Five miles up Chunks Brook Road, a dirt road, in Sandgate, Vermont, sits a little white farm house. The year was 1775. Ethen Allen was best known for the capture of Fort Ticonderoga under a joint command with Benedict Arnold. The little white farmhouse on the edge of the dirt road was headquarters for the Green Mountain Boys. At this time, there were a mere 100 men in his army.
The little white farmhouse survives today holding stories and ghosts of the past. Ownership was passed from one man to the next. Nothing much changed in the little white farm house over the passing years. The white paint faded and the grass grew tall . Apple trees grew, the house stood firm. A separate barn housed farm animals and supplies. There were plenty of acres to farm. Before cars, transportation relied on horse and wagon.
Five miles up Chunks Brook Road by car, in the year 1936, 166 years after Ethan Allen and The Green Mountain Boys called this home, another man, William Tefft Schwarz, called it home. A mural artist from Philadelphia, had received a commission to paint murals for the American exhibition at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. The topic of the murals was the American Oil Industry. Schwarz needed a space large enough to paint the fifty-foot square canvases. Looking for just the right place, one sunny spring day William and Mabel, his wife, drove up Chunks Brook Road. The only house on the road greeted them with a very faded “For Sale” sign.” Perfect ,” he said to Mabel.
The house was in really bad repair. A stray cow was in the living room and the bathtub had fallen into the basement. Knowing there was a lot of repair to do on the house, they felt this was the right place to work on the murals. They bought the farm. Before fixing the house, they raised the roof on the barn and installed skylights to light the canvases for the painters. The history of the house remained a mystery.
Checking the house basement, they found jail cells. Why would a little white farm house so remotely located need jail cells? The answer became more clear as the coal that heated the house was used up. Under the coal they found a dirt floor. Relics began to emerge. After careful examination, William found British uniform buttons.
In the barn as the canvases were being prepared to hang, a scaffolding was put in place for the painters to reach the height of the canvases. The scaffolding required a track, a light weight railroad track, so it could roll back and forth from one end of the barn to the other. But, as the contractors prepared to lay the track, they discovered a hidden trap door in the barn floor.
Careful not to destroy the old floor, they pried it open. Slowly lifting the door, a waft of musty cool air rose from the bowels of the barn. They discovered an amazing sight below: a large collection of British muskets, bayonets, knives, swords and pistols lying in repose under the barn floor.
Only then did the story began to unfold. Ethan Allen and The Green Mountain Boys had imprisoned British soldiers in the basement cells. Their guns and ammunition were hidden beneath the barn floor not to be found for a hundred sixty-six years. An amazing part of our country’s history discovered by mistake. William donated the historical findings to the Bennington Museum and The Smithsonian in Washington, DC.
How do I know this historical story of intrigue and the Revolutionary War? I am William and Mabel Schwarz’s granddaughter. We spent summers at the farm. Our adventures of playing cops and robbers, Green Mountain Boys and British soldiers kept us busy. The jail cells were a magnet for my cousins, my sisters and me. Imaginations were fed by the special buttons we found beneath the dirt floor. If the cellar light was turned off by accident, we would scream in fright knowing the ghosts of years long gone were hovering around us.
One thought on “The Hidden Trap Door- Historical Intrigue by Mary Perrin Scott”
I found this very interesting, especially as a button collector and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.