Ghosts of the Chasm
In the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts, in a city called North Adams, nestled in a little residential area known as the Beaver—its name from traditions handed down by the early settlers, where there once stood a beaver dam of great strength and durability—you will find one of the most curious and beautiful works of nature found in the area. It is New England's Natural Bridge.
Although the Natural Bridge is a beautiful place, it doesn't come without danger. Just imagine how treacherous a place this once was before the fencing was in place.
One can only speculate what the Hoosac and Mahicansac—Algonquian tribes that occupied the banks of the upper Hudson River, extending north almost to Lake Champlain, in New York State—must have thought when they first came upon this site. How magical and mysterious this place must have appeared to them. It must have inspired a local myth among these ancient tribes, where they'd descend to the bottom of the chasm, and behold with wonder and enchantment the spirit of this phantasmal chasm.
What we do know is, as early as the early 1600's, this area was the hunting-grounds of the Hoosacs and Mahicansacs. The Mahican war-captain, Maquon, of the Mahicansac Wolves, occupied the pine grove above the Mayoonsac—the upper Hoosac River—near the Natural Bridge, during their winter hunting seasons.
For many years the Natural Bridge, with its high vaulted, dripping roof—and its many lesser caves, chasms, fissures, and basins—has been one of the weird natural curiosities among the many to be found within the acreage of the Berkshire Hills. Before and since the beauty of this hidden refuge was disfigured by the working of a marble quarry—between 1810 and 1947—it has attracted the attention of thousands of visitors from far and near. During the time when the quarry was in operation, the hand of man had robbed this romantic glen among the northern hills of much of its primitive grandeur, but still, the wonderful handiwork of the waters and floods of past ages remain to reward its visitors.
In this article, you will learn a little more about the history of New England's Natural Bridge, and of some of the documented accidents that have occurred here over the last couple of centuries.
The Water's Journey
The bridge is one which has recorded its own history for ages, more clearly than any other. It is fed by tributaries in Stamford, Vermont, and Clarksburg, Massachusetts—just north of Natural Bridge—forming Hudson's Brook. The brook labors, tumbling noisily over the boulders and ledges that would obstruct its way, carving its way through a mass of solid marble, leaving the walls sixty feet high in some places, and a roof which forms the bridge over the chasm. Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his American Note-book likened it to 'a heart that has been rent asunder by a torrent of passion.' He wrote, “The water dashed down in a misty cascade, through what looked like the portal of some infernal subterranean structure; and far within the portal we could see the mist and the falling water; and it looked as if, but for these obstructions of view, we might have had a deeper insight into a gloomy region.”
At this point, Hudson's Brook has worn a channel thirty yards long and fifteen feet wide, which, gradually sinking, has left a chasm in the marble. All over their surface, these cliffs are fretted with innumerable rounded indentations, mostly circular, and of moderate depth. Sometimes they take more grotesque shapes, the most curious resembling a section of an inverted dinner pot. The whole place, with its water-worn depth and low monotones of the dashing stream, has a strange, foreign aspect to it. Further downstream, the brook's deep brown primordial waters roar as it dashes through the gorge, engulfing all neighboring sound. Streaks of light dance amongst the shadows, reflecting off the water's rippling surface. And in one spot, clusters of white marble—resembling fossils of prehistoric creatures—protrude from the brook. The banks of the brook are strewn with moss-covered rocks and boulders. Trees, living and dead, occupy the brook's edge, filtering out sunlight or forming bridges.
Hudson's Brook flows swiftly over two more smaller dams, before its junction with the north branch of the Hoosac River at the Beaver.
Historic Place Names
The photo on the left was taken by Hurd & Smith, around the 1870's. Looking downstream. The photo on the right was taken by J.S. Moulton, sometime between 1865-1881. Looking upstream.
