J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Crowd-sourcing Massachusetts’s Milestones

After reading Charles Bahne’s remarks on colonial-era milestones around Boston yesterday, I wondered if the web had a map of all the stones still standing.

Forty milestones erected by 1767 on the route between Boston and Springfield (with, it appears, a few on the road from Boston to Cambridge) were entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Their Wikipedia entry offers photographs of many and geographic locations for all. That page automatically pumps out a Google Map of those locations.

Another resource, which I learned about from the City Record and Boston News-Letter blog, is this Historic American Buildings Survey publication completed in 1935-36. It includes drawings and maps of the stones then known.

The Stones Structures website catalogues several milestones that didn’t make Wikipedia, and invites folks to send in more photographs. Waymarking offers photos of more in central Massachusetts in its “Milestones” grouping. In addition, the Jamaica Plain Historical Society offers a couple of newspaper articles about the milestones in that area.

According to Boston.com, the state transportation department has catalogued 47 early milestones. How does its list match up with those on these websites? Are there more out there, perhaps removed from busy roads?

Is anyone up for creating a comprehensive map and catalogue of all the markers that exist in Massachusetts or New England today? Perhaps that could be a class project, or a collaboration among schools. It might even preserve the memory of some now-vanished stones known to have stood in 1909 when this Brookline Historical Society paper was written. Anyone?


Jocelyn said...

There is a google map of all the boundary stones leading into based on this set of photographs from the BPL (http://www.flickr.com/photos/cityofbostonarchives/sets/72157629118996704/) but I've never seen one for outside of the immediate Boston area. Would be pretty awesome since a lot of the stones are tucked away and forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating couple of entries on these milestones. Great job. The one in Spencer is perilously close to the lad, it seems to me, and surrounded by a commercial area and grocery store parking lot.

Perhaps it is time for many if not all of these to be brought inside tone or more museums for safe storage. Replica markers could be put up otheir respective places.

Charles Bahne said...

Although I don't have time to coordinate such a project, I would be happy to share the info that I've picked up over the years. A crowdsourcing project sounds like an excellent idea. It probably also makes sense to get the Mass. Historical Commission involved.

Colonial-era milestones appear on roads radiating from Boston, including roads to Cambridge, Dedham, and Plymouth (multiple routes), and of course on the Boston Post Road. In the early 19th century, milestones were erected along turnpikes (toll roads), including the present Route 9 from Boston to Worcester and Route 1 from Boson to Newburyport, plus Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester and Milton.

Boundary stones, of course, are something else entirely, and they far outnumbered milestones.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for the link on Boston’s boundary stones, Jocelyn. There’s something rather Chaplinesque about that Flickr group.

Peter Fisk said...

That's some fine perambulatin' goin' on in them there photos.

Jocelyn said...

It would be awesome if there could be a similar map for the state, though like Charlie, I don't have the time to coordinate this type of thing this year. However, I bet that it would be really easy to find out a lot of information from roving historians or historical societies in the towns that have them

And yes, that flickr group is epic.

James Gage said...

Mary Gage co-author of www.stonestructures.org is currently compiling a list of Massachusetts milestones for publication as a book. The research is still in progress and no publication date has been set yet. If you know about a milestone especially one not listed on the above websites, please contact Mary through the website. Any milestones west of Springfield would be very helpful.