THE TORY DEN
WERE a stranger to ask me the way to the Tory Den I should tell him to seek out someone who had been there before and go with him. He could not find it alone. One hundred and thirty years ago, the patroits tried to find it and although they scoured the woods in bands, they failed utterly. So would you today, for the cave is a favored spot, open only to its friends. Those who were its friends then, always found it welcoming them, and so, I trust, may you learn to find it.
It lies in the Ledges, and is backed by a tall cliff, facing southeast toward Chippeny Hill, which an agile climber can scale in less than a minute. Ferns, and briers, and sweet smelling things that you will fail to recall the names of, grow over the entrance. Within, the impression is that of considerable length. Two lines of seven men could sit facing each other beneath the roofs of rock; three could stand upright where the rocks are highest. The quickest way for them to escape would be for the two southernmost men to turn to the south and, stooping, walk out; and for the one northernmost man to turn to the north and crawl out. The floor of the cave is dirt which washed down from the neighboring cliff.
Those who came to this haven of refuge and what they did beneath the rocks and ferns will never be known to history. There is no record nor sign. It is a tradition that Ruth Graves' oldest child was born there, but while it is possible that the father, Stephen Graves, was hiding there at the time of the child's birth, it is improbable that the cave was ever the refuge of women. As foot tracks would show in the snow, it is doubtful if it was occupied in the winter, and it is also doubtful if a fire was built there even in the day time, as the smoke might be seen by the Sons of Liberty. When the cave was in use, both entrances were so carefully hidden that it was never discovered, in spite of most careful search of the ledge above. The late Mr. John J. Welton thought there must have been an entrance partly underground, but nothing of the kind is now known.
The den was discovered on Thanksgiving day in the year 1838 by X. A. Welton, a grandson of Stephen Graves, and Bela A. Welton, boys of fourteen, who after hunting all day accidentally came upon the south and larger entrance.
Come! oh, rocks of the Ledges, and tell me who of the Tory clan came oftenest to the den. First of all there was Stephen Graves of Harwinton; and many a time did he run from his log cabin to hide himself beneath its moss grown roof. And many a time, doubtless, did the secret meeting of men that he was harboring adjourn thither post haste. His home was nearer to it than were any of the Chippeny Hill farmhouses, and therefore it is possible that it was he who discovered it in the first place. It was Ruth Graves, his young wife, who fed the men in the den. She carried the food from the house and left it for them on a flat rock near the edge of the woods, for she dared not risk betrayal by going nearer.
I wonder if there was anyone in the cave the night Joel Tuttle crawled into the entrance. The day before he hung by the neck from an oak tree on the Federal Hill Green at New Cambridge. Captain Thomas Hungerford, a patriot neighbor whose name later appears as a fellow churchman, cut him down, and he lay at the foot of the tree insensible until sometime in the night, when he so far revived as to be able to make his way to the cave in the Ledges, about four miles distant.
I wonder how many of the Tuttle family saw the inside of the cave. There was Simon Tuttle, an old man, and Daniel, his son. Daniel went openly over to the Tory forces, and his land and homestead were confiscated by the State of Connecticut and sold at public vendue. Ebenezer had a son born in January 1775, who was given the name Constant Loyal Tuttle. And there were the Carringtons, Lemuel and Riverius. The _arringtons always loved the old and delighted in saying so. Lemuel afterward kept a tavern on the Hill, and Lois, his sister, once heated a great kettle of water for the purpose of giving the patriot raiders a warm reception; but they did not come. That was almost too bad, for if she was a true Carrington she certainly would have thrown the water, and she lived to a ripe old age to tell about it. Then there was Captain Nathaniel Jones, an elderly sea captain who lived on the very summit of the Hill. He had a son, a captain of marines, in the home service, or rather thought he had, for he did not know that his son lay dead and buried, killed in his first battle for the preservation of the Union. It was the grand niece of Captain Jones who testified that the Tory hunters used to go about visiting cellars and pantries and destroying provisions, thus doing what they could to starve the women and children.
And there were the Mathewses, good folk of whom any community might be proud, who loved the church and were leaders in its services. I wonder if they were driven to the Ledges too. And the Jeromes--but they would enjoy such life more than the Mathewses.
Ruth Graves was a Jerome. She and her brothers, Zerubbabel Jr. and Chauncey, were the loyalist members of this adventuresome family. Chauncey was a young man and lived on Fall Mountain which rises far off on the southern horizon, as you look from the cliff. The den was a long way from his home, and had it not been for Jonathan Pond, his brother-in-law, he would once have suffered severely for that very free tongue of his. They caught him on the mountain and led him to an apple tree, with his shirt up over his head, then strung him up by his thumbs to a limb, his feet barely touching the ground. They selected a strong hickory rod and struck a terrific blow. Tradition says that a scar was left on the tree, where the rod came down. Athletic Chauncey Jerome had torn from his bonds with a leap, leaving his shirt hanging on the tree, and in his small clothes he ran like a deer down the mountain. He sought refuge in the house of Jonathan Pond, who stood gun in hand at the door and commanded the pursuers not to enter. Chauncey Jerome finally went to Nova Scotia to live until the war was over, and he outlived most of his contemporaries and always bore the name of Jerome the Tory. He was often to be seen in his old age walking toward Chippeny Hill, dignified, erect, and with a determined step, his strong, intelligent face surrounded with long white locks, cordial to those that he knew but turning quickly with a startled glance at the step of a stranger.
Another inmate of the den, maybe, was the man--name unknown--who lived in the first house east of the Waterbury line on the old road from what is now East Plymouth to New Cambridge. A band of Tory hunters stopped at his house once with a number of bound prisoners, of which he was one. When the only armed man of the squad, in order to get a drink at the well, left his gun leaning against the house, the housewife seized it, and, cutting the bonds of her husband, placed it in his hands. Then under his protection she released the bonds of the other prisoners. The most distinguished visitor to the den was Rev. James Nichols.