Within the west area in the suburbs of Boston there are many of parks, forests, trails, wildlife nature preserves and more, including the so-called Ashland Town Forest.
Within this small scenic area, fairly deep within the woods and close to the Framingham town line, is a location that has a direct connection to one of the darkest chapters of early colonial American history.
Basically it is a large towering collection of rocks and boulders, marked on the local trail map as “caves.”
Although it may not look like something interesting, a series of small caves once existed at this location which was used as a hiding spot for refugees fleeing from the witch trials in Salem.
Salem is well known for its gruesome history of witch trials and the stories of those executed in the anti-witch hysteria.
But it’s also believed that there was a network of people in the area who secretly worked to help those accused of witchcraft escape to safety.
Local historians say that in 1693 some people suspected of witchcraft traveled to this area to hide in the so-called “witch caves.”
Perhaps the most notable character in this story was Sarah Bridget Clayes, whose name was sometimes recorded as Clay or Cloyes, and her husband Peter.
Sarah was accused and imprisoned for witchcraft, while her two sisters were executed.
She and Peter were able to escape and took refuge in caves near Cowassock Brook on Danforth Plantation owned by the former colonial governor, Thomas Danforth, who was ousted as governor when he opposed the trials and was very sympathetic to the plights of the victims.
He allowed the Clayes to settle on his land, where they built a house that still stands today and It’s one of the five so-called “witch houses” in the area.
Over time, more refugees began to settle on Danforth’s land and the area came to be known as “Salem End.”
After Thomas Danforth died in 1699, the community of refugee settlers came together and created the town of Framingham in honor of Danforth’s hometown of Framlingham back in England.
Although the original caves have long since collapsed and not much remains today, it is still a unique location with a very interesting history.
Images from web – Google Research