Of the little settlements in the township of Norwich which seem to be existing in the sunset of their former glory, may be mentioned Beaver Meadow, or West Norwich. This place presents a notable instance of that decline in population and decay of business interests in a rural community, of which Vermont affords many examples since the advent of railroads and the fever of western emigration set in.
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For more than thirty years population, wealth, and enterprise have been drifting away from that section of the town. Probably the settlement reached the height of its prosperity previous to 1840. During the decade that preceded this date two churches were built here, a Baptist church in 1835, and Methodist church about two years later. Regular meetings were held, and full congregations gathered from the immediate neighborhood. Large families of children filled the schools, to the number of sixty pupils of a winter, sometimes. The village had for many years its well-stocked country store, and a variety of mechanics’ shops. Intelligent and thrifty farmers cultivated the productive farms.
Before 1850 the exodus commenced. The Baptist society had its last settled minister in 1869, and a few years later, the church having become nearly extinct, the meeting house was taken down, and the lumber used to build a parsonage for the Baptist church in Sharon village. Four years earlier the Methodists had their last regular appointment from the Conference, though regular preachers were had some portion of the time much later. Many farms tilled forty years ago are wholly abandoned as homesteads, and others are in process of abandonment.
It is impossible to repress a feeling of sadness when one views these desolate and dismantled homes, once the scene of active and prosperous life. What is to be the future of these desolate places? Will the tide of population sometime flow back and fill these wastes, re-people these hillsides, or will the forests grow up over the hearthstones placed by the forefathers of an earlier generation?
Pompanoosuc, or, in full, Ompompanoosuc, is situated about six miles northeasterly from Norwich village. It has a post office and a creamery, and within its limits is the little hamlet of Pattersonville, where L. S. Patterson has a wood working establishment, which is quite an industry, turning out a large product annually. Mr. Patterson also keeps a general country store. Some of the best farms in town are within this territory, and are managed by thrifty and enterprising proprietors.
There are indications that previous to the settlement of the country the mouth of Ompompanoosuc River had been a frequent resort of Indians (probably of the St. Francis tribe) for the purpose of fishing, doubtless to spear salmon at night by torchlight, on the sand bar there, a practice they were very expert in, and which was perpetuated by the white settlers of the vicinity, at the same locality, as long as salmon continued to ascend the Connecticut River. Indian relics are still occasionally found in the neighborhood. When the Passumpsic railroad was being built through town, several interesting “finds” we are informed, including Indian arrow heads, ornaments, etc., were dug up by the removal of the surface soil near the railroad station at Pompanoosuc.
New Boston, a small area of territory in the northwestern part of Norwich, received its name as early as 1784, so used in a road survey of that date.