The Raggies

May, 2009 by Ray Bendici
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The Damned Story: For almost a century, iron forged in the northwestern corner of Connecticut on and around Mt. Riga in Salisbury was critical in framing the young United States, from being used in muskets and cannon used in the fight for independence to being fashioned into countless farm implements and tools that were used to settle the new nation.

In addition to countless tons of iron, Mt. Riga also gave birth to a more curious commodity, a breed of "damned" mountain folk who would become known as The Raggies.

Unlike the ever-popular Melon Heads, the Raggies are well-documented and did exist without question. Back when Mt. Riga's iron industry was at its peak, those doing the dirtiest of the back-breaking labor were the poorest of the poor, a simple people who were generally shunned by the other settlers in the area. These outcasts apparently also may have been immigrants, which added to the communication gap and helped sparked the prejudice against them. As time went on, they started being called "Raggies," which may have been descended from "Riga," the mountain on which they lived and worked.

After the iron forges went cold in the middle of the 19th century, the Raggies slowly lost what little cachet they had in community, and withdrew to the more remote parts of the area. As the decades passed, they continued to keep to themselves, often intermarrying and adhering to their own ways. They survived well into the 20th century, living quietly on the slopes of "Mt. Raggie," as Mt. Riga was often called by the locals, and going to great lengths to avoid the outside world.

There are stories that the few Raggies who still live there today are a hard people, toughened by existing on the bare necessities and copious amounts of alcohol. They are referred to as borderline white trash, although no doubt the prejudices that have followed them since they first came to this corner of the state still linger. As we all well know, more ignorant folk use "different" as an excuse to treat others poorly, and no doubt the Raggies -- who never have seemed to be much for communication and open understanding -- have been victims of cultural abuse.

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Obviously not much is truly known of them and their culture, so the Raggies remain a mysterious people in Connecticut's history.

Not surprisingly, you can read more about the legends of Mt. Riga and the Raggies at Legendary Connecticut. Creepy Connecticut offers a more detailed and historical investigation of The Raggies.

Our Damned Experience: We have yet to enjoy any Raggie-time experiences.

If You Go: Mt. Riga is located (ironically) just outside of Mt. Riga State Park in Salisbury, close to Lakeville. It is accessible on hiking trails for Bear Mountain, a highly recommended hike. There is a small cemetery on Mt. Riga, a quiet reminder of the long history of a quiet people, the Raggies.

View Mt Riga in a larger map

Comments

Submitted by Pat (not verified) on

The raggies still exist today in Winsted,CT!

Submitted by nck (not verified) on

Does ANYONE have any stories, info, ANYTHING on raggie history and more importantly what has become of Raggies in modern day salisbury? Any left? ANy signs of old cabins left?

ANy info would be appreciated. Thank you.

It is true, some Raggies had migrated to Winsted Ct and today if you travel through the town, you will frequently see the offspring of them who now inhabit the downtown area.. Unfortunatly there is no mystery to these people. They seemed to have integrated themsleves into society very well and now there are just poor examples of the origional raggies everywhere. Urbandictionary does a good job at describing them. Also, there is a facebook group dedicated to the raggies and its members consist of the relatives of the raggies, raggies themselves, and anyone who is familiar with them.

Submitted by Ted Brazee (not verified) on

A "Raggie" here...My father is buried in cemetery.

FOR THE RECORD,MANY OF THE "RAGGIES" FROM THE MT, RIGA AREA OF CT/N.Y. BORDER WERE IMMIGRANTS FROM LATVIA,SOME FROM THE LATVIAN CAPITAL AND LARGEST CITY CALLED RIGA.THEY WERE COMPRISED OF SKILLED CRAFTSMEN,IRON FOUNDRY WORKERS AND SAILORS WHO APPEARED STRANGE TO THE LOCAL TOWND DUE TO THEIR DIFFERENCES IN CULTURE AND LANGUAGETHEY PLAYED A VITAL ROLE IN CREATING CHARCOAL FOR THE NEARBY FOUNDRIES AND THEY WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR CREATING(FORGING) THE IRON ANCHORS NEDED BY THE MILITARY.THE IRON FOUNDRY ON TOP OF MT. RIGA IS STILL PRESENT.1900 CENSUS 4309 LATVIANS IN U.S.

Submitted by James (not verified) on

Once saw diarama at Bradley International Airport about the drawfs of Mt. Riga. Any photos accessible on the web?

Ted Brazee --

I've been asked by some folks interested in doing an episode of their show about the so-called Melon Heads as well as the Raggies.

If you'd be kind enough to consider speaking to them please contact me via my website www.petrucha.com and I can supply more info. Thanks.

Submitted by Steve Frank on

Paranormal State?

Submitted by Pat Hickey (not verified) on

Ted Brazee. It has been and is his life. He is a Raggie. Ted has history, photos, and MOST.... the poetry of his father. Wonderful, wonderful! I myself have read and listened to these folks. Dined on venison hash in there colorful abode and Kathleen Brazee will be in my heart for EVER.

