The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 29, 2010


Tracing Carlisle’s stone markers

Fences make good neighbors and marking roads and town borders makes good sense. In the newly completed Historic Properties Survey, Preservation Consultants Anne McCarthy Forbes and Gretchen G. Schuler describe three types of granite markers that were put in place to mark Carlisle’s roads and borders: cornerstones, boundary markers or road stones and guideposts. The consultants, using a 1907 Middlesex County survey, located five out of 20 cornerstones, 12 road stones and seven guideposts, which are directional signs.

The first three guideposts, all of wood, were installed in 1796, one in the center and two near the two schools. In 1813 five more posts, all made of white oak and standing 12 feet high, were placed near well-known residents’ homes. According to an 1813 Selectmen’s meeting, Amos H. Nutting was paid 46 cents for each guidepost for which he did the “getting and carrying.” Around the mid-1800s the markers were replaced with granite, most likely from the quarries in town. Guideposts today are large rectangular granite pillars over four feet tall, with painted directional signs. The boundary markers and cornerstones are generally shorter, and have a rougher look.

Using the map on page 13 and starting with a cup of Ferns Country Store coffee for fortitude, travel along as the Mosquito did to view these historic granite markers.

1. Guidepost – Cross and Westford Streets. This guidepost, near a stop sign, is located in the same spot as the 1813 wooden post it replaced. The white paint and lettering was redone this year by Carlisle’s Peg Hilton of Lowell Street, and Phyllis Hughes, who recently moved to upstate New York. Hilton and Hughes worked on the posts during August. “I think things like that are important,” Hilton said of the guideposts.

The early Selectmen agreed with her. In 1796, explains Donald Lapham in Carlisle Composite Community, it was put to a vote “to see if the District will give any directions respecting setting up guide posts on any of the roads in the District.” Those first wooden posts were the forerunners of our granite posts.

2. Cornerstone – Fielding Farm Road. Unlike other cornerstones, this is simply a large, lichen-covered boulder. It marks “Berry Corner,” which Ruth Chamberlin Wilkins explains in Carlisle: Its History and Heritage was the 1754 northeast corner of Carlisle’s first attempt at a separate district. To view it, stand on the bridge right over the stream and look west into the woods. All of this area is now Carlisle, but initially the boulder, with other piles of stones, marked the border between Carlisle and Concord.

Number 3. Concord Street at the Concord line.

3. Boundary marker – Concord Street at Concord line. Heading toward Concord, this road stone is on the right, sitting next to a telephone pole. It has a “C” carved on both the Concord and Carlisle sides, along with numbers painted below the letters. Historically the Selectmen would “walk the borders,” and mark the date on the post, the most recent being 1980. Perhaps they will invite everyone to join them as they revive this tradition.

4. Guidepost – West and South Streets. This guidepost is located in front of the Spencer Brook Reservation. The Spencer Brook Reservation consists of 31 acres which were deeded to the Carlisle Conservation Foundation in 1960 by A. E. Benfield. The drill-marks on the guidepost were made by the “plug and feather” method of splitting the stone. A row of holes was drilled into the granite and a pair of “feathers” (half-moon rods) were inserted into the holes. A wedge was inserted between the feather pair and the wedge was hammered until the granite split.

5. Boundary marker – West Street at Concord line. Unfortunately, parking near this marker is like stopping near a blighted part of a town. The road is unused due to the unrepaired bridge further down on Concord’s Westford Road and the area is strewn with fallen branches and debris. The marker is on the east side, down the bank a bit on the other side of the guard rail. There is a large “C” cut on both the Carlisle and Concord sides of the marker.

6. Boundary marker – Pope Road at Concord line. This marker is hard to spot. It is below the road grade by a stone wall. It currently sports a surveyor’s tape around its top. It has a large “C” for Concord and Carlisle on the appropriate sides, and dates written on the post. The consultants noted that the border with Concord on Pope Road was established during the formation of the Second District of Carlisle in 1780.

Number 7, the busiest guidepost.

7. Guidepost – West and Acton Streets. This is a very busy guidepost. It points the way to Concord, Boston, Bedford, Acton, Westford, Littleton, Chelmsford and Lowell. This intersection marks a well traveled and early settled area of what was to become Carlisle. Many of the original roads in Carlisle were Native American trails which were expanded, usually into two-rod roads (33 feet).

8. Cornerstone – Acton Street at Acton line. This cornerstone is a “rough split granite monument,” explained the consultants, and is around five feet tall. It is off the road on the east side near a large tree. A large “C” is carved into the post just about eight inches below the top. There’s an “A” on the Acton side, but it is not visible from the road. This part of Carlisle split from Acton during the creation of the Second District in 1780. Just down the road from this marker into Acton is the homestead of John Heald, whose family was one of the earliest Carlisle settlers.

9. Boundary marker – West Street at Westford line. This little boundary marker, unassuming in nature, represents a very early border. In 1729 parts of west Chelmsford joined with Westford, and this boundary line was established between what was then Concord and Westford. The marker, which has a “C” and a “W” carved near the top, sits next to a white metal guidepost.

10. Guidepost – Acton and Westford Streets. This guidepost, snug under an evergreen hedge (and in danger of being swallowed by it) is located in the same spot as the 1813 wooden post it replaced, and named for Lt. John Robbins, of the family who built the beautiful house at 8 Acton Street. Painted on one side is “Acton” with an arrow pointing down Acton Street. Hidden by the overgrowth is “Carlisle Center” with an arrow pointing down Westford Street.

11. Cornerstone – Westford Street at Westford line. This five-foot granite post is on private land in the woods behind what used to be the Sorli farmstead. It is noted on the 1907 surveyors map as C-W-1 and was placed there in 1894. It is near a cart path, which, the consultants say, is still identifiable. At the present time there is no public access to this cornerstone.

