Posted 03 October 2009 - 03:49 PM
im going to try and clear a few things up for all the people who are under false pretenses. this is what i have found on her. and in the late 1800s she lived briefly with her parents, Gilbert and Lucy Reynolds, on the family's farm on Hell Hollow Road.
She died in October of 1890, less than three months shy of her second birthday.
It was one of several tragedies to befall her parents.
The doctor who filed her death certificate in Town Hall stated that Maud died of diphtheria, a leading cause of death in the United States in the 19th century. It swells throat tissues, making it difficult for its victims to breath [sic], eventually leading to heart failure, paralysis and sometimes death. A vaccine has long since eradicated diphtheria in this country.
A Reynolds descendant said the family contested that finding and always believed the baby choked to death on a piece of apple.
Her parents found her dead in her bed on the morning of Oct. 12, 1890, said Pat Brenek, a Reynolds family descendant. They found the apple she had been eating, the marks of her baby teeth still clearly visible in it. Long after, Brenek said, they kept the apple preserved in a bottle of alcohol, so they could see her teeth impressions.
Mary Rose Deveau, a Griswold historian who has researched Maud's death, wonders if both the apple story and the diphtheria diagnosis might be true. It's possible, Deveau said, that Maud had the disease and the swelling in her throat caused her to choke on the apple.
No matter what the case, she was the third child of Lucy and Gilbert Reynolds to die in Hell Hollow, all within a few years of one another.
[Two of Maud's brothers] are buried in the family cemetery, located in the woods across Hell Hollow Road from Maud's grave. When she was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, said Brenek, her grandmother often took her to visit the cemetery and Maud's grave.
The family plot, however, is now itself buried beneath decaying leaves and forest undergrowth.
Brenek doesn't know why Maud wasn't buried in the family cemetery.
One story locals tell is that Lucy Reynolds, who was a midwife, was so devastated by her baby's death that she refused to bury Maud in the family plot. Instead, she had Maud laid to rest closer to the home, at the top of a small rise near the farmhouse, where she could easily see the cross that marked the baby's grave.
"It makes sense. From a two-story house it would be real easy to see that grave," said Joseph Tatro. Tatro's father and uncles grew up on nearby Tatro Road and knew the Reynolds. Tatro, 55, also grew up on Tatro Road and still hunts and fishes in the Hell Hollow area.
He grew up hearing the stories about Maud's family. He also heard the witch and ghost stories growing up.
"It's a bunch of bull," he said.
"It's silly. She was just a baby, and I don't know how all these stories about her being a witch got started."
That Maud is buried in a solitary grave in such a desolate spot in the woods is probably also partly the reason for the persistent ghost stories about her, said Deveau.
At the time of her death, however, Hell Hollow, like much of the Pachaug area, was comprised of family farms and rolling fields. There were no forestlands, and Maud's tiny grave was at the edge of a field, near the road. It was a stone's throw from her parents' home.
Today, Maud's grave rests under a bower of pine trees. Maples, ash and oaks grow in thick stands on either sides of Hell Hollow Road. There is no grave marker, though a jumble of rocks is nearby. Someone has formed circles with several of the rocks. Graffiti of obscenities and odd markings are spray-painted on trees and rocks. ...
All that's left of the family's home, just down the hill, is a barely discernable stone foundation overgrown by grass and trees. Bright fall leaves float in the water at the bottom of a well shaft near the foundation.
During the 1950s and 1960s locals persisted in stealing Maud's gravestone, a 5-foot-tall cement cross, Tatro said.
A relative from New London would always replace it, but eventually gave up, he recalled. At some point, someone placed a sign on her grave warning would-be vandals that they would be cursed. The warning probably helped to boost the witch legend, Tatro said.
now if you're looking to find the place its very simple. you go down hell hallow til you get to the pond. park your car and get out and walk back up the hill. there is a small clearing about 25 feet or so fromt he pond on the left hand side. there is nothing but a pile of rocks that marks where she is buried. there is no witches they are all urban myths. i have lived in sterling for 23 yrs and kno all about all the ghost stories about sterling and voluntown, i can assure you that i have been down there many times, and im on the fence about it being "haunted" ill admit that i get a little unsettiling feeling when im there but never had anything bad happen to me. if you'd like to know anything else about it feel free to go to the library in sterling or voluntown and search the archives[b]