Dover Plains, NY

Thomas Sweet Lossing was the son of the historian Benson Lossing. He grew up in the house at the southeast corner of Chestnut Ridge Road (Route 24) and Holsapple Road. He wrote a book about his memoirs of his childhood which is a great resource for understanding what the everyday life of a child and family was like in the "good old days." It seems Mr. Lossing must have had a photographic memory because he remembers so many exact details. For instance, he even remembers exactly what was on the kitchen cabinets. It is also wonderful to read how happy his childhood was, adding to the mystique of the "good old days."

Memoirs of Seven Wells from the son of historian Benson Lossing
Dutchess County, NY

"On the road to Dover Plains, the village down in the valley, a gentle slope led to the top of what we called Nerbas's Hill. This was the nearest hill suitable for coasting, and we children used it for that purpose.

"The first part was quite steep and made a sharp turn before extending in a long, straight line to the foot of the hill and across a bridge over Wells Brook. This stream came from natural wells about three miles further in the woods.

"The wells were seven in number, and worn in the rock, one being sixty feet deep. The surface around them sloped toward the edge and was covered with pine needles. This made them very dangerous to approach. Years earlier a member of a party slipped and fell into the well, and it required the services of a diver to recover his body.

"One summer's day my cousin and I vowed we would cut our names in the rock at the edge of the water line in one of these wells. We made a ladder of ropes that were an inch thick and tied them to countless saplings back from the edge of the wells. Then we lowered our ladder about thirty feet to the water, where there was a flat rock we could stand on.

"We stood on this slippery rock and carved our names on the wall. At the upper side of the well was the waterfall of the brook, plunging down into the black water and overflowing through the immense fissure in the rock to the next well below.

"While we were working with our heavy hammer and chisels, a ray of sunlight guided us in our carving, but before we had finished it became almost too dark to see. A thunderstorm was coming up from the west, and although the roar of the waterfall drowned out the thunder, we could tell the storm was coming on account of the darkness.

"My cousin looked very pale, and if I looked the way I felt, I must have been pale, also,. It took us longer than we expected, and we were chilled through before we were finally finished. Completing our three-hour task, we climbed up the ladder to find the storm was veering to the north, and it did not reach us.

"I don't know what our mothers would have thought had they known where we spent the afternoon. We had always been warned about the wells -- a relative of ours had been with the man who was lost there. We called it a successful adventure, and the names could be seen ever afterward in the morning sunlight, from the slope toward the well." 101-102

Lossing, Thomas Sweet. 1997. My Heart Goes Home: A Hudson Valley Memoir. Fleischmanns, New York: Purple Mountain Press.