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The History of Springfield Vermont

Springfield, VT has an incredibly interesting history of innovation and invention.

Pre 1761

Springfield, Vermont stands on the traditional land of the Pennacook and Abenaki People. 

1761-1800

  • As one of the New Hampshire Grants the town of Springfield was first chartered by Governor Benning Wentworth on August 20, 1761

    • The patent was subject to the usual conditions in grants given in those days - an ear of Indian corn was to be paid as rent, a market established, the timber preserved for the royal navy, a village site to be laid out, and a reservation made for religious and school purposes.

  • During the French-Indian War in 1760, a province of NH sent troops to build Crown Point Road, to connect them to General Amherst's Army stationed at Crown Point. ​

  • In 1764 King George III set the VT/NH state line as the western bank of the Connecticut River.

  • In 1770 there was the first of many recorded floods of the Connecticut River.

  • The first hotel owner in Springfield was Roger Bates, he ran a house for travelers at Eureka as early as 1778

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1800-1820s

  • The Springfield post office was established in 1818.

  • In 1828 John Davidson invented a new machine, a machine that helped finish cloth production.

    • He soon invited his son-in-law to join, Fredrick Parks​, the name changing to Davidson, Parks, and Company

    • He then invited another son-in-law to join him, Amasa Woolson changing the name to Davidson, Parks, and Woolson.

    • When John Davidson passed away in 1850, the name changed into its final form, which we all know it as now: Parks and Woolson.

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1830s

  • The iconic First Congregational Church was built downtown in 1833, it was first founded in 1781.

    • The steeple which is visible from surrounding neighborhoods and a staple in downtown photos was added in 1869 with the columns added in 1927.

  • In 1933 The Springfield Fire Department was formed. In the beginning was a single-hand cart called Engine Company No. 1. The engine house was located back of where the Woolson block now stands​

    • In 1835 another engine house was built on the lot north of the Union church. They also kept a small hand engine at the Davidson & Park Machine Company, called "No. Two."​

    • In the 1840s and 50s, they expanded to have a ladder company and a third hand cart

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1840s

  • By the 1840s Springfield's biggest asset was the Black River and the falls. With the water falling 110 feet over 1/8 of a mile it would be able to power cotton mills, card factories, clothespin manufacturing, bucket factories, and more!

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1850s

  • In 1857 the construction of the Town Hall began

  • In May of 1859 the Park & Woolson Machine Company was entirely burnt out; as well as other buildings to the south of them on the river.

1860s

  • In the 1860s The Woolson Block which still stands, was built by Amasa Woolson, Horace W. Parks, and Frederick Parks.

  • In 1860 they added a jail to the basement of the town hall which was in use until 1880.

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1870s

  • In 1870 the Baltimore Covered Bridge was built

  • In December, 1877, the Industrial Works at the upper dam was completely destroyed by fire

  • January 4, 1878, F. W. Stiles issued the first number of the Springfield Reporter.

  • In June 25, 1878, a fire occurred at Vermont Novelty Works

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1880s

  • July 28, 1880, fire at barns of John Brady and Thomas Carmody on High street.

  • February 19, 1881, Springfield Toy Manufacturing Company suffered a loss by fire to the extent of $1,000.

  • On January 20, 1882, the grist-mill of John Gowing; Springfield Hosiery Company, owned by Thomas Carmody; Fairbanks & Porter's block; and residence of Mrs. John Chipman, on Main Street, totally destroyed by fire. Also, the village force pump was lost and had to be replaced.

  • In 1888 Jones and Lamson Machine Tool Company (J&L) moved from Windsor, Vermont to Springfield with great effort from some of Springfield's biggest names, such as Adna Brown, and Amasa Woolson.

  • In 1889 James Hartness moved to town to join J&L. Ushering in an era of machine tooling and precision manufacturing.

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1890s

  • James Hartness patents the flat turret lathe in 1891, said to be one of his most important inventions.

  • In 1894 the Springfield Telephone Company was founded to provide phone service to the region.

  • In 1896 the Fellows Gear Shaper Company was co-founded by Edwin R. Fellows (mentee of James Hartness) to manufacture sheering equipment and the plant was built.

  • The first portion of the Library was built.

  • The Sparrow Block was built.

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1900s

  • In 1900 the Eureka Schoolhouse closed.

  • J&L started to be successful and internationally renowned, and machine tooling started to take off. 

  • In 1909 Bryant Chucking Grinder Company was started by William LeRoy Bryan (another mentee of James Hartness).

  • In 1916 Fred Prescott Lovejoy, founded Lovejoy Tool Company.

  • In 1904 the Hartness House is built by James Hartness.

  • The Bank Block was built downtown.

