He found work in 1806 driving the stagecoach which ran from Randolph to Windsor. According to Dana's History of Woodstock, he rose at three in the morning to waken his passengers. While they were readying themselves for the journey, he would harness and hitch up the horses for the trip to Woodstock. Barker stopped at the Village Hotel so that passengers could have breakfast and he could change horses. From there, he drove to Windsor where he met the stages from Boston and New York. He would make his way back to Randolph that night, an eighty-mile roundtrip journey.  He supposedly followed this routine twice a week in the summer and winter for more than four years. By 1810, the United States Postal Service awarded the government contract to Barker to carry the mail on the coach.

Miniature portrait of Eliakim Spooner.jpeg

Barker married Eliakim Spooner's granddaughter, Francis Julia Spooner, in March, 1819. It is more than likely that they met at the Village Hotel, and he courted her there as he was traveling through Woodstock. They eventually had four children together: Frances, Olivia, Julia and George.

Barker, who owned and operated the hotel from 1819-1835, made the most changes to the building by adding a second story to the wing on Elm Street, a third story dancing hall (about 1830) to the main building, and double decker porches facing both Elm and Central.

“Everybody knew Barker and everybody drank at his bar, where Rat Spooner shoved the decanter.” The Vermont Standard
Robert Barker became well known in his capacity as landlord of the hotel. His motto was: “Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest.” The hotel must have been quite a hub of activity with Barker’s connections to the stage and local community. Even local doctors could let out a room at the hotel providing “constant and unremitting attention” to their patrons.

Annual Meeting 2018

We would like to invite our members to join us next week on November 13 at 6:30 p.m. for our Annual Meeting at the Woodstock History Center. We will be saying goodbye to our good friend and President, Heidi Lang, who is moving and exploring new adventures in northern Vermont. Also, Edith Phyfe is finishing her term as trustee. She has been a positive and experienced board member who has worked for the greater good of the organization. Several interesting donations and acquisitions will be on view this year in our barn gallery. We hope that you can join us. 

November 13th, 2018
6:30 p.m.
6:30            President’s Remarks, Heidi Lang
6:35            Treasurer’s Report: Tom Hartman
6:45            Action Item: Election of Officers & Trustees
Officer Slate:
President, Kim French; Vice-President, F. Charlie Degener; Treasurer, Tom Hartman; Secretary, Barbara Drufovka       
New Trustees
Roy Bates
Bob Benz
Bruce Coffin
Donna Steed
7:00            New President’s Remarks: Outgoing Trustee Acknowledgements
7:15            Light refreshment and snacks in the education center barn. Interesting donations and acquisitions from the past year will be on display.