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"The Hermit of Erving Castle"

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The Hermit of Erving, Massachusetts, was a man who gave his name as John Smith. He began living in a cave in March, 1867, on Northfield Mountain, above the village of Erving Center. The true story of life before he came to Erving is impossible to verify. Smith tended to tell many stories about himself and his past, many of them contradictory and more than a few of them incredible. For example, he claimed he had "worked" as a hermit in England, a choice he made to recover from a broken heart. His accent revealed his Scottish origin. Immigrating to Boston from Britain, Smith traveled west and found the cave he took as his home. He lived there alone and undiscovered for a summer before he was found by hunters in September, 1867. Smith immediately became something of a celebrity. His fame was increased when two biographies of him (1868 and 1871), appeared, both entitled, "The Hermit of Erving Castle." Both repeated the stories he told to entertain his many guests. This text comes from the 1871 booklet, published "for the benefit of the hermit." Smith lived in or near the cave until October, 1899, when he was found to be too frail to maintain himself. He died at the town farm in Montague, Massachusetts, in March, 1900.


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