The Natural Bridge was not always called "Natural Bridge". In early records, "Natural Bridge" was called "Adams Falls" or "Adams Cave", named after the town it is located in—before the town of Adams divided into North Adams and Adams in 1878. In the summer of 1838, Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American novelist, who spent many months visiting this area, referred to it as "Hudson's Cave", after the name of the brook which flows through it. Any other mention of it in books, periodicals, and newspapers in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was by the descriptive name of the natural bridge.
In time, the descriptive phrase came to be used as its proper name. And Natural Bridge became the dominant choice. When the Elder's bought the property in 1950 and developed Natural Bridge into a tourist attraction, they called it New England's Natural Bridge. When they sold the property to DCR in 1985, it then became the Natural Bridge State Park.
Tradition tells us that the earliest European to come to this area was that of a hunter named Seth Hudson in the early 1760's. One version of this story is that one twilight while dragging homeward a deer he had killed, he had lost it in this chasm. He narrowly escaped, following it himself. Another version told was that, after having wounded a deer in the mountains north of the Natural Bridge, he lost his way in pursuit of it, and night overtaking him, wandered down to this spot and fell into the narrow channel in the darkness. The depth of the water below broke his fall to an extent that he sustained but a few bruises, and climbing out upon the side of the brook, in the morning, discovered his whereabouts with a pocket compass and made for home. And a third, that he was returning to his home one evening, dragging a fat deer by the legs, and clambering along the wild, precipitous spot, when the deer suddenly slid from his grasp and fell crashing a long distance below. It was too dark to search for it that night; and on returning next day, by following up his own trail with the wonderful acuteness of the woodsmen of old times, he discovered the carcass of the deer at the bottom of a deep ravine, and was amazed at his own narrow escape from a similar fall over the side of the "natural bridge." The narrow path on which he had walked was the only spot where the stream could be crossed for a long distance. Whatever the story may be, this brook was named in his honor.
Seth Hudson was a sentinel stationed at Fort Massachusetts between 1749 and 1752, and again between 1754-55. And he became captain of the block-house at West Hoosac for a time. He was living, at the time of this account, in what was then known as West Hoosac—now Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Some sections of Natural Bridge had romantic names long since forgotten. Names such as Jacob's Cave, Fearful Bridge, Profile Rock, Wedge Rock, Rock Arbor, Elephant's Foot in Cove, Lover's Retreat, and Honeymoon Point are bygone place names from an older era. Below, I have gathered what I have been able to find on these place names. I hope to find the remaining places in time and will add them below.
Fearful Bridge was the original log-bridge that was later replaced by the metal footbridge just a few yards upstream. [The building in the background is the Turning Mill at the white marble dam.] (Photograph taken in the 1870's by Hurd & Smith from an albumen silver print stereograph.)
Sketch by F.D. Woodward - 1872
Profile Rock is located down in the gorge of Hudson's Brook, where there is a columnar group of rocks which, at its overhanging crest, assumes the aspect of gigantic features.
Wedge Rock is located down in the gorge of Hudson's Brook. There's a large boulder wedged at the top of the chasm at this portion. (Photograph taken in the 1870's by Hurd & Smith from an albumen silver print stereograph.)
~The Blasting Rock~
The marble island down at the quarry. It was used as a shelter by the quarry-men, from flying chips of rock, when they blasted in the quarry with dynamite.
News Stories of Accidents That Occurred at
the Natural Bridge over the Years
Below is an accumulation of news stories of accidents that occurred at the Natural Bridge over the ages. Some are dramatic, and some heart-breaking. But all illustrate the reality of the danger that is ever-present there.
One of the earliest recorded incidents in this area was around 1817. In a little volume, published in Saratoga, NY in 1834, called "The Traveler's Guide," told of the following.
"There are many traditions respecting the precipice. One is that a war party of Indians on an expedition to Brookfleld. in one of the early Indian Wars; was dashed to pieces on the rocks below. Some fifteen or twenty years ago  a Mr. Briggs, then a student at Williams College, visited the place unaccompanied. Curiosity tempted him to more fully explore the precipice and by the assistance of poles he descended to the base of it. His curiosity being gratified, he began to think of returning. After repeated trials, he gave it up and inscribed on the rock his farewell to his friends and the world.
