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.
On Sunday, October 14th, Roy Bates visited the Woodstock History Center to share his expertise on local cold regions, as well as Greenland and the Canadian Arctic. Bates is a meteorologist, former CRREL researcher, and author of over a hundred articles on meteorology, climatology, and snow and ice properties.
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
HISTORIC AMERICAN ENGINEERING RECORD
HAER No. VT 30
Location: Taftsville Bridge Road, spanning Ottauquechee River, Taftsville,
Windsor County, Vermont
UTM: 18.704271.4833988, Quechee, VT Quad.
Date of Construction: 1836
Structural type: Modified multiple kingpost truss with semi-independent arch
Designer/ Builder: Solomon Emmons III
Present Owner: Town of Woodstock, Vermont
Previous and Present Use: Public road bridge since its construction
Significance: Taftsville Bridge is a rare survivor of the early craftsman tradition of wooden truss bridge building. It shows no influence from any of the patented bridge truss designs, but the builder may have been aware of the Swiss tradition from published literature of the time.
Historians: Joseph D. Conwill, Editor, Covered Bridge Topics J. Lawrence Lee, Ph.D., Engineer-Historian, HAER
Project Information: The National Covered Bridges Recording Project is part of the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), a long-range program to document historically significant engineering and industrial works in the United States. HAER is administered by the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, a division of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. The Federal Highway Administration funded the project.
c. 1793 Settlement of Taftsville and construction of the first dam
1799 Destruction of Schaffhausen Bridge in Switzerland by Napoleon’s army;
publicity about Swiss construction in the American press follows
1807 First Taftsville Bridge washed out in flood and soon replaced
1811 Second Taftsville Bridge washed out in flood and soon replaced
1828 Third Taftsville Bridge washed out in flood
1836 Solomon Emmons III builds the present covered bridge
1869 Bridge damaged in flood and subsequently raised [up]
1902 Construction of electric generating station
1909 Construction of the present dam
1910 Lower chords repaired and iron ties added parallel to the posts
? Addition of laminated arches
c. 1914 Windows cut into siding
1952-53 Major repairs and modifications by Miller Construction
c. 1959 Taftsville Bridge painted red
HISTORIC AMERICAN ENGINEERING RECORD
Taftsville, Vermont, is named for the first settler of the village, Stephen Taft, who arrived from Massachusetts around 1793, although there seems to have been agricultural settlement in the vicinity earlier. He soon built a power dam on the Ottauquechee River,and a factory on the south riverbank to make axes, scythes, and other edge tools necessary in this period of expanding agriculture. His brother Daniel Taft arrived as an apprentice in 1794, and later set up his own business. Meanwhile, Stephen Taft built a sawmill on the north riverbank. Later came a plow and stove factory, a gristmill, a shingle mill, a chair factory, a brickyard, a blacksmith shop, a tannery, and a slaughterhouse. 
Such a busy settlement needed a bridge across the river. The date and style of the first bridge are unknown, but it was lost to a flood in 1807. Floods also washed out two successors in 1811 and 1828. These early bridges were likely either trestles, or simple, multi-span truss bridges that were not covered.
The Covered Bridge
Taftsville was ready for a more secure bridge. In 1836, Solomon Emmons III, a prominent local citizen, built the original portion of [the] present covered bridge. While not a prolific builder, he is known to have built at least one other bridge in downtown Woodstock, Vermont.
The Taftsville Bridge cost around $1,800 to build, of which almost sixty percent, $1,050, was for the stonework. This suggests that the previous bridge was a timber trestle, or that it had only wooden piers. The two new abutments and the center pier were built of dry-laid stone in random courses, and where possible footed directly upon rock ledge.
The Truss Design
Taftsville Bridge is a rare survivor of an early craftsman bridge-building tradition, before the time when American bridge construction more or less followed one of the patented designs. The original design is hard to classify, but it is probably best described as a modified multiple-kingpost truss. The basic design can be traced back to central Europe in the Middle Ages, having been described by Palladio in 1570. Various heavy timbered elaborations appeared in Switzerland. There, the simple queenpost or multiple kingpost trusses often were combined with a polygonal arch to make an effective, but highly redundant, bridge.
Covered bridges built in America during the 19th century utilized a variety of structural forms, but most American builders favored simpler framing styles. Theodore Burr received his first patent for the Burr arch-truss in 1817, and Ithiel Town was awarded a patent for his lattice truss three years later. By 1836 there were numerous examples of both structural types across the Northeast, but Emmons rejected them in favor of a nonstandard design that more closely resembled some early European bridges. One possible influence on the design was the description of trusses contained in Francis Price’s British Carpenter, first published in 1733. The work was popular enough to go through multiple printings and was in wide distribution throughout America by 1836. The primitive trusses detailed in the pages of Price’s work are at least superficially similar to those of the Taftsville Bridge. A second possible influence was the heavy-timbered Shaffhausen bridge, constructed by Hans Ulrich Grubenmann in Switzerland between 1755 and 1757, and destroyed in 1799 by Napoleon’s army. It was well publicized and much admired in America by the 1830s, and noted engineer Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Jr., even used it as a model for some early bridges on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
Whether similarities to these antecedents are indicative of their influence or merely coincidence is a matter of conjecture, since Emmons left no record of his education, inspiration, or method. Nor is it possible to study his development through a series of structures, as he had but one other bridge to his credit, several miles downstream in Woodstock, Vermont. That bridge no longer exists, likely having been destroyed by a flood in either 1857 or 1869.
