South Windham – The Golden Corner – Introduction
“…Nothing Gold Can Stay” Robert Frost
When I grew up in town, South Windham, the part that borders Salem and Pelham, was a pretty uncharted place, especially the empty wilderness along Marblehead Road and on top of Castle Hill. A few people discovered the quiet solitude of Rock Pond, or made a visit to Moeckel’s Grove, but many didn’t even know any of it was there. It wasn’t until the Tokanels and Red Lamson began developing Shady Brook Park, that the area began to be rediscovered. I began pouring over the family histories in the area in order to find more information about Robert Smith, and his slaves; Raphael Smith, Peter Smith and “Old Rif.” People should have paid more attention to “Old Rif” because in ancient times this end of town did seem bewitched or maybe it was just the copious amounts of rum that flowed through every important and sundry occasion in early Windham. Then again, maybe this was related to the slaughter of the young boy, John Gregg, by Native Americans on Golden Brook that let loose the juju or was the result of it. He remains buried there still. Finally, there is the deeply evocative Deer Leap with it many exotic, bizarre and massive stone outcroppings, which may just be some kind of undiscovered spiritual vortex. Many strange and terrifying events happened in this section of Windham back in the day. In the 18th and 19th century this was a vibrant community made up of the many Smiths, Simpsons, Emersons, Woodburys, Smileys, Corlisses, Fletchers and others whose lives intertwined through marriage and other connections. They had kith and kin in that adjacent section of Salem, reached by Spear Hill Road, that was removed from Windham in 1752.
The photograph above from 1910, shows Simpson’s Pond where it is crossed by Simpson Causeway. It is important to know this site because Morrison uses it repeatedly as a landmark in the area. Simpson Pond at the time was adjacent to Golden Pond. There was the neighborhood of “Golden Row,” located along Lowell Road from the Center to the Pelham line, and another place known as the “Golden Meadow.” The magnificent heights on Castle Hill which was known as “Mount Ephraim;” overlooking the Golden Brook valley was the location of the curiously named “Gold Region.” I hope you enjoy the trip back to a time when this section of Windham was a densely populated community with a rich, yet somewhat mysterious history.