Bellows Falls To West Bank
( Originally Published 1919 )
R. 10 § 5. West Bank: Bellows Falls to White River Junction. 43.0 m.
The route continues along the gravel-surfaced State High-way, except for the stretch of town road between Bellows Falls and Springfield Bridge. This is perhaps the most beautiful portion of the valley. The chief attractions are Mt. Ascutney, the fine old village of Windsor, and the gorge of Ottaquechee.
The route leaves Bellows Falls by Rockingham St., following the river bank and avoiding all left forks, and crossing the Windsor county and Springfield town line. The road bears right and then left of the crossroads (10.0), which lead on the left to Springfield Village (R. 33), and on the right to Springfield Station, across the river.
Joining the State Road at this point, the route continues along the bank with Mt. Ascutney (3330 ft) rising grandly beyond. Crossing the Weathersfield town line (16.0) the road soon passes through
18.5 WEATHERSFIELD BOW. Alt 350 ft. Pop (twp) 1092. Windsor Co. Settled 1761. Mfg. lime and soapstone.
This pleasant old farming hamlet lies on the meadows of the Connecticut at a point where the river makes the bend called Weathersfield Bow. To the north stand up Mt. Ascutney and Little Ascutney.
More than a century ago the Hon. William Jarvis, who had been Consul and Charge d'Affaires to Portugal under President Jefferson, bought 2000 acres near the Bow when he retired from office. He imported 3500 merino sheep at a time when the rapidly developing textile industries of America were demanding a higher grade of wool. Owing to the cost of her wars, Spain was obliged to sell many of her world-famous flocks of sheep which she had been breeding and improving for a thousand years. Jarvis also imported Holstein cattle and English-bred horses for his famous farm. This little district has ever since contained some of the best farms in Vermont. John P. Squire, the wellknown pork packer, was born at Weathersfield.
Note. Weathersfield Center lies in a beautiful valley five miles back from the river. Perkinsville, nine miles west, named for a Boston capitalist who established a mill for the manufacture of broadcloth, cassimere, and satinet, is the livest village in the township, and manufactures soapstone wash tubs, stoves, sinks, and foot warmers. The quarries are located on Hawkes Mountain above the village. The village of Amsden, six miles away, named for Charles Amsden, has lime kilns.
Weathersfield, though differing in orthography, was named for and settled by people from Wethersfield, Conn. (p 296). This township was one of scores granted by Governor Benning Wentworth in 1761 to proprietors, largely of New Haven. The first actual settlement was in 1769 in the southern and eastern portions of the town. Up to 1785 the people of Weathersfield were obliged to go across the river to Claremont to church. The first minister in Weathersfield was Rev. James Converse of a family which came to England with William the Conqueror from Navarre, when the name was spelt Coigniers. Its best-known descendant today is Frederick Shepherd Converse, one of our promising orchestral and operatic composers. In 1774 one William Dean carved out a farm at the foot of Ascutney. In ignorance or defiance of the law he cut down some of the great pines which had been reserved for masts of the Royal Navy and was arrested and taken a prisoner to Albany. Little wonder the colonists rebelled against such royal tyranny. The government they set up for themselves was evidently on quite different lines, for in the good old days in 1789 we read of a legislative enactment which authorized John Hubbard to organize a lottery that he might thereby raise the sum of 150 pounds with which to erect a brewery.
Still following the river bank, with Barber Mountain on the opposite shore, the route enters Ascutneyville (23.0), a pretty little hamlet near the base of the mountain.
Mt. Ascutney is the highest elevation in the Connecticut valley and dominates the landscape for twenty miles in every direction. Though but little over 3000 feet in height, it rises directly from the valley floor, here less than 300 feet above sea level, and its summit is only three miles from the river. An isolated peak, a compact, broadly conical out-line, it forms the principal feature of the views from the towns of Windsor, Cornish, Claremont, and Weathersfield, and for this reason enjoys a special reputation for its landscape beauty. The name is of Indian origin and signifies "the three brothers," perhaps on account of its triple summit.
