Walking Among Mysteries

We knew not what to expect when we met this morning. My intention was to visit a structure of unknown use, then follow a trail for a bit before going off trail and mapping some stone walls. Curiosity would be the name of the game and friends Pam and Bob were ready for the adventure when I pulled into the trailhead parking lot.

We traveled rather quickly to our first destination, pausing briefly to admire only a few distractions along the way–if you can believe that.

It’s a stone structure on the back side of Amos Mountain. Three years ago we visited this site with Dr. Rob Sanford, a University of Southern Maine professor and author of Reading Rural Landscapes. At that time we came away with so many questions about this structure located on a mountainside so far from any foundations. Today, we still had the same questions and then some.

Who built it? What was it used for? Was there a hearth? Did it have a roof? Was it ever fully enclosed? Was there originally a front wall? Could it be that it extended into the earth behind it? Was it colonial? Pre-colonial?

Why only one piece of split granite when it sits below an old quarry?

And then there’s the left-hand side: Large boulders used in situ and smaller rocks fit together. One part of the “room” curved. For what purpose?

Pam and Bob stood in the center to provide some perspective.

And then I climbed upon fallen rocks to show height.

We walked away still speculating on the possibilities, knowing that we weren’t too far from a stone foundation that belonged to George Washington and Mary Ann McCallister beginning in the mid-1850s and believed the structure to be upon their “Lot.”

As we continued along the trail, we spied several toads and a couple of frogs. Their movement gave them away initially, but then they stayed still, and their camouflage colorations sometimes made us look twice to locate the creator of ferns in motion.

At last we crossed over a stonewall that we assumed was a boundary between the McAllister property and that of Amos Andrews. It was the walls that we wanted to follow as there are many and our hope was to mark them on GPS and gain a better understanding of what seems like a rather random lay out.

The walls stand stalwart, though some sections more ragged than others. Fallen trees, roots, frost, weather, critters and humans have added to their demise, yet they are still beautiful, with mosses and lichens offering striking contrasts to the granite. Specks of shiny mica, feldspar and quartz add to the display.

The fact that they are still here is a sign of their endurance . . . and their perseverance. And the perseverance of those who built them.

But the fashion of these particular walls has stymied us for years. As we stood and looked down the mountain from near the Amos Andrews foundation, we realized that the land was terraced in a rather narrow area. And so we began to follow one wall (perspective isn’t so great in this photo) across, walk down the retaining wall on the right edge and at the next wall follow it across to the left. We did this over and over again and now I wish I’d counted our crossings, but there were at least eight.

Mind you, all were located below the small root cellar that served as Amos Andrews’ home on and off again beginning in 1843.

And below one of the terraced walls just beyond his cellar hole, there was a stoned off rectangle by the edge. Did it once serve as a foundation for a shed?

Had Amos or someone prior to him tried to carve out a slice of land, build a house, and clear the terraced area for a garden?

It seems the land of western Maine had been forested prior to the 1700s and there was plenty of timber to build. A generation or two later, when so much timber had been harvested to create fields for tillage and pasture, the landscape changed drastically, exposing the ground to the freezing forces of nature. Plowing also helped bring stones to the surface. The later generation of farmers soon had their number one crop to deal with–stone potatoes as they called them. These needed to be removed or they’d bend and break the blade of the oxen-drawn plowing rake. Summer meant time to pick the stones and make piles that would be moved by sled to the wall in winter months. Had the land been burned even before those settlers arrived? That would have created the same scenario, with smaller rocks finding their way to the surface during the spring thaw.

As it was, we found one pile after another of baseball and basketball size stones dotting the landscape. Stone removal became a family affair for many. Like a spelling or quilting bee, sometimes stone bees were held to remove the granite from the ground. Working radially, piles were made as an area was cleared. Stone boats pulled by oxen transported the piles of stones to their final resting place where they were woven into a wall.

Occasionally, however, we discovered smaller stones upon boulders. Were they grave markers? Or perhaps spiritual markers?

There were double-wide stone walls with big stones on the outside and little stones between, indicating that the land around had been used for planting. But why hadn’t all the piles been added to the center of these walls? That’s what had us thinking this was perhaps Pre-colonial in nature.

Pasture walls also stood tall, their structure of a single stature. I may be making this up because I’ve had an affinity with turtles since I was a young child and own quite a collection even to this day, but I see a turtle configured in this wall. Planned or coincidence?

