Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Sunday Bear Story

from The History of the Old Town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642-- 188O.
by Samuel Orcutt and Ambrose Beardsley

“A story is still told which illustrates the religious character of the people of that day and the perils of the wilderness. The occurrence must have taken place between 1670 and 1673. A family by the name of Johnson, (and there was but one here then,) before services were held in Paugassett, consisted of small children and the parents. The father went to Milford on Sunday morning to the meeting to remain to the two services. The mother was engaged dressing the children for the Sabbath, when sitting near the door which stood open, she heard some animal near it, and thought it to be a hog. But the next sound seemed different from such an animal, and she reached and shut the door which fastened with a latch, making it quite secure. She then rose and made it more secure by the usual method, and went upstairs and looked out the window to see what creature it was, when, lo! a bear of full size and power was seen. She took the gun, it being loaded for just such interesting occasions, and exercising the best of her skill, fired, and old bruin gave up his life at once. The hours of that day went slower in that house than ever before, until the master came. On arriving home the husband called the neighbors in general camp consultation as to whether it would be wicked to eat that bear, since he was killed on Sunday, for had it occurred on any other day except a fast day, there would have been no question, as such meat was judged quite delicious and healthful. The decision of the council was that since it was "killed in self-defense it would be Christianly consistent to eat the meat;" although how the bear could have entered the house to the injury of the family after being fastened out, is not easy to see at this late distance. The decision having been rendered, the animal lay untouched until the sun was quite down, when he was dressed, and furnished some two hundred pounds of provision. But it had cost a severe fright to that mother and her little ones. So far as she could judge the bear might be dead and harmless, or he might not; she could not venture out to see, and there she remained six hours in a prison of fear.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Waiting for Snow Melt

I find myself wondering what Stone Feature shows up well in a foot or more of snow:
A west facing outcrop is one such place...

This the Hamburger and Used Car Lot Edge of Watertown CT.
This site appears (with no snow) at
Then the stone row disappears:
(Right click and open in a new window - you'll see the row of stones "linking" the outcrop to "something no longer there.")
Another side view:
and here too:
(which is to the right of the outcrop in the "snowy above photo") caught Peter’s attention:

Friday, February 21, 2014


by Todd Waterman
Drawings by James Heck with Photos by Allen Gage, Linda Lee, Ruth Massey, David Massey.
Some farmers in the Ozarks would cut their timber for rails between the months of July and September because they believed that if they cut while the sap was up, that worms and insects would not infest the wood. Other farmers preferred to cut and split the rails in cooler weather. Ova said, "It's best to cut the rails in the winter or early spring. If the timber is frozen, it splits better." Also the winter was a slack time. Many farmers worked in the woods all winter cutting rails and other timber products for their own use…

To build the fence the farmer needed more than just the rails, for there was more to it than simply stacking up the rails one on top of another. First he had to stake out the fence row. For this some cut a sapling about two or three inches in diameter and five to six feet long. Then with the chopping ax, they would strip the bark off of two opposite sides of the sapling to reveal the light colored wood below, making the pole more visible. They jabbed these poles into the ground along the desired fence row about sixty feet apart, or closer if the fence line ran over a hill. They jabbed the first pole in the ground at the beginning point. They placed the second pole at the other end of the fence row. To get the straight line between the poles, someone held a third pole between the two poles, while another person, squatted beside the first pole. He sighted down the line, motioning to his partner either to right or left, to get the pole lined up. That pole was then stuck in the ground. The other stakes to mark the fence row were set in the same fashion. This line dictated the point of the angle of either the inside of the fence or the outside. When using poles in this fashion, there was no need for ropes or strings…Modern farmers with high labor costs and huge acreages and large herds to care for, even using power saws cannot afford to spend the time needed to build and maintain rail fences, which when built, would have less than half the life of a wire fence. 

