Oral History Cover Sheet
Narrator:Edward Maurice Kirby
Place of Interview; Scoville Memorial Library
Date:October 8, 1992
Summary of Talk: Side A Geology of the Upper Housatonic Watershed, specific geology of Mt. Riga,3 obsolete glacial lakes, 2 self- guided tours of geological features, Sharon Valley Iron Company, Barnum & Richardson Iron Company, Cornwall Bridge Iron Company, various furnace locations, iron making process, Mt. Riga, nationality mix, several caves: Bashful Lady, Miles, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Indian Oven Cave.
Side B: Glauwackus, rock fissure caves: Baldwin Cave, Tory Cave, ice Glen, Squaw peak, 3 sources of the Housatonic River, power house north of Housatonic-built due to Mr. Stanley of Gt. Barrington, canoe trips, future plans.
Property of the Oral History Project: The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068
This is Jodi Stone on the 8th of October, 1992, in the Scoville Library in Salisbury interviewing Ed Kirby, and that is all I have to say.
JS:I have to ask you your whole name.
EK:My whole name is Edward Maurice Kirby.
JS:And you were born in Sharon?
EK:I was born in Sharon and live in Sharon currently. I was an educator in this area for 35 years, 41
years in education altogether. Currently I’m doing a lot of geology filed work in the area and writing a field guide to geology of the Upper Housatonic Valley. I worked with Stan in the recent battle we had in Sharon over the potential nuclear dump. I’m chairman of the Sharon Inlands, Wetlands, and Water course Commission. I’ve done a lot of western writing and geology study in Utah, California, and some other places, and here I am.
JS:What got you into geology?
EK:I always liked the land, and I guess it’s part of the naturalist field that I really like the best. The
fascinating thing about geology is that it’s really to me the core of everything else. Everything we have grows on our geology. I find it fascinating, and my main interest is geomorphology-form of the land, how it got to be the way it was, and land relating to people.
JS:Did you study this in college?
EK:I majored in biology and never taught a day of it in my life. I’ve done some graduate work in
geology, but most of the geology I have of the Upper Housatonic Valley really comes from just wandering these hills for the past 35 years or so. Actually I’ve been active in the geology in the valley, teaching it, and studying it since 1960-sort of an ongoing thing.
JS:You said earlier that this building is made of Stockbridge marble. Is there a quarry still in
existence, in use?
EK:There are a number of quarries still in use, up and down the whole valley. The quarries that are
the most active right now are in the Falls Village and Canaan area and Lee, Massachusetts area. There are 2 big quarries up in Lee.
JS:Where in Lee?
EK:In Lee if you look over the edge going along the Massachusetts Turnpike, if you are going all the
way to the end, and not getting off at Lee, it goes right between 2 of the quarries- the old one and the new one. You don’t see them much as you travel along.
JS:No, most people get off at Lee.
EK:Yeah, that’s right, they’re right near the center of Lee. Then there are some big ones in North
Adams, Massachusetts. I don’t deal with those because most of my work is…I’m trying to confine it. The
first study I’m doing is on the Housatonic watershed, so when I say the Housatonic valley, I’m talking about the total watershed from about Bulls Bridge in Kent up to Lake Pontoosic in Pittsfield. That is about 500 square miles.
JS:And what are east and west boundaries?
EK:The east and west would be on the opposite side of the Harlem Valley in this area. The
Webatuck Creek system that goes to the south is actually part of the Housatonic Watershed. Bash Bish Falls isn’t; it flows to the, it’s strange geology around here, to the west and runs into the Hudson River eventually. It does through other rivers first. From here on all the way over into Torrington that runs down the Naugatuck River, which is a tributary of the Housatonic further south. But then once you get into the Winsted area, then you’re dealing with water that runs toward the Farmington River system and the Connecticut Valley system. So I am basically sticking with that. Although we go over the border here and there where the rocks are essentially the same, and it is contiguous with what we have here.
EK:Well, there are some other crazy people who do this too. A lot of the work I’ve done, I’ve done
with Dave Lindsey, who taught with me at the high school (Housatonic Valley Regional High school) in the geology course. He teaches it currently. Reed Craig in Sharon is a professional geologist and has worked all over the world. Essentially the work I’m doing now I’m doing alone in the field.
JS:You’re doing it for your own pleasure.
EK:formy own pleasure. I’m going to print it and make it available to people; eventually with a
booklet. It has a narrative text that will include tectonic effects on the Housatonic Valley, a glossary so people can look up some of the words if they trouble them a little bit: the glacial geology, the ice Age of this area, a general abstract that runs from geology into people; so it’s a little bit of everything, sort of a fun project.
JS:Have we ever had an earthquake yet?
EK:Oh yes, yes. We had earthquakes during this century, but they were really just rumbles, more
than anything else. If you look at this area right here and look at the St. Andres Fault and the area in California-the period in time that we are in right now, we are in back 400, 500, 600 million years ago, and as recently as probably 250 million years ago. So we’re much, much older geology. Let me give you what I think is a short description. If I use any bad terms, why…
JS:I’ll ask you.
