Heading south from Many Springs Pond on Tuckamony Farm, the entrance to the woods feeds into a deep rut that runs up to the spine of a ridge. At first glance it might seem to be a deep swale cut through the soil by rainwater, but if you follow it uphill you will see it intersect with another ancient furrow that runs along the top of the ridge.
Before white settlers came to Bucks County, Burn Bridle Hill was the hub of a network of trails connecting four springs in what is now central Solebury Township. An early Quaker settler, John Scarborough, opened up these Indian foot trails and they served as the main roads in the area until Upper York Road was built after 1711. Today the road is just a worn groove, bound on one side by a housing development and on the other by a tennis court built directly in its path.
Burn Bridle Forest once ran at least as far north as Upper York Road and west towards Lahaska. The portion of the forest beyond what is now Aquetong Road was called the Barrens. Peg Tuckamony, the last of the Lenape to live in the forest, followed trails through the Barrens when she traveled between Burn Bridle and Buckingham in the late 1820′s.
For centuries, the hill has been known to possess peculiar acoustic properties. Sound coming from the north reflects off the hill in an echo that confuses its origin. When the British were encamped in the area during the American Revolution, the Indians told the Quaker settlers to keep their livestock there to hide them from the British. A descendant of these early settlers, A.E.P. Darrow (née Annie Pearson) recounted the following as an old woman in 1931:
” The English took horses and cattle whenever they wanted them and had a chance. That is why the Pearsons and neighbors hid the best of their stock in the Forest over next to Forrest Crooks’ property, and the Indians helped watch them. Before timber was cut from the top of the Hill, there were funny echoes. If you shouted the echoes would come back to you from every direction and no one could tell where you were. So, if the cattle bawled, no one who didn’t know could tell from which direction the bawl really came.”
Her father, Wilson Pearson, cut down the last stand of timber on the hill around 1850. In the intervening century and a half, the forest has returned and so has the echo.
This echo is probably responsible for another piece of folklore, passed on from the Lenape to the early Quakers. An old wolf, weak and unable to hunt, entered an Indian camp out of desperation and killed a child. The Indians then hunted the wolf down and killed it at the intersection of the main road and the trail to the Crooks spring. It is said that the wolf still haunts Burn Bridle Hill, and that you can sometimes still hear it howling. When Wilson Pearson was a boy in the early 1800′s, some people were still afraid to pass there at night. Darrow claims (writing in 1931), “If the ghost still walks, Forrest Crooks owns it.”
It was on also this trail that Herbert Hoover’s ancestors George Haworth and Sarah Scarborough courted, and according to Darrow, “Father said it was an ideal ‘Lovers Lane,’ with big old chestnut trees interlacing their branches over head and the huckleberry and wild honeysuckle bushes covering the ground both sides.”
Wilson Pearson felled the chestnuts with the rest of the timber, but today the woods are coming back as dense as ever in a verdant ten acre section where Malcolm Crooks has set up a deer exclosure to help regrow the forest.