Perhaps an even greater factor contributing to their decline was fire, especially if built near wooded areas which were usually burned off every spring. Jim said, "One trouble with rail fences, they would catch the leaves in the fall of the year and pile up sometimes two feet deep around them. Then when the fire got out, why to try to keep from burning the fence up, it was just next to impossible. We'd go down through, tearing the rail fence down, throwing the rails out trying to keep them from all burning up...
A straight rail fence on this bluff ledge keeps the cattle from being butted off as they gather under the bluff for protection from the weather. Photos by Kathy Long.

The American Farmer: A Complete Agricultural Library, with Useful Facts for the Household (1884)
“Under the usages and customs of a former generation, who, in settling their country, first cleared a field and then fenced and cultivated it, permitting the farm stock to run in the uncleared portions, this system of fencing was inaugurated. But the necessities of that remote period are not the necessities of to-day, and the customs and usages of that generation are not essential to the present…
While fences on a farm seem, to a certain extent, to be a necessity, yet, according to the former custom of fencing, they are far more extensive than is essential, except, perhaps, in the prairie regions; and that which is spent in making and keeping them in repair might much more profitably be appropriated to other purposes.
Surplus fences are not only expensive and unprofitable, but they are an incumbrance to the land. Many of them are so constructed that they take up valuable land that might otherwise be under cultivation, such as the stone walls common in many portions of New England, the zigzag or Virginia fence, etc. Besides, the general appearance of a farm that is not divided by numerous lines of fences is much more in conformity with good taste.
Fences furnish a place for weeds to grow and ripen their seed, which are scattered by the wind over the land; they also are a safe harbor for mice, rats, and other pests.
Unnecessary fences on a farm, are, therefore, not only a useless expense, and an obstruction to cultivation, but a disfigurement to the landscape, and a harbor for weeds and vermin; and if the amount of unproductive labor which they incur were reduced, great benefit would be derived, since by so doing, the productiveness of the farm would be practically increased, without any increased outlay in labor, money, or draft upon the fertility of the soil. In some parts of New England, the old division and highway fences have been removed, which has greatly increased the general attractiveness of such farms, as well as the towns in which they are located. The owners have by this means improved the general appearance of their farms, and reduced the expense of maintaining them.
In almost every State in New England there are examples of such improvements, which are gradually extending. Among the many places made especially attractive by this means might be mentioned Cherryville, in South Manchester, Conn.; also, Amherst, Mass., and vicinity. Very few fences are also seen in some of the river valleys, where the annual inundations would sweep them away.
To what extent farm fences are essential will depend somewhat upon different conditions and circumstances. The crops must, of course, be protected. This protection may be furnished by fencing the farm animals in, appropriating a certain portion of the farm to this purpose, or by enclosing the cultivated fields by fences, and thus fencing them out. Where the law requires every owner of farm-stock to keep his animals on his own land, or to be responsible for all damage done by them, highway fences will not be necessary, since the owners, being made liable for such damage, will be careful to keep them confined to their own premises. The fences required in such sections, therefore, are those that will keep each owner's animals confined on his own premises, and not such as shall fence out those of his neighbors; consequently, pasture fences, and fences about some of the farm buildings, will be all the permanent ones that are essential. 'Where soiling is commonly practiced, even pasture fences could be dispensed with.
In those sections where the statute law and custom require a highway and division fence, a boundary fence will be essential, but the law and custom may be changed, and if farmers use their influence in securing the enactment and enforcement of stringent laws in respect to restraining stock, this may be accomplished, and highway fences be rendered unnecessary.
Farm animals that are not under the direct charge of a keeper, who is responsible for the injury they may do, should never be tolerated in the highway. Such toleration would be detrimental to the best agricultural interests of the country. If certain portions of the farm, aside from the common pastures, are desired to be used as pasturage at any time, such as mowing-lands for a season in the fall, movable fences may be used, similar to the hurdle fences, so extensively employed in England. As a general rule, the permanent fences necessary, except where boundary and division fences are required, will be those for the pasture, and around farm buildings, such as barns and sheds. A temporary fence can occasionally be used when necessary, which will secure the convenience of a permanent one without its disadvantages, and for this purpose a movable fence, as previously recommended, is the most desirable.
In England and other portions of Europe, when cattle and sheep are pastured where there are no fences, a shepherd is employed to take charge of them, who, with the assistance of a well-trained dog, will keep large flocks and herds under perfect control, and as strictly confined to prescribed limits as though there were fences for this purpose. This practice of employing shepherds is based upon the principle that it is less expensive to take care of the herds than to keep up the fences.
Removing Fences.—We would recommend to all farmers the maintaining only of such fences on the farm as are absolutely necessary for the safety of the crops, and the confinement of the stock, and the removal of all such as are not essential. Unnecessary fences on a farm are an expensive nuisance…(T)he removal of the stone-walls, however, that are found in many parts of New England, would involve much labor and expense, and in some instances it is questionable whether their removal would pay for all the expenditure of time and labor that would be required to accomplish the object. This would depend upon the locality of the wall, the improvement and convenience secured by its removal, and the use to which the stones could be appropriated, or the facility with which they might be gotten out of the way. Many of these walls have been built for a century or more, and have been kept in repair from generation to generation. They were appropriated to this use, originally, partly because the fences were considered a necessity, and partly as a means of getting rid of the stones by which the land was encumbered. What to do with the stones, in removing such fences, would be the question to be considered. The best and most practical way of disposing of them is to use them where they will be a benefit in drainage. On nearly every farm there are wet lands that require drainage, and by using these incumbrances of the land for this purpose, acres of new or virgin soil may be secured for cultivation that might otherwise be nearly worthless for agricultural purposes.
Ravines and swales may also bo filled with stones, while many may be utilized for the foundation of farm buildings, and thus in one way and another they can be disposed of in a manner that will increase the value of the farm.
Stone Heaps