To the geologist, Ascutney is "a Monadnock overlooking a dissected rolling plateau." As Dr. R. C. Daly, who has published a monograph on the geology of Ascutney, expresses it: "Ascutney is a residual of erosion. It has been carved out of this part of the once lofty Appalachian Mountain System where the sedimentary rocks of the range have been intruded by several stocks and thick dikes of igneous rock.... Ascutney owes its existence primarily to a great stock of quartz and syenite." Two kinds of so-called granite have been quarried from the sides of the mountain. The huge columns of dark green in the library of Columbia University came from the quarries above Windsor. Its isolated position makes it a splendid observatory with a view including Greylock, Mansfield, the White Mountains, and Lake Sunapee and Monadnock. The Ascutney Mountain Association, a pioneer organization of its kind, established in 1904, maintains a stone cabin on the summit for the free use of climbers, and a log cabin is maintained on Weathersfield Peak, to the west. The road to the summit is in part that which the residents commenced for Lafayette to use on his grand tour, but the guest changed his plans and the road was finished a century later.
Just before entering Windsor we pass the extensive estate of Mr. Kennedy, of cracker fame, on which there are thirty-eight buildings. To the right are the dairy barns. The residence is on the hill above the road. In the large riding hall a corn show is held every year. In the old Lamson stone mill on Mill River were made the first turret lathes.
28.5 WINDSOR. Alt 324 ft. Pop (twp) 3407. Windsor Co. Settled 1764. Mfg. turret lathes, screw machines, tools, scales, and canned corn.
The town is beautifully situated on the terraced meadows under the shadow of Ascutney. The history of eastern Vermont centers here, and the quiet shaded streets still present some architectural evidences of the time when Windsor was the first town in importance and wealth in the State. That was in the first period of its history up to the early nineteenth century, when, as since, it was distinguished as a town of learning and refinement. Square, commodious Colonial dwellings with fine porticoes and doorways face the quiet elm-shaded streets. The old Evarts homestead stands on the main street. William Maxwell Evarts, of the famous New York law firm of Evarts, Choate & Beaman, was Attorney-general under Johnson, and Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President Hayes. On the hill overlooking the town, among the pines, is the huge white house of the late Maxwell Evarts, who was much interested in the town's industries and owned hundreds of acres about Windsor. Another son, Sherman Evarts, resides here. Prescott Evarts, the rector of Christ Church in Cambridge, retains his interest in Windsor. Marie Dressler, the actress, has a summer home in this vicinity. The Government Building has recently been used for the summer executive offices of the President. On the outskirts of the town is the Vermont State Prison. The Windsor Machine Company is the principal industrial plant. It was resuscitated some years ago by Max Evarts, but since the war it has had a tremendous boom. It manufactures turret lathes and other machinery used in turning out rifles and shells. The plant has been enormously expanded, its shed-like buildings extending over the once beautiful meadow. The river bank has been turned into a dump for refuse. But what matters it! It has paid enormous dividends and has multiplied its capital stock many times. Its stock has recently been sold at more than $1100 a share to the National Acme Manufacturing Company of Cleveland.
The first white man to live on the site of Windsor was in all probability one of those hardy Connecticut trappers, Emmons by name, who put up a primitive cabin here in 1764 and was soon joined by a family with the unusual name of Smith and a considerable number of military and ecclesiastical personages with such titles as Major, Captain, Deacon, most of whom came from Connecticut. One of the early cases of `thought it was a bear' occurred during these first years, when Joab Hoisington, out hunting with one Bartlett, shot him on hearing a rustle in the woods.
