Wantastiquet Mountain.---Immediately on the opposite side of Connecticut River from this village is an elevation of land about 970 feet higher than the river, known by the several appellations of "Chesterfield Mountain"---so called from the town in which it is located---and "West River Mountain," designated thus from the fact that West River empties into the Connecticut opposite its base. A comfortabe path was made from the highway to the summit of this mountain, a few years since, and a three-story log cabin crowns the highest peak.
The mountain is a favorite resort for citizens, and the many strangers who visit Brattleboro during the summer season.---
The morning, soon after sunrise, is an exceedingly favorable time to make the ascent and view the extended landscape. On the North, Ascutney towers far above the surrounding country, while a line of dense fog along its base and extending far beyond, betrays the location of the Connecticut.
On the West, the chain of Green Mountains limits the view in that direction, but intermediately may be seen this beautiful village, and the broad fields and homesteads of many farmers. The view South and East is somewhat obstructed by the trees and brush that grow on other parts of the mountain.
By the way, we were on the top with a party of friends, a few mornings since, and, thinking it a pity that so noble an elevation should be without a name, ventured, with their consent, to christen it "Wantastiquet" Mountain. This is the Indian name for West River, and we believe the spot where the village of Brattleboro now stands, was also thus designated. If no objection is made we will henceforth consider it "Wantastiquet Mountain," and speak of it as such.
As Wantastiquet is so much resorted to at this season of the year, our accommodating townsman H. D. Brackett---has provided a glass---hold, we mean a "spy-glass" of high proof---no, power, for the express use of those who wish to make this excursion.---Such will find it an invaluable aid, in making their trip pleasant and instructive.---Brackett "deserves well of his country."
The Brattleboro Eagle, June 21, 1852.
Horace D. Brackett was a long-time Main Street merchant.
The three-story log cabin at the summit was built by patients and guests at the Wesselhoeft Water Cure.
Early sources also refer to Rattlesnake Mountain. The Indian name for the Connecticut, Quonaugticot, could be translated as "river of trees".
Semi-Weekly Eagle, September 24, 1847.
It was on a beautiful summer morning, eight weeks ago, this very day, that I stood in the front door of my honoured father's dwelling . . . The noble mountain, the pride and boast of our village, lay before my eyes---he reared his shaggy top far above the mists that encircled him. Like the leviathan of the mighty deep, whose course is attended by a world of puny foes, he seemed to tower in his strength. But above all, the morning sun slowly arose,---his beams struck upon the spot where I was standing . . .
Brattleboro Messenger, Friday, October 19, 1827.
In the course of elaborating a romantic conundrum to the patient editor, Temperance Tidy describes herself as the "seventh daughter of a very worthy old couple, who have for forty years back vegetated on the bank of our beautiful Connecticut". She has "arrived at my eighteenth year" and her six sisters are all married. Her parents are "Good souls!".
At an early day there was a slight volcanic eruption and lava was thrown out of the fissures in the rocks upon the top and sides of the mountain. During the early part of the last century threads of silver were found in the fissures of the rocks on top of the mountain, and a company was formed for digging the silver ore. Excavations were made, but no ore was found, and old tory Barrett reported that the threads of silver were nothing more than the parts of an old silver epaulette that was pulled to pieces and scattered among the rocks for the purpose of tempting speculators to buy the mountain for a fancy price, when in fact it was comparatively worthless. Mr. Field said he had been surprised to hear it called a mountain when Newfane hill, Wicopee hill, and Putney west hill were about twice as high, yet were very properly called hills, while this little elevation was called a mountain.
Vermont Record and Farmer, July 7, 1876.
From Hon. Charles K. Field's Centennial Address, July 4, 1876 in Newfane.
The First Connecticut River Covered Bridge
Brattleboro', December 1.
On Tuesday last the New Toll-Bridge over Connecticut river, which connects this town with Hinsdale in New-Hampshire, was opened for the accommodation of passengers.
This Bridge does the highest honor to Mr. Kinsley, the architect, as well as to Mr. Lovel Kelton, and the ingenious mechanics who executed the work under their direction. It has been pronounced by connoisseurs to have been erected upon the best plan of any yet put in execution in this part of the union: combining greater strength and less weight of materials and promising more durability.
From the Vermont side a stone abutment projects from the bank 34 feet wide, 50 feet in length and 34 feet in height; from which is thrown the western arch 124 feet in the arc; and resting its eastern extremity upon a stone pier in the channel of the river, from which is extended an eastern arch of the same dimensions, meeting a similar abutment on Barrit's Island. Upon the eastern side of the island another bridge 260 feet in length, with stone abutments and resting on tressels, extends the passage to state of New-Hampshire.
Greenfield Gazette, December 10, 1804.
The first bridge across the Connecticut River in Brattleboro opened a great outlet for New England produce to the Boston markets, and later bridges afforded the gateway to Wantastiquet---
Toll Booth And Bridges, Winter In 1865
Robert Pender's Fort
Pender's Fort belonged to a Scotchman named Robert Pender, who gathered herbs on Wantastiquet for his patented Green Mountain Elixir, Pender's Chilblain Salve, Pender's Edinborough Vegetable Salve, and that which was heartily recommended in the Semi-Weekly Eagle newspaper by the celebrated female suffragette Clarina I. Howard Nichols and others in Brattleboro---
The "comfortable path" to the summit of the mountain that Broughton D. Harris described in 1852 was possibly built by Robert Pender, who was also "working on the new road to West Brattlboro" in the middle of August 1847 when he found an old and rusty Indian hatchet that he showed to local editors.
Pender's Fort burned on Monday morning, May 7, 1860---
About the same time on Sunday, the woods on the top of Wantastiquet mountain were found to be on fire, and the dense volumes of smoke told with what fearful rapidity the flames were spreading. Before night hundreds of acres were burned over, and at 10 o'clock in the evening the entire crest of the mountain with here and there a dot of light loomed up above the wreath of flame which surrounded it as with a brilliant corronal.
During the night and because of the efforts of men who had been laboring during the afternoon, the flames were to a considerable extent arrested.
About 10 o'clock Monday morning the log-house on the summit was on fire, and it soon fell a mass of smouldering ruins. This house was built in 1847 or 48 by Robert Pender an eccentric Scotchman who lived here at the time, and was not unfrequently spoken of as "Pender's Fort." Its outer surface in all places where such inscriptions were practicable, was covered with names and dates by those who had visited the top of the mountain. It was a landmark that will be much missed by visitors who ascend the mountain and by those who could see it from all the region below.
