Author seeks information on stone chamber
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Mon., Jan. 6, 2014
Tom D’Agostino is a man on a mission. The Thompson resident is a modern-day archeologist, detective and historian rolled into one. He and his wife, Arlene Nicholson, have published 10 books on New England’s haunted locales, its ghosts and folklore. That work has led them to historical societies and antiquities associations, as well as through cemeteries and town records. It’s brought them in touch with countless residents who have lived the stories they tell in their books. And the work has fostered an endless curiosity about the region in which they live.
The latest mystery D’Agostino hopes to solve is the purpose of a stone structure tucked off East Thompson Road in Thompson. Situated about 100 feet from the road, the structure looks like part of the hill it’s built into. The stones on the front of the structure are visible, but not the sides or ceiling. That is, until you walk through the door into a chamber that measures 8 feet, by 10 feet, by 18 feet long.
D’Agostino believes the structure was constructed by a skilled dry mason because no mortar holds the stones together. Layers of stone make up the walls. Vertically-hung stones make up the curved ceiling. It is beautiful inside. Outside, the walls and "roof" are covered with soil. The shape of it lends itself to the woody, hilly area in which it is located, except of course, for the extravagant face of it.
Huge slabs of granite make up the frame of a doorway that measures almost 6 feet tall. Capstones cover the rock-layered wall of the front of the structure. Based on the marks in the granite slabs, D’Agostino believes the stones were cut around 1830 or later. “The 'feather and wedge' cuts resemble drill holes that came about around 1830,” he said. “The flat chisel cuts were common before that. It’s very common, especially in rural areas, to see both types on the same stone.”
What’s less obvious is what the structure was built for. He’s been told that it was a burial crypt which would have been a common enough thing to find in the 1800s. But D’Agostino is not convinced it was built for that purpose. He pulled a list of names, birth dates and death dates for the Hoyle family, whose property the structure is on. A long line of them are interred in the East Thompson Cemetery. Moses, Caroline, Augusta and other Hoyles are buried there, dating back to 1883.
Why build a burial crypt when the cemetery was just down the road and the family was using it, D’Agostino asked. And why build a crypt so large? And if it was a crypt, where were the slabs on which to place the bodies?
“If it’s a burial tomb, it’s an amazing one,” he said. “This wasn’t built for someone who died. This was built for the future.” His best guess is that the stone chamber was built to be an icehouse.
D’Agostino said it would have been a good sized icehouse for a farm. The thick stones, heavy door and dirt covering would have provided excellent insulation for packed snow or ice. He took out a lensatic compass. “It wouldn’t have to face north in the winter because the sun is lower in the sky,” he said, indicating the path it would take across the sky. “If this was an icehouse, it was a good one.”
D’Agostino would welcome help in his detective work. He’d like to find personal records on Moses or Richard Hoyle. Perhaps someone has a Bible with information written inside the pages. If anyone with ties to the Hoyles can offer any evidence, D'Agostino would like to know about it. “It can shed light on our history,” he said. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 401-374-0541 or 860-963-7570.
Editor's Note: Tom D'Agostino is also a freelance contributor to ReminderNews.