Wednesday, July 18, 2012


News to Know July 18 part two

Sent by Corinne Stridsberg and also posted at
Check out the Berlin, Vermont Community News page on facebook
More news to share today - this is all different then what was sent out earlier. Whether you read all the way through or skip to the end, be sure to check out "Out of the Archives"
Included below please find:
SOLARFEST July 20- 22
SOLARFEST July 20- 22 in Tinmouth- admission prices lowered - $15 for a day pass and kids accompanied by an adult up to age 14 are free. This is a combined sustainability conference and music fest! Over 80 workshops for all experience levels and lots of exhibitors. It's also 3 days and nights of musicwith a contra dance Saturday night. All the details are at:
WCAX news coverage of Berlin Selectboard meeting July 16 which included the Montpelier City Council discussing the Berlin Pond issue
Man caught on camera at Berlin store using stolen credit card (WCAX News 7/16/12)
If you know him, please call Berlin Police
Man steals laptop from Berlin Wal-Mart on July 4th (from WCAX News 7/17/12)
Surveillance camera caught him, do you recognize him? Please call Berlin Police
By David Delcore
BARRE — Drivers along Interstate 89 near Berlin were suprised to see a rockfall that had broken loose and spread across the highway.
No one was injured and no vehicles were damaged in the Monday afternoon incident, that forced state crews to quickly muster staff and equipment to reopen part of the highway.
In all, a 25-ton stone and many smaller stones fell off a rock face closed both northbound lanes near Exit 6.
The rockfall took place at about
1:30 p.m.
, said Trevor Starr, District 4 manager for VTrans.
The largest stone to fall, a grey monster roughly 10 feet across, couldn’t be moved, and will have to be broken apart with a truck-mounted hoe ram, Starr said.
VTrans Geologist Tom Eliassen examined the rockfall up close Monday, and used binoculars to get a look at the area about 60 feet above the roadway, where the limestone and slate rock began separating from the cliff-like rockface.
Eliassen said it wasn’t clear what caused Monday’s fall, but he said age of the rock cut, water pressure, freeze/thaw cycles, and plant roots are common factors in forcing rock to separate from rock cuts along the interstate.
The rock cut where the collapse took place Monday was cut in the early 1970s, and so has been exposed to the elements for four decades. Eliassen said the type of rock that fell typically weighs about 170 pounds per cubic foot.
Although not an everyday occurrence, rockfalls, like the one that has partially closed the northbound lane of Interstate 89 in Williamstown, are not unusual or unexpected, according to William Ahearn, an engineer with the state Agency of Transportation.
Thanks in part to “more vigorous”rock-breaking techniques that were used when highways, like I-89, were constructed, Ahearn said the ledges that now tower over many of them are filled with fractures that contribute to their occasional instability.
’s weather isn’t much of a help as winters featuring frequent freeze-thaw cycles accelerate the deterioration and heighten the risk of rockfalls in many areas.
According to Ahearn, problems with rockfalls in states like
Colorado, prompted the agency to develop the“rockfall hazard rating system” that was used to produce a 2007 study ranking more than 3,600 rock cuts located along all state and U.S.
Many of those cuts were made when the interstate was built, and Ahearn said more than 1,000 of them pose some level of risk when it comes to rockfalls. He said the section in Williamstown was among the nearly 150 highest risk areas in the state.
Ahearn said the agency has started budgeting some limited funds to mitigate those high-risk areas and, since the study was completed nearly five years ago, has managed to complete between one and four of the projects a year.
Some are more challenging to solve than others and cost is a consideration, according to Ahearn, who said Monday’s rockfall in Williamstown was somewhat unusual.
“We would have expected a smaller slide in that area,” he said, noting that rock from the ledges spilled out of a decent sized ditch and across a 300-yard section of the interstate’s northbound lane.
Although most rockfalls occur in the spring, when the weather is still wet and temperatures are still fluctuating, Ahearn said that is little more than a general rule of thumb.
