View Full Version : History of Patch's Hollow, Bear Mtn in Vermont

01-12-2003, 09:28
Story from today's Rutland Herald


The legend of Patch Hollow
January 11, 2003

Snowshoe trek leads hikers to dark history of former settlement on Bear Mountain

By BRENT CURTIS Staff Writer

No clues are left that would point to the bloody struggle that took place at Patch Hollow.

No bodies. No stained blade. Not even a hint that civilization was once rooted in the little glade on the east side of Bear Mountain in Wallingford.

But for two dozen hikers who made the snowshoe trek through 1½ miles of woodlands Saturday, the hollow’s dark history was revealed.

“You’ve earned your story,” the hikers were told by Barry Griffith of Shrewsbury, who led the hike sponsored by the Killington chapter of the Green Mountain Club.

He went on to recount the events that took place at the site on May 11, 1831. At that time, Patch Hollow contained a small community of five families. One of the settlements was owned by Rolon Wheeler, a “man of violent passions and jealous disposition,” according to an account written by the Rev. Walter Thorpe in 1911.

Wheeler was reportedly guilty of “indiscretion” with his wife’s sister — a situation that met with resentment from the community, Thorpe wrote.

Some community members from Wallingford and Shrewsbury were so resentful, in fact, that they decided to “give (Wheeler) a coat of tar and feathers and perchance ride him on a rail.”

The threats were made so publicly that Wheeler was forewarned and took measures to defend himself.

He fashioned a knife from a large file and barred his door.

On the night of May 11, parties from Shrewsbury and Wallingford set out for Patch Hollow equipped with jugs of rum, a bucket of tar and a sack of feathers.

The detachment from Shrewsbury never made it. After getting lost in the woods due to either the darkness or “too frequent potations,” the group returned home, where they bragged the next day that they “had a great time with ‘Old Wheeler,’” according to Thorpe’s account.

The Wallingford group did arrive at Wheeler’s house and, after trying unsuccessfully to trick their way indoors, forced their way in by prying a hole in the gable end of the roof, the cleric wrote.

Three men leaped into the house and struggled with Wheeler in the dark. Wheeler stabbed one man in the side and another was slashed 14 times. The door to the cabin was unbarred and more people poured into the cabin. A man named Isaac Osborne fell across the bed and died “without a cry,” according to the account.

In the confusion, Wheeler wrestled out of his clothes and the hands of his attackers, crawled under the bed, pried up some floorboards and escaped beneath the house.

“Meantime, those within the house had got hold of Osborne’s body and drew it about the floor thinking it was Wheeler,” Thorpe wrote. “It was not long before they noticed the man was dead when they dropped the body and hastily left the house.”

Later, Dr. John Fox would visit the scene, which he recounted as “the most terrible sight he could recall.”

By the light of a candle, Fox saw “the livid body of Osborne on the bed and cabin literally soaked in blood.”

Wheeler spent the night naked in the woods. Before dawn he stole a shirt from a clothesline, walked to the Hartsboro section of town and hid in a barn. He spent part of the day weaving a dress from rye straw he found in the barn.

He wore his makeshift garment on a cross-country trek to his sister’s home in Pawlet.

The law caught up to him there.

He was arrested and put on trial in a makeshift court held at the Baptist Church in Wallingford — the only building in town that could hold the crowds eager to watch the proceedings.

In the end, Wheeler was acquitted.

“Self defense,” observed Griffith, who happens to be a defense attorney.

The “rioters” who assaulted him didn’t get off so easily. Two of his attackers were fined $60 apiece while three others were fined $40 each.

As for Patch Hollow’s other households, Thorpe noted: “The dreadful tragedy must have left its blight … for shortly afterwards the dwellings were unoccupied and it has never since been used for residence.”

Griffith’s recounting Saturday end with applause from the hikers.

Some said they had been visiting the glade for years, unaware of its history.

Connie Youngstrom of Shrewsbury said she had seen the foundations of houses around the glade, but never guessed at what became of the community.

“It’s a real surprise,” she said. “I had no idea something so gruesome had happened here before.”

Joyce Wilson, who also lives in Shrewsbury, said she was also shocked to hear that the sunny glade she had hiked to for years had a darker side.

But there was one part of the Patch Hollow tale that didn’t surprise her.

“I think it was great that the Shrewsbury people hightailed it out before they ever got here,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t surprise me a bit.”

01-12-2003, 16:55
Mt. Grace on the M-M trail in massachusetts was named after a baby who was suffocated and buried by her mother back in the 1700s (I believe it was the 1700s) while being transported as a captive by the local native americans. Just finished going up there about an hour ago.

11-25-2003, 06:17
Interesting article on Patch Hollow. This relocation from Vt Rte 140 to Hinchey shelter really beats the old route across Button Hill.