Mr. Brazee is a member of a family closely associated with the Factory Street area of Salisbury, with Bunker Hill, Lion’s Head and Mt. Riga. The mills and small factories created a busy commercial center in and around Factory Street.
Mr. Brazee lived here all his life but he recounts especially what his activities were during the 1920s, ‘30s and’40s. He also speaks of the importance of hunting and trapping to the residents. The type of animals that exist in the region has changed over the years. The land has also changed from cleared fields to the forest and undergrowth that exist today
CONVERSATION WITH ED BRAZEE, at his home in Salisbury, March 13,1996.
Present were: Ed Brazee, Bill Morrill and Rick Morrill
Note: Edward M. Brazee was born Nov. 18,1913 and died March 28, 2003 at age 89.
Q. Ed, when were you born?
E.B. 1913. Right around the corner down here. Near the mill (the red mill on Factory Street now owned by the Kastendiecks)
Q. Who owned the mill at that time?
E.B. Burt Selleck, George Selleck’s father.
Q. What were they making there at that time?
E.B. They ground flour. Red Dog, the middlings of the grain.
Q. I had heard there was also a sawmill there.
E.B. Yes for cordwood. That was running at the same time.
Q. People would just bring in logs?
E.B. No, he (Selleck) had a lot of land up there. He felled trees on his land on Selleck Hill, beyond Hew at, land that now belongs to Alice Yoakum. He sawed up and sold the wood for cordwood. People burned a lot of wood at that time.
Q. Where did they get the grain?
E.B. Farmers brought in the grain. There were a lot of farms around here then. Of course, trains brought it in too. They pulled it in big wagons, probably 3 or 4 tons, with horses and the mill made flour and feed stuff of it.
Q. How long did that last?
E.B. Mill worked until tire 1950s.
Q. When did you live up on the mountain (Mt. Riga)?
E.B. I didn’t move up onto the mountain until after I got married.
Q. So your childhood was down here. Where did you go to school?
E.B. I went to the Grove Street School through 7dl grade (the Grove Street school building in Salisbury no longer exists) and to the Academy – spent two years there, first and second grade. And my last year, 8th grade, was in the new school in Lakeville on Lincoln City Road (the Lower Building). I didn’t go to high school.
Q. When you were living up here what did you do as a kid?
E.B. I worked for George Selleck at the mill up until I got married. When I got married I went and worked for my brother-in-law near Schenectady for three or four months. Then I worked for Frank McCabe up on the mountain in 1938. Frank was looking for somebody up there.
Q. When you were a kid, what did you do for Em?
E.B. Ski. Hike. We went all over
Q. What did this area look like then?
E.B. About as it does now. Where they had cut the wood off, in four or five years, it would grow back so you would not notice it. Up where Seymours live now, (on Mt. Riga road) had been cut over.
Q. Was there any charcoaling or iron working still going on?
E.B. No, (unintelligible)…. My father cut “lagging” for timbers to hold up the shafts in the ore pit at Ore Hill. The other ore pits were more open pits.
Q. Betty Haas’s father ran the Davis Mine, is that right?
E.B. Yes, Mr. Perkins. He was a lot of fun to talk to. I used to go down to talk to him when I first got a car. The Davis Mine was more of an open pit.
Q. Do you remember when they were open?
E.B. No, they were full of water.
Q. When did you first start going up on the mountain?
E.B. When I was probably six or seven years old. We would go up and fish, my brother and I, when I was about ten years old.
Q.Was there good fishing in the Riga lakes?
E.B. There were beautiful perch up there then, about a foot long, a gold color. In the spring of the year, they would follow the suckers in to spawn; they would eat the suckers’ spawn and we would catch them.
Q. There weren’t bass up there?
E.B. Only small mouth, hr the 1950s, they all died at once. Every bass on the mountain; there were no bass left; and suckers, bullheads and sunfish “punkin seeds,” they all died at the same time.
I would fish off the rocks, sometimes I would fish all night, catching bullheads. I would walk up at about 10:00 or 11:00 PM and sometimes almost fall asleep walking home.