“It’s hard to actually predict what will trigger an event,” he said, noting one of the agency’s geologists spent much of his Monday in Williamstown attempting to learn more about the latest rockfall and to assist the contractor that has been hired to help clean up the mess. That cleanup, he said, will likely take several days and will limit traffic to one lane on the affected section of I-89.
By David Delcore
BERLIN — Voters in the mid-sized central Vermont community that is home to Montpelier’s drinking water supply may ultimately be asked to weigh in on a still-simmering dispute over access to Berlin Pond.
After meeting with the Montpelier City Council and hearing now-familiar arguments both for and against recreational use of the pond Monday night, members of the Berlin Select Board seemed receptive to one resident’s suggestion that they put the question on the ballot.
“It may be the better way,” Chairman Brad Towne said of resident Bob Wernecke’s suggestion that the board might want to consult voters before making any irreversible decisions.
Wernecke acknowledged the board has been tugged in two decidedly different directions since the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in May that
lacked the authority to enforce century-old prohibitions on recreational use of the pond. He said a public referendum on the clearly controversial topic could yield useful information and may actually be required if the board is seriously considering auctioning off a long-term lease to a small parcel of town-owned property that includes 85 feet of shoreline on the pond.
The leasing option was one of a number of ideas – some more novel than others – floated during a discussion that spanned more than 90 minutes Monday night. The well-attended meeting, which began with a back-and-forth with
city councilors, soon morphed into a sometimes-spirited public comment period during which the word “selfish” was liberally used by those on both sides of the issue.
The board’s discussion continued after most of the more than 50 residents and all of Montpelier’s City Council had headed for home, leaving members to wrestle with an issue one predicted just isn’t going to go away.
“I don’t care what we say it’s not going to end,” Selectman Pete Kelley predicted.
Although Montpelier owns and has posted most of the property around the pond, the water is accessible over the tiny town-owned parcel that most agree hasn’t been used since the Supreme Court issued its ruling, and the public right of way that overlaps the water’s edge on Mirror Lake Road, which clearly has.
Montpelier Mayor John Hollar said the city remains keenly interested in restricting access to the pond but cannot do so without
’s cooperation.
“We simply don’t control access to the pond completely,” he said.
According to Hollar, the ball is in
’s court.
“It’s a question of whether you want to continue to allow access or not,” he said, suggesting the town could post the property it owns, ban parking on Mirror Lake Road, and – if need be –construct barriers to the pond in that area.
Montpelier Councilor Thierry Guerlain said a covered bridge would do the trick.
“Then you can’t access the pond with out trespassing on posted land,” he said.
However, some members of the
board – Towne and Kelley included –wondered whether a more suitable access could be developed as a compromise.
“Instead of having people scampering over the rocks on
Mirror Lake Road wouldn’t it be better to … have the access where the parking lot is now?” Towne said, noting that idea would shift activity away from the intake pipe that runs from the pond to Montpelier
’s water filtration plant.
Berlin board was told that idea and any other that would expand or enhance access to the pond would be “a non-starter” in Montpelier
’s estimation.
Hollar said he believed the position was widely supported by
Capital City
“I haven’t sensed that the residents of
really have any desire to provide for expanded access,” he said, noting some are interested in conserving the environmental habitat and others are worried by a potential threat to the city’s water supply.
Towne said he was “partial to” the idea of leasing the rights to the town-owned parcel off to the highest bidder.
“Whoever buys the lease controls the land for a five-year, 10-year, whatever period,” he said suggesting it would be up to them – be it Montpelier or the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine whether to allow the public to cross it in order to get to the pond.
One advantage of the leasing option, according to Towne, is that it would generate revenue for the general fund.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has offered to develop an access area on the town property and Hollar said
Montpelier would be interested in discussing a lease arrangement if the city could be assured access could be restricted on Mirror Lake Road
Following a brief discussion that yielded no clear result both the board and the council got an earful from residents with strong opinions about a pond some believe should be zealously protected and others argued had been off limits for far too long.
