Article and Photos By Craig McArt
Stone walls course throughout Eastman, many crossing residents’ properties. Eastman’s property grid overlays former farmsteads whose fields and pastures were lined with stones heaved up by the frost and, with backbreaking effort, stacked to form walls. Some of the walls marked boundaries, others enclosed livestock, and still others bordered roads. Stones were also used to build cellar foundations, dams and millraces as well as to line wells and springs. Through hard work, a liability was turned into an asset. The land surrounding Eastman’s Pond, cleared as it was then and patterned with stone walls separating farms and fields, looked much different than it does today.
Attitudes about these stone relics from Eastman’s predecessors vary. Many of the walls were simply bulldozed aside in the ’70s, interrupted to create the network of roads for our residential development. As obstructions to a prime recreational amenity, the golf course, some were pushed away to make room for fairways. If walls stood in the way when individual property owners built their houses, they had to go. And here is where attitudes played a part. Rather than pushing them aside or having them hauled away, many moved them to outline their perimeters, rebuilding them to add a touch of rustic landscaping. Some stones, once so carefully stacked, were dispersed to make rock gardens or to edge walks and driveways.
There is a movement in progress to preserve stone walls in their original locations. Several Eastmanites have learned about this by taking the ILEAD course, Stone Walls and Cellar Holes taught by Jay Davis. Davis, who has also lectured at Eastman, champions the preservation of historic stone walls. To discover historic stone work in Eastman that remains undisturbed by development, take a hike on the Butternut Trail, which was once the Enfield Center Highway and is bordered in places by beautiful stone walls.
At the intersection with the Stroing Brook Trail (see related article on page 20), you will find the remains of the Emerson- Gregory farmstead. Established by Robert Emerson in 1826, the farm remained in his family until Lewis Gregory purchased it in 1888. In its final years, before a chimney fire burned it down in 1904, the dwelling was used as a pest house to quarantine people who had contracted a communicable disease.
Multiple stone-lined cellar holes remain here, connected as the dwelling expanded over time. As you peer down the nearby well, you may wonder how it could possibly be lined with stones to a depth of over 30 feet. It was done by first digging a very wide hole and then lowering the stones to a person who stacked them from behind to make a ring in the middle. Fill was added behind the stones as the ring gained height. Don’t miss the stone foundation of a large barn a little farther down the trail.
This site is preserved in perpetuity by a 200-acre conservation easement that Eastman’s founders negotiated with New Hampshire Department of Fish & Game in 1975. As such, this Eastman-owned land is now part of the 3,062-acre Henry Laramie Wildlife Management Area in Enfield.