Q. It would take about an hour to walk up?
E.B. About an hour. We walked everywhere.
Q. There is an old bridge abutment on the Mt. Riga creek (near the side road up to Frank McCabe’s house on Bunker Hill Road).
E.B. That was the old Clark bridge. The Clarks owned land across the creek too; it went with their farm, four or five big lots, on the other side of the Mt. Riga Road. Q. I wanted to ask you about the Clarks. There were two Clarks, right?
E.B. George Clark owned (what is now) the Erickson farm (off Bunker Hill Road).
William Clark’s farmhouse, where Elsie McCabe’s house is now, burned down when I was very small.
Burt Clark (who lived up by Erickson’s) got killed at the fair down here. There used to be a fair every year. He got run into by a horse and got killed.
Discussion about the area around the upper (north) end of Clark Hill Road (now called Bunker Hill Road):
Q. What kind of an operation was there up there? I noticed that across from Elsie McCabe’s house there is a foundation in the woods, set onto the hill right by the road? E.B. I don’t know what that was for.
Q. Then on Elsie’s side (behind her house), there was an old road that now goes through the woods.
E.B. Yes, that was the road. We built the new road that goes into the satellite dish.
Q. Then as you go back toward the satellite dish, there is a well there.
E.B. Yes. There’s wells all over the hills up there. There are two by Elsie’s, one right by her house.
Q. There is another well back by the satellite dish. There was a foundation near that well.
E.B. Yes, that was the big horse barn there. The rest back behind Elsie’s was all fields.
Q. Shows Ed a recent photo looking south from the top of Lion’s Head. All these were open fields?
E.B. (Points out on map). That was all fields. There was a big field up on the side of the brook (northwest of Bunker Hill Road and east of Lion’s Head).
Q. Shows Ed another photo of fields, looking north, up at Lion’s Head, taken circa 1910. E.B. This is an old time picture. It was all cleared land right to the foot of the steep ridge. The trail (blue trail to Lion’s Head) would be in here. I remember when that was all pasture up there. Burt Clark had his sheep up there. You can see the old stonewalls up there.
Q. There are charcoal pits too.
E.B. The charcoal pits are up the wooded side (of the stone walls). There are old charcoal roads all up through the woods up there.
Q. There is an old road that goes up and across the Lion’s Head ridge and over the Appalachian Trail and then all the way up to Mt, Riga Road.
E.B. I bulldozed that out myself.
Q. Looks at map of Riga Lakes, Lion’s Head, and Appalachian Trail, and the Riga Road by the broken dam where the brook goes under the Riga road. There is a gate right there where an old charcoal road comes out to tire Riga road.
E.B. This is the road that goes north and strikes the Appalachian Trail. The other road (bulldozed by Ed, forks off it) and comes out by Lion’s Head. It’s been about 14 or 15 years since I was up in there. One part of it was still pretty good. I rode up there in a jeep.
Q. Did you bulldoze that up to intersect the old charcoal road?
E.B. Yes, all the way from the tennis court there (on Mt. Riga), all the way down (to the north end of Lion’s Head). It was an old road originally but trees had fallen on it. We pushed through to open it up. It was used by Frank McCabe for horseback riding. There were a lot of people who used that for riding. George Miner’s wife had a lot of horses. Old man Rand (Jake Rand’s father). They used to stop by the big old oak tree where your driveway is now and have their lunch there.
Q. Further up along that ridge, there are a bunch of pits in the side of the hill, toward the Scoville Ore Bed road. Deep pits, the size of a room.
E.B. Probably someone trying to find another ore bed.
Q. That was all wooded?
E.B. That had all been cleared off then. Then, once they starting getting coke for the furnaces, that eliminated the need for charcoal and the woods came back up again. You figure how long that took on the mountain. They still ain’t got that much up there.
Poor soil up there. You get a tree that big around, you go up ten feet, it’s only that big around. We would cut wood up there when I lived on the mountain, a dollar a cord. That was 1929, 1930.
Q. When did you move up onto the mountain?
E.B. 1937. I lived in the farm house at the top of the hill, right across from Frank McCabe’s house.
