* In celebration of our family's ties to the Woodstock Railway Company, F.H. Gillingham & Sons introduces a line of t-shirts in honor of our railroad history. Stop by our store for adult and youth shirts, available in railroad gray or black, short or long-sleeved. Pulling into the station shortly: conductor hats and caps! *
The Woodstock Railroad, a 13.88-mile track, transported passengers, goods, and freight between White River Junction - a true railroad village, and Woodstock, Vermont – an idyllic shire town. Beginning in 1875, the first of these trips took place, scenic for some, and necessary for others, filling the day’s schedule to and fro White River Junction with stops in Taftsville, Quechee, Dewey’s Mills, and our own, Woodstock.
During the next 25 years, north-bound passengers in New York City’s Grand Central Station found their coach, duly inscribed: “This Car for Woodstock”. Men, women, and children would depart New York in the morning, and arrive in Woodstock by dinnertime. These special excursions introduced additional revenue, carrying both passengers and freight, including oats, as noted in the photo.
The railroad station in Woodstock, Vermont was the epicenter of the life of the railway. The rail brought many respected, well-known, and illustrious visitors to our even-then, quintessential Vermont village. Ladies wearing bonnets and holding ornate fans to ward of the summer’s heat, and gentlemen in white shirts, tweeds, and bow-ties were mesmerized, as the train crossed the Ottauquechee River with green meadows blanketing the fleeting landscape. Often, passengers were treated to a gaze of a herd of Billings cows, the famed Jerseys, exhibited by Frederick Billings (sound familiar?) at the local Exposition in 1893.
In 1883, Frederick Billings (pictured above), became president of The Woodstock Railroad. Mr. Billings was one of the original interests in the railway, born just north in Royalton, Vermont, studying law and becoming an honorable financier. Billings’ theories on conservation were put into practice after reading George Perkins Marsh’s, “Man and Nature”. As farmland was an important aspect of his efforts, Frederick purchased the Marsh estate, and along with his heirs, set forth to reforest hillsides and lands. Today, Woodstock’s Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park showcases the oldest managed forest in the United States. Along with Billings Farm & Museum, a working dairy farm and museum, the National Historic Park is the epitome of Vermont's agricultural education and history.
By the way, Frederick Billings is the great-uncle of Frank and Jireh Billings, owners of F.H. Gillingham & Sons. This year, we are celebrating our 131st anniversary as the oldest same family-run general store in Vermont. Whether by plane, train, or automobile, we sure hope you’ll stop by our store. We are so proud of our history and look forward to sharing it with you!