The best introduction to the background of the Hoxsie Property’s transition into a Public Access Trail is in this ‘Open Letter’ from Harvey Buford to Tom Helmer.
The Hoxsie Property was acquired by The Nature Conservancy, (TNC), in December of 2010 from the Hoxsie family. US Forest Legacy Funds were used for the majority of the purchase price.
Ed Wood is on the TNC-RI board, and facilitated a meeting with TNC here in Hopkinton a couple of winters ago to discuss our shared interests, and ways to co-operate. We walked the Hoxsie property together that day.
TNC has first and foremost been about protecting ecosystems. They are of late more aware that a key component of their mission to protect nature is to build strong local support. Opening up their properties responsibly for public enjoyment is now understood to advance their mission.
Last winter, the Hopkinton Historical Commission, (HHC), began our local project of developing maps of all public accessible properties in Hopkinton. The current understanding with TNC is that I will flag the potential trail on the Hoxsie property, and they will inspect this temporary route, then decide if the layout is OK. HCC will then be able to develop & publish the Trail Map, not just for Hoxsie, but for the entire interlinked system of trails.
I have broached the ‘Trail Head Public Access’ subject with our local government, and believe I will get Town Council support to use some HCC Capital Improvement Project funds, along with Grant funds we will likely seek, to develop the trailhead parking on the Hoxsie property. After all, the Route 3 trailhead will likely also be the only trailhead for the Hopkinton Land Trust’s, (HLT), “Brown Homestead” at the Canonchet Woods property immediately West of Hoxsie.
The Hoxsie property is contiguous with 600 plus acres to the West that were protected around the year 2000 with leadership of TNC working with HCC while we were still creating HLT. Nine separate tracts were acquired from nine different owners in that deal. This cluster links at the North to the DEM, Audubon and TNC properties around Long Pond. They in turn link to Yawgoo and Patchaug Forest. Thus there is a huge amount of contiguous Interstate hiking available.
The intertwined Indigenous and Colonial cultural landscapes are what I think about most for the Hoxsie property. Combining the “Walk Amid” attraction of actual Archaeology/History found “In The Wild”, with the continuous Public Hiking Trail networks interconnection to thousands of acres of adjacent pristine forest is a combination that will certainly be a good reason for people to come outside and personally experience Nature, rather than passively viewing it on TV from their couch.
We know that HLT’s recently opened Tomaquag Trail at Grills Sanctuary has already drawn people from a wide geographic radius in the three Fall/Winter months since it has opened.
The Hoxsie property’s varied “Upland” terrain, and it’s long existence as unexploited woodlands have allowed a variety of niche ecology habitats to become established. They nestle amid prolific archaeological remains, an historic legacy now under our day’s stewardship. The resulting new Public Access Trail we are going to construct will surely reflect the goals of The Nature Conservancy.
This page will record this project from the start of exploring TNC’s Hoxsie Property with trained eyes and experienced Trail Constructors. Soon enough there will be hundreds of photos on this page. They will be organized into slide shows, identified by the date the photos were taken, and placed in chronological order. As the site resources and temporary Trail Route firm up, various Archaeological and Natural History features will appear again in these slide shows, as our understanding of the best blend of the hilly terrain becomes meshed with the educational opportunities to display the local historic legacy.
No doubt, as our Property knowledge base grows, the chronological record of discovery contained in these slide show photos will be reviewed by the decision makers, to insure the best possible route for the trail/trails, to guide the hiker to view this site to the best possible advantage.
The Exploratory Walks of 12/27/13
Two different groups of experienced Bush Whacking, Cross Country Hikers set out from opposite ends of the Hoxsie Property. Harvey Buford, Elwood & Cindy Johnson and Bob Miner, with his experienced eye and camera began the responsibility of marking the first version of the temporary trail, beginning from the proposed Trail Head at the Route 3 end of the property.
Mike & Marne McNamara, with Marne’s daughter Alicia, and Tom Helmer, with his experience eye and camera, came in from Lawton Foster North Road. This group was there to scout for items of interest for possible inclusion when the Trail Blazers eventually arrive in this area at some point in the future.
To play the slide show, roll your cursor over the grey band at the bottom center of the initial photograph. It will darken into a VCR style control panel. Click on the arrow to play, click on the double bars to stop, and move the duration slider left or right to change the photo rate from it’s 5 second view cycle
The Exploratory Walks of 1/1/14
We again eventually split into two groups, one to continue refining the temporary trail, the other to view the Colonial sights. We were joined that day by 3 Generations of the Grant family!
Mal & Marilyn passed on their love of Hiking and Natural History to their daughter and son in law. They are wasting no time in giving the same special gift to their children.
1st Proposed Trail Walk Through, January 17, 2014
By the middle of January, 2014, Harvey Buford, Bob Miner, Mike and Marne McNamara and the other usual suspects had done sufficient hiking to mark a proposed trail route with yellow ribbon.
On Friday, 1/17, Cheryl Wiitala, Preserves Manager for The Nature Conservancy, met with the local representatives of the Hopkinton Conservation Commission, The Hopkinton Land Trust, The Hopkinton Historic District Commission, Mike Hoxsie, of the Hoxsie Family and The Hopkinton Historical Association at the Hoxsie Property to walk the proposed new trail.
It was clear from the beginning, as we crossed the brook splashing through it’s New England rocks, that this trail is going to be a delight. We moved from lowlands in farming country up through gradual hills beneath the mixed hardwood forest. Being January, we were grateful for the sun shining through the bare trees. Come July, we will be equally grateful for the shade from the forest’s canopy.
Cheryl clearly expressed her concerns that the trail not damage the ecology of the land, and that it also respect the archaeological legacy that abounds on this property which The Nature Conservancy is preserving for the future
It also became obvious that this was not the first time she had walked this land. She was quite familiar with the Colonial Archaeology, as she has been to these locations before.
Her active professional interest and personal “Sweat Equity” in this piece of Hopkinton, our small town, was noticed and respected. And although she was representing TNC, a National Organization, she was also a pleasant hiking companion, as familiar with the outdoors as all of us locals. It was a very enjoyable afternoon! And a productive one for the rapid development of the as yet unnamed Trail on the as yet unnamed Property.
Soon Cheryl let us know The Nature Conservancy’s choices.
#1. The proposed trail was fine! There were details to be attended to, such as having the exact route be as Ecologically Friendly as possible.
#2. The name of The Nature Conservancy’s new acquisition would be “Canonchet Preserves”. This will be on the sign along Route 3 in Hopkinton. This picture of the sign at Grills Preserve demonstrates the clear and factual style of the sign to be made for Canonchet Preserves, which will also include The Nature Conservancy’s Logo. (Once the new sign is up, I will insert it’s photo in this space.)
The Nature Conservancy will be on the top line, their Logo will be added once the graphic design is finalized
As All Terrain Vehicles, although popular, create significant foot prints and serious erosion potential, The Canonchet Preserves will discourage their use, as there are many other places to enjoy 4 Wheelin’, but a site that combines Colonial Archaeology AND the beginnings of the American Industrial Revolution is rare indeed.
She also sent us a preliminary map showing the Canonchet Preserves outlined in black, and the new Trail in yellow. For “Thru Hikers” the connection to the preexisting trail is also shown.
It is now late in January, we have already had a day at zero degrees Fahrenheit, and yet progress is now moving ever closer to brush clearing, trail markers, adequate parking and the hundred details that go into making the Trail a reality.
The “Brush Busters” Work Party, 2/1/2014
The week before, the temperature was at zero degrees Fahrenheit. We had snow a couple of days. Whoda thunk it that Harvey would schedule a work day for February 1st in New England. But as Mark Twain wrote, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a bit”. Sure enough, although there was snow lingering on the ground, the temperature made it into the mid 40’s, and eight of us answered the call.
We began the day by meeting with two of the Preserve’s neighbors, then we got to work.
The future parking area for Canonchet Preserves has the usual abandoned field assortment of sticker bushes and tall brush. Camouflaged in the brush were nasty surprises, in the form of 5/8 thick steel rod lengths that were used to strap around a wooden silo to keep the cylinder shape tight and strong.
The silo was long gone, but the loops and cut ends of this steel rod waited to spear a vehicle that dared to enter the overgrowth. So while the brush cutters went to work on the plant life, Ted went to work with his acetylene cutting torch to cut the snarl down to manageable lengths. But first we had to drag the steel out of the tangle of brush with a chain and a truck.
We made great progress, as you can see for yourself!
Marking Possible Additional Trails, 2/2/14
Harvey and the Brush Busters had walked a possible new route to merge with the first approved trail system shown earlier on the TNC preliminary Trail Map earlier on this page.
Beginning at the same point on the Rt. 3 Trailhead, instead of taking a Right and traveling North, the group took a Left, and traveled Northwest, but staying on the higher ground to avoid the wetlands. This “Brush Busters” trail then crossed a “modern” old bridge and proceeded due West for ¼ mile before angling diagonally Northwest about 3/16 of a mile to link up with the First approved Trail on the Northern boundary of Canonchet Preserves’ land.
