Stone Chambers of New England

Upton Chambe, Massachusetts by Malcom Pearson, 1944

Upton Chamber, Massachusetts by Malcolm Pearson, 1944

Upton Chamber, Upton, Massachusetts

The largest and best best-known chamber in Massachusetts is the Upton Stone Chamber in Upton. It is one of the largest and most precisely built beehive chambers in New England.

Carved into the side of a hill, a six-foot-high, 14-foot-long tunnel leads into a beehive-shaped domed chamber of quarried stone measuring about 12-feet across and 11-feet high. The cave is topped with several large oval stones believed to weigh over ten thousand tons each. The precisely fitted rocks of a dry stone masonry have held up well over the years. The floor of Upton is currently comprised of rotted wood planking covering flagstones. Interestingly, virtually no artifacts have been found inside the Upton Chamber.

Some say the chamber is aligned to observe the setting solstice sun and stars of the Pleiades, as marked by large stone piles located on nearby Pratt Hill. On this hill, several cairns are located near the summit.

The chamber and the nearby stone cairns on Pratt Hill are both listed on the National Historic Register. The chamber is located in Upton Heritage Park at 18 Elm Street. The town of Upton is located about 12 miles southeast of Worcester.

Calendar II, South Woodstock, Vermont

Calendar II, South Woodstock, Vermont

Calendar II, South Woodstock, Vermont

Eastern Vermont has some of the densest concentrations of ancient stone structures in North America, most of which are located in Orange and Windsor Counties. The Calendar II chamber in South Woodstock is one of the biggest and best-known Stone Chambers in New England. It is called the Calendar chamber because of its Winter Solstice alignment.

The chamber measures 10 feet wide by 20 feet long and the door aligns with the solstice sunrise. Its roof is comprised of seven massive lintel stones that span its width, the largest of which is estimated to weigh approximately three tons. A flue hole in the ceiling is located at the back of the chamber. A natural spring runs under the chamber, which would make it a sacred or holy site in some cultures and religions.

Down the road near South Royalton, Vermont is the Calendar I site, which is comprised of eight stone chambers, 14 standing stones, five cairn groupings, and many other stone structures. These two sites are 14 miles apart but exist on a perfect north/south alignment accurate to within 200 feet.

In 1975, Dr. Barry Fell, a retired marine biologist from Harvard, visited the site and announced that he had found inscriptions in a dead Celtic language called Ogam. Dr. Fell concluded that the carvings were made by Celts from the Iberian Peninsula who carved them around 1000 BC. Critics, however, counter Fell’s claims because no other evidence of European visitors has ever been found in the area.

Archeoastronomer Byron Dix also explored the site in the 1970s, determining that it was built by Native Americans as a ritual site.

May say that these chambers are nothing more than colonial root cellars. However, Vermont farmers have told stories of uncovering these stone chambers since colonial times. In 1977, the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation studied the stone chambers and concluded that they did not serve as stone burial vaults, charcoal or lime kilns, potash burners or iron furnaces.

Queen’s Fort, Exeter, Rhode Island

Queens Fort, Rhode Island

Queens Fort, Rhode Island

Queen’s Fort is a legendary Indian fortification located in northeast Exeter, Rhode Island.

Standing at the crest of a wooded hill, the structure consisted of dry-laid stone walls set between groups of glacial boulders. The fort is traditionally associated with a Narragansett sachem of the 17th century named Queen Quaiapen and a Narragansett man known to the English as Stonewall John. Stonewall John was a talented mason who is said to have built the fort along with other Narragansett men loyal to Queen Quaiapen for defense purposes during King Phillip’s War. Some accounts say that Quaiapen and Stonewall John were lovers.

The fort was said to have included bastions of stone construction with a chamber in the middle. Located just west of the fort was a large cavern formed by groups of boulders known as the Queen’s Bed Chamber.

The fort was the site of the first punitive raids against the Narragansett Indians in December 1675 when shots were fired and colonists burned supplies of corn that the Narragansett had put away for winter. A short time later on December 19, 1675, what is known as the Great Swamp Massacre occurred at the Narragansett village when it was attacked by colonial militiamen from Plymouth Colony, Connecticut Colony, and Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was described as “one of the most brutal and lopsided military encounters in all of New England’s history.”

In the end, the settlement was burned, its inhabitants, including women and children, were killed or evicted, and most of the tribe’s winter stores were destroyed. Though hundreds were killed, some escaped into the frozen swamp where more died from wounds or the harsh winter conditions. The Queen was one of those who managed to escape but was later killed by Connecticut soldiers when she tried to escape north in July 1676.

Afterward, the fort was said to have been utilized by bandits and hermits.

Today the site is owned by the Rhode Island Historical Society and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. However, the years have taken their toll and it is little more than a round, rocky hillock.

Some believe that the stonework actually predated Queen Quaiapen.

The only one of these structures that is open to the public is America’s Stonehenge. The others are situated on private land and permission is needed to access them.

Like other New England stone chambers, its builders remain a mystery.

©Kathy Weiser-Alexander, January 2019.

King Phillips War

King Phillips War

Also See:

American Mysteries

Astronomy and Mythology in Native American Culture

Destinations of America

Folklore & Superstition

Native American Tribes

Sources:

Mavor, James W., Jr., and Byron, E. Dix, Manitou – The Sacred Landscape of New England’s Native Civilization, Inner Traditions International, 1989

New England Historical Society

Nolumbeka Project

Perceptive Travel

Stone Structures

Vermont Historical Society

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