William Columbus Ferril.

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shaded grounds of Holleywood, the residence of the late Governor HoUey, and
near by is the "old Holley place " with its stately columns of the old style.
Other places of modern elegance are on the banks of the lake, which mirrors
the groves around it and the creamy masses of the Hotchkiss school which
stands like a Temple of Fame on a very Hill of Science. Lakeville demands
a separate account.

In Salisbury, Nature asserts herself royally. The little state that has
given to the world the cotton gin, the telegraph, and anaesthesia was not ne-
glected in the distribution of romantic scenery, and in this northwestern
corner is a treasure of wild beauty. The town that holds the highest land in
the state. Bear Mountain, two thousand, three hundred and fifty feet high, the
greatest number of lakes, its share of the most copious waterfall, in the state,
besides thirty-three kinds of ferns, and mines and quarries galore, has attrac-
tions for every lover of Nature. Here it was that Beecher wrote a great part
of his delightful "Star Papers," and thereby introduced the general public to
the charms of this region. Between the clasping fingers of the Taconic range
are dells and ravines of choicest beauty. Votaries of Nature turn to Sage's
Ravine as to one of her inmost shrines. Folded between Mt. Riga and Mt.
Everett, the northern bank of its dashing waters forms a part of the boundary
line between Connecticut and Massachusetts. ^loss-grown rocks are piled in
confusion, while from far above come tumbling and foaming the pure and
sparkling waters of woodland springs, leaping from side to side in that ecstasy
of perpetual motion that is the charm of a waterfall, or lingering in dusky,
transparent pools, beloved of dainty trout. Adventurous trees climb up, tak-
ing root and gaining nourishment in ways inscrutable to us. And in their
shade a perpetual coolness reigns, the glossy mountain laurel and the dainty
wood-flowers drink the refreshing spray. Of this charming bit of wildness,
it has been said that it was the mate of Bash-Bish Falls, on the reverse side of
the mountain. The Housatonic forms the boundary line between Canaan and
Salisbury, and the two towns divide the honor of the fall of the Housatonic.
The height is seventy feet, and the graceful turn, the wooded slopes above, and
the abundant stream churned into foam are always a delight to the eye.

The hilltops which command far reaching views are more than can be
climbed in many a pilgrimage. Lion's Head, a bold, rock-faced spur and
Clark's Cobble, and Barack Matitf guard Salisbury street ; the dwellers on
Welles Hill, or Rose Hill, as it used to be called from the wealth of roses cul-
tivated there, have the near and distant hills and the lakes in charming
combination ; from Bald Peak and Bear Mountain extended, comprehensive
views are gained, and the delight of an outlook from Prospect Hill on a clear
day, who shall fitly describe? Woodlands, hills, meadows, villages, the wind-
ing Housatonic, the lakes in pleasant companionship and the blue Catskills
beyond, are all combined as by an artist's hand.

The really unique thing in the town of Salisbury is Mount Riga. The
village street is six hundred and ninety feet above the sea level, but Mount
Riga rises its long ridge more than eleven hundred feet higher than that.
For four miles the road ascends in the midst of over-arching trees, of vast


banks of ferns with all their harmony of curves, of thickets of blackberry-
vines, of mountain laurel, of flowers that love the shade. Here and there a
turn and an opening give a chance for an outlook towards Lion's Head with
its mass of foliage, and sometimes a woodman's path leads of¥ through dusky,
suggestive vistas. By your side, for the whole distance rushes and sparkles
the Wochocastigook, gurgling in dark coverts, or flashing over mossy rocks in
the light of a curious sunbeam, which strives to penetrate the secrets of the
place. You feel that nymphs and dryads are lurking in these depths of shade,
that here Titania's court still holds its revels, and that all the creatures of the
land of myth and of enchantment dwell here, having held undisturbed posses-
sion since primeval days ; you think that you hear the rush of a Bacchic dance,
you almost catch the glimmer of a goddess of the woods ; and — suddenly, you
come on an abandoned furnace, a dam, two or three grey houses, and a wild,
lonely lake upon the mountain top. Are you in a dream ? Is this the land of
the Sleeping Beauty ?

