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.