"His voice could not reach the habitation of man and the rocks were to all appearance to be his grave. He, however, began to repeat the notching in the side, which was marble, and after a painful labor of several hours, he effected his escape. But the exertion proved too much; it undermined his health and in a few months he was conveyed to the grave.
"In considering this mournful tale, we can dismiss at once the tradition of the Indians as pure imagination. There must however be some basis for the story of young Briggs' adventure. One wonders why he found it necessary to climb the precipice when all he had to do was to follow the brook out of the ravine. But we must not wonder too much, in dealing with tradition."
The Rev. Hiram Torrey, a Universalist clergyman, was prospecting at the "fall," in company with his wife. He mounted the roof of the wheel-house located just above the "Natural Bridge," and accidentally slipped off into the abyss below, falling some 40 feet, and landing in water which was over his head in depth. By clinging to projections of the rock, he was able to keep himself from drowning, until assistance was obtained. His wife summoned persons nearby, and they went below and traveled up the gorge and rescued Mr. Torrey. He was somewhat bruised and lost one of his fore-teeth,—certainly a very narrow escape from broken limbs and loss of life.
Below is an article from the Boston Weekly Globe. It has the subjects name as Robert Joyce. However, another source has his name as Bartholomew Joyce.
A Frightful Fall
That of Robert Joyce from the "Natural Bridge," Near North Adams, to the Bottom of the Ravine Seventy-five Feet Below
Instantaneous Death of the Victim.
[Special Dispatch to The Boston Globe]
North Adams, Mass., April 28.--A terrible accident, and one that has long been expected by the people of this vicinity, occurred in Clarksburg at the Natural Bridge, about a mile from this place, late Saturday afternoon. This so-called Natural Bridge, famous throughout the state as one of the wonders of this mountain region, and familiar to the general reader by the graphic description given of it in Nathaniel Hawthorne's notebook, is an exceedingly deep ravine, in a marble quarry, through which a mountain brook, now swollen by the melting snow, rushes with tremendous force. To utilize the water power an iron cylinder has been constructed to carry the water to a marble-crushing factory at the foot of the ravine. This cylinder crosses the ravine at its deepest point, and foolish people in a spirit of daring have walked across it. A fearful accident has frequently been predicted, and the predictions were fulfilled this afternoon. Robert Joyce and several young men were walking on the cylinder, when Joyce, who was next to the head one, suddenly slipped and fell into the abyss. His horror-stricken companions saw him strike his head foremost upon a projecting rock about eighteen feet below the cylinder, bound across and strike the rocks and then disappear in the foaming water below. The fall was about seventy-five feet. The body was carried by the stream through the many turns of the deep cavern which gave the spot its name, and was finally found wedged between two rocks a considerable distance from the scene of the accident. The unfortunate fellow's neck had been broken by the first fall. Joyce was an unmarried man, twenty-two years old, and an employee of the Arnold Print Works.
“Fell from the Natural Bridge”
Robert Hunter, Son of James E. Hunter, Instantly Killed
A Particularly Sad Accident
At about 4:30 last Saturday afternoon, North Adams was horrified by the report that Robert, the eleven-year-old son of James E. Hunter, had fallen from the Natural Bridge and been instantly killed. The report was speedily verified, and when the further fact was learned that the body had not been recovered, but was still lying hidden in the stream that flows through the rocky gorge, a hundred men hastened to the spot to aid in its recovery. Through the drenching thunderstorm and all night long the search continued and it was noon on Sunday before the searchers were rewarded. The body was found back of the mill wedged under a ledge of rock, about fifty yards from the spot where the poor boy fell.
