The Hamlets of Woodstock
The Town of Woodstock is fortunate to have numerous historic assets, including the designation of three areas as National Register Historic Districts, so designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. These are in the hamlets of Taftsville, South Woodstock, and the Village of Woodstock. Additionally, there other important historic “hubs” in Woodstock, currently not designated as Historic Districts, which consist of West Woodstock and Prosper. The hamlets were clusters of community started around a major activity such as a mill. 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 named 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. There has always been a unique community spirit in the area known as Prosper.
West Woodstock, had at one point had its own store, school and post office. It was anchored by Daniels Machine Company, a large manufacturing facility which sat adjacent to the site of the current Woodstock Farmer’s Market. There was a dam here on the river, and a mill pond to generate water power for the factory. There has also been many bridges spanning the river at this location. This area was an important road intersection that connected multiple Woodstock neighborhoods and communities. A part of West Woodstock was referred to as “The Flats” before being renamed. The renaming of this hamlet was quite controversial at the time and people stated that were only west of the village and remained firmly in the center of Woodstock. It was suggested that the bustling hamlet be named, Centerville, which never happened.
South Woodstock, once called the South Parish or South Village, has its main section listed as a National Register Historic District. This hamlet has always felt like a separate town with its own schools, academy, stores, tavern, hotels and manufacturing mills along the Kedron Brook. It continues to maintain its own post office today. Farming on Fletcher Hill and Long Hill, especially during the sheep boom, was very successful.
Taftsville, also listed as a National Register Historic District, was anchored by the large iron manufacturing facility on the river, operated by the Taft Family. 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 has a successful farming community. Taftsville 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.
Village of Woodstock, listed as a National Register Historic District, was organized on the first Monday in January 1837 and provided for the election of five trustees as the governing board of the village. Originally, this section of town was called the North Village or “the Green”. It began in 1772 with the family of Joab Hoisington and grew to about 1,500 in the mid-1880s. The original limits of this portion of town were laid out in 1819 in an effort “to restrain certain animals from running at large within the villages of this State.” Over the century and a half, the village has become firmly established as the commercial, economic and political hub of the town.
Prosper Homemakers Meeting
View of West Woodstock
Historically known as The Flats
Kedron Tavern &
Holt’s Cash Store
The Center of Taftsville
A view of the bridge, mills, railroad depot, houses and other buildings.