Landmarks of Lynn Woods
Lynn Woods has several interesting and famous landmarks. Click on the title of each landmark below to find out more information:
On the north side of Walden Pond there are two rectangular stone lined pits commonly know as the Wolf Pits. The pits lie on level ground near the intersection of Ox Pasture Road and the Valley Trail. They are two feet wide and five feet long. The first is seven feet deep, the second nearly five and they lie about twenty feet apart. Remnants of an iron railing stand next to the pits. This railing was not part of the original construction but was installed by the Park Commission in the late 1800’s.
There has been considerable debate as to the original function of the pits. If we are to believe they are wolf traps then some questions must be answered. Were there ever wolves in Lynn Woods and was there any need to go to the trouble of building elaborate traps to catch them? Are they really traps or are they actually the remains of some other structure? Was trapping with pits a commonly used method of wolf killing, or do we need to believe that this practice was unique to Lynn?
The Lynn Woods was used as common grazing land until 1706 when it was partitioned and turned over to private ownership. Prior to this time, anyone living in Lynn had the right to graze his animals on this common land. The stonewalls that still cross the woods today are remnants of this practice, they weren’t intended to mark property lines but were constructed to divide the land into different pastures for different types of animals. Nahant was for sheep, horses grazed in what is now Pine Grove Cemetery, cattle in the Middle Pasture (most of Lynn Woods) and Oxen in the area still referred to as the Ox Pasture. Wolves were a serious threat to livestock. A stone wall was built across the Nahant Causeway to protect the sheep and, beginning in 1630, bounties were paid to anyone who killed a wolf. In 1645 the Massachusetts General Court decreed “any person, either English or Indian, that shall kill any wolf or wolves, within ten miles of the Plantation of this jurisdiction, shall have for every wolf by him or them so killed ten shillings, paid out of the Treasury of the Country.” By the middle of the eighteenth century the bounty system had been replaced by general wolf hunting days when the citizens of Lynn would gather together for a thorough sweep of the woods in an attempt to rid them of this menace.
Are the pits seventeenth century wolf traps? Skeptics have suggested many other explanations for the origin and use of the pits. One of the most believable is that they were sawpits. Before the invention of the circular saw timbers were cut buy two men working a large straight saw. One cut from the top and the other beneath. Logs could have been rolled over the pits and cut without needing to be lifted onto a frame. A visit to the pits makes it quickly evident that they are just too small for this purpose. Even a child would have a hard time working the lower end of the saw without constantly bumping the walls with his elbows. A second suggestion was that they were latrines for some long forgotten Boy Scout camp or for workers clearing the bottom of the Walden Pond reservoir. It is a little hard to believe that anyone would go to the trouble to carefully construct stone walls for a latrine; especially for a Boy Scout camp and the pits are simply too far from the reservoir to have been intended for workers clearing the bottom. A third theory is that they were pits used for storage of food much like a root cellar. If this were the case then where is the foundation of the house? No record exists of there ever being a dwelling in this area and no physical evidence has ever been located.
There are numerous examples from Europe and North America of traps being used to kill wolves. One early method in Germany was to construct a dense hedge from plants and plant debris with a few select holes in it. Snares were placed in the holes and the wolves were chased through them. This was not too effective because the wolves quickly learned to avoid the hedges. The next method was to dig a wolf pit. A hole was dug and covered with branches then baited with meat. The bottom of the pit was fitted with iron spikes and when the unfortunate wolf went for the bait he fell and was impaled on the stakes. Wolf pits in Norway were round with ropes stretched across to hold the brush cover. Scottish wolf pits were made exactly like those in Lynn Woods and were so effective that they are credited with eliminating the wolf in Scotland. Wood lined wolf pits were constructed on a farm in Fairfax County Virginia. An animal carcass was drug for a mile or so through the woods to create a scent trail leading to the pit. A wooden plank was balanced over the pit and baited. When the wolf went for the bait the plank and the wolf would fall into the pit. The farm became known as the Wolf Trap Farm and is the present site of the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. Locally there were other examples of wolf pits. One was reported to be in Andover but was unfortunately destroyed during road construction. Two others are in the Lynn Woods but they are covered by the water in Breed’s Pond.
The historical record clearly shows that killing wolves was a high priority for Lynn’s early settlers. Wolf Pits of various designs were the preferred method of wolf killing during the seventeenth century in Europe and North America and many had a design similar to those in Lynn Woods. This evidence strongly suggests that the pits are indeed wolf traps. If you would like to make your own investigation you should begin your hike at the Great Woods parking lot. Take the road to the right of Walden Pond. This is Ox Pasture Road which is marked with orange blazes. Follow this road for about 1¼ miles until you reach intersection D3-3. Turn right onto the blue blazed trail and immediately look for an unmarked footpath exiting to your left. A short walk down this path will reveal the wolf pits on your right.
Stone Tower is a 48 ft. tall field stone tower on the top of Burrill Hill. It was constructed in 1936 under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
Built for fire observation, the tower had a wooden roof structure constructed on its top to provide shelter for crews that would man it. Set on the highest point in Lynn, this rustic field stone tower commands an impressive view of Lynn's waterfront, Boston and beyond.
Tours of the inside of Stone Tower are available by appointment only at this time. Contact the Lynn Woods Ranger for more information: 781-477-7123
Late in the summer of 1658, a sinister ship appeared in Lynn Harbor. The ship was painted black and flew no flag. Word spread quickly among the citizens of the small town of Lynn, Massachusetts: There were pirates in the harbor! A boat was lowered from the ship, a chest was loaded into the boat, and four oarsmen rowed it toward shore. The boat headed up the Saugus River and landed near the Saugus Iron Works. The next day, workers found a note attached to a door, asking to purchase a supply of shackles, hatchets, shovels, and other tools. The note promised that if the requested tools were manufactured and left at a secret location, then a supply of silver would be left in exchange. The tools were made and paid for as promised.