Ellen Sulek, who lives on the pond, challenged city and town officials to point her to a body of water that is comparable to Berlin Pond.
“Where is that place?” Sulek asked.“There are plenty of place to fish, there are plenty of places to boat, where is that place that is undisturbed that is pristine that is the way it was 50 years ago (or) 100 years ago.”
That view was shared by another Berlin Pond resident who said since the court issued its ruling the pond has become a much busier, but, in her view, not better place.
“My sights have been disturbed, my sounds have been disturbed and my rights have been taken away,” she said.
Those comments and others like them prompted Wernecke to wade into the discussion, joining those like fellow
resident Nate Sweed and Michael Covey of Williamstown in speaking in favor of establishing a reasonable access to the pond.
“I didn’t have a dog in this fight, but I’m sick of listening to these very personal and, quite frankly, selfish views,” Wernecke said.
Wernecke, a professional engineer who has designed water filtration plants, said water quality concerns have been“oversold” by city officials and others in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling. He said the use of herbicides and pesticides and the existence of dozens of septic systems and a stretch of Interstate 89 in the pond’s watershed all posed far greater threats to water quality than those who enjoy fishing, kayaking and canoeing.
Asked by one resident if
had consulted with state experts on the water quality issues City Manager Bill Fraser said those conversations had occurred, but did not elaborate. Hollar said the commissioners of the state Departments of Environmental Conservation and Fish and Wildlife had both indicated they would oppose any effort to place recreational restrictions on pond, forcing the city to turn its attention from the water to the land.
However, Hollar said the city, which recently lost a three-year court battle over recreational use of Berlin Pond, is still assessing the ramifications of that ruling on its filtration plant and drinking water supply.
“I don’t think we have a … complete answer to all of the risks that might result from greater access,” he said.
Though the
Berlin board technically made no decisions Monday night, members agreed to pursue its previous plan to post the town’s parcel for the time being and to begin working on an ordinance that – if approved – would restrict parking on Mirror Lake Road
. Once drafted that ordinance will be the subject of a yet-to-be-scheduled public hearing.
Board members, who are clearly tiring of what has turned into a summer-long discussion, also asked Town Administrator Jeff Schulz to further explore the leasing option and the idea of a public referendum with Town Attorney Rob Halpert and report back to them at their next meeting.
Kelley said a town-wide vote could provide clear direction for a board that is struggling to be as responsive as possible to all town residents. That, he said, hasn’t been easy.
“We own less than a quarter-of-one-percent of this property … and we’re being dragged into this gigantic argument,” he said.
TIMES ARGUS OP-ED (pub 7/17/12)
The current debate about Berlin Pond’s future brings many wise voices to the table. We know of the Vermont Supreme Court’s decision affirming fishing rights and access to every open pond in the state. The Fish & Wildlife Department of the Agency of Natural Resources, after that decision, began plans to exploit the fish and encourage watercraft. Bird watchers, bikers, and strollers, long used to the pond’s sense of solitude and rich wildlife, nurtured by more than a century of protection, seem dismayed at the new traffic activity and proposed shoreline construction.
Another voice needs to be heard in this discussion. As a
Montpelier property owner I pay hundreds of dollars each year for sewer and water service. And, like thousands of households in Berlin and Montpelier
, we are rewarded with safe, fresh, reliable drinking water from Berlin Pond. Potential threats to the quality and cost of that unique supply loom as largely unspoken issues in the public debate thus far.
Every Vermonter’s right of access to open ponds rings loud and clear in the Vermont Constitution of 1777. Let us remember that Eurasian milfoil, didymo (rock snot), and zebra mussels, troublesome and costly invaders of many municipal water sources, were unknown at the time. Indeed, the framers of
Vermont’s founding document would not have known a municipal water system. Vermont today boasts zebra mussels in Lakes Champlain and Bomoseen. Rock snot claims a foothold in the Mad River
. And Berlin Pond itself contends with milfoil. The arrival routes — the vectors — for these invaders can be as tiny as a dry fish line or simple as an overturned bait can or a kayak paddle.