Saturday morning five boys, playmates and all about the same age, Harry Millard, Hobart Putnam, Charles Rowley, Herbert Darby, and Robert Hunter, started for a days outing, fishing and gathering flowers. It was a beautiful day and one of the greatest enjoyment to the little fellows, and as their sharpened appetites warned them at the time to be at home they started, leisurely, about three o'clock in that direction. By going a little out of the way they could visit the “Natural Bridge,” and the suggestion of one of the boys was quickly assented to. When there the same desire that everyone who visits the spot experiences – to see the swish and dash of the angry waters and the strange forms and shapes worn in the rock, – was felt by the boys. At a point, a dozen feet below the Natural Bridge the chasm which at the surface is not over ten or twelve feet wide is spanned by a bridge placed there to support the large pipe that conveys water for power from the dam above to the mill below. The bridge timber at the side of the pipe furnishes a walk, safe to a man of steady head, not only to cross the chasm but from it, one of the best views of the cavern below to be obtained is had. For that purpose, it has been used by thousands. One or two of the boys had crossed, and Robert had gone out over the chasm to look at the rushing water and turned to return to the bank when overcome by dizziness he lost his balance and suddenly disappeared, falling downward between the precipitous walls into the waters fifty feet below.
With rare and good judgment, and presence of mind far beyond theirs, the frightened boys divided into two parties, and while Harry Millard and Herbert Darby remained at the spot Charles Rowley and Hobart Putnam started for help. The men at work in the quarry and Orson and Warren Dalrymple were told of the accident and the boys hurried on toward this village, telling men whom they chanced to meet of what had happened. Dr. Putnam was met on Hudson Street and taking his son into the carriage with him drove back to the bridge. Charlie kept on homeward, but before he could reach the village, a telephone from the Beaver had notified the central office, and Mr. Steadman lost no time in communicating the sad intelligence to Mr. Hunter at his place of business. The news soon spread and all available conveyances were taken by men anxious to render assistance. Officer Parrow with the grappling hooks from the police station was soon on the spot and a systematic search was begun. To add to the gloom occasioned by the accident the storm which had been gathering now in all its fury and the stream already swollen by the snow-water was made a roaring torrent, impeding and rendering doubly difficult the work of the searchers. About seven o'clock the rain ceased, and the work was continued all night with unabated energy, by the aid of lanterns and torches. A reward of one hundred dollars was offered for the recovery of the body. At about 12:30 Sunday it was found, in several feet of water, under a shelving ledge of rock about fifty yards below the bridge, and back of the mill, by Arthur Hall and a boy named Scott. It was carefully and tenderly taken from the stream and placed in charge of Undertaker E. B. Carpenter and removed to his rooms where a view was made later by Medical Examiner Paddock of Pittsfield. It was but slightly bruised.
Robert Hunter was a bright, intelligent boy whose happy disposition won the love alike of playmates and older people with whom he came in contact. He was naturally observing and had just reached an age when he was deeply interested in the remarkable things which he saw about him. He was the youngest member of the family and the especial favorite of his brothers and sisters. To them and the stricken parents, the warmest sympathy of the entire community is extended.
The funeral services were conducted by the Rev. J.P. Coyle and were held from the house Tuesday afternoon at three o'clock. The services, consisting of scripture reading and prayer, were exceedingly impressive and beautiful, the hymns sang by Mrs. Hawkins were very touching and sweet, and the house was filled with the exquisite flowers by means of which many friends had sought to show their sympathy and grief. To those who knew how the little lad had always loved flowers the innumerable and lovely blossoms heaped upon the casket seemed especially appropriate and comforting.
The bearers were: John W. LeRoy, Joseph L. Harrison, W.E. Penniman, Archer H. Barber, David A. Russell, and Herbert D. Rockwell. Following these came eight of Robert's playmates carrying flowers.
The throng of friends who more than filled the house, and the long line of carriages which followed to the grave, attested the place he holds in the affection of those who knew him and their grief because of his death.
January 31, 1898
A party coasting down the Natural Bridge road toward the Beaver the other day failed to keep the road at a sharp turn and went down the bank into the brook. They got a thorough ducking, but no one was hurt.
March 22, 1900
DEER TOOK 30-FOOT LEAP
Frightened Animal Chased by Dog Into
Natural Bridge Quarry
The workmen in the marble quarry at the natural bridge had an unusual experience at deer hunting this morning.