EK:if you look at the total geologic history, it goes back in what we call Pre Cambrian times, very
ancient times. I’m going to start at 12 hundred million years ago, that’s 1.2 billion years ago. During that time we were forming what they call the gneiss complex= a lot of different kinds of rock and most
of that is over on the east side of the valley. The hill right across from the high school, Barrack Mountain, Sharon Mountain running south, Bear Mountain up east of Gt. Barrington all of these formed sort of an east wall of the valley, not the watershed. That existed for a long time before any new rocks came in. About the beginning of the Cambrian Period, 600 million years ago, (just a rough figure) we had the shores of the ancient oceans reach the area and deposited beaches, thick beds of sand; so all up and down the eastern side of the valley we find a tremendous amount of quartzite. Quartzite formed when the sand became sandstone; then it metamorphosed, changed by heat and pressure, into quartzite. So we find that usually in patches on top of the gneiss, which was used for firestone in the old furnaces, in some of the earlier ones before they got into using regular firebricks which is much more effective. On top of that we had shallower lagoons of seas that sort of slipped in and were very rich in lime. From that the lime became so heavy in the water; it was in solution, that it precipitated out over thousands and thousands-millions- of years and built up very thick beds of limestone and then that was metamorphosed into a marble. What we have around here is what most of the locals call a rock limestone. Geologically it is a marble because it has gone through the process of changing it from a limestone into a marble. The difference is strictly semantics. It doesn’t make that much difference. I make a reference to it as a marble. That probably has the greatest use through the years of any of the rocks in the valley, of any of the separate rock units. That’s part of the carbonate bed that runs from Vermont all the way down through here. The Housatonic follows it almost all the way, except for 1 or 2 exceptions down south of Bulls Bridge. You find it over in the Oblong Valley, in Harlem Valley, in New York State. It is a very long, pretty thick bed of good quality marble. If you grind it up, you have lime; you are just changing it back to the stage where it was originally. It was very important in the iron industry. I’ll come back to its use in a moment.
It became very important in the second half of the 19th century, even the first half, as a building construction block. The building we are sitting in right now, the Scoville Memorial Library is made of Stockbridge marble. It is fun to go through town to see how many marble buildings you can pick out of limestone, if you want to call it that. Great Barrington is a good one. If you come from north to south (on route 7) you pass the Catholic Church (St. Peter’s) which has been cleaned up some, sandblasted so the marble looks much whiter there. As it weathers, it gets much darker in color. Right next to it is the Congregational Church; you go a little farther and there is another church (St. James) on the right hand side, and then across from it is Searles Castle, which is now the John Dewey School, and beyond that is another church (The Christian Science Church). They practically lined their main street with marble.
Some of the marble from the East Canaan quarries was used to build the state capital in Hartford, and the marble from the East Lee quarry, where you got off the turnpike, the old one. The big one now is used for other purposes and is still active. The old one, the rock from there was sent to New York by train. They built St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Grace Church down on Broadway, plus a lot of other buildings. The east wing of the United States Capitol is built out of Stockbridge marble.
Its use goes on today because it is used for agricultural lime. It is used as the inert filler in vinyl tile. When you brush your teeth every morning, if you brush your teeth with toothpaste, you
undoubtedly are using some Stockbridge marble which is inert and ground up very finely, but when put with all these other things, acts as a cleaning agent for teeth. Probably through the years it has been used more than any other rock. We don’t think of ourselves as an industrial rock area, but we are in a way.
JS:What about Canaan? Is that the same thing?
EK:Yeah, it’s the same thing. In fact that’s the one up there where some of that material is coming
out and being used for vinyl tiles.
JS:When those trucks come out of there, where are they going?
EK:They transport it south to the New York City area. Some of it is transported to the west. The
limestone that is found out in the Ohio valley and so forth is not as pure or hard, so this became much more valuable as a result.
JS:So that quarry is not worked out in Canaan?
EK:Oh no, the Canaan quarry is not worked out; there is still plenty of Stockbridge marble around.
Now if we go across the street to the watering trough and begin to go up the hill (Washinee/Factory Street), we get away from the marble beneath, which outcrops in some areas; then we begin to see some darker rock. About a quarter mile up the road you come to a place where there are little dark outcrops on either side of the road. They are very small. That is Walloomsac schist, named after Walloomsac, New York, and is found up along the Vermont and New York border. All these things tie in together pretty much. There’s Walloomsac marble and Walloomsac schist. The Walloomsac schist is the rock that Salisbury iron ore comes from. The term Salisbury iron ore to the geologist really includes all the iron ore you find any place from Wingdale, N.Y. up to Richmond, Mass. It is just called Salisbury ore; there are some differences in it, but it is pretty much the same. It is a secondary weathered ore; most of it is what they call Limonite. Some of that is a variety called Goethite after Goethe the poet, philosopher and scientist. Some of it is brown hematite, but it is actually the same thing. It is not particularly rich ore, but the reason it is so valuable in this area is that the amount of actual iron in the ore is very high. It was over 55%, so that made it valuable.
