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Town Caves | Caves in the Litchfield hills | Throughout the state one can find rock shelters offering protection from the elements and made use of by Indians. Some of the outstanding finds of Indian relics and artifacts have been made in their middens near rock shelters that have retained the designation, "Indian caves." Cliffs overlooking the Housatonic and Shepaug rivers provided adequate shelters for Indians and even today curio seekers find souvenirs of Indian handiwork there. On Indian Mountain, near the New York border in Sharon, one can find such a cave or rock shelter.

 

 

Another Indian cave is located in Salisbury. To reach it from Route 44 one must turn south on a road between the library and the Congregational Church and cross the railroad tracks into the woods. In the "Gay Nineties" Waterbury teenagers took buggy rides to Indian Jack's Cave on the Mattatuck trail between Wolcott and Bristol. Indian Jack set up "cave-keeping" there in a rock shelter.brealestate.net Connecticut History
Next in legend are the Tories, who left their imprint on Connecticut folklore because of their lack of faith in a government separate from the the Crown, and who found it necessary to "hole up" when irate revolutionaries sought revenge. There are several Tory caves in Connecticut, and Litchfield County having had more than her share of these loyalists and the rocky terrain to shelter them when pursued, leads the state in caves of this kind. The "Tory Den," located among the Tondem ledges in the southwestern corner of Burlington, is most notable. "The Tories of Chippeny Hill" by E. LeRoy Pond tells of the use of this unique shelter by certain Tories of the nearby village of East Church. The surrounding country was inhabited mainly by these loyalists, and descendants of them still live there.


The Tory Den was formed when a large slab of rock fell from a perpendicular position onto other rocks and became supported in such a way as to allow considerable space beneath. One entrance, facing southeast, is ten feet wide and five feet high. The interior is the same width as the entrance and approximately six feet high, with a roof opening in the center large enough to allow one to pass up through. It could have been used as a chimney. The northern entrance is four feet high and five feet wide. Length over all is about 30 to 35 feet with a slight turn at about the center of the cave. It is very suitable for cave-keeping should anyone like to revert to primitive life. To reach the place, turn easterly from East Church Road just north of Bristol reservoir on an old road. Follow this road for quarter of a mile and turn north for another quarter mile on a wood road where the Tunxis trail is clearly marked with blue arrows. Ledges will appear on the left and the trail leads directly to the den located at the base of a high cliff.

Tory Cave in New Milford harbored more of these loyalists but not in such comfortable quarters as provided in East Church. The cavern is a "true" cave. Two entrances are to be found there, each leading to a different section of the cave. Except in extremely dry seasons one is sure to get wet either from crawling in the cave or in trying to enter it. The crystalline limestone walls of the large water-carved room reflect the light from one's lamp giving a silvery cast that is pleasing to see. It is said the occupants had a secret entrance near the Housatonic River, and a tunnel extended beneath the present U. S. 7 which separates the cave from the river. To see Tory Cave at its best one should visit the cavern in the summer. There will be no need for caving togs. Nature seals up the entrance with a massive curtain of ice and access to the interior is not only uninviting but next to impossible. A perpetual well-spring becomes a frozen Niagara and the interior is a sloshing corridor of mountain water. The giant sink hole entrance that is thirty feet in depth and diameter, retains its winter garb until the month of May. The cave is located about 200 feet from the westerly side of U. S. 7 south of Gaylordsville. The green parking area is near a culvert, accommodating three or four cars and testifies to its popularity to spelunkers. These two caves are the outstanding Tory hide-outs in this area.brealestate.net Connecticut History - Roxbury

MORE CAVES & LEGENDS
Prospectors once sought riches on Mine Hill in Roxbury where silver ore was found, but down near the eastern base of that same mountain is a cave overlooking the Shepaug River in which a band of counterfeiters worked their unlawful trade. Neither business proved to be profitable, and money-making in the Shepaug valley at Roxbury Station turned to dairying with milk selling at four cents a quart.

Gamaliel's Den, near Judd's Bridge, is a wild and unfrequented section of Roxbury now that milk trains no longer rattle over the abandoned Shepaug line. Gamaliel's Den Gang on Moosehorn Brook, headed by Steve Rance, had their underground rendezvous directly across the Shepaug from the Pootatuck Indian shelter caves.

