I grew up in a rural town in eastern Connecticut. One of the fascinating parts of the rural landscape are the miles and miles of old stone walls. As an adult, I moved to a suburban town in Connecticut where most of the stone walls are recent additions and part of landscaping projects. Perhaps that’s when and why I noticed the history and culture of the stone walls I had grown up with.
The stone walls where I grew up had more than an aesthetic purpose. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries settlers were clearing the land in order to build houses and prepare farmland. The stone walls you see today are products of human infiltration onto and into the land. As people worked the land they found more and more of these rocks, and needing to find somewhere to put them, used the flat rocks as foundations for houses and walls for dividing property and keeping livestock fenced in.
There are hidden splendors in stone walls. I remember as a child being fascinated by the stile. A stile is a staircase built into a stone wall and made of large slab rocks that protrude out of either side of the wall creating a kind of staircase creating steps up one side and down the other. My old family diaries talk about a “drop box” that was used by family and friends who lived nearby. It was a kind of “box” built into the stone wall, a place where letters, pies, and tools could be left for others to pick up.
While researching early New England stone walls, I came across an online magazine Earth: The Science Behind the Headlines which published an article titled, “The history, science and poetry of New England’s stone walls.”
Perhaps I have a nostalgic bias, but it’s hard to deny that stone walls are a part of New England charm.Melissa Gordon Editor-In-Chief