Q. How many other people were up there?
E.B. Just me and Lorna (Ed’s wife).
Q. The mountain was used by summer people at that time too?
E.B. Yes. I worked for them. Filled the ice houses, took care of the camps.
It took us ten or twelve days to fill the ice houses.
Q. Were you using horses?
E.B. Horses, yes. Ice plows pulled by the horse, back and forth, back and forth. Then we would hand saw the ice and pack it off. If there was good ice the cuts would be as straight as could be. We used to figure if we got done with it in January, we were all set; after that we were in trouble. We did have no four wheel drive. We moved the ice by truck.
Q. Did you work on the roads in the summer time?”
E.B. 1 worked on the roads, worked for the people up there. We had a few cows up there. There was a lot more open land up there than there is now. Down below Dresser’s, (on the Middle road) that was all cleared land, pasture land, all the way around to the West road where Blackburn’s camp is. Down below that there was another house.
Q. I wanted to ask about the bulldozer that you used to get going every summer. How old was that?
E.B. It’s old, but we used it a lot.
Arrival of visitors. Break
Q. What do you think of the winters we have been having the last few years. How do they compare to the winters in the 1930s?
E.B. About like this. I remember a long time ago we lived up on the hill. We used to go up there with a big sled, carried hay on the sled. There would be 25 or 30 people sledding on this hill. You could really come down through here too. A couple of times I went right around George Selleck’s house (now Yerkes), around the curve.
Q. How many of the other mills that were on this street, do you remember?
E.B. There was the cider mill, (now Fink’s house). Across from that there was a place that made rugs or carpets. The knife handle factory was right down here by the pond (at Babs McLane’s). Then below, there was the bicycle shop and a sawmill (at the corner of Selleck Hill road).
Q. They actually made bicycles there?
E.B. Yes, made them. My mother worked there. They used waterpower there, until the shop burned down. Then they moved up the stream (to McClure’s, formerly Phil Warner’s). They had quite a business there at one time. There were forty of fifty workers. All water power.
Q. What was in the brick building right by the road below the pond?
E.B. That was the knife handle factory. There were no wood handles back then. They were all molded. They sold them to Holley Manufacturing and all over the country. They had quite a business at one time. Then they got into wood and buffalo horns. Stag handles. Then some English come over. They brought some imitation stag handles.
Q. So this was a very industrial road?
E.B. Very industrial. There was another dam up above the junction with the Mt. Riga Road. I don’t know what that had in it.
Q. What do you remember about the grist mill. What was George Selleck like or Burt Selleck?
E.B. George was a nice fellow, a good guy. He lived in the house across from the mill. His father had lived there. They used to pasture pigs up on the Clark’s farm where the pear tree is now. They would drive the pigs up in the summer time; they would be up there all summer long. Then they would bring them down in the fall, butcher them in the fall and make sausage. They had a place by the mill where they ground the sausage up.
Q. Was there a lot of noise from the mill?
E.B. It wasn’t too bad. It was kind of noisy. They had a wood cogwheel. Once in a while, in dry weather, they (the cogs) would let loose and fly out. It would take time to put them back in again.
Q. How many people worked there?
E.B. Just my father most of the time. I worked up there some.
He had a pair of horses, he worked them out, Selleck did. He had a man working for him year around. A lot of the grain was produced and used locally. They shipped some of the feed grain in (by train), a carload of grain about once a month.
Q. So the railroad was worldng. What do you remember about that?
E.B. I don’t remember much.
Q. You didn’t travel around that much? Did you spend much time in other parts of Salisbury?
E.B. Not much. The Raggies were on one side and Lakeville on the other, Ore Hill and Lincoln City were other little communities.
Q. When did Mt. Riga close down as a community?
E.B. That had closed down before I lived there. The furnace was rebuilt three times. Now it looks pretty much the way I first remember it. But the bridge across to load charcoal into the furnace had fallen down.
Q. Did you get over into New York State?
E.B. I went to Millerton two or three times that I remember.
