William Columbus Ferril.

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impression on the traveler than many mountains of much greater altitude. On
the northeast it presents a long, heavily wooded slope agreeing with the in-
cline of the ancient lava sheet, but its southern and western faces and its east-
ern flank are topped with perpendicular cliffs, their feet buried in a vast mass
of broken rock, the wreck of ages, which the frost has rent from the face of
the mountain. When summer is on the land, the gray cliffs rising from the
forest which covers the base of the mountain give an impression of hoary an-
tiquity that is almost oppressive. But when the winter winds roar through
the sttmted cedars and whirl the snows from the summit, when the rocks
stand out black through the drifts that pile up under the lee of the cliffs, then
the West Peak has a look of menace hard to describe. So it is not strange
that weird tales have sprung up concerning this mountain, tales that are told



about the firesides in the few houses that stand on the lonely roads that trav-
erse the region. There is one tale that is especially to be mentioned— the
story of a black dog that is seen at times upon the Peak. Many have seen him
once, a few twice— none have ever told of the third meeting. It is a short
haired black dog of moderate size, with nothing particularly noticeable in its
actual appearance. Yet there are two signs by which it is ever known:— men
have seen it bark, but have heard no sound; and it leaves no footprint behind
it on the dust of summer or the snow of winter. Yes, there is a third sign. It
is told in different words by different people, but the meaning is always the
same, and the words with which I have begun this narration are my own ren-

dering of the common tradition. It may seem strange that a man of science
should believe a thing of this kind — an idle tale for the ignorant and supersti-
tious, you will say, — but I do believe it. And if you would know why,
listen :

It was late in the spring of i8 — that I visited West Peak for the first time.
I was then a student at Harvard, and the work in geology that I had taken up
made it desirable for me to visit the locality. At that time I had heard noth-
ing of the legend. In the town of Meriden, which lies a few miles distant
from the mountain, I hired a horse and wagon suitable for the trip and started
out for the Peak in the best of spirits. From Meriden the road runs for about
two miles in a generally northwest direction and then turns north into a deep
valley lying between West Peak on the west and Notch Mountain, as it is called,
on the east. At the farther end of this valley there is a seldom used road
which turns toward the southwest again and winds up the easy slope at the
back of the Peak. Guiding myself by the maps which 1 had brought with me,



I reached this road and there got out of the wagon to examine the vescicular
lava of which there was a good outcrop at that point. I had been on my knees
pounding away for dear life in my endeavor to get. off a good cabinet specimen
and had just gotten up to straighten my back, when I noticed trotting up the
road a dog. I suppose he might have been called black, but it was the same
degree of blackness that you see in an old black hat that has been soaked in
the rain a good many times. His lineage was evidently uncertain. I think
that, like the young man mentioned by Tennyson, he was " too proud to care
from whence he came." But he seemed friendly, and when I drove on he in-
sisted on following the wagon. So I let him go with me for the sake of his
good company. Certainly that dog was a philosopher. In all that long day's
journey — for after we left the Peak we went many miles beyond to visit other
fragments of the lava-sheet — he followed the wagon. But this did not inter-

' ITS westp;rn face topped with perpendicular cliffs.

fere with his pursuing " original investigation." There was not a brook on the
route which that dog did not wade, He scoured every patch of woods, he
poked his inquisitive nose into every hole and behind every stump. We made
a jolly trio — the rough, strong old horse, the faded dog, and the man whose
appearance was not one whit better than that of his companions. At the little
village of Southington we stopped for dinner and then pushed on until, under
the shadow of yet more western hills, I found the last point to be reached in
the day's march. Then we turned back and started for home, the dog running
on ahead. I took a great liking to that dog. In the first place he was so quiet.