Submitted by Amy (not verified) on

I've always wondered why "raggie" was a term only used in the NW corner of CT... now I know! What an interesting story!

Submitted by Ted Brazee (not verified) on

Ted Brazee...Iam currently starting to work on a book about Mt. Riga from memories and poems ( well over 100 poems and raggie lore) that my dad Dave Brazee has written down. My dear friend Glen Chapell is helping. Anyone interested further may contact me at [email protected] My dad always wanted to publish these memories and I hope to fulfill his wish. I myself am proud to be called a raggie as were many of my relatives before that lived,loved, and protected the mountain.

Submitted by Terry (not verified) on

There is an article in the New Haven Register from December 29, 1940 titled, "Connecticut Iron Ore Industry Revives." Part of the article is about the Raggies.

My great-great-grandfather (born in 1872) grew up in Salisbury. He wasn't a Raggie, but I have a letter he wrote which describes the iron ore industry during that time, along with a couple of brief mentions of the Raggies.

Submitted by DENISE BALL (not verified) on

I am a Raggie. There are lot's of us left but no one wants to say so or even knows what being a Raggie means. The Salisbury Raggie is someone like my Grandfather ( Edward Harvey Ball) who was born on Mount Raggie in 1883. He walked up and down the mountain road everyday to go to work as logger. He used horses to hull logs and carried an ax like people today carry a gun. My Grandfathers father is Harvey Ball and is buried on the Mt. in the original Salisbury Cemetery. I have lots of stories about life on the Mt. during the time of the iron works..That's who I am and I'm proud of it. AND as far as Winsted goes? Many of the Ball clan moved to Winsted after the days on the mountain closed and people just scattered to the winds. If you think that Raggies are some inbred toothless race of beings you are SICK. And I don't mean that in a nice way sick, I mean YOU are toothless and stupid and obviously uneducated in your information. So grow up and learn how to read. My family moved into the Sheffield, Mass. area and that's where to this day many relatives are still residing..Thank you to who ever asked about this in the..first place..Enjoy the day !!

Submitted by Teresa OBrien (not verified) on

I was wondering if anyone knew my mothers father, the only thing I know is his name was George Brazee. I am unaware of his year of birth or death. I know he was from Mt. Raggy as I went with my mother Georgianna for a ride out there the year before she died. My mother was born in Feb.1941 to George Brazee and my grandmother Mildred. I know that my grandmother divorced George when my mom and my uncle Donald Brazee were small children. I didn't know much about my grandfather but I believe my mom told me he was French and Blackfoot Indian. I know he was definately an alcoholic which was passed on to my mother unfortunately. My mother passed away in 2005 and my grandmother passed away this year after years of living with Alzhimers. If anyone could give me any information about my mothers family I would appreciate it, the only reason that I was inquiring was because I have MS and they say it could be hereditary. Thanks to anyone who could shed some light on my family history I'd appreciate it.

Submitted by Ted Brazee (not verified) on

Teresa O brian if I can help George Brazee was my uncle e mail me at tbriga@gmail if you want to talk further

Submitted by Denise Ball (not verified) on

Hi to anyone looking for information on the Raggies. The Ball family is mostly buries onthe mountain and then some are also in the Ashley Falls Cemetery. If you are interested in Raggie history I have a lot of information on the people of the mountain. The Ball clan was on the mountain when the iron works just got started. Ball Brook and Ball Peak,,( now called bald peak, ) was called that because that's where my grandfather would go to look out over the land. My Dad would bring his father and the whole family to the mountain every year as a tribute to where Grandpa grew up and his father before him and his father before him. I can see my family at the upper cemetery and I have collected a large amount of info. My family goes back 5 generations on Raggie. There aren't any others that I know about that go back that far. If you would like any information on the early history of Raggie feel free to get in touch and we can chat..thank you all very much for your interest in the history of such a beautiful area..Enjoy the day !

Submitted by Lynn Ball (not verified) on

I claim descent from Daniel Ball and Daniel Jr. (b. 1780-Salisbury, CT). Some writers claim they ran ironworks on Mt. Riga. I know Jr. sold land on Tachonik Mt., to Holly, Coffing, and Petee. Jr. moved to Alford/West Stockbridge/Lee, MA, with wife Lydia Merritt (d/o Cornbury Merritt--in Mt. Riga Cemetery) about 1813. I would dearly like to learn as much as I can from you.
Thank you in advance,
Lynn Ball
P. S. A bit of irony: My youngest sister is Denise

Submitted by Arthur Ball (not verified) on

Hi I live in Manchester NH and have been doing the family geneology for years( I am from the Watertown Mass lineage) I also work with Ron Ball and he told me his branch of the family is from Winsted. Last week I was on vacation and one day drove down to search for graves in town Did not find any Knew nothing of Mt Riga. I would love to hear from Denise, Lynn, or any other member of the Ball family Art Ball

Submitted by Lynn Ball (not verified) on

Submitted by Angie D (not verified) on

ACL! I'm engaged to a Raggie. I have heard him refer to himself as this. I hail from central CT, but he is from the hills of Salisbury (a mile from Meryl Streep, actually.). I never knew this had such a history, though. Slightly creepy.