12. & 13. Boundary markers – Fiske Street at Chelmsford Line. Fiske Street was known as the “old road to Chelmsford,” and is just down a ways from the Cranberry Bog. The consultants noted some mystery as to the placement of these two border posts. The 1907 survey shows them on a road that looks like Martin Street, but no posts were found there. The posts are on either side of Fiske, one next to a telephone pole and the other in a wooded area.

14. Boundary marker – Proctor Road at Chelmsford line. Two stones were originally placed across the street from each other to mark this border between Carlisle and Chelmsford but only one was located by the consultants. This marker is up on a shoulder in front of a wooden fence on the north side of Proctor Road, next to the remnant of a stone wall. It’s about five feet tall, and has the letter “C” cut on the east and west side.

15. & 16. Boundary marker and guidepost – Lowell Street at Chelmsford line. These two markers share the same location. The short granite boundary marker, with its carved “C” for Carlisle and Chelmsford, sits next to a metal guidepost. This metal guidepost is unique as it is the only example of a 20th century border sign in town. The tall metal pole holds a square metal sign with scroll design at the top edge and a Commonwealth seal in the center. On the Chelmsford side it reads “Entering Carlisle Est. 1754” and on the Carlisle side, “Entering Chelmsford Est. 1655.”

17. Cornerstone – Rutland Street at Billerica line. This little cornerstone has seen better days. It is embedded in a mess of granite and concrete aggregate base as if someone had tried to reset it. Vines and weeds wind around it, partly obscuring the “C” and “B” carved near the top. It marks the 1894 border between Carlisle and Billerica.

Number 18. You can get there from here.

18. Guidepost - East and Rutland Street. This guidepost is very visible and sits at the “V” intersection of the two streets. Hilton, who praised Hughes’ work as a gift to the town, said this guidepost is her favorite because “the sign points to Billerica both ways.” She added that Hughes “paints beautiful arrows.” When the consultants viewed this guidepost the paint had not been updated and they noted the arrows “were nearly worn off.” We’re thankful to Hughes for the improvements.

19. Cornerstone – Maple Street, Greenough Land, at Billerica line. This tall cornerstone is tucked away on the Greenough Land but hikers can find it as they walk the trail. It has an unusual trapezoidal shape, which, the consultants explained, indicate the use of an iron wedge to split the stone. A “C” is cut near the top on the west side, and a “B” on the east side.

20. Guidepost – Bedford and Maple Street. This tall guidepost may have been relocated at one time, note the consultants: “This guidepost is not far from the site of one of the 1796 guideposts that was near the school house in the southwesterly part of town…” and is located near the later East school site of 1869. It is placed inside the guard rail where Maple Street joins Bedford Street, heading towards Carlisle center.

21. Boundary marker – River Road at Concord line. This granite marker is behind a tall guidepost containing small signs reading “Carlisle” and “Concord.” The border between Carlisle and Concord shifted through the 1800s and wasn’t resolved until 1903. This four-foot granite marker has a “C” carved on the Carlisle and Concord side, and a 1903 carved near the top. The connection with Concord continued well beyond 1903 and many of the properties near this marker are still served by Concord Water per an agreement made by Mason Garfield (1892-1945), who laid pipes connecting to the Concord water system as he purchased farms in the area.

22. Cornerstone - Estabrook Road in Estabrook Woods at the Concord line. This cornerstone is at the end of a stone wall down the path the Minutemen march each Patriots Day. It is about five feet high and has a “C” carved on the Carlisle and Concord sides. Estabrook Road, first referred to as Old Concord Road, was cut through the woods sometime in the 1600s to allow easy access to Concord. The path is steeped in history (see “Happy Trails: Estabrook Woods – traveling Estabrook Road,” Carlisle Mosquito, 4/30/10). Close by is Kibby Place, named for the farm owned by Samuel Kibby, a contemporary of Thoreau. Thoreau used to poke fun at Kibby’s daughters, reports Lapham, saying Kibby’s daughters were “so fat their old horse could carry only one to church in Concord….” When Carlisle separated from Concord, Kibby refused to join the new town for a while, creating an island of Concord land within Carlisle.

23. Guidepost – Concord Street. This guidepost is across from the Town Common. It’s about four feet high and is at one of the 1813 locations by Aaron Fletcher’s house. At the 1813 Town Meeting action was taken to purchase land around the Meetinghouse to create a common. In 1878 the “Village Improvement Association” was formed and one target of their beautification efforts was the Town Common. A wall was constructed at the base of the Common along Concord Street, and a sidewalk was installed along the street.

24. Guidepost – Bedford Road at East Street. This tall guidepost has a faint “2A” on the front. It has ends of iron rods poking out of the granite, which the consultants suggest were used to hold a sign. This guidepost most likely was installed around 1829. Although not as impressive as other guideposts, in the summer it leads the driver away from Carlisle Center and towards Kimball’s for a well-deserved treat after finding all 24 guideposts, boundary markers and cornerstones identified by the consultants. Or one can head in reverse for more coffee. Happy exploration!

Note: According to Consultant Schuler they came across the cornerstones by “chance” but did not try to locate all 20 cornerstones. “That would have required weeks of tramping through the woods for some of them,” she explained. She notes that the Carlisle Town Clerk’s office has a copy of the 1907 Survey, which shows the approximate location of all 20 cornerstones. Carlisle residents are encouraged to contact the Mosquito if they find a tall stone with a “C” carved near the top, and it appears to not be included on this map.

(Map prepared (and routes driven) by Cynthia Sorn) ∆

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