Woodstocks Abound: Background information when reading Out of the Woods

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Out of the Woods

A Memoir of Wayfinding

by Lynn Darling

Out of the Woods by Lynn Darling
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2014, 288 pages
    Jan 2015, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Woodstocks Abound

Print Review

Norman Williams Public LibraryMany Woodstocks come to mind when reading Out of Woods, Lynn Darling's memoir about her move to Woodstock, Vermont. The first is, of course, from the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969, which was actually held in Bethel, New York after the towns of Wallkill and Woodstock refused the request for a permit. But there are many others. Here are glimpses of some Woodstocks in the United States, including Vermont's:

stagecoach leaving Overlook Mountain House in 1905Woodstock, New York was founded in 1787 when people moved in large numbers from cities into the Catskill Mountains. It became the premier space for arts, crafts and music in 1902 when Ralph Whitehead, Bolton Brown, and Hervey White created the first artists' colony there, bolstered by its creative energy and its proximity to New York City. In 1905, Birge Harrison found his location for the Art Students League summer school, establishing Woodstock as the summer place for the arts, attracting even more musicians and artists.

Green Pond Park, Woodstock, AlabamaWoodstock, Alabama, which straddles two counties (Bibb and Tuscaloosa) was settled in the 1820s through a land grant given to William Houston, a teacher, lawyer, statesman and delegate to the Continental Congress. It was established along a former stage coach line that stretched from Tuscaloosa to Huntsville. In 1872, after a railroad line was installed to West Blocton, it was a storage yard for red and brown iron ore, cotton, and coal. In the same year, Giles Edwards, a Welsh immigrant, moved from Tannehill, Alabama to Woodstock to build a blast furnace with which to manufacture pig iron. It was a thriving railroad town in the nineteenth century, and had as many as six trains stopping each day to transport its goods away.

Woodstock, Vermont was chartered in 1761, and profited from a railway line between it and White River Junction, which brought in business and leisure. It became a year-round resort in 1892 and has been one ever since. Woodstock, Vermont loves and fiercely protects its architectural history - its 18th- and 19th-century buildings still stand proud and in excellent condition. F.H. Gillingham & Sons, Woodstock's general store, which opened in 1886, is still thriving. And if you go to the village green, you'll find buildings in many different styles, from Federal to Greek to Roman.

Main Street in Woodstock, Illinois in 1910Woodstock, Illinois, when it was Centerville (more on that below), became the McHenry County seat in 1843. It may already look familiar to you, famous as the main filming location for Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. Throughout late January, into February, Woodstock offers a bevy of Groundhog Day-related events, including screenings of the movie, a symposium celebrating its anniversary, a dinner dance, and more.

Woodstock Downtown in Woodstock, GeorgiaWoodstock, Georgia, over 100 years old, gained life beyond its 300 residents and 960 acres when the railroad arrived in November, 1879, and was incorporated into Georgia in 1897. It claims a rich history in railroading. In 1879, it became a stopping point, with a depot, between Marietta and Canton for the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad. Woodstock's current depot, a one-story wood frame built in 1912, focuses on passenger and freight transport.

Where does the name Woodstock come from?
Woodstock, in Oxfordshire, England is the namesake for all these Woodstock towns (and a number of others around the globe). Woodstock is Old English for "a clearing in the woods." Henry I (1068–1135) is said to have kept a menagerie in the park, and the story goes that Henry II courted "Fair Rosamund" there. Henry II gave Woodstock its Royal Charter in 1179. In the sixteenth century, the town was known for manufacturing gloves, and now it is primarily a tourist destination.

Dr. J.U. Ray named Woodstock, Alabama for the home of his ancestors, Woodstock, Oxfordshire in England. Woodstock, Vermont was named in tribute to the same place. In 1845, Centerville, Illinois became Woodstock, Illinois because of Woodstock, Vermont native Joel Johnson, an early settler there. According to author Anita L. Smith's Woodstock History and Hearsay, Woodstock, New York possibly got its name from the Oxford, England town as well. Woodstock, Georgia is the only town different from the rest. There are two name-origin possibilities - that it was named after a Sir Walter Scott novel, or that a Mr. Woodstock settled in the town and spearheaded a school.

First image of Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock, Vermont
Second image of stagecoach leaving Overlook Mountain House in 1905. Credit to Woodstock Historical Society.
Third image of Green Pond Park from Woodstock, Alabama website
Fourth image of Main Street Woodstock, Illinois in 1910
Fifth image of Woodstock Downtown in Woodstock, Georgia taken from Atlanta North Real Estate blog

Article by Rory L. Aronsky

This article was originally published in January 2014, and has been updated for the January 2015 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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