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If you’ve ever gone walking through the woods in New England, you probably have encountered some old stone walls that seem to be in the middle of nowhere.
These man-made structures seem to have no purpose… And yet there they are.
So, what are they doing there?
It’s a great question.
Back in the early 1800s stone walls were erected throughout New England primarily to keep animals from wandering off… Primarily sheep.
According to an article by Ruth Smith, for the Concord Monitor:
The majority of New England’s stone walls were built within a 30- year period from 1810-40. During this time, agriculture was a driving force and most residents were farmers. These intrepid farmers and their ancestors had spent earlier decades cutting down trees to build homes, barns and other structures and opening up land for planting crops and pasturing livestock. Early fences, used to contain cattle and sheep, were made of wood and stumps from the downed trees.
In the early 1800s, Merino sheep were brought into New England and things changed. The great sheep boom began. A worldwide market for Merino wool provided subsistence farmers with a flush of cash. More land was cleared and pastures were created, bordered by sturdy stone walls.
The stone structures were usually as high as a man’s thigh. Then, wooden fences were added on top to bring the barriers to the height necessary to keep sheep from escaping. Census records indicate that in 1840, New Hampshire was home to 600,000 sheep. Surrounding states were part of this movement as well, and it is estimated that over 250,000 miles of stone walls were built in New England and New York during this period of time. The mass of these meandering rock piles is said to be greater than that of the pyramids of Egypt.
What Old Stone Walls Have You Erected That Serve No Purpose?
Just like a dog that has been trained to avoid an invisible fence, even when it is no longer turned on, we sometimes limit ourselves based on walls we erect.
Invisible walls can be obstacles that are real enough to keep us from our goals.
Are there walls you still observe even though they no longer serve a purpose?