Mr. Starr, the former proprietor of the famous Echo Farm, settled the perplexing question of what to do with the stones in clearing his fields of them, in a manner that may be of advantage to some other farmers to imitate who have this difficulty to meet.
Selecting an untillable spot in a field in which there were one or two natural mound-like hillocks, a large pile of stones was made, consisting of several hundred loads, and, as an experiment, this pile was covered with tussocks of coarse swamp-grass, which are hard of decomposition. These were inverted, covering the stones. On this foundation, a light dressing of soil was placed, and grass-seed sown.
This experiment proved a success; the grass soon grew over this artificial mound, which appeared to bear the protracted droughts even better than the natural ones, while the first showers made them conspicuously green.
From time to time these mounds have been extended and multiplied, and in all cases proved a success. The object was not to form new land, but to dispose of the stones. Whenever practicable, natural depressions may be made use of for depositing stones. By such means the surplus stones may be gotten rid of without being an encumbrance to the land, or marring its appearance, and also without being a place in which noxious weeds, briars, and shrubs will find refuge.

Rail Fence.—The kind of fences used on a farm will vary according to circumstances, the most available material being generally employed in each section. As the country becomes older, and the material for fencing purposes becomes more scarce and expensive, the question as to the most economical and durable* fence to construct becomes a more important one to determine. The first settlers of the country, finding timber and stone abundant, made use of these principally in the construction of fences. Hence, the rail-fence and stone-wall became the most common at that time. In newly-settled portions, where timber is plenty, the common rail-fence, or what is termed the zigzag or Virginia fence, is quite extensively employed, owing to the material being cheap,—often an incumbrance in clearing up new lands,—and the rails being easily split.
This style of fence has been very appropriately termed by a recent writer, "the relic of a lavish era of unlimited forestry," the counterpart of which is seen in no other country, it being typical of Yankeeland. Cedar is most commonly used for making rails, although hemlock, chestnut, and other kinds of timber may be employed for this purpose.

