Sunday, June 19, 2011


Picture from Barnard a Look Back by Marie de Giacomo 1982 Greenhills Books Randolph Center

While I am still on the subject of Ellis Mountain I will also include another article from The Harbor publication: Oliver’s Cave on the side of Ellis Mountain was the mecca of many boys during the last hundred years and an expedition there sometimes served to close the spring term of school.  They have cited their article from Vermont  Life Spring 1961. ) For a boy of the 1830’s, Oliver Plaisted had a good education, and as a youth taught school for awhile before learning something of the builders trade.  In the 50’s he came back to live down on Broad Brook in Royalton with his parents and he remained there after their deaths, taking on strange and reclusive ways.  He was ill and a man to fear imagined dangers.  It was a special house that Oliver built which keeps his name alive today, not the hermit shack which he first built down by Broad Brook.
 There is no evidence that the authorities ever thought to come for him but when the Civil War broke out, Oliver struck out for the hills—for the wilderness of ledges and mountain top near the Barnard-Royalton town line.
Here he took refuge, living for some time in a small natural cave whose opening he walled up partially.  Here in his fear and misery Oliver chiseled on the rock works to be seen today: “This is Hell.”
Nearby Plaisted soon erected a small stone house which now is known to picnickers and hikers as “Oliver’s Cave”.  He built staunchly, his only tool a jackscrew but with this he somehow moved a huge stone slab across the top to form a complete roof.  There was a doorway and inside a rude fireplace.  Nearby he built pits and rock piles, which some say were his forts or outposts.
It’s not recorded how long Oliver kept to his mountain retreat, though probably he was there off and on throughout the war.  Once, it is told, he backpacked in from Woodstock a barrel of crackers.  Nobody ever came after Oliver, it appears, and he died at 58 in Royalton some fifteen years after the war ended. The old there and his shack by Broad Brook have long since gone, but the stone refuge, “Oliver’s Cave” stands firm on the mountain top, a Civil War monument in its way.
I have added a link for all you geocachers out there.

Monday, June 6, 2011

OZRO ELLIS—1849-1929

Picture and text from Barnard  A Look Back by Marie deGiacomo, 1982 Greenhill Books Randolph Center

Now before I get completely away from Vermont I will expand my imagination even more.  The history I have of Ozro is taken from interviews with Philip Desmond, owner of Ellis Farm in 1999, and articles from The Harbor.  Since Harlan has left the farm Ozro will take over the operation of the farm.  That will include managing the quarrying of granite from Ellis Mountain.  From the sources I cited earlier, indications are that the granite from the mountain was used extensively throughout the area.  
Author at the Granite Quarry on Ellis Mountain
The method of harvesting the granite was by the “drill and fill” method.  Holes were drilled into the granite, by hand, several inches apart and then filled with water.  I was told that this operation was done during the winter months so as the water froze and expanded the rock was forced apart.  The granite, being layered, would split off into rather uniform slabs which were then loaded on a stone boat or as some say stone sled.  This piece of equipment consisted of two wooden runners tapered in front and a platform secured to the runners forming a very low sled.  This was pulled by horses down trails on the mountain and to the place where the granite was to be used.  The use of granite for foundations and retaining walls was prevalent at that time and were laid up with the “dry stone” method.  That is no mortar was used but by careful fitting the stones were placed and remain in place to this day.  The dry stone method was mostly abandoned after the Civil War as poured concrete became more readily available.  Some walls and fences still use the dry stone method. 
Barn foundation Ellis Farm

Retaining wall at the end of the Barn

This excerpt was taken from The Harbor  published July 1976 by the East Barnard Community Club:  The stone quarry on Ellis Mountain furnished the underpinnings and handsome doorsteps for many homes in the valley and for houses as far away as Woodstock. The wall around the Billings’ Mansion  is built with Ellis Mountain stone.  The stones were all moved by sleds in the winter.  
Granite doorstep at the Ellis Farm House

My cousin, Helen, in Wisconsin found another use for Vermont granite.  While she was visiting the farm in 1998 she asked Mr. Desmond for a slab of granite that she intended to use for her tombstone when she dies.  This has been marked and placed at the grave of her husband.  It will be ready for when it is time.   
Headstone for Elroy and Helen Moe

My wife and I found another use of the granite slabs as indicated in this picture of granite fence posts in use in the Royalton area.  Since granite is quite abundant in that area I don’t know if the granite posts came from Ellis Mountain or not.  But I thought them quite interesting.  Yankee ingenuity at work.
Another use for the granite as we found out on our trip to Vermont was that it was  used to build a dam at the Billings Living History Farm near Woodstock.  The dam is roughly eight feet high and thirty to fifty feet across.

Dam at Billings Living Farm