Then as we go up the hill further, we’re going up Mt. Riga now toward the pond and the old furnace. On the right hand side is a big ravine that’s cut down in there. Now you are into the next rock up and that’s Everett schist. Schist starts out as a mud, and silt and things like that, becomes shale, then slate, then finally schist. Now it has gone through all sorts of metamorphism. That rock unit which stretches all the way from down south of here, all the way up to Mt. Washington and on up north of there, probably up to the Mt. Greylock area and north of Pittsfield. That’s what is called a Lockeness type of rock formation. (Don’t ask me to spell it.) Lockeness means that it is formed someplace else and moved here. That whole rock unit (this is hard to conceive now in the earth’s crust) was formed far to the east of here. Back when we had the continental crashing (tectonic plates Ed.) when all the plates
were moving together, Africa came along and had a run in with old North America, and pushed that rock over the top of everything else, up on top of that area. So by the time we got down to what they call the Ordovician Period we had what was called the Taconic Uplift which is an erogeny and upheaval of all the rocks and everything. This is even in the early stage of the crashing. It’s estimated (studying the conditions that we see like these in other parts of the world) that the mountains in this area, the Taconic Range was at least 20,000 feet high. So that’s your answer to the earthquake.
Now they are going through that in the California area, but here they’ve obviously worn down, and then they were pushed up again, probably not quite as high, and worn down again for the second time. They are high and very beautiful, but they are not real mountains in a true sense. If you start hiking them, and get lost up there, it is hard to believe that they aren’t mountains. So that’s essentially the rocks that are here in the valley. (Stockbridge marble, Walloomsac marble and schist, and Everett Schist) That whole process of rock formation probably finished up 350 to 400 million years ago. Since then we don’t have any real new rock, big thick rock units around. So we are still using that old Stockbridge stuff and other things that are lying around.
There’s very little granite in the area. There’s a granite area over in Warren, Ct. at a place called Flat Rock Road. If you drive on Flat Rock Road, you are driving on Tyler Lake granite. That’s the granite right there. We often read in some local literature about these beautiful granite hills; well they are not. They’re really beautiful schist hills, but that doesn’t sound too good, I guess, or beautiful gneiss hills or something like that. But some of it was; the gneiss was a granite at one time, but it’s undergone so many changes, that it is really at the metamorphic stage now.
JS:So in Lakeville in front of what used to be the Apothecary Shop (China Inn) the pavement has
worn there, and in front of the liquor store (dry cleaners) and under it, is what looks like marble.
JS:They would have used that when they first started paving or making sidewalks?
EK:Or they might have just hit seams of bedrock sticking up there. When I say bedrock, ledge is
what most people call it around here. It often just sticks right up through. They just put some new pipes in Sharon; well, it is actually tubing for fiber optics for the telephone lines. You don’t notice the marble as you drive through Sharon. They got down about 6 inches, and they had to blast and use jackhammers. In many places it’s very close to the surface; in other places its way down below the surface, buried by glacial tilt. Now we went a long time from 350 million years down to the Ice Age. When we drive around and look at the area, we’re really looking at more of the effects of the Ice Age, the final veneer-more than anything else.
The ice Age was the Pleistocene Epoch which started about 2 million years ago. There have been 4 major ice advances, each named for the states where the most evidence remains: Nebraskan,
Kansan, Illinoisan, and Wisconsin. The Wisconsin was the most recent advance; that’s the one we can study because each one that comes along scrapes out the rest. We have probably had 2 maybe 3 glacial advances here altogether. The Wisconsin glacier caused a lot of the rounded hills, many of the features we see today that give beauty to the land, along with the mountains that stick up. The ice radiated out of the area up just east of the Hudson Bay and Canada. Up there it was probably 2 miles thick. You’d get these tremendous snow fields, and it pushed out in all four directions. We’re interested in the southern direction because that’s where we live from there. The Wisconsin glacier extended its terminal moraine to Long Island. If you drive a spike down on Long Island, unlike driving one down here, you have to go down 4 to 600 feet before hitting bedrock. That’s all the stuff, like a conveyor belt, that was carried off the end of the glacier which just got piled up there. I was a consultant down there and used to tell them that they lived on a pile of glacial garbage which wasn’t always taken too well, as you might imagine. Many of the features you see around here, especially in the valleys where you don’t see the bedrock, are glacial features.
