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Rock Piles And Stone Structures

By Edited Dec 29, 2013 1 1

Stone Piles And Structures From Long Ago

Many people research rock piles or stone structures, but it seems that nobody knows exactly what they are, or what purpose they served. You will hear many opinions on these structures and piles. Stone structures and rock piles and whatever else you wish to call them, come in many different sizes, shapes and structures. Some are very small and simple and there are many that are more elaborate.

Cairns are usually referred to the piles made of stone that has been piled up, one by one by man, for either ceremonial purposes or for marking the area for some reason. 

A stone pile is a pile of stones and rocks piled together in one place as the land had been cleared for housing or farming. They piled the stone up or dumped them from a wagon as they worked in one spot. 

These piles and structures are plentiful throughout the northeastern United States. Though they are not limited to any area. They are found throughout the United States, as well as in other parts of the world. Most of them are on private land. Though in light of many people selling off the old stone fences, the selling of these structures is probably not far behind.

Many people travel from one area to another for the chance to spend time studying them. Many of the websites written about them do not tell the exact location of the structures, as they are afraid of people flocking to them and taking them apart.  

Many of these stone structures have sat for centuries. Native Americans built some of them, as well as our early pioneers. It is a historical artifact and must be reserved as such. 

 

 

 

A Stone Pile

A Stone Pile
Credit: Kathleen G. Lupole

Spend A Day Searching For Stone Piles Around You

Searching for these structures is an enjoyable hobby if you are doing it only for the reason of locating them. Many of the stone piles are in the state forest throughout the northeast. Along creeks or where there are old foundations and roads. You may find them in the most unlikely places. Some are old and crumbling. Then you will come across some that look as if they had been built yesterday. They weren't though!

In New York state many of these piles are seen from the road. On residential rural land, many are in the residents' yards. The ones in the state forest are deeper in the forest. Finding one that nobody has found yet is always fun and exciting. It wouldn't seem like there would be that many that have not been discovered yet. Some people will walk right by them and not even pay attention or show an interest in them. Just a bunch of rocks to them.

Some of the piles that are found are the same pattern as others found a hundred miles or so away. They were piled up by different people in exactly the same way. It is puzzling that they could be piled up for no other purpose than marking a border, or removing rock from their land. 

The stone structures or piles are found in hundreds of different locations. They have stood the test of time, as most are still standing as securely as the day they were built. They are not just in the northeastern U.S., but in many locations across the country. There are many in Canada, and other countries around the world. 

Plan some trips to areas that are known for these stone piles or cairns now, while you can. Take your children and teach them a little about the history of this land. It will be gone before you know it. It is something they will remember when they are grown. 

If you are walking in the woods and see a pile of stones or rocks piled up in a particular shape, take a closer look and see if it is one of these historical stone structures. It could be one that had been piled up for more than two hundred years ago. You never know!

Two Stone Piles Near Each Other
Credit: Kathleen G. Lupole

Stone Walls Along The Way

Since these stone piles and cairns are found all around the world, they had to have some significant purpose other than being piled up after clearing a field. Many people have offered the explanation that they were used by aliens for landing markers or some other purpose that is not clear to us earthlings yet. Whatever their purpose, they are here and they represent our history in some way.

Old stone walls are sometimes mistaken for the stone piles and cairns. Many times the stone walls have fallen down and crumbled into the ground and the remaining wall resembles a stone pile. Look closer at it to determine if there is a part of it in a line such as a fence would be.

The areas in the state forest are full of these old stone walls because many of the areas had homes and were well populated. Investigating closer you will find old foundations throughout the state forest that was once a thriving community. Using a metal detector you may find some old pieces of  old farm equipment or other relics from the homesteads that made up these communities.

As more and more farmers sell off their stone walls, parts of the walls that are not in good enough condition will be left behind. Over the years it may be forgotten that this particular pile of stone was actually a stone wall at one time. It can become confusing for stone pile explorers. Some of the stone piles will be taken apart when new residents move into the rural areas from the cities. Not appreciating the history or even knowing it is a historical remembrance from the past.

The only thing you can do is to inform others about these stone piles or cairns. Hopefully they will appreciate having one or more of them on their land. Or take pictures of them when you can, and treasure them for your own memory of having seen them in person while they still existed. 

Stone and rock were a popular building material at one time. It seems to be making a comeback now, but more for outside patios and flower beds. Through out the northeastern United States you will find many beautiful stone houses. Rock is a building material that will hold the heat in the winter and stay cool in the summer. That is why it has become popular to sell it off your land if you need the money. And who doesn't? Even if you don't want to sell it, many people have been forced to do so. 

Now there are manmade rocks and stones for building and they look very impressive. The real thing will always command high prices, and that makes rock and stone selling a very profitable business. Will the beautiful stone walls that have lined the farmlands of New York and Pennsylvania, someday, be but a memory? I hope not! 

Stone Walls That Have Fallen

Old Stone Walls
Credit: Kathleen G. Lupole
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Comments

Apr 16, 2013 10:30pm
aguy
I don't think I've ever seen one of these.
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Bibliography

  1. Mary Gage & James Gage A Guide To New England Stone Structures. Cape Ann, MA: Powwow River Books, 2008.

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