Half Hill (Ross’ Cliff)

A beautiful warm, sunny Sunday. I have wanted to write about Half Hill
for some time but thought that it would be great fun to actually walk up
and see for myself what it is like. So 5 of us went for a walk this
morning and it was well worth it. It is beautiful! And I will go again.
We have our old papers and the first time I saw an article about it was in the 24 May 1849 issue of our paper and it summed up very well why in the almost 49 years I have lived in this area and never visited it. “It’s very proximity perhaps leads you to think it of no consequence. We are too apt to think that “that which costs us little is worth little.”
There are a number of ways to climb it and the paths are there.
Trust me, at almost 71, I did not climb the face of it. But three of
us went around the outside path up to the top and it was really, really
neat. Two more adventuresome, younger folks, took another path that had
a bit more climbing over rocks. We “met in the middle” at the top.
I am glad we had the camera with us.
In this early newspaper article it says that they ascended it from
the west, so there must have been a different way back then. To quote
the article “You ascend gradually from the west until you have attained
a considerable elevation, and seem just to have reach the summit of the
hill, when of a sudden, with nothing to give you an idea of what is
before, you find yourself upon the brink of a precipice, nearly
perpendicular, deep as the base of the hill. In fact, the whole eastern
half of the hill seems by some tremendous convulsion to have been
removed. You look for it and see it not, for it is not, and in its
place is a low moist meadow, extending nearly to the base of the rock
upon which you stand, and flowing near the foot of the steep is a stream
affording a site for a small mill.”
We thought we had gotten to the highest point and waited for our
friends but then my hubby decided to walk further on a downward path and
it actually came to an even better vantage point. Seeing as I do not
like heights you will not get me to the huge rocks on the edge. But
there are places to sit on the rocks away from the edge and enjoy the
view. The description in the paper is thus: “The ledge extends about
three fourths of a mile, and in the highest part about two hundred fifty
feet in height-representing beautifully a transverse section of the hill.”
The article goes on to talk about the passage through the rock,
called the “Devil’s Cartpath.” This is an opening of the rock near the
highest part of the precipice affording a passage from below to the
summit, but few feet in width with the rock standing perpendicularly
upon each side. The “path” rises at perhaps an elevation of forty five
degrees, and of course requires considerable effort to ascend it.
In the 7 Sept. 1881 newspaper another article is written and
describes the scene at that time from the summit: “Looking down at our
feet everything seems diminutive. A tiny horse and carriage is hitched
to a bush whose trunk is really that of a lofty tree. These broad acres
are cut into such little squares! The cornfields are so meagre! The
farm-houses are pressed into such small, white spots on a cloth of green. ”
There are no fields or farm houses now. The woods have taken over
now. There is still a brook and the ponds are there.
To quote further: “We creep to the edge of the cliff and dare to
look over it down the abyss. And what a strange sight! There, perched
on an overhanging shelf of rock, half way down, are three owls, clinging
and hooting, and flapping their broad wings as they try to gaze with
round, full eyes at the invasion.”
Looks like they interrupted their shut-eye!!!
To quote further: “Our downward gaze now detects the silvery thread
of a brooklet that gurgles by, and on its banks the few remaining
weather-beaten timbers of a saw-mill, showing that activity once ruled
this quiet scene. There is the mill race and the large wooden shaft,
form which crop out the broken and rotted stumps of the floats of the
water-wheel, and at its end the cam, which changed the circular motion
of the wheel into the linear motion of the saw. But miller and mill
have done their work and passed down the stream forever.”
Then in the 16 Dec. 1891 newspaper is the story of The Rock Fall at
Half Hill. “A successful attempt was made on Monday to dislodge and
precipitate from the crest of the precipice of Half Hill a huge flat
rock that partially over-hung the cliff.”
Many families were gathered near “the flume” to watch this feat.
“The rock lay upon the verge of the cliff, which rises shear some
fifty feet from the slope that at a sharp angle falls thence to the bed
of the stream which formerly fed the wheel of ‘The Old Mill.” The rock
was some 20 feet 6 inch in width and 3 feet thick. They used
jack-screws and “these applied with mechanical purchase, the great slab
toppled over the brown of the precipice and landed wedge-wise out of
sight into the trees and rubbish. It was a great disappointment, as we
had hoped to see it bound, shivered and shivering in a great crash and
with the sound of thunder.”
But, wait, they were not done. The catastrophe should be had.
“Finding a ledge part way down the cliff where a shoulder of rock gave
opportunity for purchase by a jack-screw, Dr. Hyde was lowered with a
rope, and applied the force to push off what seemed the fact of the
cliff. He sat on a small, saddle-like projection which clinging to the
rope with one hand, (the rope that was tied to the jack-screw), he began
to open its invincible jaws. A block of some fifteen feet in length
started, and set free a drift of the ledge, yawning beneath and about
the dauntless engineer, who, clinging to his rope, seemed to see the
whole mountain going under his feet. White faces peered over the cliff
above, and nervy hands held the rope, expecting each moment to see the
Doctor hurled to destruction. But calm as in his office he sat and
surveyed the awful convulsion he had precipitated.”
It must have been something to see and hear as they go on: But of
the fearful crash! Tons of rock rolled away from the face of the
precipitous cliff and fell in solid mass, till striking, shivering,
splintering on the steep declivity below they poured an avalanche upon
rocks and trees, sweeping all before them, and leaving a desert of rock
behind; while far above rolled the smoke of the awful torment in the
clouds of dust.”
There are a lot of rocks at the base and there are more splintering
off with the freezing and thawing each year.
Most of these men involved in this attempt were business men,
doctors, and ministers. Dr. Hyde was a dentist.
The ladies in carriages below watched the goings on (but the horses
were taken out in event of the awful crash). Okay, save the horses,
and kill the ladies! Too funny!
There have been a number of people killed by falling from this
height. Hope you liked this story about Half Hill.

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