The romantic appeal of covered bridges leads many to assume—incorrectly—that they were built exclusively according to folk traditions. While the image of an isolated, self-taught pioneer devising clever solutions unique to each bridge fits conveniently with American mythology, it obscures the systematic structural thinking that dictated the truss designs used in most of these bridges. There are, however, exceptions, and the Taftsville Bridge stands in stark contrast to the systematic, engineered approach. It is an expression of folk tradition at a time when patented bridge designs were rapidly gaining popularity within the United States.
The lower chords of Taftsville Bridge are of a very archaic style. Unlike those found in covered bridges only slightly more recent, they are not built up using two or more parallel timbers. Instead, they are solid pieces of pine, with mortises cut through for the posts. As described above, two pieces were spliced together with scarf joints near mid-span to make each lower chord.
Timber for the trusses was cut and peeled (debarked) from local woods at the rate of one dollar per thousand board feet. Eight large trees went to make the lower chords— imprecisely called stringers in the old accounts—alone. The lower chord timbers were apparently hand-hewn from trees felled close to the original site, despite the probable presence of a sawmill on the site prior to the construction of the bridge. Given their length, it seems reasonable to suggest that they were too large for the carriage of the saw.
The appearance of other members in the bridge suggests that they were finished with a reciprocating sash saw, but they show considerable variation in dimension nonetheless. The bridge’s posts are chestnut, and its diagonals are spruce. The laminated arches, which are such a prominent feature of the bridge today, were a later addition, and they appear to have been machine cut.
Vertical mortises through the lower chords allow the posts to pass completely through the chords. The chords bear down on wedges, which bear in turn on transverse blocks that fit in mortises cut with the grain through each post. Though a labor-intensive type of joint to make, the wedges allowed the builders to adjust each joint and square the structure to some degree as it was erected. In an attempt to prevent splitting along the grain in the post below the joint (due to shear stress induced by the transverse blocks), a hardwood trunnel was inserted across the grain. In the event of a split, this trunnel couldcarry some, or perhaps all, of the load, depending on the severity of the split.
As with many covered bridges, the Taftsville Bridge exhibits considerable random variation in the cross-sectional size of similar members. Posts are around 6-1/2 inches by 11-1/2 inches on average, although posts in the end panels are larger. Braces average around 7 inches by 8 inches, and the timber forming a segment of the polygonal arch in each panel is of similar or slightly smaller size. The outboard end panels have two braces; one perhaps intended as an ordinary brace for the multiple-kingpost truss, while the other completed the rough sweep of the polygonal arch. The end panels over the center pier, while originally built with a single brace each, now feature three apiece. Many of the end braces are rotary sawn, indicating that they were added or replaced at a later date. Panel lengths vary from about 11 feet in the center panels to 16 feet, 6 inches in the end panels.
The total length of the bridge at the floor is 188 feet, 10 inches. The west span (closest to downtown Taftsville) is 89 feet, 1 inch in length, while the east span measures 99 feet, 9 inches. These figures include a small amount of extra housing length at the bridge ends—perhaps a foot—but the exact amount could not be determined without removing the shelter panel boarding. The portals are overhung about five feet, although the exact figure varies from one end to the other, so the roofline is close to 200 feet long. The difference in the span lengths is apparently the result of riverbed conditions that dictated the best placement of the center pier.
The upper lateral bracing does not include a horizontal X form for stability. Instead, the lateral tie beams have short diagonal braces on each side connecting to the upper chord of the truss. The floor no longer has any lateral bracing, but empty dap cuts in the lower chords are evidence that X braces probably were a part of the original design. The floor beams, which are not original, rest atop the lower chords and measure about 7-3/4 inches by 13 inches.
Maintenance and Modifications
By a geographical coincidence, the Taftsville Bridge was located at the corner of three different towns, and it served an important portion of a fourth. Thus, maintenance costs were apportioned among these towns as follows: Woodstock, 18/40; Hartford, 11/40; Pomfret, 8/40; and Hartland, 3/40. An 1851 act of the Vermont legislature made town limit changes that shifted fifteen acres at Taftsville from Hartland to Woodstock, which put the bridge entirely within the limits of Woodstock. Nevertheless, the other town continued to make contributions to its maintenance according to the old formula as late as 1908.
The present configuration of the Taftsville Bridge is the result of several significant alterations performed over the course of more than 150 years. The original builder, Solomon Emmons III, maintained the bridge from its construction until his death in 1869, after which his son, Captain Edwin Charles Emmons, assumed responsibility for its upkeep through 1898. Altogether, the Emmons family was involved with the structure continuously for over six decades.
The younger Emmons raised the bridge approximately three feet in 1869, following a flood that damaged the south abutment and a bottom chord. Stone was added to raise the two abutments, but not the central pier. It received wood cribbing on top of the existing stonework to reach the new height.
A second major intervention occurred in 1910, when the scarf joints in the bottom chord were reinforced. Vertical iron ties were added near each post, and parts of the bottom chords adjacent to the abutments were replaced. The cost of these repairs totaled $1720.