The next day, Harvey & Tom passed up all the Superbowl pre-game overkill to hike Canonchet Preserves, scouting & marking an extension this new route. The goal was to merge with the approved trail, forming an actual loop, with this 2/2 trail merging in at the Stone Bridge and Colonial Mill.
These potential additions to the approved trail would make long trails at the Northern and Southern edges of the property, with a diagonal connection across the middle. But everything needs to be approved by TNC before they show up on the map. The slide show below records their progress.
When they were at the Mill Site, Tom shot a video of the Mill Stream, preserving a rare occurrence. During the previous week, we had several days where the temperature was zero through the low teens. This produced a Hard Freeze, and capped all the brooks with ice that was walkable thick. Then we had 3 days in the low 40’s.
The running water began to cut holes in the icy surface, and it was unsafe to trust it. The holes in one stretch at the Mill produced a “Lace” pattern, with the water splashing up through the holes in the lace! Downstream the flow’s splashing in the open air again was noisily amplified by the mill’s confining wall. You may wish to turn your volume down as you view this ephemeral phenomenon.
2nd Proposed Additional Trails Walk Through, 2/4/14
There was a big, wet, all day snowfall on Monday, 2/3, but Harvey got in touch with Cheryl about two new Trail possibilities. She agreed to come down and see for herself. Cheryl, Harvey and Tom met in a certified “Robert Frost Snow Filled New England Woods” the very next day.
Many hikers have never had the experience of being the first set of human tracks in the forest, but these three needed no convincing to add the stark fourth season to their hiking calendars.
The slide show below attests to the beauty of the woods in Winter. You too will find the varied terrain of Canonchet Preserves is singularly handsome as the rugged rocks show darkly through the snow blanket. You can see the ice nodules clinging to the twigs and branches sparkling like diamonds in the sun. Look close, and you will see the the hardy plants of Summer building up their strength for the Spring explosion, even as they are surrounded by the snow.
The 3 adventurers of this day, although on a “Work Walk”, urge you to try a hike in the Winter at least once. You have to use your head, as any trouble is far more serious when the temperature is below freezing. So THINK, already, and don’t do stupid things that will get you hurt!
Pick your Trail, and trusted companions, and go on outdoors together!
Soak up the special sights & sounds of Winter in the dazzling snow, under the deep blue sky above!
Who can tell what YOU might discover on a delightful journey into the Winter Woods!
Maybe, like us, you will meet the Nee-vie’, a prolific, dwarf, species of two sphere snow people.
Maybe you might even find yourself amid the abundance of Peace!
The New Preliminary Trail Map For Canonchet Preserves, 2/4/14
Moving quickly, Cheryl prepared a new preliminary map from the GPS data obtained earlier today. The trails will still be tweaked and revised, but this is a real good indication of how Canonchet Preserves will offer the Hiker a variety of Terrain & Ecology, while keeping the trail out of the darker shaded wetlands.
March 5th Activities
Cheryl Wiitala of TNC chaired the Construction Meeting that brought Marilyn Grant & Cindy Johnson of the Hopkinton Land Trust, co-owners of the Canonchet Preserves with The Nature Conservancy, Harvey Buford, Mike and Marne MacNamara, of the Hopkinton Conservation Commission & the Hopkinton Historical Association, and Rick Prescott and Tom Helmer, also of the Hopkinton Historical Association all together for a 2 hour planning meeting at Town Hall.
The Main Trail on Canonchet Preserves will be named “The Canonchet Trail”, carrying this same name through the HLT property ending at Stub Town Road. The various loop and connector trails will be named later. The date for the Canonchet Trail’s opening will be June 21, and it will be the site of HLT’s Annual “Summer Solstice Walk”.
After that meeting broke up, Cheryl, Harvey & Tom adjourned to the Canonchet Preserves, where snow continued to endure, to meet with Kat Zuromski, of the Southern Rhode Island Conservation District. Kat would be collecting the GPS Data for all the trails loops and connectors on the Canonchet Preserves, as well as the link to extend the Canonchet Trail further North to Stub Town Road.
Photos by Bob Miner, Billi Jo Buehring, Rick Prescott and Tom Helmer
It was a cold afternoon on March 14, Pi Day, as in 3.14, when Don Panciera, Brian Benoit, and two of the usual suspects, Rick Prescott and I took off for the woods for our last shot at getting frostbite. Instead of getting chills from the low temperatures, I ended up with chills from what was unfolding with every step I took as excited voices called out to me what they were seeing as I lumbered slowly up the hill.
I have seen many remarkable indigenous archaeological features in Hopkinton’s woodlands, and I have written and posted photos of many, but I think the four of us were standing with respect in the presence of the most profound Narragansett spiritual landscape that I have personal knowledge of.
When I arrived near the summit, it was already clear how important this place was, and IS, to the indigenous residents of Hopkinton and surrounding communities.
I gathered the men together and let them all know what Rick and I recognized: “You are standing in the middle of a cathedral. Not of your faith, but none the less, this is a cathedral.”
The photos you will see on this page represent the first 30 minutes on a site that will take an inestimable amount of hours to fully grasp. If you read Norman Muller’s page, “Reinforcing Hopkinton’s Evidence”, what we saw was similar to his multi year research site in Oley Hills, PA.
We were on the central high place, but there were connecting strings of rocks leading off to two other large outcrops of rock atop the plateau. One appeared to be 40 yards away, the second was about 60. In addition, a third wall, carefully constructed with several on edge upright flagstones very purposely curved downslope, extending about 60 feet from the main site.
In time, I hope to clarify these estimates, but for now, please join us for the first peek at a major spiritual landscape. Should you one day walk amid any of the many spiritual landscapes in Hopkinton, you should keep in mind the guidance I gave the men with me this afternoon:
“Don’t move anything, don’t take anything, and walk with respect.”
In our lives, we have many teachers, but of that entire crowd, if you search YOUR memory, there will only be a small handful of great teachers who remain as milestones in your life. As “in depth” readers of this site know, Bob Miner was the man who taught me how to “see” Indigenous. We frequently hike together, and when I got home, I sent him 5 photos inquiring if this was the same place where he previously saw a distinctive stone. I got the affirmative reply the next day at noon, and it had this photo, both shots taken within a foot of each other!
Norman Muller noted that the indigenous peoples had no knowledge of the physics involved with shaping the geological features of the landscape. What they knew intimately was the powerful effect those forces demonstrated on the landscape. They knew that it was difficult to split rocks, and a site like this would be attributed to a manitou, a god or powerful spirit. That this formation, which sits on the highest ridge, and offers a “winter bare poles”, unobstructed view of the horizon ½ mile distant, and was linked to at least 2 other high places only magnified the powerful presence this place had in their theology.
Truly, you are looking at a cathedral. Probably not in your faith, but in another’s living culture. And matters of faith are determined by the internal believer, not imposed by an external opinion.
It is fitting it’s in Rhode Island, founded by Roger Williams as a refuge for religious freedom.
Don’t move anything, don’t take anything, and walk with respect.
At the entrance to the big corridor, there is a short, low placement of stones in the center of the corridor. At this late date it is impossible to know what the purpose of this was, but the “Corridor” offers quite a view of the valley below, especially with all the scrub trees burned off, and an unobstructed view of the southern horizon.
The Next Day
Circling the Ridge Base
Yesterday’s adventure came as a surprise. With limited time, we could only look at a small portion of the plateau. This day, 3/15, I walked methodically. As a general rule, you first walk around whatever you found to take in the entire picture. As excited as I was, I at least partially did that in two sessions split by my need for lunch. The Topographic Map below will give you an idea of the size and shape of this 160 yard long plateau and it’s 50’ rising ridge. The brown contour lines are spaced at 10’. The red line is the sequence I walked, and the photos reflect this order.
I will cover walking the base in three slide shows of 48 photos, then will show the plateau with slide shows of the individual areas of interest and their surroundings. As always, you control the slide shows by hovering your cursor over the darker band at the bottom, then press the “play” arrow
The Individual Sites of Interest
There are 7 places of interest; six high places on the plateau, one low place on the valley floor, and a slide show of miscellaneous places and events during our explorations of 3/14, 15, 17 & 18.
It is important to remind you that at this late date, arriving at “certain knowledge”, accepted by all, of the significance of the things found in the woods is extremely rare. lacking certain knowledge, one is left with trying to discern what the “correct opinion” may be. This is a conundrum explored by Socrates more than 3,000 years ago. Saying ‘I KNOW Hopkinton is in Rhode Island’ and saying ‘I THINK Hopkinton is in Rhode Island’ both yield the correct answer.
When HHA puts up a page dealing with records based on archival data from Town Hall, that is as close to certain knowledge of the past as you are likely to get. With everything else, we strive for correct opinion, but there are plenty of opinions to go around.
