The Griffith Library, across the street and part of the Wilson House property, rounds out the story of Bill Wilson’s deep emotional connection to East Dorset. This is the home of Bill’s maternal grandparents, with whom he lived from age eleven. Now serving, in part, as a resource library open to the public, and with Bill’s childhood room on the second floor also open for visitors, it is a charming, small but comfortable, nineteenth-century Vermont home.
It is here that Bill came of age, learned to play the violin, stored his hunting and fishing gear, and did his high school homework. It is here that Bill returned for college breaks, departed to join the army for World War One and here that he returned following his discharge in 1919.
From the Wilson House, where he was born, to the Griffith Library, where he grew up, to the little New England Village of East Dorset, Vermont, where Bill mingled with friends and neighbors, visitors can feel Bill W’s presence and more deeply understand the world that shaped the man he was to become.
Located across the churchyard on Village Street North is the home of Bill and Dorothy Wilson’s maternal grandparents Gardner Fayette (1841-1924) and Ellen Brock (1849-1921) Griffith. Fayette was a veteran of the Civil War having served in the 14th VT Co. B for nine months beginning in October, 1862 and mustered out shortly after the battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. Fayette would return for the 50th anniversary of the battle in 1913 for the encampment and 3 days of ceremony accompanied by his grandson Bill. G.F. Griffith was a farmer and successful business man (his cousin Silas had become Vermont’s first millionaire with his lumber business in nearby Danby) owning numerous properties in and around East Dorset, proprietor of the municipal water works, served as post master and was active in the East Dorset Grange with wife Ella.
The Griffith’s had a son, Clarence (1867-1894) who succumbed to tuberculosis in Colorado where he had gone to seek relief from the fatal ailment. Their daughter Emily married a local quarry worker, Gilman Wilson in 1894 and welcomed a son the following year who they named William Griffith Wilson followed by a daughter Dorothy Brewster Wilson in 1898. In 1906 Bill and Dorothy’s parents divorced and the two Wilson children moved back to East Dorset to live with the grandparents while their mother attended osteopathic medical school in Boston, MA. Bill would not see his father again until 1914.
Gardner and Ella provided a loving home for Bill and Dorothy and had means for them to attend Manchester’s Burr and Burton Seminary, then a private secondary boarding school. Bill would visit and often stay with his grandparents during his years following the Seminary as a cadet at Norwich University and Lois visited often while staying at her parent’s camp on Emerald Lake in North Dorset.
Since 2005, the Griffith Library at The Wilson House has been a quiet repository of artifacts and volumes related to Bill Wilson’s life and the history of alcoholism, its effect on the family and life in spiritual recovery. Through the work of its committee and countless hours of volunteer commitments, pledged materials for the buildings rehabilitation it welcomes visitors from around the country and the globe.
The work at the library is an ongoing endeavor and inquiries on how to support and contribute towards archival materials and continued building maintenance are welcomed including restricted donations specifically towards planned renovations and improvement.
“Whenever a civilization or society perishes, it is because they forgot where they came from.” – Carl Sandburg