     In making a rail-fence, wooden blocks are preferred to stones for supports at the corners, as the stones will soon sink into the ground and become of no use whatever. Blocks will decay in time, but they may be replaced by others. The stakes used should always be large enough to give sufficient strength and support to the fence. It will be a practice of economy also to make them long enough to be re-sharpened and used again when the ends decay. Long stakes projecting at the corners, however, give a fence an unsightly appearance. A more symmetrical and neater-looking fence, besides being equally strong, can be made by putting two upright stakes, one on either side of the angle formed in crossing the rails, and securing them by a plank in which holes are made of sufficient size and distance apart to admit of being slipped over these posts to hold them securely after all but one or two of the top rails have been laid. The upper rails are then put on to hold the plank firmly in place. Annealed wire of large size maybe wound around the stakes to hold them in place, instead of the use of the plank, if desired. The objections to the common rail-fence are, the large amount of timber necessary for its construction, the ease with which it may be thrown down by stock, or blown over by the strong winds, and the amount of land it occupies. Where timber is abundant, land plenty, and saw-mills not easily accessible, some kind of a rail-fence may prove the most profitable; but, as a general rule, with ordinary facilities for obtaining other material, and where land is valuable, some other style of fence is to be preferred.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Raven’s Horn (PA)

      “The Raven's Horn is unlike other overlooks I've been to. Pole Steeple in Micheux State Forest and The Ledges in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, for instance, have a big 'platform' or series of platforms with multiple viewing locations. Ditto Hawk Mountain, which is a flat pile of rocks. The Raven's Horn is a flat, round, and small 'platform' jutting out. At most I'd estimate no more than three adults could stand comfortably on it…” 
This fellow finds Raven Horn “Interesting,” and claims to have the best photos:
He says: “The so-called Raven's Horn is among a handful of vertical rock formations capping the Allegheny Plateau in this area.”

It reminds me of these Yoly Molina photos from West Virginia: 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"To know New England well, one must know its stone walls."

   It was a Google image search for "stone walls around New England farms" that landed me at Stone Wall Jack's website(s) where I found someone who has almost as many photos of these New England Icons as some other people I know - who see many of them as Indigenous Ceremonial Stonework. 

Image #1019.0680.8011 Copyright 2009 Jack McConnell (above), another Jack McConnell photo I can't find the URL for (below).
(I see the above as a "Chicken/Egg Situation," wooden rails over Native Stonework.)
    “Early farmers used (wooden rail) fences to pen animals for the strategic dropping of manure, and to separate livestock from crops. Subdivision of land within families added even more boundaries and fences. These fence lines became magnets for stone refuse that would otherwise have ended up in stone piles. Stones were often lugged to the side of the field by hand and tossed one upon the other. More commonly, a load of stone was skidded to the edge of the field on a wooden sled pulled by oxen. The large boulders were rolled into position; and smaller stones were tossed above and between them...
 As the stone accumulated, primitive “tossed” walls began to rise up out of the woods, replacing the lower tiers of wooden fences…Stone walls not only transformed waste into something useful, they improved the local wildlife habitat with respect to diversity. Prior to wall construction, the dry-land habitats of cliffs and ledges were much more restricted in New England; animals and plants that had adapted to such terrain now had a greater chance to survive because stone walls and stone ledges offered similar opportunities…

Connecting with Colonial farmers
As I stand in front of an old stone wall somewhere in Central Connecticut, up a side road away from cars and all the trappings of modern society, I feel myself being transported back 300 or more years. The stones were old, even then. Almost as old as time itself. I imagine a man, bent over the beginnings of a wall, stones scattered around him. A horse and a sledge behind him. He examines a stone, picks it up and carefully places it on the wall, working slowly, but steadily, working around the perimeter of a small field. His sweat, mingled with the stone imprints his DNA, his life, onto his labor, his wall. Three centuries later I am standing in exactly the same spot. I am transfixed, zen-like, contemplating the meaning of the stone wall’s existence. I wonder what his life was like. How did he ever survive. I live only by the grace of modern medicine. He didn’t have that. I think how fortunate I am. I look again at the wall and meditate on being alive.
"Criss-cross stone wall in woods:"
As I work through this project, photographing old Yankee stone walls, I find myself becoming more and more enamored with individual stones and their placement within the artwork of the wall itself. Other details come into play that enhance the visual, the mystical experience of the wall.”
 To learn more about Jack’s stone wall project, visit his websites at