The invasives’ relentless march infests water bodies in
New York and across New England. Should Berlin Pond experience a major and costly infestation from one of this unstoppable trio, who pays? If water craft and fishing bring the eventual contamination of the pond, do water users in Berlin and Montpelier
pay? Do all the property tax payers in the two communities share the cost? Make no mistake, the inescapable added turbidity from people trudging across a muddy shore or the cost of clearing zebra mussels from a major pipe will mean added expense at the water filtration plant. Who pays?
The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights were enacted in 1776, one year before the Vermont Constitution. Many would single out freedom of speech as our nation’s most sacred legacy from that founding document. And, yet, at the turn of the last century, the Supreme Court abrogated total freedom of speech, saying, in essence, one cannot shut
! in a crowded theater. Thus emerged a thread in our laws justifying the denial of privileges for a few to protect the well being of many.
A decision to once again protect
Berlin and Montpelier’s water supply lies in the hands of the Berlin Select Board. Should they decide to deny public access across eighty-five feet of dense wooded shoreline owned by the town, less than one per cent of the pond’s total shore, thousands of water users would be assured that prudent public policy is speaking on their behalf. If watercraft and fishing are thus denied, those seeking some bass have over eight hundred other Vermont lakes to choose from. If the Berlin and Montpelier
water supply is compromised in any way, thousands of users lack any option whatsoever.
Erik Esselstyn lives in
North Montpelier.
RIGHT TO FISH IS CLEAR (pub 7/13/12)
More thoughts on Berlin Pond:
“The inhabitants of this State shall have liberty in seasonable times, to hunt and fowl on the lands they hold, and on other lands not inclosed, and in like manner to fish in all boatable and other waters (not private property) under proper regulations, to be made and provided by the General Assembly” — the opinions of those who would hold Berlin Pond sacrosanct and untouched notwithstanding.
Patrick Cashman, Shelburne
An old Montpelier legend suggests that two local merchants murdered a German peddler on the shores of Berlin Pond in 1838. The fact that no one was ever prosecuted for the crime may be one reason the story has persisted through the generations.
Depending on whom you ask, the tale is historical fact or speculative gossip.
Whether or not one believes in the“Berlin Pond Murder,” there is the stubborn fact of the intriguing and curious documents, evidence that exists in local archives.
For that reason, many central
residents believe in the veracity of the tale.
The documents range from a fictionalized account by a 19th-century historian to a deathbed confession by an eyewitness; a memoir by a local citizen; and a report to the then-governor of
that attempts to determine if a crime really was committed.
The mystery
The first published account of the 1830s murder of the German peddler by two Montpelier businessmen occurs in a work of fiction by Daniel P. Thompson, Montpelier historian, author of the historical novel “The Green Mountain Boys,” and secretary of state from 1853-55.
In 1864 Thompson published “Centeola; And Other Tales,” one of which was “The Unfathomable Mystery.” The narrative thinly disguised the names of all parties involved but was so transparent that John Flitcroft’s biography of Thompson asserts that one of the alleged perpetrators (apparently still living in town 30 years later) bought all the copies for sale locally to prevent the story from being circulated around central
The most tantalizing document resides in the vault of the Vermont Historical Society. It purports to be a confession by Charles Crane, written in his hand and, apparently, on his deathbed. It is an elaborate document with a few important historical problems. The original pages were mounted on silk in a once-popular method of archival preservation, and the elaborate penmanship lends a note of authority to a document that some believe to be spurious.
Dorman B.E. Kent, a native of
Calais, who spent his entire adult life in Montpelier, contributed a third version of the story. Kent
heard it recounted as a boy and was told versions of the story by acquaintances who were contemporaries of the participants. What he chooses not to include is surprising.
The last item is a report to Gov. Silas Jennison by George B. Manser, secretary of civil and military affairs, who was asked to investigate the matter and determine whether the charge of murder had foundation. Adding intrigue to this mysterious document is damage caused by a fire that destroyed or damaged many of Jennison’s papers. The remnants are preserved in the Vermont State Archives, and the meaning of parts of the report is sometimes difficult to infer due to the condition of the pages.
