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Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Bittersweet Recollection

December 19, 1821. 

Harrison and Lucy Blake had taken employment in Hoosick as laborers, and were returning home to Marlboro, to celebrate Christmas with their family.  Traveling with them was their 13 (or 14) month old baby girl, Rebecca, who was one of 3 children. 

The three had stopped in Arlington to warm themselves and to inquire about the condition of the trail upon which they were about to embark, as several inches of snow had already fallen.  At around 1 p.m., on December 19th, after the horses had rested, and [most likely] ensuring that the sleigh was in good repair, they began to make their way over Kelly Stand Road.  The tavern owner had indicated that their 3 hour trip over the mountain to Wardsboro, should be through a good and safe road.   

As they ascended the mountain the snow continued to fall, and they eventually came to a place in the road where it appeared that only a single horse had ventured through before them.   The snow was now about a 3 feet deep, and Mr. Blake knew that he couldn't travel further using the sleigh, so he mounted Lucy and the babe upon the horse while he walked beside them. 

After they had made some distance the horse, exhausted, stubbornly refused to carry on.  It had stopped snowing and the immediate situation appeared grim.  One can imagine the bitter cold, the icy blowing wind and difficulty maneuvering through the deep snow. 

Harrison Blake persisted to venture forward ahead of his wife and child, and they agreed to shout to one another to keep in contact. At this time, Harrison gave his warm overcoat and mittens to his wife.  

Alone, surrounded by dark forest, and bitter cold, their progress was excruciatingly slow.   As Mr. Blake proceeded, he realized that he could not feel his feet, and knocked them against a tree only to learn that they were frozen, and so were his hands. He found a walking stick and later used the stick to aid his own body to drag it forward, but he became overwhelmed with fatigue.  He simply could not continue.

Mrs. Blake shouted to him if help could be expected and he returned that it was unlikely and they would probably die together.  Mrs. Blake could not find him, nor make her way to him, but they continued to yell to each another.  

It has been told that the Blakes were actually heard by a man who lived in the area, but did not wander out to help.  Another woman, who also lived close, did venture out, but the bitter cold forced back into the warmth of her home and thus, no one located them.  

Back in town, a Mr. Richardson had gone over the mountain in search of his father, as he had not returned as expected.  Word got back to the young Richardson that his father may be distress on the mountain.  So, he started up the mountain in search of his father.

He discovered Mr. Blake lying face-down, trying to shake the snow from his body.  As Richardson turned the man over, he heard him make a strange noise and he realized that was entirely delirious. Richardson rubbed him to get his blood moving, and gave him some liquor to warm him.  He then carried him to the closest house in the vicinity where he was given care for his frostbite and delirium.  Blake came to to tell Richardson that his wife and child were still on the mountain, so once again, he set out to find Mother and baby.

At this time, others volunteered to assist Richardson to find the two, and they eventually found Mrs. Blake (also lying on her face) about 700 feet away from where they had found Mr. Blake.  

Lucy was lifeless, expelling a few weak breaths and then passed away.  It is not known why Lucy and the baby had been separated - but, incredibly - the baby was discovered about a half mile from Mrs. Blake.  She had been wrapped in both Lucy's and Harrison's coats, as well as a blanket.  As they looked into the baby's face, it is said that she just smiled.  Only one little piggy (toe) had frostbite, and she was otherwise - miraculously - unscathed. 

Mr. Blake was not that lucky.  He ended up loosing all 4 toes except his big one on his left foot.  He was later transported (probably by sleigh) to his parent's home in Marlboro and continued to recuperate.  About a week later, after being cared for, little Rebecca was then brought to her grandparent's home.  

In the meantime, Lucy's body was brought to Marlboro and buried at Branch Cemetery in South Newfane.  

"The baby, Rebecca, grew up and married S. A. DeBroat.  The DeBroats lived out their latter years in Cleveland, Ohio. 

The father, Harrison Gray Blake, survived the tragic ordeal, but apparently his feet were badly crippled for he remainder of his life. Harrison Gray Blake was born November 14, 1778, and died in Cleveland, Ohio, in May 1868. He was buried in the Cleveland West Side Cemetery.

The Blakes had left two children at home on the day of the tragedy, Lucy and Harrison Blake, Jr.. Lucy married Ezra Dean of Marlboro and Harrison Jr. became a lawyer, banker and politician, settling in Medina, Ohio. Harrison Blake, Jr. went on to serve in Congress during the administrations of Presidents Buchanan and Lincoln." -The Historical Society of Strafford.

Lucy Blake, Consort of Harrison G. Blake, Perished on this Green Mountain, December 21, 1821

On the east side of the Kelly Stand Road, somewhere on that Green Mountain is a place called the "Seven Mile Woods".  For many years, a wooden marker was placed at the site where Lucy had bundled her babe, and perished from that tragic winter night.  It was later anonymously replaced by a small stone marker that is still there today.