New England Is Riddled With These Mysterious Stone Enclosures

The next time you travel through New England, or even if you live there, keep your eye out for stone enclosures with nothing inside, except possibly overgrown weeds. These relics of the past are not promoted much, but they are historic. They are town pounds. Not for stray dogs, but for stray livestock.   

If an animal strayed and was found wreaking havoc on private property, it was brought to the pound, where it was corralled with other wayward creatures and watched over by a town-appointed “pound-keeper” (sometimes called a “pound-master,” or “pounder”) until its owner could retrieve it—for a fee.

(Prices varied by time and place. One community, according to Elizabeth Banks MacRury’s book Town Pounds of New England, set the bail of a horse, mule, ass, cow, or pig at 12 cents and 5 mills (a mill was a thousandth of a dollar). For a sheep, it was 1 cent and 4 mills; for a goose, 8 cents. Unclaimed animals could be sold at auction after three days (one day for geese). Stealing an animal from the pound incurred a fine of $7.)

Villages in colonial Massachusetts were required to have pounds, and since a lot of work went into lifting the heavy stones, the structures are with us hundreds of years later. Read about town pounds and see plenty of pictures at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Johnna Kaplan)


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How are these mysterious? I took one look and thought, "that looks like an animal paddock," even before I saw the overgrown sign next to it. Sooo mysterious, that sign. What could it mean?
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