About 10 o'clock a buck, followed by a dog, ran down the mountain road which winds into the quarry, and rushed past near where the men were working. The frightened animal ran over the mounds of stone, and up a bluff at the back of the quarry which ends abruptly in a cliff about 30 feet high. This jump the deer took without an instant's hesitation, and then started up the side of the hill back of it.
The men had by this time frightened away the dog and followed the deer, which turned from the hill and started back through the quarry.
In crossing a pile of broken stone the deer fell heavily and was apparently stunned for a moment. The men caught the animal, and tying its legs, took it to the stables nearby, where it is kept.
The animal was about a year old and was very much worn out from the chase. It will be cared for at the quarry until instructions received from the game warden as to the disposition to be made of the animal. Although slightly cut from the fall on the stones, the deer apparently suffered no harm from its high jump.
March 26, 1900
Deer Released Sunday
The deer captured at the natural bridge quarry the other day was liberated yesterday morning by Game Warden Nicholas. The animal was placed in a crate with his legs tied and taken to Perry McNamara's farm in Clarksburg, where he was turned loose in a pasture. He started for the east mountain, but did not act very wild, and began to browse when he reached the woods. A snapshot was taken with a Kodak when he was turned loose in the pasture, but not a very good picture was secured.
June 22, 1901
WERE NEARLY DROWNED
Two Boys Have Narrow Escape at
Natural Bridge This Afternoon
Two boys named Blackwell aged 8 and 10, had a narrow escape from drowning this afternoon at the Natural Bridge. They were in swimming above the bridge and became helpless in the water.
They grasped each other and were going to the bottom when two or three of their companions went to their assistance.
The boys were gotten out of the water and rolled on the ground and after a few moments went home all right.
Their home is on Tremont Street.
August 12, 1901
They Were Standing on Edge of Precipice When Quarryman Shouted "Fire."
Mrs. Benoit Hurt Internally and May Die. Husband Will Recover
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Benoit of Cliff street this city, narrowly escaped being instantly killed this afternoon by falling from the fop of the natural bridge into the chasm below.
As it is, Mrs. Benoit is very seriously injured and may not recover. She was unconscious for a short time. Mr. Benoit was less seriously injured, although several ribs were broken.
Mr. and Mrs. Benoit, their daughter, Mrs. Frank Sharon, and Mr. Benoit's sister, Mrs. Manville of Ware, went on a little outing today. The natural bridge was one of the points of interest to be visited.
At the moment of the accident, Mr. and Mrs. Benoit were standing at the very edge of the precipice, looking into the yawning chasm below and paying little heed to the men at work in the quarry near by.
Suddenly they were attracted by a loud shout of "Fire." This shout was meant as a warning, the quarrymen being about to fire a blast in the quarry.
The shout caused Mrs. Benoit to move suddenly when she lost her balance and fell over the cliff. Her husband, who was standing close to her, instantly caught her in an attempt to save her.
His attempt was unsuccessful and both fell over into the chasm, a fall of about 60 feet.
They struck the jagged rocks in the gorge below. Mrs. Benoit struck first, and her husband fell on her. This accounts for his escape with less serious injuries.
John O'Hara, who was not far from the sight-seers, standing a short distance away reading a newspaper, saw Mr. and Mrs. Benoit fall and rushed to their assistance. He summoned men from the quarry to help him. Mr. and Mrs. Benoit were, with difficulty, taken from their position and carried up to the top. Doctors were at once summoned by telephone and the police were notified.
Drs. Bushnell and O. J. Brown speedily arrived, Dr. Bushnell getting there first. In a very short space of time, Chief of Police Dinneen was on the spot.
The surgeons gave what immediate attention they could to the couple's injuries and the ambulance was called and the sufferers taken to the hospital.
Both were severely injured about the head. In addition to this, Mrs. Benoit sustained serious internal injuries. Mr. Benoit sustained several broken ribs.
[Mrs. Benoit later died at the hospital of injuries suffered from the fall.]