By far the most obvious and significant change was the addition of laminated timber arches to supplement the trusses. These arches clearly were added sometime after the bridge’s initial construction, but their date of installation is uncertain. Those in south span are ten-ply with a built-up dimension of about 9-1/4 inches by 27-1/4 inches, while those in the north span are twelve-ply and total 9-1/4 inches by 32-1/2 inches. Although the north span is longer, its arches are considerably lower than those in the south span. The arches themselves are approximately the same height from feet to arch apex, but the feet of the north arches sit lower on the pier and abutments. In the middle two-thirds of each span, hanger rods from the arches support the same floor beams that bear on the lower chords, thus relieving some of the load from the truss. Unlike a Burr arch-truss, these arches are not connected directly to any truss members, so they do not interact directly with the trusses. The portion of the load each carries is transmitted from the floor through hanger rods to the arch, thence directly to the abutments and pier. The addition of these arches probably occasioned the removal of some of the sway bracing between the posts and tie beams, which may have been the cause of distortion trouble later on.
The sides of the bridge were originally solid planks without windows, making the inside very dark. Beginning about the turn of the twentieth century, the town regularly paid $9 per year to Woodstock Electric Company for lighting. About 1914, long windows were cut in the siding, and the bridge is now quite bright. An inspection in 2003 suggested that pieces of diagonal timbers that once stiffened the floor laterally—timbers possibly removed to facilitate installation of the arches—were reused as nailing support for the siding, leading to conjecture that the present siding, with its window openings, may have been installed at the same time the arches were added.
During the 1920s, the sides of the bridge’s west span began to lean considerably, probably due to the earlier removal of diagonal bracing between the posts and tie beams during the installation of the arches. At the recommendation of an engineer from Springfield Massachusetts, iron rods with a turnbuckle were attached from a timber under the roof to a ledge in the river in order to pull the bridge back into plumb. How long this fixture remained in place is not known, but the permanence of the river anchorage point, which can still be seen, suggests that it may have been intended to be more than a temporary expediency. Nevertheless, it was removed at some later point, and a July 2004 inspection showed the bridge was again leaning.
From December 1952 through March 1953, Miller Construction of Windsor, Vermont, used the frozen river as a platform to raise the bridge another foot, reinforcing the abutments and central pier with concrete caps. Following these alterations, Miller made various repairs to the lower chords and installed new steel gussets between the posts and roof tie beams. Finally, the bridge floor was augmented with a new layer of tread timbers installed perpendicular to the existing ones. The wooden roof shingles were replaced with a metal roof in 1959-60, which was itself replaced in kind in 1993. During the late 1980’s so-called “distribution beams” were installed along the tread centerlines beneath the floor beams. These distribution beams, overlapping 8-inch by 16-inch timbers, apparently were an attempt to stiffen the floor, but given the relatively short lengths of each timber and the number of joints, their effectiveness is difficult to assess. Repairs to four horizontal tie beams under the roof were necessary in 1993 after a tall van passing through the bridge destroyed them.
Originally unpainted, Taftsville Bridge received a coat of red paint around 1959. Although some covered bridges were always painted, many received red paint for the first time in the 1950s, perhaps because of the influence of Christmas card views and other Americana showing red covered bridges.
The Taftsville Bridge in Context
Taftsville was an industrial and commerce center long before the covered bridge entered service in 1836. During that time, Vermont was in the midst of the merino sheep-raising craze. From the 1860s on, dairying became a prominent agricultural activity.
The Woodstock Railway arrived in 1875, and trains served Taftsville until 1933. For some years in the 1960s the old TAFTSVILLE station sign was mounted on the covered bridge’s portal. It was later replaced with a more modern sign, which later vanished.
Manufacturing gradually disappeared, but the dam on the Ottauquechee River still generates power. The Woodstock Electric Company, established in 1893, bought the water rights from the former Taft Scythe Works. The company built a combined steam and hydroelectric generating station in 1902, then replaced the old wood-crib dam with the present concrete structure in 1909. The steam equipment was removed in 1916, but in 1942 additional hydroelectric facilities were added. In 1956, Central Vermont Public Service took over the site, which presently has a 500-kilowatt turbine, and it generates enough electricity for about two hundred houses. This is the last remnant of the industrial activity begun by Stephen Taft around 1793. Today, tourism accounts for a sizable share of the area’s economy.
From an engineering standpoint, the Taftsville Bridge, with its unusual design and modifications, may well be in a class all its own. While alterations to covered bridges are common, and are to be expected with any bridge of this vintage, the vast majority of surviving bridges were originally built and later altered by individuals who, if not actually trained as engineers, evidently possessed considerable knowledge of structural principles, and their designs reflected that knowledge. Even modified, these bridges usually consisted of members that were assembled into a single, interlocked truss or archtruss with members whose stresses could be calculated with reasonable accuracy. Except for gross modifications that, for all practical purposes, built a new bridge inside an existing shell in an attempt to obtain a modern bridge while maintaining some odd sense of esthetics, the original truss designs were generally retained, even though certain members might be replaced with larger ones or have reinforcements added.
This has not been the case for the Taftsville Bridge. While it may appear to be a Burr arch-truss at first glance, it is not a comparable design, and it does not function the same way. Although they support a common floor, the multiple kingpost trusses and arches essentially act independently of one another. Under load, both dead and live, each flexes and deforms differently until reaching some deflection combination that shares the load.
