1.5 acres in Hampton, CT
Parking: Shoulder parking near 672 Pudding Hill Road, Hampton, CT
Trail Map Trails: 800 feet Rating: ★★☆☆☆
It seems the traditional spelling has been Cowhantic and has either been mislabeled or modernized to Cohantic over the last couple decades. This area was the winter home of the Cowhantics, an individual village of the Nipmuck Tribe that resided in eastern Connecticut and were a part of the larger Narragansett Tribe.
The trail starts right next to the driveway for 672 Pudding Hill Road by the 35 MPH Speed Limit sign. You could park along the shoulder here though I parked at the locked gate nearby (originally thinking that was the entrance). The park’s property is a narrow strip leading down to the ledges with an overgrown but passable white-blazed trail.
After only about 700′ the trail turns at the start of the ledge rock formation. There were low thorns and lots of bittersweet obstructing the trail on my June 2022 though town records and photos show it gets cleared intermittently. Squeezing through a narrow gap in the boulders opens to the impressive wintering spot of the Cohantics with the ledge sweeping up over 50′ in a sheltering curve. The rock appears to have been darkened by fires of yore adding to the special effect of the Ledges. They continue for about 200′ and despite the overgrowth provide some views down into Howard Valley.
A stonewall runs down from the ledges to South Bigelow Road and originally served as a lane for scholars and students between the Howard Valley School and their residences on the hill.
I spent a good 20 minutes exploring this ledges area and upon leaving was passing back through the narrow entrance gap when I heard a low hissing growl and a flash of light colored fur from a hollow in the rocks. I didn’t stick around to find out what it was but beware the entrance to this historic spot may have a modern guardian.
1.5 acres were deeded to the town by the former property owner for preservation purposes in 2008.
The site of the Henry B. Huntington farm at the top of the hill above the Cohantic Ledges. The property was owned at subsequent periods by John McLaughlin and later Charles Chester.
The site is also the location for the unfortunate tale of Elizabeth Shaw, an unmarried 19 year old with an unwanted pregnancy in June 1745. At the time Hampton had yet to be incorporated and was known as the Second Society of Windham.
Legend tells us that she took her newborn to the Cohantic Ledges and hid it in a nook in the rocks to escape public humiliation and likely punishment from her father. The baby was found dead not long after and suspicion was placed on Elizabeth who lived near the ledges.
She was arrested by Constable John Manning and brought before Justice of the Peace Nathanial Huntington and a jury of 16 men in December 1745 (which included future historical notable Samuel Huntington). Shaw was found guilty of murder. She was jailed during the trail and after verdict was transported from the jail by wagon to the gallows, which had been erected on on a small hill near the Windham Green on Plains Road.
Legend also says that her repentant father could not bear the thought of her hanging and rode to Hartford seeking an 11th Hour Reprieve. He was successful and immediately headed back to halt the execution. But, being the month of December, a sudden snow storm slowed him down considerably and he did not arrive in time.
- Susan Jewett Howe – OLD HAMPTON PAPERS on the Cowhantic Indians (1914)
- The Chronicle (Tracy Hastings) – Is the spirit of Shaw haunting Windham Center? (2017)
- Susan J. Griggs – Early Homesteads of Pomfret and Hampton (1950)
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Last updated June 21st, 2022
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