Right in this general area were 2 temporary glacial lakes, such as Lakeville Lake and Mudge Pond in Sharon. I’ll come back to those. These temporary glacial lakes occurred when the ice had stopped advancing and even retreating and was beginning to stagnate in place. Where you are sitting now (Scoville Memorial Library) there was approximately 3,000 feet of ice on top of that which is a pretty substantial chunk of ice. Obviously it covered Mt. Riga with considerable ice because it’s 700 feet and 1,600 feet up there. The ice in the valleys sort of rotted and in some cases blocked the valleys. One of the lakes around here partially in Salisbury because of its lime rock formed due to the blockage. In a section of the Housatonic River that goes along route 7 about 3/10 of a mile north of West Cornwall is narrow. There used to be a bridge there, but it is gone now. That is where the dam was from one of these glacial lakes. That obstruction dammed the ice and snow all the way up to the Great Falls (Falls Village); the ice sat in the valley with high hills on either side. This happened for 4 or 500 years; the water, sand, silt ran off the tops of the hills and runs into a lake, but the lake is filled with this huge block of ice; it stops the flow of water and just settles down gradually. As a result you have a terrace and on it was built the Housatonic Valley Regional High School. That terrace is an old glacial lake terrace between 10 and 11,000 years old. It is about 500 feet above the flood plain of the river. Now just try to think of that—you’ve got that huge chunk of ice sitting in the middle of the valley. If you scamper across that block of ice and get to the other side, we call that the town of Lime Rock. As you go along Route 112 from the high school you go up a little hill, across a flat area and that’s Lime Rock then you go down the hill on the other side. That terrace ran back down to White Hollow Road. When everything melted and all the ice was gone, the Salmon River is working its way down across the terrace and cut a big hole in it. That groove you have is now the straightaway on the Lime Rock Race Track. That is the result of the Salmon River wearing away a part of the old glacial terrace.
North of there at the top of the Great Falls is a rock threshold. You can’t see it as it is underwater because of the dam. The same thing happened there. It dammed a lake that reached from there to the Stockbridge border which is about 20 air miles altogether. This huge glacial lake is probably
the biggest of them in this part of the valley. The largest is Lake Hitchcock out in the center of the state, but the Connecticut Valley is much broader. The glacial lake which formed near the high school is called Lime Rock Lake which is gone now. The next glacial lake up near the Great Falls is called Falls Village Lake. To describe the location of the next one you go from Hotchkiss School on Rt. 112 to Lime Rock, you go down the hill by the farms, then you go down a steep hill and you are in an area where the valley is very narrow; it plugged up there too. All this ice is getting carried by running water; if you plug it up another glacial lake is formed. I never found a name for this one so I named it the Schenob Brook Glacial Lake. It extended right through here from the street in front of the library and in back of the library until it gradually dropped off almost to the ski jump area. That’s part of the terrace of the glacial lake where water was running down against the ice. To me the most fantastic part of it is if you start in South Egremont and drive down Rt.41 down to here and even beyond here, you’re driving along the shore of that old glacial lake. You go up and down, you go over little deltas and little cames. There is one house that sits in Sheffield on the east side of 41. It sits out on this funny little piece of land-it is barn house. That area was all packed with big ice blocks all around it; water ran down and settled in there. Ten thousand years later, it’s all gone and you build a house on it-unique.
JS:How do you know it’s there?
EK:You learn a lot from the literature that’s already been written, usually by the USGS or Ct State
Geologic Survey or MA Geologic Survey. Nobody has ever written something on this totally. You learn by observing other areas, and studying and walking the land. I think the most important thing in geology is being able to sit and just stare at the land repeatedly. I have been running up and down Rt. 41 for years; some things just pop out at me in the last few days because of some additional literature that I read. I can see these things.
JS:Tell me about this tour.
EK:Let me do one other thing first; then I’ll come to the tour. One of the fascinating things that ties
geology, geography and sociology together is that man is a product of his geology. This is very evident in this area. The pre Indians and later the early Indians came in here as hunters originally. They came in from the west over the mountains and came into this area. The word Housatonic means “land beyond the mountains”. After the hunting stage later Indians and early white settlers were farmers; they were a particularly tough crew. Farming around here even today is difficult because of glacial conditions. The glacial feature may look nice, but the glacial ice carried a lot of rocks and boulders which were left behind; the result being many stone walls and tough land to deal with. The land was forested when they came here so the farmers began to clear some of the land which decreased some of the hunting which changed the hunting pattern into farming. During the Revolution some of the gristmills, like the one over in Ellsworth, were particularly valuable; the Tories were never able to find it. We became the bread basket of the nation at that point. It wasn’t a very big nation and it didn’t go very far west.
From the 1730’s up until nearly the 1900’s it became an industrial area and a good part of that was the iron industry and the things that were related to it, The hills were denuded at that time
because in order to have an iron industry you need to have iron ore and charcoal for fuel. You also need limestone carbonate which was the Stockbridge marble. The furnace up on Mt Riga is up there because the fuel is there. There is so much more volume to the fuel than there is to the iron ore, even though the ore is heavier. It makes more sense to carry the iron ore up from Ore Hill, they had to carry the marble up from the quarries over in Falls Village in little carts and the charcoal was closer to the top of the mountain. They had it right there and they had the water power which is the fourth item that they needed. So we went through an industrial stage at that time. Then it settled back with perhaps more agriculture again; there were a large number of farms at one time, but it started to become more residential. The population of many of these towns was much higher in 1870 and 1880 than it was in 1950. Now it is beginning to grow once again. I am not sure what classification we’d put it in today. It is rural – residential; it is a very special area obviously. Even though we have a lot of people in it, it still has a certain kind of isolation. I have covered some of the areas that you can easily visit around here and see.
