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The Still Road Swamp Serpent (1910, 1913)

Welcome back, Monroe history lovers. This week’s history takes us just west of Monroe Center over a century ago. As you might imagine, life was very different back then. Monroe was still a simple farming community, but we were beginning to modernize. The telephone and the automobile were new technologies on the scene, and we were stuck somewhere between the past and the future. And, despite these growing pains, one pastime that remained very much the same was the ancient tradition of storytelling by the fire. Some of those early stories are still with us today, and thanks to the Internet, the legends of Hannah Cranna, and later, the Melonheads, are now known around the globe. Let that sink in for a moment. It’s really quite remarkable.

Well, here’s some Monroe lore that even the most seasoned Monroe history fan hasn’t likely heard of. Ever heard of the great serpent that lives in the Still Road Swamp? Never heard of it? Well, gather around the fire and let me tell you a story. First we’ll start with The Still Road. There are actually references to two Still Roads in Monroe history. One is the Old Still Road on lower Wheeler Road, and the other, which we’ll focus on today, is the Still Road just west of Monroe Center. We refer to this same road today as Church Street, but only the portion that runs from the Green to Elm Street. Although little is known of the details today, there was apparently a distillery located on this road, most likely where the Beardsley Brook flows beneath it.

But, what is this nonsense about a swamp? I’ve driven along that road to and from church every Sunday for more than a half century. There’s no swamp in that area! A very common response, but there is a swamp there, and it’s hidden in plain sight. As a matter of fact, it has in large part defined the roads north and west of Monroe Center since the earliest days of our town. It’s a massive swamp, strewn with stones, nearly 20 acres in area. There are so many stones that you could walk across the entire swamp in any direction atop them. It is here that the legendary reptile is said to live, tormenting young and old for generations. Attached are two newspaper articles from 1910 and 1913 respectively that share the details of its existence.

Why has the swamp at Monroe Center remained untouched? Because draining swamps takes an incredible effort. It’s far easier to develop your town’s infrastructure to avoid them. It is for that reason that our massive swamp is Identical today to how it was first seen by our earliest settlers c.1720. I’ve attached a recent LIDAR image of the swamp, which is an aerial laser mapping of the area. Take notice of how the highlighted swamp is carpeted with stones in every direction. Ever wonder why there’s a sharp bend on Fan Hill Road just north of the Center as you head west toward East Maiden Lane? It’s simple. It’s to avoid the swamp.

It’s now clear that our earliest roads purposely avoided the swamp, but as more and more of Monroe’s land has been developed over the generations, there have been inroads that now kiss the swamp on all sides. Roads like, Perry Drive and Twin Brook Terrace were built in the late 50s and early 60s, and more recently in the 1990s, Village Drive and Founders Way have made their way in toward the great swamp. Will it ever be drained, putting the great serpent out of house and home? I certainly hope not. It’s one of our earliest documented land references. It’s perplexing how almost no one knows of it today but imagine yourself back in 1910 when all our farmland was cleared of trees in every direction, you’re standing atop the Center Green and peering out across the valley to the west. Believe me. You couldn’t miss that swamp if you tried.

I hope you enjoy this week’s historic spotlight on the Still Road Swamp and the great mythical serpent said to live within. Please share this reptilian history with your family and friends, and as always, thank you for your continued support and interest in Monroe’s rich history. Until next time. Be sure to avoid the swamp! You won’t be the first, and certainly not the last.


Kevin Daly
Historian, Monroe Historical Society
Our Past is Always Present

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