My turtle’s head is the large blocky rock in the midst of the other stones, but I may actually be seeing one turtle upon another. Do you see the marginal scutes arching over the head? Am I seeing things that are not there? Overthinking as my guy would suggest?

I didn’t have to overthink when I spotted this woody specimen–last year’s Pine Sap with its many flowered stalk turned to capsules still standing tall.

And a foot or so away, its cousin, Indian Pipe also showing off the woody capsules of last year’s flowers, though singular on each stalk.

As we continued to follow the walls, other things made themselves known. I do have to admit that we paused and pondered several examples of this plant because of its three-leaved presentation. Leaves of three, leave them be–especially if two leaves are opposite each other and have short petioles and the leader is attached between them by a longer petiole. But, when we finally found one in flower we were almost certain we weren’t looking at Poison Ivy. I suggested Tick-Trefoil and low and behold, I was correct. For once.

Our journey wandering the walls soon found us back on what may have been a cow or sheep path and it was there that we noted a cedar tree. Looking at it straight on, one might expect it to be dead. But a gaze skyward indicated otherwise. Still, the question remained–why here?

A Harvestman Spider may have thought the same as it reached out to a Beech Nut. After all, the two were located upon a Striped Maple leaf.

Onward we walked, making a choice of which way to travel each time we encountered an intersection of walls. This one had a zigzag look to it and we thought about the reputation Amos Andrews had with a preference for alcohol. But . . . did Amos build all or any of these walls?

We continued to ponder that question even as we came upon a stump that practically shouted its name all these years after being cut, for the property we were on had eventually been owned by Diamond Match, a timber company. Do you see the mossy star shape atop the stump? And the sapling growing out of it? The star is actually a whorl–of White Pine branches for such is their form of growth. And the sapling–a White Pine.

And then . . . and then . . . something the three of us hadn’t encountered before. A large, rather narrow boulder standing upright.

Behind it, smaller rocks supported its stance.

The stone marked the start of another stone wall. And across from it a second wall, as if a road or path ran between the two and Bob stood in their midst adding coordinates to his GPS.

We chuckled to think that the stone was the beginning of Amos’ driveway and he’d had Andrews written upon it. According to local lore, he had a bit of a curmudgeon reputation, so we couldn’t imagine him wanting people to stop by. The road downhill eventually petered out so we didn’t figure out its purpose. Yet.

In the neighborhood we also found trees that excited us–for until ten months ago we didn’t think that any White Oaks existed in Lovell. But today we found one after another, much like the piles of stones. With the nickname “stave oak,” it made sense that they should be here since its wood was integral in making barrels and we know that such for products like rum were once built upon this property.

Trees of varying ages grow quite close to Amos Andrews’ homestead.

Also growing in the area was Marginal Wood Fern, its stipe or stalk below the blade covered with brown scales and fronds blue-green in color, which is often a give-away clue that it’s a wood fern.

We know how it got its name–for the round sori located on the margins of the underside of the pinnules or leaflets. Based on their grayish-blue color, they hadn’t yet matured. But why are some sori such as these covered with that smooth kidney-shaped indusium? What aren’t all sori on all ferns so covered?

So many questions. So many mysteries.

As curious as we are about the answers, I think we’ll be a wee bit disappointed if we are ever able to tell the complete story of the stone structure and the upright stone and all the walls between.

Walking among mysteries keeps us on our toes–forever asking questions and seeking answers.

Wondering Beside Willard Brook

I dragged my guy along for a wander in the Hut Road neighborhood today and we made Willard Brook the center of our attention.

That being said, our journey began at Great Brook. I parked by the gate that isn’t open yet due to  road conditions–not realizing that the only other vehicle belonged to a friend, who kindly left us a note we found under the windshield wiper as we drove away hours later.

The wind was wild and we felt it rattle our bones while we walked along Forest Service Road #4. That just meant a fast walk to the start of our adventure.

h-Great falls

The beauty of this spot never ceases to take my breath away.

h-ice

But we didn’t pause long because that wind was cold and icicles helped tell the story.

h-map

Lately, when I’ve tramped about in this area, I’ve been on the Great Brook Trail to start, but I contacted a few folks in the past two days because they’ve made comments on previous posts that indicated they have some understanding of the Native American presence that once existed here. And perhaps still does.

