I am often asked, “Ray, how do you come up with ideas for your explorations and road-trips?” Well, blame it on my insatiable curiosity, and fast moving need to learn something else from something new I just learned. And, fast moving Googling fingers help. Make sense? Today started from touring a Guilford cemetery October 2nd that piqued my interest to learn about early burial grounds. Knowing this, a friend then sent me a NY Times book review of OVER MY DEAD BODY, by Greg Melville, published October 4, 2022. I immediately placed my order for the book. Strange as it may sound, I often first look at a book’s source notes and bibliography. That led to my purchase of three more books on early cemeteries and funeral practices that are within arms reach as I am writing this.
Pages 112-114 in DEATH IN EARLY AMERICA by Margaret M. Coffin relates the story of John Bowman, who returning to his native Vermont, built a massive mausoleum with a larger than life stature of himself on the steps. Across the street (now Route 103 in Cuttingsville) he built a mansion. You also have probably been curious about the impressive home when driving by to Rutland. For background you may enjoy reading about this spot on the Shrewsbury, Vermont Historical Society site, Roadside America, or on Atlas Obscura.
In preparation to visit Mr. Bowman, I played with Google Maps. As you enlarge a section road names appear, and names of area features or attractions that have probably been “mined” by search engines and added. WOW – I found Old Turnpike Road, Shunpike Road, a covered bridge I did not know about, a Grist Mill, and a suspension bridge across a gorge. Well, here we go to Rutland, basically a round trip taking a tad over two hours, I had about eight hours of fun “shunpiking.” This adventure starts on Route 103 north of Ludlow, and from my subsequent reading I will be back in BB1 or BB2 in the spring to explore (and re-explore): Hortonville, Shrewsbury, North Shrewsbury, Mount Holly, Cuttingsville, East Wallingford, Tarbelville and Belmont.
Vermont’s Green Mountain Turnpike (built 1799 to 1833) running from Bellows Falls to Clarendon basically ran the route of today’s Route 103. So much more to learn about the turnpike’s connections, even running through Drewsville to Boston. My enlarged Google Maps lead me to:
and then to
which is one of the best dirt roads I have travelled on, better than many paved roads. I don’t think these trees date to 1799, but certainly add to the fun of this road.
but the reason for today’s trip was to see Bowman’s mausoleum which is on a downhill curve as you enter Cuttingsville. You have probably also missed it focusing instead at his mansion across the street (or the road).
Nineteenth century tanning magnate John Porter Bowman, “… commissioned an architect, stoneworkers, and a renowned sculptor to create his vision of post-mortem devotion, expending 750 tons of granite, 50 tons of marble, and $75,000 (over a million in today’s dollars). Inside, there are sculpted busts of the deceased, ornate stonework around the crypts, and mirrors positioned to make the room seem larger than it really is.” When I stopped the statue of Bowman is covered with a box, and the doors also covered. I found this YouTube video which you may enjoy — This Place in History: Laurel Hall and Laurel Glen Mausoleum. I knew the son of the owner of the bookshop mentioned that was here – somewhere I have the booklet he wrote about it.
Cuttingsville is part of Shrewsbury, and here is another end of Shunpike Road, just past the library on a side road off Route 103.
Continuing to Rutland, a careful examination on Google Maps had shown me more “new things.” A covered bridge and grist mill complex I did not know about, and just past the second crossing of the railroad tracks after Cuttingsville, to the left is the Clarendon Gorge Appalachian Trailhead (Long Trail) and the Bob Brugmann Suspension Bridge. I had to hike (safely walk) to see that.
and from the center of the span looking west down Mill River.
Trust you know there is an airport in south Rutland. Continuing there, turn left on Airport Road (if you see the East Clarendon train station you went a tad too far). Round a bend, and in a short ways turn left again onto Gorge Road to find the Kingsley Covered Bridge.
just before the bridge coming down the hill is the Grist Mill complex, but hard to get clear photos of. Turned into an Air BnB, I would love to stay there (since mills have been a fascination of mine, and my bookshop in Connecticut was in one). You may want to see interior views from their website, but here is an external painting on their site.
and below, what images I could get. First looking up Mill River from the bridge to the complex, and the complex as seen coming down Gorge Road. I then followed Gorge Road until it ends on US Route 7 below the airport.
It was then some antiquing in Rutland (sadly making no trades of cash for goods), lunch, and the Amtrak station where the Ethan Allen Express terminates.
I had decided to take back routes home that I had not been on in awhile, and not with leaves off trees. It was down to Clarendon Springs, Tinmouth, Wallingford, crossing US Route 7 to East Wallingford, then down Route 155 towards Weston, over the hill and through Andover to Chester. The back roads I traveled on the west side of US Route 7 afforded wonderful, not often seen views of the Green Mountains to the east. You should slowly tour those roads, yes, some are dirt. Once in Chester I did get to buy two more little early bottle brush trees that I have now with miniature “Camp 44.” Have to count my collection, now over 100.
If I were younger, and it were not so relatively isolated, I would love to purchase and restore the Clarendon Springs hotel and adjoining General Store. Well, I can dream, it was again fun to visit, first time since my July 2018 visit. Remember you can click my “galleries” for larger sized images.
Did I say I had a fun rejuvenating and educational day out? And, also plans for some additional area back road exploration in the spring. I recommend you explore this area as well, even the Mount Holly Historical Museum to see the Mammoth Tooth & Tusk. And, working on this conclusion, I was reminded of my visit in July 2018, to Belmont in Mount Holly as well. I can enjoy traveling just looking at my past writings, but yes, do need to hit the roads and smell the air again.
Stay safe and well, and start researching and planning your SHUNPIKING ADVENTURES – as always, yours, RAY
I remember seeing the statue of Mr. Bowman on the steps of his mausoleum many years ago, but I didn’t see him in your photo. Do they take him inside for the winter?
this is a metal box over his statue – obviously for protection from the winter weather. Cannot wait to get back and see the statue – obviously a “selfie with Bowman” opportunity. RAY
Hi Ray, Amtrak’s Ethan Allen train now extends north from Rutland to Middlebury, Vergennes, and then downtown Burlington. This new extension was just added this summer. I think they have been getting good ridership!
Greetings Ray, My father had a book, “The American Way of Death,” I believe about the funeral customs and practices in the United States. I don’t know if I still have it or it was one I sold to you. I found the sculpture of the steam locomotive interesting. I just returned from a trip to Sacramento to see the California State Railroad Museum. Fabulous! They have the last remaining cab-forward Southern Pacific steam locomotive. It’s a behemoth. The oil-fired cab-forwards placed the engineer and fireman forward of the smokestack so they wouldn’t be asphyxiated traversing the long tunnels through the Sierra Nevada mountains. Happy Thanksgiving, George
Hi, The scenes are deep in nature and brilliant. I love the Kingsley covered bridge photo. It beckons…”. enter and follow me”. I wish you could revive the grand hotel in Claredon . Just imagine how busy and important that place was in her haydays. Couldn’t help the mention of the book ….Death in Early America by Margaret M. Coffin. What a intrinsic name. Meanwhile… nothing but more blue sky and Merry Christmas. Tom
Thank you, Tom, for looking and commenting. I totally missed the irony of Coffin writing about death. She also over the years wrote many books on antiques. Good catch – hey, you need a project? lets see if we can get that old hotel together, it is amazing – RAY