The Town of Stockbridge received its Royal Charter on July 21, 1761, from Benning Wentworth, Governor of the province of New Hampshire. Thirty-one Proprietors Shares were issued to William Dodge and his associates. The first settlement in Stockbridge was not begun until 1784 when John Durkee established his family at what is now the junction of the Tweed and White Rivers.
Settlers in this area found Stockbridge to be an extremely beautiful township, richly endowed with fertile soils, virgin trees, and pure waters. As was the case throughout New England, the very tallest and straightest of pine trees in the Town were to be reserved for use as masts on the ships of England’s Royal Navy.
In 1786, Elais Keyes established a grist mill and later a saw mill at “The Narrows”, later known as Gaysville, so named for its founders Daniel and Jeremiah Gay. Gaysville flourished as a manufacturing center, powered by the waters of the White River. A button shop, sawmills, grist mills, schools, churches, several general stores, a woolen mill, snowshoe shop, and many homes were at one time located at Gaysville. Stockbridge Village was also a major area manufacturing center boasting two stores, a school, a sawmill, a church, and a tannery. The maximum population of Stockbridge of 1,327 was reached in 1850.
The White River Valley Railroad, known locally as “the Peavine” was established in 1900 and served both freight and passenger trade throughout the valley. High school students even used the railroad to commute to Whitcomb High in Bethel.
Perhaps no other event shaped the Town of Stockbridge as did the flood of November 3, 1927. The waters ripped through the valleys of Stockbridge, taking with them bridges, dams, sawmills, homes, factories, businesses, and the railroad. The book Floodtide of 1927 reports some thirty buildings gone, with many more rendered useless in Gaysville alone. Barrows Mill at Stockbridge Village, at the time the largest industry in Town, was also destroyed.
Due to the devastation of the 1927 flood, and a changing economy, the Town of Stockbridge and the hamlet of Gaysville were never rebuilt to their former glory. The whistle of the Peavine no longer resounds throughout the valley. Today, Stockbridge is a community scattered throughout the hills and valleys, although unquestionably still richly endowed with fertile soils, beautiful landscapes, productive forestlands, and abundant water resources.
STOCKBRIDGE-GAYSVILLE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
P.O. BOX 39, STOCKBRIDGE, VT 05772