Photo from my collection
I Swear it’s True! Part 4 – by Linda Knight Seccaspina – Tales from Bolton Pass SHERBROOKE RECORD WEEKEND PAPER
In 1883 Lake View House in Knowlton advertised that a drive through Bolton Pass to Bolton Springs would be unrivalled for wild and romantic scenery. I was surprised that the sightings of fairies were never mentioned in the advertisement because my Grandfather insisted the Pass was full of them.
A few months ago I began to archive some news clippings about Bolton Pass. To this day I can remember driving through the area many times and looking for faeries on each side of the road. Two months ago I bought some Canadian travel books from the late 1800s and low and behold there was a majestic illustration of Bolton Pass, but no mention of faeries.
It was always said that once you passed Brome Village the road dropped down a steep slope into Bolton Pass near Sally’s Pond and on through the pass to the Missisquoi River Valley. From there this offshoot of the Green Mountains continued over the ridge to drop down once more to the shores of Lake Memphremagog at Knowlton’s Landing. Until 1820, even dragging a wagon behind you was impossible and in 1826, an effort was made to be able to travel safely. A government grant was arranged in 1830 and the road was greatly improved so that wagons could finally travel. Settlers were scattered along the Pass at each end, but that steep drop down into the Pass was very real. I always thought that perhaps that drop wasn’t created by glaciers and was actually created by faeries in amusement. My grandfather told me that the early settlers all believed in fairies, banshees and ghosts, and that ghost stories coming from the old country were the favourite amusement at every evening gathering.
It’s been said by history buffs that the original track ran along the south side of the pass at the foot of the mountain. Because it was in the shade longer than the north flank it was abandoned and a new and improved route followed the foot of the north side of the pass. Many years later it was rerouted right down the middle which required more than levelling with a lot of gravel required to fill the wet swampy centre of the Pass.
During severe cold or stormy weather it was particularly difficult and even dangerous to attempt passing through. On one occasion at least, when a traveller insisted on making the attempt against the advice of those who better understood the risk, his life paid the price.
In 1818 Nathan Hanson married a daughter of Simon Wadleigh and he opened a public house. Even though the road was not really passable for wagons until 1820, those who travelled on foot or horseback needed a place to stay. It was the only road as shown in the history of East Bolton where you might be able to reach the west side of the mountain.
There were also many tragedies of those that did not make it through the Pass. One day a stranger from the States decided to make his way through but he never came back. A search party was sent out the next day and they found his body on the east side of the mountain- frozen to death. Owing to the amount of snow and the absence of a road the men had taken some boards and nails and made a coffin for him right on site. A crude slab was made to mark his burial site that said: Dr. Levi Frisbie, January 28, 1800.
In 1902 a Knowlton correspondent for the Montreal Gazette wrote about a wonderful cave that had recently been discovered at the base of one of the mountains at Bolton Pass. Mr. Selby, of South Bolton, found the opening which barely admitted the passage of an adult person. Looking inside he saw a large lofty room, sparkling with Stalactites, but being alone he did not venture inside. No one knows if faeries lived in the cave, but he quoted that there were rare fishtail helictites on the walls that sort of resembled fairy wings.
The correspondent reported that others were preparing to visit the spot and explore it thoroughly. The cave,he thought, made a great addition to the many charms and attractions of the drive from Knowlton to Bolton Springs. Why it had remained undiscovered for so many years baffled me and as I searched I could not find any other news story about it.
During the 1930s my Grandfather would sit at the back of the wagon with a rifle with his family to chase off what he called hoodlums or whatever popped out from behind the trees. He said there was no telling what would jump out in front of you on the Bolton Pass Road. Sometimes your eyes played tricks on you, but you kept driving and didn’t stop.
Among the stories he told me was that when the Irish immigrants came to the area their family fairies came with them. He once said that after a fire pit was made; the next morning the whole surface of the pit was covered in tiny footprints and gave the impression that a number of little people had been dancing on the fresh earth surface. No one in my family had seen anything like it in Ireland. They had heard a great deal about fairies while back in the homeland, but had never seen any of their footprints. If they had carried cameras in those days they might have taken a photo, but they had none, so they had no evidence to show those who asked. Some to whom they told the story suggested that the foot marks were those of some small animal, but both men strongly insisted that the marks were like those of miniature human feet much smaller than those of a new baby’s feet.
And so, tales from Bolton Pass go back to a time when a flicker in the bush might be a faerie, or a stone might be a troll in petrified form.Things of nature were treated with a different sense of respect then and I for one will never forget the magical stories of who might have been leaving those sparkly crystals in the stone once seen on a forest path in Bolton Pass.
Here on my property in Bonsecours ,gnomes are everywhere and they take care of all the scenery that I see every day
CLIPPED FROMThe Montreal StarMontreal, Quebec, Canada10 Sep 1901, Tue • Page 10
CLIPPED FROMThe Montreal StarMontreal, Quebec, Canada14 Jul 1900, Sat • Page 5
CLIPPED FROMThe GazetteMontreal, Quebec, Canada21 Jun 1883, Thu • Page 8
CLIPPED FROMThe GazetteMontreal, Quebec, Canada23 Jul 1964, Thu • Page 31