The pirates made camp in a place now known as Pirate's Glen near the Saugus River. British soldiers stationed nearby heard about the pirates and set off to capture them. Three of the buccaneers were captured and hanged but the forth, Thomas Veal, escaped into the woods. It was believed that he took the stolen hoard with him as he headed deeper and deeper into the woods. finally arriving at a natural cave in what is now Lynn Woods. Veal lived in the cave for some time and became a member of the Lynn community. The story says he mended shoes for spending money and lived in relative peace with his neighbors. Suddenly, an earthquake rocked the Lynn area, causing a gigantic piece of the rock to tip forward and permanently seal the cave opening. Poor Veal was either trapped inside or crushed to death with his treasure, locked forever in Dungeon Rock.
The remains of Thomas Veal and his treasure were left undisturbed for nearly two hundred years. In the 1830s, two attempts were made to recover the treasure by placing kegs of powder the cave opening and igniting them. Both attempts failed, and the opening to the cave was destroyed, but no riches were found.
Then, in 1852, a man named Hiram Marble came to Dungeon Rock. Hiram was a member of the Spiritualist Church from Charlton, Massachusetts. Spiritualists believed that they could talk to people in the afterlife. Hiram felt that he had received a message from the ghost of Thomas Veal, telling him that if he came to dig at Dungeon Rock, he would leave a rich man. The Marbles saw this as an opportunity to prove the validity of Spiritualism and become wealthy in the process. He purchased the five acres of land that surrounded the rock and began to dig.
Hiram built a number of structures around the dungeon. You can still find remnants of many of them. The Marbles lived in a two-story wood house located on the flat area just below the cave entrance. The cellar hole and plants from their flower gardens remain visible to this day. On the other side of Dungeon Road, there exists another cellar hole that is the foundation of a never completed rooming house for visitors. A section of wall that also exists may have served as a blast shield or part of a powder storage building. A tool shed was constructed near the tunnel entrance, but no evidence remains of it today.
Once Hiram completed his home, his wife and son Edwin joined him. Edwin eventually became his digging partner. The two dug and blasted through the solid rock at a rate of about a foot per month. First, they would drill a series of holes into the rock face and pack them with powder, then light the fuse and run. After the blast, they would carry the rock from the tunnel in baskets and deposit it on the hillside. The gravel area outside the Dungeon is formed from the rock the Marbles removed from the tunnel.
As the digging progressed, the Marbles began to run out of funds. To help raise money, they gave tours for a quarter and sold bonds for a dollar, promising a share of the treasure to each investor. The Marbles would hold séances with the help of local mediums to find guidance in their digging. Hiram would write a question on a piece of paper and fold it up into a tight wad. The medium would write down the spirit's reply without reading the question. As you tour the tunnel, you will notice that it makes abrupt changes in direction. The spirits would lead the diggers in one direction and then another, creating a twisting path into the rock. The spirits reassured the Marbles by telling them that, like Moses wandering the desert for forty years, it was necessary for them to toil before they receive their reward.
Hiram passed away in 1868 without ever finding his treasure. His son Edwin dug on until his death in 1880. Edwin's last wish was to be buried at Dungeon Rock. At the top of a set of stairs beginning next to the old cellar hole, you will find a large pink piece of rock. This stone marks the grave of Edwin Marble and the end of the quest for treasure.
It is interesting to note that the Marbles did not seek the treasure for themselves. They labored to achieve two goals. The first was to prove that they could communicate with people in the afterlife. At this they failed. The second goal was achieved, but not in the way the Marbles envisioned. Living in this beautiful setting for so many years gave the Marbles a vision of a free public forest, a park for all to enjoy. Hiram planned to take his pirate treasure and purchase as much land as possible for the people of Lynn to enjoy forever. Hiram got his wish, as shortly after his son's death, the citizens of Lynn purchased this land to help form their new park, the Lynn Woods.
Dungeon Rock hours:
9:00-2:30 Tuesday - Saturday, subject to change
email@example.com in advance for weekly schedule.
In the 1920's Lynn Park Superintendent John P. Morrissey created the Lynn Woods Rose Garden, one of the loveliest public gardens in the City of Lynn's history. Mr. Morrissey created an elaborate formal garden with many rose, annual, and perennial beds. The garden also included rustic arbors, trellises, and extensive plantings of azelea, rhododendron, and other exotic woodland species. Over the years, it was frequently used by the whole community as a scenic backdrop for special occasion photographs. The garden became "the place" to be photographed during the 1950's. The Rose Garden flourished until sometime in the early-1970's when financial constraints brought maintenance to a standstill.
In the fall of 1990, the Friends of Lynn Woods formed the Rose Garden Restoration Committee. The Committee started researching, planning, and performing the restoration of this once prominent formal rose garden. With the invaluable assistance of Lynn's Office of Community Development, the Rose Garden Committee was able to secure funds from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management's Olmsted Historic Landscape Preservation Program. After four years of help and hard work by dozens of volunteers, the garden began to bloom again. The Lynn Woods Rose Garden was re-dedicated to the people of the City of Lynn on June 11, 1994.
The Rose Garden restoration is a coordinated effort between volunteer, city, and state agencies. A project of this scale could not be possible without the help, advice, and support of so many dedicated Lynn citizens, and our thanks go out to each and every one of you who has joined in on this project.