Densmore Hill Wildlife Management Area

General Description
Densmore Hill WMA is open to regulated hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing. A 252-acre parcel owned by the State of Vermont and managed by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, it is bordered by Morley Road on the west and by Cady Brook on the southwest in the town of Hartland.
There is no specified parking area for this WMA. Please be careful if you park along Morley Road. Try to get completely off the road surface.
During the mid-1800’s, the land comprising Densmore Hill WMA was owned by Isaac Cobb and Alvin Dutton. Sullivan Cady purchased 140 acres from Alvin Dutton in 1845. In 1878, Cady’s sons became owners of the land, and then went on to buy the Cobb parcel as well as the adjoining Kendall Farm. The Cady’s homestead was located just south of the beaver flowage. They were subsistence farmers who cleared much of the land in order to pasture sheep. Stone walls criss-crossing the WMA are evidence of this past land use. Attempts to maintain the open fields were abandoned in the late 1940’s. Since then, most of the WMA has reverted to forest.

The farm was sold to the McEwen family in 1940. Three McEwen heirs eventually sold the property to Elizabeth and William Peabody, and in 1976, The Nature Conservancy acquired 252 acres from the Peabodys. The parcel was then deeded to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department by The Nature Conservancy in April, 1977 and became the  Densmore Hill Wildlife Management Area.
The old road adjacent to Cady Brook, once called the Old County Road, was the direct stage route from Windsor to Woodstock.

Habitat Features

Ranging in elevation from 1,249 feet to 1,548 feet, the parcel’s terrain is rugged, sloping steeply up to the north and east from Cady Brook to a ridgeline that runs northwest to
southeast. The land slopes more gently from the top of the ridge down to a hollow containing two drainages. From there it climbs steeply again to the highest elevation on Scott Hill.

Cady Brook flows along the western and southern boundaries of the WMA, and a beaver pond can be found at the southwestern corner.

Significant natural communities occurring on Densmore Hill WMA include a dry oak–hickory hop hornbeam forest and two seeps.

Common Fish and Wildlife
Mammals: Snowshoe hare and beaver live out their entire lives on portions of the WMA. Fisher, fox, otter, coyote and deer also use the property. Because of their wide ranging habits, however, they are not confined there.
Birds: Densmore Hill WMA is home to a wide variety of birds. Ruffed grouse, turkey and woodcock are present. Herons and mallard ducks frequent the beaver flowage. Typical northern hardwood species of songbirds such as ovenbirds, black and white warblers, vireos, pheobes, chickadees, nuthatches, and downy and hairy woodpeckers can be seen and heard. Red-winged blackbirds and Baltimore orioles nest near the beaver flowage.
Reptiles and Amphibians: Painted, wood and snapping turtles may be found, as well as green and wood frogs and spring peepers. Red spotted (newts), northern two-lined, spotted and red-backed salamanders are also likely inhabitants.
Fish: Native brook trout and minnows inhabit Cady Brook and the beaver pond.

Link to map of <a href=””>Densmore Hill Wildlife Management Area

Extracted from brochure by the State of Vermont Department of Forests Parks & Recreation, who owns the copyright for this article.

Public Shooting Range Opens in Hartland – November 7, 2012

A new fully-accessible public shooting range is now open, according to an announcement from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

The Hammond Cove Shooting Range in Hartland is a true milestone for the state’s hunters and shooters. Originally purchased in the late 1960’s, the site had long been popular with shooters from both sides of the Connecticut River, and it now boasts a state-owned shooting range designed solely for public shooting.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of this facility to Vermont’s hunters and shooters, and to the future of our hunting heritage,” said Vermont Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry. “It’s also hard to overstate the importance of the National Rifle Association and the Hartland Fish and Game Club in helping to make this range a reality.”

The upgrades include a covered, six-port 100-yard rifle range with 20-foot side berms and a 60-foot plus high backstop. Public range use is free. Range rules are posted at the site.

“And there’s still time to get some extra practice in before the upcoming November rifle and December muzzleloading deer seasons,” said Berry.

Funds used to improve this site were provided by a National Rifle Association Public Range Grant that was used to match Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act funds. Also known as Pittman-Robertson, this money is generated through a dedicated excise tax on sporting guns and ammunition. Hartland Fish and Game Club members will act as the range stewards.

Hammond Cove is a key part of a larger department initiative to improve access to public shooting ranges in Vermont. The department has two limited use ranges at its Green Mountain Conservation Camp facilities.

Fairview Farm

From “History and Anniversary of Hartland (1913)”:

Among the fine mansions is “Fairview,” once the home of Lieut. Gov. Spooner and later of Judge Cutts, now owned by the Elisha Gates and Charles C. Gates families. From its verandah, seven towns can be seen across the valley of the Connecticut River.

It was built in the late 1700’s. It operated as a guest house in the late 1800’s before it reverted to a residence.

