TMH Field Trip: Ice Rink in an Abandoned Quarry

Dorset, Vermont is a quarry town. There’ve been at least 24 quarries operated here since 1785, when the first quarry in the U.S. opened in town. In a pulp novel or B-movie, this would probably have been sufficient to awake some hideous subterranean evil, I think as I meander north on Route 7A from Bennington. As usual, though, what stands out instead are clues of cultural and social narratives that have played out over the landscape, in all their curious transactions and above-ground monstrosities.

From 7A I turned onto Morse Hill Road, into East Dorset. Barely 60 years ago, this road went by another name: N***** Hill Rd, in apparent slur to the many African American settlers who lived and worked here, along with Irish immigrants and others groups not welcomed into Dorset proper.

Now this former quarry suburb is casually sprinkled with a number of summer homes, and it is on the grounds of one of these homes, further down Morse Hill Road near the school that the body of 5 year old Leah Sarachik was found in a garbage can in October 1970.

I turn off well before that point, onto Dorset Hill Road. Two hundred years ago, the Route 7 corridor was a swamp and this winding lane was once a major thoroughfare through town. Through the 19th and early 20th century it was bustling with activity from Freedleyville’s 4 quarries, and 1 mile funicular railroad. Now the road peters out at about half its former length into woodland trail, frequented by mountain bikers and snowmobiles.

This trail is a pleasant hike north toward Gulf Brook, with various abandoned remnants of Freedleyville only a few hundred feet from the last house on the street, just off to the side of the trail.

This wasn’t my primary destination for the day, though, so after a bit of exploration there, I got back in the car and back tracked to a spot about half-way along the road, parking at a cut-in near “Anna’s Blossoms.”

From there, it’s a gentle hike uphill to the main quarry, less than a mile.

Along the way, another decaying remnant of Freedlyville can be seen.

Then, you will reach the unmistakable mouth of the quarry alongside the trail.

First known as Sykes quarry, it was acquired in 1856 by and John and William Freedley (the same brothers behind the long-gone Freedlyville quarry settlement in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts). 20 years later, they were shipping record breaking volumes, up to 65 freight cars worth of marble per month.

By the 1920s, though, plummeting demand had slowed work at the mill. In 1923, the marble mill burned to the ground and was not rebuilt.

As with many long running quarries, it has seen its share of death over the years. In 1878, Edward Collins was killed instantly when a large metal scale fell and crushed him. Another worker, Jerry Reagan, fell 25 feet to his dearh in 1889. Two years later, Patrick Rogers burned to death when he lost his footing and tumbled into a pit of hot coals under a boiler.

Not all the tragedy here is distant; in 2017, a student took her life within the quarry. In 2015, a climber fell from the hillside and was found dead.

Given that history- combined with the accessibility, popularity, and overall ambiance of the site- it is a little surprising that I couldn’t find any rumors of it being haunted. East Dorset in general seems sparse for ghost stories.

Perhaps this part of town has enough history and natural attraction to it to keep the steady stream of visitors coming each week, without the added layer of supernatural lore. It is a lovely area to visit, and I recommend it highly for all ages.

TMH Field Trip: Everett Cave

On a freezing cold weekend morning we made the drive up to Mount Anthony in Bennington, Vermont to make a visit to Everett Cave. It was Goblin’s first real walk-in cave.

In the past, Everett cave, which is right along the aptly named “Cave Trail,” would be accessed via a parking lot at Southern Vermont College. However, SVC has now closed permanently, and the property was acquired last month by Southwest Vermont Health Care. Fresh, glaringly adamant “No Trespassing” signs are sprinkled all around the parking area by the field house and former Everett mansion (though SVHC has said they envision ultimately making it a community space, and will keep trails open to the public). Instead, we found the trails can also be accessed from Fox Hill Road, where a sign advised us to park at the adjacent antiques store to access the trailhead, which is straight up the hill to where Fox Hill begins to loop back around.

From there, a very short hike (500-600 feet) up the hill slightly northeast leads to the cave mouth.

Also known as Conklin Cave, this cavern was once reputed in local lore to run as long as 4 miles, to a point in Pownal. In 1934, a party of western Mass spelunkers proved it maxes out at 150 feet at the end of its longest crawl space

When the Brattleboro Reformer found out that a bunch of Massholes had been the one to expose Bennington’s great legendary tunnel… they were not kind…

Goblin was ready to explore further. Our backup team member (aka mommy) waited for us just outside.

At the end of the entry portal, a low narrow passage rounds a corner …With just a brief crouch (no crawling required), it opens into a sizable chamber with plenty of standing room.

Inside the chamber, the air was so much warmer that it was full of steam from the melting ice. In one side of the room, a pitched ceiling of rock rises approximately 20 feet. There is also some natural seating in a nook to the far right of its entrance.

To the left, a murky narrowing passageway extends further into Mt Anthony, for the willing spelunker.

The cave and surrounding property are part of the the former Edward Everett estate, a reputedly haunted property which I have written about more extensively elsewhere (Advocate Weekly 5/25/06 & Fate Magazine, June ’06). Everett is one probable basis for Hugh Crain in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

At the conclusion of our exploring, Goblin rated the expedition as “a really good adventure.” I concur.

Special thanks to expedition team member Ali Reiff