Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reading A Woodbridge Landscape (Part Two)

Ezra Stiles continues his narrative of his search for the Judges Lodgements by saying, “The second residence is a little more dubious than the first and last, which are unquestionably certain. It was about two miles and a half north of the first, on the west bank of a rivulet running along at the foot of the west side of the West Rock, and about half a mile north of the house of Thomas Darling, Esq… In August 1785, he went with me and shewed me the spot of their little domicile, when some of the wall or stone ruins were then remaining. I examined it with close attention, and made a drawing of it on the spot, one of the Sperrys being with us, and affirming the immemorial tradition, and herein concurring with Mr. Joseph Sperry, who referred me to the same spot.”

I had no trouble finding the Darling House, but never could locate the “little domicile” Stiles wrote about and drew a picture of. This spot half a mile north is outside of the Woodbridge Town Property, policed by people in uniforms who write out tickets if you don't have a permit from the Water Authority - all things I found out the hard way.

Back down by the Darling house, it was uncanny how similar a scene the area of land still is. Reading about it after I had visited, I could have jotted down almost the same thing over two hundred years later, all but the part about the river. These days it’s silted in and is sort of swampy:

"Descending a steep bank, or brow of the hill of upland, sixteen feet, we came to a bottom, or level, forty feet wide, four or five feet above the water of the rivulet or brook, which I measured thirty-four feet wide at that place. This bottom, or level, extended along the bank, on the edge of the river, sixty-four rods, under the brow of the hill, being two to three rods wide. It was a beautiful, shady and pleasant ambulacrum, or walk. The upland on the west side is a level of twenty feet above the river. From under the western brow issues a perpetual spring about the middle os the ambulacrum, running in a perpetual pleasant brook or stream along under the western brow, and discharging into the rivulet. The rest of the bottom is not wet and marshy, but dry and salubrious. The whole on both- sides of the river was, in 1785, inveloped in trees and forest, and yet the bottom was not so charged with trees as to be impassable, being only a pleasant shady retreat, in which a philosopher might walk with delight. Near the end of this walk, closed in at each end by the curve row of the hill coming down to the very'brink of the rivulet, was situate the hut of the Judges under the side or brow of the hill. Evident traces of it remained in 1785. It was partly dug out of the side of the hill, and built with stone wall, about eight feet one way and seven the other. The western wall was yet standing perhaps three feet high, and a remnant of the north wall. The site, when I saw it, was filled with weeds and vegetables, and bushes, in the manner of old cellars, for it seemed to have been dug out a little lower than the surrounding surface of the bottom. The remainder of the stone work evidently shewed that it had been built with design : and unvaried tradition say it was one of the abodes of the Judges. They could not have chosen a more secret, hidden, and pleasant concealment. They probably came to it next after they fled from the first Cave…It is not improbable that in this space of time they resided in Sperry's house, or perhaps in the adjacent woods part of the time…For some reason however they do not seem to have sojourned here long: The Sperry's farm tradition says, because the Indian dogs in hunting discovered them. They therefore sought another lodgment…”

It is a shady retreat – you can tell by the blurry photos I took in the low light. It’s still “inveloped” by trees and forest – and it was difficult to tell the difference between the trees and the forest. There were very well formed stone rows reaching up to the slope of the West Ridge, containing Native American cultural motif’s in the artistically stacked stones and boulders of this row. There were a few stone piles as well…
Above, a face-like cobble, below, a closer look reveals broken "jaw" and skull cap...
Above from a distance, below detail of large prominent boulder on mound...
To be continued, up by "The Lodge" or, as President Stiles writes,
"HatchetHarbor, or spring (at which I found an Indian stone god)..."
( really not much more than a re-write of since I didn't investigate the cliffs below it very well, locate the spring or the remains of the walls of a structure...)

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