Perambulating the bounds is something that evidently is no longer done.
Selectmen no doubt have more urgent matters to tend to than taking a walk in
the woods. However, it was probably a good opportunity to compare notes with
selectmen from neighboring towns. I haven't seen all the markers, but I'm thinking
that the "1985" on one of the markers in Laurelwood, shown below, may have
been the last time, or near to the last time it was done in this area. Thanks to DJ
for assistance in locating some of the markers and taking several of the photos.
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This is a three-town marker. It's well into the woods, at the
point where Hopedale, Mendon and Upton meet. Where's
Carpenter Road? Click on the picture to see more of it.
online for the town of Stow, posted for 2011.
Residents are welcome to join the Board of Selectmen and their representatives as
they walk and mark the Town Boundaries. State law requires that towns visit and mark
their boundaries every five years. Stow's 2010 perambulation began in April 2010, and
is being continued this year.
Most, but not all, of the boundary markers are near a road. There will be some walking
through woods and brush, so wear appropriate footwear and clothing for mud and ticks.
A Wikipedia page on the practice tells mainly about it in England, where it's referred to
as "beating the bounds." It says that in the U.S., it has been done in Massachusetts
and New Hampshire.
In England the custom dates from Anglo-Saxon times, as it is mentioned in laws of
Alfred the Great and Æthelstan. It is thought that it may have been derived from the
Roman Terminalia, a festival celebrated on February 22 in honour of Terminus, the
god of landmarks, to whom cakes and wine were offered, sports and dancing taking
place at the boundaries. Similar practices, of pagan origin, were brought by the
Vikings. In England a parish-ale, or feast, was always held after the perambulation,
which assured its popularity, and in Henry VIII's reign the occasion had become an
excuse for so much revelry that it attracted the condemnation of a preacher who
declared "these solemne and accustomable processions and supplications be nowe
growen into a right foule and detestable abuse." More at http://en.wikipedia.
The following is from the New Hampshire Local Government site.
Today's statutes have their roots in the Colonial Laws of the Massachusetts Bay
Colony, which, as referenced in The Colonial Laws of Massachusetts, by William H.
Whitmore, as early as 1651 required that:
...every Town shall set out their Bounds, within twelve months after their Bounds are
granted: and that when their Bounds are once set out, once in three years, three or
more persons of a Town, appointed by the Select men, shall appoint with the adjacent
Towns, to go the Bounds betwixt their said Townes and renew their marks; which marks
shall be a great heap of stones, or a Trench of six foot long and two foot broad, the
most ancient town to give notice of the time and place of meeting for this
perambulations; which time shall be in the first or second month, upon pain of five
pounds for every Town that shall neglect the same....
There's much more on perambulation on that site at http://www.nhlgc.
Perambulating the bounds in Boston - 1896
Hopedale Town Report - 1886
Surveying, Alton Cook, running boundary line, etc . $105.10
Crofton, Geo., cutting stone bound 10.00
While the Wikipedia article states that in the U.S., perambulating the bounds was done
only in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, here's an article about it in Connecticut.
Guilford and Branford (Connecticut) walk their common town boundaries.
They are reviving one of the state's earliest laws, ``An Act for Ascertaining the Bounds of
Towns and the Lands of Particular Persons,'' which dates from 1650. They started their
walk Fridayand will finish it later this week.
"Perambulating the bounds,'' as the law was commonly called, required town officials to
inspect their boundaries, paying special attention to property that straddled town lines so
that taxes could be assessed by the correct municipality.
By the time the state legislature repealed the law in 1979, town assessors relied on
aerial maps to keep track of taxable property. Still, a boundary walk was used to settle a
dispute in northeastern Connecticut in 1991.
The walks along Branford and Guilford's common boundary are purely for fun, said
Anthony DaRos, Branford's first selectman.
In fact , the walks are a welcome break from his daily duties, he said.
He and Samuel Bartlett, Guilford's first selectman, stood on a dike over Stony Creek and
gazed at the salt grass toward Long Island Sound. They walked past a stone ledge that
gave Stony Creek its name and another ledge containing former Indian caves. They
peered into one of the stone quarries and wondered how deep it was.
When the act was law, town officials were required to inspect the bounds each year. The
frequency of the walks was later changed to once every five years. At the end of each
walk, officials etched their initials and the year in stones, which were piled in ravines or
around the bases of trees to mark the boundaries.
Chester Blomquist, a retired Branford teacher, discovered some of those ``selectmen's
stones'' several years ago while hiking the town's 28-mile perimeter with the Branford
Walkers, a group he organized in 1987.
After that, Blomquist invited Branford's different first selectmen to join the walkers on the
This is the first time that he and the two first selectmen are walking the bounds. They
walked with other hikers for about three hours last week, which took them about halfway
along the common boundary.
They plan to complete their inspection Friday during a walk that will take them past a
display of selectmen's stones in Westwoods Trail forest, where DeRos and Bartlett plan
to carve their own stone records.
During their first walk together, DaRos held a piece of granite in his hand. Pink granite
used in the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal was quarried here, he said.
In fact, a former quarry proprietor from Guilford was responsible for the most recent
change to the towns' common boundary, said Joel H. Helander, Guilford's town historian.
John Beattie, of Beattie Granite Quarry, successfully petitioned the legislature in 1885
for the right to pay taxes in one town, Helander said. His petition led to Guilford's border
being extended westward to Hoadley Point, just east of Branford's Thimble Islands.
Recently, a similar dispute involving a housing subdivision led to a change in the
boundary shared by Ashford and Willington in the state's northeast corner. The
legislature voted in 1991 to annex land to Willington after Ashford's town assessor, Emily
Kasacek, discovered that the towns' boundaries did not match up on different maps.
Here are a few more sites on perambulating the bounds.
Perambulating in Dublin
A Grand Tradition: `Perambulating The Bounds'
Town Boundaries Get Once-over
April 23, 1998 By JANE E. DEE; Courant Staff Writer