Not once in all that day did I hear him bark, even when a calf beside the road
tried to coax him into a fight. And he was so light of foot ! Though the
roads were very dry, yet I did not see a pufiE of dust rise from his feet as he
trotted along ahead of the horse. On the return journey we traversed the
same route that we had come in the morning instead of taking the direct road
to Meriden, which passes south of West Peak. As we came toward the Peak,
the last light of the setting sun was just touching the highest rocks, and by
the time we had entered the valley of which I have spoken night had almost
closed in. The dog still trotted on ahead until we came to the place where I
had met him in the morning. Then he stopped, looked back at me a moment,
and quietly vanished into the woods. I stopped and whistled and whistled
again, but no dog appeared. So I drove on without much regret, as it is rather
hard to tell what to do with a tramp dog even when he is a philosopher — par-
ticularly when he is a very homely dog. There is a chance that your friends
will not appreciate his philosophical attainments as highly as you do.

The old horse knew that he was bound for home and he took the road at a
very good gait. Soon the sharp summits of West Peak and Notch Mountain
showed against the sky well behind us, and half an hour more brought us to

'WIIKN 'I'lIK kOl KS ST.'i.N'II Ol'l' I'.

TiiRori;n riii': niuir;

Meriden again. After supper I sat before the open fire at the Winthrop — for
the evenings were still cool enough to make a fire almost a necessity— and
thought over the whole day's trip. I am supposed to be a civilized individual,
but there is a great deal of the tramp in me for all that, and for that reason I
had enjoyed the day all the more. The change from close laboratories to the



fresh air of the hills was alone
enough to pa}' for all the trouble I
had taken. That, no one could fail
to enjoy. But the long drive through
the beautiful mountain region, fresh
with the beauty of spring, appealed
particularly to the tramp in me.
Many a time since then, when I have
been weary and discouraged, I have
gone back in memory to that long
day's drive through the sunny valleys
and over the breezy hills, and have
felt the old gray horse rub his nose
against my arm, and have seen the
tramp dog look up into my face with
his knowing brown eyes. It is curi-
ous how often it is that the little
things leave the greatest memories
behind them.

And this is how I met the Black
Dog the first time — for joy.
* * *

I don't know just how we came
to do it. I think it must have been
that that spring visit to the West
Peak gave me a desire to see how it





would look when its flanks were wreathed in snow and when the winter winds
were howling over the hills. At any rate, the evening of Februar}' 5th, in the
third year after my first visit, found me and my friend, Herbert Marshall, sit-
ting again before the fire at the hotel where I had stopped before. It was
then that I heard for the first time the story of the Black Dog. Marshall

had been all over the re-
gion thoroughly in his
work for the United States
Geological Survey and he
had climbed West Peak
many times and at all sea-
sons of the year.

We talked till late that
night, and, as the fire died
down to a mass of glow-
ing embers, he told me
how he himself had twice
seen a black dog upon the
mountain, but he laughed
at the legend, saying that
he did not believe in
omens unless they were
lucky ones. So we turned
in and forgot all about
omens, good or bad, until
long after sunrise the next

The morning was clear
and bright but very cold,
and the light on the snow
was dazzling. We started
for West Peak at about
nine o'clock. We both
wore hip boots and had on leather jackets under our overcoats. We carried
with us, beside our lunch and a coil of rope, a hand camera — for I had deter-
mined to get some views from the top if possible. We found it heavy walking,
for the snow was light and fine and fully a foot deep.

We did not reach the Peak until about eleven o'clock, and then we found
the woods on the back so choked with snow that it was impossible to make any
considerable progress through them, so we determined to try to make the
ascent on the southern face. This portion of the mountain is much steeper,
but it is free from forest, and the mass of broken fragments of rock which runs
up to the foot of the cliffs affords a fairly good foothold. The cliffs themselves
are pierced by many clefts broad enough in many cases to admit a man, while
in some instances the clefts have been broadened by erosion into actual

The sharp, bracing air put life into us and we went at the ascent with en-
thusiasm. It was hard work, for many of the fragments were insecure, and
snow is always uncertain stuff under the best conditions, but in the course of