No : this is what is left of the village of ilount Riga, once a very hive of
industry. Long ago, perhaps early in this century, this was the center of
activity in Salisbury. The iron ore which was laboriously dug from the ore-
beds was still more laboriously dragged up the mountain to be smelted in the
furnaces which blazed for half a mile along the stream. The deep lakes are
on the summit of the mountain ; the forest was everywhere ; so charcoal and
water power, two necessary adjuncts of iron manufacture, were here in great
abundance. Dragging the ore uphill to be converted into iron and then drag-
ging it down again for sale was not so foolish as it seemed, for there were no
railroads then, and the route to the Htidson River, on which boats could carry
the heavy loads to market, was over this very moimtain ; so that really the
furnaces were at a half-way house. The name is said to have been corrupted
from " Mt. Righi," given by Swiss workmen.

Mr. Joseph Pettee, who married Joanna Everett, a cousin of Edward
Everett, came hither from Boston, and in company with Mr. John C. Coffing
and Mr. John M. HoUey, the father of Governor Holley, established extensive
iron works ; so that the stillness of the lakeside on the mountain-top was
turned into the roar of business. Mr. Pettee lived in the large house by the
first lake. The house has handsomely wainscoted rooms and staircase, and is
still used in the summer as a clubhouse for fishermen. .Houses for workmen
sprang up in great numbers, and soon the busiest traffic of the town was in
the village on Mount Riga. The Salisbury woman who wish to buy a silk
dress in the town must go up to Mount Riga, for there was the largest and
best equipped "department store," employing four clerks. The number of
inhabitants may be inferred from the school which counted seventy or eighty.
Sufficient grass was found for supporting cows, and flax was raised in quanti-
ties large enough to feed the looms which made the homespun linen for the
use of the inhabitants, but vegetables and fruits were brought from below.
The business of this thriving iron foundry was conducted by means of a mail
once a week, when a man brought the accumulated letters and newspapers,
certainly a happy contrast to "extras" once an hour. It is said that the first
temperance association in Litchfield county was formed among the workmen
on Mount Riga, and that in the excitement following a temperance meeting,
all the liquor in the store was brought forth and poured into the rushing
waters of the stream. On Sundays, those who could, drove to the "


to church ; and for those who staid behind services were held in the school-
house or in the grove. Those were red letter days for the villagers when some
great work was accomplished, notably that day when the great anchor for the
Constitution was finished, and amid ringing of bells, and cheering of men, was
dragged off to the Hudson by six yoke of oxen. The official inspection of the
anchors took place annually in the late autumn or early winter, and was one of
the greatest events of the year on Mount Riga. The testing was done by means
of high tripod-like frames, from which the anchors were dropped to the
ground. If they bore the blow without injury, they were pronounced worthy
to hold a struggling ship in storms at sea. The presence of naval officers who
were sent by the government to perform the duty of inspection gave occasion
for all kinds of festivities ; and the pretty girls looked back on the balls given
then on the mountain top as the culmination of the gayeties of the season.
Hither came Katherine Sedgwick, one of the first American women to achieve
a name by her pen ; here she got the inspiration for her story, "The Boy of
Mount Righi." Hither she brought Fanny Kemble, from Stockbridge by the
way of Salisbury, who delighted to drive four-in-hand, at the head of a
merry party of girls. Profound was the impression that she made, cracking
her long whip, or breaking eggs with her teeth when they had a wayside lunch;
and especially striking was the effect of independence of the trammels of
society produced by her short skirt, and that very mannish thing, a broad-
brimmed Leghorn hat tied under her chin with a ribbon !

Years passed : and a workman in England sealed the fate of the village
on Mount Riga ; for when railroads came, the iron horse could carry all the
iron over long distances on level ground for a less price than that for which
oxen could drag it uphill and down. So about 1847, the work stopped, the
furnace fires went out, and in the valley below, the transferred labor found
another and more convenient scene.- The men took their families with them ;
their frail houses, built on stilts, without cellars, quickly fell into ruins, and
became fuel for the last lingering inhabitants, and it was not long before the
nymphs of mountain and lake could claim their own again. All is silent now,
save for the song of forest birds, the plash of water, and the movements of the
hunter and the fisherman, who delight to camp here in summer. Somewhere
in the woods, there is a graveyard, and two or three houses remain on the road
that leads to Millerton. One is the last schoolhouse which was built there, and
another in an old grey house, with a glowing flower garden in front ; within
are two old people. One of the rooms, is almost filled by the ponderous loom
beside which the weavers used to keep up their weary tread. The lakes are
mirrors of solitude, and the forest whispers to itself that the episode of man's
invasion is ended, and that Nature is free once more. An ideal deer-park, a
spot for a hermitage it might be, but never again will a manufacturing village
be seen amid the fastnesses of Mount Riga.