An unorthodox design from the beginning, with chords that are neither continuous nor fully independent at the center pier, the way the arches were later added to support portions of the floor with no direct connections to the trusses makes a straightforward analysis of this bridge extremely difficult to do with any confidence. Add the widely varying nature of the wedged connections between the posts and lower chords, along with the addition of the distribution beams under the floor and metal rods parallel to the posts, and the analytical problem becomes one that would, at best, yield only an approximate solution based on numerous assumptions about joint performance and load sharing between parallel members. Accordingly, attempts to quantitatively analyze the bridge’s performance during this project were thoroughly frustrated.
It may not be fully understood, but the Taftsville Bridge, unusual as it is, soldiers on into the 21st century. It remains a dependable and distinctive local landmark and a rare representative of a folk tradition in bridge building that will likely continue to serve for many years to come.
Allen, Richard Sanders, Covered Bridges of the Middle Atlantic States (Brattleboro,
Vermont: Stephen Greene Press, 1959)
Allen, Richard Sanders, Covered Bridges of the Northeast (Brattleboro, Vermont:
Stephen Greene Press, 1957)
Allen, Richard Sanders, Rare Old Covered Bridges of Windsor County, Vermont
(Brattleboro, Vermont: The Book Cellar, 1962)
Barna, Ed, Covered bridges in Vermont (Woodstock, Vermont: The Countryman Press,
Blaser, Werner, Schweizer Holzbruken/Wooden Bridges in Switzerland (Basel:
Dana, Henry Swan, The History of Woodstock, Vermont 1761-1886 (Woodstock: The
Woodstock Foundation, 1980; original edition 1889)
French, Rhoda W. (Teagle), “Historic Taftsville Covered Bridge Under Repair”
(Woodstock, Vermont: Valley News, 1952)
Lewandowski, Jan, “Agency of Transportation Covered Bridge Report,” in Nelson,
Nelson, Joseph C., Spanning Time—Vermont’s Covered Bridges (Shelbourne, Vermont:
The New England Press, 1997)
Tyrrell, Henry Grattan, History of Bridge Engineering (Chicago: by author, 1911)
Vermont Standard, Sept. 23, 1869, p. 3 col. 1., obituary on Solomon Emmons
Watson, Pearl G., Taftsville Tales (Taftsville, Vermont: Happy Valley Homemakers
Woodstock Town Meeting minutes, 1833 through 1840
Woodstock Town Reports, 1852 through 1914 (incomplete collection), Vermont
State Library, Montpelier, Vermont
 Stephen Taft is generally cited as the first settler, but Solomon Emmons Sr. (grandfather of the bridge builder) arrived around 1768. See Henry Swan Dana, The History of Woodstock Vermont 1761-1886, Woodstock, VT: The Woodstock Foundation, 1980, (original edition, Boston and New York: Riverside Press, 1889), 92.
 An information panel at the north end of the bridge contains much useful information on the area.
 Dana, History of Woodstock, Vermont, 92.
 His father, Solomon Emmons Jr., had married Prudence Taft, sister to Stephen and Daniel. See Pearl G. Watson, Taftsville Tales, Taftsville, VT: Happy Valley Homemakers Club, 1967, 50.
 Useful details on the construction of the Taftsville Bridge are found in Richard Sanders Allen, Rare Old Covered Bridges of Windsor County, Vermont, Brattleboro, VT: The Book Cellar, 1962, 39-41.
 See Richard Sanders Allen, Covered Bridges of the Northeast, Brattleboro, VT: Stephen Greene Press, 1957, 10-11.
 An excellent source on Swiss practice is Werner Blaser, Schweizer Holzbrucken/Wooden Bridges in Switzerland, Basel: Birkhauser, 1982, though this can be a difficult book to find in the United States.
 Richard Sanders Allen, Covered Bridges of the Middle Atlantic States, Brattleboro, VT: Stephen Greene Press, 1959, 21-22.
 HAER no VT 3, 2.
 Jan Lewandowski, “Agency of Transportation Covered Bridge Report,” in Joseph C. Nelson, SpanningTime—Vermont’s Covered Bridges, Shelbourne, VT: The New England Press, 1997, 155.
 HAER No. VT 30, 3.
 Lewandoski, ”Agency of Transportation Covered Bridge Report” in Nelson, Spanning Time, 155.
 HAER field notes, June 22, 2002.
 Wedges were most commonly used to pre-stress trusses. Applying a tensile load to the posts in this manner places a compressive load on the diagonals that tends to keep the joints tight and rigidize the truss. This use of wedges to pre-stress a truss was a part of Long’s patent dated March 6, 1830—six years before the construction of the Taftsville Bridge—but it is not known if Emmons was aware of it. Since many of the timbers are roughly hewn, and wedges are located both above and below the transverse blocks, structural alignment evidently was Emmons’ purpose for using this type of joint, and any actual prestressing in this case appears to be coincidental and unintended.
 Most writers assume that the 1851 town limit changes left Woodstock entirely responsible for maintenance, but later Town Reports make it clear that the old arrangement continued. The 1909 report, for example, records small payments from Hartland and Pomfret, their shares still being reckoned as 3/40 and 8/40 respectively. Reports generally covered activity for the previous year. The Pomfret border was three-quarters of a mile away, but the Taftsville Bridge still served the entire southeast corner of the town.
