Friday, January 15, 2010

Franklin MA "Indian Fort" lost and found?

Chris Pittman writes:

I wanted to share these photos with you of a site in Franklin, MA. This is the Franklin "Indian Fort" described in "Manitou". Derek Gunn showed me this place last year and I have been visiting often, after many hours at this large site I still am not sure I have seen it all. There are probably miles of stone rows and the size and quantity of propped and pedestaled boulders and slabs is really extraordinary. Here are the photos: There are 50 photos, please look at all of them. The photos by no means show all of what is there, only highlights. There are rows on berms and what appear to possibly be other earthworks as well. In Manitou, the authors indicate that this place is known locally as an Indian Fort. I can tell you, this place is not mentioned in any of the histories of Franklin, the town Historical Society had never heard of it, and long-time residents in the area that I spoke with had never heard of it, including a woman who has lived less than a mile away for the past 90+ years. A couple of the stones in one part of the "Fort" have marks from steel drills, I did notice. Peter, the photos of the archaeological dig I sent you this week are from this site. I spoke with an archaeologist who told me that the flags I saw were from an archaeological survey, the type of survey routinely done when federally funded construction projects threaten to damage a site. The person I spoke with indicated that he believed that the notations on the flags indicate prehistoric artifacts or features were found. I fear that there may be some kind of construction planned for this area. Next week I am going to find out who owns this land, I have assumed it is town property but I am not sure. I am also going to try to learn more about the findings of the archaeological survey. I live in Franklin close to this site and would be happy to show anybody where it is. I would like to hear your impressions based on these photos. There are an incredible number of ticks at this site so it is best to avoid the place in the warmer months.

Norman Muller writes:
Larry Harrop went to this site in November or early December and photographed the stone rows. He was unimpressed, thinking that the boulders looked like they had been moved around with a bulldozer. As he was leaving, a local told him the rows were constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1930s for managing wetlands. Someone should get to the truth of the matter by contacting the local historical society. Or, if that doesn’t work, there must be some way of determining just what the Corps of Engineers or the CCC did in Franklin during the Depression.

I write:
I am about 85% sure this is ceremonial - primarily because of one photo (last picture of the 2nd group of 18 photos)of a boulder on a nest of smaller rocks, not connected to a wall. Otherwise it is hardto say - a lot of boulders pulled from one place and put on top of[older?] walls made from smaller rocks. Not too much debris buildup suggests recent times but, again, that is variable.
Also, if it is a ceremonial complex, there are other types of features I would expect to see; and I do not. Where are the piles, wedged rocks, pieces of quartz, etc? It is not that those things must be there but their absence raises the level of uncertainty.

Chris replies:
Thanks for the reply. Norman e-mailed me and said that Larry Harrop was there in November and felt the rocks had been moved around with bulldozers. As he was leaving a local told him the walls had been built by the CCC in the 1930s to manage wetlands. This is a possibility. However, nearby there are some big concrete structures (cisterns) and modern berms and walls that I do believe were built during the 1930s according to other local residents. And close to that there is another site with piles and rows of boulders that were definitely made with bulldozers, although this appeared more recent, to me. When I was first looking for this site with the map from Derek, I looked in this area first and for a time I believed that the "Indian Fort" had been destroyed. There are also a couple places where these big rows of boulders taper off and become regular stone walls. I am going to e-mail Larry with the link to the photos to see if he was looking at the same structures. The tantalizing thing is that Mavor and Dix alluded to historical records that called this an Indian Fort. I have searched but have been unable to identify any such references. There are some piles at the site but none of the small well-built piles you usually find. I didn't see any split or wedged rocks but it is possible that these features are there but escaped my noticed. There is some quartz but not a lot. For me the number of instances where large boulders are balanced on small stones is remarkable and this appears to me to be deliberate. The apparent prehistoric nature of what was found in the archaeological survey interests me as well. The survey was conducted near the biggest boulders in the complex, right at the edge of the swamp. Please feel free to post the text and links on your blog. I'm not making any claims as to the age or origin of this site but I do think it is interesting and deserves attention, at least until further research clears up the question of whether these walls were in fact built by the CCC or not. If you are ever down this way I think this place is worth a look.

Update: so the sense is there is modern material here. Perhaps it is sitting over some older ceremonial material and perhaps the archeologists are finding even more ancient material there under the soil.


Larry Harrop said...

I didn't see the archaeological survey tags that Chris saw, but I'm pretty sure I was in the same area.
It's possible that I didn't see it all. I should probably go back.
The rows that I saw looked haphazardly thrown together. Probably by machine. It's the same as are we looking at a farmer's field clearing pile or a well constructed native rock pile.But thats just my opinion. It was a hunter who told me that the Army Corps of Engineers cleared the land and left the rows.Something to do with wetland management.
He also said that later, it was used as a staging area for machinery and material used in the construction of RT 495 sometime around 1960.

I have a small photo dump HERE Also a low quality video HERE

Chris Pittman said...

Larry, I like your pictures and video. We are definitely looking at the same site but the area is really big, after looking at your photos I am wondering how much of the site I still have not seen. I will repeat that the population of deer ticks at that site is unbelieveable, usually I don't think much about ticks but on one afternoon in the spring I removed 6 ticks from clothes after showing someone this site for less than an hour!

Larry Harrop said...

I've been using THIS for ticks. Works great not only for ticks, but all biting bugs as well.

pwax said...

About Ticks: I have seen maybe 6 since spring. This is the lowest tick count year I have ever experienced (lately).

pwax said...

What about that picture I mentioned with the rock in a little nest?

Chris Pittman said...

I'll get some better pictures of that feature this weekend. The archaeological survey area is very close to where this feature is.

pwax said...

It looks to me like an ancient site that got bulldozed.

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