HHA has an excellent reason to present what we believe is the correct opinion on this site. First of all, we base our opinion on the best information we can glean combined with our local experience. We strive to bring the things we find to public knowledge for the purpose of educating the current hiking community as to the nature of the things they are apt to see in their local forests.
Such a policy runs counter to those concerned people who seek to protect the historic legacy we all share by secrecy. We chose the exact opposite, to protect them by educating people who walk among them about their historic importance. The argument most often waged against that view is HHA’s approach subjects the surviving archaeological features to vandalism.
At first glance this seems irrefutable, but consider this question:
How much archaeology has been lost forever to the bulldozers of ignorance,
compared to sites suffering from vandals with litter, spray paint and malice?
High Place One
The northern end of the ridge/plateau site is surrounded on the North and East sides by a glacial jumble of tumbled rock blocks, with many natural grottos and interior spaces of varying sizes. To the West, it is a gentle slope leading to a swamp. To a modern person, a swamp is undesirable. To the indigenous people, a swamp was a reliable source of water and food during the winter, to supplement hunting.
On this site you will find an unusual grouping of rocks arranged like a pie cut into six slices, with one missing, replaced by some placed stones. One of the stones appears to have the Roman Numeral 12, XII, carved into it. Be very cautious about things like this. Most likely this is a curious natural weathering. However, the indigenous were skilled artisans who could take a natural feature and enhance it to suit their needs, or directly shape stones.
There is a rounded boulder, one of very few atop the plateau that does not display the natural angular fragmentation. On one face there is a natural weathered fissure which may have been enhanced into a symbol. This boulder is very prominent when viewed from below in the valley. It also appears to be the central subject when viewed from what may be a “prayer seat” located in site #2.
So what’s so special about this place? Big deal, it’s just odd rocks on a hill top!
Throughout all of history, in every culture, the “high place” has drawn humanity for many purposes, but there is usually a spiritual component tucked in there someplace. The indigenous peoples were masters of the sky. Like many religions around the world they had deities in Ke-e-suck (the sky/heavens), and everywhere and everything on the land was from Nooh-kas-ah-kee (Mother Earth).
Ke-e-suck-quand – Sun God
Ka-tan-tow-wit – Great South Wind God (see Indigenous History Lexicon)
Na-ne-pau-shat – Moon God
A modern person might think of such concepts as primitive notions from the past, while ignoring their enduring manifestations in the present, such as this evocative sculpture.
An indigenous person from a thousand years ago would recognize Noohkasahkee’s hand.
The Hopkinton High Place was a perfect location for a multi-faceted spiritual landscape. On the HHA web site we currently display over 3,200 pictures, many shot in the woods.
Do you recall seeing the horizon in any of them?
The next slide show covers the skyline from Northwest to Southeast. Recall that the Indigenous Peoples burned the forest once or twice a year, and the scrub trees, brambles and shrubbery would not be tangling your feet or blocking your view. The Indigenous hunters walked silently on grassy meadows under a high canopy, with clear shooting lanes for bow & arrow, not the dense underbrush, scrubby trees and tangled vines covering a forest floor full of noisy litter. At Hopkinton High Place, they could observe the sky, the seasons and the passing moons with a horizon line a half mile away in places.
Hopkinton High Place Skyline
High Place Two
This site might have been connected to high place 3-6 by the stone string which links 3-6, except an old road now cuts off Site 2 from 3. There appears to be no wall connecting 2 to 1. But a careful inspection of the site indicates they may have been connected optically.
It is possible that Site 2 has a “prayer seat” aimed at site 1’s archaeology and the Northeastern sky. A prayer seat is a place for spiritual meditation. Traditional prayer seats are sacred, isolated, and with encompassing views, so this site does not meet ALL of the usual qualifications, but it is isolated by a ceremonial semi circular wall joining in a placed stone and ledge feature.
And as the photos will illustrate the center line of vision for the seated one is the rounded stone boulder with the symbol occurring naturally or enhanced by the hand of man.
High Place Three
The other sites are fairly compact, although the ceremonial row walls are quite lengthy. Site 3 stretches for 20 yards along the Eastern ridge line. In and around this site you will find big and little placed stones, standing stones and possibly a manipulated “corridor”, although the original separation was probably due to glaciation. None the less, there are placed stones at the Eastern entrance.
The ceremonial connecting row string clearly extends from site 3 to site 6.
High Place Four
This site is the most visually compelling of the six when seen from the valley floor. While it does have a perk test pipe, it lacks many interesting archaeological features of the other sites. Yet it has a distinct presence when visited in person, which is felt, rather than measured or visible in the photographs. Many of the pictures from 3/14 are of Site 4, and not included here to avoid repetition.
High Place Five
The connecting stone string row links back to site 4 along the Eastern Ridgeline. The importance of this site sneaks up on you when approaching from the North. You step up on some rocks and a walled “patio” lies below you, facing East. At the back a rock appears to be shaped into a place to sit with your legs at the center of the patio and the walls angling out to a view of the horizon and the valley, a view enhanced by the stones completing the enclosure being placed close to the patio floor level at the top, with a step down to the slope descending to the valley below.
This symmetry is marred by a row of placed stones forming what may be a fire pit at the Southwest corner. Some of us believe these stones were placed in this position later than indigenous usage, which would accord with the traditional definition of a prayer seat. Some believe that the use of the bench seat and the fire pit could be contemporaneous, although not while the fire is burning!
High Place Six
This site blends in with site 5, and the decision to count it as a separate location was due to it’s orientation being in a different quadrant of the compass. Site six is oriented to the West, and contains placed stones, standing stones, a lower “patio” enclosed with a ceremonial wall, and a stone string tending Southwest.
Low Place Seven
This site is off the ridge, yet is certainly a sacred place, hence it’s connection with the Hopkinton High Place. Some of us believe that before European contact, all the land was a blanket of sacred landscapes, recording an oral history stretching back to the retreating glaciers. Leaving that opinion aside, low place seven has standing stones, split rocks with inserted stones, a standing stone with a ceremonial corridor, and the photos illustrate one of the reasons a hiker can walk past an archaeological site and never see it, until one day the light is just right at that particular time.
You will see 4 photos of the same standing stone, back, front in shade, front in sun, and side. If you compare the two front views, unless you have a very experienced eye for photos, you are not prepared for the shape that is revealed in the side shot based on the front view in the shade. Curiously, sometimes the harsh shadows of direct sun obscure details you would easily see under cloudy skies.
Sometimes a discovery comes down to good fortune, being in the right place at the right time with the right light.
This is the “catch all” for objects and events located in and around the Hopkinton High Place. On the many pages of HHA’s web site, you will see that hiking and the “outdoorsy” experience is not confined to the male gender. And it’s not confined to the summer only.
The safest way to get out and see things you can’t see from your car is to hook up with a hiking club in your area, or, if in Hopkinton, hook up with the Land Trust, the Conservation Commission or HHA via the contact page and it’s dependants on this site. But wherever you live, there will be some form of recreation available, and your Town Hall is a good place to start your hunt.
And it’s important to realize that our historic legacy is not confined to tiny areas you see in Hopkinton. There are colonial & indigenous archaeological features all over the continent!
Get your eye trained to “see”, and follow your curiosity when on the trail.
Seeing history in the wild is so much better than seeing it in a “history zoo”.
“See ya in the woods!”
To Learn More About Indigenous Archaeology & Culture …
Please visit the following Indigenous web pages for more indigenous archaeology
The Fisher Property’s Indigenous Presence
Reinforcing Hopkinton’s Evidence
Seeing The Narragansett Presence
Please visit the following Historical Fiction web pages for cultural insight, pre-contact to future
These short stories are based around existing archaeology in Tomaquag Valley
Research Paper Adds Weight To Local Indigenous Archaeology
By Norman Muller
Photos By Norman Muller, Local by Bob Miner & Tom Helmer
The following is a Research Paper published in the Journal of “New England Antiquities Research Association”, by Norman Muller, the long time Conservator for Princeton University Art Museum. Mr. Muller has written numerous papers on his Archaeological Research throughout the North East. The indigenous features he explores in this article, restructured with his permission to fit this web site, are similar to indigenous features found in Hopkinton and New England.
His original article and all photographs from Pennsylvania and Connecticut Research Sites will be augmented by local photos taken in Hopkinton’s forests. (local photos have a green border)
The conclusion HHA reaches is this:
While there are distinct tribal differences in the details, the “pre-european contact” indigenous culture has many similarities throughout New England and Eastern USA. The things Norman Muller writes about may also be near you, if you train your eyes to “see”, and go out and have a look. Archaeology might be waiting for you where you live; it is not automatically 10,000 miles away!
And contrary to the dwindling view that the Indigenous Peoples were primitive savages who needed an Englishman to show them how to put one rock atop another, the complexity and spiritual significance of the indigenous structures & art reflect a great sophistication harmonizing with what they observed in the natural world.