In July, 1777, "amidst the tumults of war," Windsor was the scene of the convention which formulated the State constitution. The meetings were at first held in the old South Church, but soon adjourned to the great arched ball room of the village tavern, then a hospitable inn with pillared porch. This latter came to be called `Constitution House,' and then for a time was reduced to ignoble uses as a store-house. It has recently been moved back to near its original site on Main St., and plans for restoration are being carried out. While the convention was sitting, news came of General Burgoyne's invasion, and the delegates wished to depart immediately to defend their homes, but a terrific thunder-storm broke, and while waiting for it to pass the constitution was hastily finished. It was modeled after that devised by Franklin for Pennsylvania, but has the distinction of being the first to make slavery unconstitutional:
During the session of the first State convention, in 1778, twenty-six New Hampshire towns, acting under the leadership of the "Dartmouth College Party," seceded from New Hampshire and appealed for union with Vermont. Vermont was then, and continued to be until its admission to the Union in 1791, an independent republic. It is rather startling to find this early example of secession here in the heart of New England. The New Hampshire State Government very naturally strongly opposed it. In fact, the independent government of Vermont was bitterly opposed by the New York and the New Hampshire governments, both of which claimed jurisdiction. Ethan Allen was something of a politician, though better known in the conventional role of hero and patriot; he made a trip to the Continental Congress in session at Philadelphia, and there arranged that if Vermont would dissolve the union with the New Hampshire towns the New Hampshire State Government would support the new State against the op-position of New York.
The first legislature which met at Windsor after Vermont's ad-mission to the Union, in 1791, initiated canal enterprise in New England by issuing a charter to "the company for rendering the Connecticut river navigable up to Bellows Falls." Again in 1830 a convention was held here to promote canal building and river navigation.
Note. From Windsor northward the New Hampshire side of the Connecticut through Cornish and Hanover is much the more interesting, although the main-traveled road continues on the west bank. There is little of especial interest on the Vermont side of the river between Windsor and White River Junction, although the scenery is attractive. To reach Cornish, cross the long covered bridge over the river (toll 15 cts.).
The route leads along the hillsides above the river, overlooking the Cornish and Plainfield hills in New Hampshire. Avoiding the left forks half a mile beyond the Hartford town line (31.5) the route passes through the eastern end of
33.0 HART LAND. Alt 500 ft. Pop (twp) 1316. Windsor Co. Settled 1763. Mfg. doors, sashes, and blinds.
Hartland is a little agricultural village lying in the midst of the hills near the Connecticut. It boasts of saw mills and a blind factory, but the principal occupation is farming.
The first settlement was made here in 1763 and the town was organized in 1767. It was chartered as Hertford, but the name was changed to Hartland in 1782. The first settler was Timothy Lull, who brought his family up the Connecticut from Dummerston in a log canoe. Arriving at the mouth of a large brook he broke a bottle of liquor and christened the stream Lull's Brook, by which name it has since been known. Most of the early settlers were from Massachusetts and Connecticut. Daniel Willard, president of the Baltimore & Ohio R.R., was born here.
Continuing up the Connecticut Turnpike, as the road is called hereabout, the route forks left across R.R. at North Hartland (37.5). Here it crosses the Ottaquechee river, which rushes down its deep gorge to the left from Woodstock. The only industry in this hamlet is satinet-weaving.
The road now runs across country at the base of a terrace,
the ancient shore of the Connecticut. At the crossroads (41.5) the route turns right on the King's Highway.
Note. Straight ahead is a short cut, across White River and through the village of Hartford, rejoining the main route from White River Junction on Christian St. (45.o).
The main road follows the King's Highway past the State Fair Ground and down hill to
43.0 WHITE RIVER JUNCTION. Alt 367 ft. Pop (Hartford twp) 4179. Windsor Co. Settled 1764. Mfg. harnesses and satinet.
White River Junction, an important railway junction and the principal center of the town of Hartford, is a prettily situated village at the confluence of the White river and the Connecticut. The White river, sixty-five miles in length, is the largest stream in Vermont east of the Green Mountains. This is a busy little place with an electric light plant, monument works, printing offices, etc. Just above the village are the State Fair Grounds, where each September is held New England's greatest agricultural fair, notable for its display of live stock,—especially Morgan horses, Jerseys, and Holsteins.
The Boston and Maine Industrial Department has here planted, at the request of the Vermont State Fair Association, an acre of apples, which it maintains in the highest degree of cultivation as an object lesson to the farmers of the region in the proper care of an orchard and the most improved methods of harvesting and marketing. The White River R.R. Co. encourages potato cultivation along its route by offering prizes for the best results.
Route 44 to Woodstock and Rutland, and Route 45 to Montpelier via the Williamstown Gulf, start from this point. The West Bank Route continues from here to Colebrook.