An account in Abby Maria Hemenway's "Vermont Historical Gazetteer" claims that patients and guests from Dr. Robert Wesselhoeft's Water Cure built this three-story cabin in 1847 or 1848, without specifically naming Robert Pender. Apparently this cabin stood for about twelve years.
The projections from each story were flat and wide enough to stand upon. A military company from Lawrence, Mass., visited Brattleboro when the log house was finished and they climbed the mountains east of the village, discovering the log house which they swarmed over, the infantrymen and members of the band completely filling the roof and projections. The band played marches which could distinctly be heard in the village.
The most illustrious visitor to Robert Pender's fort, Henry David Thoreau, may have been the least impressed by it, but enjoying the view on Tuesday, September 9, 1856 in company with two daughters of the Rev. Addison Brown of Brattleboro.
September 9, 1856
9 Am -- Ascend the Chesterfield Mt.
with Miss Frances & Miss Mary Brown
But above all this everlasting mt is forever towering over the village -- shortening the day -- & wearing a misty cap each morning --
This town will be convicted of folly if they ever permit this mt to be laid bare.
Very abundant about B. The Gerardia tenuifolia in prime which I at first mistook for the purpurea. The latter I did not see. High up the mt the aster Macrophyllus as well as corymbosus. The ap. P. orbiculata? leaves round & flat on ground v press tanother by it with larger & more oblong leaves -- Fine sap -- A tuft of 5-divided leaves 15 or 18 inch high -- slightly fern-like v. press. G. circaezans var lanceolatum
Top of the mt covered with wood -- Saw Ascutney bet. 40 or 50 miles up the river -- but not monadnock -- on ac. of woods.
For the Eagle.
Mr. Editor:---Among the various attractions afforded to those who visit or reside at this place, the accommodations for agreeable walking and riding are generally concluded to be of the first order.---Strangers---almost without exception---are perfectly delighted with the beauties of natural scenery, both within and around our village, and as other accommodations shall be, as we preseme they will be, bro't, by the distinguishing enterprise of our place, to correspond with the natural advantages of our location, there can be no doubt that Brattleboro will every year gain a higher rank, as a popular place of resort, such as can fear but few rivals either in this or any other country. But my object in now engaging the attention of your readers, is to bring into notice a desirable ride, which perhaps is not as generally known as it deserves to be.
After passing the Bridge, over the Connecticut, the stage road to Chesterfield may be taken along the Mountain-side, and through the gulf, to the house near the Saw-mill, at the head of the gulf, where the left hand road is followed, to the first cross road, which bearing again to the left leads up the steep hill, in ascending which, exceedingly fine views are afforded, and from the summit of which, for more than a mile, the road descends toward the river, presenting for the whole distance, a prospect of river, valley and mountain scenery, which may well be pronounced unrivalled in its variegated grandeur and beauty.
In recently passing over this elevated ridge, with a gentleman who has travelled extensively in different countries, I was surprised to witness the effect of this view upon one prepared to judge of its merits, for it was declared by him to surpass any thing which he had ever seen, and to be in itself well worth a journey from New York to be enjoyed.
After descending the hill, at a short distance a road crosses at right angles, the left of which is taken, down a romantic ravine, to the "Norcross Ferry," by way of which, a pleasant return to the village may be made.
It is just like a church to me. It hushes all my nonsense and bids me tread with soft and reverent steps toward the heaven that lies beyond . . .
Probably very few of the towns-people are aware of the fact that one John Thomas owned and carried on about 90 years ago an extensive malting business here. The malt-house is supposed to have been located near the site of the old Thomas homestead, over West river.
One of the old residents of Chesterfield recalls the account, as related by his father, of the burning of the malt-house and the escape at the time of a number of hogs, one of which, a large and furious boar, fled to the jungles of old Wantastiquet mountain, and succeeded in hiding from a posse of hunters for several days, although he was finally run down in what is now known as "hog brook," famous for its numerous cascades formed in its precipitous descent from the mountainside.
Reprinted extract from the Springfield Sunday Republican.
Sunday, July 1, 1833.
On Sunday attended the Episcopal Church in the forenoon which has a handsome interior. The Presbyterian in the afternoon where we had a fine seat, a regular orthodox sermon, and pretty black eyes.
But it is the scenery that makes the charming B. 'Tis only too beautiful for the picturesque and romantic. The mountains extending and retreating in regular courses to the horizon, are covered with dense foliage of the richest green, and rolling with the gentle, swelling undulation of the ocean, lie in soft quiet repose upon the face of nature like the embodied fancies of a Poet's dream.
They are not those cloud capp'd summits, etc., but lofty just enough to fill the eye, such as the man of peace and quiet would be happy in contemplating. A mountain in front of our hotel was a most splendid object. It rose almost from the very threshold of the door, and towering into the the air 1200 feet above our heads, was covered with vegetation to its highest summit.
We wished to have the view from the top of this patriarch of mountains, and although told that there were rattle snakes inhabiting it, in company with Clark, having prepared ourselves, started on the excursion. But our strong hearts soon failed us, for notwithstanding we had divested ourselves of all unnecessary clothing and had not gained one fourth of the way, we found ourselves ready to melt from the heat.
The numerous springs that sent their waters trickling down, were a gracious relief to us, and a beautiful cascade formed by the combination of these streams, in a delightful grotto, at once cooled our boiling systems and our ambition.
The few days spent at B. were most oppressively hot, and the more so from the place being screened from the wind by the hills. We could not endure it, but to the neglect of several pictures engaged.
July 2d bade a hasty adieu to Brattleborough.
Volume II No. 2, 1931, 53-82.
Charles William Eldridge and his family came from Groton, Connecticut and Hartford. At the age of twenty-one, the young man travelled with his friend George Clark to Fayston, near Montpelier, in order to dispose of some wild lands that he had inherited, painting his watercolor miniatures on ivory as he progressed.
