An observant resident of Somers is aware of the many amazing stone walls, some just long piles of stones and others carefully constructed. They are evidence of those who came before us.
In the early 18th century many people settled in Somers (Stephentown) and cleared the existing forest to grow crops and feed their cattle. First they cut down the trees and used some of the wood to build a makeshift fence around their property. Oxen pulled out stumps, which farmers often burned. But in the end tilling the soil was not easy. Large rocks and stones mixed with the soil, especially in uplands.
The farmers put the rocks on a stone sledge and piled them on the side of the field. But with each Spring thaw, more rocks were “born.” Farmers soon learned to pile the stones so as to make a semi-permanent fence that marked their pastures and property boundaries. Often this task was done by Native Americans, servants, and children. No mortar or binding material was used.
By 1871, there were about 252,539 miles of stone walls in New England and New York, which could circle the earth ten times. Rock walls were everywhere in Somers.
These old rock walls can be seen along the Old Somers Road (aka Peekskill Road) which is a short spur of US 202 near the Somers Intermediate School. At the beginning of the 20th century the vista would have been one of pastures and fields surrounded by stone walls and with a lonely farm house, barn, and other outbuildings here and there. As farming declined many pastures were not plowed or mowed and slowly shrubs and then trees such as oaks and maples began to take over, forming a new woodland.
But the rock walls remained, often with very old mature trees along side them, the adults of saplings allowed to grow along the wall many years ago.
The history of the Somers rock walls began in the Ice Age and was shaped by events in the 19th century and conflicts between the Native Americans over land use. Re-zoning in the 20th century and various forms of land development endangered the amazing rock walls built by the sweat of the early Somers residents. But many still remain, some hidden in the woods marking long gone farms.
Each wall and each stone has its own story.