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:

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:11 PM

    Tim, I happened upon this post and was reminded of how much delight you have brought into my life. You've got me looking at all of the stonewalls around my area. I was just looking out my kitchen window and lo & behold, there is a turtle looking right in my direction. Thank you...may you never lose your of your fans ...Liz