This is not a proof of decay in New England, as is sometimes inferred by
outsiders when they see a house abandoned for something better, perhaps : to
prove the contraiy, you have simply to remember that in 1880, thirty-eight
thousand tons of iron were produced in the town, to look at the evidences of
prosperity in Lakeville, and to know that the Barnum and Richardson Com-
pany has recently purchased all the important iron mines in the town, and is
continuing with success the business which has not known cessation.

In the winter 1897-S, occured a remarkable ice-storm; for two weeks Mount


Riga was an ice palace indeed. Many a merry party made the ascent of the
mountain by unfrequented ways, in order to see the fascinating scene. Every
bough pendant with its weight of ice, and every twig flashed in the sunlight as
if encrusted with diamonds. When the crystal arches broke, great was the
destruction of trees. One twig was weighed with its two-inch coat of ice. It
weighed more than three pounds. When the ice melted, the twig weighed one
ounce !

Among all the charms that Nature has lavished on the town, the lakes are
preeminent. They are six in number. Near the Wononpakok, is charming
Interlachen and the Wononscopomuc, which renders the scenery around Lake-
ville fascinating. Its name means "clear water," and it is fed entirely by
springs. On its eastern side was the Indian council ground, long marked by
a tall elm. Near it an old Indian burial place. In the southwest corner of the
town, at the western end of Indian Mountain, and near Indian Lake, the
Moravians had a mission, a "monastery" for the Indians, and there the mis-
sionary is buried. In the northern part of the town, are the well-known
"Twin Lakes," the choicest morsel in the feast of scenery. They are often
called "Washining" and "Washinee." J. Hammond Trumbull, the unques-
tioned authority on Indian lore, says, in his " Indian Names of Connecticut,"
that the original Indian names were " Panaheconnok," meaning a " place or
lake not inclosed ; " and " Hokonkannok," the " other lake." On the west side
of Panaheconnok is an old burying ground which must be an Indian one, as
none for whites has existed since the place was settled. The " between the
lakes " drive is a favorite one, and is full of charm. On the bosom of Hokon-
kannok is a beautiful wooded island, with cottages hidden in the trees, and on
its shore, are "camping grounds" known to many a party of pleasure-
seekers. An old fisherman boasts of having fished here with men from all over
the United States. Near the north base of Tom's Hill, is an old red house
built before the Revolution. Its extraordinarily heavy beams were designed
for a protection against Indian attacks. The cottagers on the the wooded high
ground on the east side of the lake have spread- before them a prospect of rare
beauty,— the lake and island, the rolling, overlapping Taconic hills, Bear
Mountain, holding up the monument which Robbins Battell placed on its sum-
mit as a token of its sovereignty over all Connecticut hills, the graceful out-
lines of Mount Everett, its mate just over the Massachusetts line ; while, in
the shadowy cleft between, Sage's Ravine betrays itself sometimes by foam,
as does the cascade on Bald Rock. This is the place for wonderful sunsets
with crimson hues on sky and lake, and purple depths of mountain shadows.
Babes Hill and Tory's Hill commemorate by their names, traditions of
the region. From the rocky outposts of Tom's Hill, so much more poetically
called Mount Eschol by the early settlers, on account of the abundant grapes
there, you can look down on the fields of Sheffield, in Massachusetts, and far
over the undulating blue of the Berkshires. Bryant's Monument Mountain
majestically faces you, and you feel in this enchanted region you have verified
the poet's promise :

"Thou Shalt look

Upon the green and rolling forest tops

And down into the secrets of the glens,

And streams that with their bordering thickets strive

To hide their windings."