Stoneham_Hut_Road_1858_12-06-2015

My friend, Jinny Mae, had intended to join us today, but that didn’t work as planned. She and I have explored this area a couple of times in the past few months and she’s my GPS techie, as well as a talented historian and naturalist. The above map is from a section of the 1858 map of Stoneham she posted. (Thanks JM for letting me borrow this without asking.)

Stoneham_Hut_Road_1880_12-06-2015

As Jinny Mae indicates on her blog, this is from the 1880 map and there’s been a change in ownership of the neighborhood homes.

h-stone pile beside willard

We chose a different route than the one she has outlined in red. Ours led to Willard Brook. Just before the snowmobile bridge, we turned right and began to follow the brook. I realized immediately that I’d been here before. Part of my quest was to take a look at stone placement and think about it not as Colonial only, but also as Pre-colonial or Native American. And so, I paused at every rock formation I found, including this circular configuration beside the brook. Current day fire pit? My guy didn’t think so. I don’t know.

h-stove 2

As happens in our woods, we suddenly found ourselves visiting an old camp. Debris is scattered about. This particular piece from a stove front caught my guy’s attention. He was born in Taunton, Massachusetts, and immediately recognized this as coming from The Weir, an industrial section of town. If memory serves him right, there were at least three stove companies in that area.

h-mailbox

My favorite will always be the mailbox, truly a tribute to snail mail.

h-yellow birch

Our intention had been to follow the brook north, but we let an already traveled trail lead us instead. Soon we came to another landmark I remembered, the great yellow birch. An old yellow birch. Very old. I led a bark workshop yesterday and this is one of the trees we talked about. Yellow birch can live to be 200 years old, much longer than any of their relatives. I don’t know the age of this monument, but I do wish I could hear the stories it has to tell of this land.

h-colonial road

We turned left and followed the former road to Willard Brook. Colonial road or older?

h-stone wall turtle

I’ve learned from others to look at the shapes incorporated into stone walls and fences. I may be making this up because I’ve had an affinity with turtles since I was a young child and own quite a collection even to this day, but I see a turtle configured in this wall. Planned or coincidence? Worth a wonder.

h-stone wall 2, turtle

Potentially another in this section of the same wall, but at the same time, this part seems more consistent in structure.

h-Willard 1

We ate the quickest lunch in our hiking history because our fingers were so cold. Even winter temps didn’t seem to bother us as much as today’s temp and wind chill. Lunch rock  sat beside Willard Brook with Speckled Mountain above.

h-entering neighborhood

And then we backtracked up the road and I took my guy up to the Hut Road neighborhood. He’d not visited this particular community before, so was happy to make its acquaintance.

h-1st fdn

Our first encounter was with the Willard homestead of 1858; later known as the McKeen homestead of 1880.

h-wall on hill, balancing

As we moved up the hill to another foundation, we passed by this stonewall, where I wondered about the difference in stone size. A balancing act perhaps?

h-fdn 2 and chamber

Homestead #2 belonged to the Durgins in 1858 and Rowlands in 1880. It’s one of my favorites because of the stone chamber within. Which came first–the stone chamber or the rest of the cellar? Was the entire cellar considered a root cellar?

h-chamber interior

Hence, a closer look. Oh yes, and the porcupine scat pile is still there in the back right-hand corner, but none of it is fresh. Darn.

h-chamber stones 1

On the outside of the chamber’s edge that connects with the cellar–again my imagination took over. Perhaps my turtle’s head is the large blocky rock bottom center. Or is it a smaller version in the rocks above. Am I seeing things that are not there? Overthinking as my guy would suggest?

h-chamber back

Perhaps in the back wall?

h-chamber int 2

And in the side? Again, I see a face peering out at me just up from the bottom center/left. Do you see it?

h-rock pile 2

h-stone 5

h-stone pile 4

h-stone pile 3

While I was busy photographing stone piles in the woods and wondering about their significance, my guy followed his nose and made a discovery that has eluded Jinny Mae and me for months.

h-tombstones 1

Just like that he found the cemetery.

h-Sarah Dergin

Sarah, daughter of Anna and Ephraim, is the first tombstone. She died in 1858 at age 22.

h-Mary Dergin

Beside her, Mary, wife of Sumner Dergin, who died before Sarah–in 1856. She, too, was 22 years old. As best I can tell, Sarah and Sumner were siblings.

h-Ephraim Durgin

And Ephraim, Sarah’s father, who died in 1873 at age 81. Notice the difference in stone from the two girls to Ephraim? Slate to cement. And the name spelling–Dergin and Durgin. As genealogy hobbiests, we’ve become accustomed to variations in spelling.