Q. We were starting to talk about the game, the wildlife around here. The land was more open, a lot of brush.
EB. A lot of brush. There were a lot of rabbits, bobcats. Once in a while I’d see a lynx up there (on Mt. Riga). They’re a beautiful animal.
Q. When did you see the lynx?
EB. Oh, probably twenty years ago. He came right through. I had a movie camera and everything. Looked like a big Doberman. He came right toward me; I was going towards him. I was coming down from Frank’s (McCabe) house up on the mountain. I thought I’m going to get him with the movie camera, but he went into the bushes. He wasn’t too far from me. He wasn’t afraid either. Rita (the dog) saw him; she wanted to get out and get after him. He just turned and looked at us. He kept going, got pretty near opposite us and turned and went into the woods. It was a beautiful day, a day like today. New snow. He stood out like a sore finger.
Q. In the early ’70s I saw a bear up by the cemetery (on Mt. Riga). I had a camera hanging around my neck, but I reacted tine same way, I forgot that I had it. When I finally realized I could take a picture, the bear had turned and was running away. I got only a blurry picture of him.
EB. I got one picture (of the lynx) just as he went into the bushes, but it was just a blur. Hubbard Wells was up there about that same day. A bear came down through there. Hubbard was putting his tent up. I was talking to someone and Hubbard came running up, puffing and going about ninety, and shouting “you won’t believe it, you won’t believe it, you won’t believe it, I just saw a bear.” Sure enough you could see his tracks right there.
We were up there coon hunting one night, the dogs ran one (lynx) right by us.
Q. Is seeing bears something recent, in the last 20 years or so? Did you see them before that?
EB. My father used to see lynx, but I don’t think there were any bears around at that time.
Q. So as the woods have come back in the bears have returned?
EB. Yes, like the deer. My father didn’t see a deer until the 1920s, up where Rand’s had the farm up there at Hamlet Hill. That was the first deer he ever saw.
Q. That’s probably because people were hunting them for food and there was a lot of cleared land and that eliminated the cover. Now the woods have come back.
EB. Yes and the deer have come back too.
Q. Have you seen snowshoe hare or varying hare up there?
EB. Yes, there used to be a lot of them up there.
Q. We saw tracks a couple of years ago up near- Lion’s Head.
EB. There used to be some up right by your place (Morrill’s ) up there. We used to have a lot of fun huntin’ them.. Have you ever seen jack rabbits?
Q. Western jack rabbits? No.
EB. There used to be quite a few of them around here. And they had a bounty on them. Fifty cents if you get a jack rabbit. In the winter time you’d hunt them. Fifty cents was a lot of money in them days.
Q. And you didn’t see any wolves or coyotes then?
EB. No coyotes or wolves up there then.
Q. So game has changed with the change from open farmland to woods.
EB. There are a lot of animals used to be around here, you don’t see ‘um anymore. Mink. You very seldom see a mink anymore. No mushrats much. Fellows used to make a living out of trapping them.
Q. Beaver have come back.
EB. There were no beaver. They (the CT DEP) brought them in.
Q. Turkeys have come back.
EB. Turkey. They brought them back in too.
Q. That’s right, and coyote they brought back.
EB. Yes, they tried to bring coyotes back. Now they’ve got too many of them.
Q. Do you remember ravens?
EB. I’d never seen a raven until about twenty years ago. I couldn’t figure out what the hell it was. They were yakking around, going around. It was up at Bingham Pond (on Mt. Riga). We used to hunt ducks up there years ago. I heard that bird yakking.
Q. They are nesting up near Lion’s Head now.
EB. Last year they were over near Tom’s (Tom Brazee on Riga Lane). Every day they were over there, four or five of them, yakking. But I haven’t seen any this year at all.
Q. They’re still around, in the summer time they have the little ones making a lot of noise, crying for food..
EB. There are a lot of buzzards up there.
Q. They should be back by about now. They usually come about the end of February or early March.
EB. About the middle of March. I haven’t seen any this year yet.
Q. I remember seeing statistics, that in the early 1900s about 30% of Connecticut was forested, and now it’s between 60% and 70%. So that has given the cover for all of those animals
What did you hunt? When were you able to start hunting deer?
