By Sue Durant
KILLINGTON—On the “flats” of Killington, a small gray granite church and a couple of old red buildings nestle between the Ottauquechee River and a tree-filled mountainside. The scene looks like a postcard of an era gone by.
On Mission Farm Road in front of the church, a bronze plaque identifies the site as the “Mission of the Church of Our Saviour placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Oct. 29, 1992.” The property, known by locals as Mission Farm, includes a 200-year-old farmhouse, a guest house, a bakery, and hiking trails, sitting on 172 acres in the heart of Sherburne Valley.
The Rev. Canon Lee Crawford and the church’s executive committee are working to renew the foundation of Mission Farm, both literally and figuratively. The executive committee formed a vision committee in 2015 and met with people from local civic groups. It asked how Church of Our Saviour/Mission Farm could be of greater service for their individual group and for the community at large.
Interestingly, the community wanted the congregation and place to be what founder Elizabeth Wood Clement dreamed in 1895 – in her words, “to be of service to the local community as a place for social gathering, for both the sacred and mundane.”
After the civic group meetings, the vision committee came away with three main themes.
First, it is a spiritual place that goes beyond the church and its sanctuary to include its surroundings. As John Muir once said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
Second, Mission Farm is known for its agriculture and land. The vision committee heard stories of when Mission Farm was still a working farm up until the 1990s, when Fr. Dan Goldsmith farmed the land and rode his tractor while wearing a preacher’s cassock. Some of the people spoke of how they like to walk the trails that go up the mountainside or along the river.
Third, Mission Farm represents Killington’s past. Mission Farm’s history began in 1797 when Josiah Wood Jr. purchased the property and built his first house where the church now stands. That house burned down, so in 1817 he rebuilt the farmhouse across the road, where it still stands today, Killington’s oldest extant home.
The church’s founder, Elizabeth Wood Clement, grew up in that home. Born in 1807, the sixth of 10 children born to Judith and Josiah Wood Jr., she passed a happy and active girlhood at Mission Farm, which she recounted years later in affectionate memories, “twined around every rivulet, foot-path, tree and rock near the dear home and our own little world, which I often revisit in dreams.”
Her father was instrumental in getting the road built from Woodstock to Rutland, the current Mission Farm Road that passes in front of the house. Her family also welcomed the community and travelers to their home, which also served as a tavern, hotel and school.
Elizabeth Wood married Charles Clement, a Bridgewater merchant, at the farm in 1831. They ended up in Rutland, where they lived for 40 years. Her husband, through hard work, became a successful businessman in the local marble, banking and railroad industry, and he amassed a fortune. The Clements were also active in the development of Trinity Episcopal Church in Rutland.
After Charles Clement’s death in 1893, Elizabeth Wood Clement decided to build a church in memoriam to their four lost children and in tribute to her husband. She wanted to build it at the place of her beloved childhood memories, so she repurchased the family farm in Killington. She repaired her childhood home and built other useful buildings. Her legacy, the Gothic style church, was designed by Arthur H. Smith and built in 1894-95. In 1895, the church, consecrated as Church of Our Saviour, was deeded to the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont. Weekly services are still held there today.
Today, the Mission Farm’s founder’s vision of service to the community is flourishing. Thanks to the efforts of the vision committee, Mission Farm has partnered with Killington’s Recreation Department and the Killington Pico Area Association to serve as home to the monthly Killington Farmer’s Market. The Hemingway Guest House hosts family, community and spiritual retreats. The church’s fine acoustics make it a venue for concerts. The first four of a series of public trails along the river and behind the church up in the forest are marked and available for public use. The committee is preparing a conservation activity plan to be better stewards of the land, considering leasing rights for maple sugaring and perhaps working with Audubon to develop an environment suitable for a variety of wild birds.
The Rev. Lee Crawford and the vision committee have worked hard to restore Elizabeth Wood Clement’s dream of hospitality and care of the land. At the same time, their work is focusing on the structural foundations of the buildings to assure Mission Farm’s historic and continual service to the greater Killington Community. Part of this service means critical rehabilitation and remediation of the church’s buildings. In conjunction with the Bread Loaf Corporation of Middlebury, the executive committee has drawn up a 5-year, 5-phase plan to restore the buildings, which have suffered over the years from deferred maintenance.
In a short amount of time, wayfarers on Mission Farm Road will see the work of Phase 1, which consists of repairs to the Josiah Wood Jr. house foundation.
Travelers will observe the installation of drainage pipes in front of the historic farmhouse, new front porch columns and the replacement of the failing 200-year-old dry-stone cellar wall of the house. Later this fall, visitors will benefit from new wrought iron railings in front of the church. All this work will cost $88,403.
Mission Farm has received a grant from the Killington Women’s Club to help with the cost of the engineering report for the vicarage foundation, for which it gives thanks. The executive committee has secured a matching grant from the Healthy Living Fund that will match 2:1 up to $30,000. The committee has launched a rehabilitation campaign to raise the funds.
The congregation hopes that future generations of wayfarers traveling down Mission Farm Road may also have the possibility of wondering about its history and marveling at the beauty of some of Killington’s most iconic buildings, Church of Our Saviour at Mission Farm.
For more information or to see a more detailed report of recommended repair and remedial projects to be carried out over the next several years, and details of this year’s restorations, contact Sue Durant, senior warden, at email@example.com or 802-422-9064.
Church of Our Saviour/Mission Farm on Killington flats is said to expand service to the community.