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Page Updated: 10/2/06







VALLEY FALLS

Near the southern boundary of the Town of Vernon, a picturesque, tumbling stream cascades down from the hills of Bolton, winding its way over boulders and around steep outcroppings of rocks to join the Tankerhoosen River. The area it drains is known as Valley Falls. Hills rise sharply on both sides of this hurrying river let, creating a storybook type of valley. This part of Vernon is located on the very edge of the Eastern Highlands of Connecticut where the land drops off quickly from an elevation of several hundred feet to the sandstone valley below which averages only forty feet above sea level.

In Colonial days a busy factory was located on the stream at the point of the greatest drop, for all mills were run by water power at that time. In 1740 Thomas Johns erected a sawmill just above the pond . In 1790 Joseph and Samuel Carver together with Zekiel Olcott of Bolton bought the mill and its water rights and transformed it into an oil mill. Here they pressed linseed oil from the seeds of the flax plant which was grown extensively for its- linen fiber. When cotton and wool fabrics made by machine took the place of homespun "linsey-woolsey", the mill was closed. During its last years it was converted into a grist mill andwas operated by Charles Lass. Its foundation can still be seen amid the undergrowth which has since grown up in the valley.

In 1849 the Hartford, Providence and Fishkill Railroad began to construct a line of tracks from Manchester to Willimantic. Railroads generally followed along the sides of streams but Valley Falls presented a different problem. Box Mountain rose sharply from the plain, hence a shelf or terrace for the tracks had to be carved out of the side of the hill making the stretch from Vernon to Bolton the most expensive part of the operation. To obtain a gradual ascent a huge mound of earth had to be up. This man-made hill covers the hundred and eight foot tunnel on Tunnel Road. In its day this was a great engineering feat, for all the work was done by hand with pickaxes and shovels and horse or ox drawn carts. Newly arrived immigrants from Ireland worked on this project. The sandstone blocks used in building the tunnel were cut and laid up in the form of thirty keystone arches. The surface of each block was textured with a hammer and chisel.

The first train passed over this route in 1850. It was a very precarious run for stones on the side of the mountain above the tracks were often jarred loose and fell down on the tracks. The Railroad Company employed a steady track walker to go over this section of track each time a train passed . It was a hard uphill pull for the heavy steam locomotives to get to Bolton Station, then called "Quarryville". At times the train seemed to just crawl along its shelf cut in the side of Box Mountain. Thus, Valley Falls became a "station" for hobos who could easily jump on to freight trains as they toiled along and in this way they got a free ride. Passengers riding the train from Willimantic to Vernon Depot got a thrill for at 301 ton the engineer would disengage the engine and let the train coast down through the valley at breakneck speed thoroughly frightening even the most composed of its riders.

One of the early Colonial homes along Valley Falls Road is located opposite the pond . In the late 1890's it was owned by Count Muncho, a Hungarian nobleman who lived the life of a gentleman farmer there. It was he who built the large, elaborate stable at the crest of the hill to house his fine horses. The interior walls are made of matched boards and its stable accessories are custom made.

The Count, some recall, was a tall, well-groomed man with a neatly trimmed Van Dyke beard, who sat up straight in the narrow carriage with a seat just wide enough for two, himself and his Great Dane dog. This turnout was drawn by a lovely dappled - grey horse. At times he rode his saddle horses along the trails through the woods nearby. The Count was responsible for bringing other Hungarian families to Vernon to work as masons, cooks and caretakers on his estate. Legend has it that he suddenly auctioned off all of his farm tools, sold his property and went to HolIywood where he became a successful movie producer.

Dr. Charles Beach acquired the little Colonial house at this time. It was used for many years as the home of the caretaker for the Beach estate. The stream and Valley Falls pond were also a part of the Beach property. Here the doctor's family fished and swam in summer and had ice cut on the pond in the winter. As the family grew up they built houses on the estate as well as a guest house close by the family mansion with its famous sunken rose garden. Horses, cows, chickens and a large vegetable garden occupied other parts of this estate. Several years ago this property was put up for sale. The town bought the pond and some of the surrounding land for a recreation area.

At this time Mr. and Mrs. Peter Darico obtained the Munchow stables and the Colonial house in the valley. Avid bell collectors, they have the old Springville Mill bell mounted in its cradle on the grounds in front of the stables and a bell from an old steam locomotive that may have echoed through the nearby hills a hundred years ago now stands by the stable door.


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