EB. When I was a young man, but deer were scarce then. Everyone was hunting. There was no work, no nothing.
Q. What was it like here in the 1930s, during the depression?
EB. We made out all right. We had a garden. A lot of us had our own gardens. We raised pigs, most all of us. On this street, I’d say nine out of ten people had pigs.
Q. So you were self-sufficient then?
EB. Yeh, I and Dick Morey and his father. .. .We caught fish, salted them down and preserved them.
Q. You canned food?
EB. All of us canned food.
Q. So that must have continued during the 1930s, and into the 1940s, right through WW II, with victory gardens.
EB. Yes. Everybody had a garden. You didn’t have to buy that much. You had to buy tea or coffee, stuff like that.
Q. But you had enough to eat.
EB. Oh, yeah. It wasn’t the best, but you had enough.
Q. You were probably much better off than people in the city.
EB. Oh, yeah. People in the city, they didn’t have nothing.
Q, They didn’t have the opportunity to have a garden or go up on the mountain to go hunting.
EB. No. Of course, we could always hunt rabbits. A rabbit is good eating, rabbit pie. Q. Squirrel?
EB. Yeah, squirrel is good eating. Trouble is now, squirrels are about like that (small), you don’t get any big squirrels anymore.
Q. Were there fox squirrels here?
EB. No. They got a couple of black ones around here someplace (black variant of the grey squirrel). Fox squirrels are in the south more.
But gray squirrels years ago, they was big. You got a couple of squirrels, you had a meal.
Q. What did you use a shotgun or a .22?
EB. A. .22, shotgun, anything we had, a good slingshot sometimes.
Q. When did you get your first deer?
EB. On my 18th birthday. He was about from here to you when I shot him. He charged me. A big, eight point buck. Up near Bear Mountain. I was trapping through there. I seen him early in the fall. I was up setting traps. I said “at the first snow cover I’ll get you.” Then I didn’t think any more about it. I was trapping all the way over to Selleck Hill (beyond Hewats), up through there.
Q. What were you trapping?
EB. Foxes, coons. We’d take the furs over to Canaan and sell them to Beebe.
That deer come along. It was getting late about 4:00 in the afternoon. I was getting kind of tired. I was walking along like that and first thing you know I look up and there that deer was, right there . He stood there pawing. I oughta shot him “bang” like that. But I pulled the bolt right out of the gun. I tried to get the bolt back in. I finally got a shell in, I shot him, he turned and run. I shot four or five more times at him. I was kind of shaking about that time. I got another loaded up again and went around in a circle to head him off. I was going through a bunch of laurel, I was lookin’ around. First thing he charged out of the bushes again. He tried to get away from me then, though. He tried to get up the side hill.
Q. Was there snow on the ground?
EB. Yeah, five or six inches. That was my first deer.
Q. How did you get him out of there?
EB. I walked back home to get somebody to help me. Couldn’t get nobody to help me, so I turned around and went back up.
Q. You got him way up on Bear Mountain, walked all the way down to Factory Street and back up to Bear Mountain?
EB. Yes, I walked down and had to turn around and walk back up through. I took the dog with me. I skinned the deer and hung half of him up in a tree. I had to push him, he was so heavy. I got him hung up and started back, going to go over Lion’s Head, about 12:00 at night. That was a long day. Because I had already walked up (the mountain). I started from down here in the morning and wandered on around on my trap string by Hewat’s (on Selleck Hill), then across, up toward Bald Peak and through that way.
I used to take and start in the morning before I went to school. I’d go over to Scoville Ore Bed, down through there. Trapping over there. Then go back through and then walk down to school, before school in the morning.
Q. You would save the furs ’til you had enough to carry, then take them over to Canaan?
Q. Most people burned wood in those days?
EB. All burned wood, a few people burned coal. No one burned oil except for lamps.
Q. When did you first get electricity here?
EB. In the 1920s. Nothing fancy, just lights. No electric heaters or anything like that.
