Form of Government: Board of Selectmen
Geographic Location; NW Tip of Region
Geographic Area; 64 miles east of Housatonic
Current Population: Est.1,489
Median Household Income: $ 64,750
Nearest city with pop. 50,000+: Danbury,
CT (22.2 miles, pop. 74,848).
city with pop. 1,000,000+: New York, NY (76.8 miles,
cities: Dover Plains, NY (7.2 miles), Warren, CT
(8.9 miles), New Preston, CT (9.0 miles ), Amenia, NY (10.0
miles ), Sherman, CT (10.1 miles ), Sharon, CT (10.7 miles
), New Milford, CT (10.9 miles ).
Lands: Kent Falls State Park; Lake Waramaug State
Park; Macedonia Brook State Park; Wyantenock State Forest
Lands: Appalachian Trail; St. John's Ledges
Hiking , Biking, Fishing, Rafting, Skiing
Connecticut | from The Connecticut Guide, 1935
of Dudleytown, Cornwall CT scroll down...
town of Cornwall, named for one of the counties
of England, was auctioned off at Fairlield in 1738, and
settlement began the same year, largely from eastern Connecticut.
A town was not incorporated until 1740, and for some years
there continued to be trouble from non-resident proprietorship.
Cornwall consists of mountains and upland farms surrounding
a small central valley, avoided by the first settlers
because of its heavy stand of pine, which made land clearing
difficult. The town is characterized by pine groves, stone
walls and wide offlooks.
the 19th century, Cornwall was known for its schools,
and iron was smelted at Cornwall Bridge and West Cornwall,
utilizing local charcoal. There are considerable summer
colonies. The town contains Mohawk Mt. State Park, Housatonic
Meadows State Park (headquarters in the town of Sharon)
and parts of Mohawk and Housatonic State Forests.
from Kent along the Housatonic River, U.S. 7 crosses to
the town of Sharon by a lofty concrete bridge with a line
arch, beneath which one can see the old Covered Bridge,
preserved as a landmark. Before reaching Cornwall Bridge,
R. 45 comes down from Warren, with a splendid view of
the Valley and the blue mountains. A little beyond this,
a tramping trail leads off to the right up the beautiful
Dark Entry Brook, well worth the climb, eventually reaching
Mohawk Mt. There is a side trail to Colts Foot Cave.
Cornwall Bridge we turn northeast on R. 4, along the hemlock-shaded
Furnace Brook, reminiscent of the early iron works. Cornwall
Village, just off the highway, has a white Colonial church,
and the Calhoun Memorial Library and Town Hall of gray
granite, given by John E. Calhoun in 1908. Rumsey Hall,
a school for younger boys, was established in 1901. There
has been a succession of schools on this site, beginning
with Alger Institute in 1847. Still earlier, the Cornwall
Mission School (1817-1827) was located here. It began
with Henry Obookiah, a Hawaiian stowaway, and other youths
from the Islands, who were to be trained as missionaries
to their people. Later on, students were brought from
various Indian tribes, including Elias Boudinot, son of
a Cherokee chief who married a Cornwall girl, to the consternation
of the neighborhood; their son achieved distinction as
a colonel in the Civil War. Southeast of the village are
the *Calhoun Pines of unusal (sic) height, sometimes called
the Cathedral Pines. This is one of the finest stands
in Connecticut, probably representing field pine rather
than primeval forest, with an understory of hemlock and
hardwood. They may he seen from the roads below the slope,
or by the blue-marked trail that climbs through the Pines
toward Mohawk Mt.
Dudleytown, Cornwall CT
Quote from “The Lure of the Litchfield Hills Magazine,
summer 1964” By Paul Hilliard Chamberlain, Jr. Curator,
Cornwall Historical Society
When Lowell wrote, “The pine is the mother of the
legend”, he might well have been writing about a
myth still in the making…a New England fantasy which
has captured the hearts and minds of many, and with each
newly-intrigued phantom follower, the myth is given new
life, and wider scope.