Baptist Church With North Tower Only
St. Michael's Episcopal Church
Centre Congregational Church With New Chapel
Gravel Pit Above Railroad Tracks
Woman Walking South Along Meadow Lane, Later Oak Street
Old High School, Far Right, Wing On South Side
---Howe has just completed a remarkably perfect and satisfactory photographic view of the village, from a point admirably chosen about two-thirds of the way up the mountain and nearly in a straight line from the end of the toll bridge. The size of the picture is 20 by 24 inches, the apparatus used being the mammoth camera recently spoken of in our Bellows Falls correspondence.
The view takes in the whole village from cemetery hill on the left to the asylum buildings on the right, and the entire scene westward to the outline of the distant hills is distinctly marked. The picture is clear and perfect in every detail, and does great credit to Mr. Howe's establishment as a painstaking and artistic piece of photographic work.
An Extract From a Tourist's Letter,
Relating to Brattleboro.
Fanny Fern says, "It is strange to me that everybody don't live in Brattleboro," and viewed only from the romantic stand point, I wonder they don't too. The practical reason I suppose, is, there is not room enough here for all the teeming millions of the earth, nor business enough to give them bread and butter.
Crossing the toll bridge, over the river into New Hampshire this morning, the beautiful Connecticut, flowing swiftly towards the sea, lay upon the right and directly in front rose the Wantastiquet mountain 1092 feet above the river.
Before reaching the base of the mountain, another bridge with wrecked roof and bents, anchored together by strong ropes, is crossed, and then directly in front, the mountain with rock-bound sides, rises to the sky before you, and melts away from your vision up and down the river.
On its summit, scattered pines overtopping the rest of the trees, seem printed on the clear blue sky and fleecy clouds driven before the wind, sail peacefully away to the eastward, like pure spirits bound to the world eternal.
At its foot the old Boston turnpike turns south and east, and over this the Vermont farmers, before the railroads were built, used to cart their produce to Boston a distance of ninety-five miles. A fine highway also turns to the north, leading up the river and away through New Hampshire to Walpole, Charlestown and Claremont.
I climbed the hill until I came to a level plateau and turned towards the village. West of it lay a beautiful country of cultured land, dark green woods, dale and valley. Brattleboro, with the spires of its seven churches pointing to heaven was before me, the mountain behind me, and the lovely river lay at my feet.
The scene is entrancing. But hark! the church bells ring out their call to come and worship. Shall I go? yes, for the preaching of the gospel by the faithful ministers of Christ, is one of the appointed means of salvation.
But I turn to the grand old mountain again, I look upon the sparkling bosom of the flowing river, the green pines and fleecy clouds and I say, for this day, let God be my great teacher; through the tiny leaf, the rugged rock, the bright sunshine and vaulted sky, the blue vestibule of heaven. I was not satisfied by looking at the crest of Wantastiquet this morning.
I went through bushes, up baby Gibraltars down through deep rocks, canons, and away for the mountain top, mentally repeating,
Pushing over rocks, crossing deep abysses covered with thick sage brush, and all the while thinking what kind of an experience it would be to have a possible rattle snake crawl up the leg of my pants with no friend to help count his rattles. Now by winding rocky stairways, now stealing around the base of a shaggy cliffs, now creeping up between the clefts in the rocks until we reached the summit of the mountain.
What a picture! Away to the south, at the base of the mountain, the Connecticut river spreads out like a mirror, with the New London Northern railroad on its west bank, beyond it, green meadows, then the highway, and then the green billowy hills, mostly timbered, rising and rolling away in solemn grandeur until they kiss the sky.
Brattleboro, like palaces in the woods, comes next, and behind it, in the west, mile upon mile of grassy meadows, sombre forest and smiling farms, with golden sunlight pouring over them, roll away in a wealth of rural beauty for twenty miles.
But look! to your right and the north, the river is again seen, winding in graceful curves away to the north and hiding in the New Hampshire hills. Look again! Far beyond luxuriant meadow, cultivated farm and green woodland, a range of blue hills with fitting peaks and pointed crests, prop the sky and fade away against the blue dome of heaven, northward in the distance.
But the sun is shedding its last rays on the summit of Wantastiquet, lighting up the clefted rock and lightning scathed pine, and as its mellow rays steal wooingly over the broad rolling country to the west, soothing man and nature alike to rest and sleep, we must go.
H. T. Dana.
---The New England Meteorological Society will this summer make a more extended study of thunder storms and other atmospheric phenomena than last season, and with that end in view contemplate establishing several mountain stations in New England. Such stations are now being erected on Wachusett and Monadnock, and we understand that local parties will place an intstrument shelter on Wantastiquet.
In addition to some valuable self-recording instruments furnished by the society, the electric anemometer of our own local weather clerk will be placed theron and an anemoscope with large dial and pointer, which, in favorable weather, can be seen from town.
---The shelter for the meteorological station on Wantastiquet reached its destination safely last Friday afternoon, having been taken up by A. T. Doolittle by way of the gulf road and the east side of the mountain. The house, which is six feet square and eight feet high, is made in four sections, put together with bolts, and can be readily taken apart and put together.
The projector of the enterprise, it is needless to say, is Mr. W. H. Childs, who has shown genuine public spirit by doing so much in Brattleboro for the work of the New England Meteorological Society. Mr. Childs promptly accepted the offer of the society to furnish a set of government instruments for the observations if he would furnish the shelter to keep the records, and the work has been done at his expense, G. L. Clary acting as his efficient lieutenant in building the house and carrying forward the arrangements.
On Monday Mr. Childs, Mr. Clary and Mr. Niles, with several volunteer helpers, put the house in position on the topmost point of the pinnacle, bolted it firmly to the solid rock, and made it ready for the instruments. On the side next the town a six foot dial bears the point of compass, and on this a pointer registers the direction of the wind, which can be readily taken with a glass from the village.
In the house will be placed a government thermometer and barometer, both self-registering. The anemometer will be removed from Marshall's house on the hill to the mountain and a wire will be run down to the village to register the wind velocity at Mr. Child's house.
This bit of enterprise has set some of our townspeople to talking about making a carriage road to the top of the mountain---a thing which could easily be done by utilizing old disused carriage and wood roads.
We hope this idea will be carried out. This in its turn might open the way for the realization of Dr. Draper's suggestion about a stone tower on the mountain top to catch the eye of travlelers, and to do very much to call attention to the charms and attractions of the village.
The Boston Journal printed this interesting paragraph Tuesday:
A weather report for the last eight days of August, furnished the Journal by W. H. Childs of Brattleboro, shows the severity of the two great August storms, the like of which in summer has never been known in western New England towns.
