Stone Structures of Northeastern United States Banner Stone structures website banner II

Boundary Markers

Private property, town, and state boundaries have been marked by a wide variety of markers over the past 400 years. On this page is a small selection of New England boundary markers.


Private Property

Stake & Heap of Stones

Some early New England property deeds and other legal documents occassionally mention as a boundary a “stake and heap of stones”. Not many examples of these early 17th, 18th, and sometimes 19th century markers survive. With this example from Salem, NH the wooden stake has long since been replaced by a 20th century iron rod. The best way to identify these boundary cairns is to look for modern surveyors paint, tape, or iron rods.

History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, by Samuel Green Arnold (1860) vol. II , pp. 124.

“Notice was sent to Massachusetts, that Rhode Island would proceed no farther in the attempt to obtain an amicable adjustment of the eastern boundary, but would await the royal commission. The marks and bounds set up on the western line, requiring renewal, a joint comittee of the two colonies had been apointed for the purpose three years before. The Connecticut men had failed to attend several appointments, and the Rhode Island committee therefore proceeded alone to renew the stone heaps and tree marks along the whole line, occupying six days in the work.”

Stone Marker

A more common type of private boundary marker still widely used today is the granite or stone post. This example is from Newbury, MA. It was locally quarried using the flat wedge method and dates to circa 1825-1850.

Lettered Marker

Private boundary markers with dates or initials of the property owners are relativelt rare. They represented an additional expense and only the more wealthy owners could afford it. This example is from Harvard, MA. the stone is natural (unquarried). The letters were carved with a chisel and the periods are drilled holes. The stone wall is the actual property line, the stone marker is just inside the wall in what was once a farm field.

Town Boundaries

Colonists and immigrants to New England brought over with them a long tradition of marking town and parish boundaries. One of those traditions was the renewal the town bounds. This involved a committe of men from each town along a common border, walking the bounds or town lines every so many years. This practice continues today and the dates of those boundary renewals are generally painted on each boundary marker. Many town boundary markers have one or dates spray painted on them. This not vandalism but rather a means to record that each boundary was actually visited. As the quotation from the History of Rhode Island (above) indicates, some committees failed to fulfill their obligations.

Rowley & Ipswich MA Boundary

Manchester & Essex MA Boundary

Two typical town boundary markers. Towns had a strong preference for quarried granite posts. Town boundaries had bare minimum have the initials of both towns carved into the post and many times include the date the markers was erected. Rowley & Ipswich markers dates from 1825. It was quarried locally using the flat wedge method. the Manchester & Essex markers dates from 1903 and is a commerically quarried granite post split using plug & feather method.

Newbury & Newburyport, MA Boundary

Boundary markers are occassionally toppled by natural and man-made forces. This boundary on the busy High Street was struck by a car.

Website - Copyright (c) 2005-2007, James Gage & Mary Gage. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this website may be republished in any format without written permission of the authors.