September 9, 1901
The funeral of Charles Rouaine, 17, who was fatally injured in the accident at the marble quarry Saturday, was held Monday morning at 10 o'clock from St. Thomas church. The deceased was born in Rutland, Vt., the son of John Rouaine, and came to this town seven years ago. He attended the public schools here and had lately been employed as signal boy at the quarry. He leaves besides his parents, two brothers, John and Harry, and two sisters, Elizabeth and Mayme. The Rev. Fr. McLaughlin officiated and the remains were taken to Rutland on the noon train.
July 14, 1904
DOVE FOR DROWNING LAD
Daniel Dinneen Did Not Wait to Re-
move Clothing Before Rescue
Victor O'Brien, a 10-year-old Eagle Street boy, came near drowning in the Hudson Brook pond near the Natural Bridge Tuesday. With two other small boys he went into the water. None of them could swim, and the O'Brien boy got beyond his depth and had sunk twice, when older boys arrived on the scene. One of them was Daniel Dinneen, who dove into the water without stopping to remove any of his clothing and brought out the boy in time to prevent serious consequences, though he was in bad condition when first brought to the shore. He soon recovered and was all right yesterday.
January 17, 1919
Harold Kelliehouse, 15, an employess of the Hoosac Marble Company, is at the North Adams Hospital with a crushed foot while at his work in the quarries near the Natural Bridge this morning. He may lose his foot. Dr. Stafford is attending him. Kelliehouse lives at the Beaver boarding house.
June 23, 1919
HAD LONG FALL BUT STILL LIVES
Henry Scarbo Badly Hurt at
NOW IN HOSPITAL
Lands on Boughs of Trees
and Fall is Broken to a
Henry Scarbo, 19-year-old-son of William Scarbo of Beaver Street nearly lost his life yesterday when he fell from the Natural Bridge down about 50 or 60 feet to the rocks beneath. As a result of the fall, he is now at the hospital with a broken leg and numerous other injuries, but his recovery is looked for. Fortunately, when the young man lost his balance and fell, he landed on boughs of trees beneath. This broke the fall and probably saved his life.
With a party of friends, young Scarbo went out for an outing yesterday. When be fell, his friends hastened down to him over the rocky ledges. They finally brought him to the top and he was taken to his home. Dr. Stafford was called and he had the young man removed to the hospital where he might have the necessary treatment.
Boy Plunges 60 Feet Into Gorge at Natural Bridge.
Amedee Levesque, Nine, of 189 Reed Street, Slipped While Walking Across Iron Flume, Sustaining Painful Injuries Which Are Not Expected to Prove Fatal Unless Complications Develop—Scene of Fatalities and Narrow Escapes.
Amedee Levesque, nine-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred Levesque of 139 Reed street, plunged headlong 60-feet down into the gorge of the Natural Bridge last night about 7:15 and escaped with severe cuts and bruises. Although his injuries are painful, he is reported to have spent a comfortable night in the North Adams Hospital and unless internal injuries were sustained, he probably will recover.
Levesque and James Whitehead of Gallup Street had been swimming and then they thought it would be an excellent "stunt" to walk across the iron flume three feet in diameter, which carries water from the pond to the plant of the Hoosac Marble Company several hundred feet below, near the floor of the marble quarry. This flume laid on a steel trestle which passes over the deepest part of the chasm just below the Natural Bridge.
"Midi went first and I was following," the Whitehead boy said, in telling of the accident. "Midi got almost over to the end of the pipe where he could step on to the bank and hollered 'Don't come, Jimmy, I'm slipping,' and he went down in the dark out of sight. I could hear him hollering and I went for help."
It appears that the Whitehead boy ran to a house down on the quarry road, but there were no men there. So he ran back up the steep path to the top of the quarry.
In the meantime, Charles Isherwood of 135 Glen Avenue had heard the boy's cries and located him far down in the gorge, partly out of the water and partly in it.