Mr. Childs's observatory on Wantastiquet is situated not higher than many hill towns. The velocity of the wind in the first gale (the New York cyclone) was 90 miles in southerly gusts, though the usual long-time record gave the maximum as 55 miles. This storm was the more severe.
In the latter one, however, the south wind had a long-time velocity of 80 miles. A purely local series of thunder storms in southern Vermont, extending into New Hampshire, having a width of only 20 miles, occurred during the intervening Sunday from noon to midnight, and with hail and heavy rains caused more destruction of crops than the cyclones.
Two and twenty-one hundredths inches of rain fell in this disturbance, against one-half inch in the first storm and 1.04 inch in the Savannah cyclone.
A good deal of interest is being developed in a project for building a carriage road to the top of Wantastiquet and erecting on the pinnacle a tower which would not only furnish a commanding post of outlook over the surrounding country, but would be a conspicuous feature in the village landscape.
Photographs have been obtained of a tower which has been erected of iron latticework on Greylock mountain in North Adams, and a party of men who climbed the mountain yesterday to look for a roadway found that this Greylock tower could be plainly seen from the pinnacle in a line almost due west.
Should the scheme materialize, however, we should hope that the Wantastiquet tower might be built of stone and cement instead of iron, for the material lies under one's hand in abundance, and is in solidity and attractiveness a stone tower would be greatly superior to one of iron.
The tower and a portion, at least, of the proposed road would occupy land belonging to the asylum, and the matter will be brought before the trustees of the institution at their next meeting. There is no doubt that a great sum of money could be raised toward the enterprise, and it certainly would add much to the attractiveness of the town as a summer resort.
Mr. Perry will finish work on the mountain road to-night. The sharp pitches have been cut down wherever possible with the funds in hand, railings have been erected, and the road has been put in admirable condition throughout.
Those who have been over the road this week for the first time are surprised to find what an excellent road has been built, and how easily accessible the top of the mountain has been made. The total sum of money expended by Mr. Perry is only $1800.
The work has been to him a source of pride and painstaking throughout, and it is entirely safe to say that no community has ever been given more for its money in such an enterprise than in this case. It is only since the trees have been covered with their summer foliage that the attractions of the road, with its turns and sweeps and winding ways, have begun to be realized.
It is suggested that in proper celebration of the successful completion of the undertaking, a cavalcade ought to be formed to ride in procession to the pinnacle. The visitors to the pinnacle on Sunday afternoon were numbered by the hundred, and it is said that there were a round 100 people on the rocks and slopes around the signal station at one time.
To-night W. H. Childs will raise a handsome American flag on the pinnacle staff. Long may it wave.
Summer of 1891.
Seen With A Stranger's Eyes
Clippings from a Recent Letter to
Turf, Field and Farm.
. . . Mrs. Edwin H. Chase, of Louisville, Ky., (one of Kentucky's most highly accomplished matrons), on behalf of her youthful daughter, Miss Allethaire Chase (who is spending her vacation with her parents at their Brattleboro mansion), gave a picnic party on Wantastiquet mountain one afternoon of last week. Mrs. Chase herself drove up in a buggy, while the young misses and young men walked, and, as I took the same tramp the same day, I can vouch for its interesting and healthful character.
Arrived on the summit (bountiful provision having been made by Mrs. Chase), with ready invention the party improvised an oven of stones, made a fire, boiled coffee and broiled mutton chops, all the young ladies and young men taking part in the cooking by foraging for water, filling the kettle (a bright copper vessel, fit to prepare in the best of Kentucky mountain dew, copper distilled), and by sharpening sticks on the end and sticking them into the chops and holding them over the fire until they were "done to a turn."
The scene was lovely in the extreme, for the girls (as pretty a bevy as ever ornamented a rose-and-sapphire mountain top), all eagerly bending over and trying to get the clearest blaze of the fire, each one on the particular chop she had transfixed on the point of her stick, made a scene that Carida might have permanently fixed with a pointed pencil, in the manner of her recent beautiful water-color illustrations of Lucy Hamilton Warner's "Five Little Finger Stories" book. Or, perhaps by the graceful hand of Miss Evelyn Manly, who has recently painted some beautiful flower pieces.
I know that I am risking something by mentioning Carida in this connection, for the stage is her bent, and she is bent upon going on the stage. For this purpose she has been especially studying, and I am bound to say that she has attained a rare degree of excellence toward the accomplishment of her aim, and when she does make a start, it will be seen that her studies were not in vain.
But to go back to the party. they had a regal repast, and that portion in which they themselves played "chefs" tasted all the sweeter therefor, as I might say, if I were writing a romance; whereas this is only a romantic reality.
George Leo Tracht was born in Worfelden, Starkenburg, Hesse-Darmstadt on June 26, 1825 to Johannes Tracht and Anna Katharina Vollhard. He emigrated with his parents and family to Cincinnati (Hamilton) in 1831, when the family name was changed to Frankenstein. While studying landscape painting, Frankenstein also worked as a reporter for newspapers in Ohio and Indiana.
George Leo Frankenstein served during the Civil War in the Commissary Department of the Union Army. After the War, he visited all the major Civil War battlefields to document on canvas those landscapes before they changed. He traveled over three thousand miles, much of it on foot, painting scenes of Appomattox, Shiloh, Fredericksburg, Chickamauga, and Gettysburg. He was unsuccessful in his attempts to have the government purchase his work as a collection and his paintings were eventually disbursed.
For the twenty years following 1883, George L. Frankenstein served in the editorial department of New York City's "Turf, Field and Farm" as a music, art, and drama critic.
Edwin H. Chase was the son of Col. Paul Chase, the well-known proprietor of Chase's Stage House. His wife was Sue A. Cowan of Kentucky. Allethaire Chase was fifteen years old on this excursion to Wantastiquet. The Brattleboro mansion referred to was on North Main Street, known as the former Park house. Allethaire was to marry Julius Harry Estey.
Last Sunday brought the first suggestion of real summer weather, and the afternoon invited irresistibly to out-door life. Probably not less than 200 people climbed the mountain.