Fairview Farm

Fairview Farm


1897 Receiving Vault Repaired

Hartland Village Cemetery, Hartland, VT, May 2013

Article originally appeared in the Vermont Old Cemetery Association website. Used with their permission.   Supplemental information added.

The 1897 Receiving Vault in the Hartland Village Cemetery, Hartland, Vermont sustained damage when a tree limb went thru the slate roof. Volunteers Richard Brousseau, cemetery sexton and Dick Belisle, cemetery mower repaired the roof this spring at no cost to the Hartland Village Cemetery Association. Both are directors of the non-profit association which owns and operates the cemetery located in Three Corners, Vermont. Thanks to them, this repair will ensure the building will survive for many more years to come! Whit Mowrey, VOCA Assistant Treasurer and Footstone, spearheaded the project.

A receiving vault or receiving tomb is a structure designed to temporarily store the bodies of deceased persons in winter months when the ground is too frozen to dig a permanent grave in a cemetery.







North Hartland Post Office

This was the North Hartland Post Office prior to being moved to the former Store Building. Bertha Fitzgerald was the postmistress and the office was in the ell of her house.

North Hartland Post Office

Harlow Brook Farm Barn Restoration – North Hartland

Reprinted with permission from the Knobb Hill Joinery website.


Barn before restoration

Matt Dunne and Sarah Stewart Taylor of Harlow Brook Farm, a beautiful Federal era homestead in North Hartland, VT, received a state barn grant to restore an early square ruled barn on their property.  Their thirty-seven  by twenty-six foot barn features English tying joints with flared posts.  The large timbers were mixed softwoods, mostly pine.  The braces and other scantlings were hardwood, mostly oak.  The plates and tie beams feature a boarding groove.  The drive girts in this barn are set in from the traditional drive reference to catch the pegged planks in the drive.  The stanchion bay of this barn has no joists but was  clear-spanned with three inch thick pine planks, some of which measured up to thirty inches in width.

When the project first began, the lowest post in the barn was more than fourteen inches below the highest post elevation.  The highest post in the barn was resting on its stub tenon directly on the stone foundation.  With the stub tenon being nearly three inches long and the sill timbers being nine inches in height, we determined that the post with the highest elevation was at least six inches low.  Needing to clear the stub tenon when installing the new sills, we lifted the highest post to one inch above the height needed to clear the stub tenon with a nine-inch sill timber and stoned up to this finish height.  This means that the lowest post was lifted a full two feet to the final resting height.

The entire sill system was replaced.  Many of the original timbers were gone altogether while what remained was largely buried in the dirt with severe rot.  One section of the rear sill that was still on the stone foundation was reincorporated into the new sill system as a summer girt in the drive.  The nine-inch by nine-inch timbers for the sill system were replaced with bandsaw milled hemlock from a local sawyer.    The original joists in the drive were log joists with only their tops hewn.  The original joists had significant rot and were replaced with joists from timbers felled and hewn on the site.

The stone foundation had settled into the ground on the side of the barn toward the road.  We excavated these stones and removed the loose soil and rotten wood along the front of the barn.  We added crushed stone to the excavated trench before relaying the stone foundation.  Much of the stone in the original foundation was round and had contributed to the sills slipping past.  Although we did reuse all of the stone from the original foundation, we added two pallets of flatter stone from a local supplier in order to provide more stable support at the load-bearing points and make up the difference in height.

Two corner posts were replaced entirely. One corner post had severe rot at the top, another corner post was hollow due to carpenter ant infestation.  All but three of the remaining posts required new post feet.  The repair stock for the posts and feet were white pine to match the original post species.  All of the post feet repairs were conventional bladed scarf joints with tables ranging from eighteen inches to two feet.  All of the original braces and girts were able to be saved.  Three of the braces required a new tenon at one end and one other brace required both a new tenon and shoulder.  The repairs for the braces were also standard bladed scarf joints.  The white oak repair stock for the braces was left over from the Willard twin bridge reconstruction a few miles down the road.  The brace repairs were pegged with handmade pegs and wedges.

One of the middle girts on the gable  required a free tenon and partial shoulder repair.  This repair was made from white oak from the old decking of the Big Eddy covered bridge in Waitsfield,VT.  The upper girt directly above the repaired middle girt required a new tenon.  The softwood for this repair was recycled from materials on site.

One of the plate and tie beam junctions  had severe rot, but fortunately good wood was found within a few feet of the corner.  New ends were scarfed on to both the plate and the tie.  These repairs were done in pine to match the original materials.  Both of these repairs were bladed scarves with a wedged sheer key added to the table of the tie scarf.

One stud on the gable toward the house required a new foot.  The two studs centered on the drive opposite the main doors  were re-fabricated to fit original mortise positions.  When we first began, these two studs had been moved.  The tenons were gone and there was rot at the bases of both studs.  The stud for the small door in the mow had been removed long ago.  We fabricated a new stud for this location.  A new stud and accompanying girt were also fabricated for the small door in the stanchion on the road-side of the barn.  This doorway was not an original feature of the barn but had been made long before this restoration project.  This was the only stud not to be mortised in.  All of the new door studs are made of local red oak and reduced at the tennons with an adze to match the remaining studs in the barn.

