©2019 by Friends of Muckross.

HISTORY OF MUCKROSS

This page is an ongoing work about the History of Muckross.  It is compiled from stories shared by Edgar May, information from friends and family, and from local history books, maps, and articles.  We are always looking to add to it (and correct it when needed!).  Please feel free to reach out with stories or pictures and we will do our best to include them.

Earliest references to the area around Muckross inevitably focus on the Black River and the falls first encountered when paddling up from the Connecticut River.  The falls have gone by a number of names, depending on the inhabitants at the time, but the most recent is Gould's Mill, named after William Gould who ran a grist and sawmill at the falls in the early 1800's.  A path which followed the Black River and Otter Creek from the Connecticut to Lake Champlain was known to locals as the Indian Road because it was a major travel-way for the Abenaki.   This area was no exception, and some speculate that the plateau just above the falls at Muckross was a convenient stopping point for earlier Abenaki travelers. 

In 1753, soon after John Nott built the first house in Springfield on the banks of the Connecticut and Black Rivers, a small group from the Fort at Number Four led by Daniel Sartwell left the Fort looking for a place to start a new settlement.  They paddled up the Black River until reaching the falls and then struck out on foot up the north bank of the river (now Muckross), climbing until reaching an area where they could build and also see down the valley towards the Fort. This became known as the Sartwell Hill Settlement.

In 1770, ten years after Crown Point Road was built, Old County Road was laid out from the Weathersfield line to Crown Point Road in Eureka (now Eureka Rd).  From there it extended south, following present day Eureka Rd and Skitchewaug Trail, and then continued straight towards the Sartwell Hill settlement and down the same hill to Gould's Mill, where a ferry took travelers across the Black River.  From there they could continue south on what is now Randall Hill Rd and on to Parker Hill and Rockingham.

Later references noted in Fred Richardson's Nineteenth Century Springfield describe an area of Gould's Mill across the Black River from the where the bobbin mill (later the generating station for the Springfield Electric Railway) once stood where a large clearing was used during the Civil War as a place for soldiers to camp on their way to and from the battlefields.   In the early 1900's W.D. Woolson took ownership of the land and used a section of it to breed and raise livestock.  The next mention is in 1911 when W.D. Woolson completed the construction of his country home on the land.

An entire website could be dedicated to W.D. Woolson and his father, Amasa, who were very involved in Springfield and, along with others such as Adna Brown, John Slack, and James Hartness worked tirelessly to bring industry and prosperity to Springfield around the turn of the century. A few of the endeavors he contributed to or was part of include:

  • Bringing Jones and Lamson to Springfield

  • Encouraging Edwin Fellows, William Bryant, and Fred Lovejoy to leave J and L and start their own companies

  • Part of a group that created the first telephone system in Springfield

  • Backer of the Springfield Gas Company

  • Various town positions in the town government and school system

  • President of the Gosselin Granite Company in N. Springfield

  • President and director of Vermont Foundries

  • President of the Vermont Humane Society which was reorganized and then based in Springfield

  • Director of B and M Railroad

  • Vice-president and director of First National Bank of Springfield

As can be seen in the pictures on the gallery page, the earliest version of Muckross looked like a nice getaway or hunting cabin.  Over the years Woolson continued to add on to and expand Muckross:

  • Additions were added to the main house

  • New buildings were added including an ice house, tool shop, multiple garages, and a poultry/dove house

  • A suspension bridge was built over the Black River as a way for visitors to more easily access the property, as well as a multi-car garage and chauffeur's house on the edge of what is now Clinton St (which at the time was only an 18ft wide concrete road with train tracks running alongside)

  • Three dams were installed along the brook in different locations on the property

  • A hydroelectric plant was installed to light and heat the main house

  • Many gardens were created along with garden-type ponds

  • A hot house and green house were added along with an underground irrigation system fed by the main pond and run simply on gravity, as the pond elevation was much higher than the house and gardens

  • A getaway cabin was built overlooking the main pond and was accessible by boat or by foot along the edge of the pond

  • A 50 acre "game park" surrounded by a 10ft high fence and stocked trout pond, swimming pond, and clubhouse were added as a place for visiting businessmen to recreate

At one point the property was made up of over 1,000 acres, stretching from Paddock Rd to Skitchewaug Trail.

W.D. Woolson owned and resided on the property until 1927 when he bought Adna Brown's house on Summer Hill and sold Muckross to C.F. Kelly of Larchamont, New York. 

The Kellys continued to make improvements on the property including:

  • Adding a tennis court and large patio area with more gardens

  • Converting and expanding both the dove/poultry house and tool shop into guest houses

  • Adding a beach and swimming area to the main pond with diving board, slide, and two small changing houses

The property stayed in the Kelly's family until 1950 when it was sold to a couple who sold it two years later to the Hazelton family. 

In 1965 they sold it to Springfield residents Leon (Joe) Breason and his wife, their daughter Louise Breason May and her husband Edgar May, and George Cohen of New York.  Their plan was to form a corporation to rebuild and renovate the property. 

Edgar stayed at Muckross for the rest of his life, spending only his last few winters in Arizona as the cold Vermont winters were taking a toll.  Towards the end of his life he began looking for an organization that might take over the property and make it available for use by the community and especially children.  Vermont State Parks was the obvious answer.

The Vermont State Parks took over official ownership of Muckross in the summer of 2016.

A PDF of a "for sale" brochure, likely made when the Kelly's were selling the property.

For more information about Springfield's history, a trip to the Springfield Art and Historical Society is highly recommended.