In the 1790s, fifty-two residents of Farmington, Connecticut, chiseled their names onto a rock in the forest. They had just received inoculation for smallpox. Infected by the virus and then quarantined for days, they had time to kill. They socialized and received a few visitors on a large, flat rock, now known as Hospital Rock. The clinic would have been nearby.
The assumed location of the clinic and site of the rock are on present-day Rattlesnake Mountain. Today, the rock and the carvings remain, while the clinic was lost to the forest.
Few know the site’s location. Many keepers of the knowledge belong to the Farmington Historical Society, and hesitate to give coordinates or directions. They fear vandalism. There is some substance behind that fear; many of the rocks in the nearby area are layered with destructive graffiti.
To find the site, one must know the right people. My friends and I are repeat visitors, though we had not been there for sixteen years. We felt hopeful as we climbed up the mountain and started down its leeward slope. We happened upon a trio of young people, one of whom was armed with a GPS. He bragged of his multiple visits to the site. We joined our groups and continued the search. Even with his GPS and expertise, our group backtracked and wandered. There were hundreds of potential rocks.
Finally, we stumbled upon it, subtly waiting for us off the path. Many of the carvings were shallow, the result of 200 years of wind and rain. To get a good read of the names, one can throw flour into the crevices. We had no flour, but some were legible.
Of course, they were names of that time: Newton, John, and Mary. Some were written in flowing, beautiful script. Others resembled typescript, or were rudimentary. It was satisfying to imagine these patients lazily carving their names for lack of something better to do. Were they enjoying a similarly beautiful day?
With the winding trails leading to it, and the aura of secrecy surrounding Hospital Rock, we can only hope to find it again.
Leach, Charles M.D. “Hospital Rock.” The Hog River Journal Feb./Mar./Apr. 2004. Farmington Historical Society. Web. 22 Apr. 2015. http://farmingtonhistoricalsociety-ct.org/articles/hospital-rock-by-charles-leach-m-d/.