Robert Thorson’s Stone by Stone identifies the “golden age” of stonewalls in New England as between 1775 and 1825. Although there may be other explanations for the time of the start of the “golden age”, Thorson feels that it is most likely due to rapid deforestation. Since the colonization of the seventeenth century, trees had been cut for farming, h
ome building, heating and charcoal. Over the next 150 years, these now denuded forests brought about erosion and water seepage, leaving the soil susceptible to deeper frosts. Frost heaves brought increasing volumes of stones to the surface, and every plowed field was littered with them. Stone naturally became the economical alternative to wood for fence material. The end of the “golden age” of stonewalls around 1825 coincided with the completion of the Erie Canal that connected New York with the GreatLakes, making cheaper agricultural products from the Midwest more plentiful in New England markets.