This Pemigewasset Valley town which includes both the small village of Woodstock and the larger settlement of North Woodstock has one of the most scenic setting in the region. With Franconia Notch to the north and Kinsman Notch to the west, Woodstock has been a tourist haven for many years. Woodstock was first granted in 1763 as "Peeling", a name taken from a town in England. In 1771 the town was regranted and named Fairfield, after the town of the same name in Connecticut.
The early history of Woodstock is a bit uncertain - sources differ as to who the first settler was - but it seems clear that settlement came slowly to this mountainous region. Some authorities state that the first homesteads were cleared in1773 by John Riant and others, but not until the early 1800s did a significant population arrive. The original settlement, once again known as Peeling, was located several miles west of today's villages in the high pass between Mt. Cilley and Grandview Mt. One of the largest families in the village was the Smiths, to the extent that an 1852 school superintendent reported that "The Mount Cilley School is all Smiths." This village was abandoned by the 1860s. Its stone walls, cellar holes and overgrown main street can still be found along an unmaintained trail between Rts. 3 and 118.
Meanwhile, controversy over the town's name was brewing. In 1813 Rev. Benjamin Ropes sermonized long into the afternoon urging his faithful to "peel off" this "inappropriate" appellation. In 1840 the residents finally rid themselves of their unwanted name and the town was re-christened as Woodstock, after an historic English palace featured in a novel by Sir Walter Scott.
Tourism and extensive lumbering in the town’s hilly hinterlands dominated the later history of Woodstock. A major impetus for tourism came in the early 1800s with the extension of the Pemigewasset Valley Railroad northward from Plymouth. Among the more notable hotels in North Woodstock were the Deer Park, Alpine, Mountain View, Russell House, and Mt. Adams. The Deer Park, a majestic landmark that opened in 1887, listed a capacity of 250 guests and featured golf, billiards, a large and elegant dining room, and a 12-foot wide veranda with sweeping views.
Lumbering was long an important activity in Woodstock. In the mid-1800s Nicholas Norcross ran log drives down the Pemigewasset from the Woodstock and Thornton forests. A few years after J.E. Henry brought his clear-cutting operation to next-door Lincoln, Woodstock got its own lumber baron: George L. Johnson of Monroe, NH. In 1907 he incorporated the Gordon Pond Railroad and soon lines were extended from his base south of the Flume out to Gordon Pond Brook, Lost River and Elbow Pond. Although conservationists mounted a successful campaign to save the Lost River gorge, Johnson’s crews – numbering 600 to 700 men by 1909 leveled thousands of acres of Woodstock timber in a decade of swift and efficient clear-cutting. In 1916 Johnson’s ten-year cutting contract expired and so did the Gordon Pond Railroad.
Today tourism is the major industry of Woodstock. The town’s natural attractions include ponds, rivers, wooded mountains, the rock and brook scenery of Agassiz Basin, and the famous Lost River Reservation. Over 80 percent of the town’s land area is in the White Mountain National Forest. All of the settled areas are on the eastern fringe of town along US Rt. 3 and NH Rts. 112 and 175. The small but attractive business district is clustered along Rt. 3 in North Woodstock.
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