Monday, November 1, 2010

Lazy Colonists Killed Wolves Rather Than Burying Their Dead Deep Enough


Story from the Hartford Courant
Old Mystic Cemetery Has Rare Wolf Stones
October 31, 2010|By PETER MARTEKA, pmarteka@courant.comMYSTIC — When a young Israel Putnam climbed into a craggy den on a snowy afternoon in 1743 and killed the last wolf in Connecticut, colonists could breathe a sigh of relief.

No more would they need to place huge slabs of stone over the burial sites of loved ones to prevent wolves from digging up and scattering the remains. The "wolf stones," as they were known, were eventually used as capstones for stone walls, were discarded, or became buried over time.

Behind the iron gates of Wightman Burying Ground — located near the site of the state's first Baptist church — are the graves of Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers and many of Groton's early settlers, including John Burrows. A huge wolf stone — an extremely rare one on which the inscription carved into the granite is legible — covers his grave. Burrows' wolf stone, which reads "JB A74 dyed 1716," was believed to be the only wolf stone in the cemetery.

"My mother would always take me to see it," said Essex resident Dana Hill, a descendant of Burrows. "It was pretty intriguing to an 8-year-old."

Recently, historian and cemetery researcher Iva Arpin and Wightman Burial Ground Association President Dennison Allen brought in state archaeologist Nicholas F. Bellantoni and members of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service to use ground-penetrating radar to search for unmarked graves in the cemetery.

During the process, nearly a half-dozen wolf stones were detected and eventually uncovered. None of the newly discovered stones was inscribed.

Arpin said that other, more famous wolf stones, marking the graves of Thomas Minor and Walter Palmer, are in Stonington. She noted that wolf stones generally have end stones on either side, so when one looks down at them, they give the appearance of a bed. She said the stones might have been reused, to cover individuals who died later.

Bellantoni said he doesn't see a lot of wolf stones in his travels throughout the state. He said the stones were used because the proverbial "6 feet under" was "very rarely attained back then."

"Wolves were a big problem and they were always a concern," he said. According to local records, wolves were such a scourge that in 1660, settlers offered 20 shillings — a huge sum of money at the time — for each wolf killed.

The Wightman Burial Ground Association, formed in 1882, has 40 to 45 members. Descendants of those buried at the Mystic cemetery are spread throughout the country. Arpin and Allen are working to get the 1704 cemetery on the National Registry of Historic Places. Arpin said that between the many wolf stones discovered there and the location's key role in the early history of the state's Baptist church, she is hopeful. Valentine Wightman, the state's first Baptist minister, is buried there.

But getting a site on the national register "is a demanding, grueling process," she said, adding that she has spent the past few years gathering maps, taking pictures and reviewing deeds. She said she decided to highlight the Baptist history of the area in her pitch for the national register.

"The first Baptists went up against some serious odds," she said. "They were abused by the Congregationalists, and it was amazing how tied to their faith they were."
So, the lazy colonists killed the last wolf for 100 miles around and, as a consequence, soon succumbed to invasion by hordes of rabbits, squirrels, voles, moles and deer that experienced a population explosion because their natural predators had been wiped out by the lazy colonists who could not be bothered to bury their dead deep enouth.  The ravaging hordes of critters ate all the colonists' crops, stripped the trees of their bark so they died and, in the end, wiped out the last of the colonists who were not smart enough to move away and start over - somewhere else.  Where they did the same thing all over again...


Anonymous said...

there is alot of historically unaccurate information in this article.

Anonymous said...

colonists did not kill wolves because they were digging up dead bodies, they killed wolves because they were eating thier livestock and thereby threatening thier lives. Wolfs digging up the dead was not a widespread problem, you never hear of it written in any historical documents, diaries, ect... Wolfs were used to hide the fact that colonists believed in vampires and the stone was put on the grave to prevent the vampire from crawling out of the ground and killing others. But this rediculous belief was so embarrasssing to educated modern america that they ridiculed those who belived it and essentailly erased the history of vampires in connecticut who were just as common as witches, and very real to the colonists. Wolf stones are Vampire stones, there is no such thing as a wolf stone.

Anonymous said...

I mean come on, colonists killed wolfs because they were too lazy to bury the dead alittle deeper... that makes no sense that they would rather go through all the effort to kill a wolf, which was not easy and you could get injured witch was life threatening at the time, when they could just dig a few feet deeper? And really the colonists - LAZY! the people who cleared the land and built thier own everything who came over here on ship voyages that lasted months and months, those were nopt lazy people, they would have dug deeper if it were nessessary.

Jan said...

The vampire stone theory is certainly interesting. I did a search for "wolf stone" on google and found very little relevant information, perhaps I should try "vampire stone." As for it being more difficult for colonists to hunt wolves down than to properly bury their dead, I don't believe that. No wolf would be able to dig up a body buried more than a few feet below the surface and the ground packed down around firmly. Also, did the colonists not use coffins? What wolf would be able to break into a wood coffin that had been nailed shut? There is something off kilter about the story, but if the assertion is true that the stones were to prevent wolves from digging up freshly buried bodies, then shame on the colonists for not burying the body deeply enough.

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