Q. Were you in the service in World War II?
EB. I got a draft notice. I didn’t want to be stuck up there on the mountain. We moved off the mountain then. I didn’t make it in. They didn’t take me. (for health reasons). Q. There weren’t too many young men around then, I guess?
EB. There was quite a few around then, quite a few of the guys.
Q. It must have been like an extension of the depression then, a lot of things you couldn’t buy in wartime?
EB. Oh, yeah. There was rationing for sugar, gas. But there was a black market on all that stuff. If you knew the right guy you could buy pretty near anything. I worked in a garage.
Q. You were up on the mountain for how long?
EB. I was 23 when I got married and moved up onto the mountain. We stayed until 1944.
Q. And your brother David, did he live in his house on Mt. Riga Road?
EB. David worked for the Warner family, not for Mt. Riga then.
Q. When did you first get to know Frank McCabe?
EB. Oh, I knew him quite a long time. I helped Jonathan C. a fellow who lived up on the mountain. I helped him out a few times. I worked, cut wood for the Griggs family. Father had a horse. Frank was going up the mountain when there was about that much snow. They got stuck in the snow, and I took Father’s horse to take the groceries up to a fellow. We went up and I was coming back down, I wasn’t very old, and saw headlights coming. That scared me though; I couldn’t figure out how headlights were coming up in all that snow. I met them up there. They wanted to take the horse and go out and take their groceries up. I let them take the horse; they took it up and put it in Jonathan C.’s barn.
Q. Were there people who used their camps up there in the winter?
EB. Yeah, Dan Griggs, Frank McCabe and Mary Lee, six or seven of them. I told them they had to walk. The horse couldn’t pull ’em, but they could take the groceries up that way. They keep the horse two or three days up there and then brought it down.
Q. When did Frank McCabe build his house on Clark Hill (Bunker Hill Road)?
EB. In the late 1940s. that was just a field up ’til then.
Q. Did you were see any sign of Indian stuff around?
EB. I found an arrowhead up there by that big boulder above Frank’s house. I walked through the sheep lot one day and found that arrowhead. I lost it somehow. It was always on the bureau. That was the only one I ever found. But I saw a lot of them down around the Warners, used to be a lot of them down there. Down where the railroad track goes through there, you know, by Lime Rock-Salisbury Road there. Fie had a bunch of arrowheads down there from the fields along the railroad. I always thought there should be a lot of arrowheads on the mountain, but I never saw any signs up there. It seems as though around the lakes they should have been, but anything along the shore may have gotten covered up by the water and washed back and forth. Q. George Bushnell always said he found a number of things down around Twin Lakes, so they were down there.
EB. Yes, up around Twin Lakes and over along the Housatonic where Bam Whitbeck and Audrey live, there’s a lot of them.
Q. Somebody once said that if the early people were here for, say 2000 years, and each person lost one arrowhead or stone tool each year, there should be a lot of stone points to find.
EB. I guess so! There must have been a big indian village down there by Warners; there’s nice level land down through there by the field (Hessian field). The house at the corner was a tavern (Bushnell Tavern) before the Warners owned it. Then the Coffings house (McDonald) and the Warner’s house right across the road from the Coffings, that was old Judge Warner’s house (Buckley). It was in behind there, all cleared land. I used to cut hay there. That was all Warner land there.
Q. This area up and down Factory Street, a lot of the people must have worked in the factories, right?
EB. Yes, a lot of them did.
Q. And there was no charcoaling when you were young?
EB. No, that was finished.
Q. Tell us the story about the big forest fire in the 1930s (correction: May 1929).
EB. It lasted three days and spread all over the mountain.
Q. Where did it start?
EB. Over to Copake.. Near Brace Mountain.
Q. What time of year was it?
EB. Spring of the year. Jon C. ???, lived on the mountain then. About six or seven of us went up. We seen it coming over the top of Brace Mountain. The trucks weren’t very fast in those days. But we got up to Brace Mountain at the intersection there, and it met us right there. That thing traveled. It was right out at the main road there. And that night we followed it on down to Bingham Bog. We were trying to stop it.
