You may not recognize it today, but Bomoseen State Park stands atop the abandoned village of West Castleton, Vt. At the height of its glory during the decades following the Civil War, West Castleton was a booming community of slate quarries, processing mills, and the sounds of Irish, Italian and Slavic immigrants. Today, the 19th century industrial town is silent. Only a few buildings and foundations remain to mark its passing.
According to archeologist Shelly Hight, "Those who explore the ruins and quarries of Aest Castleton and the excellent slate work in the surrounding towns, will rediscover this fascinating moment of Vermont history."
Hight was a consultant to Vermont State parks in 1988 when a special guidebook to the "ghost town".
According to Hight, Vermont's slate industry-typified by the West Castleton boom and bust days-owed its success to geology.
"Long before land animals existed, Vermont was covered with tropical seas. The soft sediments-clays and organic deris of the occean floor were thrust above sea level during mountain building times. Tremendous heat and pressure turned the sediments to metamiorphic rock-slate."
West Castelton began its booms in 1850 when the West Castleton Railroad and Slate Co. blazed through the countryside to shores of Lake Bomossen and Glen Lake. Cedar Mountain, the big slate heap still visible from the eastern shore of Lake Bomoseen was the scene of quarrying operation. A mill was built along Glen Lake and worker houses and a company store sprang up along Moscow Road and Black Pond Road. Even a schoolhouse, West Castelton Public School No. 9, was built in the growing community.
"Throught the early 1900s the slate company profited," according to Hight. "But in 1929, the Lake Shore-West Castleton Mill closed. Demand for roofing slate had declined, the quarries were nearly exhasuted, and water and rubble removal had become more difficult."
According to Hight, World War I sparked a decade of labor unrest in the slatefields. The Depression put the final nail in the West Castleton coffin.
By the 1930s, West Castleton was literally abandoned, she said.
"The village remains today as cellar holes, quarry gabbles and mills scattered among twisiting grape vines, goldenrods and maple saplings," she said.
Check It Out: You can visit the ghost town of West Castleton by starting at Bomoseen State Park. Ask the park ranger for a map of the Slate History Trail. Many of the ruins of the ghost village have fallen back into the forest. A few have been restored and are currently occupied. Please note these residences are on private property. No trespassing is permitted.