Factory Hollow isn’t a high profile place anyone would go to investigate the paranormal, but don’t let that benign facade fool you….. where there are cellar holes and lone standing chimneys – there’s a story.
In 1796 a small village sprang up along the Blackledge River in the towns of Hebron and Bolton CT. It seems Hartford, at the time, was home to a number of both Methodists and Congregationalists who couldn’t get along with one another. The contention was over booze – the Methodist Church members out-drank the Congregational Church members and the latter assumed an ‘holier than thou’ attitude against them. Tired of the dissension, Pastor Elijah Andrus led his people out of Hartford to a secluded spot of their own south of the city in what is now Tolland County.
About 25 families followed Andrus. John Gay was one of the founding fathers of the settlement as were most of his family members. Andrus left the group after about four years for unknown reasons and Pastor Henry Sumner took over ministerial duties. He also brought a lot of family with him.
In an effort to sustain themselves, the group built a sawmill. Lumber was needed for homes and workplaces and contributed to the village’s economy. It was also beneficial in building the distillery that kept residents content. But, that really wasn’t the case.
A large part of daily life in this community consisted in drinking. Even the twice-weekly mandatory church attendance was a venue for imbibing in one’s favorite quaff. Ultimately, as it can turn out, many fights ensued, vulgar language was common, and any culture that had existed soon degenerated.
The little community witnessed two murders, but no one was ever accused of the crimes. A frequent peddler made his last stop in Furnace Hollow. He was relieved of his wares and money. His body was found in a charcoal burning pit – not quite cooked. And although the village charcoal-burner was investigated, no charges were ever brought against him.
Maybe seeing that homicide was tolerated in town, the blacksmith who became overly angry with his quite young apprentice for being a little late one morning decided to slice him up. Not only did the boy die – he was beheaded. This horrendous act also went unpunished.
Having had enough, many people started leaving the hamlet. The Civil War was also on-going and many men and boys from Factory Hollow went off to war and died on the battlefields reducing the population even further.
Over the years, the lumber mill burned down, a woolen mill replaced it which a few years later also went up in smoke. A third mill, a paper factory, wasn’t a charm, either – it also ended in ashes. After about 80 years the small community that could – couldn’t.
Factory Hollow is now known as Gay City State Park and sits along Rt. 85 where Hebron meets Bolton. It’s named after the Gay family who founded the area. Old cellar holes, lonely chimneys, stone foundations, the burned rock structure where so many fires took place, a wheel pit that held the overshot water wheel, and stone walls once used for gardens and pastures all remain to tell the tale of what was. There’s even a small cemetery. And – there are unsettling vibes and hauntings.
While during the day hiking trails, Still Pond swimming beach, and remains of the community seem calm and quiet, once the hint of dusk starts – old residents wake up.
Over the years – and still happening, many people report hearing disembodied voices that sound like townsfolk are still enjoying their inebriation. Orbs have been seen and shadowy wisps of shades meandering through the trees are witnessed. Near the area of the old charcoal pit a ghostly figure has been spotted. Perhaps it’s the old peddler wanting his killer to be brought to justice. Some people have noticed a boy running through the woods holding his head in his hands.
This place has a distinct feeling of heaviness. Wherever you go, you are being watched. You can hear rustling through the brush where no one is walking. Something is moving and you catch a glimpse out the corner of your eye. The breeze seems to murmur. And dark figures definitely walk among the trees.
Furnace Hollow or Gay City, if you prefer, may be abandoned, but it still lives on.