Mystery surrounds slab pen on Stoneham island

June 20, 2016 - Picnic Time

STONEHAM — On a tiny island, among chest-high shrubs that lean with a breeze, a slab relic bears 3 difference that imply a accurate plcae where a male — a wrestler, or a colonel, or maybe a dipsomaniac — took a notable tumble.

“WHERE SHUTE FELL,” says a word etched low into a weathered marker.


That most is clear.

But who Shute was, since he toppled, and how a mill was hauled to a island are a things of legends — questions that have confused story buffs and reporters for some-more than a century.

“There are so many versions of this story,” pronounced Kyna Hamill, a anxiety proffer during a Medford Historical Society and Museum, who has turn informed with a Shute relic by her investigate about a Middlesex Fells Reservation.

The pool is partial of a reservation, 2,575 acres of state-owned hiking trails, fields, and H2O bodies that widen opposite Malden, Stoneham, Melrose, Winchester, and Medford.

David L. Ryan/Globe staff

The pen on Great Island in Stoneham’s Spot Pond.

Hamill and others have speculated for years about a origins of a slab pen that rests circuitously a eastern tip of Great Island, a place where nesting herons expel fleeting, pterodactyl-like shadows opposite a hunger needle-strewn ground.


For Hamill, a changeable narratives about a mill paint a “good instance of how stories about internal story can go in unequivocally uncanny directions.”

“These stories are charming, and tell a lot about a people who lived in a area,” she said.

They can also be confounding.

There are countless accounts dating behind to a 1800s that report what led to Shute’s tumble on a island, a tract that rises from a core of Spot Pond like an huge turtle shell.

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In 1915, The Medford Historical Register,a quarterly published by a chronological society, looked into a gossip that a mill was erected by a friends of Shute, a colonel who was suspicion to have been shot and killed in a duel on a island.

The publication’s “own opinion” put a explain of a “duello” to rest. Instead, a unnamed author of a essay removed a “Sunday-school picnic” 41 years earlier, in a mid-1870s, where a children were told a genuine comment of Shute’s fall, despite one that was most reduction honorable.

It went like this: There was once a hotel circuitously on a seaside called a Spot Pond House, that captivated a well-to-do. But as business swelled, a once-posh plcae “degenerated into a place of controversial repute.”

The essay pronounced a area had drawn groups from all over, including some of “lower character” who busy a island, where “picnic parties” were common.

“One of these latter [parties] was stoical of frolicsome spirits, and one among a series who was rather overloaded became overcome, and being too full for utterance, sank down for rest, or stumbled over some considerate deterrent during that sold spot,” a essay said.

Perhaps as a joke, Shute’s “boon companions suspicion it suitable to symbol a symbol for destiny remembrance,” a author said.

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A content published in a Boston Evening Transcript in 1889 also explored a odds of a famous duel and afterwards ignored it. The author pronounced that, formed on information upheld down by a male who lived circuitously a island, Shute was expected someone who was “more than customarily intoxicated,” and fell into a H2O that surrounds Great Island.

“His friends following set adult a stone,” a author wrote. “Failing to benefit any opposite explanation, we have always believed a above story to be true.”

Medford Historical Society and Museum

A potion lantern slip by George Davenport shows a Shute marker.

Had a authors finished some digging, they would have detected an essay published years prior, in 1884, in a Boston Daily Globe.

That essay expel Shute in a most opposite light. The puzzling male was not a drunk, or colonel during all. Shute, when sober, a essay said, was a “toughest ’rastler we ever seen,” and used his beast force to toss opponents to a belligerent during matches that were hold on a island.

That is, until one day, a clearly unbeatable Shute went down himself.

“One time, he got a small full, though, and over he went!” pronounced a article, quoting an unnamed boatman who told a Globe contributor that he had rowed wrestlers to a fighting grounds.

The boatman, who had listened “more cock-and-bull stories about that ‘ere mill than would fill a book,” claimed a relic was wedged low into a earth a few days after a strong Shute was felled.

Its existence was kept still from Shute. And when a good wrestler returned to a island, a annoyance of his tumble stared him passed in a face, created perpetually in stone.

“When he saw it he was so mad!” pronounced a boatman, who boasted that he had witnessed a group move a mill to a island. “Why, he never came there from that day to this.”

Before encountering a plain-spoken boatman, whose recollections of Shute were as unshakable as a mill itself, a contributor had been told by people visiting a island that day that Shute was an “old soldier” shot by a British; or a Puritan settler, killed by a Native American arrow and afterwards buried there.

The boatman discharged a claims, and told a reporter, “They tell all manners of stories about that mill and we let ‘em … we used to know Shute and all a rest of a crowd.”

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The idea that Shute was a learned warrior falls in line with a square of story that has been good documented, though that is tough to prognosticate today on a disproportionate island: It was once used for bootleg bare-knuckle fighting matches and prizefights, one of which, between Ned Price and Joe Coburn, went 160 rounds before finale in a draw.

That quarrel occurred in 1856, around 30 years before a Globe’s comment of a monument. So it’s illusive an aged boatman could have remembered those times.

Douglas Heath, who co-authored a book called “Middlesex Fells,” pronounced a prevalent conjecture is, formed on his possess research, that Shute was expected a wrestler from a Haywardville-area of Stoneham, and was knocked down by unclothed fists.

“But other than that we don’t unequivocally know who Shute was, or what happened to him,” he said.

Heath’s book contains 217 selected images of a area, including one of a Shute mill taken around 1890. That picture was partial of a harangue about a Middlesex Fells created by George E. Davenport, of Medford, in 1893. Davenport, like a boatman, theorized in his harangue that Shute was a prizefighter, who underneath a change of too most “’alf and ‘alf” was taken down. It isn’t transparent if Davenport had drawn information from a Globe essay published 9 years before.

The bottom line, Heath said, is: “It’s a lot of conjecture during this point.”

“This mill commemorative is all we’ve got. It’s a kind of rabbit hole,” he added.

People who wish to try Great Island can't take their possess boat, since Spot Pond serves as a backup fountainhead to a Quabbin Reservoir. The island is permitted usually by renting a boat or rowboat from Boating in Boston’s Stoneham dock, and afterwards paddling 15 mins opposite a pool to a hilly shores.

On a new speed to a island, Mike Ryan, former executive executive of a Friends of a Middlesex Fells Reservation, a non-profit organization, located a Shute mill in a greenery within a half-hour of alighting (he had to round a island to find a suitable symbol to wharf among a rip-rap, mill used for breakwater).

Ryan brought with him a duplicate of Davenport’s lecture, and used a picture taken of a relic in a early 1890s to pinpoint a plcae circuitously a island’s tilted shoreline.

After pulling by tangled branches and shoving aside shrubs, Ryan knelt down subsequent to a monument. It was a initial time he’d visited a mill in roughly a decade.

It seemed unchanged, he pronounced — gray and uneven, tipping somewhat to a left.

Beaming about a rediscovery, he review aloud from Davenport’s lecture, during times fixation a palm on a stone.

“The relic still remains, with a pen badly defaced by time and has given arise to many legends and conjectures as to a meaning, some illusory and comical and some chronological and probable,” he read.

The words, created some-more than a century ago, still ring true.

“Great Island has a puzzling story about it,” Ryan said. “There are so many layers to a story here on a Fells.”

David L. Ryan/Globe staff

Mike Ryan showed a page that has a selected picture of a marker.

From a archives: Coverage of a marker



Davenport Fells Lecture 1893

1935, Medford Historical Register

Shute, Boston Evening Transcript, 1889

Steve Annear can be reached during Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.

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