Four out of five of the studs in the stanchion bay were gone and two of the studs were missing from the mow side of the drive.  All of the missing studs were re-made using existing materials on site.

The most of the three-inch thick decking in the stanchion bay was too rotten at the ends to consider reusing to clear span as they had originally.  These original planks are tagged, stacked and stickered in an adjacent barn to be placed in the mow bay at a later date.  The original stanchion planks will fit neatly with the joist spacing in the mow bay with only the ragged ends needing to be trimmed.  The clear span configuration in the stanchion bay has been kept and decked with new, three-inch thick planks.  Ten feet of the original decking in the drive bay was able to be reused.  The two-inch decking in the drive bay was elevated with furring strips, as it had been, to match the three-inch height of the stanchion bay decking.  The drive bay decking is pegged at the log joists and spiked at the sill girts as they had been before.

In spite of the challenge, we managed to re-sheathe the barn with existing materials at the site.  Most of the siding runs continuously from the boarding groove to the lower girt with short sections of siding running from the lower girt to the sill.  We used all of the original wrought nails available to put the siding back on.  The rest of the nails were cut, no wire nails were used in the siding.

The sliding doors on the front of the barn were put back with the existing hardware.  The bottoms of the doors had rotten and hung a bit short of the drive.  We cut a level line across the bottoms of these doors and added a horizontal base with new battens on the backs of the doors.  A few of the boards on the doors were missing and replaced with left over siding material.  The small door on the front of the barn was rebuilt with materials from the original small doors.  The three small doors on the back of the barn were built with new materials.  The batten height of each door is set to match the notches found in the posts adjacent to where they are hung.  We had recovered four strap hinges and four pintles from the barn.  We had the strap hinges hammered back into shape by a blacksmith in Marshfield.  We purchased four more strap hinges of the same era and had a blacksmith in Woodbury make new custom pintles for the four purchased strap hinges.

It was a great privilege for Seth and I to save such early example of scribe rule framing.





Sumners Falls and Lumbering

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.

Lumberman's dog. The hooks were either connected with chain, like this one, or a solid bar, for holding logs together.
Lumberman’s dog. The hooks were either connected with chain, like this one, or a solid bar, for holding logs together.

“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.

Drowning at Sumner’s Falls 1895 (1) – Charles Barber

“An interesting bit of history came to light in connection with the death of a riverman many years ago at Sumner’s Falls in the Connecticut River, near this town.  “Mr. J.G. Underwood, who heard the story in a hotel in Groveton, a small town in northern New Hampshire, tells it as follows.
“As we sat talking, one of my acquaintances asked me where I was living now. When I told him Hartland, an old man who sat near us said “Isn’t there a Falls in the river there? I buried a man there.”

“When asked how it happened, he explained. “It was in 1874. (The stone clearly says 1895. C.Y.M.) I had charge of the rear of the drive. One of our men went into the water near Wilder.”  “This was a characteristic expression meaning that he fell into the water and was drowned.

“Several days later the body was found at the Falls in Hartland. They sent for me. His name was Barber, a nice boy, —Fred, I think they called him, but he was a fine boy. I tied the body to a tree and sent for the selectmen. But the authorities wouldn’t let the boy be buried in their cemetery, and the minister wouldn’t even come and say a few words over him. Some people in those days didn’t think much of river men. Course, we had some that were tough sometimes, but as a general thing we were a pretty good sort of folks.”
“The narrator went on: “The boy’s father came down. He was a hard man, a mean man. The boys had chipped in, two dollars apiece, to buy the boy a casket. When the father asked how much pay was coming to him I passed the word around to the boys and we all took back our two dollars, so that the father wouldn’t get it himself. We bought the casket afterwards, but the father didn’t want any casket, and wouldn’t even pay for taking the body home. So we buried the boy where he was, on high ground near the river bank. We put stones over the casket first, before filling in with dirt. I have visited the grave a number of times since and kept it in repair.”  “When was the last time you visited it?” he was asked. “Let’s see. I’m seventy-six now. I was forty-eight then. How many does that make?” Twenty-eight, he was told.

“Yes, twenty-eight years ago. Is the grave still there?” He was assured that it was, and in
good condition.

“We put up a stone and marked it.” He said, “Is it still there?” He seemed gratified that the stone was still there after so many years. “The speaker is a fine looking old man. Strong and well preserved.
“As for the boy’s name, it was found to be Charlie, not Fred and old residents remember the circumstances well. They also tell of several Hartland men who were expert river men in former times, among whom were Fred Freeman and Milton Short. It was a job which called for quick thinking, good judgment, strength and courage.”

Extracted from the Spring 2012 Hartland Historical Society Newsletter. Another published version of this story is here.