Cave Hunt!

Having received a copy of a letter that was written many years ago by a woman now deceased describing her visit as a 10 year old to a cave once reportedly used by the Underground Railroad, I spent a couple of days searching the area where it was supposedly located.

Here is a copy of the letter written by Julia Niles Rea:

"There is an area known as the Bradshaw but I am not sure where it is as I have not been up in there in a lot of years.  I do know that you went down Hunt Lane, past their cow barn some distance and then went slightly right.  My Grandfather Niles owned a wood lot up there and we went up every year to cut wood and bring it home.  Herbert Niles (Julia's father) owned a lot which I think was next to Granndpa's".

   "I was about 9 or 10 years old and up in our woodlot one day with my father.  I was running and skipping around the stumps and  father said that when he loaded the wood he would take me out to see the big cave.  As we walked out through our wood lot and into a couple more he told me all about the cave and the run away slaves who were reported to have gone in there to rest and hide until they were able to head north to Canada.  We walked for some distance and then came to the biggest cave and rocks I had ever seen.  I stood at the entrance but afraid to go any farther as it looked cold and dark.  There was a huge rock above the entrance that came out of the front like an awning.  It must have been three feet thick.  We walked around and above but I never did go inside.  It was some years later that Atwood Allen and Clarence Masten came to see  Father and check directions as they wanted to go to the cave.  They had both been there and gone inside in their younger years and wanted to find it again.  Father told them where he thought they should go and they agreed and took off.  When they came back they said there were sure they had found the location but the big rock had fallen along with many other rocks and stones and it just looked like a big pile of rocks.  It was all grown up around the area and they were sure no one would ever recognize it as a cave.  As they talked to Father they all decided that the cave was lost to everyone and although it was a part of history of our area, it would never be seen again."
 
I made two trips on foot with Lucy the Dog, going east from Notch Lane into the old Lt. John Gregor Military Patent, and following a long abandoned road northward through what is now State Forest. 
 
The road (with a 2 rod right of way) seemed too well constructed to be just a field road, but it doesn't appear in the earliest map I have (1853). It would be about the only way to reach the northern area of the Gregor Patent, so may have been from the 1790's or early 1800's. The Patent was seized and sold in 1785 and the 11 subdivisions surveyed in 1790. The northern half not being of much use for agriculture, the original owners may have sold out and left once they got legal title in 1790.
Julia and her father would have originally come up this road (dotted line) but the southern half is on private land, so I followed a snowmobile trail from the east until I intersected it.
The first day Lucy and I found nothing approximating the size Julia described, though I made allowance for the usual "growth" of caves in stories over the years!
A few days later Lucy and I made a second trip, going farther in and farther up, and finally found what looks like a likely place in a valley near the top of the mountains. 


 
 This is large enough to have had a substantial overhang before it caved in. The way two old stone walls run into and butt against the cliff suggest that an overhang or cave there might have been used to shelter sheep in the early 19th century. There is also what looks like charcoal in the area to the front, but might only be rotted wood. Of course, as the letter states, it is impossible to know for sure now whether this is the place or not, but it does fit the description given.


Below are a few more photos of the area.



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