The Middlesex Land Trust has recently acquired a rather unique property located in the Maromas section of Middletown. Comprising 22 +/- acres, the property is characterized by steep outcrops and ledges enclosing deep ravines. The donors wish to remain anonymous, so MLT has gone back in time to find a suitable name for the property. Land records research revealed that the parcel was historically known as the “Shailer Tract”, named for an early 19th-century owner. Combining this reference with a physical description, MLT has named the property the “Shailer Ledges Preserve”.
The property is bounded westerly by Maromas Road, southerly by Aircraft Road, easterly by land of Pratt & Whitney (the jet engine plant) and northerly by CL&P powerlines. Best access to the property is made from an old highway (part of the original River Road) that climbs easterly from the southerly terminus of Maromas Road to a steep ridge on the southeasterly boundaries. The ridge provides a sporting scramble, but an easier approach follows another old road into the central ravine. Steep and bold ledges overlook the ravine and provide more scrambling opportunities for adventurous visitors. A loop trail will be established that will lead hikers up and over the top of the ledges along the northerly boundary. The trail will be blazed and mapped and ready for travel by late spring or early summer 2013.
This part of Middletown was formerly occupied to a much greater extent than it is today, as evidenced by the Maromas Cemetery opposite the Preserve on the south side of Aircraft Road. The poignant epitaphs on many of the gravestones harken back to an earlier time, when many lives were cut short by disease and preparation for the afterlife was a primary concern. Prior to the colonial era, the riverbanks and hillsides were home to bands of Wangunk Indians, and the central ravine may have been occupied by native wigwams and hogans. The evidence is circumstantial, but the topography resembles locales in Portland and on Haddam Neck where deep-sided ravines provided secure flanks and an easily defensible front, where the historical record notes that small groups of Wangunks made their last resorts up to the end of the 18th century. An overhanging rock shelter on the westerly flank of the ledges contains an ancient hearth, and seems likely to have been occupied in pre-contact times as a hunting camp.