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.
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.org/wiki/Beating_the_bounds
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
...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.org/publications/item_detail.
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.
A Grand Tradition: `Perambulating The Bounds'
Town Boundaries Get Once-over
April 23, 1998 By JANE E. DEE; Courant Staff Writer
There are no disputes to resolve, only history to recount, as the first selectmen from Guilford and
Branford 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
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 group's
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
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
School children beat the parish bounds.
Click on the picture for more on this.