March 1, 2024

Raymond Village Library to offer Maine stone walls presentation

By Kendra Raymond

Rural properties in Raymond and Windham are often scattered with artifacts of bygone days which can be mysterious to modern residents. For many of us, stone walls border or cross our property and leave us wondering about their story and purpose.

A stone wall in Casco is shown. An upcoming
free presentation at Raymond Village Library
will explore the presence of stone walls in
With these questions in mind, the Raymond Village Library will host an upcoming lecture entitled “Stone Walls of Maine” lead by Raymond resident and Maine Master Naturalist Cheryl Laz. The event will explore the large presence of stone walls in Maine and their connection to our town’s past.

Laz says her lecture will focus on stone walls as artifacts at the intersection of natural and human history. The presentation will cover a geology overview and answer the question, “why are there so many stones?” It will look at the history of human settlement and their influence on the landscape.

Laz became intrigued with the stories and culture behind stone walls when working on a project for her naturalist certification. Originally developed as a project to help people walk in the woods, she discovered the prevalence of stone walls and decided to learn more. Laz said, “If you go just about anywhere in Maine, you come across stone walls.”

A sociologist by day, Laz is interested in what people do. She has found associations between the walls and the people who built them. Laz said, “I look at stone walls in terms of natural history. There is human and natural history in stone walls.”

Stone walls can provide insight into the past life of our properties and the humans that created and utilized them.

Helen Keller once said "What a joy it is to feel the soft springy earth under my feet once more, to follow grassy roads that lead to ferny brooks where I can bathe my fingers in a cataract of rippling notes, or to clamber over a stone wall into green fields that tumble and roll and climb in riotous gladness."

This quote evokes images of a simpler time, where farmers worked their land, and in turn it provided nutrients to sustain the family. While much use of the land has changed over time, some stone walls linger, reminding us of the generations that came before.

According to information in “The Magnificent History in New England’s Stone Walls” by Robert M. Thorson, there once may have been 250,000 miles of stone walls in America’s Northeast, stretching farther than the distance to the moon.

“Even though most of them are crumbling today, they contain a magnificent scientific and cultural story,” Thorson wrote.

He suggests that stone walls are one of the most significant artifacts to be found in New England.
Poet Robert Frost wrote about stone walls in his poem, “The Mending Wall” and many are familiar with the famous line, “Good fences make good neighbors. Whether or not this is true is debatable but certainly, stone walls hold an important place in New England history.

Laz says that stone walls can be much more than just indications of past property lines.

She said that they can be useful animal habitats with dens in and around them. Squirrels use them as highways and feeding stations. You will often see piles of pinecone scales where critters have been busy at work. They can provide shelter for mice, voles, and snakes and you will often see piles of pinecone scales where critters have been busy at work. Stone walls can host insects, lichens, and mosses.

Other stone structures can be found in the Maine woods, including stone foundations and wells or privies. Others are nearly covered by years of overgrowth. Oftentimes, they appear to just pop up randomly in wooded areas. But these areas were previously open, and the woods overtook the space.

Raymond Village Librarian Rachel Holden says she is excited about the upcoming presentation.

She said that the “Stone Walls of Maine” presentation will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday March 14 at Raymond Village Library which is located at 3 Meadow Road in Raymond. The program is free and open to the public, and anyone who would like to pre-register for the program can call the library at 207-655-4283.

For more detailed information about the presentation, visit the RVL website at: or stop by the library to pick up a brochure. <

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