an hour we were at the top of the "talus" and under the foot of the cliffs.
Here we found one of the narrow ravines of which I have spoken, which gave
a chance for further ascent, and then the fun began. But at last, by scram-
bling, crawling and wriggling, we got to the top and pulled the camera up
after us with a rope, much to the detriment of the former. Our lunch we left
at the foot of the ravine until we should come down. Arriving on the top of
the cliff, we found that the wind had risen and was blowing fiercely from the
northwest, whirling the snow in great clouds over the plain below us. Never-
theless, we determined to try for a few photographs, and here was where we
made our fatal error. We had become very warm in climbing the Peak, but
during that few minutes' halt on the summit the bitter wind chilled us to the
bone. Our gloves, which we had laid aside while taking pictures because they
were soaked with melted snow, froze, and it was with aching hands and feet
and with stiffened
limbs that we began
our descent into that
little gorge through
which we had come
up, the gorge of
which I never think,
since that fearful day,
save as the \'alley of
the Shadow of Death.
So long as we
were in the sunlight
we went on with some
courage, but when we
passed into the shad-
ow of those black
cliffs, courage seemed
to die in our hearts
and we struggled on
blindly through the
drifted snow, hoping,
it seemed sometimes,
almost against hope.
Marshall was in the
lead, and I was fol-
lowing as best I
could, when he sud-
denly stopped and
without a word point-
ed to the top of the
cliff. There, high on
the rocks above us, "' 'i"'- ''-'"'^ nn-MsKiAhs akk i-uk. lu. hv nM.r .i.his.''

stood a black dog

like the one I had seen three years before, except that he looked jet black
against the snow wreath above him. As we looked he raised his head
and we saw his breath rise steaming from his jaws, but no sound came through



the biting- air. Once, and only once, he gazed down on us with gleaming eyes
and then he bounded back out of sight. I looked at Marshall. His face was

white and he steadied him-
self against a rock, but
there was not a tremor in
his voice as he said:

" I did not believe it
before. I believe it now;
and it is the third time."

And then, even as he
sfjoke, the fragment of
rock on which he stood
slipped. There was a cry,
a rattle of other fragments
t ailing — and I stood alone.
Later — I cannot tell
how much later — there is
no measure of hours and
minutes at such a time —
bruised, bleeding, almost
frozen, I stood by all that
was left of my friend. He
was dead; his body was
already stiff, and I knew
that unless I would share
this, his last sleep, I must
hasten. So I bent over
him in a hasty farewell
and then staggered on.
What followed I can-
not say. I only know that I came to a house and was taken in and cared for.
Before long I was so far revived as to tell what had happened, and a party of
men from the neighboring^
farms sought and brought
back the body of poor
Marshall. Theyfoundhim
where I left him, and by
the body watched a black
dog that as they ap-
proached fled swiftly back
into the shadows and
of the lonely ravine where
the brave life had ended.

I believe the story of
the Black Dog. Can you
wonder that I do >. More-
over, I know that some
time I shall see it again — "the v.m.i.kv oi im; .sn.^now

illKUT M.VK'^H.AI.l..


for the third and last time — and shall go even as my friend went. It may be
years before my doom comes. The Survey cannot spare miy services on the
West Peak area. I must die some time. Why should I shirk my duty ? Yet,
when I am gone, this paper may be of interest to those who remain, for, in
throwing light on the manner of my death, it will also throw light on the end
of the many victims that the old volcanic hills have claimed.

IFn.ni the Xew York Herald, November 12th, iS— .]

" The body of F S of the U. S. Geological Survey was found on West Peak,

near Meriden, Conn., yesterday. Mr. S , who was at the head of the work on the West

Peak area, disappeared on November 2nd, and all search for him has proved unavailing until
yesterday, when his body was found at the foot of the southern cliff of the Peak. Apparently
he had fallen from the top, a distance of some forty feet. It is a singular fact that the body
was found on almost the identical spot where his friend, Herbert Marshall, met his death six
years before. This makes the fifth man who has lost his life on the range within thirty



Treasure of wooded banks.

Sweet is thy breath to me;
F'ragrance of sunny nooks,
Neighbor of laughing brooks,
Joy of the lields so free.

Springing on red-brown stems,

Fresh are thy leaves so green;
Bright are thy pink-white flowers.
Kissed into life by showers.
Sweetened by breath unseen.

Beauty is all around !

Life is the same sweet thing.
In birds of the air.
In children so fair,

Or the sweet flowers blossoming.



On Mistress Marj-'s wedding day,

In the old colonial time,
Sweet, the gardens were, and gay.