Submitted by Doug Pfenninger (not verified) on

I moved to Winchester five years ago and have become fascinated with the history of NW CT, particulary the iron mines and furnaces. Is it safe to say the "raggies" were colliers - the guys who made the charcoal? Or did they work in the mine? Either way- hard working people for sure!
Does anyone know the location of the Tuttle mine in Winsted which I understand was once a very productive mine?
Thanks,
Doug

Submitted by Terry (not verified) on

Doug,

From a letter written by my great-great-grandfather in 1940:

"...the burning of the charcoal was not done by the 'Raggies' [but] rather by colliers brought over from France."

If you have an Ancestry.com account, the letter – along with a few other things about the Raggies and the iron ore mines around Salisbury – can be found here:

http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/18141301/person/615480617/media/8?pgnum=1...|pgNum

Submitted by Denise Ball (not verified) on

To those who were asking about the Ball family and others as well, I would like to tell you that some of the families FROM Raga after the collapse of the iron works , then MOVED to Winsted Conn. Some of my family MOVED to Winsted after they laft the mountain. You will not find raggies burred in Winsted because they are on the mountain and in the Salisbury cemeteries. The Brazee family, who through marriage I became related to are from the area and in central Conn. as well. My family, the Ball family came to the mountain back in the 1600 and the 1700's through New York and east and north. My grampa, Edward Harvey Ball was born on Mt. Riga or we call it Mt. Raggie. His father was Harvey Ball and Sylvestre Ball was his father as well. They are all in the mountain cemetary and can still be made out if you have some paper to rub on. Teb Brazee's Mom my X mother-in-law used to find articles for me about my family because Ted's father was well known in Salisbury and well liked. He understood the mountain for what it was not for what it could be. David Brazee was not born on the top of the mountain but he lived like he was, and he honored my families beginnings and the beginnings of others. David Brazee was a wonderful man. Anyone who would like to know more about the mountain and the Ball family can leave some way for me to get in touch or we can arrange to exchange info and I would enjoy a chat about the mountain and the [people I knew and know still. Thank you all for the interest. Enjoy the day !

Submitted by Doug Pfenninger (not verified) on

Submitted by Denise Ball (not verified) on

Hi Doug,what is your interest in. Thank you for your reply in kind. You can never be too careful, I'm sure you understand.
Denise
PS To anyone looking to get in touch about the history of the Raggie Hills leave a message here and I will look through them and get back to some of those who show real interest in the mountain and the people.

Submitted by Arthur Ball (not verified) on

Hi Denise I am interested in your Ball ancestry I have heard from Lynn (see above postings) but unfortunately haven't had the time to get back in touch with her for a good conversation. I work at USPS in Manchester NH with a Ronald Ball His father was Lyman Ball and they came from Winsted I am a native Vermonter but come from Nathaniel Ball of Watertown Mass and have been trying to fill in the geneology for about 40 years always searching for more "cousins" The Raggies story seems very interesting and would like to know more You can contact me at [email protected] God Bless Art Ball

Submitted by Doug Pfenninger (not verified) on

Denise,
I am doing background research for a book I am working on about the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries in NW CT. The iron industry will play a part in the later sections of the book.
Doug

Submitted by Denise Ball (not verified) on

http://www.ct-amc.org/nwcamp/index.shtm?http%3A//www.ct-amc.org/nwcamp/M... This is for those who have some crazy idea that a Raggie was something of a mystery or maybe still is I have some news for ya ! You can read about some of the history here of Mount Riga and the Raggies that lived there. The term was a simple way of classing people who after all the work was done on the mountain and all the tree's had been cut and used for building and the furnaces, the children who's parents were once very well off had now become poor, raggies. The children in the schools that at one time flooded the community were now an liability to the town and so most moved away to make a life for themselves and their families. Please do research before writing about things you may have only heard of before. I am from the mountain and my Grandfather was a hard working man who made iron and cut the tree's needed to build that town and i am proud to have the name Ball and to be a decedent of a Raggie.

Submitted by jesica duncan (not verified) on

my great grandma was Helen Ball sister to buck ball married to john Myers and related to many in the grave yard there and i will defenatly read your site denise i know the balls played their part in this countrys history

Submitted by Ramona Higer (not verified) on

Denise, I am very curious about the cemetery. My family the Tousleys were early
settlers in the Salisbury area and worked at the ore mines. Have you found any
Tousleys (or sometimes spelled Towsleys) in your cemetery lists?
Many thanks, Ramona

Submitted by Kris McAllister (not verified) on

The word "Raggie" is used in many different ways. Its all in the way it is said. A lot of people use it as a friendly term amongst each other. Its not always bad....et not always good either.

Submitted by Anna Mclellan (not verified) on

I am curious if there were churches on Mt Riga associated with the cemetery. I am wondering about the religious background of the people on the mountain as a clue to their heritage. If they had schools, where did the families worship?

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