? - 1810
Little is known about the birth or life of Sarah Bishop before she came to live in a cave on West Mountain. Unlike our Sarah Bishop, she rarely spoke except in prayer and generally avoided human contact. However, she did attend church. On these occasions she would change out of her bundle of rags into a decent dress, which she hid in an unknown location.
Samuel G. Goodrich, a.k.a... Peter Parley, mentioned her in his book Recollections of a Lifetime. His family was one of the few families that Sarah would spend time with. So it is to him that we owe the following information. She was of good family and lived on Long Island. During the Revolutionary War, soldiers burned her father’s house and she was subject to some evil act. She fled to Ridgefield and accidentally stumbled onto her cave, where she spent more than 30 years concealed in her sorrows and grief, which slowly ate away at her sanity.
Her cave was a natural hollow in the rock about 6’ square with bark for a door. Except for a few rags and an old basin, it was unfurnished. Her bed was the floor of the cave and her pillow a projecting point of rock. In a nearby cleft she kept a supply of roots and nuts that she gathered or were given to her by the local townspeople, as she was never a beggar. In the summer, she grew a patch of beans, cucumbers and potatoes. Nearby were some poor peach trees and numerous highly productive grapevines.
During fair weather, she was often found at a nearby spring, quiet and still as a stone. Animals were her only companions, and it was said she domesticated a rattlesnake that paid her daily visits. In the winter time, she confined herself to her cave, where she survived on roots and nuts. She would never have a fire, even during the coldest periods. Legend has it that when she did not appear in the early spring of 1810, concerned townspeople found her dead but standing erect, her feet sunk in the frozen marsh of the valley. They gently carried her to the burying ground of the Episcopal Church in Salem, New York, which is now North Salem, NY.
Oct 2012: Presently more research has been done on our Sarah. One account by Dr. Linda Grant De Pauw in "Seafaring Women", has her abducted from her Long Island home by English Privateers. After enduring a 2 year captivity where she was used and abused, she escaped. She was so traumatized by the ordeal that she never could return to normal society again and preferred her cave. Some report that she was much more social than Peter Parley would have you believe. She attended the Lower Salem Presbyterian Church. The mystery of the dresses seems to have been solved. According to one account they were made of rich silk and satin and stored at the home of Jared Hoyt. She was skilled at knitting, sewing and spinning and would visit members of the congregation often spending the night but saying little. People did approach her to encourage her to abandoned her cave. According to one 1804 account, she appeared sound of mind, religious, and entirely happy in her situation. Her death is noted by researcher to have occurred after visiting Mr. Williamson. She left the farmstead on a stormy night which concerned Mr. Williamson. A few days later, the townsfolk went to see if she had safely made it the two miles to her cave. They discovered her lifeless body literally wedged in between masses of rocks still holding on to the things the kind neighbor had given her. She had tried to climb a steep and rocky hill-side and slipped to her doom. She was buried by her neighbors in the Episcopal Church cemetery in North Salem, NY but no stone marks her grave. One thing is certain, Sarah Bishop took her true story to that unmarked grave.