From the pine tree beyond the pinnacle a strange mixture of seasons was presented. On the warm, sunny slopes wild flowers were blooming. Chesterfield lake lay blue and soft in the near distance. Ascutney in the north and the Massachusetts hills in the south were clothed in a dreamy summer haze, while in the east Monadnock's rugged mass loomed up grim and snowy white from base to summit, covered as in midwinter with the heavy fall of damp snow of the week before.
T. Clark 3-2-65
J. S. Austin
Aug. 11, 1878
Shadows Of Summer Leaves
James S. Austin was a resident laborer for the Vermont Asylum For the Insane and later for the Brattleboro Retreat, which owned the land that this carved rock lies upon, opposite a long retaining wall.
Thomas Clark may have been a Civil War soldier from north Vermont who mustered out some months following March 2, 1865, or possibly he was related to the Clark family in East Dummerston. Any road, these were the men who removed the wood, repaired the premises, and fought fire and flood on Wantastiquet.
---S. M. Waite, as proprietor of the Hinsdale toll bridge, is doing a good thing for himself as well as for Chesterfield and Brattleboro people, and the public in general, by building a new road along the foot of Wantastiquet mountain, opposite this village.
The present road is so hilly and rough as to shut off a great deal of travel which would naturally choose this route, and to remedy the difficutlty and give this road a better grade than that by way of the ferry, only requires the building of about one mile of new road at the point indicated.
With characteristic go-ahead liveness, Col. Waite has already built one half of the proposed road at his own expense, and asked the town of Chesterfield to build the other half; and to-day Chesterfield people are to meet in town meeting to decide what they will do about it.
---Wantastiquet mountain has been pretty thoroughly stripped of its crop of blueberries this season. It is reckoned that no less than 100 berry pickers visited the mountain some days last week, bringing off an average of six or eight quarts apiece, or some 20 bushels altogether in a single day.
Its Character and History.
Mr. Editor:---A notice of the "New Hampshire old volcano," which, I think, first appeared in the New York Evening Post, and afterwards was copied into several papers, has met my eye. Being an old inhabitant of this place, I am familiar with its history, as it was related some 60 years ago, and (having visited it many times since) also with its locality and surroundings.
There is a mountain in New Hampshire which rises precipitously on the east bank of Connecticut river, just opposite Brattleboro, by the name of West River Mountain, or, as it is now called, Wantastiquet (the latter being the Indian name for West river) running north and south about three miles, whose height, as measured barometrically by Dr. C.T. Jackson and myself some years since, is 1065 feet from the bed of the river.
The northern part of the mountain is in the town of Chesterfield, and its southern in Hinsdale. Geologically the base is argillaceous slate, passing into mica-schist, ascending, and on its highest part gneiss is often seen. It is steep and rugged, and presents nothing very unusual from other elevations of this height in Vermont.
There is also, east of this and running at right angles to it, about one mile distant, separated by a gorge, and some 100 or 200 feet lower, a mountain which is called the Mine mountain, from the fact that near the top of its eastern part there is an excavation of some 30 feet where Mr. Philip Barrett (generally known as Tory Barrett, being a Tory in the Revolution) and two or three of its neighbors, some 70 years ago, were induced to believe by a conjurer--important personages in those days--that in digging at the place of the reported explosion, silver would be found in great abundance. There they built their log hut, (remnants of it are to be seen at this day) and worked at such times as they could spare from their farms for several successive years, and all without any trace of mineral to reward them, save something they found and burnt, yielding a yellow dust, or as supposed, yellow ochre, with which one of them painted his house. Whether it was the baseness of the material or the want of skill in its manufacture, any soil of a slight yellowish color would seem to have answered the same purpose.
The man with his mystical stone and divining rod appears again, and now they are told to dig horizontally into the mountain from the bottom of their first excavation so far, and they would certainly find the desired treasure. This was accomplished, but all in vain, when the work and the mine were abandoned and the hole, perpendicularly and horizontally, is a monument to their folly to this day. This mountain, geologically, is very different from the Wantastiquet, and does indeed present unusual features. It is well known to all who have made the observation, that nearly all our elevations of slate or mica-schist formation have been cut off or crushed on their sides by some powerful, almost perpendicular, force from points between north and east, and precipitated into the valleys below. Here is a remarkable instance, where nearly half of the highest peak at its eastern summit seems to have been operated upon by this force, and the broken rocks partly fill the gorge below. It is peculiar, also, from its steep ascent, jagged sides and highly crystalline rocks, differing in this respect from any other rocks of the surrounding elevations, and, too, from the fact that decidedly sub-alpine cryptogamic plants--a lichen and a moss, Umbilicaria crossa Hoffm, and Andraea rupestris Turn--are found in abundance on its summit, and are not known to exist nearer than Mansfield Mt.,--not ever found either on the Ascutney in Vermont or Monadnoc in New Hampshire, both of which peaks are visible from this point.
Besides these, the rocks are densely covered with various Umbilicariae (U. pustulata var. papulosa, U. Pennsylvanica, U. Muhlenbergh) a dark and smoky colored lichen, when dry, generally coriaceous, somewhat monophylious, affixed by a central point to the rock so as not to be easily separated. Also on the sides of this mountain are found, now and then, beautiful specimens of Hematite, so notable that mention is made of it in Cleaveland's Mineralogy, and it has been so much sought for and carried away that new a poor specimen can scarcely be found.
Now for the volcano. It was related that about 100 years ago, early one evening, an explosion which terribly shook this mountain was heard by the people of Hinsdale, and also by the inmates at old Fort Dummer, which was this side of the river, near the spot where Mr. Simon Brooks now resides. This spot commanded a view of the top of the mountain, and by them a great light was seen, so astonishing and remarkable that it was resolved to visit the place as soon as they thought safety would permit, and the place where the explosion took place was soon guessed at among the jagged rocks and fissures, and from an examination of the surroundings they were thoroughly convinced of the great event.
And to prove to the wondering people below of its reality they exhibited the "cinders" and the "vitrified ore," specimens of which were preserved by some of the families as if for proof to future generations; the former proving to be the Umbilicaria from the rocks, and the latter the Brown Hematite found on its sides. Examples of both are to be seen in my cabinet. One acquainted with this mineral can conjecture how easily the unacquainted could mistake it for "melted iron ore," "resembling the scoria of a blacksmith's forge," &c.