 Jay Morgan, Woodstock Town Clerk, and Don Wickman, Librarian/Archivist with the Woodstock Historical Society, furnished data on the Emmons family. The 1898 Town Report is the last one to record a payment to E. C. Emmons—$4.60 for snowing the bridge. The 1899 report contains nothing about the bridge, and reports from 1900 on show maintenance payments to one Enos Dole.
 Richard Sanders Allen, Rare Old Bridges of Windsor County, Vermont, Brattleboro, VT: The Book Cellar, 1962.
 This kind of iron joint was published for the first time by J. Parker Snow in 1895. See HAER No. NH 38, Contocook Bridge, and Snow, J. P., “Wooden Bridge Construction on the Boston and Maine Railroad.”
 The date when the laminated arches were added remains the great unknown of Taftsville Bridge’s history. Estimates range from a couple of decades after construction, to as recently as about 1914. It is even conceivable that the two spans’ arches may not have been added at the same time. The set of Town Reports consulted is incomplete, and research is complicated by the fact that for some years there were separate reports for Woodstock Village and the Town of Woodstock. A 1913 mandate concerning minimum load ratings for state highway bridges in Vermont and New Hampshire offers plausible, but far from certain, evidence that the arches were added soon thereafter to meet the new requirements. Also see Pearl G. Watson, Taftsville Tales, 51.
 Town Reports generally show this expense from 1898 onwards.
 Pearl G. Watson, Taftsville Tales, 51.
 Field observation by Joe Dahmen, July 2004.
 Rhoda W. (Teagle) French, “Historic Taftsville Covered Bridge Under Repair,” Woodstock, VT: Valley News, 1952.
 Nelson, Spanning Time, 156.
 Ed Barna, Covered bridges in Vermont, Woodstock, VT: The Countryman Press, 1996, 149.
 Nearly the entire stock of covered bridges in Columbia County and in Washington County, Pennsylvania, received red paint at this time. It was a dramatic change. Even the interiors were painted red in Washington County.
 In addition to the information panel at the north portal of the bridge, a historic marker at the power plant furnished useful background material.
 Taftsville Historic District registration form, National Register of Historic Places.
Generally speaking, these clusters of community developed where there was activity – mills and manufacturing. This meant water power. Stores opened, churches, grange halls and meeting houses were built, and people settled in these communities, surrounded by farmers working the land around these settlements.
Prosper, formerly named English’s Mills, was so name because of the prosperous nature of that community The mill was located at the junction of Austin Road and Rt. 12 on Prosper Brook, sometimes called Barnard Brook. Mr. English employed a large mill crew, the Prosper school educated its children, and farmers along Barnard Brook did well. It was a stop on the way to Barnard, on the Woodstock-Royalton turnpike.
West Woodstock, which at one point had its own store and post office, was anchored by Daniels Machine Company, a large manufacturing facility which sat on the site of the current Woodstock Farmers' Market. There was a dam here on the river, and a mill pond to generate water power for the factory. Remnants of the canal can still be seen south of the iron bridge. It was also an important road intersection as a road connected West Woodstock to Prosper. In addition, it was on the road to Bridgewater, another prosperous mill town.
South Woodstock, once called the South Parish, operates like a separate town. With its own schools, academy, stores, tavern, hotels and manufacturing mills along the Kedron Brook, it was self sufficient. It has its own post office, still. It was on the Springfield to Woodstock Turnpike. Farming on Fletcher Hill and Long Hill, especially during the sheep craze, was very successful.
Taftsville was anchored by the large iron manufacturing facility on the river, operated by the Taft Family. It made scythe blades, stoves and iron implements. There were also mills on Happy Valley Brook, and a brick yard there. Here were stores, a church, and in the late 1800s, a railway station. The valley straddling Happy Valley Brook also had a successful farming community.
In January 1934, ski history was made in Woodstock, Vermont. That year three men —Douglas Burden, Tommy Gammack, and Barklie Henry— had come to stay at the White Cupboard Inn so that they could go skiing at Clint Gilbert’s hill, just north of the village, on what is now Route 12. On one particular night, the three sat around discussing how they could get up a ski slope faster so that they could spend more time skiing and less time climbing hills. The three proposed to the White Cupboard Inn’s owners, Bob and Betty Royce, that they would put up the money if the Royces would have installed a ski tow similar to one that they had heard about in Shawbridge, Canada.
The Royces took the challenge. They contacted William Koch, Betty Royce’s brother, who in turn enlisted the help of his friend David Dodd. David was able to amass the needed parts, including a Model “T” Ford with a Montgomery Ward Pulford tractor conversion. The White Cupboard Skiway, the first ski tow in the United States, opened on January 29, 1934. This ski tow in turn spawned a wave of other local ski tows, including “The Gully,” “Prosper,” and “Suicide Six.” These ski ways put Woodstock on the map as a ski destination, and thousands of skiers flocked to the area.
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.
Columbus Day celebrations were prolific in the United States in 1892. The most famous of the celebrations was the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, which was dedicated in October of 1892 but officially opened in 1893.
The following are excerpts from the October 1892 Vermont Standard that reference the local festivities in Woodstock:
"Nothing in the expectation of the executive committee of the most sanguine citizen exceeded the actual results in Woodstock's celebration of the peerless Italian navigator's unparalleled discovery. In the early morning the business places and private residences in the village began to don their holiday attire, and long before noon the lively colors of the American, Italian and Spanish national standards were everywhere displayed, giving the town an appearance of hearty festivity. In these decorations nearly all the business men joined, as well as very many other citizens, and there were numerous displays both elaborate and beautiful."
