The Mysterious Cairns of Parker Woodland.
In the midst of the Covid 19 crisis, many people are choosing to take advantage of our natural resources to pass the time. New England has many parks and trails to explore and learn about our past. Parker woodland is just one of the many places to enjoy. Stay safe.
Cairns, though mysterious in nature, are not an uncommon feature in New England. These are those stone mounds that are found all over the region. The mystery behind them lean more towards where they came from. Some claim they are Viking burial mounds, some Indian, and others state that the farmers while clearing the land and building stone walls piled up the useless boulders that were not “wall-worthy.” The farmers also placed piles of stones known as “manure” stones in places where they wanted too enrich the soil. They would then move the piles to different areas of the farm where living organisms would thrive underneath and fertilize the ground.
Scientists, however, think they may date as far back as 800 B.C. when the Iberian-Celtic people and the Phoenicians were sailing to present day America. Whoever built them stayed here for a while because they are scattered throughout New England. Perhaps all of those assumptions are true to a point. A perfect example of cairns exists in Coventry, Rhode Island in the Parker Woodland. These strange monuments lay strewn along a path circulating through the trees. Their seemingly random placements take on a more calculated mapping when one imagines the land barren of growth. At that point it becomes clear that they may actually have been burial markers for whoever settled the land there.
The land was purchased from the Narragansett Indians in 1642. The Waterman family obtained the land in 1672. The land stayed in the family until Caleb Vaughn acquired the property in 1760. It eventually came into the possession of George Parker through a will. Parker later gave the land to the Audubon Society. After his death in 1946, more property, including the Isaac Bowen house from the early 18th century was deeded to the society for public use.
The Isaac Bowen house is not the only house in the woodland. The remains of another farm can be found off of Biscuit Hill Road. History rolled through the woodland during the Revolutionary War when a wagon headed for General Rochambeau’s camp overturned spilling biscuits over the hillside, thus giving the road its strange moniker.
The foundation of the old farmhouse and adjacent fields are a magnificent example of the remains of early American life. The area of the old farm is claimed haunted by witnesses who have traversed that far into the woods. Claims of voices echoing through the trees out of nowhere within the homes perimeter have spooked more than one hiker.
As for the mysterious cairns that lace a section of the Woodland trail, archaeologists have no explanation for the origin of these strategically placed stone mounds. It is reported that strange noises and energy fields emanate from the area. People also get the feeling that they are being watched as they pass through the sparse woods where the many cairns lay.
My wife, Arlene and I paid a visit to the preserve with our friend Robert Vespia in hopes of studying these historical wonders. The path at the beginning of our expedition lay before us and shortly into the trek, the cairns, scattered about the trees came into view. We measured the temperature of the structures and found no significant variance in their overall temperature as opposed to the surrounding atmosphere. The autumn air was cool but comfortable and the day, although partly cloudy, was pleasant.
Our EMF meters told a different story.
EMF is short for Electro-Magnetic Field. These meters, in a nutshell, measure electronic and magnetic frequencies that run in 90 degree angles to each other and are measured in milligauss. Several of the cairns gave off a reading which was uncanny as there were no electrical wires or other sources to otherwise create the electrical field readings we observed from the cairns themselves. The readings could be attributed to natural phenomena of energy released from the cairns or ground around them, or something else more paranormal in nature.
Until archaeological digs come up with more conclusive answers, we have to believe that these mounds of boulders are a magical mystery that still holds the wonder and imagination that makes New England so special.
The preserve is located off Route 102 (Victory Highway) on the Coventry/Foster line. Take Interstate Route 295 to Exit 6, Route 6 West. Follow Route 6 to intersection of Route 102. Take Route 102 South. Bear onto Maple Valley Road and Parker Woodland is well marked.