Tom Helmer, 3/16/2014
New England Antiquities Research Association
Stone Rows & Boulders: A Comparative Study
A Field Report By Norman E. Muller
Crisscrossing the New England countryside are thousands of miles of rude stone walls, the result of an extraordinary effort on the part of colonial farmers to clear their fields of unwanted stone and define their property lines. Most of this wall construction presumably occurred between c.1775 and 1825 as a result of several converging factors: the lack of wood for fences following the widespread deforestation of the colonial period, the end of common herding and the enclosure of common lands, and an increase in sheep herding (Allport 1990, Foster 1999). These are the reasons normally upheld by historians and archaeologists to explain this ubiquitous feature of the New England landscape.
Within this same region are stone walls that do not appear to be the result of field clearing or an attempt to mark property lines. These walls (hereupon called ‘rows’) do not usually form neat enclosures. They are frequently open-ended, make odd and unexpected turns, and do not seem to conform to what we know about colonial wall building.
James Mavor and Byron Dix (1989) ascribed these to pre-contact Native American tribes, and proposed that some of them, along with standing stones and underground chambers, were used for determining solar and celestial events. Reaction to their view and that of their proponents among archaeologists and scientists has been harsh and sometimes derogatory (Parker 1982, Conuel 1997, Levillee 1997), and few professional archaeologists have come forward to question openly whether there might be any validity to their hypothesis (Hoffman 1990).
There are various ways that stone rows can be studied, and my own interest has focused on their morphology in relation not only to large or unusual looking boulders that they might be linked to, but also the landscape in which both are found. Toward this end, over the past two years I have studied a very unusual site in the Oley Hills of eastern Pennsylvania in an attempt to determine whether the stone features found on it are Colonial or Native American. (Fig.1).
Deeds were traced back to the first settler in 1751 to see whether any of the property lines as mentioned in the deeds coincided with existing stone rows. Historical documents were also checked to see if anyone had mentioned the unusual stone rows and other features, and who might have built them. Nothing was found to substantiate the colonial hypothesis.
Then, in October 1998, I guided Bill Sevon, a geologist with the Pennsylvania Geological Survey, through the site to get his perspective on how some of the large boulders were formed. When he saw the large quartz rocks incorporated in some of the stone rows and other features, he remarked that they could not have come from the ridge site itself, which consisted wholly of granitic gneiss, but must have been gathered somewhere in the Hardyston Formation in the valley below, a mile or more away (Buckwalter 1957).
The quartz pieces that have been found in many of the features represented in Fig. 1 are very much alike, in that all seem to have two flat, parallel faces, and vary from 3-6″ thick (Fig. 2).
One slab on top of the North Row measured 14″ x 10″ x 4″! And another in a short row between the South Row and the Terrace was 18″ across; most, however, were 6-8″ in diameter. Given the fact that all share the same general physical characteristics, it would appear that they all came from the same location, which was perhaps a large exposed seam of quartz where pieces could be easily pried out.
The early settlers hardly would have bothered to gather quartz from a distant location to incorporate it in a wall, when their purpose for building walls was to rid their fields of stone. Quartz, however, had a symbolic and religious importance to Native Americans, not only because of its light, translucent color, which could have represented the brightness of the sun and moon, but also for its piezoelectric properties. With the discovery that the quartz came from the valley, the colonial hypothesis became a dead issue.
This report will compare the relationship between stone rows and boulders at two sites: the one in the Oley Hills of Pennsylvania, and three areas in Montville, Connecticut. Information that has been gathered from the Oley Hills site provides strong evidence that the features described in this report predate the colonial settlement of the region in the mid-eighteenth century. Thus the features found on this site will serve as the standard against which those from Montville will be compared.
The two sites are more than three hundred miles apart, yet the way in which the stone rows are laid out to emphasize certain boulders and those split apart by frost action reveals a similarity of purpose. Moreover, stone row construction such as this was not restricted to just Pennsylvania and Connecticut, but was much more widespread, having also been found in areas of the South.
Oley Hills Site: Central Ridge
In the Oley Hills of Berks County, Pennsylvania, is a 46-acre site that contains an impressive and unusual array of stonework, consisting of large cairns, stone rows, platforms and terraces (Muller 1998). A 15-acre parcel of land on this site, which I call the Central Ridge, contains the most interesting features, and over the past year-and-a-half it was studied in an attempt to determine whether the features found on it were Colonial or Native American. We will examine only a small portion of the Central Ridge, encompassing the area containing Platform ‘B’ and the large Boulder on the summit ridge, as shown in Fig. 1.
What must have been an important focal spot on the Central Ridge is the area around Platform ‘B’ at the top of Fig. 1. Platform ‘B’ is a rectangular, flat-topped, dry wall stone structure measuring 22’ long, 11’ wide and varying from 39-78″ high. At its north end, a small, terraced, scorpion-like ‘tail’ extends to meet several large boulders. Because three rows diverge from the vicinity of Platform ‘B,’ with the latter acting as the hub, it must have been the center of some kind of activity, but I have no idea what this might have been.
The West Row has a generally rounded profile and engages a large inclined cairn 60’ from where it begins. The North and South Rows, meanwhile, are quite different in that they have a wedge-shaped profile, whereby the east facing side is vertical and the west one is sloped, consisting of a backfill of small stones topped with flat slabs of gneiss (Fig. 3).
The North Row traces the contour of the ridge crest and presents an impressive facade when seen from below, to the east, but is non-descript looking from the west, much like the false facades of village stores in cowboy westerns. It would appear that this emphasis on the vertical side was intentional on the part of the row builders, who determined not only the direction from which these sculptural monuments should be seen, but also their direction or flow and placement in the landscape.
The South Row begins no more than twenty feet from the platform and leads to the large Boulder on the ridge summit. The row maintains its wedge-shaped profile to the top of a ledge outcrop, but once there changes to a more typical shape with a flat top when it makes a sharp turn to the right (west), keeping the boulder field to the left, and curves counterclockwise around the Boulder to end in a wide, flat platform (Fig. 4).
Each of the twists and turns the row makes was intentional on the part of the row maker, either to emphasize a particular feature, such as a ridgeline or ledge, or to avoid another, for example the boulder field below the large Boulder. By walking around the site numerous times and from various directions, it seems clear the sole reason for constructing the South Row was simply to lead to the large Boulder, and in some way to emphasize its presence.
The large Boulder dominates the Central Ridge site and must have been the main focus of the site. It can be seen from many locations on the ridge itself and from the valley to the east, looming against the skyline – much more impressive looking from a distance than next to it. It is roughly oblong in shape, measuring 9’ high, 15’ long, and 6’ wide (Fig. 5).
When I first saw it, I assumed it was a glacial erratic, simply because it was completely free of bedrock and looked like the ones I had seen in New England. Then I discovered that the Wisconsin glacier advanced no farther than about twenty miles to the north, and that the Boulder itself was of gneiss, the bedrock material, and was resting on three smaller boulders of the same stone. The glacial erratic hypothesis had to be abandoned.
In 1998, Sevon examined the Boulder but was unsure how it was formed. In a letter he described the Boulder as “peculiar.” He continued: “MY natural inclination is to attribute it to periglacial activity, freeze and thaw, although I cannot describe exactly how it got the way it is. It could be a toppled tor, it could be man placed. I don’t know for sure” (1999). Periglacial refers to landscapes that have been transformed through frost action and erosion by water and wind, in areas that are largely frost free (Clark 1993). This activity presumably occurred in the zone below the farthest advance of the Wisconsin glacier at the end of the last ice age (c. 11,000 BP).
If it was “man placed,” as Sevon speculated, it is difficult to determine where the block of stone might have come from, since the terrain around the Boulder is relatively flat with the nearest exposed ledge 700’ away to the south over undulating terrain. It is not impossible, however, that a boulder this size could have been moved, since we know that the large bluestone standing stones that comprise the inner circle of Stonehenge originated in the Preseli Mountains of southwestern Wales, a circuitous 200 miles away. These were transported to the site by land and perhaps water more than 4000 years ago, a tremendous engineering feat (Castleden 1993).
But at the same time, I am unfamiliar with any evidence that establishes that early Native Americans in the Northeast would have attempted to move a boulder this size. However the Boulder ended up in its present location, it is now supported by no more than three smaller boulders, and may have once been balanced in such a way that it could be rocked simply by pushing against it. Two small stacks of rocks, now firmly wedged underneath the north end of the Boulder, were probably placed there to keep it from rocking (Fig. 6).
Over time, however, large blocks of stone broke away from the south end of the Boulder, presumably through freezing and thawing, putting to an end the rocking characteristics and at the same time creating a significant overhang (see Fig. 5). Some of these blocks are now arranged in a rough semicircle underneath the overhang. With the rocking characteristics eliminated, presumably whatever ritualistic functions associated with the Boulder also ended.