Q. What were you fighting it with?
EB. We were trying to stop it with shovels, Indian pumps. We got down to Bingham Pond, that stopped it there. Phil Warner, and six, seven of us, we went up the Muir??? Road, back up onto Lion’s Head there, and the fire turned north then. Phil said if it’s going north it won’t bother us. But the next morning, it went north, but the next day it turned around and went right back through. Tuesday night.
Q. How long were you working at it?
EB. We were up there three nights. We would go home and get something to eat and then go back. We’d hook a ride up with somebody. That thing really burned.
Q. There is a lot of laurel up there now. Was that laurel there at the time of the fire? EB. Oh yeah. It was even worse then. It was burning through the laurel, just like gas. Two guys said we would go down and get something to eat and come back We had it stopped up there by Bald Peak, we had a back fire and had it all stopped. John said you go down and get something to eat, and he told us where to come back in toward “baby rock” on an old road. That is that pointed rock right side of the road by Bingham Pond. This fellow said it looked like two babies kissing each other. He used to go up there and cut wood at night after work, cut a little wood and bring it down and sell it. One time he said there are two babies there kissin’ and huggin’. He never come back again. That’s one of the Mt. Riga tales. So that’s why they call it the “baby rock” now.
So we got down in there and they had left, and someone set a back fire behind the other fellows arid left them. They took off out of the woods and we was all alone. Q. You thought the fire was quiet at that time?
EB. We thought it was, but we got in there, they had left. Some guys said we’re going up through the hill, but I said “No hill for me, I’m staying back where the fire had been through”, you know. The fire had burnt there. I was going to stay there, the hell with that. They pretty near got…. We pretty near lost them. The fire was twenty five or thirty feet high that fire was then.
Q. There weren’t many trees then, were they?
EB. Oh, yes, they were pretty good size (6 inch trees). The fire was going right up through the tops of the trees. That laurel was high too. Laurel burns like the devil when it gets hot. And you can’t move through it. That’s the bad thing.
Q. They look at the map for the route of the fire.
EB. It came right down through, over Lion’s Head, down to Undermountain Road (Route 41).
Q. Where did they stop it on Route 41 (Undermountain Road)? EB. It came down to the back of Harvey’s house and by your house.
Q. Did it go through the hemlocks above Harveys?
EB. Those hemlocks, that’s another thing that burned like gasoline.
Q. Some of those are big trees, so they must have come back.
EB. Probably a lot of them it didn’t kill. But a lot weren’t too big and so (for them) the fire was a crown fire, up there at the height of the trees.
It came over Lion’s Head and down to the fields. It stopped at the stonewalls by the fields. They had a lot of help by then (to fight the fire).
Q. Did it burn the other side of Lion’s head by the Riga Brook.
EB. It jumped Riga Brook. My father, George Selleck, and eight, ten guys there, they stopped it by Riga Brook. It jumped the Mt. Riga road in one spot, but they stopped it there. It didn’t go on over Selleck Hill.
Q. I was concerned about a forest fire last summer when it was so dry.
EB. It doesn’t take much to start it and that laurel is bad stuff to fight it in too. Three or four years ago, there was a fire up on the side of the hill above Undermountain Road. It gets in the ground and you can’t get it.
A long time ago there was a fire, the CCC guys were up there fighting the fire. Me and another guy were up there fightin’ fires, we had four or five Hotchkiss kids carrying water, Dan Griggs was up there. We had two tanks and they were bringing water up. The guys said, keep a half a tank full for me. They were just like soldiers, one knocking down, another coming up and knocking down, coming right up on through. They went up the side of Bear Mountain like nothin’, with 60 or 70 of those CCC boys. That was back in the depression. They had enough manpower so they could do it.
The big 1920’s fire went all the way to Catamount (by route 23). That covered a lot of territory. In some places, where there were big trees, it burned the underbrush. You could still see the scars on the trees down by your place (Morrill’s) years later (in the 1970s).
Q. About the hemlocks on Riga Brook.
EB. There are some big ones by the falls there. They are older than I am.
Property of the Oral History Project: The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library. Salisbury, Ct. 06068