Woodstock patron Mary French Rockefeller’s roots run deep.

MonumentAn unassuming turnout on the east side of Route 106, a few miles south of Woodstock, is home to a headstone like monument and history marker of uncommon interest.  Called “Indian Stones,” a couple of carved slate tablets tell the story of the 1754 capture of a local family by indians, and marks the spot where Susannah Johnson gave birth to the great-great grandmother of Woodstock native Mary French Rockefeller.  But these tablets don’t tell the whole story.

In the 1750s, James and Susannah Johnson lived at the edge of the frontier alongside the Connecticut River in the town of Charlestown, New Hampshire.  Marking the start of the French Indian War, on August 30, 1754, the entire Johnson family, James, Susannah, and their 3 children were captured by an Abenaki war party and force marched Stones Storyto Canada to be sold to the French.  The next day, Susannah, who was nine months pregnant, went into labor and gave birth to a daughter upon a flat rock in a nearby strembed.  She was named Elizabeth Captive Johnson.  One hundred and fifty-six years later, in 1910, Mary French Rockefeller, the granddaughter of Frederick Billings, was born in Woodstock.

It is well-known that the town of Woodstock and its rural surroundings have greatly benefitted from the patronage of Laurance Rockefeller.  This is in no small part due to Mary French’s influence.  Laurance MaryFrenchsaid that his interest in Woodstock flowed simply from the fact that it was Mary’s home.  Indeed, Woodstock was very definitely Mary’s home.  Having spent her childhood living on her grandfather’s Woodstock farm, and roaming through the forests of Mount Tom on her pony, her love of Vermont’s rural nature was as much due to her childhood experience as to her direct connection to the land forged by the earlier birth in a nearby streambed of her great-great grandmother Elizabeth Captive Johnson.

Because it was Mary’s home, Rockefeller adopted Woodstock.  He saw the dangers  unwise development could pose for Woodstock and worked to guide development so that landscape and townscape were considered together.  With this in mind he purchased and replaced the aging Woodstock Inn, greatly improved the country club and ski area.  He also funded the underground routing of electrical and telephone wires throughout the village, greatly enhancing Woodstock present historical and aesthetic appearance.

 

By |2014-10-12T13:31:48+00:00October 12th, 2014|Historic Roots & Local Lore|