In the tour guide I set up; I have six basic tours. These are written, but I am still polishing them and hope to have something to hand out and have some people check out in the field in the spring. (The brochure turned into a book of 25 tours. The book title is” Exploring the Berkshire Hills; A guide to the Geology and Early Industry of the Upper Housatonic Watershed”. #1. The first tour is a Route 7 tour. You get in your car at Lake Pontoosuc and you drive right down to Bulls Bridge in Kent. Nothing tricky you are driving along the marble belt most of the way. It is more geographic: here’s Bear Town Mountain, there’s October Mountain, that’s Mt. Riga and you go on that way. People that know the valley wouldn’t need to take that tour.
#2. The second one which I think is one of the best starts out right here in front of the watering trough. You go up the mountain (Washinee St.) we get into the Walloonsac schist: then we turn off on to the second road to the right, (Locust Avenue). There is a little playground area there; 200 yards up that road is Hanging Rock which is one of the best examples of a glacial erratic that I have seen in this valley. You walk around and look at that, and you can’t understand what is holding it there. It is really fascinating the way it is balanced. That is certainly unique. This is all written up so you can do it on your own; these are self- guided although I do some of them myself. At the top of the mountain it is 1840. You have to take yourself back to 1840 to re- create the scene: hear the noise, see what the hill looks like at night with all the charcoal fires going on and the furnace like a small volcano and all that sort of thing. Then from there we go up and take a quick look at the lake and then up the road about % of a mile to Bald Peak which is an easy walking distance in except for a little climb at the end. There is a small glacial erratic there on the right as you go up that sits there. It is a little dome of rock about 8 feet across; it is nothing like the other one. When you get on top of Bald Peak, you are standing on the Everett schist which used to live way off to the east of here, probably east of Rhode Island. I don’t know how far it was pushed in.
■IS:Will that attract lightning?
EK:No, well, any high spot will attract lightning, but more likely the trees would be hit on top of
something like that.
JS:Well, up there on the top of Bald Peak…
EK:The nice thing about Bald Peak is that you don’t have any trees. Bald Peak is not the highest
point; it is probably the best 360 degree view you are going to get. We identify a lot of points from that in the valley on both sides, but you can also find glacial striations up there.
Glacial striations are formed when the huge heavy mass of ice with rocks trapped in the bottom of it scratches the bed rock and leaves grooves. The grooves have worn away now and the sunlight has to be just right; about between 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon usually you can see it pretty well. The grooves run out of 65 degrees north toward west which is just about the direction the glacial was going in this particular area.
Then from there we take them up over the border into Massachusetts. Incidentally we always operate by Kirby’s law: state borders don’t mean anything except location points because they don’t have anything to do with geology; they are usually divided arbitrarily or along a latitudinal line or something like that. In Massachusetts we go down the hill by Bash Bish Falls which is not in our watershed as I mentioned before; it drains in the opposite direction and down all the way to Copake Falls. At Copake Falls there is a furnace there too.
The furnace down there is one you can really learn a lot from because sections of it have fallen down, sadly enough, and you have different layers exposed. You can see the casing inside which is sort of egg shaped. You can see how they lined it with sand between the outside layer and the actual fire area. You can see quite a bit of the industry there.
Then back up the mountain again and over to the top of Mt. Everett which is the peak on Mt. Washington. There are a lot of glacial striations up there, running about 45 degrees out of the northwest. It gives you a very good view of one of the widest parts of the valley to the east from that point. From there down the mountain with some stops in between and then it is the glacial trip from South Egremont back down here to Salisbury to the watering trough. The watering trough was carved from Stockbridge marble in 1908 I think it says on that. (It was carved by John Garrity, as well as the one by the fire house, and on Wells Hill Ed.). Then we recommend that they leave time enough to come in and read up on some of the iron things here in the Scoville Library when they get back.
JS:Those will be good tours. The reason I asked you about this lightning is that I was once up there
with a picnic once spread out and looked toward the Hudson and a big storm was coming, and I tell you we torn down.
EK:I wouldn’t sit up there, no. Lightning is a very tricky energy type of thing. Yes, I guess it would
hit it, but I would think it would be more likely to hit the areas around it where there are trees rather straight on top of the mountain. But I am sure it’s been hit.
JS:So I just wonder if there was something special in that rock that would attract lightning more
EK:There is a certain amount of iron in it, but you are above the Walloomsac which has more iron in
it. A lot of the rock on top of the mountain you will notice as you drive along, especially where it is weathered, is rusty. That is because either the black mica, biotite mica, has a lot of iron in it and it rusts when it weathers or a lot of the rock is just limonite, pyrite and other iron materials in it.
JS:Near the Sharon low cost housing is that a furnace?
EK:That is a lime kiln; that is part of the old Sharon Valley Iron Company. That is where they slake
lime. To slake lime first they crush Stockbridge marble to get calcium carbonate, and cook it to get calcium oxide. That worked more efficiently in the furnaces. The furnace for that one was partially torn down and then buried under the Sharon dump. If you come from that kiln back toward Sharon Valley, you cross the 10 Mile River, the Webatuck Creek. When the leaves are off the trees, stand on the bridge and look upstream, you can see the old housing; it is sort of an arch made of stone where the water wheel sat against the water and the river. It was actually in a channel there so the water current turned the wheel which powered the bellows that forced the hot air into the furnace. That’s about all you can see right now; everything else is buried. The Valley Tavern is the old iron company office.