Such is the case of Cornwall’s deserted village
of the damned, Dudleytown. Indeed, this relic of poor
planning has now grown into a legend so preposterous that
it tries both the credulity and patience of anyone even
remotely concern with the facts.
Topsy-like, the legend of Dudleytown reached its present
proportions without the assistance of any particular individual.
It took the combined efforts of a number of almost disinterested
persons to create the ghostly aura which today surrounds
what is probably Connecticut’s most celebrated aggregation
of sickly cellars and washed out roads.
What is this ghostly legend? How did it come about? These
are questions easily answered. The reason for the legend,
however, is a difficult one to track down…especially
when considered in the glare furnished by the nemesis
of all addicts of the supernatural…the cold, hard,
First, lets take a look at the legend in its basic form.
Dudleytown was first settled in 1747 by Thomas Griffis
(sometimes referred to in town records as Griffin) some
two years before a road was laid out for the region. Griffis
was a farmer, as were most of the people who eventually
settled near him. Until relatively recently, Cornwall’s
way of life was that of the plow and harrow, in spite
of the rocks which God, in his infinite wisdom, scattered
over every hill and valley.
Dudleytown, as it came to be known, was located on a plateau
which received little sun during the day because of its
exposure, and because the little hamlet was always in
the shadow of a mountain regardless of where the sun was
(Bald mountain, Woodbury mountain, and Coldfoots triplets).
If the rest of Cornwall may be used as a guide, white
pines and hemlocks of gargantuan stature covered the land
in the Dudleytown area. Of course, there were also the
oaks, and good showing of native chestnut, as well as
a liberal sampling of other native trees. To imagine what
a job Dudleytown’s early settlers were faced with
before they could plow a furrow in the soil, just walk
through Cornwall’s famous Cathedral Pines. Then
picture yourself reducing a similar area to fields with
nothing more than an axe!
The early settlers were hardly breed, however, and it
wasn’t long before farmer Griffis had neighbors…who
cleared more land, built new homes, and constructed stone
walls from Dudleytown’s most abundant natural resource.
At least two of these neighbors were Dudleys. Abiel and
Barzillai, veterans of the French and Indian wars. That
there were Dudleys in Cornwall before 1747, there can
be no doubt…Abiel appears on the tax list of 1744,
and by 1748 Gideon Dudley had been recognized as a tax
payer. The exact relationship of these Dudleys is not
known, but it is presumed they were brothers. There was
also an Abijah who may have been a sibling, as well as
a Martin Dudley. By sheer weight of numbers, the Dudley
name overwhelmed that of other early settlers, and was
forever given to that rocky part of Cornwall with which
we are dealing.
So far, no ghosts have been seen. For this, we must do
a bit of genealogical specter searching in the Dudley’s
family closet. We know the Cornwall Dudleys came from
Guilford (a town which can also claim a Dudleytown) on
the Connecticut coast…and we know the Dudleys stemmed
from English Nobility. By retracing our ghostly family
back to the Merry Olde England of the sixteenth century,
we can at last find a skeletal finger pointing to dark
deeds of the dismal Dudleys. One Edmund Dudley, having
displeased the subjects of King Henry VII, lost his head
on the chopping block of said sovereign. Edmund the headless
had a son, John (later the Duke of Northumberland) who
apparently inherited a disliking for royalty. John plotted
to overthrow the Royal Line by marrying his son, Lord
Guilford Dudley, to Lady Jane Grey (the original “Queen
for a Day”) who was proclaimed Queen after Edward
VI’s death. The plot failed, however, and heads
This time, it was the Duke’s head, as well as the
head of his son, and Lady Jane’s which rolled off
the executioner’s chopping block with assembly line
efficiency. The Dudleys weren’t finished with England
yet, however. About this time, Lord Guilford Dudley’s
brother came back from France, and took his revenge out
on the English by introducing the dreaded Plague. Dudley-late-of-France
was a military man, and most a generous one. His plague
was given not only to his own men, but also to thousands
of civilians, thereby decimating most of his own command
and a large part of the English populace. There was yet
another brother…and this one a most important one
to ghost chasers. This lad, known as the Earl of Leicester,
was a great favorite of Queen Elizabeth. While he might
easily have shared the fate of his brother, Lord Guilford,
he had a good head on his shoulders, and he meant to keep
it. Discretion being the better part of valor, the Earl
left England forever, never to darken its shores again.
