Old homes are sources of all kinds of strange and unexpected artifacts from the past, and the Mansfield House is certainly no exception. Here, there are a number of fairly good sized stones lying about, in several of the second floor rooms, ostensibly functioning as doorstops. I never really paid all that much attention to them, until one day, not too long ago, when I noticed some writing on one of them. Upon closer examination, I discerned the following text:
Stone For Crushing Wood, Indian Treaty Tree, Quaker Farms, Conn., ’65
Quaker Farms is a well-known historic district in Oxford, Connecticut, which is not all that far from the City of Ansonia. Clearly, this stone came from there. Needless to say, I went about checking all the other doorstop stones. I found one more, similarly marked:
Wood Crushing Stone, Treaty Tree, Quaker Farms, Conn., ’65
What did all of this mean?
I next called my good friend, and frequent partner in crime, Marian O’Keefe, Curator of the Seymour Historical Society, to see if she might have an answer. Marian told me that the true “Treaty Tree” had been located off Route 67, within the vicinity of the Washband Tavern. [Note: The Washband/Washburn Tavern has its own interesting place in history, having played a part in the Underground Railroad. It is currently a designated location on the Connecticut Freedom Trail.] So the true “Treaty Tree” was certainly in Oxford, but apparently not in Quaker Farms. She also told me there was a larger tree in Quaker Farms often confused for the “Treaty Tree”, so perhaps the inscriptions on my stones were referring to this.
Marian then suggested I put in a call to Dorothy DeBisschop, Preservation Chair of the Oxford Historical Society, who might perhaps have more information. So phone Dorothy, I did. Dorothy confirmed that both trees went by the name “Treaty Tree”, and that the one in Quaker Farms was frequently used in the late season by hunters for displaying bear they had killed.
Dorothy also told me that the “Treaty Tree” near Route 67 served as a point of territorial demarcation between native Americans living in Seymour, and those of Woodbury. Both had agreed not to enter the others’ respective territory without first meeting at the “Treaty Tree”. So, perhaps that tree was indeed the true “Indian Treaty Tree”, after all.
But why are these stones marked as such? I suppose one possibility might be that they were discovered somewhere within the vicinity of either “Treaty Tree”. And, if they were indeed found by the Route 67 tree, they might’ve purposely been placed there by the various tribesmen, perhaps as some sort of symbol of their agreement. But, of course, all of this is mere speculation on my part.
What will I do with my crushing stones? I’ve considered displaying them in one of my book cases. I’ve also considered shipping them off to some of my friends who think Deep Energy Retrofits are good things for historic homes (you know who you are…) [oh, c'mon, guys, I'm just kidding! ]. But I’ll probably just leave them where I found them. Why not? Sometimes, continuity of use is a pleasing notion…
Much thanks to both Marian O’Keefe and Dorothy DeBisschop, for conveying the local history that went into this article.