About 8 of these furnaces around here finally belonged to the Barnum & Richardson Company. Barnum & Richardson were both Salisbury people; I think one of them was in Sharon for a while Lime They lived in Lime Rock for a good part of their lives. They did a lot with the iron industry, (see Lime Rock transcriptions Ed.) Furnaces that they owned were: Lime Rock furnace, the Sharon Valley one, the Cornwall Bridge Iron Company furnace, (which a lot of people don’t realize existed. You can still find foundations over there; that’s why Cornwall Bridge is there). There were 3 in East Canaan.
JS:There is one on the back road to Rt. 44. (Low Road)
EK:Yeah, that’s the one that was the Beckley Furnace.
JS:It is all fenced in now?
EK:Yes, it is a state historic site. If you were going east on that road, before you got there, there
were two others before you go to the Beckley furnace. They were close to lime, iron ore, a lot of charcoal and good water power from the Blackberry River as well. There is on in the North Kent area where the Sloane-Stanley Museum is. There is also one in South Kent, and one at Bulls Bridge which most people don’t realize either. Do you know the covered bridge at Bulls Bridge? If you get out and walk down about 200 yards on the east side of the river, you can see it. It is partially collapsed, but you can see a lot of the structure on that one too. The one that is probably in the best shape because it kept going the longest is the one in Richmond, Massachusetts. The Richmond furnace is in good shape. That is bigger than any of the furnaces around here. All you see when you look at the old furnaces is just the stack, the furnace itself. There were buildings all around these and bridges going to the top where they
top loaded these things. That is why the iron masters were so important; up here on Riga they knew how to mix the ore from several different ore pits, just the right amount of charcoal and just the right amount of limestone. The timing had to be right. The slag had to be tapped off every now and then. It was really quite a job.
JS:Who designed this, not here, England?
EK:It started in England, yes. There were some furnaces, there were some iron industries. A lot of
it was done in forges, originally; much smaller operations. Eastern Massachusetts had them I think even in the later 1600’s which obviously came over from England at that point. This was the center of it at one time which is really man using geology when you get into that.
JS:How many people do you think lived up there during its peak?
EK:I really can’t recall, but there were a lot of people up there (Mt. Riga). The geology was bringing
a unique type of person to this valley because you started out with mainly Englishmen who became Yankees after they got here. When the iron industry started, there were French charcoalers, excellent charcoalers, and a lot of Irish laborers. During the Revolution after the Battle of Saratoga where the British were defeated, they were headed back south again. The Hessian troops were made up of a lot of Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians; they dropped off the end of the line and went to Mt. Riga. They figured they had had enough of this mercenary stuff, and they were going to get a decent job. So there was quite a combination of people. Take the little village of Housatonic which is part of Great Barrington, the mix that you have there was Yankee entrepreneurs, and Polish laborers that came over. Their way over was to just work in the woolen (and paper) mills and places like that. It is a marvelous mix in the valley. I have seen many areas in the United States and the world, but this area really stands out. It is a very unique area.
JS:OK why did the Italians come to Canaan?
EK:I would think a lot of it was stone masonry; building the furnaces, building the buildings out of
Stockbridge marble, doing the construction like that was probably the earliest part of it. There was another influx of both Italian and Irish people in the so called “Cottage stage” of life in Stockbridge and Lenox. The Irish primarily as laborers, we are talking about 1870’s until the Depression. There were so many of those huge buildings built, there was a huge demand for the Italian skills in stone masonry. They look good. I am sure they worked cheap, and I think that is how a lot of people got here.
JS:So a lot of those buildings, those cottages, were made of Stockbridge marble, right?
EK:Right, a lot of them are.
JS:Now that you pointed it out to me.
EK:Well, you start looking at them, and just because they are gray, don’t let that fool you because
there are two different kinds of surfaces to a rock. There is a weathered surface where it picks up the acids; all rain drops carry a little bit of carbonic acid in them and carbon dioxide which causes discoloration. If you scraped down a little bit or break off a little bit of bedrock, it is all clean and shiny inside. That is one of the things that is difficult in the field is telling one of these rock units from another.
One other feature I might mention that may be of interest is the formation of caves up and down the valley. Salisbury has some of the most outstanding and magnificent, but most of them are on private property and you can’t go there anymore. The best examples are the 3 caves on Cave Hill off of Between-the-Lakes Road.
JS:Oh I know that area. We won’t say any closer than that.
EK:They go down through big sink holes. They are of Walloomsac formation. The Walloomsac is
not quite as hard or compacted as the Stockbridge formation. It is a marble, a limestone; through years of ground water which is slightly acidic in this area running down through cracks in the rock that forms these caves. At one time there was a hotel over there that ran tours through the caves. If you go down in the Bashful Lady Cave, there are hand rails in there and old light fixtures. They used to dress people up in slickers and hats and things like that.