 or contact him at his studio/gallery: Jack McConnell, McConnell & McNamara, 182 Broad St. Wethersfield, CT 06109 860.563.6154, e:

Personally, I find these collections of Stone Wall Jack as one beautiful photo after another, and I mean more that just the stonewall photos. He even has some tips in there on photographing stonewalls.
However, I went through about 20 photos that I felt were Pre Contact Indigenous Stonework before I found one that I'd call Post Contact. 
I said, "Hmmm" more than once, as I looked for Hints for Identifying Indigenous Stonework:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

More Suggestions of Effigies in Redding Ridge CT

(Above: dc photo, cropped to show Turtle;
Below: More Suggestions of Effigies:) 
(and maybe a hand axe or a nutting stone or a something, that was once the Turtle's foot.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

dc and Google Images - 2

Continuing on from, I guess you could call this "Jumping Off of (Google) Earth and Into Other Sources I Often Use."
     The first of the images dc sent was the one above: "Here is a capture of the rows near my brother's pad in Redding Ridge. I have outlined one of the rows, hope it shows up on your screen. My brother's crib is in top part of the capture. The row runs from right next to a stream in the upper left hand side of the screen, up a steep hill to that copse of trees, and then turns to the right and runs along a ridge that overlooks his place."
     The rows weren't easy to spot, but I could see some faint grey stones in there, especially in this crop:
I tried a little highlighting:
Just because I can, I often seek out images from old aerial photos.
From 1934:
There's the bend in the road, but I don't know what the dark areas are - could be trees, but could even be water. In 1965 it's still a little unclear, but the possible post contact stone walls or the possibly pre-contact rows of stone do show up:
{I looked up 1965 here by street name:
dc's image is tilted so that west is almost at the top, so I'll include a west at top version of the above image:

And then there's the bing bird's eye images where I eventually got these funky images:
{If you go to you should be able to see this better - and roam around too, switching angles and all' - like this (horrible capture of) the view that is very close to dc's first image above:}
When you add in the photos from dc (and add in the obvious new constructions around the houses) you begin to suspect these rows of stones and the little "details" that could be mounds and/or boulders could possibly be Indigenous Pre-Contact stonework, as dc writes:
"The section running up the hill to the trees is shown in the photos with (the) time stamps (on the photos): 
"11:37 (is in the trees):"  
"11:41 is the part that runs along the ridge after making that turn to the right in the capture:"
And it's an iffy business, identifying rows of stones from these images, as dc writes:
"This row that runs over the outcrop here is probably where photo 11:22 was taken, but I am not 100% certain:"

And the mandatory Turtle Petroform crop (add painted in eyes) from the photo above:

Friday, February 14, 2014

dc and Google Images

     After reading a post here or on Rock Piles, my friend dc often sends me some Google Earth Images he has accessed, sometimes choosing between many aerial photos that were taken years ago, in the snow, in the spring, low rainfall years etc. Above is one related to a post of Peter's, a nearby row of stones and a pond of some sort...
    I asked if he had some captures of the places he’d been in Redding Ridge {}, out of curiosity mostly. I try to do this myself, since it’s pretty eye opening sometimes. But unless you really know an area, it often not easy to do…

     "A general view of the area in Redding Ridge with many miles of rows, many linking outcrops,” writes dc and attaching this screen capture:
 I messed around with the image some, added some dots and lines, sort of like stringing beads: