Berlin Pond and Benjamin’s Falls

Berlin Pond, or Mirror Lake, Berlin, Vermont
Berlin Pond, or Mirror Lake, Berlin, Vermont

Upon the highlands of the town of Berlin, at a distance of four or five miles from the capital of the State, and at an elevation of little less than 400 feet above the same, lies a beautiful body of water — Berlin Pond; about 2 miles in length, narrowing into a width of 50 feet at two-thirds of the distance from the head, giving the wider parts the designation of the upper and lower pond. The water is clear and soft, and when unmoved, reflects the entire margin of hill-sides, farm and forest, while the sky and clouds above seem to have lazily lain down upon its bosom till well might these be called Mirror lakes. Berlin pond, or ponds have long been a resort of fishing parties, and of late, a growing taste for rural scenes and camp-life, induces longer stay, and during the warmer summer months it is not uncommon now for families from neighboring towns to pitch here their tents and set up a system of co-operative housekeeping that succeeds, during which sojourn religious services are held on Sundays in the open air, or, if rainy, in some one of the larger tents.

If always “a thing of beauty,” the pond has not always been “a thing of joy.” At times it has shown a greed of human life, and helped to fill the cup of sorrow — engulfing once a bright and promising boy, the only son of parents dwelling on its border, and from the shadowy forest of the eastern shore there once came whisperings of foul treachery and homicide. But these events were of the past — never to be repeated, let us hope.

Benjamin Falls at Berlin Vermont
Benjamin Falls at Berlin Vermont

The village of the town is situated at the lower and northern extremity of the pond, and here is a fall with a good water-power which has long been utilized. From this outlet the stream runs in a circuitous route some over a mile, falling 19 feet, and furnishing two other water-powers on its way, thence rushing on more rapidly, as if tired of slow work, and eager for frolic, seeks the woods and at once away from observation and restraint, its wild race begins, and in less than 300 feet it falls in one leap after another, 274 feet. The first of these leaps 50 feet in an angle of 65 degrees. The second about 6 rods below, falling 30 feet perpendicularly; and 18 rods farther on is the third falls of 130 feet at an angle of 30 degrees. Thus far so completely hidden are Benjamin’s Falls, known by the name of the owner of the land through which the stream runs — that perhaps most people in their vicinity have never seen this beautiful freak of nature’s. But though long unknown and unvisited through the warm season, of late, parties one or more, may often be found spending the day here. Cool, sheltered, and for a wonder is not damp, nothing can be more delightful than to sit under the trees and watch the caprices of the rushing, roaring torrent. The maples and birches crowd close to its edge, laving their roots in its waters and throwing their arms out over it, the tall evergreens stand like sentinels around, and soft mosses and delicate ferns cushion and fringe its banks save where the sharp rocks jut out as a stronger bulwark of protection. A party at one time visiting the falls after a long and heavy rain beheld in a nook at one side of the perpendicular fall, which the excess of water had completely filled, float a mass of foam in the form of the lower half of a perfect cone, 4 or 5 feet in diameter, of the purest white at the base, and gradually gaining color until crowned by the amber of the daintiest merschaum, while in a broader, but shallower pool a few rods below was the image of a huge ram, tossing and struggling to extricate himself from the watery element.

Long ago this wild frolicsome power was seized for the service of the early settlers. At the foot of the first fall was the first sawmill, and at the foot of the second the first grist-mill erected in the county. Whether the ascent to the mills on the one side was too steep, or the descent on the other too difficult, or whether it came to be thought of mills as it did of churches — better to put them in the valleys than on the hilltop, we may not now know, but standing on the ground and seeing left only the foundation walls and the millstone lying in the stream below, one questions whether the stream itself had not something to do in their abandonment, this turbulent, wilful thing, so fascinating in its beauty, so destructive in its power; now abating somewhat of its violence, turning aside here and there into little nooks, coquetting with the fallen trunks of trees, then back again over the smaller rocks in its bed, giving, as it emerges from the shelter of the woods, a tithe of its power to turn the wheel of a little mill — thus “working out its highway tax,” and then after one short, sharp and final plunge, gracefully yielding to the inevitable, making its way through the fertile meadows, passes quietly into the waters of the Winooski.


Article is based largely on the The Vermont historical gazetteer : a magazine embracing a history of each town, civil, ecclesiastical, biographical and military.
Additions, corrections, changes, and design have been made to the original source to produce this article. Those additions and changes are © 2020 by Vermont Genealogy.

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