A Brief History of Weathersfield
The town of Weathersfield was chartered as part of the Province of New Hampshire, Benning Wentworth, Governor and Commander-in-Chief August 20th, 1761. Settlement began in the town of Weathersfield before 1765 and organization took place in 1768.
Many of the grantees lived around New Haven, Connecticut, so the town's name probably derives from Wethersfield, one of the smaller communities in that area. Originally the name of the Vermont town was spelled the same way as is in England and Connecticut, but the "a" slipped into the Vermont spelling very early.
The Connecticut town was named in 1637 for Wethersfield, Essex, England, where the name originally referred to a field associated with a wether (from the Old English wither), or castrated ram. Wethers often were trained to lead a fiock of ewes to and from pasture. When the Vermonters put the "a" into their town's name, they lost its old pastoral meaning, which would have been appropriate in view of the sheep boom that later made Weathersfield one of the most prosperous towns in the state.
One Jonathan Allen, an early settler in town, was a veteran of Bunker Hill and had the scar to prove it. One of his ears was lopped off by his own commander because he had fired on the British before the order was given. (See photo of house.)
In 1830 a post office was opened at the village which is now known as Ascutney. The office was named just Corners (not Weathersfield Corners, as was intended). When the application forms were made out for the post office, Weathersfield name was put in the proper place for the town's name and Corners was put in for the village name, the assumption apparently that any fool could see the village name was Weathersfield Corners. But the postal authorities weren't just any fools: they took the name exactly as they read it, and for twenty years the office was just Corners.
At some point it occurred to someone that Corners lay in the shadow of Mount Ascutney, so in 1851 the name of the post office was changed to Ascutneyville. In 1924, during one of Washington's periods of trying to tidy up postal names, the -ville was dropped, and the village has been Ascutney ever since. Ascutney is a very old Abnaki name for the mountain, possibly meaning a place "at the end of the river fork." Although Weathersfield has the village of Ascutney and Little Ascutney Mountain, the main peak of Mount Ascutney is over the line in the towns of Windsor and West Windsor.
Ascutney Mountain, a detached peak 3,144 feet high, is partly in the town and has a ski resort area [located in the adjoining town of West Windsor). According to other sources, the word Ascutney is said to come from the Indian word cascadnac, meaning a peak with steep sides.
At the southeast, the Connecticut River makes a queer bend, long called Weathersfield Bow.
Broadcloth, cassimere and satinet were formerly made in great quantities here. In 1811 William Jarvis, then Consul to Portugal, brought to Weathersfield from Spain, a world-famous herd of 3,500 Merino sheep. They were some of the first of this breed to be introduced into the United States, and in 1840 over 10,000 were owned in Weathersfield alone. See below for photo of Historical Marker.
Weathersfield is also noted for its fine Holstein cattle and English-bred horses. Paint, soapstone products and printing ink were formerly made here. [The Vermont Soapstone Company was re-organized in the 1970s and today, again, produces soapstone products in Perkinsville.]
There were 136 Weathersfield men who served in the Civil War, and it is believed to be the highest proportion of any town in the Union states.
Here were born Don Alonzo Joshua Upham who was a mayor of Milwaukee, Sherman Hall, a missionary who translated the Bible to Chippewa language, Frank Lyman Cone an inventor and manufacturer of machine tools in the adjoining town of Windsor, and Isaac Eddy artist and engraver.
The Dan Foster House, constructed in 1785 and added to in 1825 is a prized possession of the town and was restored through the efforts of the late Reverend Raymond A. Beardslee and serves as center for the Weathersfield Historical Societyâ€™s library and museum.
- From Bicentennial Edition Gazetteer of Vermont Heritage 1974
Charles Amsden: Weathersfield Entrepreneur
Amsden was nothing more than a grist mill on the North Branch of the Black River in the early 19th century, when when seventeen-year-old Charles Amsden came on the scene. Within a year of his first casual visit to the grist mill, he had married a local girl and purchased the mill. Over the next 60 years, Charles Amsden transformed this bend in the road into a bustling village that took its name from its founder.
Using local limestone, Amsden built the Amsden Lime Works into a huge operation. Amsden employees mined limestone from the local quarry and loaded it into lime kilns in Amsden village. Fired by wood from Hawks Mountain, the Amsden Lime Kilns burned steadily, turning limestone into lime. Drivers took the barrels of lime up Gulf Road with half a load, unloaded at the top of Gulf Road, and then went back for another half load, and after reaching the top again, reloaded the first half and then with a full load went on to the railroad in Windsor.
A busy center, Amsden village boasted a general store and offices for the Lime Company, 20 houses, a saw mill, a grist mill, a blacksmith shop, a storehouse, a grain business, a chapel and school built for Amsden employees. Charles Amsden managed to have the post office moved from nearby Downer's Hotel to his store, and he also secured stage stops at the store (previously they had just been at the hotel). Sometimes considered rivals, Roswell Downer and Charles Amsden made their corner of Weathersfield, the Limekiln District, a popular destination. Downer's Hotel, famed entertainment mecca of the times, was once the home of the last panther killed in Vermont in 1867, now housed in the Dan Foster House Museum.
The so-called Amsden Store building was built by Charles Amsden around 1869 as his home, and that of some of his Amsden Lime Co. employees in today's hamlet of Amsden. What was once a booming lime quarrying and manufacturing business, Amsden is situated at a bend in the road on Route 131, just a mile from the stoplight at the junction of Route 106 at Downers Corners.
Local History Links
Consul to Lisbon was first to import Merino sheep to U.S.
In 1811 Consul Jarvis brought from Spain to his farm in Weathersfield Bow the prized Merino sheep, whose longer fiber revolutionized the woolen industry and stimulated sheep raising throughout the East. In the 1830's Merinos were the state's principal livestock.
History of Weathersfield
Weathersfield Historical Society
History of Windsor County and local Townships
Weathersfield's National Register Properties
Story of Benning Wentworth
Virtual Vermont's History Page
1790 Census, Weathersfield
UVM Lanscape Change Program (interesting old pictures of towns, including Weathersfield)
Gary Lull Pages (Personal geneology site with lots good info, including photos from Plain Cemetery)