"In the forenoon the exercises were confined to the schools, where a good number of townspeople gathered to witness and hear them."
"Before twelve o'clock the streets were lined with people from out of the village, and teams were everywhere; but the number steadily increased until after one, when Chief Marshal E.P. Tewksbury, with Chas. R. Marcy and Wm. H. Bradley as aids, began to organize the procession, which, when the word was given, marched from the Town Hall up South Park street to the Episcopal Church, thence down North Park and Central, up Pleasant and Elm, to the Town Hall again, in the following order:
1. E.P. Tewksbury, chief marshall; Charles R. Marcy and Wm. Bradley, aids.
2. Squadron of Mounted men, Capt. Wilson.
3. The Woodstock Cornet Band.
4. George C. Randall Post, G.A.R., H.H. Woodbury commander.
5. Landeau carrying Revs. McMillan, Simmons, Clapp and Fry, and Dr. Boynton.
6. Carriages with Distinguished citizens.
7. Drag carrying Teachers of Public Schools.
8. Public School Scholars on foot and in teams.
9. Large Wagon with thirteen Young Ladies, representing the Thirteen Original Colonies.
10. Boat-load of Aboriginal Indians.
11. Hook and Ladder Company, with their apparatus.
12. Carriages with Citizens.
Such spectacles as that are rarely witnessed in towns of Woodstock's size, and the like of it in some respects will never be witnessed here again."
Excerpts from The Vermont Standard, October, 1892
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.
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.
Quest for a Better Light
by Carolyn Good
Ever since the first paleo-human brought a flaming stick inside the cave, artificial light has remained an essential part of developing civilization. Perhaps that first torch engendered the same fear and mistrust that has accompanied each new lighting innovation through the centuries. Yet in spite of all initial misgivings, mankind has not ceased to apply ingenious solutions to improve the efficiency, practicality, and economy of bringing light into our dwellings, pushing back the darkness and extending our days.
Seeking something safer and longer lasting than a torch made way for the first primitive oil lamps, which were simply a rock crevice or hollowed object stuffed with moss that had been soaked in animal fat. This in turn led to a fiber wick immersed in the liquid fat, and by 3000 BC a wick wrapped in tallow, which we call a candle, shows up in Egypt. Candle technology was sufficient to last well into the eighteenth century, when whale oil was introduced, providing a superior light with a whiter and brighter flame. We can well imagine a cautious, cultural reluctance to shift away from the familiarity, predictability and security of candlelight. Until, that is, whale oil lanterns in turn became familiar, and their steady brilliant light became the new standard, a certain improvement over sputtering and flickering candles. The whale oil industry flourished for over a century.
Whale oil as a lamp fuel had its problems, too, burning with a strong odor and turning rancid and foul-smelling in storage. When whale fishing began to play itself out and whale oil became increasingly scarce and wildly expensive, the quest was on for a better, cheaper source of oil. By the 1850s the petroleum industry was well underway, sparking a global technological and economic revolution. With the liquid fuel technologies already in place, kerosene took over the market, providing a cheap, steady, longer-lasting flame, and these portable lamps quickly became the most sought-after indoor lighting method.
At the same time, the process to manufacture gas from coal was being refined, and the next radical change in indoor lighting seemed unavoidable. While many people refused to allow the new-fangled gas light into their homes, the use of gas in cast-iron street lamps had been steadily increasing since the early 1800s and this public use enabled folks to gradually get used to the idea. Gaslight cost up to 75% less than oil, and by 1860 there were over 300 gas plants in cities and towns across the United States.
Woodstock was no exception. Woodstock’s Gas Light Company incorporated in 1855, laying about two miles of main lines throughout the village. The plant itself was located “off Church Street, near the River” according to the incorporation documents – which was, more specifically, behind the Unitarian-Universalist Church. This gas plant distilled and pressurized gas for delivery through underground pipes to a meter inside the home of subscribers. From this meter, sometimes prominently displayed in the parlor, the gas would be piped to various fixtures in the house. To light a lamp, one would gradually open the regulator until there was just enough gas to ignite, and then adjust the flame to a desired level.
This new, steady, clear light had broad social significance, turning night into day for many. It allowed factories to add night shifts, made streets safer for socializing, and accelerated the spread of reading and writing. And, as with previous lighting innovations, distrust and suspicion were also widespread. Fears included health concerns, such as the prevalence of tuberculosis; environmental and aesthetic issues; dangers of leaks, suffocation, fire, and explosions; and its use required constant diligence. A hearing in the city of Boston, in 1866, on the expansion of gasworks there had this to say: “The Gas House corrupts the air; it emits a smell that has a tendency to suffocate invalids; the Gas deposits a powerful oil which penetrates the soil; and the overflow enters the drains to the annoyance of the neighborhood.”
Even the meter box itself was a great source of mistrust. There was a popular notion that this new gadget in the home was in collusion with the gas company, to take advantage of the homeowners now dependent on it. Gas companies did their best to allay all these fears, citing superiority of gas for providing illumination, extolling its safety, simplicity and economy of time and labor. One pervasive fear, however, proved to be undeniable -- the danger of fire and explosion was real.
