Sarah Doublet's Indian Cave

Littleton Massachusetts

 

 

Daniel V. Boudillion 14 December 2009

 

 

 

Note: this report needs to be read in context of the article: Vision Quest and the Nashoba Praying Indian Village

 

 

   Introduction

There is an oral tradition in Littleton that Sarah Doublet (the last Indian to hold title to the 500 Acre Indian Reservation of 1714) lived in a cave somewhere in what is now the Sarah Doublet Forest.  The problem with this is there was known cave in the area - indeed, I myself had walked the land hundreds of times since the late 1970s and did not believe for an instant there was even the possibility of a cave up there.  Other people I knew wove convoluted theories that her "cave" was actually a lean-to of branches up against a large boulder on the hilltop, for example.  This all changed one Spring morning in the early 1990s when I was out for a walk in the Sarah Doublet Forest. 

   Anti-Social Behavior Yields Results

I heard the approach of a large loud family complete with several rambunctious dogs, and not feeling quite sociable that morning, I ducked down behind a large tree growing on a slope next to a stonewall and a mound of ledge-rock, and snuggled between the tree and the ledge.  I noticed that there was a small opening between the ledge and tree.  The opening was at ground level about 5 inches high and 8 inches wide, and peering in, I could see into a large dark underground space. 

   An Underground Chamber

Upon further investigation, the space proved to be a chamber.  The tree had gown up in front of the door and blocked it entirely except for the small "window" still open at its base.  I would never have seen it had I not been hunkered down next to it.  Indeed, I had actually walked over the roof slab hundreds of times previously over the years. 

 

  

Sarah Doublet's Cave

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Picture 1: Note how the tree has grown in front of the chamber door.  Picture 2: Looking down at roof slab of the chamber.  Note the tree at far end of chamber blocking the door, and the stonework plugging the near end of the chamber.

 

The far end of the chamber was constructed with field stone, and I was able to remove some of this and crawl into it.  I found the size to about 8 feet long, 5 feet wide at its widest point, and about 14 inches high.  Probing with a metal poker reveled that the chamber had filled with 12 to 14 inches forest detritus, giving a final headspace of almost 3 feet.

 

The chamber had been constructed of ledge slabs.  A ledge slab had been pulled away from its parent rock by about 4 feet, leaving a space between them of about 8 feet long, 4 to 5 feet wide, and 2.5 to 3 feet deep.  Over this another ledge slab had been pulled away from the parent rock to cover the cavity.  This could not have happened naturally, as the top slab would have fallen into the cavity rather then cover it.  The back end of the cavity was then carefully blocked up with field stone. 

 

Interior of the Sarah Doublet Chamber

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Note: The hole at the end is the hole I made to gain access to the chamber.  I've since re-built the end.

 

This is most certainly the "cave" associated with Sarah Doublet.  However, it is not a structure one can live in (and thus would not have been her dwelling), but what the tradition of her and the cave actually does is associate the chamber with Indian activity: it indicates this is an underground place used by Indians of at least the Nashoba Praying Indian Plantation era. 

   A Vision-Quest Kiva? 

Mavor & Dix in Manitou consider these underground chambers to be "vision-quest" sites, and similar in placement and use to the Kivas in the American Southwest.  In this respect, the Sarah Doublet Forest chamber need not be dwelling-sized, but only large enough to comfortably contain a person for several days of fasting and mediation. 

   Hilltops & Stone Rows

The chamber is significantly situated under a dome of ledge that is the highest point of the Sarah Doublet Forest.  The entrance of the chamber faces Southeast in the general direction of the Winter Solstice Sunrise.  The entire hill is only recently grown over with scrub oak and pines.  Previous to this it was open and heath-like.  Indeed, it was open enough that as recently as the early 1980s I can recall being able to see at sunset both the moon rising on the eastern horizon while and the sun slipped below the low western hills.  (The entire hill showed signs of being burned over, and it is possible this followed a practice the Indians were known to have used.) 

 

Dome of Bedrock: Highest point in the Sarah Doublet Forest

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Note: The chamber is under the dome. 

 

Further, there is a stone row that runs over the top of the chamber.  Interestingly, at the point it runs over the chamber dome, and in several dozen feet in either direction, it is composed of exceedingly large slabs of rock.  It also follows the contours of the ledge rather then running in a straight line, and makes bridges over gaps in the ledge-face.  However, if followed further in either direction, the row-rocks diminish into regular Colonial-style stonework and follow regular Colonial-style straight lines. 

 

  

The Stone Row at the Sarah Doublet Chamber

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Picture 1: Note how the stone row follows contours of the ledge above the chamber.  Picture 2: Note how the stone row makes a bridge between ledge-rocks. 

 

The chamber itself is a cavity in a granite ledge, covered with a granite slab.  Considering that granite is a radon-bearing rock, and radon gas awareness is a health issue in Littleton, it stands to reason that radon poisoning - or more precisely its possible effects - may have contributed to vision-quest experience in the small Sarah Doublet Chamber.

 

 

Stone Row & Chamber

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Picture 1: Note how the stone row goes over the top of the chamber which is at the top of the hill. 

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   Of Monks & Mediation

Indeed, Indians are not the only ones who find the hill spiritually attractive.  Its not uncommon to stumble upon a quiet soul perched upon a rock in mediation, and the monks from the Westford Lamasery are also seen here on occasion.  And perhaps most significantly from the perspective of pagan Indian rituals, it is known that modern neo-Pagans constructed a stone circle on the dome and worshipped Nature there for years. 

 

Back to Nashoba Hill: The Hill that Roars


 

 

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Copyright 2009 by Daniel V. Boudillion

 

 

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