Black '47  LbNA # 13771

Placed DateMar 13 2005
LocationEast Glastonbury, CT
Planted ByWild Rover    
Found By Traveln Turtle
Last Found Apr 3 2017
Hike Distance?

John Tom Hill – Shenipsit Trail
(moderately adventurous)

This letterbox is a collaboration between MayEve and Wild Rover.

During the 16th century, Ireland was torn apart by constant warfare between the country’s English rulers and Irish inhabitants. One result of this continual conflict was that Irish peasant farmers had difficulty growing enough food for themselves, and the English landowners ordered most of their yield be exported for profits. The potato was introduced in Ireland around 1600. Some believe that it was introduced by the famous English explorer, sea captain and poet Sir Walter Raleigh. Still others believed that potatoes washed ashore from the shipwreck of the Spanish Armada which sank off the Irish coast in a violent windstorm. The more likely scenario is that Spanish conquerors took the Incan vegetable “patata” back to Europe in the 1500’s, and they eventually reached Ireland.

The Irish peasants became almost immediately and totally dependent on the potato, for a number of reasons. First, the crop of “lumpers” produced far more food per acre than wheat, and could also be sold as a source of income. Second, the potato proved to be a healthy and reliable food source and, remarkably, “the potato is one of the few foods that has all the basic vitamins necessary to maintain a human life.” {1} Lastly, the potato survived well in this warring land, buried below ground. English soldiery often burned fields in Ireland destroying crops and livestock, but when the soldiers left, the peasants could still dig up the potatoes and eat them. Ireland became the first country in Europe where the potato became a major food source, and due to its abundance the population in Ireland swelled from less than 3 million in 1500 to a staggering 8 million in 1840. {2}

While the Irish ignored warnings that such widespread dependence on a single crop could be devastating, a disease called “blight” (caused by the fungus “phytophthora infestaus”) wiped out the potato crop in America in 1843 and began to strike continental Europe in 1845. {3} By the summer of 1845 the first signs of blight were apparent (brown patches and white mold on the leaves and in the tubers), and by autumn the entire crop across Ireland had failed, the potatoes turning to mush. People began to starve and, unable to pay rent, peasants and farmers began to be evicted by their English landowners en masse. Ironically, during these tragic years the potato was the only crop to fail, and while wheat, oats, beef, mutton, pork, fish and poultry were all in excellent supply, the English landlords shipped these to the continent to turn a profit {1}.

With nowhere to live and nothing to eat, peasants began wandering the countryside begging for food and/or work. Many ate grass and weeds to survive, while others who could afford to leave sailed to Canada or America in search of a better life. Ships hauling lumber to England were glad to receive paying passengers back to Canada or America rather than returning empty, but the condition of these ships was deplorable for human “cargo.” More than a million people left Ireland aboard these “coffin ships” during these years, adeptly named because many people died aboard these vessels due to disease compounded by overcrowding and the deplorable conditions aboard.

Famine relief for the starving and homeless in Ireland was slow in coming. The potato crop failed again in 1846, and in 1847, as hundreds of thousands of starving people poured into Ireland’s towns and cities in search of relief, epidemics of typhoid fever, cholera and dysentery broke out and claimed even more lives than starvations itself. {4} This tragic year in Ireland’s history became known as “Black ‘47.” Through 1847 the English government was unwilling to send money to Ireland for famine relief for fear that the Irish would use it “only to buy guns and revolt.” There was also reluctance to provide material aid such as soup kitchens because “they will get used to the free food and never become self-sufficient.” {1} The English public stopped donating to famine relief, and what little help was trickling into Ireland was ceased in 1847 when English Prime Minister John Russel cut off all aid to Ireland. {3}

The potato crop failed once more in 1848, and was accompanied by Asiatic cholera. The 1841 census recorded an Irish population of 8.2 million, and by 1851 this figure had been reduced to 6.5 million, with at least one million people dying from starvation and its attendant diseases, while the remainder sought emigration to Britain and North America. Because many affected by the famine lived in remote and inaccessible places, it is more than possible that far more people died that has ever been thought. {4} The potato famine in Ireland had devastating and wide-reaching effects. Resentment against the English grew, eventually leading to outright rebellion and the formation of the IRA. Widespread emigration shaped the cultural and societal makeup of many other countries, including the United States. The structure of Ireland was also changed forever – agriculturally, politically, educationally and more. “Despite the massive devastation of the famine, the Irish have proven to be survivors – shunned by many they carried on, worked hard and eventually became assimilated into other countries. Ireland was brought to its knees during the Great Famine, but the resilience and spirit of the Irish people ensured that they never gave up. Today, Ireland is a strong country in Europe – economically, artistically, and musically – but as a nation they will always remember the Black days. We would all do well not to forget.” {3}

