he town of Richmond has always held a certain fascination for me. Maybe that’s because of my love for the woods.
With 37 square miles and populated with slightly more than 1,000 people, this rural hill town in the southwest corner of the state has more than its share of sylvan elbow room.
The best way to explore the wooded, hilly landscape is by walking the abandoned town roads.
On a late August, cloudy, cool day, with the temperature in the low 70s, my long-time hiking buddy, Curtis Carroll, and I decided to travel on a few of these primitive thoroughfares to learn more about the town’s past.
After studying old maps, we started on a woods road on the east side of Whipple Hill Road, a half mile south from the intersection of Whipple Hill Road and Route 119.
Earlier we had spotted Curtis’ 2016 Subaru in a small dirt parking lot on Town Forest Road off Route 32, Athol Road.
The plan was to follow a chain of long forgotten roads with names like Toad Hollow and Sprague, seeking out old cemeteries, mill sites, cellar holes, and whatever else turned up along the way. The route roughly ran west to east and covered approximately four miles.
The first leg followed a woods road that ran parallel to Roaring Brook, a stream that drains the western part of the town.
After passing an old mill site we came to a section where young pine trees began closing in on the trail. Pushing aside the branches, we continued uphill and came to an open spot. More uphill climbing followed before we realized we were moving away from the brook.
We then back tracked and started again at a section that more closely followed the stream. Finally, we felt confident we were on the correct path.
We continued on the trail, which was marked with not-so-attractive ATV tire treads. Fortunately, these marks were offset by the beautiful tannin-colored Roaring Brook and gentle waterfalls.
After 15 minutes of walking, we reached a point where Tilsey Brook flowed into Roaring Brook. Here we had to find a spot to cross the stream (Tilsey Brook). After scouting around, I chose the top of a beaver dam for my means of getting to the other side. Gingerly placing my feet in the “correct” places, I managed to successfully cross the stream.
Meanwhile, Curtis opted to rock hop, using a stout stick for balance. After some tricky maneuvers, he also safely made it to the other side.
“I was worried you were going to fall into the brook with your phone and the map,” said Curtis.
“Thanks pal,” I said.
We continued on the trail and soon reached a part where a bridge had washed out.
On the other side of Roaring Brook, a road led to the Barrus Cemetery.
But having no safe way to cross the brook, we decided to visit the burial yard after we finished our hike. (See end of story).
Shortly I spied what I thought was a gravestone in the woods. But it turned out to be a bleached-out tree stump. White wood aster and goldenrod appeared on both sides of the path: signs that fall was coming soon.
After stopping to admire a meadow and beaver lodge, we reached a crossroads at Toad Hollow and Sprague Roads. Knowing that the Goddard Cemetery was nearby we searched out the old burial yard.
But after 20 minutes produced no sign of the old cemetery we gave up.
Continuing on Sprague Road, we passed an old mill site (Sprague Mill) and primitive Parker Hill Road (right). A short time later we reached an area where a pond had flooded across the road.
Successfully maneuvering this section by gingerly stepping along the side of the road, we came to a fieldstone house (left). Approximately 100 yards beyond the residence we turned right onto Town Forest Road, the final leg of the hike. Here we faced the most challenging section of our journey as the road soon turned into a washed-out gully. But after a few minutes of walking through what felt like a miniature canyon, we emerged at an “easier” section of the trail
Continuing uphill on the bouldery path we enjoyed the “green” stone walls - stone walls so thickly covered by moss that they appeared green - mossy logs and dense forest on either side of road.
Twenty minutes after starting out on Town Forest Road, we came to the James Ellis and Christopher Bullock Cemetery on the left.
A roped off area a few steps off the trail enclosed three slate headstones: James Ellis died in 1813 at age 28. Bullock lived to age 89, passing away on January 24, 1809. There also was another smaller slate marker reading: “Mrs. C E.”
Back on Town Farm Road, we shortly reached a large L-shaped cellar hole. This was easily the most impressive old foundation we saw on this day. Old bricks strewn about indicated where a chimney once stood.
After investigating the cellar hole, a 20-minute walk brought us back to Curtis’ Subaru in the Town Forest Road parking lot.
AFTER THE HIKE.
On the way back to my car and the Barrus Cemetery, we stopped at the South Cemetery off Route 32. Here was the gravesite of my (almost) namesake: Boris Michael Adamovitch.
The grave, located in a corner of the cemetery near a stone wall, is marked by a large Russian Orthodox cross with the wording: Adamovitch (November 13, 1886 - January 8, 1935). He was a former colonel in the Russian Imperial Army, the Russian equivalent to the U.S. Secret Service, Adamovitch retired in Richmond.
One story relates how he once had to decide whether or not to put a “wild and unkempt” monk into jail. He chose not to. The monk turned out to be Rasputin.
Barrus Cemetery is located at the end of Barrus Road, which is located off Whipple Hill Road, 1.7 miles south from the intersection of Whipple Hill Road and Route 119. The cemetery, on a hill and surrounded by a stone wall, contains gravestones mostly from the 1800s. One of the most interesting markers is that of Laban Thornton, son of Laban and Elizabeth Thornton. Laban died at age 21 on Christmas Day, 1824.
An inscription reads: “Sickness sore long time I bore, Physicians skill was vain, but God did send death as a friend and freed me from my pain.”