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1910s

  • Aviation was one of James Hartness' passions, as a man who was one of the first to own a car in Vermont and had a fascination with machinery, airplanes were not a huge leap for him to become infatuated with.

    • In the summer of 1914 at the age of 55 he became the oldest man in the United States to hold a pilot's license. Soon after he began the process of trying to create an airport in Springfield, VT.

    • 1919 it finally opened, not much more than a field, a road, and a single plane hanger.

  • One of Hartness's other passions was telescopes, he built his own for his front yard in 1910, with connecting underground tunnels. Which is now a museum. 

  • World War I was also a huge part of  the 1910s, Bryant Chucking Grinder Company and J&L added more shifts to keep up with the demand for artillery shells and pieces for aircrafts, automotives, and weapons.

  • Odd Fellows Block built.

  • The Springfield Hospital was founded in 1914.

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1920s

  • By January 1920 James Hartness's passion for aviation had spread, and he had a small group of men to make a corporation called The Springfield Landing Field INC. This allowed the airport to grow, adding North, East, South, and West landing strips, and the Springfield Manufacturers Association added two more hangers.

  • In August 1920 Russell Porter held the first meeting of the amateur telescope-making group, which would a few years later become Stellafane

  • James Hartness is elected Governor of Vermont from 1921 to 1923.

  • In 1923 the Stellafane Clubhouse was built. Run by Russel Porter, a friend of James Hartness and fellow inventor, he is often called the "founder of amateur telescope making".

  • In 1926 the first Stellafane Convention was held.

  • In 1927 Charles Lindbergh landed at the Hartness State Airport after his historic New York-to-Paris flight.

  • In 1927 the library gets itfirst addition.

  • In 1927 one of the largest Connecticut River floods hit.
  • In 1928 Russell Porter leaves Stellafane and Vermont, to go to California to work on the Palomar Telescope, which at that time was the largest telescope ever made, at 200 inches across.
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1930s

  • The depression was hardest on those in urban centers, those in rural areas, who depended on agriculture, certainly felt the impact but were, on average, better able to feed and take care of themselves than those working in cities and towns. Almost 400 manufacturing companies in Vermont shut down during this period.

    • Both J&L and Bryants Grinder had a strong enough product line and were at the forefront of the technological inventions that they survived. Exporting to the Soviet Union also helped keep their heads above water.

    • Bryants also used this downtime to improve their designs.

  • In 1930/31 Russell Porter returned to Springfield to direct the construction of an observatory and two turret telescopes.

  • In 1933 Ralph Flanders took over for Mr. Hartness as president of J&L

    • Flanders became Hartness's son-in-law in 1911, marrying his youngest daughter.

  • As World War II loomed, all production grew.

  • There were floods in 1931, 1934, 1936 and 1938

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1940s

  • In 1940 the US Ordinance Department (the department that supplies the military with weapons and ammunition) asked that Bryant expand their operations to help with the war effort.

    • By 1942 they employed 1350 men and women.

    • Jones and Lamson also flourished during the war, hiring 1600 workers to keep up with production. 

  • In 1942 and 1943 the government built Southview Housing to hold workers contributing to the war effort, this development contained 69 units.​

  • Many towns struggled when the war was over, with soldiers coming back needing to work. J&L managed to have enough non-military projects in the pipeline that they were able to hire many of their veteran employees back. Which was of great benefit to Springfield as a whole.

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1950s

  • In 1952 Springfield faced its final flood before the dam was built.

  • In 1956 Riverside Middle School was built

  • In 1957 the North Springfield Dam started construction and was finished in 1960

  • In 1958 Ex-Cell-O Corporation buys Bryants and it becomes a subsidiary

  • In 1958 a group of citizens led by Anna Hartness Beardsley began restoring the abandoned Eureka Schoolhouse.

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1960s

  • The State of Vermont took control of the airport

  • In 1964 J&L began being sold off to various companies such as Textron.

  • Bryant Centa-Form OD grinding machine was announced in 1964, showing they were still a strong player in the external grinding market.

  • Interstate 91 was built through Springfield

  • In 1968 the Eureka Schoolhouse was moved to its current location.

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1970s

  • In 1970, 100 years after its construction, the Baltimore Covered  Bridge is moved to North Springfield.

  • There was a second addition added to the town library

  • Bryants continued to create new products, even after a rough start to the decade.

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1980s

  • In 1986 the Ex-Cell-O Corporation, which was now the parent company of Bryants Chucking Grinder Company was purchased by Textron.

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1990s

  • In the Mid-1990s Springfield on the Move was formed by a group of volunteers to reinvent downtown Springfield and bring it back to its former glory.

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