Blooming, in their fragrant prime.

They tell me roses were ablow.
Making pink the country-side,

In those hedges, long ago.
Fitting for so fair a bride.

I wis, the birds began to sing.
When Mary to her marriage stepped,

A vision, radiant of the spring,

As down the quaint old hall she swept.

And o'er her grand frock, daintily,
In housewife fashion, fair of old,

She wore an apron, brave to see.
Embroidered, all, in pink and gold.

The years, with tender touch and light.
Have brushed its satins golden hue.

The broidered roses still keep quite,
Their first deep blush tint, too.

Oh, relic rich in family lore,

What pride of ancestry you bring

Through generations passed before ;
You almost seem a living thing.

A gathered wealth of old romance
Enfolds you with ancestral thought,

The old-time beauty to enhance.
As moonlight in a soft mist caught.

And storied memories ever seem.
That cluster round a dear heir-loom.

As fragrance, faint, as in a dream,

Of flowers that fade, no more to bloom.

[Note: This beautiful apron is in tlie po.ssessicm of Mrs. Carrie K. Bill, whose husband
is a lineal descendant of the maker of the apron, Mary Wright of Norwich, Conn., who was
wedded to Amos Geer on June 14th, 1757.]



AS one walks along the winding- streets of New London, one cannot help
being impressed with the solid comfort and beaut)' of many of the hom es
and the impression deepens into admiration when it is learned that the
major portion are the result of the courage ("grit," he would call it), skill and
endurance of the whaler of the days gone by. He began life on some sterile farm
in Waterford, — take New London as centre and nearly the whole of the circle is
Waterford, — and at fourteen, or before, tightened up his "galluses," put on his
" Sunday go to meetings" and went into town to ship before the mast on some
whaler bound for a cruise of two or three years. Then, if there was good stuff
in him, he rose from boat-steerer to mate and "Cap'n," and had the felicity
and profit of standing on the deck and roaring at the men in the choice ver-
nacular of the seaman.

But the captain had often the most perilous part of the work of capturing
the whale. He generallj' went in the first boat and quite often the whale
"milling" gave the men a race for life rather than lucre.

But they count their hardships small now that years have softened their




horrors, and they enjoy all the comforts of home with the consciousness, which
is keenest pleasure to every true man, that it has all been earned by them-

It is a long time since New London saw a whale ship depart from her
wharves, and to the present generation stories of whaling days have the flavor
of antiquity. The Charles Colgate, belonging to one of the biggest and most
successful firms in the business, Lawrence & Co., lies stripped and rotting, a
veritable curiosity; but for tangible evidence of what whaling has done for
the town, look at its Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, its Public Library, its
handsome female academy, the two parks and the rows of substantial look-
ing private houses which are sure to be well supplied within with mementoes
of their owners' voyages in the shape of pictures etched on whales' teeth, eggs
of penguins, and ostriches, feathers, stuffed birds, shells — all the thousand
tokens of loving thought that the absent one gathers for those at home.

On the street you will meet a hale old man carrying his three score and
ten with ease, bluff and simple of speech, with the roll of the sea in his gait,
and contempt for creased trousers in his attire. Or step into a bank and ask
for the president. In the prosperous money class are many of the salts of the
past, though a few have always failed to win fortune's favor. Stop one of these
old sea dogs and start him away from his favorite occupation of worrying over
the safety of his securities and bring him back to the days of "auld lang syne."
The eye will brighten and the cheek gain color while the ring of the sea
sounds clearer in his voice as he tells of the struggles and successes of his Hfe.
It is a yarn well worth hearing and having little of exaggeration, for these old
heroes are modest and truthful men

who religiously believe it was easier V- '

for the whale to swallow Jonah than
a church member a landsman's fish

About the best preserved and
oldest of the whaling captains in
the country is Capt. Samuel Greene,
who for more than forty years never
staid on land longer than was re-
quired to fit out a vessel. Captain
Greene celebrated his golden wed-
ding seven years ago, and his friends A^
aver he is younger and heartier look- ■* ^^"
ing to-day than then. He was born nn k 01 Tin-: rinKi.i-s cc



in Waterford, November 11, 1815 and went before the mast in the Neptuue
under Capt Nat. Richards in 1829, and after seven voyages in various ships
he came at the age of 23 to his first vessel, the Neptune, as master. He mar-
ried at 25 a very estimable lady, who, with two of his three children, bears him
companionship. The captain's home may be said to have all the heart desires
but as he rides his grandson on his knee, he turns back to the days of hard-
ship and peril with a sigh of regret that he stands alone of all the men who
shared their struggles together in the beginning.


