Connecticut’s Stone Walls – History in Your Backyard


Cameron Cahoon

There may be as many as 100,000 miles of stones walls in New England.

Cameron Cahoon, Staff Writer

Have you ever been on a hike through the woods and happen to stumble upon a long wall of stones? Have you ever wondered where these random stone walls, which happen to exist all throughout New England, came from?

Walls in the middle of forests seem to have no purpose, and it makes one wonder who built them out there, and why? Robert Thorson, a landscape geologist nd professor at the University of Connecticut, estimates that there are more than 100,000 miles of old, disused stone walls out there, or enough to circle the globe four times.

Stone walls originated in the early 1800s through the mid-1900s. As more farmers began to settle in New England, the forests were destroyed and turned into large open fields. The glaciers that receded at the end of the last Ice Age left behind millions of stones on this land. Every autumn stones were cleared from the fields, only for there to be more stones the following spring due to the freezing and thawing of the surface.

As a result, farmers began to surround their farms, as well as divide different parts of their own property, with thigh-high walls built out of large stones varying in shapes in sizes. These stones are sometimes referred to as “two-handers” because they required two hands to pick up.

The walls are simply a disposal pile. It was routine farm work,” Thorson stated in an interview with in 2018.

Once the Industrial Revolution began, many of the farms were abandoned. The process of reforestation caused some of these walls to be lost in the middle of forests, which is why now you can find them on hikes through the woods. These walls can date back to as early as 1600 and are important to New England’s history, so it is important to respect and preserve them for as long as possible.