Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Item of the Month for May 2013 - Purgatory Chasm in Sutton

Massachusetts is known for its tourism and its State Parks are among the favorite attractions for visitors. One unique landmark is Purgatory Chasm, where, according to description on the website of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the origins may have come from “glacial meltwater” from 14,000 years ago and the last Ice Age. The park is a favorite with climbers, hikers and with those who marvel at very special rock formations and caverns.

It was not until the 20th century that the site became public. This was orchestrated by the work of a member of the Massachusetts General Court, Mr. Herbert Ray. His efforts led to chapter 327 of the Acts of 1919. This law called for the formation of a Purgatory Chasm State Reservation Commission. As described in Volume II of the History of the Town of Sutton Massachusetts 1876-1950, compiled by “The Town History Committee, John C. Dudley, Chairman,” the commission was to “acquire land for the reservation in the Town of Sutton, by purchase, gift or otherwise.” This “history” notes that the park contains one hundred and sixty acres.

What is so special about the Chasm?

a tourist brochure from 1954 describes the park as “A great fissure in solid rock about one-half mile in length, with walls rising sheer, seventy or more feet.” Rock formations have been given “romantic “names such as “The Corn Crib,” “The Coffin.” “the Pulpit,” “Lovers’ Leap,” and Fat Man’s Misery.”

Those who visit are warned to stay away from the edges and to wear hiking boots and or rubber-soled shoes. Photos of the park show the special terrain and the unusual rock formations.

The park remains one of Massachusetts’ favorite landmarks. In 2010, Governor Patrick visited there to volunteer and to advertise volunteerism.

Pamela W. Schofield
Legislative Reference Libraian