Natural conditions of soil and climate favor forest growth in New Eng-
land. Witness the almost unbroken forest that covered the whole country,
with trees centuries old, yet vigorous and sound.

To confine our remarks to Connecticut, in the early part of the present
century large tracts of this primeval forest were still standing, and the
surveyor could trace lines of the original surveys by trees blazed in the original
"layout" of land to the "proprietors." Some of these old landmarks still
remain, the only living things that connect us with our ancestors, living wit-
nesses of their toils and hopes.

While these original forests have yielded to the progress of civilization, its
demands for timber and fuel, yet a changed condition within the last half cen-
tury — the use of coal for fuel and the resort to the forests of Canada, Oregon
or Georgia for lumber — has turned the tide, and nature reasserting her claims,
is clothing again with trees all waste land encroaching upon the borders of
cultivated fields, to a degree, so that viewed from our highest hill-tops a wood
growth seems to cover the whole country, and as nature rarely works in an
economic way, according to our ideas, we find the forest holding a low place
in the estimation of our farmers, as something that may be endured, but not
to be encouraged.

Occasionally white pine and hemlock reproduce from seed a thick forest
growth, even taking possession of the neglected pastures, yet more often the
present scattered growth of these timber trees with limbs and knots has so
little present or prospective value in the public eye that the whole thing is


pronounced a failure. Chestnut and some other deciduous trees sprout from
the stump, and grow rapidly to market value.

The scattered trees of all kinds that spring up in hedge rows and
neglected places, are largely of valueless varieties, as choke cherries, seeded
by birds, and well adapted to feed and shelter them, are only a nuisance agri-
culturally, and from this start we do not know where to draw the line, till we
reach some oak or ash or hickory left to itself in some neglected corner, that
may become a stately tree, the most beautiful thing of life we can leave to
those who shall come after us, as a testimonial of our regard for them, that
they may find enjoyment in some material object we have nurtured for them.
It must be admitted that we have too much of this useless growth ; hedge-rows
are a damage to field culture — they harbor worms that destroy our fruit and
fungi that, checked in our orchards, find here convenient homes in wild trees
of allied species ; but encourage nature and the result is comfort and beauty
—an indiscriminate fight will be a losing one— ten white birches or wild cher-
ries will spring up where we destroy one. Should we not rather use them for
nurse trees for better kinds of forest growth, that when they have lived their
short lives they may give place to something of value, that the world will
need and prize ? This is only one suggestion that comes up in viewing the
question of forestry.

The planting of seeds of pine among such small and scattered growth of
shrubs and trees, that furnish just shade and shelter enough to protect the
young seedlings and later yield to their overpowering growth, or removal by
the ax before the young pines become weak and spindling, would not be a
costly experiment, and if successful would prove a good investment.

We have much land in Connecticut that has been cleared and cultivated
that should have been allowed to remain in forest. Hillsides too steep for
profitable culture, as rains wash away all fertility from uncovered soil — or
even the soil itself— and rocky land, where the good pasture grasses have
yielded to the more hardy and persistent weeds, promise a good return in
timber if planted with black walnut or chestnut, both rapid growers, and val-
uable for timber or lumber.

The white ash would do better in the moist and rich intervals. It grows
rapidly and will always be in demand for agricultural implements and

A knowledge of the times of gathering the seeds, how and when and
where to plant them, of the various forest trees, the maple, the ash, the black
walnut, the chestnut, the hickory, the larch, the pine and the hemlock, and the
willow, would enable the farmer to wage a more pleasant and profitable war-
fare with the worthless bushes of small growth, as hardback (Potentilla fruti-
cosa), white bush (Andromeda), sweet fern (Comptonia asplenifotia), red
raspberry, blackberry, as well as those of larger size as the alder and the white
birch, than is now attempted with the bush scythe in the dull muggy days of
July and August — where the hired man takes his vacation, and is equally with
his employer disgusted with the results of his labor. Enough has been done in
this line already to prove its feasibility, and nature herself, in her happy
moods, when seed has fallen on good ground, has shown us by example the
possibilities in this kind of work.