This, however, does not imply that the Boulder at this time ceased to be important to the native peoples. One clue arguing against this is the short stone row connecting the South Row to the Boulder (Fig. 7). It seems like an afterthought. The pieces of gneiss comprising it are much more angular, the edges sharper and fresher looking, and the lichen-cover less extensive, than the cobbles from the South Row or elsewhere. It also seems to be less tightly constructed than the South Row.
Quite possibly, the stones in the row came from one or two of the spalls from the large Boulder, which were then broken up into smaller pieces suitable for construction. This short row could be viewed as just another stone wall, were it not for the fact that it touches and aligns with the broken edge of the Boulder. By emphasizing this, it joins two others from the South Ridge site and Montville respectively, both of which will be discussed shortly, to demonstrate that rows that touch frost-fractured surfaces may have attempted to connect with the force that caused the stones to break apart in the first place. The rows may also have been built as a sign of homage to the god that resided in the stone that fractured.
Oley Hills Site: South Ridge
At the very end of the ridge to the south, in an area called the South Ridge, is an unusual complex of stone rows and boulders that I call the Row-Linked Boulder site (Fig. 8). It is a bizarre looking area consisting of odd shaped boulders, many split apart by frost action, and one tipped into an upright position (Fig. 9). The features found there are quite different from those on the Central Ridge, but we will find that in its details, it is surprisingly revealing of the mind set of the individuals who built the rows. Furthermore, we will discover that these details are also reflected in the some of the features found at Montville, CT.
The Row-Linked Boulder site is best approached from the south, just off a cart path leading from a farmer’s field. A low stone row near the path meanders up to a large,rectangular Perched Boulder (Fig. 8, ‘A’) that is directly on top of a rounded large boulder or ledge outcrop (Fig. 10).
This Perched Boulder, which is also of gneiss, measures 3’ high x 7’ wide x 13’ long. Underneath the overhang on the eastern end is a scattered assembly of eight fist-sized stones, none of which appear to be weathered fragments that spalled off from the underside.
Around the north end of the Boulder, a short stone row leads in about twelve feet to a cluster of four boulders (Fig. 8, ‘B’). These all appear to be the weathered remnants of boulders that earlier had been split apart by frost action. Of this cluster, the short row filling the gap between two boulders perched on top of a much larger one is most interesting, since the components comprising it appear to be fragments of an already weathered boulder (Fig. 11), perhaps the back of the boulder to the right of the fill. This is especially the case with the large, bottommost piece of fill, which has a rounded surface and may have come from the broken section of the large boulder to the left.
One of the most interesting and revealing details of this boulder complex is found at the next location (Fig. 8,‘C’). Here we find that a large section of the boulder to the left had slid off, perhaps from frost action, and ended up leaning against the parent rock (Fig. 12). Then a short stone row was constructed connecting the spall with the parent rock, thereby symbolically joining the two parts. This is a fascinating detail, because in its construction it clearly implies that the function of the row was to connect the two broken rock pieces, similar to what we just saw with the short row between the South Row and the large Boulder (see Fig. 7). Early Native Americans had no concept of geological processes, and natural phenomena, such as earthquakes and in this case frost splitting, had supernatural overtones. Given that humans have great difficulty breaking large boulders with primitive tools, seeing one split apart as if by magic could only be explained as having been done by a god.
The final section that we will consider is found at the end of the site (Fig. 8, ‘D’), where there is a large boulder topped by a smaller one (see Fig. 9, right). When Bill Sevon visited this site in 1998, he was quite convinced that the smaller boulder on top was now upside down, and had originally come from a depression in the top of the large boulder. At some point in the past it became dislodged, and someone simply turned it upside down in its natural cavity. Against the large boulder a bank of small stones has been piled up, and to the rear a blanket of small stones covers the surface.
Montville Row-Linked Boulders Site
When the name Montville is mentioned to people who are familiar with New England stone chambers, the ‘souterrain’ in that town often comes to mind – an odd, isolated, tunnel-like chamber built into a rocky, wooded hillside (Trento 1997). There is more, however, to Montville than the ‘souterrain’, as I discovered more than a year ago, when out of curiosity I crossed Hunt’s brook and began to explore the terrain on the other side. This section will focus on three areas to the east and north of the ‘souterrain’, across Hunt’s Brook, which contains an unusual assortment of rows and boulders central to the subject of this report.
Pequot and Mohegan tribes first entered the area we will discuss shortly before 1600. It was rich in game and close to the seacoast, and it provided the tribes with an abundance of food. Unfortunately, the region was also coveted by English and Dutch settlers and traders,and skirmishes between the groups escalated into the infamous massacre of the Pequots on May 26, 1637, near what is now Groton, Connecticut. A tripartite treaty with the English settlers was arranged in 1638, and it was signed on September 28, 1640. Thereupon begins the settlement of Montville, which was first known as the North Parish of New London (Baker 1896).
One point that became obvious after a number of stone rows had been studied at both sites under discussion is that there is often a directional flow to the construction of open-ended stone rows. This can be perceived and even felt as one studies them at different times of the year and from different directions. For example, the South Row at the Central Ridge Site in Pennsylvania obviously begins at Platform ‘B’ and advances toward the large Boulder on the summit ridge; the same is true for the two other rows that radiate out from Platform ‘B.’ Other constructions are subtler, but by following the rows from different directions, one will often perceive a logical flow that a photograph or even a map cannot capture.
The first location we will explore is what I call the Row-Linked Boulders site. It begins at a row adjacent to a large boulder that extends east to the Rock Shelter (Fig.13, ‘A’). The stone row passes in front of the Shelter (Fig. 14), a natural cave-like space 11’ deep and 2½’high, formed by the bowed shape of a large boulder perched on top of some smaller ones.
The area within the shelter itself has probably filled up considerably with water borne soil over the years. Just to the right of the entrance, the row extends up a steep-angled join between two boulders by having rocks wedged into it (Fig. 15), and ends in a loose pile of cobbles at the top.
Not more than thirty feet to the southeast of the Rock Shelter is an unusual split boulder (Fig. 13, ‘B’), unusual not because it is split, but in the way it has been highlighted with stonework (Fig. 16). Assuming that the stone row leading to it originated to the east, down slope, the row builder could easily have avoided this obstacle by going either to the left or right of it. Instead, he deliberately aimed the row at the broken edge of the larger stone, and traced the edge with a two-tiered line of stones.
As the edge represents the fracture line where the smaller piece broke off, undoubtedly by frost action, it also emphasizes where the energy release was concentrated. Placing stones along it could be interpreted as a way of partaking of this force simply by their being in close proximity to it. The short row bridging the two boulders must have functioned in the same way as the ones at the Oley Hills site (see Figs. 7 and 12).
From the split boulder the row heads in the direction of the Rock Shelter, but before reaching it makes a sharp turn to the right (north) and towards a large lichen and moss-encrusted boulder about sixty feet away. This sudden deflection of the row before encountering the rock shelter boulder, is also reflected in another row near point ‘D’ in Fig. 13, but off the map to the right. We have lost our sensitivity to the land that the Native Americans had, and it could be that they perceived the rows, and their proximity to large boulders, as either having positive or negative polarity – of being attracted or repelled by one or the other.
Beyond the corner, the row advances toward the large moss and lichen encrusted boulder (Fig. 13, ‘D’), but seems blocked by a boulder in between it and the larger boulder. One might think that the row builder would have constructed the row to the smaller boulder and continued it on the other side. Instead, and rather humorously, the row is built up so that it climbs over this obstruction (Fig. 17), in a manner reminiscent of an example at the Oley Hills site (Fig. 18). This is an odd, almost impetuous construction, focusing not so much on what is in its path, but the goal at the other end.
Observe that in front of the smaller boulder in Fig. 17 are two boulders connected by a short stone row. On the opposite side of the large boulder, at point ‘D,’ is a smaller boulder adjacent to it on which rocks have been stacked in such a way that they touch the large boulder (Fig. 19). This does not seem so much as a collapsed cairn as a deliberate, lopsided construction to connect with the large boulder.
The Z-shaped configuration of the stone rows at this site is completed by the stone row that extends outward and to the west from the boulder at ‘C,’ navigating through a small field of boulders, an impressive one perched upright, and ending at another large boulder 40 feet away.
Although they are not part of this discussion, to the northeast of the boulder at ‘D’ are about four very large erratics scattered about an open wooded area. One or two must be a good fifteen feet high, and against several of them small piles of stones have been stacked in a manner similar to the boulder from the Oley Hills site (Fig. 9).
Montville Row-Linked Glacial Erratics Site
In the northwest corner of Montville, in a region that used to be part of the common land of New London, is a rough and wild area that contains an unusual assortment of stone rows and boulders central to the subject of this report (Fig. 20).
