Left in Andover: When Middletown was a lively village center

By Susan Leader
©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Middletown Road and Middletown Cemetery are vestiges of a once vibrant village center within the greater town of Andover.

Over the course of history, Middletown boasted a substantial meeting house, a store and Post Office, a schoolhouse, several blacksmith shops and a tavern.

I was born into this neighborhood, stretching from the Oxbow curve along Weston-Andover Road up to present day Blanchard Road. However, by my time, public buildings and visible industry except for farming and logging had long since disappeared.

Popplewood Farm in 1952, Susan on left with her mother and older sister, with the dirt Weston-Andover Road in the background.

My family’s farm sat close to but not directly on the main road, which was dirt. When I was very young, the passing of a car could be a major event. I would race out onto the front lawn and do crazy dancing just to show off for it.

In the mid-’50s our road got paved. There was the novelty of heavy equipment parked overnights in the front yard. But the soul of our property changed. The road crept ever closer to the house, turning hazardous for children and fatal to domesticated animals.

Nowadays the traffic is relentless. There is nothing visible here to signal through-drivers they are whizzing through history, not to mention peoples’ current lives. They speed along my sparsely populated, slightly desolate looking stretch of road on the way to somewhere else.

A historical marker in Middletown.

But in the woods just off my property along a stone wall sits a slab of marble inscribed, “3¼ Acre Common Proprietor’s Meeting House 44 x 50 FT 1803-1820.”

An Andover bicentennial booklet published in the early 1960s teases out the details:

“A common was established in the center of town on property owned by Peter Putnam and Moses Rowell. A pound for stray animals was built 25 feet square of round poles in 1801 on the northwest corner. Horses and swine were not allowed to roam at large on the common. Female sheep could roam on the common and on the highways providing no damage was done.”

The highways in question did not, of course, conform even to the dirt roads of my childhood. My neighbor Anne Mausolff (see Keeping up with Anne Mausolff) once walked me southeast through dense woods on an abandoned roadbed from her house near Middletown Cemetery to just south of my house.

Stone buttresses on Lyman Brook supported a bridge in days of old.

I had lived here my whole life unaware of the impressive stone buttress that she pointed out to me through the underbrush. Long ago, it supported a bridge over Lyman Brook.

Here and there in the woods run parallel stone walls, giveaways for abandoned roadways. Anne guided me along one such, remnant of an original county seat-to-county seat highway, Rutland to Newfane.

It passed through Middletown by way of Blanchard Road, thence to Marsh Crossroads, an 18th century landmark.

When my family moved to Popplewood Farm in 1950, the former Middletown schoolhouse stood next door, converted into a private dwelling. Our bicentennial booklet has this tidbit to share on the subject:

“An interesting item in the Middletown warning for March 9, 1833, read: ‘To see what method the District will take to secure the woodshed from being cut or torn down by the scholars or others for to kindle fires in the schoolhouse.’ At the March meeting the article was dismissed.”

Could firewood have really been that hard to come by? I thought old time Vermonters were too thrifty for such shenanigans.

Use your imagination to bring these hamlets back to life. And, as I tell myself, be on the lookout for female sheep in the roadway, always.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeLeft in Andover

About the Author: Vermont native and noted potter Susan Leader grew up on Popplewood Farm in Andover. At age 17, she was inspired to take up the potter's wheel by "a charismatic potter" from the Society of Vermont Craftsman. She spent 18 months apprenticing at pottery villages throughout Japan. She returned to Popplewood Farm, where she and her husband, fiddle player John Specker, raised their two daughters.

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.