In 1782, Capt. Leonard Proctor, a Revolutionary War veteran, moved his family to Vermont. With his two sons (Jabez and John) he built a “shunpike” to the village of Gassetts in nearby Chester to avoid paying the tolls of the Green Mountain Turnpike. Salmon Dutton, who came to Cavendish around the same time, had helped to build the Green Mountain Turnpike, which ran from Bellows Falls to Rutland, bringing Boston coaches north up the Duttonsville Gulf to the village and then west along the present RT 131 through Proctorsville. The “shunpike” being toll free resulted in North bound traffic from Boston coming directly to Proctorsville and bypassing Duttonsville. Because of the road, the Dutton and Proctor families, as well as the villages of Duttonsville and Proctorsville, feuded for 75 years.
The marriage of Redfield Proctor and Emily Dutton in 1858 joined the leading families of the two villages and promised to put an end to the former rivalry. As Redfield said of his first son, Fletcher Dutton Proctor, "if the old names and blood had the old inclination left to stir up strife, it would have created a fearful internal commotion." In fact, the merger of these families proved to be a propitious event for Vermont, since three governors and a United States Senator came from this Dutton-Proctor line.
In February 20, 1907, Proctorsville formally gave notice to the Town of Cavendish that it wished to be incorporated. Today Proctorsville is a village within the township of Cavendish.
Begin your tour at the Proctorsville Green facing the War Memorial.
Proctorsville War Memorial: On November 12, 1923, the American Legion, school children and various members of the community, including Civil War veterans, participated in an Armistice Day ceremony to dedicate the WWI monument. The monument was given by Redfield Proctor, Jr. All of the veterans of WWI were inscribed. Plaques have been placed for veterans of subsequent wars and military actions.
To the east of the War Memorial and on the same side of the street:
Fraternal Building (now the Village Clipper and pictured above): Originally the Eagle Hotel, Jabez Proctor built it. As many as 50 guests and nearly 100 horses would stop for the night on the stagecoach route. The hotel ceased in 1896. The porches and chimneys were torn down and the livery stable dismantled. It became a very ordinary building. In 1900 the building was sold to Proctorsville Fraternal Society, which became the home of the Masons, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs. The first floor was used by businesses. The building became home to Lawrence’s Lunch, Mae’s Lunch, various barbers and the Proctorsville Post Office. Today the building is owned by Art and Jo Frye and houses apartments as well as The Village Clipper and Black River Tax and Business Services.
Continuing on Main Street towards Cavendish, past the Elementary School, go to the second house before Maple Street:
Sunset Tavern: “Town House” or the “Jenny House,” was built in 1787 by Captain Leonard Proctor, the second home he built in Proctorsville. He and his wife Mary Proctor, lived in this house over 30 years and died there in 1827. The house, built of wood, is famous for its fancy hand-carved decorations around the roofline, on the corner posts and around the center doorway.
Across the street from the Cavendish Town Elementary School to the left of St. James Church
Page House: In 1782, Leonard Proctor built a log cabin and in the spring of 1783, he constructed the first house or tavern beside the cabin near where the Methodist church now stands. The house stood where the present highway runs. Part of the house was moved, and then torn down to make way for the elementary school. The remaining part of the house was moved to the current location and became known as the Page House.
St. James Church: Built in 1882 to replace the old church. A Hamill pipe organ was installed in 1886.
Continue to the corners of Main and Depot Street
Pollard’s Block (Proctorsville Post Office and Six Loose Ladies): In 1863, Don C. Pollard opened a general store on the corner of Depot and Main Streets. When a fire destroyed the brick building in 1895, it was replaced with a wooden structure known as the Pollard Block. The store included a pharmacy service, as Fred Pollard learned to fill prescriptions from the local doctor, Dr. Darwin Story. Various members of the Pollard family ran the store until it closed in 1964. Since then the building has served many purposes including a bar, Baba Lou’s Bakery and Crows Corner Bakery.
