A series of conflicts culminated in Shays leading a militia that closed down courts and marched on the government armory in Springfield. They were meet by a privately raised force, there were shots fired and fatalities. Despite honest grievances, things went badly for the rebellion which eventually fell apart. Shays and some of his followers, facing arrest and probable hanging, fled to shelter in the woods of the independent republic of Vermont.
Ah, but where in Vermont? Well, a great deal of evidence points to Egg Mountain. If you can't remember skiing or hiking on Egg Mountain there's a good reason. It's a privately owned, trail-less, relatively inaccessible peak that's around 2500 feet high. It's not in the iconic Green Mountains. Instead, it's part of the Taconic Range along the New York-Vermont border and there it gets overshadowed by higher mountains such as Bear, Mother Myrick and Equinox which rise just to its east. If you were to climb it, the most likely approach would be from near Salem in Washington County.
There's a confusing jumble of terrain between Salem and Manchester, Vermont that's both beckoning and also forbidding. It forms the eastern horizon from my fields so these ridges seem to be constantly taunting me to climb them. But the only public trails I'm aware of are the ones on the east slope of Mt. Equinox and the network that Merck Forest maintains above Rupert. For a great view of this rugged country climb up thru the sculpture park to the top of Cary Hill at the Salem Art Works.
Fortunately, Steven Butz does have photos and notes. Lot's of them. As he recounted at the lecture, he never forgot that early trip to the "Fort". Eventually he did some research and got permission to do archaeology. The Shays Settlement Project was born.
- For lots more photos and information on The Shays Settlement Project check out their facebook page.
- Butz wrote an article for the 2015 Washington County Historical Society Annual Journal entitled Shays' Rebellion Comes to New York. Get a copy at their Fort Edward headquarters or from their website.
- The Forest Land Group owns the land where the site is located. Butz says they have been great to work with, granting access and financially supporting the project. There are questions about who can visit the dig, what will happen to the artifacts found there and the ultimate fate of Shays' Settlement. Hopefully some of the discoveries will be displayed in the public spaces of surrounding communities - libraries or town halls in Salem, Sandgate and West Rupert. I'ld love to see a trail leading to the site and on to the summit of Egg Mountain. With interpretational signs this would be a valuable addition to the area's historical and recreational assets. Maybe someday, but for now remember that this is private property and a sensitive archaeological resource that shouldn't be disturbed.
- For those who want to learn more about archaeology in the Capital Region there's the Auringer Seelye Chapter of the New York State Archaeology Association. They have meetings and speakers at the Saratoga Library. Find out more here.
- The Courthouse Community Center on East Broadway hosted the lecture. It was one of several March History Talks. For researchers there are valuable Town of Salem archives here and at Bancroft Public Library. You can also connect with Town Historian Al Cormier thru them. The main hall functions as an art gallery with still lifes and landscapes by Virginia Lynn Anderson currently on exhibit. Very nice. Find out more about the Courthouse here.
This area marks a somewhat arbitrary boundary between the High Taconics to the east and the Low Taconics to the west. The Taconic Range was created by plate collisions that pushed large chunks of rock from the sea floor up onto the edge of ancient North America. The rock moved on thrust faults, sliding in gigantic slices one against another. The remnants of one of these thrust faults lies just east of Salem and is marked by a change from slatey rocks on the west side to more metamorphosed phyllites to the east. There's also a jump in elevation above the fault scarp.
- The theme song for this post has to be Volunteers by Jefferson Airplane. Google it and watch the live version from Woodstock. Idealism! Rock'n Roll! Grace Slick! If Shays' Rebellion had Volunteers for an anthem things might have turned out different. And if the next revolution is crushed as well, I know this little mountain near Salem where the volunteers could hide.