The three erratics are set deep in the woods and are surprisingly difficult to locate owing to a lack of landscape features nearby and the fact that the boulders are situated in the shadow of a hill. In summer and winter the gray color of the erratics camouflages them against the dull gray-green color of the hillside and the tree trunks. They appear distinct only when one is nearly upon them. Curiously, all three boulders are linked by low, meandering, crude stone rows, which consist of large blocks of local gneiss measuring 18-20″ across, laid either end to end or in some instances piled on top of one another.
The most convenient route to the first large boulder is by following a row that begins at the top of a ridge, about one-quarter mile to the southeast of the boulder. By a rather circuitous route, this row meanders to boulder ‘A,’ ending in a line of single rocks that engages it at the
southeast corner (Fig. 21). This boulder measures 20’ x 22’ x c.12’ high, and appears to consist of granite rather than the local gneiss.
Around the other side of the boulder, a 32’ long row of stones appears to emerge and engage the southeast corner of Goat Rock, one of the largest known glacial erratics in the Montville and New London areas. Measuring 23’ high x 25’ x 22’, it has a roughly oblong-shaped base and a powerful
wedge shaped profile when viewed from the side. At the southwestern corner of the boulder, is a ‘V’ shaped enclosure formed by two stone rows meeting an oval 19’ long boulder to the north. This is an open ‘enclosure’, and given the low height of the walls, it may have perhaps served some kind of purpose other than an animal pen, especially since this is the largest boulder in the group and the only one with this feature (Fig. 22).
From the western end of the smaller boulder a stone row emerges and heads in a nearly northerly direction. 145’ from the boulder, and near a corner, the row becomes suddenly higher before turning to the northwest, and reverting to its normal low profile. At this point on the row meanders down a slope 300 more feet to meet erratic ‘C’ (see Fig. 20, inset), which is the last in this group and about the same size as erratic ‘A.’ Since there are no signs of former human habitation in this lonely, isolated area, and with the stone rows providing no evidence that they were built to mark property boundaries or to clear fields, we are left with the realization that they were probably constructed simply to lead to and connect with the large erratics.
Montville Perched Boulder Site
About one half-mile northeast of Goat Rock, and just north of Stony Brook Reservoir, is another interesting feature that I call the Montville Perched Boulder Site (Fig. 23). It consists of two large perched boulders, one on top of the other, that jut out over the edge of a steep ridge. Both boulders are of gneiss, but whether they are of the same stone that is found in the area has not yet been determined.
There is no path directly to the boulders, and one has to bushwhack up the steep hillside. The route I took left a cart path near a pond and cut through thick brushy woods. About a hundred yards from the path, I encountered a low, crude stone row that angled up the steep slope toward the two perched boulders on the ridge crest, pointing the way toward them (Fig. 24). The boulders jutted out over the ridge and formed an impressive silhouette against the skyline. About forty feet from the boulder, the row petered out, unable to maintain its form owing to the steepness of the slope.
The slope looked daunting, and so I walked around to the right (east) and approached the boulders from this direction. When I finally reached the ridge crest and the boulders, I discovered a second row from the east pointing to the boulders, and then another from the north, along which was constructed a square stone enclosure, with a small opening facing northwest (Fig. 25). All three rows were like the crosshairs of a gun sight, with the perched boulders being in the center.
While the arrangement of the stone rows with the perched boulders was interesting, most intriguing was the stone enclosure integrated into the north-oriented stone row. The inside measurements of this structure were 3’ x 7’, large enough to sit or stand in, but a rather poor choice for a shelter, and it appeared to have been built at the same time as the row itself. Since it seemed fairly obvious that the construction of the three stone rows was tied into the perched boulders, the stone enclosure must have had something to do with them, too. It could very well have served a ritualistic function such as a prayer seat, which is a low stone enclosure shaped much like a horseshoe, where supplicants of the Algonkian-speaking Indian tribes would go to fast and pray as part of the vision quest ritual. However, the Montville enclosure bears little resemblance to those mentioned by other authors (Chartkoff 1983, Mansfield 1980, Reeves 1994), which were usually located on a desolate ridge overlooking a sacred peak. It turns out that not all prayer seats were in high, windswept areas. Dawson (1981) has studied some small enclosures along Lake Superior, which he calls ‘invocation structures’ or ‘oracle grots,’ which supposedly were used for the vision quest ritual. Although these are round or oval structures, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a square enclosure could have served the same purpose.
From the enclosure the two perched boulders are an awesome sight, and we know that native peoples the world over were often drawn to such stones and unusual locations because of the spiritual energy that was thought to be contained within them (Tilley 1996). Interestingly, the bottommost boulder has a somewhat faded, yellow painted inscription on it, which shows that even in today’s society, powerful looking rocks still have a strong pull on our psyche.
In this report I have attempted to show that early tribes of Native Americans in the Northeast – the ones who were probably here long before the Colonists landed on these shores in the seventeenth century – constructed ritualistic stonework. This is an idea that has been vehemently denied by professional archaeologists for more than a century (Morgan 1881), with little evidence for their position other than the opposing side had not presented good, solid arguments to the contrary. The evidence for native stonework, however, is so extensive that it no longer can be ignored. To continue to do so means more sites destroyed through ignorance, and a sad obliteration of our native heritage, one that is a profound reflection on the landscape that was held sacred.
The stonework discussed herein was sometimes constructed to define and enhance certain landscape features, such as ridgelines and ledges, but in many cases it emphasized unusual large boulders, and those modified by erosion and frost action into unusual physical configurations which thereby attains spiritual power. We cannot completely penetrate the mind of the row builders, whoever they were and when they might have lived; but as I have attempted to show, they sometimes left little clues in their construction methods that aid us in interpreting the stonework. It is a humbling experience to suddenly realize that Native American stonework of a ritualistic nature still exists in the East, preserved simply because it does not appear to be important to contemporary Americans. The prevailing idea seems to be that they are, after all, just stone walls.
The Native Americans held all of nature sacred, including the rocks and ledges that are a part of it. According to Joan and Roman Vastokas (1973), the Algonkian Indians considered “Boulders, rocky hills, and outcroppings with unusual dimensions or character, such as clefts, holes, or crevices, … especially charged with manitou [gods] and often conceived as the dwelling-places of mythological creatures.” This was written in reference to the Peterborough Petroglyph site in Ontario, Canada, an area of bare limestone rock crisscrossed with deep and wide fissures, some of which have been incorporated into petroglyphs of female figures, implying that from mother earth comes all life. All of the boulders described in this report are certainly distinctive, having “unusual dimensions and character,” and one can easily understand through this comparison why special attention was directed at them.
While there continues to be strong support for the colonial interpretation of stone walls in the Northeast among archaeologists and historians, curiously as we go beyond the borders of the Northeastern part of the United States and explore other regions, the resistance toward Native American wall construction remarkably lessens. Faulkner (1996), in his updated study of the Old Stone Fort in Tennessee, remarked that the construction of the earthen walls at the site seems to have been the primary ritualistic activity. And earlier, Philip Smith (1962), then a Harvard University graduate student in archaeology, wrote a fascinating report on unusual stone walls found at various locations in northern Georgia.
Toward the end of his report he concluded with the following statement:
“At a number of the sites, particularly Fort Mountain, Sand Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Rocky Face Mountain, and possibly Kensington, Brown’s Mountain and Ladd Mountain, one of the most striking features is the apparently deliberate purposefulness by which large boulders and outcrops were tied in with the walls. In some cases the walls seem to make deliberate detours to link themselves with the larger rocks. Also striking at some of the sites is the suggestion that conscious effort was made to link widely-scattered areas of steep bluffs together by means of the walls.
One is thus led to consider the possibility that this may have been the real raison d’etre of the walls – to link certain impressive natural phenomena such as boulders or bluffs which may have held some religious, symbolic or animistic significance to the people concerned.”
The more I read this, the more I think that Smith could very well have been describing the sites presented in this report.
I am deeply indebted to the following individuals, from whom I have learned much about the subject of stone rows, and for providing inspiration and guidance during the research and writing phases of this report. In alphabetical order, I would like to thank: Jon Chase, who first showed me two sites in Montville; Professor Charles Faulkner, who provided encouragement all along the way; James Mavor, whose book Manitou has been a source of constant inspiration; the late Mark Strohmeyer, who first told me about Manitou and his friend Fred Werkheiser; Ros Strong, vice-president of the New England Antiquities Research Association and a generous friend; John Waltz, colleague, woodsman and surveyor; Peter Waksman, who read this report and offered sound advice on how to improve it; and Fred Werkheiser, who early on recognized the importance of the Oley Hills site and guided me through it.
In addition, words cannot express my gratitude to the owners of the land on which the Oley Hills features lie, who were most gracious in allowing me to walk over the fascinating landscape innumerable times.
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Many of our pages this Winter have emphasized to point that our various Public Access Trails are open all year round for the benefit of all in the Community and surrounding “Day Trip” regions. On an earlier page, “Four Season Community Recreation On Tomaquag Trail”, I wrote about my surprise at expecting a pristine blanket of snow, undisturbed by human activity, only to find that a small herd of humanity had boot stomped, snow shoed, and cross country skied on every loop of the trail system!
