Taking a Trip on the Roads of 1855
With a detailed historic map, you can do a lot of exploring without even leaving home. Let's take a little trip over the Ledyard Bridge, from Hanover into Norwich in 1855, on our way to the Beaver Meadow in Sharon.
Crossing from Hanover NH to Norwich VT
In the photo above, we can see the Railroad Depot at Lewistion, in pretty much the same location where it stands today, though today's depot was built about 1884. We won't be going down River Road though. Prominent names we see along the way include Burton, Green, Goddard, Hopson and Lewis.
If we go sort of straight, we go toward the village of Norwich. If instead, we take a left turn we'll go by a Grist Mill on the Mill Road, through what today is probably property owned by Montshire Museum, followed by Interstate 91. There is one small portion of Mill Road that still exists today, off of Route 5 near the new Co-op Service Center.
On the above map, we can see the route into the Norwich village center.
We'll travel past Norwich University on our right, and maybe we'll see some cadets drilling or playing baseball against the Dartmouth team. We'll pass the Post Office on the left, and take the next left onto Mechanic Street, then bear right onto Beaver Meadow Road at the Cemetery.
To get an idea of the topography, the above US Geological Survey map from 1906 is useful.
As we travel along Beaver Meadow Road, we first follow Bloody Brook, the thick black snake-like line on the map, along a fertile, open plain. We then bear left and follow along Bloody Brook's smaller tributary, Charles Brown Brook, as the valley narrows.
Looking at the map above, we see that we will bear to the left as we pass around Brigham Hill, where all the Brighams live. Above the hill to our left is Dutton Hill, where J Dutton resides. From there we journey through the valley and pass the E. B. Brown place, on the right, and Schoolhouse Road, now a trail, on our left.
Past the Browns, following the Charles Brown Brook, we continue along the Beaver Meadow Road, heading northwest towards Sharon. We pass the Boardmans, and the J. Bell Estate, on the right, and then we continue along through the valley, passing Tucker Hill on the left, near E. Newton. Here we climb to the highest point on Beaver Meadow Road, and the source of the Charles Brown Brook. Suddenly we come down a steep short hill into the community of Beaver Meadow, or West Norwich, near the crossroads of Beaver Meadow and Chapel Hill Roads, North and South. There we find a vibrant community with their little chapel and the beautiful Beaver Meadow along Mitchell Brook.
And finally we reach our destination, the community of Beaver Meadow, that includes residents of both Norwich and Sharon. The Beaver Meadow and West Norwich area is still a thriving community today.
This was the route often taken by ministers from Hanover to the Beaver Meadow Chapel for church services, and the route was often made in difficult weather conditions.
Beaver Meadow Chapel, West Norwich, Vermont
Yesterday I drove my muddy Jeep down the Beaver Meadow Road and visited a friend who lives over the line in Sharon, and we did some maple sap boiling outside, with a small setup on a woodstove. As I drove over muddy roads to a sap boil in March, I hearkened back to the days when there was no such thing as a paved road, and felt lucky that I could enjoy driving along an old muddy, rutty, washboardy, bumpy wet road, and yet within minutes I could be entering a luxurious Interstate highway.
Thanks for traveling along "Old Roads, Rivers and Rails"!
Thanks go to Ned Redpath and the staff at Coldwell Banker Lifestyles Realty in Hanover for use of the 1855 map.
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- Bob Totz