The Black ‘47 letterbox memorializes this tragic event, and honors the resiliency of the Irish people. May Eve’s wonderful hand carved stamp is an adaptation of the logo for the Irish/NY rock band “Black ‘47” which was formed in 1989 in the Bronx on St. Patrick’s Day (See:, and which often plays live in Harford County [the first 5 finders of this letterbox get a special Black ‘47 token of our appreciation for braving the cold, the snow and the cliff). Hope you find this box, like it and enjoy it – thanks for looking! – Wild Rover & MayEve


This is the same entrance/trail as the “John Tom Hill” letterbox placed on 10/25/2002 by John and Jen of Hebron, and adopted on 8/18/2003 by the Bird Stamper with RTRW’s magnificent replacement stamp. The view from John Tom Hill is phenomenal, and we thank Bird Stamper and RTRW for introducing us to this trail.

From Route 2 take Exit 8 for route 94. From Route 2 East, take a left. From Route 2 West, take a right and then another right. This puts you onto Route 94 East, Hebron Avenue. Continue on Hebron Avenue crossing Route 83. Continue on Hebron Avenue 2.9 miles from Route 83, and turn left onto Birch Mountain Road. Once on Birch Mountain Road drive 0.8 miles, passing under a set of power lines, and park on the right side of the road, across from several large boulders. [Note, on the right side of the road is a blue-blazed trail that leads to Gay City State Park.] On the right is a “No Parking” sign – directly across the road on the left side is the entrance to the blue trail. Begin here.


Enter the blue blazed trail on the left side of the road between the large boulders [a tree marks the trail “60”], ascend the stone steps past a large quartz, cross the gravel road, and enter the forest on the blue blazed trail [a small blue badge on a tree notes “To Shenipsit Trail”]. Ascend another rocky/rooty path, past a radio tower on the right, and after a short distance you will come to an intersection with the blue-white-blue blazed Shenipsit Trail. Take the b/w/b-blazed trail to the right [heading north].

Continue on the trail through a grove with several birches [there is a 4-sister birch off to the right at one point], and traverse under a tree that has fallen over the trail left to right. The trail continues to descend down into a valley where Bird Stamper noted a large three-trunked Oak on the left, followed by a Wolf Oak also on the left that is across the trail from a fallen tree on the right. The trail now begins to ascend slightly, and leads to the base of a large outcropping of glacial erratic on the hillside straight ahead. At this point the trail turns right.

Follow the trail to the right, whereupon it turns to the left and ascends a rocky/rooty path. While ascending this path you come to a small rocky outcropping on the right (with a fallen tree atop it) jutting into the pathway, and directly across the path is a two sister tree – the narrowed pathway creates a little “toll-booth” in the path. Proceed ten steps from this “toll-booth” and, at the point where the trail turns sharply to the right, stop and take a bearing of 330 degrees [a small knobby-based fallen tree points the way]. Basically, you are going straight (off the trail) instead of turning right on the trail. Proceed about 40 steps at 330 to a fallen tree at the crest of a cliff alongside two small stumps, stop, and take a bearing of about 40 degrees (basically turning left), keeping the gorge on your right. Traverse a fallen tree alongside a stump that rises some 15 feet on the right, then continue to another fallen tree where, ahead to the right, you will see a large glacial erratic with a clump of quartz near the top like a quartz eye. Descend down into this erratic toward the quartz eye, being very careful, and before reaching the quartz, suspended by a cable from the fallen tree you just traversed, hidden deep within the erratic like a subterranean potato, you will find the Black ‘47 letterbox. You can use the cable to retrieve the letterbox from the cavern, which [don’t be alarmed] is in a black & green ammo box duly marked as a letterbox. A walking stick is helpful in re-hiding the box – please re-hide well.


{1} “The 19th Century: The Great Famine,” By: Koris Wright @

{2} “The Potato Then & Now: The Irish Potato Famine” @

{3} “What Was The Irish potato Famine?” By: Ruth Mark @

{4} “The Irish Famine 1845-1849,” By: Marjie Bloy, Ph.D. @

Thanks to Krusty Krab for helping us to plant this letterbox in the snow, and to Bird Stamper & RTRW for introducing us to this trail. Thanks for looking!!! -- MayEve & Wild Rover