The mysterious legend of the Dover Plains Stone Church

It's inspired poems and paintings for centuries!

For hundreds of years, visitors have been flocking to a mysterious stone cave in Upstate New York-- the so-called Dover Stone Church. The Gothic Arch shape of the cavern entrance inspired the name, and there's even a pulpit-shaped rock inside. But, most Gothic churches don't have 30-foot waterfalls inside the way Dover's does...

It was a huge tourist attraction in the 1800's and 1900's; city-dwellers would often come upstate from New York City to enjoy fresh air and explore the cave. As a result, the Stone Church features prominently into many paintings, postcards, and poems of the era. From Hudson River School students in the mid-19th century to magazine editors in the early 20th century to WPA workers during the Great Depression, many have been captivated by the shady mystery of the Stone Church.

Perhaps it has something to do with a popular local legend about the cave. As the story goes, the cave was used as a hiding place for a Pequot Sachem (or chief) named Sassacus and his men during the Pequot War. The war was between the Pequot tribe of Southern New England and Connecticut and the English colonists and their Native American allies. Sassacus and his men were driven up to present-day Dover Plains and took refuge in the Stone Church-- but their efforts were in vain. The Pequots went to seek asylum with another tribe, the Mohawks, who turned on the Pequots, murdering Sassacus and his warriors and sending Sassacus's scalp to the colonists as a sign of friendship. Since this all took place in the 1600's, there's little evidence of how long they camped out here, or if they even stopped here at all, but it's entirely likely-- Besides, it's neat that the legend has been passed down for 400+ years, and it's chilling to imagine the embattled Native Americans hiding out in the cave, not knowing what fate would befall them.

The plot of land was privately owned until 2002, when the area was turned into a public park-- it's continued to grow since then. It now features maple-tree-lined paths, stone footbridges, quaint little ponds and tons more adorning the little park. It's still the perfect place for an afternoon picnic and hike, especially if you're looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city like the tourists of the 19th century!

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Header via Flickr/Peter

This was originally written for Roadtrippers, a great resource for anyone interested in travel.
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