The Flats

(now called West Woodstock)

0516 W. Woodstock from Mt. Tom.jpg

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."