JS:Where was the hotel?
EK:I think it was right on the edge of the lake, right in that area because you are not very far from
the lake there. The Bashful Lady Cave runs about 600 feet altogether. There are some pretty tough crawls in there; it is no place for anyone who has claustrophobia. There is a second one called the Miles Cave, and a third one called the Jack-in-the-Pulpit Cave which is probably the most fun of all. You go way down and crawl through on your belly when it is dragging on your back above you, and then you climb up over a large room that is about 60 feet high and come out back near the top again. There is another one the Indian Oven Cave over in the town of Northeast just off Rt. 22 a little way. This is quite an interesting cave; it is about 400 feet altogether. That has a main room which is about 60 feet high. There are little caves like that up and down the valley. There are a number of them up in the valley in Massachusetts, mainly on the west side in Walloomsac formation.
There are other kinds of cave that are not true caves like rock fissure caves, like Tory Cave in Lenox which has collapsed now. That was a rock fissure cave. End of side A
JS:This is side 2. When I first came to live here at Hotchkiss in 1949, when there was a school
holiday, there was a song that somebody made up. One of the lines was, “Today’s the day we’re going to see the caves.” I am sure they are closed off now because of insurance…
EK:Oh yeah. But they did see the caves. In fact 3 students at Hotchkiss wrote a paper for the
Hotchkiss literary booklet they put out. I can’t remember what year it is, but I have it at home somewhere. It is a story about the Bashful Lady Cave. It ties in the story about the Glauwackus. Did you ever hear about that?
EK:The Glauwackus was a fictional animal that was a combination of a bear, a lynx and something
else. They were first sighted out in central Connecticut; then they found them in caves over in New York State As far as any knows they never existed, but it made for a good story. (See follow-up news stories Ed.)
JS:When was it written? I’d love to read it.
EK:In the 1950’s, maybe 60’s, I’m not sure. I was in it; I was doing a lot of field work, and somebody
gave it to me from Hotchkiss so it had to be in that period somewhere. 40’s to 60’s
JS:I’m going to try and find it.
EK:There was a lot of action. A lot of people did a considerable amount of spelunking, but today
people are concerned about litigation and lawsuits, and don’t want to take a chance. In some places, if they know who you are and they know that you know what you are doing, they will let you in.
JS:Is it dangerous, then?
JS:Over a period of time are they apt to cave in?
EK:Well, eventually everything caves in.
EK:But no, I don’t think so. They are reasonably safe. There are some of these rock fissure caves,
like the Baldwin Caves in Cornwall, and Tory Cave up in New Lenox. It got its name because a rock fissure cave has 2 rooms in it, relatively small, back a little way up the mountain in the quartzite. The other thing about it is that it is not formed by water action, so it is pretty dry at the time. During the American Revolution a Tory, (there actually were Tories in Tory Cave) by the name of Gideon Smith was run out of Stockbridge by the patriots in town. They were all friends before the war started, but they chased him and he hid out in this cave for weeks. He finally came out; they captured him and locked him up. Animals have lived in the cave throughout the years. A young couple that wanted to get married, and their parents were opposed to it, ran off and hid in the cave for a while; this was in the 1930’s. In the 1960’s some of the young people began to use the cave for smoking various substances, and a couple of fathers said, “That’s it!”, and went up with dynamite and set it off, and it all caved in.
You can’t go in it now. One of my field trips says to visit the location there, but you can’t get into the cave. The history is kind of interesting, and the area is very nice, but you don’t see much there anymore.
JS:What about Ice Glen (Stockbridge)?
EK:I was in that area 2 days ago.
JS:Well, I just took some people by the road the other day. I tried to go in once, and apparently
you walk over somebody’s property. I was alone and I didn’t think that was something I should be doing alone. Is it worth going into?
EK:It is OK to go across their property, but a better way to get to it, a more interesting way, is to go
across the railroad. You know where the ice Glen Road goes in; just go past that going north on Rt. 7 and turn onto the next street called Park Street by the ball field. Go to the end of Park Street and you are at the Laurel Hill Association Bridge which goes across the Housatonic. You walk up the mountain; there is a fork after you walk about 10 or 15 minutes; it’s a bit of a climb. The fork to the left goes to Laura’s Tower which sits up on the very north tip of Bear Town Mountain. You climb up there. There is a tower that is about 30 feet high; you can see way to the north and the whole valley east to west and still catch part of the Catskills over the last mountains on the west side. Ona day like we have had this week in the fall it is absolutely beautiful up there. The right fork takes to Ice Glen. Ice Glen is part of the quartzite, the Dalton-Cheshire quartzite, the old beaches of 500 million years ago; it’s mainly broken up, it is like a crevice type of cave. They are really not caves; you can crawl in under some of the rocks. It looks like during one of the upheavals, the land opened up some there and the loose rocks got pushed in by glaciers afterwards. It’s kind of tough climbing on it, but I haven’t been there after any of the recent winters we’ve had which haven’t had much snow. I have been there in years gone by when we had good snowy winters, and there is still snow in there on the 25th of June. It gets way down to the bottom; it is just like a refrigerator. It warms up very slowly. The difficulty is that it is hard to see in there because you don’t get good sunlight due to the number of trees growing around it. You can see the rocks alright; it is kind of fascinating. The most fun is to go when you can reach down in there and still find pieces of ice in June. That is one of our local phenomena as well.