Frank Amato of 137 Glen Avenue and William Waterhouse of 18 Wesleyan Street also heard the cries and made the descent down the precipitous rocks to where the boy had fallen. Although badly injured, he had managed to get on to his hands and knees and the two boys carried him out of the gorge, up the pathway and to the top of the quarry.
In the meantime, Martin Thomann of Natural Bridge Road had called Dr. G. L. Curran of the Curran Clinic and he gave the boy first aid treatment after which he took him to the North Adams Hospital.
The boy's body is badly bruised and there are indications that there may be a chest injury. That he was not killed outright is accounted for by the fact that about two thirds down the gorge he struck a sloping rock which acted on the same plan as a "chute the chutes," breaking his fall.
An examination was made this morning of the place from which the boy fell. In order to reach the flume it is necessary to climb a fence. There is also a sign board bearing the word "Danger" near the fence. This has not deterred youngsters from walking the flume. They have done it ever since the flume has been there for the daredeviltry of youth apparently knows no fear.
Rock Falls 60 Feet, Fractures Man's Arm
Phllizia Courtemanche of Dean Street, an employee of the Hoosac Marble Company is at St. Luke's Hospital in Pittsfield with a fracture of the arm which he received at the company's quarry when a rock, falling from a distance of 60 feet, struck him on the arm. He was attended at the Clinic and then removed to St. Luke's Hospital.
Firemen Risk Lives Twice To Rescue Dog From Gorge
Two local firemen yesterday afternoon risked their lives in two successful attempts to rescue a dog which had fallen down an 80-foot gorge near the Natural Bridge.
Falls 50 Feet
The dramatic episode started in a matter of fact manner when "Skipper", a 14-year-old curry blue terrier, decided to tag along with his mistress, Mrs. Thomas Mahoney of 171 Franklin Street, on a walk to the Natural Bridge, local natural curiosity. As Mrs. Mahoney neared the narrow wooden bridge which spans the gorge, made by erosion of the limestone rock in that section, "Skipper" raced ahead to the grass banking at the abutment and slipping on the wet grass, plunged downward more than 50 feet into the Hudson Brook below. Luckily the dog missed the jutting rock walls on his way down, dropping straight into the deep brook.
Mrs. Mahoney hastened to the nearest house but no one was home, so she went to her own home where she called the fire department. Fire Chief John E. Saulnier, his driver Leo H. Caron, and Fireman Andrew K. Grant responded, equipped with ropes. By that time, the dog, still in the water, had traveled about 25 feet west, nearer the Natural Bridge. Caron and Grant made their way down the sloping sides of the cliff and finally reached the spot where the dog was in the water.
The dog was yelping from fright at his predicament but it calmed down when Grant whistled in reassurance. The firemen could not quite reach the dog, however, and at last Grant lay on his stomach and, grasping Caron's hand, lowered him about 10 feet below to where the dog was marooned. Caron grabbed hold of the dog. Lifted him up and then Grant pulled him up.
Falls Second Time
The firemen started up the cliff, congratulating themselves on a difficult task quickly accomplished and had just about reached the top when they released the dog. At that point a tangle of leaves, sticks and stones was lodged. "Skipper" rushed ahead to greet his mistress on the opposite side and started a miniature landslide which sent him down the cavernous ledges again this time in a much deeper spot.
Luck was still with "Skipper," however, for instead of dropping down the full distance, probably 80 feet, he landed on a narrow ledge, less than a foot or two feet square. By this time, the rain which had been falling steadily during the rescue efforts turned to a downpour, making footing extremely precarious. The firemen looked over the situation, got set for additional rescuing and decided to try to snare the dog with a running noose. But each time they tried it the dog backed away. Randolph Trabold, Transcript photographer, was on the spot seeking to photograph the dramatic scene, but Chief Saulnier warned him against snapping the scene lest the glare of his flashlights alarm the dog and cause him to lose his footing. Chief Saulnier and Caron then fastened a rope to a tree at the top of the ledge and Fireman Grant slipped the end of the rope about his waist and was lowered down the cliff until he reached the shelf on which "Skipper" was crouched. He slipped a second rope around the dog and in a jiffy the two were hoisted to the top: and "Skipper" was put in the fire chief's car.
