Mysterious New England-Leicester Hermit

Photo courtesy of
A historic photo of Carey Hill where Arthur Carey was said to have lived before the town was created.

Mysterious New England-Leicester Hermit w/ Chairside New England History
In Leicester, Ma. a mystery still lingers from the 1600’s. It revolves around Arthur Carey, The Hermit of Leicester. The story of who he was and how he came to town remains very scant in details, but to this day still fascinates all who hear it.
Diane Colvano of the Leicester Historical Society stated that although there is not much information about Carey, that a book at the Society entitled “Where the Wild Strawberries Grow,” by Dale Petzen and Mary Kennedy, includes the following about the hermit. We know he was the first non-Native American living in the area that later became Leicester, she said. Legend has it that in the late 1600s, he was a pirate captured off of the coast of Massachusetts.
He was taken to Boston to be hanged, yet somehow he was able to convince the jailer’s daughter to set him free. Indian uprisings in the area made Leicester an unsafe place yet, Carrie was still able to survive, living in a cave north of town. It is believed he did this by teaching natives how to make wine from the wild grapes which were in the area. These Indians told tales of the wealthy man who had “ice that would not melt.”
When the community was divided for settlement, 50 families were needed in order to qualify as a town. Mr. Carey was counted as one family, purchasing 50 acres with 50 gold coins, later purchasing an additional 500 acres.
Carey’s disappearance from Leicester, is as puzzling as the rest of his life there. One day, according to Petzen and Kennedy’s book, Carey arrived in town all dressed up sporting a gold-headed cane. He took a stagecoach east and was never heard from again.
We may never know Carey’s full story, maybe that is how he wanted it. Indeed maybe it was put best
In the Historical Sketches of the Town of Leicester, Massachusetts, by Emory Washburn, in its description of Carey Hill, where the hermit was said to have lived. “Tradition has fixed it as the spot upon which the first settlers of town found a hermit dwelling in a cave; but we are left to conjecture alone, as to who it was that had sought to escape from the troubles of life by burrowing in the earth here, amidst the primeval forest which then covered this region.”