Mark Brook in Swanzey

Mark Brook in Swanzey was named for 18th-century Keene hermit Mark Ferry, who lived in a cave near its banks for a time.

Mark Ferry was one of the first people granted land in Keene and one of the first white settlers of the community; he was also Keene’s first hermit.

Ferry arrived in the town in the mid-1730s. He soon tired of the activity in the settlement and moved into the woods to be alone. He dug a cave that he used as his home in the bank of the Ashuelot River in the northern part of Swanzey.

A severe flood in 1739 drove him from his cave. Ferry was forced to seek refuge upon a high stump. His neighbors eventually found him sitting on the stump surrounded by water. He had a calf resting in his arms, over which he had placed a shirt to keep it warm. Ferry and the calf were rescued by canoe.

Because of the damage to his cave caused by the flood, Ferry moved northward into the area of what is now Sullivan.

In 1746 a group of Indians raided the settlement. It was feared that they had captured Ferry because he did not seek refuge at the fort. When the Indians had gone, a group of militia went out to search for him. They found his horse hidden under the roots of a large fallen tree. Searching further, the men found Ferry sitting peacefully far up in a large tree, mending his clothes. His appearance indicated that he had not had a shave or a bath for several months. The militia led him back to the safety of the fort.

Although he played a minor role in local history and was viewed as peculiar by his neighbors, Ferry left behind a legacy for the region. Two brooks were given his name, one near his cave and one near the tree where he was found by the militia. Mark Brook in Swanzey and Ferry Brook in Sullivan were named for the early hermit, Mark Ferry.

Alan F. Rumrill is executive director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County, which has been collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the region since 1927. It’s on Main Street. To learn more about its public programs and collections, visit hsccnh.org.