Thompson’s story
Thompson’s fictionalized treatment in his 1864 “Centeola” was probably influenced by his contacts with G.B. Manser, Jennison’s investigator. They both lived in
Montpelier at the same time and, while Manser was in state government, Thompson served as probate judge. They worked in buildings within 100 yards of each other in Montpelier
Thompson disguised the names used in Manser’s report (i.e., Craney for Crane, Nymore for Nye, and Bradley for
), but came to a different conclusion based on the evidence collected from Manser’s interviews. His fictionalized account comprises 42 pages with the title “The Unfathomable Mystery: A Tale of Circumstantial Evidence.” Thompson’s biographer, John E. Flitcroft, collected versions of the tale from Montpelier citizens when he visited the capital city in the early 1920s:
“As this story was concerned with the Berlin Pond murder, or probable murder, of several years before, and as everyone in Montpelier knew its implications, the two local residents whom suspicion had connected with this crime bought all of the procurable copies of Centeola and destroyed them. Briefly, the circumstances were as follows: A German peddler had come through
Montpelier selling his wares, and he had with him large sums of money. Suddenly he disappeared. He was last seen in Berlin
near the pond. There seems to have been no doubt that he was murdered, for, though his body was never recovered, some of his effects were found at a spot where, it was obvious, a human body had been dragged into the water. Soon after the peddler’s disappearance, a local jeweler and a friend of his suddenly blossomed forth in great prosperity. Justly or unjustly these two men were immediately thought to be responsible for the mysterious disappearance of the peddler — they were, indeed, suspected of having murdered him. They were never brought to trial, however, for the evidence against them was not conclusive.”
Thompson’s story begins with these lines exchanged over dinner, “There never was a murder committed, which was not found out.” The dinner companion replies, “I beg leave to disagree with you there entirely. Indeed I have the best of reasons for believing just to the contrary.”
Flitcroft cites a review in the Freeman (Jan. 10, 1865) that referred to Thompson’s tale as “the only history extant of the incidents and evidence which led to the belief in the ‘Berlin Murder.’” Flitcroft referred to the accounts he collected long after the fact as “dubious versions handed down by local tradition that linger for occasional speculation.”
The confession
While Thompson’s story appears to be based on an actual event, the deathbed confession of Charles Crane is an artifact in and of itself. It has been held in the vault of the Vermont Historical Society Library since
Sept. 11, 1911, when the document was presented to the society by the Rev. Charles Henry Wells, of Newark, N.J.
The cover letter that was presented with the document states:
“This confession now presented to the Vermont Historical Society was given me during the summer of 1910 by Mrs. Mary Gurley of
Barre, Vermont, in whose possession it had been for many years. It came to her through her husband, Gordon Gurley, who died November 21, 1874
, aged 75 years. Mr. Gurley was first cousin to Elija Nye’s daughter who married Charles Crane, the author of the confession and the acknowledged accessory after the fact of the murder referred to. Mr. Crane, who died before the completion of the confession thinly disguises the names of the murderers and omits dates. The occurrence undoubtedly took place in November 1849.”

A note in the historical society’s Proceedings for 1911-12 states that this document “clears up the whole affair in many minute details.” Sadly, that is not the case. First of all, the letter of introduction errs in the name of the confessor and the date. A contemporary (1911) newspaper account reported the acquisition of the document with the headline, “Light Shed on Old Murder —Confession by accessory after the fact is made public — Van Duke Slain at Berlin Pond.” The news item elaborated, “Suspicion has rested upon two
merchants prominent in their day, the home of one of whom has been pointed out by a credulous public as ‘haunted by the ghost of the peddler’ ever since the crime was committed.”
It is worth noting that versions of the tale indicate the victim was a Dutch or German peddler, in this account a man named Van Duke. In the Dorman B.E. Kent (a
historian) version of the story the peddler was named Frederick Hoffman.