Bridgewater Cave, with an immense drive-in entrance, is large enough to house a herd of cattle. A cave of this type served the purpose well for Bill Stuart, the native boy who went bad, in his traffic of horse thieving. It was his custom to take his neighbors' horses before the barn doors were locked, herd them into the cave, and at night drive them over the state line into New York where they were sold. On his return trip he rounded up stolen New York horses and sold them to the neighbors in Bridgewater who were surprisingly short of horses. Bill Stuart believed in creating a demand for his merchandise before he presented it for sale, and for a long time he was kept busy supplying horses that gave him a handsome income. Somewhere south of Bridgewater Center is the pasture-lot shelter, also known as Bill Stuart's Cave, where Bill hid his stock in trade to supply his needy neighbors. Some of the residents still have horses. Connecticut might have been called the "Leather Man State" if the advent of this itinerant had preceded the purveyor of wooden nutmegs. Today we have more evidence of this remarkable character than samples of the synthetic spice. Almost every town has its Leather Man's cave. Actually they are rock shelters similar to those occupied by Indians and were used by the Leather Man for protection from the weather at night. He dressed in leather patches, traveled a circuit of 365 miles every 34 days and obtained his food from kindly housewives. His route covered much of western Connecticut and a part of Westchester County in New York state. Woodbury has not less than six of these so-called caves. The one most widely known is near the Dug Way on the property of Elbert and Frederick Barnes, within a few hundred feet of U. S. 6, about one-and-a-half miles north of North Woodbury. Across an upland swale from the old feldspar quarry and facing the morning sky, a snug overhang of rocks marks the former living quarters of Connecticut's nineteenth-century cave man. We know the location is authentic, as Mr. Elbert Barnes made the long hike up the ravine to point out the spot where he saw the improvised shelter as a boy while it was being used by the Leather Man.

The most picturesque Leather Man Cave in Connecticut is at Black Rock Park in Watertown. It is well known to local residents, and thousands have seen it in their hiking days. One large room with an immense opening greets one long before the cave is reached from the wood path leading from the gravel road. A small back entry to the cave makes the arrangement pleasing to the uninitiated caver. The location is at the base of a perpendicular rock that towers above the 70-foot oaks and beeches, and the smoked walls of the cave testify to its long use by scouts and other campers. One mile to the southeast and overlooking the Naugatuck River, near Jericho Bridge is another cave once occupied by the Leather Man. It is at the base of a precipice that is topped with majestic hemlocks. The walls of Jericho Rock have withstood the blasts of bugles from the Boy Scout camp across the valley at Camp Mattatuck for a long time but they are beginning to disintegrate noticeably in places. The Leather Man came through unscathed and died in Westchester County in 1889.

Most residents of Connecticut are unaware that our state has the "champion" cave of New England. It is situated in the heart of the limestone region in Salisbury and is called Twin Lakes Cave. Actually there are two caves close together and the larger one has two entrances. This cave has not been completely mapped and new passages are frequently being found but it is now the longest and most popular New England cave. It has a history that is unique for such a phenomenon so remotely located. At one time it was a commercial cave, and only two others in America opened for cave sight-seeing before Twin Lakes Cave. Mammoth began operations in 1813, and in 1865 Weyer's Cave in Virginia, now known as Grand Caverns, opened for business. Twin Lakes Cave was opened to the public in 1870, just two years after its discovery. It is interesting to know what publicity was resorted to in this new enterprise of cave showmanship in America. Facing the yawning sinkhole (main entrance) was a dance hall where lively quadrilles were executed to the tune of a cracked fiddle. Another building housed dressing apartments for ladies and gentlemen, a large dining room and an office with a bar attached. The Connecticut Western Railroad was under construction nearby to bring people from distant towns.

Commercial caves in 1870 were a novelty
, and many of the conveniences enjoyed today in cave sightseeing were unknown. Dignity was sacrificed. Entrance fee at Twin Lakes was ten cents. This payment entitled a man to an oil cloth suit and a sou'wester, and a woman was given voluminous bloomers and a net for her hair. Each person was given a piece of adamantine candle, about three inches long placed uprightly on the end of a horizontal pudding-stick-shaped piece of wood, about a foot in length. On leaving the cave they had all the marks of a modern spelunker who expects the inevitable mud bath in cave crawling. The cave was operated by Mr. John Odenbreit. The property was owned by a Mr. Miles who, during a 'coon hunt, lost a dog and in the search that followed, the cavern was discovered. The cave reverted to a "wild" status when the venture proved to be unprofitable.

The main entrance is at the bottom of a thirty-foot crater, or sinkhole, and it is impressive to stand beneath the hemlocks and gaze down into the funnel that is about forty feet in diameter, and to realize that here is one of nature's wonders - a cavern, with acreage below ground. Here delicate artistry in stone is preserved from weathering influences. The original crawl-way has been enlarged to admit a person to walk in a stooped position for some 75 feet and beyond that is adequate head room. A drop or 'chimney" is encountered that takes one down fifteen feet to the next level, and thence the winding tunnel grades down to the main floor level several hundred feet farther on. The first formation to become noticeable is a four-foot column in the first large room. At one time the cave was elaborately decorated but vandals have been at work and now stalactites are found mainly on the 50-foot ceilings or in the inaccessible crevices. There is a waterfall, two natural bridges and many rooms, alcoves, balconies...it is a veritable wonderland, and hours can be spent there without a perceptive passage of time. The "long crawl" connects with the main cave near the column and leads to another entrance through a wide but low ceilinged portion of the cave.

A few years ago a "register" was placed on a tree near the sinkhole entrance by the National Speleological Society and over a period of two months 140 people recorded their names. Some came from Florida and Canada and other from as far away as Switzerland. A boy in Baytown, Texas, who registered there, wrote that he looked forward to visiting his grandmother in Connecticut each Summer because it gave him an opportunity to see Twin Lakes Cave. Twin Lakes Cave has something that brings people a long way to see.

 

 

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