Thursday, January 28, 2010

A visit to Queen's Fort in Exeter, RI

Reader Ted writes:

Visit to the Queen's Fort, Exeter, RI

I am very new to this subject, so please forgive any gaffs or naive mistakes. I have been researching the usual sources. I stumbled (sorry) on the rock pile blog recently and have enjoyed reading the posts. My wife and I have been looking around as time permits, and visited the Queen's Fort in Exeter, RI this past weekend.

Our GPS got us there alright, following coordinates from Fredrick Meli's article posted on the NEARA website. I have to admit we passed it the first time, distracted by the mega-mansion across the street, but we backtracked and found a pull off. Walking up the hill and orienting ourselves, we found the spiral enclosure. We could not help but notice the difference between the appearance of the structure compared to the photo in Mavor and Dix.[here is a scan from p98 of Manitou - PWAX]
The terminus of the foreground wall seems to be missing. We also noticed the recent construction of a fire pit/grill made from stones similar in size and shape to the ones used to construct the spiral structure.Hmmm... Perhaps this is old news, but the recent scattered beer cans and relatively fresh ash and smoke coating inside made us think that might be a recent repurposing of the stones originally in the spiral. Might I ask for some advice from this experienced group? Should the Rhode Island Historical Society, owners of the property, be contacted? Or is the risk tat they might close access too great if that is done? I honesty don't know.

Overall, I had to agree with the idea put forth in the Meli article that this is unlikely to be a defensive fort as the boulder field on the top of the hill makes an impossible area for settlement or occupation. As we explored the walls and nooks we saw something along the east side that looked like a Manitou stone sticking up from a wall. Anyone have an opinion about this:
It was very thin, about 24-26 inches above the rest of the wall. I am beginning to realize we should carry a tape measure and be more careful about taking notes of our visits.

I took some black and white large format panoramic negatives of some of the same views and will be printing them soon.


pwax said...

Fred Meli's NEARA article failed to mention Mavor and Dix. In fact it is likely that the idea "it was not a defensive fort" came from Mantou since the authors spent several pages talking about the archeo-astronomy of Queen's Fort.

Ted Hendrickson said...

Thanks for adding the photo from Mavor and Dix, makes for an interesting comparison. Can't believe Meli would not cite that source.

pwax said...

If possible I would report the damage to the Narragansett Indians and also the RI historical commission.

JimP said...

I grew up a few miles from Queen's Fort. It is a notorious teenager party place. It was that way when I was a kid and I'm sure not much has changed. Just follow the main cart path into the woods behind the fort and you will come to an old tree chock full of initials dating back to the 1970's and earlier.

Queen's Fort is one of the most disturbed National Register sites that I know about. The so-called spiral wall has been rebuilt and manipulated so many times I'm not sure it bears much of a resemblance to what may have been there centuries ago. One of the most important features, the so-called "queen's bedchamber," was filled in by well-meaning Boy Scouts decades ago as they tried to block access to what they perceived as an attractive nuisance. Stones have been carried and added to the site in the past few decades by neo-pagans and the like thinking that it is some vortex or something to do with ley lines.

And I know that *some* Narragansett Indians continue to use the site. In what way, I do not have those details. But I know they visit the site quite regularly. There is no question, however, that they did not create the damage we see in the photo.

Ted Hendrickson said...

Thank you JimP. I too saw trees with many initials and pledges of love and devotion, I should have put that idea together myself. I guess it is a much "loved" site for many reasons, but too bad about the stones.

JimP said...

Here is the earliest reference to Queen's Fort:

"These are the remains of an Indian Fort still known by the name of Queen's Fort, near the line between North Kingstown and Exeter; it is on the summit of a high hill completely covered with rocks, and the Fort appears to have been surrounded with a strong stone wall; there is a hollow in the rock which has been always known as the Queen's bedroom, and a large room, the entrance of which is nearly concealed, which is supposed by tradition to have been a hiding place for the Indians, and in which arrow heads and other things have been found." (Potter 1835:84)

POTTER, Elisha Reynolds. 1835. Early History of Narragansett. Providence, RI: Marshall, Brown, and Company.

JimP said...

Meli sort of muddied the waters when it comes to the chambers. According to the earliest reference, there were two chambers. First, the Queen's Bedroom, which was a, "hollow in the rock." The other, with a nearly concealed entrance, is where projectile points were recovered. It was the second chamber that the Boy Scouts filled in. That is the one that was, "rediscovered," by Meli. It is on the western side of the complex and hard to find. The Queen's Bedchamber still exists, is not very impressive today because it has been filled in to some degree, but can be found on the eastern side of the complex.

pwax said...

Given Jim P's comment, maybe the structure was originally two adjacent circles or rings - not a spiral. There are examples of adjacent rings or "U"s but I do not know of other spirals.

CharlieD said...

I can confirm that the spiral "bastion" did not show a spiral arm when I visited several times in the late 70's and I have photos of that feature that clearly show it was rebuilt. I told Mavor that fact before the book appeared. Also at that time I spoke with an elderly man who remembered Queen's Chamber as big enough to stand in. I was unaware until reading JimP's comments that the Boy Scouts filled it in. What "became" of the Queen's Chamber has always been a mystery until JimP's observations so thanks for that!!