Goose Pond Rd – 1860 Runnels

This well-formed cellar hole has several interesting features that allow a thoughtful observer to guess not just about the buildings that once stood here but also about the history of uses in the 60 years of its occupation and the nearly 100 since its abandonment.

The house was situated on a rise just a few feet higher than the swampy area that now surrounds it on 3 sides.  The area is wet now due to the activity of beaver in the area, but one could assume it was much drier when first settled.  The cellar appears to be partly excavated and partly constructed, with the excavated dirt being piled around the edges and thus creating a small yard that was in turn edged and supported by a low retaining wall of stone.  Similar construction can still be seen around many of the older homes in town.  The cellar hole walls are still very well preserved and many exceptional foundation stones form the top rim of the eastern and southern walls.

Next to the cellar and extending northwestward are the remains of two parallel low walls which probably indicate the position of another part or extension of the house.  A large flat doorstep stone located before the west wall of this extension makes it easy to imagine this as the front door, with lovely sunsets visible from the front yard.

The barn has one long retaining wall facing the hillside, which gave access to the upper level.  The lower level was accessible from the other three sides.  It takes a little more imagination to visualize the barn.  The retaining wall has not stood the test of time very well, with many of the stones tumbled down onto the barn’s floor, making exact measurements problematic.

Lyme’s old maps offer some additional clues about the site’s history.  The home doesn’t appear at all on the 1855 map, but the 1860 map shows it with an unusual dotted line access (there are only two of these on the entire 1860 map) from the west.  So it would appear that the home was built in the late 1850’s, which is late by Lyme standards.  The excellent condition of the cellar plus the unusual foundation stones would support this later date, plus the fact that this farm would probably not be considered a prime location for early settlement.  If so, it was built after the end of the sheep craze of the early 19th century so most likely supported cows and not sheep.

Extensive stone walls can be found in the small valley just to the east of the house, and indeed a farm road appears to extend in that direction from the barn.  It is probably impossible to date the road, while additional grading and snowmobile trail signage point to its long-term continuous use.  In this area we found an enigmatic pit about the size of a well and a single brick (homemade?) but nothing that should be considered definitive.  There is also faint evidence of an access road from the west, as shown on the 1860 map.

The 1892 map shows us that access was now from the south, which is the current Appalachian Trail corridor.  Professor Goldthwait probably never visited the site, since it doesn’t show it at all on his 1926 working map.  (He did add it to his series of published maps though, because of its appearance on the 1860 and 1892 maps previously mentioned.)  The 1931 topo map of the area shows the access road but no existing structures, so it was probably abandoned sometime in the first decades of the 20th century.  Who knows?  Maybe the owner died in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-20, although I have absolutely no reason to suggest that was the case.  Interestingly, the topo map shows the area, especially extending eastward, to be cleared of trees.  Maybe some records in the county archives will shed more light on its abandonment.

There is also a large rusted Hood milk can lying on the ground very near the house site.  Although I would suppose that to be more modern than the suggested early 20th century abandonment date, maybe someday someone can determine the dates these cans first came into use and shed more light on this.  It does reinforce the notion that cows were raised and pastured here.  Of the other rusted metal objects, there are none that would contradict the hypothesized 1859-1919 occupation.

The southern access road itself, now the Appalachian Trail, does appear to have been well maintained throughout the 20th century.  Two additional features hint at the location’s continued use over time.  First is what appears to be a large rusted evaporating pan, suggesting maple sugaring operations.  Second is a large pile of rotted log ends, most likely the remains of a logging operation many years ago.  Maybe there are still some Lyme residents who can fill us in on that story.

Eventually the land was purchased for the permanent AT corridor.  If the area has ever been used as a campsite for trail hikers, there are no traces apparent of that use.  Other than the white blazes on the trees, all the signs of a human presence here date from much earlier.

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