In the log book of the captain's memory is many a stirring tale, but none
more exciting, more certain to arouse deepest feeling, than that of his capture
by the Shenandoah in 1865.

" Maybe it is a good thing, but I guess if you ask any old fellow to go back
to the days of the war, it will seem to him as if it was so far off that it is dim-
like and unsubstantial; but just give him a sight of Old Glory, and let him
hear 'Marching Through Georgia' and he'll sniff the air like a battle horse.
Anything like Grant Day is sure to make the blood tingle and quicken the
memory till it all sweeps past like a grand panorama. It is a grand thing to be
able to say that you have done something for the defence of the Union, but
the whalers had not the least idea that the war was coming. They had little
accurate knowledge of the progress of events which swept away all the weak
subterfuges of compromises. Their business left them little chance to talk
politics. And when the sudden storm burbl the men who were out on voyages,,
voyaging four years at a time and only once or twice a year touching ports


where they received stale news, were the ver}' last to believe there was any
chance of any section trying to break up the Union.

" Not that we need complain, though. I'd like to see some of these big
bonus winners do a neater job than some of the old whalers that were almost
condemned when Uncle Sam pressed them into service. Even their old hulks
did their share in Charleston harbor.

" Ever heard of the stone fleets Nos. i and 2 ? No ? Well, the rebels did.

"Just as soon as the Confederates began to fit out privateers to cruise
against Union commerce and destroy the whalemen in the Pacific, the owners
of the latter were alarmed and withdrew all their ships which they could reach
from service. If there was one thing which Uncle Sam did not have at the


beginning of the struggle it was ships, and he eagerly accepted the offer of
some of these well built vessels, which were used for blockade runners. A
good use was found for the veterans which had been so long in service that
they were thought deserving of retirement. The United States bought forty,
and filling them with stone to the deck, divided them into two fleets and sunk
them off Charleston harbor in 1861 and '62 to prevent the escape of priva-
teers and the entrance of blockade runners.

" It is worth while stopping a bit to think of the famous history that be-
longed to some of these old ships which had so glorious an end. Many of them
had been famed in the China and European trade. The Herald was nearly
one hundred years old. The Corea was an armed store ship belonging to the
-English navy, and in the Revolution was driven into Long Island and an expe-



dition of one hundred men and boj's was planned from New Bedford to cap-
ture her. When their schooner neared the Corea, all on board hid below
excepting four men and a boy who seemed to
be engaged in fishing. The Corea fired a gun,
and bearing down upon them ordered them
alongside. They grumblingly obeyed and were
despoiled of their fish and the Corea's crew
swarmed on their deck. The captured fishermen
threw the fish into the sea, and at the signal the
secreted men rushed forth, overpowered the Eng-
lishmen, captured their vessel and brought it in
triumph into New Bedford. The Corea, Fortune,
Tenedos, Lewis and Phcenix, of New London;
Meteor and Robin Hood, of Mystic; Timer, of Sag
Harbor; Amazon, Harvest and Rebecca Sims, of
Fairhaven; Potomac, of Nantucket; American, of
Edgartown; and Archer, Courier, Cossack, Fran-
ces, Henrietta, Garland, Herald, Kensington,
Leonidas, L. C. Richmond, Maria Theresa, and South America, of New
Bedford, were the first stone fleet. To the second fleet New Bedford sent the
America, India, Valparaiso and Majestic; New London, the Montezuma, New
England, and Dove; Newport, the William Lee and Mechanic; Sag Harbor,
the Emerald and Noble; Salem, the Messenger; and Gloucester, the Newbury-

Online LibraryWilliam Columbus FerrilThe Connecticut quarterly (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 46)