It was his descendant, William Dudley, who first came
to Cornwall after the French and Indian wars.
We have now completed the circle…we are again back
in Cornwall, with the Dudleys. Cornwall in the mid-1700
wasn’t a large settlement, by any stretch of the
imagination. Incorporated in 1740, it was inhabited by
hard toiling farmers, millers, and an occasional blacksmith,
cooper, and tinker. That Dudleytown was not quite as independent
as other sections of Cornwall is easily seen.
Although Dudleytown’s log cabins eventually gave
way to frame buildings and well laid out farms, it still
was completely dependant on other Cornwall settlements
for nourishment, both physical and spiritual. Dudleytown
grew flax, yes…as well as wheat, corn, and other
foods. Its small streams were dammed to supply power for
at least three mills of various types. But it was isolated
by its very location. Its spiritual needs were supplied
by the Congregational Church in Cornwall Plain, and to
a lesser extent, in nearby Warren. When death came to
a Dudleytown family, it didn’t reach the burial
stage until after an ox cart had carried the departed
to the Cornwall cemeteries. For not only has there been
no record of any church having been established in Dudleytown,
there is no burying ground to be found within its confines.
One of the earliest headstones in the Cornwall Plain cemetery,
near my home, bears the name of a Dudleytown resident…at
least three miles from the closest Dudleytown home site.
If Dudleytown may be reconstructed at all, it would have
to be materialized as a very small, closely-knit farming
area where good land was at a premium. There were plenty
of glacial rock and granite ledges, however, as is evidenced
by the maze of stone walls bounding farm lots, roadways,
bridges, fords, and sluiceways. The fords and bridges
were built at convenient stream crossings, and seldom
does one see any sign of the rock having been quarried.
This doesn’t hold true at the Caleb Jones home-site,
nor at occasional fence corners. Although I have not yet
found a quarry ledge in my woods wandering in the area,
it is immaterial…the homes with which we are now
concerned were built nearly a hundred years before these
cut stone structures.
Having drawn a level headed picture of Dudleytown in its
early years, lets get a better look at the horrible happenings
that plagued the residents of the settlement. The first
recorded fatality occurred in 1792, when, during a barn
raising, Gershom Hollister toppled from a partially completed
structure, and was killed. Lay this to an over-abundance
of cider, a loose or slippery plank, or a mis-step…but
not to a Dudley, please. For this time, Abiel was an old,
old man…an 83-year-old man who had been a town charge
for nearly twenty years. Abiel died in 1799, having earned
for himself a place in Starr’s History of Cornwall
as an especially long lived resident and little more.
In 1804, General Heman Swift’s third wife, Sarah
Faye, was killed by lightning during an April thunderstorm.
Much has been made of this in several articles and books;
it was the curse of Dudleytown, hard at work. However,
General Swift’s home was not in Dudleytown. It may
be admired to this day on the Cornwall Bridge-Warren road,
still as far from Dudleytown as ever!
Another favorite story of Dudleytown phantom followers
concerns the wife of Horace Greeley, Mary Cheney. Mary
WAS born in Dudleytown, and DID die a violent death. She
met Mr. Greeley in a vegetarian boarding house long before
that gentleman’s white hat became famous, and his
advice, “Go west, young man”. Perhaps overwrought
by arduous political campaign, Mary Cheney Greeley shuffled
off this mortal soil just one week before her husband
lost his bid for the presidency of these United States.
She accomplished this all by herself, by the simple expedient
of placing a noose around her neck, and stepping off a
chair, with nothing more than the rope to break her fall.
