Stone Walls

Why are there stone walls in these woods?

The miles of stone walls here harken back to the early 1800s when this site was pastureland and farmland – not woodland. Since lumber was in short supply after forests had been cleared for agriculture, farmers ended up using rocks to build fences. The abundance of stones from glacial till rising to the surface through freezing and thawing cycles gave farmers all the material they needed to create a vast network of fences with more stones than the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Some fences were created as boundary lines and livestock chutes, but most were designed to keep sheep in pastures.

By 1840, the height of “sheep fever” in New Hampshire, sheep outnumbered people by a two to one margin. Around this same time, though, Granite Staters began to leave their rock laden farms, seeking more fertile farmland further west, and their abandoned pastures gradually grew into the forests that are here today.


Chandler Reservation: Resource Inventory and Management Plan

Tom Wessels, Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England

Tom Eastman, “Why the stone walls? Follow the sheep boom, bust,”
The Conway Daily Sun, May 3, 2019