I’m often asked how we uncover these interesting places and history in New England. Often, I will stress the worth of libraries and lots of reading, but forget to mention the immense value of just talking to people. Many of our greatest discoveries come from a conversation with a friendly person we meet in our travels.

In fall of 2012, I was once again reminded that chatting with friends and family around you can also pay off. I was told that my father in-law Richard Gallo had a story about a long-forgotten cave in Cranston Rhode Island.  Though I found it hard to believe I could have missed something like this, I was intrigued.

When I met with Richard, I immediately asked where the cave was located. Expecting to hear that it lay on a lonely hill in the western extremes of Cranston, I was surprised by what in his story revealed.

Richard grew up on Cranston Street, Just a mile or so south of the Narragansett Brewery. Across the street from his home, in the side of Laurel Hill, was a small pond. On the far side of the pond sat the yawning mouth of Deadman’s Cave. Though it was only approximately 10 feet high and 30 feet wide, it appeared monstrous. The water of the pond flowed into the stygian abyss, giving it a very ominous appearance.

Inspired by its appearance, curious children in the neighborhood started calling the area Deadman’s cave. The local kids frequented the area, playing by the shores of the pond while trying to imagine what might be hidden in its depth. Some claimed the cave extended under the road south of it and beyond. Braving the cavern to its conclusion in a makeshift raft was considered a rite of passage.  Some would only venture slightly beyond the caves entrance, while others would dare to go further. Those who succeeded in exploring its inner sanctum were looked upon with awe and honor by their friends. The tale of their fearsome adventure was like gold.

Today the pond has been erased, and in now a parking lot for an Aldi Supermarket. Though the entrance to the dark abyss has been filled, the ledge still sits along the side of the store.

Digging for written details about the cave I soon uncovered the truth behind this geological wonder. Though it was considered a cave by most, it was actually an abandoned mine. It was known as Fenner’s Ledge and was once the location of one of the largest graphite mines in Rhode Island. It had been worked by the Rhode Island Graphite Company from 1898 into the early 1900s. They worked a graphite bed 100 feet long with an easterly dip of 50 degrees. The graphite from the mine was used for foundry facings and paint pigment.  The mine was also know for many fossilized fauna, tracks of marine anthropoids, and the a rare fossilize wing of a Etoblattina, a Paleozoic Cockroach.

After many years of operation, the mine stopped being profitable, closed and ultimately was abandoned. The lower land in front of the mine eventually filled with water to create the pond.

Now the property has been filled and paved over to create a shopping plaza. Fenner’s Ledge can still be found in the rear of the parking lot where carbonaceous shale with small graphitic beds can still be found. At the base of the ledge, there is a small passage that goes about 5 to10 feet and the turns right. This passage is located along what was previously the roof of the mine. It is too small for a person so it is unknown how far it goes before its conclusion. Though the mine is no longer accessible, it is still interesting to visit for its geology. A careful observer can still find many fine examples of fossilized fauna lying on the ground near the ledge.

After having uncovered the history about the cave, while at a social event I found another person who knew of the cave. He is a well-known Cranston resident that I would not have expected to have been such an adventurous rogue in his youth. He braved the caves depths and lived to tell about it, but that is a story for another time.

So, the next time you find yourself talking to friends in Cranston, ask them, their parents or even their grandparents if they have heard of Deadman’s Cave. You might be surprised to hear their

 

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Deadman's Cave (Gallo's Cave)

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Deadman\'s Cave (Gallo\'s Cave) 41.799479, -71.449328 Deadman\'s Cave (Gallo\'s Cave)

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