The Vermont Standard of November 14, 1872 reports: “On Friday last in the afternoon the gas house here was destroyed by fire. Anthoine Picois (Pecor?), the gasmaker, having filled the receiver had put additional weights upon it, causing it to tip up. He had just started for the door to get a crowbar, when hearing a noise he looked round and saw the roof of the gas house floating off. The gas had escaped, communicated itself to a lamp burning nearby, and the result was of course an instant explosion. Help was soon brought, but everything was almost immediately in flames and nothing was saved. The loss of the gas is a serious inconvenience to many but a new house will be put up as soon as possible and we understand the new one is expected to be built with reference to preventing fires in future.” Bob Benz, in his Gas Report published for the Billings Farm and Museum in 1996, smartly observes, “It is not known if Anthoine was injured or sought another line of work following the explosion. The sight of the roof floating off could have been a life-changing experience for Mr. Picois.”
Residents of the village adjusted to this power-outage, much as we do today on occasion, by getting out our old kerosene lamps and candles. But it took three months before the gas plant was up and running again, creating particular hardships for local businesses, especially Mr. Woodward’s mill and factory, which lost two or more hours each day of production time. When the new gas plant opened again in February of 1873, the new paraffin oil gas was praised as providing “…a beautifully white and strong white light…far exceeding anything we have enjoyed.” (VT Standard, Feb. 6, 1873.)
The last decades of the nineteenth century brought yet another innovation in artificial lighting as electricity, generated by water or by coal-fired steam, burst onto the American scene. It took the public several years to begin to trust this invisible power surging through insulated cables and Thomas Edison himself embarked on a dazzling advertising campaign to assuage the fears, promoting his new electric lights as safe, clean, healthy and efficient. By 1900, the Woodstock Electric Company had already begun providing some services in the village, but it was a slow transition from gas to electric as the use of gas was now familiar, with fixtures and systems already in place.
The Woodstock Gas Company finally closed its operations by 1908 due to lack of profit and lack of maintenance, and with gas lighting no longer available there was some debate among townsfolk about re-adjusting to the new electrical system. It wasn’t until around 1920 that electricity became the standard for home lighting, and
not until the 1960s were the last remnants of the foundation of Woodstock’s gas plant finally removed from behind the UU Church.
Now, every aspect of our lives is dependent on electricity. Those first mysterious, glowing light bulbs ushered in an explosion of new gadgets and inventions that we can’t imagine living without. The global demand for electricity is unbounded and rising, and we continue to seek new, responsible ways to bring light into our darkness. We also continue to mistrust and seek ways to overcome the dangers and side-effects of these modern sources of power. Whether fossil fuel, nuclear, hydro, solar, wind or biomass, each new technology has its strengths and weaknesses, as has been true since the beginning of artificial light. There may be many factors that motivate radical change in the methods we use to push back the darkness. Depletion, high prices and new technologies all play a part. But it seems each innovation will necessarily bring its own cultural and environmental impact to our always-changing world.
A little to the east and south of Vermont’s geographical center in the foothills of the Green Mountains lies the Prosper Valley. It is here that the Appalachian Trail now passes and four towns meet: Bridgewater, Pomfret, Barnard and Woodstock. And it is here that the Eastern ski industry began.
The first mechanized ski tow in the United States was built here, an event which ushered in the modern era of American downhill skiing. Powered by a Model-T truck engine, the first ski tow was built at a cost of $500 and ready for operation in February of 1934. The capacity was very limited, but it worked, and at one blow it revolutionized the skiing habits of Americans.
Following this 1934 invention on Gilbert’s Hill and the development the following year of the Gully area and Suicide Six, a third rope tow area opened a few miles up the Gulf Road, now Route 12. The Prosper Ski Area was designed by downhill skier and intercollegiate ski coach Otto Schneibs and opened in 1937 by owner Rupert Lewis, a successful farmer. The original main tow was 1200 feet long and several years later a shorter tow was added. Finally, in order to gain the very top of the area’s 1600-foot elevation, a third tow was added. This last provided access to the ski jump. Woodstock High School scheduled meets here; distances of up to 70 feet were recorded at these interscholastic meets. The ski cabin at the base of the main tow served as warming hut, ticket office and lunchroom. It had a fireplace and small kitchen where Rupert’s wife Ruth served soups and sandwiches. On an ideal day there would be up to 60 people on the hill while maximum crowds of 150, particularly when jumping events were held, would throng to watch and ski. The daily rate was 1$.
The ski area closed in1952, but the cabin was rented seasonally to hunters. In the early 70's Rupert’s farm was subdivided into 3 parcels and the land including the former ski area and cabin was sold to Robert Schick who hoped to develop. In1985 Schick sold his property to the US Park Service for the Appalachian Trail.
In 1992 the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places at the National Park Service formally determined that the Prosper ski cabin was eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. The Prosper Ski Cabin was a rare surviving building of the late 1930's era and historically significant for association with Vermont’s ski industry. The cabin was in remarkably good condition given the lack of any maintenance, but something would need to be done to keep it from further deteriorating.
