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.
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