"The loud noise resembling the sound of cannon proceeding from the mountain," was undoubtedly from the same cause as has happened a few times since, as testified by the inhabitants living near its southern base, when they have been startled, especially if happening in the night, by large pieces of rocks from above becoming loosened and falling nearly 100 feet, as they have to, before reaching the debris below, and then they have to tumble over the other rocks as far before they reach their resting place.
Some lie there which will measure at least a 1000 cubic feet. After all these developments it went down in the next generation that the mountain was truly volcanic, and it was made at that day very notorious. It is patent that this Mr. Barrett and his copartners were made dupes by these conjurers, who travelled the country for victims, and these reported marvelous appearances were made use of to effect their object; and it is said to have been even hinted at in these days, by their sharper neighbors, "That they would lose more silver than they would ever find."
Charles C. Frost
Wantastiquet Rockslide From 1868 Still Visible
Fallen Rocks Provided Shelter For Rattlesnakes
Just across the Connecticut River and directly opposite Brattleboro village towers old Wantastiquet mountain 1000 feet or more above the river's bank. Near its base, and not far from where the zigzag path that leads to the summit begins, may be seen a slide of dirt and broken rock from which stones for building purposes have been taken for a dozen years or so.
This ragged place is known by those living on the New Hampshire side as the "rattle-snake den," and wonderful tales are told of its peculiar inhabitants. Fourteen years ago Andrew D Thomas, then 20 years old, while strolling on the mountain with a friend, accidentally discovered the haunts of these venomous serpents and he thus describes his experience:
It was Sunday, the next day we had mowed out six rattlers from our hayfield which were stiff and dormant from the effects of the early morning cold. Thinking perhaps we might possibly run upon more we armed ourselves with heavy canes and sauntered out. After walking about the mountain we came across a hole in the ground a trifle smaller than that of a woodchuck.
By thrusting our sticks down into it we soon discovered that it was inhabited by snakes, and immediately after we were startled by seeing them all about us, hundreds of them seemingly, coiled on the ground, on stumps, and in fact, up in the bushes. I immediately went to the house, got my gun, and shot 12, which were from two to four feet long. This was the first time they had been discovered in quantities.
Since they have been found there every year by parties who out of curiosity, or with expectations of profit, have searched for them. Mr Thomas has undoubtedly had the most experience in capturing them, he having caught and sold as many as 100 within the past two years.
One day he brought in eight alive, securing them by a slip-noose made of strong cord and attached to a four-foot stick; these he mostly sold to the local cigar-makers for from $3.50 to $4.50 and as high as $10, who generally put them in fruit or candy jars filled with alcohol and sent them to New York, but for what purpose he was not appraised.
It is the habit of these snakes to come out of their dens on the approach of warm weather and crawl about the mountain and toward the river until the first cold night, when they gradually work back to their winter quarters. The removing of the stones for the purposes named has served to drive the snakes from their old place of abode to other localities, and they have been found near "Mine mountain," in the rear of Wantastiquet, and elsewhere.
Mr Thomas tells of an occasion when himself and the late Uncle John Gore were bee-hunting near the "mines," when they suddenly came upon three sizeable serpents in the breaks. "Uncle John," being rather poor sighted, nearly stepped on them, but they were finally dispatched and 9 ounces of oil obtained, for which they received $1 an ounce, it being used for croup, rheumatism and other ailments.
Rattle-snakes have often been killed on the road leading from Brattleboro to Hinsdale and in the door-yards of the farmers, though, singularly enough, there have been no fatal snake bites reported within the memory of the present generation, though it is said that a boy was fatally bitten years ago in Chesterfield.
It was not an unusual thing even within a few years past for farmers living near the mountain to take a handful of salt with them whenever they went berrying, which if speedily applied to a bite was believed to be a sure remedy. An occasional rattle-snake has been killed on the Vermont side of the Connecticut, and these were thought to have swam the river. Royal Wood, who lives but a short distance below the village, killed one not many years ago which was found coiled up on a mat in front of his door.
Mr Thomas declares that the rattlesnakes can be heard from 15 to 20 rods away and that they seldom rattle unless frightened. He tells of an amusing occurrence which happened 6 years ago while he was summering at Rocky Point. At the request of friends there he wrote his father to send him a large snake which he had captured for Barber Green of Brattleboro. The reptile was accordingly boxed, through which was made numerous holes. By some misunderstanding this was taken to the depot baggage rooms for shipment, where in the absence of the depot-master it was left without any directions as to what should be done with it.
The depot-master returned to his duties and found the box, but being unmindful of its contents, sat it one side to await orders. The summer passed, however, with the box still unclaimed, and in the meantime the unsuspecting baggage-master had used the box with an old garment thrown across it for a pillow while flopping down awaiting the arrival of delayed trains. His astonishment on discovering its contents is described as truly genuine.
Maj. Frederick W. Childs
Correspondent for the Springfield Republican.
The early inhabitants of the vicinity discovered uncommon appearances about the mouth of this volcano, and seeing an aperture in the mountain, supposed it led to a silver mine which had blown out, as they expressed it. Several associated with a view to make their fortunes by digging in the mine.
Their first step was to consult a famous fortune-teller, who confirmed them in their suspicions. He assured them of finding silver in great abundance. But they did not own the land. They therefore dispatched one of their company to the then proprietors, of whom they obtained a lease of that part of the mountain which contained the supposed mine.
One condition of the lease was that they should dig during the term for which they held the lease, at least three days in each year, or the lease should become void. At this time, they had dug, principally through a rock, between 90 and 100 feet, following the course of the crater downward.
Although they have never found anything of value, except a few hogsheads of red and yellow ochre, they are unwilling to give up, and to this time regularly dig at least three days in each year in the mountain, that they may not forfeit their lease.
'Tis said by those who live near the mountain, that it frequently trembles and a rumbling noise is heard in its bowels. It takes its name from West river, which empties into the Connecticut exactly opposite this mountain.
Pistareen mountain, situated on the eastern shore of Spafford's lake, is next in importance. It is formed like a sugar loaf, and is almost inaccessible--large rocks projecting from its sides. It is called Pistareen mountain from having once been sold for a pistareen, or 20 cents. To see it, one would think that a fair price.
"Mead's Memories of Chesterfield".
Extracts from Larkin Goldsmith Mead's "Description of Chesterfield, N. H.", in Farmer, John & Moore, Jacob B., Editors: Collections, Topographical, Historical, & Biographical, Relating Principally to New-Hampshire, Vol. 1, (Concord, New Hampshire: 1822), pp. 279-280.