On the morning of March 5, 2014, Bob Miner was lamenting that he would not be joining his friend Geoff Sewall, who was taking the lead on the Westerly Land Trust’s regular Thursday morning hike. This week’s hike was going to be on Grills Sanctuary’s Tomaquag Trail, frequently featured on this site.
Well, nothing would do but that I get down to the trail head and meet the folks from the other side of Polly Coon Bridge, as the trail system links our two towns in one co-operative Public Access project completed by both the Westerly Land Trust and the Hopkinton Land Trust.
There were fifteen people ready to go when Geoff, who was quite familiar to me as he contributed mightily to building the Tomaquag Brook Bridge, called a quick meeting. At 10:00 precisely, off we went.
The snow is grudgingly giving the ground a peek at sunlight, but this Winter has been very cold, with a number of snow storms. For an encouraging contrast for those afflicted with “Cabin Fever”, proof that Spring will come is shown by comparing this same field in the web page “Four Season Community Recreation On Tomaquag Trail”. But that “Big Picture” was little consolation on this morning. You can see the ice, and the numerous freeze/thaw cycles turned portions of the trail into mini glaciers.
But it was apparent that this group of mixed ages and genders were experienced at what safe Winter Hiking is all about. Many carried a ski pole type walking stick, as 3 feet are better than 2, some had slip over boot spikes and walked with confidence in the hardest glare ice surfaces.
When I got home later, I found one of the reasons for their being prepared for the season when I logged onto the Westerly Land Trust’s Website. If you like Hiking, and are nearby, you have to see how this organization takes care of “Scratching your woodsy itch” with a weekly schedule of a variety of hikes!
This site is a model for other groups wishing to set up a regular program of frequent hikes.
And my random sampling based on talking to this group of hikers was they had a friendly welcome to me, the stranger, and all ages were comfortable with the pace they set. Of course it was way to fast for me, but John adopted me, the disabled guy, and stuck with me in a perfect display of the “Buddy System. Geoff knew I was familiar with the trail layout, and tactfully suggested that John and I just head for the bridge, while the main group did all the loops, then headed for the bridge.
For two days in a row I was able to take photos of the faces of hikers, not their derrieres! Thank You, Harvey and Geoff! But now I’m getting ahead of myself in telling the story in pictures.
John and I on the Cedar Swamp Trail stop to look at a red oak that split, perhaps this Winter, or from a wind overload another time. Going slow has it’s benefits, in that you can see more. We did get ahead of the group, but not for long, as here they came!
Look at these pictures closely, and you will see they split up in conversational pairs. Geoff later explained to me that the weekly hikes were also Social Events for the participants. John said they were the highlight of his week. I could see this in person, and you can see it in these pictures coming up. We are on the white diamond Tomaquag Trail, a hundred yards away from the bridge.
We confer, and he will wait for me at the crest before the picnic table to give me a chance to show a new group of eyes the Narragansett Presence that is so easy to overlook until you learn to “See”.
Rejoining in the Sacred Landscape, I have time to point out 3 of the 4 Archaeological Features: a Grave, the Drum Rock, and the Watcher’s Rocks. Often, all it takes to open a person’s eyes to Indigenous Archaeology is to see it as it sleeps in the wild. Gee spoke about the distinctive cairns in his location. Clearly he was looking around and wondering “Why” for the mysterious piles of rocks in CT.
For those who were interested in learning more about the hidden world at their feet, I recommended the web page “Seeing The Narragansett Presence”. HHA takes the position that the best way to safeguard the historic legacy now placed under our stewardship is not by following the path of secrecy, but by following the path of education. This was a group of seasoned experienced hikers. When I asked who could see the Narragansett Grave, they all turned around and looked at the hills behind them, not the grave I was standing beside. These are not stupid people, they were interested in the history of our land. But they were never taught to “see”. Now, many of them will walk with new eyes and insight.
And that is the point of passing on what you learn. Many among this group will be the ones to speak up, to speak out, in defense of the invisible archaeology in their woods, because now they KNOW about it! And they will open the eyes of other hikers, as Bob Miner opened mine. THAT is the power of Knowledge, the vital component of intelligent preservation.
The HHA web site has many pages under our Indigenous History section, which I recommend for your reading, as well as the four historical fiction short stories, edited by a Narragansett, which immerse you into the culture of different eras, from pre-contact indigenous to our own near future.
At the Sacred Landscape I parted ways with the group. They went off to see the Polly Coon Bridge, while I, out of gas, slowly wandered my way back to the trail head, photographing the change of the seasons as Life In The Unstoppable Slow Lane progressed week by week. Interestingly, the group made it back to the trailhead before me, but lingered to chat. They walked more miles in 3 hours than what I could accomplish in 6. But Love of what we preserve is not measure by miles. We all Loved equally this day.
What follows is a gallery of “Life in the Slow Lane”
If your eyes are good, in this shot you can see the entire length of the boardwalk, and the bridge steps, and the bridge, and the Eastern plateau.
Three retrospective photos from near this vantage point follow.
The first is from two weeks before, when Harvey and I made tracks across the boardwalk. If you look sharp, you can see Harvey’s orange vest on the bridge. You can’t see him eating it, but I think he smuggled down an Apple Spice jelly donut and didn’t want to share! 🙂
The second is Harvey’s shot from late November, clearly illustrating why pre-construction engineering of the trail dictated the 275’ of boardwalk be built in the first place.
The third is Harvey’s shot from late October as the helical piles and big black locust beams formed the stable foundation for the fiberglass beams. (For more on the construction of Tomaquag Trail, please see the web page “Grills Preserve Bridge Progress”, which contains hundreds of photos showing progress day by day.)
This is what your boots see when walking the trail.
97% of all boots surveyed preferred to cross on the board walk. Somewhere there is a Swamp Yankee with three feet, or there are two Swamp Yankees who only have 3 boots between ‘em.
Of course, waaay back in the day, if you wanted to get from Point A to Point B, you had no choice.
Think about it.
In a few months, I will be standing in at least 6 inches of Spring’s High Water to take the next 3 shots. The thing about being a Web Master is eventually I will make a page “The Year At Tomaquag Trail”,
Each season has it’s own special flavor.
No matter how good the photos I will use are, to really see it, you have to see it with your own eyes and all your senses. Come on down and see for yourself some day!
The view upstream. If you could journey upstream in a hovercraft, eventually Tomaquag Brook would lead you across Route 3, on the North side of Lawton Foster Road South, till you came out near the Trail Head on the right side of North Road, where Tomaquag brook is a shallow trickle, dreaming of washing most of Hopkinton into the Atlantic Ocean.
Running water always dreams BIG!
Don’t laugh in our hubris. The Grand Canyon was carved out by a trickle brook far to the North.
The view to the West. Back in the planning stage, Harvey Buford worked with local Hopkinton surveyor Al D’Oreo to route the bridge and boardwalk at the narrowest width of the Flood Plain. The Trail’s foot print required the deliberative removal of dead, leaning, widow makers and “Blow Downs” Somebody check on this root ball to see what’s left each June. By 2019, I expect it will be different.
Before this bridge was constructed, a blow down that fell across the brook had an entry way cut in it’s root ball, and the most determined hikers used “Courage Bridge”, shown in an earlier photo, to cross Tomaquag Brook Flood Plain in the brief “non-swamp” season. But before “Courage Bridge” came down, and the entry way was cut and the trunk de-barked to provide a “No Surprises” surface, the old timers used the large blow down seen further downstream in this photograph.
I don’t know specifically how many people slipped and went in, to the total destruction of all personal electronics, but someone had to take a swim.
Not surprisingly, the Gallop Poll among boots is 100% in favor of using the bridge.
Contrarians, pick your season! Harvey and I went wading during November to install the scaffolding. That was a necessity, still, people wondered about us BEFORE we went strolling in the brook. If your wading is “optional”, I would suggest you choose June through September.
Anyway, back to business. Here is the bridge used before “Courage” Bridge.
Traveling in the Slow Lane, especially with white hair, you have time to spot the Metaphors. (No, it’s not a plant or an animal, it’s a condensation of Life’s experiences.) The final picture is just such a Metaphor.
“We only make footprints in the snow for a limited time. Try to make your’s Purposeful.”
HHA has searched and selected educational videos that relate to the content of our site. We all learn from various media forms, and we are tapping into the extraordinary potential of a world full of video information.
We hope this page will be a “One Stop Source” to explore the interests that brought you to our site.
Videos are organized by the following outline structure:
Indigenous History, Culture and Archaeology
Colonial History, Culture and Archaeology
Rhode Island/New England/American History
Natural History Of Local Species
Genealogy Research & Archives
HHA Produced Videos
Each Video will have a brief text description of it’s contents.New videos will be added to the end of the page, so scroll all the way down. When enough new content accumulates, I will reconstruct the page and get everything in it’s proper category. Added “Identifying Trees, Parts 1 & 2”; “Light Pollution”.