The document bears the title, “The Confession of Charles Crane” with the word “deposition” crossed out and“Confession” inserted. The names of the parties have, again, been disguised, perhaps a reason to doubt the authenticity of the document. But for the author of the newspaper account, the “confession” is proof enough that a crime was committed. The manuscript begins:
“I am soon to die, and there is one secret of which I desire to unburden my conscious before the hand of death has cut off all communion with my fellow beings. This secret which I have carried with me from youth to this bed of death, I now find too dreadful to attend me to the world of Spirits. I was born in
Berlin (Washington County, Vermont
) and after I was fifteen years of age, I went to live with Elija Nye near Berlin Pond where I remained until I was 21 years of age. During the fall of my 20th year on a November evening when I was returning from a ball at Hanoes Hall at Berlin Corner I was passing through a swamp on the side of the pond when I saw two men with a dim lantern carrying something out of the road toward the pond.”
While the first paragraph of the confession sounds as if it was cribbed from a gothic novel, the rest is written in a more prosaic fashion. It is known that Chester Crain was born in 1818, and when he was age 20 the year would have been 1838, which is more in accord with official documents regarding the case. Furthermore,
, not Charles, Crain married Harriet Nye in 1842.
In the manuscript, the two murderers are named Burnham and Brown and are said to be Montpelier merchants who had learned that Van Duke, the German peddler, “had a large sum of money with him …and they resolved to meet him in Berlin swamp, kill him, rob him, and throw him into the pond with his cart. Brown struck him with an iron rod so hard a blow that it broke his skull and he fell down dead.”
Crane came upon this scene by accident, and the two
Montpelier men gave him $500 for his silence. “I never spoke with them (further) about the matter until about three years afterwards though I saw them often. The horse was found in Brookfield
and that together with the blood that was found in the snow excited some curiosity but it soon passed on and was not heard of for a long time.”
Crane relates how he moved from
Berlin to the town of Berkshire in Franklin County, and from Berkshire to Rochester, N.Y.
, where he would spend evenings in the company of friends. The confession continues, “One evening as one of my employees and a member of the city police were talking about the certainty with which murder would come out I made the remark that I knew of one that had not and would not be apt to come out.”
This quote from the confession bears a striking similarity to the opening lines of Daniel Thompson’s story, suggesting that the confession might have been an elaboration on Thompson’s tale. The carefully penned document ends with the alleged author’s demise.
Kent’s version
In 1940, Dorman Kent, a onetime librarian for the Vermont Historical Society, broadcast his version of these events on WDEV in a program sponsored by the National Life Insurance Co. Kent recalled hearing the story as a boy when the tale was commonly recounted as a true narrative.
The peddler, Frederick Hoffman, spoke broken English and always drove a one-horse cart, selling notions and tin goods to farm families around central
Vermont. No one knew where he resided on a permanent basis. One evening, Kent’s story goes, he was on his way from East Montpelier to Berlin Pond when he was last seen leaving Montpelier for Berlin. At about 10 p.m.
, a smothered cry of “Help!” was plainly heard at a farmhouse near where the road branches off toward Barre. Going to the door, the people heard nothing more; of course, they could see nothing and although they thought it strange they went back in and soon went to bed.
Morning came, and in the road near that turn men found plenty of indications of trouble that had taken place the night before. The horse was gone (it was never found), a wheel off a wagon lay in the road, and several webs of cloth and considerable ribbon were scattered about in the road.
Kent said he still had a piece of bloodstained ribbon that his aunt had given him when he was a boy. His account accuses Montpelier jeweler Ira Town of the crime in company with a merchant named Burbank
. They both enjoyed notable prosperity in the months after the disappearance of the peddler.
There are similarities and differences in
Kent’s narration; for example, the horse was never found, according to Kent. But what is most striking is that Kent
never mentions the confession held in the collections of the Vermont Historical Society, although he was librarian at the time that the manuscript was donated to the institution. In fact, it was Kent who remarked in the VHS Proceedings 30 years prior that the confession “clears up the whole affair in many minute details.”
