MEMORIES OF BOLTON LODGE
as told by Rick Krause
(Published in the Bolton Community News, October 1996)
A mile north of Bolton Notch and just a few yards from the old railroad bed, stands a lonely pavilion overgrown with brush and trees. On this spot a century ago stood a private hunting and fishing lodge prized by its members for the bounty of its surrounding woodlands.
Bolton Lodge, as it came to be known, is believed to have been built in the mid-1800s. In April 1882 the lodge and 50 acres were sold to a group of New York railroad executives as a private retreat. With its towering cliffs and majestic hemlock trees, and the addition of a fishing pond built next to the lodge, the site was a sportsman's dream.
Over time the club became inactive, until in 1930 it was purchased by Goodwin Beach. He continued to use the lodge as a clubhouse, with members coming from the Hartford area. Beach hired as caretaker a Vermont native named George Shedd. As an engineer on the New Haven Railroad, Shedd had for years driven steam locomotives past the clubhouse.
Rick Krause, Shedd's grandson, remembers the lodge as "The Red House." A large front room with a fireplace was reserved for club members, each of whom had his own wooden locker where he kept his fishing and hunting equipment. Above the large stone fireplace hung an old, smoke-blackened painting of two Indian birch-bark canoes pulled up along the shore of a stream. A narrow stairway led to three bedrooms under a gambrel roof. In the attic, mice and flying squirrels took up permanent residency.
Krause has especially fond memories of the lodge's spacious porch, which overlooked the fishing pond just a stone's throw away.
The lodge never had electricity and even in the 1950s and 60s, when Krause lived there during the summers, kerosene lamps were used. A hand pump in the kitchen and another outside the back door provided water. The outhouse, a "two-holer," was located by the brook. Krause recollects a Sears Roebuck catalog was always kept there for "casual setters."
Krause's grandfather "loved manual labor," he recalls, "and built a dam at the clubhouse pond from railroad ties. After the hurricane of 1938 washed out the pond, he built a cement spillway a few yards west of the dam to handle any future overflows. A stone pier jutted out into the pond on the west side near the lodge, and there on many summer nights my grandfather would sit with his long bamboo pole fishing for bullhead. The pond was loaded with them."
The fishing pond's water supply came from Notch Pond a mile away. The brook leading out of the pond ended up at what is today Valley Falls Park in Vernon, in Rick Krause's younger days the best place to hunt rabbits. "For us," he remembers, "it was shoot and run, because Mr. Beach, who owned the property then, would soon be speeding down the hill in his Willys Jeep. But we'd be long gone, toting my grandfather's 12-gauge Long Tom."
In 1944 Shedd purchased the property. Over the years the lodge became a cherished spot for the Shedd and Krause families and their friends, who came there for picnics and reunions. A summer day saw children playing croquet on the front lawn as others explored the pond's edge for frogs.
Shedd kept in touch with his fellow engineers on the railroad through a game of his invention. He set a small peach basket on the ground just a few feet away from the tracks. Each day as the train rolled past, the engineers would toss the day's newspaper, rolled up and tied with twine, at the basket. It was not an easy shot and they nearly always missed. Krause recalls one day, though, when he went to get the paper and found it had hit the bull's-eye.
When George Shedd died in 1958 the next generation took up the maintenance of Bolton Lodge. It became the permanent summer home of the Krause children and a special place to escape the heat of nearby Manchester. In the winter of 1968 Rick Krause was in the Navy, stationed in Sicily, when he got the heart-wrenching news from home that the lodge was gone. Because of its isolated location, no one had seen the fire that burned it to the ground.
The summer after the fire Krause's brother Brian, the only grandson living in the area, began constructing a shelter where the lodge once stood. When he died a few years later at age 34, there was no one to finish the work. Nature has reclaimed the spot now; the railroad tracks are gone and no trace of the pond remains.
When Rick Krause reminisces on his youthful days at the lodge, he has one very special memory. "Each summer night I'd go to bed around 8:30 and lie there with one ear cocked toward the ceiling, listening for that first faint sound. Then around 9 o'clock I'd see a light cast high on the wall at the foot of my bed. It grew brighter and brighter. A slight rumble grew louder and louder until the house began to shake and the night freight roared past. Then I'd listen carefully, very intently, as the sound grew softer and softer and softer until all was quiet again. Only then was it time to fall asleep."
Drawing of Bolton Lodge by Rick Krause from a photo he took
of the place just a year before it burned.