Video Tally is 43, as of 3/4/14
Indigenous History, Culture and Archaeology
The HHA website has promoted the view that the best way to preserve the historic legacy of the Narragansett Archaeology which remains in our woodlands, under our stewardship, is by educating people to learn how to “See” the Indigenous Archaeological Features, and distinguish them from Colonial Archaeological Features and Glacial distribution of stones.
In the process, by seeing these things in the wild, not in a museum, a modern day person will develop a respect for preserving these fragile treasures. This video, “Visit With Respect- A Native American Stewardship Message”, was filmed in the Southwest, and concerns itself with preserving the legacy of the Pueblo and Hopi Indians. But in the big picture, the message is the same for us in the Northeast. Learn to see the Spiritual and Cultural Landscapes found in Hopkinton, and throughout the Northeast.
A good place to start your own learning to “See” is on our page “Seeing The Narragansett Presence”, and then following your curiosity on the SITE MAP’s “INDIGENOUS” and “HISTORICAL FICTION” sections
Colonial History, Culture and Archaeology
If this video doesn’t match what you were taught in school, there is a reason for that. Now that you’re out of school, do a little reading on your own to distinguish Historic History from “feel good” Pabulum History.
Starting at the beginning in the Northeast, here is “The Plymouth Colony”, with the video starting us off in Europe, and ending with “King Phillip’s War”.
Rhode Island/New England/American History
The European Colonization of North America introduced new technology, born of the Industrial Revolution, into the fabric of life on this continent. One of these imported inventions was the water powered Mill. Mills sprang up everywhere there was terrain suitable for creating a “head” of water to turn a water wheel.
As a result, it was water power that ground grain into flour and meal, not a woman grinding at home. We have grist mill ruins in our town
It was water power that sawed the trees into lumber, not two sweaty men, caked with saw dust, breaking their backs at a pit saw. We have at least one pit saw ruin in our town.
In the Hopkinton area, there are seven small mill ruins that I know of, not counting the larger abandoned brick buildings slipping into ruins, and Ashaway Line and Twine, now electric, but not so back in the day.
These videos show us working Water Wheel Mills across the nation, all similar to what once was in our woods. One even shows a grist mill powered by a single cylinder gasoline engine, also in use today.
Natural History Of Local Species
While these videos were shot all around the world, all the animals featured have a presence in Hopkinton.
Genealogy Research & Archives
On the HHA web site, the pages with the most “hits” are usually in our Genealogy section.
Hopkinton is rare among Rhode Island towns in that we have an unbroken chain of records dating back to 1757, when Hopkinton was formed. Today they reside in a limited access, fire proof vault, but in times past, the Town Clerk kept the records in their home or place of business. Anecdotal accounts say the records were traditionally kept near a door, so the Town Clerk could drag them out to safety in the event of fire. Many towns lost portions of their irreplaceable records due to fire.
Please excuse a bit of Local Pride, but the National Archives in Washington begin their Genealogical Records in 1790, while Hopkinton begins ours in 1757.
As the Web Master, I can see from the Web Site Statistics that Genealogy Researchers visiting our site know what they are looking for. They hit a page or two of our well organized content, find what they need, and move on.
The History and Historical Fiction pages produce the longest “duration” stats on their pages. These visitors come to browse amid the site’s varied content, often reading many pages.
As an aid to both groups of site visitors, I have chosen videos to help guide Genealogy Researchers, as well as being interesting viewing for those “Just Looking”.
HHA Produced Videos
What these videos lack in “Slick”, they provide in being “Local”. To appreciate the full context of the video, please visit the web page for the complete story. All pages are listed on the “SITE MAP” Navigation Page. Click “SITE MAP” in the upper Left of the Home Page.
I well remember this commercial. (Yes, I chose to include a commercial!) Many people of a certain age also remember this one. Apparently, it was first broadcast to promote the very first “Earth Day”, held April 22, 1970. Back then, the Buzzword was “Ecology”, now it’s “Green”. Personally, I like the broader implications of Ecology, but at last check, no one was paying me for my opinions, so call Environmental Stewardship what you will.
For our site’s older visitors, here is “The Crying Indian” to refresh your memory.
For our younger visitors, here are 60 seconds that changed how an entire nation thought.
Besides grinding corn, the early saw mills converted the traditional “Two Man” saw technology to a beefier version powered by a water wheel. This first Sawmill Video was shot at nearby Ledyard, CT. This is the oldest operational “Up/Down” sawmill, using it’s original machinery, on it’s original location in the United States.
After the tree was sawn into boards, and after the boards were “Stickered”, with air drying gaps between each course of the stacked boards, and after “Air Drying for a period of time, the rough lumber was sent through a “Planing Mill”, which made all four sides of the finished board smooth and of a uniform size. This took a lot of power to accomplish. Here is a planing mill that is completely operated by Steam Power, the “Next Great Thing” in the advancement of the Industrial Revolution after water and wind powered mills. Steam was only gradually replaced by electricity. In my life, I recall working steam locomotives growing up.
Now little kids have no idea what a “Choo-Choo Train” is.
Ain’t Progress Grand!
Final Score: Squirrel 1, Hawk 0
A spectacular & dramatic video of a grey squirrel being pursued by a red tailed hawk.
This BBC video about beavers is long, but is entertaining and complete.
No Fisher Cat is visible, but the sound they make is unforgettable. Turn up your volume!
“The Avondale Shell Burn” page, found under “Modern History” in the SITE MAP, documents how the Colonials made plaster and cement back in the day: Get a 10 cord pile of wood arranged in an open field, shovel on 1.5 tons of oyster shells on top, and light ‘er off.
Then, “Haste ye, Squire, stand back a goodly piece!”
“The Historic Stones Of Woodville Culvert” page documents the demolition of a failed Colonial bridge “Grandfathered under the pavement of a road, then it’s replacement by a modern culvert. The 400+ photos on this page will give you a new perspective on Highway Construction. This page is found under “Modern History” in the SITE MAP
“How To Cut Stone” page documents the Colonial “Feathers & Wedge” method of cutting stone, adapted to modern electric drills. Only 3 of the page’s many videos are shown here. This page is found under “Modern History” in the SITE MAP
“Video Evidence For The Hand Of Man” page documents the geometric and facial features sculpted into what is believed to be a rare Monumental Indigenous Archaeological Feature located in Tomaquag Valley, Hopkinton. Besides this page, which contains 4 videos, there are other pages associated with this Feature beginning with web page “The High Cliff Cougar”. The rock outcrop jutting from a 22’ vertical cliff contains two sculptured surfaces, “The High Cliff Cougar” and “The Man”. These multiple pages are found under “Indigenous History” in the SITE MAP
“Making The Hoxsie Trail” page documents the start to finish construction of a brand new Looped Trail System on The Nature Conservancy’s “Canonchet Preserves” in Hopkinton. A cold snap produced the unique conditions of “Lace Ice”, with the mill stream’s waters flowing and splashing through the openings. This page is found under “Modern History” in the SITE MAP.
“Four Season Community Recreation On Tomaquag Trail” page documents one of the practical benefits the numerous Public Access Properties bring to our Community and surrounding areas. Even in the brutal February weather of 2014, many people left their boot, snow shoe and ski tracks as they “Day Vacationed” locally on the Hopkinton Land Trust’s Grills Sanctuary. The video is a deep snow view of the 55 foot long bridge, centerpiece of a 275 foot long elevated boardwalk across the flood plain of Tomaquag brook, panning across the brook from bank to bank. This page is found under “Community” in the SITE MAP.
This is a link to the Nature Conservancy’s web site slide show “The Birds Of Winter”, displaying a dozen Winter residents found in and around Hopkinton. Maybe you have seen some of these birds out at your feeder this Winter
“Tree Identification, parts 1 & 2” are an easy to follow tutorial to help you identify the various species of trees that are out there cluttering up our forests.:) Part 1 gives a general classification of trees, Part 2 demonstrates exactly how easy it is to use the “Peterson Field Guide To Eastern Trees”.
If you follow along carefully, and have the book, should a tree fall in the forest, and you and your Peterson Field Guide are out there, not only will you hear it, but you will know exactly what kind of tree it is!
NOTE: This assumes that it didn’t land on you! : B
“Light Pollution” begins with a simple question: Have you ever seen the Milky Way in the night sky?
To which I would add: Recently?
In Hopkinton we have an example of the positive effect of installing parking lot lighting that reduces sky illumination while still giving needed illumination for the company’s parking lot. You have to see this in person to realize how much money gets thrown away lighting up the clouds. The location is on Wellstown Road, near the Junction with Rt. 3. It’s the first industrial building on the Right, (The Rt 3 side of Wellstown Rd.)