It is possible that he ignored the document because, 30 years later, he had come to believe it was spurious.
Jennison steps in
Although circumstantial evidence was observed, there was never deemed to be enough of it to charge anyone in connection with the crime, but persistent rumors compelled Jennison to initiate an inquiry. To that end he directed Manser, a
Montpelier lawyer and civil servant, to investigate. Manser, an 1825 graduate of Dartmouth, had recently been appointed secretary of civil and military affairs and, living in Montpelier
, was well positioned, both physically and intellectually, to study the matter.
Manser’s report consists of a four-page letter to the governor, which is held on a reel of microfilm in the Vermont State Archives. The papers of this
governor were damaged by a fire in 1911, and this handwritten document was charred at the edges, with the loss of some of the text. Additionally, the smoke-darkened paper makes some of the handwriting difficult to read. A transcription of Manser’s letter:
Montpelier, Nov. 13, 1841; My Dear Sir, I reached home on Tuesday last, having been about longer than I had anticipated. I found Bradford, and from him got a full knowledge of all (undecipherable) particulars. He corroborated the whole statement of Whipple, except in the person of the individual named as witness to sight of the corpse; it wasn’t Nye, but one Crane, who was living as (undecipherable) boy at Nye’s, at this same time. Bradford said Crane was (now) a clerk in a store at Coventry, Vt.
and would corroborate his story. I was to (undecipherable) home and Crane was arrested (as accessory after the fact) before I got back. (Undecipherable lines at the charred bottom of the page) ...
“Bradford had then said it was (undecipherable) and he would come to Berlin and take them to the grave at once, and he continued thus (but declined giving names) till he was within six miles of this place, when he took one of the persons who arrested him aside, and communicated to him the important fact that the whole was a sheer fabrication. Mr. Bradford had been receiving letters from Crane in which was written the story of his mental griefs, and that too up to the last month —these letters Bradford had left at
New Orleans
, or I should have seen them and took them home with me. Crane, in one of his letters told B. that if these letters should (charred edge) ...
“And yet Crane was able to make many people, a large share of them, believe it was all moonshine and a story of his imagination.
told me he no more doubted my being able to go directly to the (undecipherable) from the description of the spot then of my finding Berlin Pond. There is a degree of mystery about the whole affair that exceeds everything I can describe.
“There was an examination before four of our justices and they, after thinking it over some, had thought it best to discharge the prisoner.”
Although this document is inconclusive as to the veracity of the others examined, it does verify a few important points. First it demonstrates that the governor took the rumors seriously enough to have his agent investigate the matter. Second, it indicates that both Crane and Bradford had been detained by the police and that Crane had suffered“mental griefs” (perhaps delusional states) and also that there was a distinct possibility that the entire story was a hoax or fabrication.

It is interesting to note that the names mentioned in Manser’s letter are not disguised. He mentions Whipple, Nye, Crane and Bradford — surnames which are found in
Berlin, Barre or Montpelier
in 1840 and 1850.

A brief notice in the Montpelier Watchman in November 1841 summarizes Manser’s report:
“No Murder — Within the last two weeks rumors have been rife of a murder, alleged to have been committed in
by two citizens of this village. The incidents were detailed with so much precision, by a young man claiming to be a witness of the act, and his story was accompanied by such circumstances, as to induce and fully justify the late governor of the state in instituting a thorough investigation of the matter. This investigation has been had; the young man alluded to above, was arrested and examined, and the result is a conviction that no murder was committed. The person who started the story, and so injuriously implicated innocent persons, we learn has been made to suffer severely. No pity is due for that.”
Montpelier legend indicates that the murderers were merchants, specifically jewelers. David Perrin, a native of Berlin and an expert on Vermont silver and silversmiths, views the tale with good-natured skepticism, but does acknowledge that Montpelier silversmith Ira Town had been the object of suspicion in the case. Town was born in Montpelier and worked there in partnership with his brother-in-law, Elijah Witherell, as a silversmith during the time of the alleged murder. He lived to an advanced age, passing away in New York City
in 1903.