Woodblock Print 1872
Dr. Jonathan A. Allen of Middlebury College reported "On the Question, Whether There Are Any Traces of a Volcano in the West River Mountain" in the American Journal of Science & Arts in 1821---in Volume 3, page 74. He found no traces of lava. Dr. Allen believed that rockslides caused the thunder-like noises from the mountain, which were first reported in 1730.
Post Card Photograph
Authorized By Act Of Congress Of May 19, 1898
Hinsdale Correspondent Says Mine Mountain Poured Forth
Cloud Of Dense Smoke in 1800.
The terrible devastation and loss of life by volcanic eruptions is an all-absorbing theme just at present, and the possibility of a like calamity in other lattitudes is freely discussed by scientists. If, as Virgil says, "we may comparee small things with great," there are some grounds for the belief that we have an extinct volcano right here at home. In a foot note to a section on volcanoes, in one of the editions of Lyell's Geology, which was a standard text-book in the colleges and academies half a century ago, it is stated that Mine mountain in Hinsdale, N. H., is the only locality in the United States where are found traces of ancient volcanic eruptions. Of course the researches of geologists since have been fruitful in the discovery of like traces in other localities, especially in the far West, but for a long time Mine mountain, the highest peak in the Wantastiquet range, that extends from the Connecticut river across North Hinsdale, was alone in the rather doubtful honor of being an extinct volcano. There was a singular unanimity among the old people of a former generation in Hinsdale, most of whom are now dead, in describing a remarkable circumstance that happened somewhere about the year 1800. As they told the story, one summer afternoon there was a terrific explosion, followed by a rumbling sound, in the region of Mine mountain. A cloud of smoke poured forth, dense and black. Not only men and women, but even animals were frightened by the noise, which was heard at Dummerston, Vt., and other places, and the whole country round about was enveloped in thick smoke, which had a peculiar odor. An immense amount of yellow ochre was thrown out from the interior of the mountain and scattered all about even to its base, and it is said that the first idea of digging for gold and silver came out of this incident, and it is certain that the project of a mine was started soon after by an Englishman by the name of Hall, who formed a stock company and built a house down below the point of excavation. It is a matter of record that the mine had been excavated prior to 1805, but the search for gold and silver was fruitless, and yellow ochre only rewarded the search. For a long time afterward most of the houses in that region were painted with yellow ochre, and the old town hall at Chesterfield had a coat of the same material. It is not impossible that the highest peak of Wantastiquet has some secrets hidden away in the bowels of the earth that may yet become evident to future generations.---
Hinsdale correspondence in Springfield Sunday Republican.
Mine mountain, in the rear of Wantastiquet, is said to have received its name as a result of the operations which were carried on between 1790 and 1800 under the direction of Gen. Arad Hunt and Col. Francis Goodhue. Gen. Hunt was great uncle of the present Col. John Hunt and Col. Goodhue was grandfather of the present Col. Goodhue, who bears his name. Silver ore was found on the mountain and according to tradition these pioneer prospectors sunk a shaft to a depth of 80 feet. They did not find silver in paying quantities, but took out a quantity of yellow ochre, but so far as known no use was made of this deposit. The shaft on the mountain is not over 30 feet deep today.
Situated on the southerly slope of Mr. Wantastiquet or Mine mountain, as it is frequently called, is a mine hole or shaft sunk deep in the mountainside and made by the early settlers. This shaft is situated about three-quarters of the way up the mountain and may be reached by a torturous path leading from the main highway about a mile below. . . . .
Whether or not this is true is immaterial; but the old mine hole stands there to-day a grim relic of earlier days. It is partially filled with water and is slowly becoming filled with stones and rubbish thrown in by visitors to the spot. The shaft may be entered to the very water's edge but the undertaking is extremely hazardous and the attempt is seldom made.
The first and last paragraphs are extracted from the article entitled "Legend of Mt. Wantastiquet", written for the Reformer, dated August 29, 1905, and posted from Hinsdale, New Hampshire.
In approaching Brattleboro from the south a notch will be seen in the mountain range which extends from the river. This is the dividing line between Wantastiquet and Mine Mountain---the former skirting the river and the latter extending at right angles from it. The name of the mountain is derived from a circumstance that took place in the latter part of the last century, and which has given it great local celebrity. Some persons residing at Fort Dummer, below Brattleboro, observed a light on the mountain, and on visiting the place where it had been seen some peculiarities were found that led them to think an internal fire had raged underneath that part of the mountain. The great mass of loose rocks which lie upon the mountain's side and in the ravine below, are covered with a lichen known by the name of Umbiliecaria, and the persons who had observed the light supposed them to be cinders, caused by the internal fire. A so-called "astrologer" or "diviner" in a distant city was consulted, who reported that a silver mine existed in this place. Work was commenced and a shaft six by ten feet in diameter was sunk to the depth of thirty feet in the solid rock, and then continued almost the same distance in a horizontal direction under the summit. This shaft is on the south side of the mountain, within fifty feet of the highest point. The only minerals discovered were red hematite, and another, of which yellow ocher is made. Philip Barrett, better known in those days as Tory Barrett, was a leader in this undertaking, and his reward was yellow ocher sufficient to paint his own dwelling. Large sums of money must have been spent in this foolish and fruitless search after wealth. The party while engaged in "mining" lived in a little hut on the mountain.
The rock at this place is composed of a species of mica slate, highly crystalline, and bearing evidence of having passed through great heat. It is claimed by geologists that this mountain is an older formation than Wantastiquet. Here is found a sub-Alpine lichen, Umbiliecaria Erosa, and a moss, Andrea Rupestris, neither of which is common to this latitude. In the ravine, west of the mountain, a plant has been found, Clematis Viorna, that previously was not known to exist north of Pennsylvania. The rocks in the ravine and above, on the east side, that have been separated from the mountain by the action of frost, present a curious and wonderful sight, and altogether this is one of the most interesting places to the student of nature found in this region. At the bottom of the ravine, within a short distance of the top of the gorge, is a spring of pure cold water. The view from the pinnacle to the south is very fine. The Connecticut river can be seen beyond across the river at South Vernon. Farther to the left Monadnock rears its rocky head above the neighboring summits. The way to reach Mine Mountain is to take the wood-road south of the bridge on the New Hampshire side of the river, and a walk of little more than half an hour will bring the visitor to the base of the pinnacle. From this place follow the east ridge of the ravine to a point near the summit, if the visitor first desires to reach the "mine." Otherwise the walk up the ravine is preferable. The rocks that have fallen down the mountain present a scene of rare interest, and by this route a better view of them is had. In returning, on leaving the "mine," keep down the ridge and the wood-road below will be easily regained.