Continuing on the East side of Depot Street towards 103
Gethsemane Episcopal Church: Construction on the church began in 1889 on land left for this purpose by Sally Parker. Prior to her death, Parker had a small chapel on her property where Episcopalians could worship. Consecration of the church took place in December 1890. The Parish Hall was built in 1956. Behind the church are community and memorial gardens.
Continuing towards Route 103
Opera House (now Crows Bakery and Opera House Café): Built in 1907-1908 by Will Adams, postmaster. The first floor housed a hardware store, library and post office. The second floor contained a stage and a hall. The third floor had a larger meeting hall and a kitchen. In 1919, the building was purchased as part of the Murdock Mill. In 1921, Cavendish Grange 275 moved to the Opera House. The building has been sold and resold over the years. In 1930’s, the building had a pool table and two bowling lanes and a boxing ring. In 1941, it was sold to the Proctorsville Library and in 1946 the American Legion purchased the building for the returning veterans of WWII. The building was open 24 hours a day, six days a week. Over the years, the building has been a hub of activity for the town, providing a place for plays, school functions, movies and even a 5 & 10 ¢ Store. The building continues to serve the community as a gathering space.
Bridge: At one time a covered bridge, this bridge has been replaced many times.
Just after the Bridge
Cottage Hotel-The first building after crossing the bridge. This building was converted from a frame house to Hotel around 1902 and was run by C. W. Carpenter. The rates were a dollar a day and up. The hotel went by many names- Proctor-Piper, Riverside Inn Hotel, Proctorsville Inn and Allen Inn. It is now a private residence but rooms are let at various times of the year.
Continuing towards 103
Golden Stage Inn: Originally the home of the Skinner Family, it was converted to an inn. Otis Skinner, a famous actor in the late 1800’s, was a frequent guest at the Inn. It’s believed to be haunted by young man that has been nicknamed George.
Across route 103 and up Bailey Hill Road
Hillcrest Cemetery: The land for this cemetery was obtained from the Proctors. The earliest burial was in 1828. Veterans include at least 16 who served in the Civil War. Just before the entrance of the cemetery there is an area that was known as a “potter’s field.” This area was destroyed when it was dug up and used to plant potatoes during the Depression. Only three graves remain.
Returning to Depot Street, heading towards Route 131 just before the train tracks
Dr. William’s House Location: Dr. William was an engineer, who went to medical school when ill health kept him from working outside. He was the first doctor to care for Phineas Gage when the tamping rod went through his skull (1845). Not long after the incident, Williams returned to engineering full time and started the oldest engineering society in the United States, Tau Beta Pi. (A “Phineas Gage Walking Tour” is available from the Cavendish Historical Society.
Just after the tracks, look for the stone house that has a “vault alarm on the front.
Bank: Built in 1845 of snecked ashlar stone, it was known as the Black River Bank. In 1865, it became the National Black River Bank and changed names again in 1932, when it became part of the Windsor County National Bank. Merging with Vermont National Bank in 1964, the bank was closed in 1972. The building is now a private home.
Bordering the Proctorsville Green
Proctorsville Woolen Manufacturing Company: This mill was started by Jabez Proctor in 1836 and was reorganized in 1878, to become the second largest mill in Vermont. Reflecting changes in ownership, the Mill was known as the Murdock’s Mill, Crescent Woolen Mill, Proctor Mill and the Black Bear Woolen Mill. The Mill building was purchased by the Town in 1938. Proctor Reels used the building to make furniture as well as reels. Acousti-Phase Company replaced Proctor Reels until 1982 when the building was burned. Wild Bill’s Discounts occupied one of the remaining buildings. The Building was purchased from the Town in 200 and was being renovated for the production of tiles. The structure is currently for sale.
Cross Route 131 and head west (towards Ludlow)
Proctor Cemetery: Located between two houses, look for the Cemetery sign. The earliest burial was in 1816. The Proctors gave the land for the cemetery. Among the veterans buried here is at least one who served in the Revolutionary War, Capt. Leonard Proctor, the founder of Proctorsville, two in the Civil War and one each in The War of 1812 and in the Spanish American War.