Orchards of nut bearing trees, the improved varieties of chestnut and
hickory nut, promise well to be a source of profit to the cultivator in the near


future, while the grafting of the native seedling trees, so that they may pro-
duce chestnuts as large as small apples, in favorite nooks and corners, should
add to the attractiveness of a country place so as to double its value as a sum-
mer residence.

I can see one drawback to this happy result. The question of nieum and
tuum, of ownership may arise. The small boy will have his share — as we
have all been boys or girls, we can pardon this — but the Sabbath-day ranger,
who takes a bagful for his family or for market, we detest him more in our
prospective nut culture than in our peach orchards.


Besides the value of timber in forests and the increased beauty of the
country from roadside tree planting, there are other economic questions of
greater importance that demand consideration.

The effect of forests upon the conservation of water supplj^ both of rain
and snow, of modifying destructive winds, is better shown where reforesting
has produced favorable results. The baleful effects are more sudden from
forest ruin than the happy ones from forest restoration.

It is an admitted fact that the destruction of the forests about the head
waters of our rivers has resulted in failure of the even flow of water, in both
extreme low water and disastrous freshets.

The forest cover develops and preserves the forest mat of moss and leaves
that acts as a sponge to absorb and hold water from rainfalls and melting
snow, gradually feeding springs and streams.

The lumberman by his slashing, leaves an inviting field for fire, the careless
hunter furnishes the spark, or the thriftless squatter sets the fire to clear up
pasture for his cow, and thousands of acres of this priceless absorbent, accu-
mulated by nature through past centuries, all the time doing its silent work,
goes up in smoke, leaving the hillsides, the water sheds of the country, as bare
as barn roofs, bare not only of all organic material as soil, but also deprived
of all young forest growth and seeds that would otherwise, by nature's provi-
sion speedily reclothe these mountains with their natural forest cover. This
fearful waste of these bounties of Providence is followed by inevitable conse-

Devastating freshets from sudden melting of snow by rain, while the
ground is frozen and the rivers blocked with ice, succeeded by the drying up
of springs, and of the fountain streams that feed our rivers, these are facts
that cannot be disputed. Abundant evidence exists of their sad reality.

This is an old story but no less pitiful in its frequent repetition, but it
must be repeated by the press and from the platform discussed everywhere by
lumbermen and sanitarians, become a part of education from the district
school to the university, to counteract the national disregard for forests, the
result of generations engaged in their destruction.

Civilized man takes possession of a country covered with primeval forests
and by wanton waste unsettles the balance of waterfall and its safe delivery
to the ocean. Mountain torrents scour and scar the lands about the head
waters of rivers and deposit silt and gravel lower down and about the mouth,
obstructing navigation with sand bars and choking harbors.

Individuals, towns or even states can do little to control this matter ; a few
thousand acres of denuded forest near the headwaters of the Connecticut in


Vermont or New Hampshire can have but little effect on the flow of this river
in Connecticut. But anyone who visits that region, who has any knowledge of
rural affairs or will take the trouble to carefully investigate the conditions, will
see how the even flow at the mouth is dependent upon an even supply at the
source. While some of the springs on our hillsides appear to be as permanent
as the hills themselves, yet all observant farmers notice the failure of springs
and the diminished flow of brooks from the clearing of forest lands, even
where fire does not follow to complete the devastation. In a forest the snow
lies level and melts slowly, often from beneath, the forest bed absorbing the
moisture. In open ground it thaws rapidly by sun and rain, and the frozen
ground prevents the water from soaking in, and it flows in destructive torrents.
Again the forests have much influence in restraining the violence of winds — a
wind blowing over a forest is checked in its velocity and modified in its tem-
perature. Clumps of trees on the mountain side or even in the narrow valleys
often delay currents of air or divert them from their course, so that the
growth of all kinds, but especially evergreens, materially modifies the local
climate, an influence extending to unexpected places.

In connection with this, notice the effect of clumps or rows of evergreens
as shelter for orchards, gardens, and farm buildings. This may be carried
much farther for other uses, and clumps of evergreens forming windbreaks
will serve a good purpose in protecting highways and railroads from snow

Online LibraryWilliam Columbus FerrilThe Connecticut quarterly (Volume 2) → online text (page 39 of 46)