3 charged with busting historic kiln

HAWLEY — Three area men have been charged with damaging a historic Hawley landmark.

In November, several thousand dollars in damage was done to the oldest flagstone charcoal kiln in New England. It was built in 1870, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A 3- to 4-foot hole was made in the stone wall of the 25-foot-wide kiln, in the state-owned Kenneth Dubuque Memorial Forest. State police began to seek the people who damaged the historic structure, which is often used by area youths looking for a place to party.

Just more than a month later, police have filed charges against three men from neighboring towns.

Alexander J. Miller, 22, and Cody W. Jobst, 21, of 204 and 1281 Spruce Corner Road, Ashfield, and Leon Tuthill Jr., 21, of 108 East Main St., Plainfield, will be summoned to court on charges of vandalizing a historic marker or monument, malicious and wanton destruction of property over $250, and vandalizing property.

State trooper Bernard Trott said the three had gone to the kiln to celebrate Tuthill’s 21st birthday on Nov. 10.

“Upon arrival they started a fire inside the kiln with wood that they had dropped off the day before,” said Trott. “A short time later the three became bored so began dismantling the kiln, according to an eyewitness.”

The day before the damage was discovered, Hawley resident Bob Root said he’d seen a pile of firewood stacked inside the fieldstone structure. Root, who lives near the kiln, told The Recorder that he often walks to the area with his son to clean up the beer bottles and trash left over from parties.

When Root took his Sunday morning walk the next day, he discovered the damage to the kiln and called the fire chief, who got in touch with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and state police.

The kiln was built for successful farmer and former Hawley Selectman William O. Bassett around 1870. At 25 feet across and standing about as high, the kiln could turn 35 cords of hardwood into charcoal in a single firing. The charcoal was then sold to blacksmiths, building owners and others as fuel.

The kiln was used to house livestock from the early 1900s to 1957, when the state purchased the land.

The kiln was restored at that time, and again in 1993 and 2011.

The most recent repairs, which fixed loose stones near the kiln’s chimney, cost the state $16,000.

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