They went to Framingham, Massachusetts.
In 1693 the families of Rebecca Nurse, Sara Cloyes, Mary Esty and others got the hell out of Salem. Following an old Indian trail they relocated to Framingham, where they founded a small settlement called Salem's End. The trail still exists today as Salem End Road.
According to local legend, when the refugees first arrived in Framingham they had to shelter in caves before they built their houses. What remains of these caves is now located in Ashland Town Forest. (Ashland did not become an independent town until the 1840s).
Tony and I recently took a trip out to Ashland to visit the caves. The Town Forest, which was also once inhabited by the Magunkook Indians, is about 500 acres in size, and we had to walk for a mile from where we parked the car on Salem End Road.
The forest clearly has been used for many different things over the centuries. It was criss-crossed with lots of old stone walls, indicating it had once been farmland. In the 20th century it was used as a hunting ground by some of the local riding clubs.
We found this old Bel Air, which looked like it was from the 1950s. The park abuts a very upscale neighborhood, so I thought it was interesting the town has left it there. Maybe like us the parks commission thinks it is kind of cool.
The forest is full of huge granite boulders deposited by glaciers, and the caves are located in a large ridge near a water tower.
|Me, shortly before I skinned my shin looking for the cave. Adventure has a price I guess!|
|Those caves have to be here somewhere!|
We had read that the caves have collapsed, or at least partially collapsed. However I've seen fairly recent photos of the caves so we weren't sure what to believe. We climbed around the boulders for quite a while looking for the caves. I have to admit we weren't really equipped for climbing giant rocks, and the ground was really slippery from all the dead leaves which were a couple feet deep in some places.
Just as we were about to leave I decided to check out part of the ridge that is very close to someone's backyard. (But I didn't trespass!) And yes, we actually found a cave. I think it's kind of funny that we walked for a mile and climbed up and down the boulders, but the cave is basically next to someone's house. If I lived there I would spend every day hanging out at the Witch Caves!
The cave we found looked pretty small, but I think centuries of oak leaves have probably reduced its original size. It seems to have multiple small chambers, and I can imagine desperate refugees crawling in there to shelter from rain or snow. If you were fleeing from people who wanted to execute you for witchcraft you'd probably be pretty desperate.
However, Tony and I didn't crawl into the cave for a couple reasons. One, we didn't know if the oak leaves were covering solid stone or hiding a pit, and we really didn't want to find out. Two, since the other caves have collapsed we didn't feel too secure about this one. Those are some big boulders in the photos!
If you go to the cave I don't recommend crawling into it. It's probably not safe. And after all, you're not being chased by villagers carrying torches and pitchforks.