The missing marker—a white marble slab, according to Rowell’s son Steve—commemorates the death of Solomon Rich, a Searsburg sawmill operator who died at the age of 45 in 1848 when he was thrown from a wagon. “Erected to mark the place where Solomon Rich was thrown from his wagon April 17, 1848, and instantly killed in his 45th year.” According to a 1998 report by the University of Vermont Consulting Archaeology Program, Rich and his brother-in-law bought up Searsburg’s Lot 47 and 1,100 acres of property around it beginning in 1831, constructing upon it “what would become quite an industrial complex, including the sawmill, turning shop, outbuildings, shed, dry house, store, tannery, chair factory and three workers’ houses.”
Wayne Rowell, along with a cohort of other concerned Searsburg citizens, wondered who could have pilfered the missing marble. “We were quite concerned when we found out the marker was missing,” says Rowell. “I was concerned that it was decorating some college dorm room or something, but it turns out that wasn’t the case.”
Rowell began sleuthing around to see who might know about the marker, first contacting Searsburg Town Clerk Josephine Kilbride. “There are no other markers like it” in Searsburg, says Kilbride, “which is why it concerns me that it’s missing. We have no idea who even put the marker there in the first place.”
Kilbride contacted the Vermont Agency of Transportation, which informed her that the marker had in fact been washed downriver in 2011 during Tropical Storm Irene. The marker had originally been located on the south side of Route 9, and several years ago it was removed and placed in storage during road improvements that included realignment of the road. Following the improvements, it was replaced along the road’s north side, making it more vulnerable to flooding. Robert Faley, district transportation administrator of the agency’s southwest region, districts 1 and 3, recently informed searchers via email that the marker disappeared when Irene “washed the entire bank away. It hasn’t been seen since.”
Steve Rowell, a scuba diver and snorkeler, says that he intends to spend some time along and inside the brook to see where the marker could be. “A couple of us are talking about snorkeling or scuba diving,” he says, but, “I’m not going to excavate the river. I don’t think the state of Vermont is going to appreciate that.” In the meantime, he and others have been making their way up and down the banks of the brook, looking for any marble gleam escaping through the water.
Most of the concerned parties agree that the marker most likely sank to the bottom of the river, but that hasn’t deterred them. According to Kilbride, “I intend to follow through and get it, or another one, placed there, this time on the south side of the road.”