Yankee Classic: Ghost Town
Yankee Classic from Mysterious New England, 1971
Here is a tragedy so heinous, a mystery so unfathomable, an abduction so strange, as to cause all who hear the tale to look askance, and shake their heads.
Have you ever tramped the trails leading from the White Mountains down onto the eastern bank of the Connecticut River? If you have, you will readily recognize the place I want to tell you about. There is a deep gouge dug out of the mountains where a small stream rushes through the rock bed. The water sprays and spirals as it leaves the black stones behind in its haste to join the river. Deep down into that ancient strata it has worn its path during a million years past.
High along its sides rise the cliffs furred with evergreens which seldom see the direct rays of the sun. On bright days shafts of sunlight seep down into the undergrowth where newts and salamanders and snakes coil lazily and stuporously upon the shelves of projecting ore. A long, winding and much-decayed corduroy trail follows the convolutions of what fifty years
ago was a busy lumber trail.
About a mile to the south the pinnacle of the mountain is crowned by a strange rock formation remarkably resembling an Indian’s profile. The mountain rises an abrupt sixteen hundred feet at the water’s edge.
Strange tales are told of the early days in this region, which is uninhabited, although now three hundred years have elapsed since the advent of the white man in the New World.
Some distance to the north, perhaps a mile-and-a-half by modern reckoning, if the stranger follows the tracks of an abandoned railroad, he may still come upon the remains of an ancient village. Here, where once upon a time smoke curled from the chimneys of many happy
homes, and the reflections of the evening sun were followed after dark by the gleam of tapers and tallow candles, stand deserted houses. Shinglesided with slate roofs, and peaks sagging and the window ledges long since rotted by the heavy dews which descend upon the valley, these are the mute evidences of a once thriving rural community.
In these very houses a tragedy so heinous, a mystery so unfathomable, an abduction so strange was enacted as to cause all who hear the tale to look askance at me, and shake their heads.
In the days preceding the Civil War there were rumors rife in the locality concerning a band of wandering Indians, descendants of those tribes that originally inhabited the headwaters of the Connecticut. It is a fact proved by the students of Indian lore in our country, the same who can point out the sites of the old camp grounds of these tribes, that this region was a famous meeting place for powwows. Deep in the recesses of the hills are to be found even now the burial grounds of their braves.
On more than one occasion I have visited a great open mead where mound after mound marks the interment of thousands of red men who succumbed to the smallpox. That was the scourge which these native Americans came to know as the WHITE MAN’ S CURSE, and to fear more than his firewater and his flintlocks, because they looked upon it as being supernatural.
The period I have in mind was the time when immigrants came into the valley and opened a vein of copper which extended back into the hills. There on the shores of a lake overgrown with brushwood, one may still see the workings with its piles of slag, and the deep surface pits from which this valuable metal was extracted. The mule trails are still traversed by the curious who have little faith in the superstitions
of the neighborhood. At the foot of the trail still stand the skeletons of more than fifty houses.
Officials of a mining company had sent their engineers in to select a site which would prove suitable for the erection of a town. Thousands of dollars were spent in laying out the project, and a small tram was
introduced for the twofold purpose of bringing out the ores to the river and for transporting the workers from the nearest ferry to the small municipality. A community store was stocked and everything was in readiness for the miners and their families to move in. There were two
hundred persons including the women and children.
Old records tell us, and ancient residents of the nearby towns have attested to the details, that while the preliminary surveys were getting under way, the construction was beset by many and unusual difficulties.
As the first foundations were being laid, an Indian was seen to be haunting the neighborhood by night. On the following mornings the excavations were found filled in. Though watchmen were set at night, no one was able to describe how the day’s work was undone. Later several Indians showed themselves in the workings by daylight.
In the wake of these strange visitations lumber would be found burning, and timbers split in manner unbecoming good building materials. At other times it was reported that kegs of nails and barrels of supplies suddenly would break themselves wide open and spread their contents upon the ground. What had been scheduled for completion in three months took the greater part of a year.
Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.