It did, quite permanently, and added another page to the
terrifying history of Dudleytown.
This brings us to 1813…and so far, we have seen
Dudleytown’s curse accounting for an average of
only one person every seven years. Nat a very impressive
figure in these days of mass mayhem by motor car. A family
named Carter also suffered from the Dudleytown curse,
according to popular legend. Nathaniel Carter came to
Cornwall from Killingworth. His stay was a brief one,
and he soon journeyed to the Forks of the Delaware, near
present day Binghamton New York. The October following
his resettlement, a band of Indians swooped down on his
cabin, killing his wife and infant child. Two older daughters
and a son were carried away to Canada. The Indians killed
Nathaniel as he returned to his cabin. His two daughters
were rescued by Redcoats from fort Niagara…ransomed,
probably…but the boy, who liked life in the North
woods, refused to return to civilization.
The lad was adopted by Cherokees, and took unto himself
an Indian bride. From this union came a son, named Ta-wah,
who was later converted to Christianity. After being baptized
David in 1823, he elected to enter the ministry. He entered
the Foreign Mission school of Cornwall in 1824, and was
an excellent student. However, he was dismissed the following
year because of his association with two other Indian
boys, Elias Boudinot and John Ridge, when the trio became
enamored of the three of Cornwall Belles, and expressed
a desire to tie the knot. Discrimination reared its ugly
head, and Ta-wah, or David Carter, if you prefer, went
quite literally “over the hill”. He stayed
in Goshen for a time, then retraced his footsteps to the
land of the Cherokees. That the Dudleytown curse was on
his soul is evident by his later life. The poor lad became
a journalist and edited the “Cherokee Advocate”,
and finally was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court.
We have seen how Abiel died at the age of 90; legend hath
it that when he reached 60, he left Dudleytown, vowing
never to set foot back on that god forsaken rock heap
as long as he lived, not if he had become a ward of the
town. He didn’t, and he did. Another Dudleytown
man reached the ripe age of 104…this was William
Tanner, who lived and died in the very house where Gershom
Hollister went that morning in 1792 to help a neighbor
raise a barn…and was killed doing so. Tanner wasn’t
quite right in his head when he finally left Dudleytown
feet first, but after 104 years of scratching out a living
on Dudleytown Mountain, it’s no wonder.Abiel Dudley
and William Tanner are exceptions, of course…most
Dudleytown residents, including Abiel’s brothers,
pulled out of the area long before they could attain an
old age and its comforts. As more and more disgruntled
farmers pulled up stakes, and moved on to greener pastures,
fewer and fewer settlers came to Cornwall to take their
places behind the plow.
By the time the Chestnut blight hit Connecticut in the
early 1900’s, there wasn’t a soul left to
claim permanent residency in Dudleytown. A sawmill moved
in temporarily to salvage the dead and dying Chestnut
timber. A farmer ran sheep for a few years, and charcoalers
continued to ply their trade to some extent, but no one
really cared to live in the area, for it was impossible
to scratch a living from the shallow, rocky soil. The
curse had run it's course...it had killed a New England
town. So much for the legend…the myth that is all
that is generally remembered of Dudleytown. There remain
only the facts: That Dudleytown was a mistake from the
beginning is obvious by glancing at its geographical location.
Surrounded by hills, and located at an elevation nearly
1500 feet, it stands to reason that the crops upon which
the farmer/settlers were so vitally dependant would never
flourish. Even the hardy Apple Trees were dwarfed by long
winters, followed by cold springs and summer, then early
falls, high winds, and poorly watered soil.
The soil was rocky…terribly rocky, to judge from
the size and number of stone walls in the area. And the
soil itself was not rich black loam a farmer looks for,
such as is found in the valleys of Cornwall. These valleys
hold rich deposits of fertile soil, the result of sedimentary
actions aeons ago, when the valleys held large lakes.