One of the other things that is covered in the tour guide that I am doing is Squaw Peak on Monument Mountain because I think that is the single most fantastic scarp of rock that you find any place in the valley. It is more like a western mountain there than an eastern mountain.
I also do an exploration of the sources of the Housatonic River. Lake Pontoosuc is usually given credit for that but it really isn’t the source; it is only part of it. There are three springs up on Brodie Mountain in the town of New Ashford that form into a little brook- Town Brook. It and a lot of other
streams run to form Lake Pontoosuc. Over on the west side you have Richmond Pond; that is the western source. Just south of Pontoosuc is Onota Lake and that’s another part of the source. The largest source is on the Hinsdale-Washington border up on the mountain right near the divide with the Connecticut River system. It is south of Dalton by about 10 miles, you follow the railroad tracks to the area called the Summit. That is the highest point on the railroad on Amtrak and Conrail between Chicago and Boston; at the Summit everything to the east runs into the Connecticut River and everything to the west runs into the Housatonic River. There is a pond up there called Mud Pond and it is really quite a nice place- pristine setting. That’s the source of the east branch of the Housatonic River which is the largest branch, biggest volume. There are huge glacial characters up there. There was a great big temporary glacial lake up on top of the mountain 10 thousand years ago. Now the water flows out of there down the mountain into Dalton. The Crane Paper Mill, the textile mills and all those early mills which have been there for a long time were the first major power use of the Housatonic. That is on the east branch, not the main branch. Then all the sources run together just below Pittsfield; some places it meanders and some places it goes rather rapidly.
JS:Was there any kind of industry… If you leave Stockbridge and head toward West Stockbridge
You come to the intersection of 102 and 183by the Berkshire Garden Center. If you turn left onto #183 and follow the river and there is a stone building with rusty iron almost gone now…
EK:That is the village of Housatonic that I mentioned before. Yes that is Monument Mills; there are
2 -south of town is the Rising Paper Company.
JS:I don’t mean the buildings. This is almost as if it was trying to pull water originally up for power.
EK:Oh that’s the power house.
JS:Ok that’s what it is then.
EK:Ok, you are a little bit north of Housatonic.
JS:It is nothing now, right?
EK:Oh yes it is operating. That power house was built as the result of Mr. Stanley of Gt. Barrington
who discovered how to transmit electricity over distances. That power house was built on his concept of supplying power for the Monument Mills area in Housatonic. The power house produced electricity for Lenox, Stockbridge, and Gt. Barrington at one point. That is a pretty large area. It closed down in 1947. In the 1970’s a woman and her brother felt that it was a better use of river power for environmental impact than anything else, so they got to work and gathered a group of people. Everything was still there; they did some clean-up and got it operating again. In 1974-1977 it began operating and now it produced power and sells it back to the Massachusetts Utilities. I have been in there. The guy there didn’t want to tell me too much; all he said was, “I know it goes up that wire and out of here.” I don’t know how many kilowatts they sell, but it is an operating business again. Now they are working on the
building. They have put in new windows, just like the old windows; I think the woman is no longer around. I think she moved to the West. There are some other people who own it, but they are operating it and selling the electricity back to Mass. Utilities.
JS:I have to go by it; I haven’t seen it for a few years. That is amazing.
EK:You can drive down in and walk around. There is a watchman there and he’ll come out. Just tell
him you are interested. If you are reasonable with people, you can get to see most anything. Just back upstream from that if you go back to Glendale and take a right toward Stockbridge, the original dam is just below that. I think that went in around the turn of the century; that is still operating. It is a nice canoe ride from Stockbridge over to the dam.
Incidentally, when I get this thing done, I should be 110 by then; I am also going to include a series of geologic canoe trips. The canoe trips are relatively short; you can do 2 in a day, or maybe one in a day. The first one will be from just below where the rivers come together, the 3 branches in Pittsfield, down to New Lenox Road below the big power substation there. The next one will run from there down to Woods Pond just north of Lee. The third one will be from where I told you to go in to Ice Glen off Park Street and get out just above the dam in Glendale which is really part of Stockbridge. I’ve got little patches of them all the way along. I have done parts of those three. The beauty of a field trip is that you can do a piece here and there, if you are very ambitious you can do several of them in one day. There are a basic 6 which really cover the valley. Beyond that are some much more specific and long range comparative geology that tie in the geology of the Housatonic Valley with places like central New York State, and Vermont.
JS:You have your work cut out for you.
EK:Yeah, but I like it and no telephone.
JS:Have you got anything more you want to tell me?
EK:No, I’d like to thank you for giving me this opportunity. It has been a lot of fun.