In 2003 University of Vermont graduate student Charles Degener prepared an architectural conservation report of the facility and submitted it to the Vermont State Historic Preservation Office which expressed its desire in seeing the building restored to the Green Mountain National Forest. Although the corridor land upon which the cabin sits lies within the jurisdiction of the GMNF, the cabin itself lies under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Trail and corridor maintenance of this Appalachian Trail land and the incidentally acquired structure falls to the responsibility of the maintaining Green Mountain Club, and in particular its Ottauquechee section. The USFS through a challenge grant provided funding for the first phases of restoring the structure. Volunteers from the “O” section and local boy scouts cleaned and cleared out the cabin. In a second phase long-time shelter builder volunteers Rick and Laurel Tobiason and GMC’s Long Trail Patrol under the direction of Matt Wels set the wall studs, installed floor joists, shored up the roof and secured the building against the elements.
Rupert Lewis wrote that “The northeast slope [where the trail now slabs] held the snow very well. After heavy storms I would level the slopes with a snow shovel. Except for big weekends I and two employees could attend to everything.” We now live in a far more complex time. It is through the cooperation of many people: agency management partners, trail maintaining clubs, volunteers and other interested parties that ensures cultural resources will be restored to their rightful place in the history of a community. The Prosper ski cabin is another link in the cultural history of Prosper Valley. As stewards of the land we have a responsibility to bind the past to the present, to honor a community’s rich history and preserve the story for future generations.
From The Vermont Standard...
September 19, 1869
On the 14th day of June, 1776, Joseph Safford of Hardwick, Mass., bought of Jonathan Grout of Petersham 300 acres of land situated near the center of the township of Woodstock, resting on the lowest bank of Quechee River and spreading out in a northerly direction with a surface beautifully varied by level and hillside. On the plain, removed back from the river some little distance, Safford built him a house in due time, and it was the first settlement on what in later days has been commonly called The Flats. Col. Safford was a carpenter by trade and possessed for the times a high degree of skill and taste in his profession, as can be judged from specimens of his work still remaining in the house of the Rev. George Daman. Three years after his first purchase Col. Safford deeded to his son Jesse, eighty acres of this land lying directly on the river and embracing the territory now occupied by the Mills and underlying a large portion of the village which has grown up here.
This spot thus early occupied by the Saffords became in due time a kind of center for the westerly part of the town. All the lands on the river up to the Bridgewater line and so back on the hills west and north were soon taken up by an excellent class of men. There were the Raymonds, the Churchills, Phinehas Williams, the Delanoes, the Meachams, the Bennetts, and so on through a long list that might be mentioned. These people wanted mills and school-houses and churches. A site for a mill was chosen on Jesse Safford's land, and a sawmill and gristmill were put up by solid Jabez Bennett, who continued the owner of the same for thirty years. Capt. Ephraim Eddy erected clothing mills in the vicinity and had his fulling mills in the lower part of Bennett's grist mill. In the year 1804 carding mills were added.
Probably about 1793 a schoolhouse was built on the flat. It stood on the north side of the main road and opposite the road leading to Bennett's mills. It was a wooden building over fifty feet long, with chimneys on each end and two front doors, one an entrance for the boys and the other for the girls. The desks were arranged along the sidewalls. and extended the length of the schoolroom. It was made spacious in order to accommodate the swarms of children that already began to gather in the farmhouses of the neighborhood. Not unfrequently in the winter season the school numbered 116 scholars. Those days of thrift have gone by, and no wonder, seeing it now costs as much to support one child as it did in the days of our grand-fathers to keep a family of twelve.
During the busy years between 1780 and 1790 when the north parish was rent into factions over the question, Where shall be the meetinghouse, among other sites fixed upon was the fine location overlooking the Flats, where Elipalet Thomas now lives. The idea of building here was never carried out.
But there is no place for further particulars now. On the spot which ninety-three years old Joseph Safford found a wilderness there has grown up a smiling village. This village has within the last few years considerably enlarged its borders, rivaling and perhaps out stripping in some respects the neighboring metropolis. And now a most serious question has arisen, by what name shall the village be called. It is urged that the old designation of The Flats is no longer in keeping. Whatever occasion there was for calling the place so once has all passed away. Then the name has not a good sound, and there is a great deal in a name. All of which is most cheerfully granted. But what shall be the new designation? West Woodstock has been suggested, and it has even been placed on some local maps. Now with entire modesty on this delicate question, with no sort of wish to intrude upon our neighbors rights, but sill with unwavering firmness we do protest against this name. The locality is too rich in associations to be treated in such a way as this; the village with its surroundings is too beautiful to have its fair proportions marred by such a blundering title. For the name is both inexpedient and out of place: inexpedient, because we already have a Woodstock and a South Woodstock in the town, and if we add these to West Woodstock too, it will make rather more of a burden than six miles square can endure. then the name is out of place, because the village is not situated in the west part of the town, but in the center, and is west only in its relation to the main village.
'Well, what will you call it,' growls some one, tired of the subject. We beg to be excused. It is for the good people of the flats to settle that question, and no one wishes to interfere with their right to do so. But if a suggestion would not be out of place, we would venture to recommend Centerville as an appropriate name against which no reasonable objection can be urged. But this by the way. Any name you please, gentlemen, that has variety to recommend it and can be pronounced with ease; only let this clumsy, wearisome, odious title of West Woodstock be buried in the tomb of the Capulets."
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.
ANNUAL MEETING AGENDA
November 13th, 2018
6:30 President’s Remarks, Heidi Lang
6:35 Treasurer’s Report: Tom Hartman
6:45 Action Item: Election of Officers & Trustees
President, Kim French; Vice-President, F. Charlie Degener; Treasurer, Tom Hartman; Secretary, Barbara Drufovka
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.