On the Dudleytown plateau, glaciers had scrubbed much
of the topsoil away before a man hove into view, red or
white. A soil test today, of course, would not tell you
what type of soil Dudleytown had in the 1700’s,
but the fact that the farmers often failed to raise even
enough hay to feed their livestock would point to poor
soil. And the fact that hills were one time famous for
their Oak and beech sands would echo this, because these
trees are seekers of acidity. Although Dudleytown would
appear to be well watered to the casual visitor, there
were several small brooks running through the area, fed
by two main swamps. Actually, the land is not too amply
endowed with water. Today, one finds stone walls running
through swamps, which means that these swampy areas were
either used as pastures, and therefore seasonally dry,
or that these boggy places were non-existent in the 1700’s.
Man’s greediness helped destroy Dudleytown, too.
When the iron furnaces of Litchfield county were going
full blast, the hills were completely stripped of timber,
burned into charcoal, and carted to furnaces in Cornwall
Bridge, Kent, and other nearby towns, to provide fuel
for the smelters. Several drawings and photographs now
in the Cornwall Historical Society’s collection
picture Cornwall completely denuded, except for a few
apple orchards. Once the trees were gone, the rains of
spring and summer and the run-off of winter snow soon
took most of Dudleytown’s soil down the mountain.
We must also consider that with a limited amount of tillable
land available, Dudleytown’s young people looked
elsewhere for their livelihood…and never came back,
because they had homes of their own, and children of their
own to think about. Certainly, there were occasional events,
which kept the legend living. A Cornwall farmer, who had
cut hay on fallow fields, lost several haycocks after
a thunderstorm. Lightning? Of course not! ‘Twas
the Dudleytown Demons! Livestock wandered away, and became
lost forever. Was it because summer pastures were poorly
fenced? Why, no…they were sprinted away by haunts,
even though the craggy cliffs of Coltsfoot were within
easy walking distance for a hungry cow.
The myth persists though, although recently, it hasn’t
been too active. Several homes have been built near old
Dudleytown, and no one has reported being bewitched. For
the most part, However, Dudleytown remains a sylvan retreat
for hikers, campers, and nature lovers. The owls which
gave Dudleytown the nickname “Owlsbury” still
hoot in the tree tops; wildcats still yowl from the rocky
ledges, and in the winter, the only creatures who disturb
the silence are the woodsy ones who live there. Today,
the old Dudleytown names are gone…remembered only
as cellar holes. There are no Brophys…no Jones…no
Rogers, Cooks, Bennetts or Agags, and, of course, no Dudleys.
There are only ruffled grouse, drumming on a 200 year
old stone wall; white tailed deer, drinking form a pool
which once watched a mill wheel turn; owls, woodpeckers,
chipmunks, and tiny snow fleas call Dudleytown their home.
To those who prefer to think that Dudleytown may provide
a glimpse of a spook, or that it is death to dwell on
the mountain because of a centuries old regicidal curse…may
we realists hope that they will nurture their dreams,
and pass them along to friends who love Dudleytown for
its silence, its remoteness from a mechanical world, and
its awe-inspiring, unspoiled beauty. If nothing more,
Dudleytown deserves to remain as is…silent, remote,
completely peaceful. This, if nothing more, as a tribute
to those hardy pioneers who did their best to tame the
wild and rocky Connecticut wilderness…and failed.
Office hours vary by department
Inn & Lodge
Stacey Marcin & Mark Hampson, Innkeepers 270
Scenic Rte 7 Cornwall Bridge, CT 06754
toll free | 1.800.786.6884 860.672.6884
eMail | firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to the country! All stress is checked at the door
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672-0149 or 1-800-662-1812.
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Wandering Moose Cafe
421 Sharon Goshen Trnp Cornwall
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Canoe, kayak and raft on the beautiful Housatonic River.
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Cornwall Bridge Pottery Store
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intersection of Rte. 4 & Rte. 7, 24 Kent Rd., Cornwall
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Haven Bed and Breakfast 860.672.6872
Meadows Lodge and Fly Shop 860.672.6893
England Wine Cellars 860.672.9463
Country Store 860.672.3663