Dog Learns Lesson
The dog, wringing wet and obviously frightened by the experience, was removed to the Mahoney home and in a short time had recovered from the excitement of it all.
This morning, however, the dog was staying close to home and had resumed his place as guardian for the Mahoney's eight month old daughter, Patricia Margaret Ann, to whom he is greatly attached.
December 20, 1945
Quarry Man Killed by Multiple Injuries
Coat Apparently Caught in Revolving Shaft
William A. T-- 36, of Florida, who was killed yesterday at the Micro-White Corporation quarry in Natural Bridge Road, died of multiple injuries consisting of a broken neck, fractured upper right arm, fractures of both feet, lacerated right forehead and chin, and internal injuries, Dr. Michael A. Gangemi, medical examiner, said today.
A resident of Tildy Hill Road in the town of Florida, Mr. T-- observed his 36th birthday only last Saturday. According to Robert R. Washburn, manager of the quarry, he met his death when his coat apparently caught in a revolving shaft, throwing him against the ceiling, floor, and wall. No one witnessed the accident. T-- had worked at the plant about five weeks as an oiler.
Dr. Arthur A. Rosenthol was called to the scene, but the man was dead when he arrived.
April 24, 1970
Rescue Off Cliff
Samuel T--, 14, of this city escaped serious injury Wednesday when he fell 30 feet on a rock ledge near Natural Bridge Road. It was reported that the boy was fishing in the area when the accident occurred. He was rescued by police and firefighters. His condition is reported fair at North Adams Hospital. He has severe injuries to his right leg. The boy barely missed plummeting to his death at the bottom of the 70-foot canyon.
North Adams Firefighters rescued a 21-year-old man Thursday night who became trapped in a gorge at Natural Bridge State Park.
Taylor S-- of North Adams had been swimming with friends at the park when the group headed back up toward where their car was parked at the Franklin Street gate. S--, however, climbed up through a waterfall and became separated from the group, said Officer Kyle Cahoon.
The found him nearly an hour later stuck in the dark in the rushing water at the bottom of the 60-foot gorge. He couldn't make his way back down in the dark and couldn't get out from the top.
Firefighter Matthew Davis took the lead in the rescue as a member of the Western Massachusetts Regional Technical Rescue Team. Fire Director Stephen Meranti said the other firefighters were also trained in rope rescue at an operational level.
A harnessed Davis worked his way through the bushes at the top of the gorge down to spot where he could speak to S-- as other first-responders watched from the bridge over the chasm.
There was difficulty in communicating with S-- over the roar of the water and flashlights were used to help orient him toward Davis.
"Down in gorge, it's not conducive to sound to begin with plus the water, it amplifies and echoes in there," said Sgt. James Burdick.
Two cruisers were turned to put headlights on the area so the rescue team could see to gear up. S-- was dropped a harness to put on to aid in the rescue and a ladder was lowered down to him.
"You want to pick the safest way to pull him out of there and it really was by ladder," Meranti said. "You lower the ladder down and let him climb up ... if he was unconscious or anything like that we would have put him in a Stokes basket and use a really intricate hauling system get him out of there."
S-- was alert and conscious able to climb up the ladder. But he was chilled from standing in the water for nearly two hours.
He was, however, released to family after being checked out by emergency medical technicians.
"It worked great with the police officers here, the ambulance EMTs were right in with us," said Meranti. "Everybody worked well together."
There can be no doubt that there have been a countless number of accidents that have not been featured in this article. For example, I read in one source where there were at least two deaths associated with the explosion and fire of the Micro-White Company in 1947—the last of the mining companies to occupy this site. But this I will have to research more. Once the details are confirmed, this article will be updated.
New England's Natural Bridge has a lot to offer. But, it would benefit the visitor to learn more about the history of this extraordinary site.
Compiled for this website November 2017 by C.A. Chicoine.
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