vermont historical society link HISTORY PROJECT LINK INFORMATION LINK

Cornwall PROJECT
Victor Wright
Ralph Rodney Robbins
& Anna Salome Robbins
Catherine Emma
Robbins Clifford

E. Rodney Robbins

Student comments
and reflections
about the project
Sites of Cornwall
Stories (PDF 1MB)
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Seeing Cornwall's Past Through Its People

Catherine as an infant with her parents, Ralph and Anna Robbins.
robbins photo


Catherine Emma Robbins Clifford was born on September 3, 1901 and spent the first 22 years of her life in Cornwall, Vermont. Catherine graduated from Middlebury College in 1923 with a B.S. degree and became a teacher. Tuition for Catherine was $50 per semester. After graduating, Catherine taught Physical Education and Math. Catherine married Allen Clifford and they had four children. The first, Anne, died at birth, a common occurrence during that time. The other children were Roberta Mary, Seth Robbins, and Elizabeth Allen. Catherine died July 3, 1998. She is buried in Pine Hill Cemetery in Brandon, Vermont.


Catherine Robbins, Kathy Norris, and Hilda Kurth.
friends photo

Catherine hiked the Long Trail at the age of 27. She went along with two other friends. It took them 27 hiking days. They were the first women to hike the whole trail, all 280 miles. The President of the Green Mountain Club suggested that they hike as a group of four. That way, if anyone got hurt, two could stay and two could go for help. In the end, only three could make the hike. For clothing, they wore men’s wool pants because their wardrobe consisted only of dresses. They got their water from streams and ponds. No need to filter it because at that time Vermont streams had no pollution. They brought oatmeal, dried fruit and vegetables and carried their supplies in oil cloth (no plastic bags back then). They brought along a hatchet to cut branches for firewood and boughs for their beds. Their food was always hung high on branches, away from animals. One time, they even used the hatchet to kill a porcupine that was attempting to get to their food.

They used the Green Mountain Club Trail book, the same guide that hikers use today to find their way. They got lost just one time, the first day on the trail, because the trail blazes were not easy to see. The Long Trail had only been in existence for about 16 years at this time.

During the years after the hike, Catherine planned periodic reunions for the three hikers. All three hikers have now passed away.

family photo
Amity Clifford and Cara Clifford Nelson with their grandmother, Catherine.


In 1997, Catherine’s two granddaughters, Amity Clifford and Cara Clifford Nelson, followed in Catherine’s footsteps as they hiked the Long Trail. They did the trip in one day less than their grandmother, just 26 days.

Stories told to Joshua Stearns and Luke Jackson by Elizabeth Clifford Sears, daughter of Catherine Emma Robbins.
group photo
Luke, Josh, and Liz Sears.


Author: By Mary Collins, Globe Correspondent
Date: SUNDAY, May 3, 1998
Page: N11
Section: Travel

WATERBURY CENTER, Vt. – Seventy years ago, three college-age women spent their summer hiking Vermont's Long Trail, which runs through the Green Mountains from the border of Massachusetts to Canada. The press at the time called it “one of the most courageous and difficult endurance feats ever performed by women in New England.” When they finished 27 days after they started, their story made worldwide headlines. Many a tabloid noted that they'd carried no firearms and had no escorts. In 1927, that was astounding stuff.

As it turns out, Vermont's splendid walking path is a relatively gentle, undulating trail, ideal for new or moderate hikers in most sections. The mountain range has as many mossy glens and beaver ponds as remarkable overlooks at high elevations. Last summer, Cara Clifford Nelson and her sister, Amity, followed in the footsteps of their paternal grandmother, Catherine Robbins Clifford, who was a member of the historic threesome, by hiking the Long Trail end to end. They used their grandmother's legacy to spur themselves on and to raise $30,000 for the Long Trail's Land Protection Campaign.