The Fort Dummer Ford and Ferry Crossing

fort dummer meadow flood 1909

Photo from Brattleboro Historical Society: looking south on April 16, 1909, from a point on the abandoned road that climbs the bank from Chase’s Cascade on Venter’s Brook, below the “Cotton Mill”.

In this vintage photo, the Connecticut River is flooding the Hunt Farm (upper right) and Meadows, due to the construction of the Vernon Hydroelectric Dam, completed in 1909. On the far upper left you can see the ferry road (red arrow) that came down the bank on the Hinsdale (east) side of the river. The path is overgrown, but it is still there; as the leaves begin to fall you can find the trail and walk down to the now-abandoned Boston & Maine Railroad bed. The barn marked with the blue arrow still stands at the intersection of NH Rt. 119 and Old Brattleboro Road. The relocated Vernon Road (now VT Rt. 142)  – moved to accommodate the rising water level – is obvious in the mid ground with its parallel guard rails.

The ferry mentioned here (red arrow again) has, of course, much older stories attached to it. It crossed the Kwenitekw to the site of Fort Dummer on the west bank (later, the Brooks farm) near where the short trees can barely be seen (green arrow) projecting from the floodwaters, just beyond the railroad’s telegraph poles (yellow arrow). Fort Dummer (built in 1724 and pre-dating the ferry by decades) was strategically built here because it was a traditional fording place for Abenaki travellers and later by the soldiers and first settlers – of course, that’s why the trails led to this point. Those foot paths later became the first colonial roads – thus Old Brattleboro Road (blue arrow again). The cemetery used by the Fort Dummer garrison and early settlers lies just east of this intersection on a knoll to the north side of the road. The current NH Rt. 119 from this point south to the NH State Liquor Store is a relatively recent replacement route (this is the point where the Old Brattleboro Road rejoins its new counterpart).

Published by


The world is a big place. This is how it appears to me. Your results may differ.

2 thoughts on “The Fort Dummer Ford and Ferry Crossing”

  1. Rich, thanks for the is post. I am a like confused About perspective. It seems like route 142 from this vantages somehow crossing the river where exactly are we viewing this from That makes 142 look like that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you haven’t been to this vantage point, it can be a little confusing. As the caption suggests, this photo is taken looking south-southeast “from a point on the abandoned road that climbs the bank from Chase’s Cascade on Venter’s Brook, below the “Cotton Mill”. If you can mentally place yourself there, it makes complete sense other than the very high water. This is a view of the current setback at the base of Cotton Mill Hill Road, but you are viewing from partway up toward and behind the Cotton Mill itself (behind Cersosimo’s sawmill). The abandoned roadbed is still there and completely walkable, so you can find this spot even today.

      The Vermont Central Railroad (that we see nowadays as the NECRR) is completely flooded. The water level in this photo was unpredictably high because – although the Vernon dam had just been completed, and all the rights-of-way raised or moved to accommodate the impoundment – that year’s spring freshet overwhelmed the engineer’s estimate of containment. It was the first time the dam was holding water and they blew the calculations. I imagine they re-configured the gates after this, otherwise it would still be happening.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.