The town of Hartland is now the proud owner of the area known as Sumner’s Falls. I would encourage you to go visit this section of town along the Connecticut River. There is an interesting history connected to the area. Knowledge of this history should make your visit more satisfying. The first accounting comes from Wilbur Sturtevant – long time Town Clerk, store owner, and recorder of the town’s best stories. C.Y.M.
“Lumbering on the Connecticut River was carried on very extensively in the early days of the town. Just at the upper end of Sumner’s Falls, a dam twelve feet high stretched across the river, and a saw mill stood near it on the Vermont side.
“The big logs of first growth pine, four or five feet in diameter were floated down from points north and guided by a boom to the west side of the river and held there above the mill until wanted. Two men would go up the river in a boat and bring a log from the enclosure down to the mill where it was raised by means of a pulley on a big wheel run by power, to the saw mill, where it was sawed by gang- saws all in one operation. Then the men would go back and get another log. The manner of getting the log was simple. One man held the oars and managed the boat. The other, in the stern, threw a rope which had an iron pick in the end of it, with an iron “dog” attached to it so that the “dog”, which was a piece of iron bent like a hook, could be driven down into the log with an axe. When the log was secured, it was guided under the boom by the man in the stern, while the rower started the boat down-stream, towing the log behind it. It was necessary to watch carefully lest the upper end of the log should be carried out into the current. When that happened, the man in the stern had only to knock out the “dog” and then the log was allowed to float down and go over the dam where it was caught and held in the eddy, Then it was drawn up to the mill by oxen.
“Fred Freeman was one of the men who worked at this dangerous occupation and has told the story many times of his narrow escape from death. He and Harrison Hanchett went up from the mill to get a log from the boom. After it was secured they started on the return trip. Soon Freeman, who was at the oars, noticed that the log was getting out into the current and without turning his head said quietly,” Knock out the dog”. But Hanchett did not comply. So leaving the oars he went to the stern where Hanchett sat white and motionless and knocked out the dog himself. By that time they had drifted into swift water, and Mr. Sumner, watching from the shore, said to himself that that was the last they’d ever see of Hanchett and Freeman. But Freeman, with intrepid courage and great strength, soon guided the boat to safety, while his companion, petrified with terror, was unable to lift a finger.
“Adam Crandall was one of the early settlers and a Revolutionary War soldier. His son Aaron W. was the father of Aaron Crandall who the present generation remembers. The first Aaron was a blacksmith and had a shop and house on the “Plain”, nearly opposite the road that leads to the “Falls”. He was also a lumberman and teamster. When the river was high was the best time to make rafts of the logs and float great loads of lumber – tons of it at a time, and take it down the river to Middletown. At night it was the custom to tie the raft to trees on the bank, and camp there until morning, with a rope at each end of the raft. One time when Mr. Crandall was “helping” do this difficult task of “snubbing” the raft, as it was called, he inadvertently stepped into one of the coils of the rope which lay along the bank, and as the swift current bore the raft along, snapping the rope taut, his leg was instantly cut off, as with a pair of shears, and hurled forty feet into the bushes.
“The blacksmith shop was moved in later years, taken down and hauled, one side at a time, to the farm on the Quechee Road where it was again set up and used for some purpose.”
Reprinted from the Hartland Historical Society Newsletter, Spring 2012.