I found the following on RootsWeb:

8. ANNA3 FURLONG (PATRICK2, JOHN1) was born 1791 in Limerick, Maine, and died 1873 in Stoneham, Maine. She married EPHRAIM DURGIN June 18, 1817 in Limerick, Maine14. He was born April 13, 1790 in Limerick, Maine, and died in Stoneham.

Children of ANNA FURLONG and EPHRAIM DURGIN are:
i.OLIVE4 DURGIN, b. 1811, Stoneham, Maine; m. DUNCAN M. ROSS, April 11, 1860, Portland, Maine.
ii.SALOMA DURGIN, b. 1813.
iii.ELIZABETH DURGIN, b. 1815.
iv.SALLY DURGIN, b. 1817.
v.SUMNER F. DURGIN, b. 1819, Of Stoneham, Massachusettes; m. MARY ANN DURGAN, July 11, 1853, York County, Maine; b. Of Parsonsfield, Maine.
vi.CASANDIA DURGIN, b. 1821.
vii.EPHRAIM DURGIN, b. 1823.
viii.FANNY DURGIN, b. 1825.

Sarah isn’t listed above. But . . . Sally and Sarah were often interchangeable.

h-cemetery view-Durgin

Though only these three stones stand upright, leaning against a wall, this potentially was a large cemetery. And the view–Durgin Mountain.

h-down from cem

Rather than backtrack again, we decided to travel cross-country back toward Willard Brook.

h-bog

At the bottom of the hill, the area was filled with sphagnum moss and cinnamon and interrupted fern.

h-bear scat

Though I didn’t find any bear trees today, I did find bear scat 😉

h-moose scat

And plenty of moose sign.

h-red maple

The red maples offered numerous examples of the bull’s-eye fungi that I told yesterday’s workshop participants to notice. I encouraged them to develop bark eyes. Meanwhile, I’m working on my stone eyes. (not stoned!)

h-willard dry bed

As we traipsed across the landscape, my guy recognized the large yellow birch we’d come upon earlier. And then we followed the walls down to Willard Brook where bushwhacking became the name of the game. Sometimes we found ourselves moving cautiously along the rocks in a dry section of riverbed–the overflow.

h-rock slide by Willard

I kept my eyes open for stone treatments and found this twenty-foot rock slide that didn’t look natural. I have no idea what it represents.

h-wheels

One of the things I continue to notice and love about the woods around us–no matter how far from civilization you think you are, you never are. Notice the wooden wheel spokes.

h-trees and rocks beside willard

I also noticed the trees and rocks across Willard, where the water’s rise and fall over the years has carved out a unique landscape and each entity is intertwined with the other.

h-2nd bridge

Eventually we came out at the spot where we’d headed off the snowmobile trail and decided to turn right and follow it toward Evergreen Valley.

h-cairn

Though the walk was nice and the wind not so strong, we got to this modern-day cairn and felt we’d gone far enough. We turned back and bushwhacked down to Willard Brook.

h-scouting willard

Like Lewis, my guy scouted for a crossing. Like Clark, I followed.

h-brook crossing

Our spot to ford the brook looked easier than it was. He crossed first and landed without issue. Me too–um, almost. Only one foot slipped. His comment, “Good thing your hiking boots are waterproof.” My response, “Yeah, but my socks aren’t.” Oh well. I’ve had wet feet before and will again. When I finally took my boot off at home, I was surprised at how drenched the sock was.

h-great brook on way back

We made our way through balsam fir saplings and hobblebush and a variety of other species and turned away from Willard assuming we’d eventually encounter Great Brook again. Success.

h-great structure 2

I’d been told to pay attention to Willard for Native American sites, and found this beside Great Brook. I have no idea what it represents.

h-3rd fdn central chimney

And lo and behold as we headed back to our starting point, we found ourselves at a third foundation–a rather large one with a center chimney between two cellar holes and an addition behind it. It’s where the school probably stood in 1858 and A. Gray’s home in 1880.

h-fnd 3 chimney

Bricks still top the central chimney.

h-final

Just like that, we were back at our starting point–looking at it from the opposite side of the brook.

Thanks to all those I bugged about what to look for as we tramped about today. And thanks again to Jinny Mae for her talent. I can’t wait to share this trail with you again.

We’d wandered for hours and found plenty to wonder about–especially along Willard Brook.