While it is impossible to determine definitely whether the peddler was murdered in
, it is logical to make some assumptions about the matter. First of all, the first person to write about the case was Manser, in his report to Jennison.
It is possible that Daniel P. Thompson, in his official capacity, was able to read the report or heard its contents from Manser, his colleague in
From this report Thompson may have been able to create a work of fiction, “The Unfathomable Mystery,” which was, most likely, read by a hoaxer who fabricated the confession of Charles Crane.
Officially, the murder never happened, but generations of central Vermonters still harbor suspicions about events at Berlin Pond in 1838.
Paul Heller is a historian and writer who lives in Barre.
It is amazing to have Vermont history at your fingertips now that folks can access old Vermont newspapers on line at the Vermont Digital Newspaper Project ( Look for more items from out of the archives, below are some interesting mentions of people living and camping on Berlin Pond and an unfortunate tragedy. Included are the links of the papers they were found in.
The VermontWatchman - Montpelier, VT Wednesday, July 13, 1887
"A.W. Ferrin, J.G. Brown, B.M. Shepard and Harry Cutler have pitched a camp on the shore of Berlinpond opposite the residence of C.H. Stewart and will make it headquarters during their leisure hours."
"Extensive improvements have this year been made about the premises of C.H. Stewart, who resides at the head of Berlin Pond, including some upon boat-house and boats, and all the surroundings of that pleasant resort are now in first-class shape. The house is full of city boarders and there are daily arrivals of transient visitors."
"Tents to the number of sixteen will be pitched at 'Camp Lookout,' on the shore of Mirror lake (Berlin pond), to-day, to be occupied by the families of Colonel Fred E. Smith, J. Elliot Smith of New York city, Hon. George Nichols, Hon. E.H. Powell and L.P. Gleason. Nor is there a more charming spot in Central Vermont than that occupied by this same 'CampLookout.' Near the head of Mirror lake and something like one hundred fifty feet above its surface, it commands a view of the whole basin in which that beautiful sheet of water lies and is cooled by its refreshing breezes. Tents are pitched in a maple grove of about five hundred trees, beneath which the grass grows as green and luxuriously as upon the 'upland lawn.' " Springs of water are close at hand and at a convenient spot Colonel Smith has caused to be erected a house for use as a kitchen and dining-room, with chambers above for the help. On the shore of the lake he is at present erecting a house for the pretty boats which have recently been built at his order. The farm upon which 'CampLookout' is situated was purchased by Mr. Smith the past spring and has undergone many improvements since coming into his possession. It is now the intention to occupy the camp until September 1st.";words=pond+Berlin?date1=1836&rows=20&searchType=basic&state=&date2=1922&proxtext=berlin+pond&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&index=3
Tragedy 117 years ago
Burlington Free Press, Thursday, July 11, 1895
A Young Man and Lady Went to the Bottom - - Bodies Not Yet Recovered
Montpelier, July 5 - A sad accident occurred this afternoon about 4 o'clock on Berlinpond in which two persons lost their lives. A party of Scotch people from Barre had been up to the pond on a picnic and most of them had taken boats and gone out on the water.
One of the boats containing John McDonald, aged 18, and John Monroe, aged 24, and Katie Caswell, aged, 17, capsized when about half way across the pond between Pitkin's and Stewart's camps, where the water is 75 feet deep and a half mile wide. McDonald was a good swimmer and swam ashore but the other two were drowned.
The cause of the accident is supposed to have been caused by carelessness in endeavoring to change seats. Parties from Montpelier and Barre have been dragging the pond ever since but as yet have been unable to rescue the bodies. They are handicapped by a strong south wind this evening.;words=POND+BERLIN+Berlin+pond?date1=1836&rows=20&searchType=basic&state=&date2=1922&proxtext=berlin+pond&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&index=5

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