Deer Leap, the Sargent Cellar and Early Windham
So I took a walk out to Deer Leap with my son Isaac, and was inspired again by the massive rock out-croppings on the site plus the spectacular view of the pond. It’s a beautiful hike if you haven’t been and the area is even better now with the kayak launch on the adjacent Marston-Finn Dam site. I still remember the howling by some at spending $500,000 for this “rock-pile.” I had forgotten the incredible stone out-cropping which are a prominent feature of the site. Morrison says that, “Deer Ledge (Deer Leap) is situated on a the high, romantic, and precipitous sides of the hill of ledges. Its name is derived by the fact, that an Indian drove a deer over the precipitous sides of this ledge into the water…”
It’s hard to believe that anybody in their right mind would try to farm this parcel of land but the old cellar hole, stone walls and sheep pen prove that they tried to make a go of it. In fact this parcel was once home to Thomas Sargent and his family. Morrison says, “Thomas lived in Windham and was killed about 1830, by being run over by a load of wood.” He lived at Fletcher Corner near Simpson’s Mill.” Oh, I think to myself, wow, that’s a pretty random and brutal accidental death. So I head over the Morrison’s handy chapter on Calamities: “Accidents, Sudden Deaths; Freshets and Fires and learn that lots of people in Windham were killed by falling from wagons. 1832: William Simpson (father of Samuel W.) was thrown form a load of wood and killed at the guide post near J.L. Cottles…another south Windham location. 1837: About this time, James Alexander started in the night for Lowell with a load of wood, He rode upon the spire, fell off, hit his head triggering the wheel. He was dead when found. 1861: Robert Simpson, an aged man, in getting out of his wagon, fell and broke his neck. 1861: Joseph Clyde fell from his wagon at Bartley’s store, and was killed.” Who knew horse and wagons were as dangerous as cars?!
Finally, while it did not take place in South Windham, I have to recount this really touching story of kindness of neighbor to neighbor by the people of Windham. “Moses Sargent, Thomas’s brother, lived in Windham; bought land of Eleonor Clark and built his buildings in 1810…the place was then an unbroken forest, except for a small patch of cleared meadow. On the 28th of August, 1821, his barn was struck by lightning and the hay and grain with which it was filled, was quickly consumed. His neighbors and towns-people rallied to his aid, and the surrounding farmers contributed to his reestablishment. Teams loaded with timber, boards, shingles and nails quickly appeared; and one day sixty men were there at dinner, having brought provisions with them, and made a festive day. The barn was raised, and in one month the new barn took the place of the old, and was equally filled with grain and hay. The people literally fulfilled the scriptural injunction, ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens.’ ” From the many acts of kindness I have witnessed in Windham, this spirit is still alive and well.