"The Attractions Of Brattleboro. Glimpses of the Past and Present."
(Brattleboro, Vt.: D. B. Stedman, Printer., 1866), pp. 22-23.
After 1907, Before 1915
Much Money Wasted Searching for Silver
East of Summit of Wantastiquet in 18th Century.
One of the most prominent features of Brattleboro's scenery is Wantastiquet mountain, situated on the opposite side of the Connecticut river in New Hampshire, says the Brattleboro letter in the Springfield Sunday Republican. The name is of Indian origin and is the same as was given the West river by the Indians.
This mountain is over 1,000 feet higher than the Connecticut river and the western face of it is owned by the Brattleboro Retreat. The late Walter H. Childs built an excellent carriage road from the base to the top, which was maintained several years.
A while ago the late President Hitchcock of Amherst college made an examination of this mountain, and in the gorges some 500 feet above the river he discovered pot holes, which he claimed is evidence that it had once been covered with water. His theory was that the Connecticut river, at one time, flowed over the summit of the mountain and down a deep ravine on the southerly side. On the westerly side of the mountain are several cascades which, in the early spring, especially when the snow is leaving, present a beautiful sight.
Wantastiquet mountain is separated from Mine mountain by a ravine which is about 75 feet deep and 100 feet wide. On each side are huge rocks and in some places they rise almost perpendicular, like massive walls. Approaching from the south this ravine or notch is seen quite distinctly. Mine mountain derives its name from a circumstance that took place in the latter part of the 18th century which, at that time, brought it into great prominence. Residents of old Fort Dummer, below what is now the village of Brattleboro, and where the first settlement in Vermont was made, and where the first white child in the state was born, observed a light on this mountain. Visiting the place where the light was seen peculiarities of the rock formation led them to think an internal fire had raged underneath that part of the mountain. The great mass of loose stones which lie upon the mountain's side and in the ravine below were covered with a peculiar looking moss and the investigators supposed it to be cinders caused by the internal fire. A certain diviner in a distant city was consulted. He reported that a silver mine existed in that very place. Work was soon begun and a shaft 6 by 10 feet in diameter was sunk to the depth of 30 feet in the solid rock and then continued about the same distance in a horizontal direction under the summit. This shaft was within 50 feet of the highest point of the mountain. It is said the only minerals discovered were red hematite and another from which yellow ocher is made.
Philip Barret, better known in those days as Tory Barret, was a leader in the mining undertaking and his only reward was yellow ocher enough with which he painted his own dwelling. Large sums of money were thus foolishly spent. Geologists claimed that this mountain is an older formation than Wantastiquet; that at the bottom of the ravine, near the top of the gorge, is a very fine spring. An excellent view is had to the south from the pinnacle. The Connecticut river, as it winds its way to the Massachusetts line, can be plainly seen for a long distance. The dam at Vernon and the railroad bridge at South Vernon are objects plainly discernable from this peak while to the left Monadnock, near Keene, N. H., rears its head towering above all the neighboring summits. One is well repaid for a trip to this interesting scene during the spring months, especially when the laurel, which is here seen in profusion, is in bloom. One of the unusual, interesting and beautiful spectacles during the present warm winter, has been the myriads of little rivulets that have day after day coursed their way down the western slopes of both Wantastiquet and Mine mountains and have been easily discernable from the village.
Harry Pierce Takes Three Out of Six and Is Bitten
Surprised As He Grabs Three-Footer
Hand and Arm Swollen--Never Bitten Before in
Many Years of Catching Rattlers Barehanded--
Was Exploring Wantastiquet Ledges
Harry E. Pierce, more commonly known about town as Rattlesnake Pete because of the barehanded methods which he uses in capturing rattlesnakes, was bitten yesterday afternoon by one of those reptiles for the first time in his 40 years of handling live snakes.
He was exploring among the ledges of Wantastiquet mountain when he espied a rattler in a small cave under a rock. He edged near his quarry, made a quick pass with right hand and seized the snake back of the head, but the den happened to house six rattlers and one of them bit Pierce on the third finger of the hand holding the captured snake. Pierce emerged with three live snakes, the other three escaping.
Two of the captured rattlers measured three feet in length; the third, which bit him and which he captured in retaliation for the bite, measured a trifle over two feet. The three which escaped were between two and three feet long, Pierce said. The snakes were disposed of after their capture and Pierce returned to town, where he had his bitten finger attended by Dr. C. S. Leach. His hand and lower forearm are somewhat swollen.
Pierce has been capturing and handling snakes of various kinds since he was eight years old. In the last three years he has made many captures along Wantastiquet mountain and has exhibited them here and demonstrated his free hand method of seizing them. He is now 48 years old, and yesterday, he said, was the first time he ever was bitten.
Pierce said he did not know he was getting into a den of snakes, because he saw only one under the rock. If he had known half a dozen were there, he said he would have taken additional measures with a view to bagging the whole family.
Today the mine is visible above the timber line, in a thick growth of bushes, shrubs, and short stubby trees. The mine tailings are of considerable size, indicating that some type of hoisting equipment must have been used to raise the heavy refuse up the thirty feet. There are no drill marks in the solid rock, so one wonders how "Tory Barrett" and his associates managed such a laborious task.
The great mass of loose rocks that the Fort Dummer people found can still be seen from the summit of Mine Mountain, and the lichen, Umbilicaria, is still present. It is so named because of its navel-shaped center, by which the thallus is attached to the rock. These are pioneer plants, and grow where there is little competition from other plants, even on bare rocks.
Acids secreted by these lichens dissolve the rock surface helping other natural forces, such as rain, snow, wind, frost and lightning to fracture the mountain. Geologists call these separations "joints." The joints increase in size until huge chunks of the mountain are set free and the force of gravity takes command . . .
From "Making History in Brattleboro", The Town Crier, January 2, 1986.