The Stone Chambers
of Putnam County, N.Y.
Visiting the Chambers
The chambers stand now as they have for many centuries. Only during the last 250 years or so, have they been subjected to the "Manifest Destiny" mentality of the white man. Today, as in generations past, there are a handful of individuals that feel a strong personal connection with the chambers. Although approaching from differing viewpoints of antiquity and spirituality, all identify as chamber "keepers"; stewards charged with the protection and preservation of what may well be one of the more important archaeological and anthropological sites in America. Some "Official" chamber organizations are claiming proprietary Corporate ownership of chamber data, and must be sanctioned and spurned by the public. They themselves vandalize the chambers' purpose while claiming to "preserve" them. Many Putnam County residents are not even aware of the chambers, and of those who are, most will say they're just colonial "root cellars" having little historical importance. Perhaps the chambers have been protecting themselves all along, hiding in plain sight behind a facade of insignificance.
It's been said by seekers that you don't find the chambers, the chambers find you. Once you've been exposed to them, and the "energies" radiating throughout them, the chambers begin to reveal themselves to you by various means. The more chambers you experience, the stronger your connection becomes. Each chamber will lead you to the next. Here then, begins your personal path of discovery. As you travel your path, always remember that these are sacred sites, and irreplaceable archaeological treasures, and as such require the utmost dignity and respect.
Presented here are some well-known, publicly-accessable chambers that are readilly found on Google maps. Many searchers have used these to begin their journey:
Random Thoughts and Comments
The Chambers Were Not Built As Root Cellars
The most common explanation for the stone chambers is that they were colonial root cellars, built on farmland in the late 18th century. There is little doubt that thrifty, resourceful colonial farmers would have made use of them, and indeed, many chambers show signs of colonial-period modification. However, careful consideration of the facts soon dispells the belief that they were originally built for this purpose:
- There is no cross-ventillation in the chambers.
Natural gasses emitted from the stored fruits and vegetables would hasten spoilage unless efficiently vented. Thoroughly enveloped by dirt and sod, the chambers offer no cross-ventillation whatsoever.
- There are no provisions for doors.
While many of the chambers were obviously retrofitted for the addition of doors, the original structures made no provision for them. Colonial modifications reduced the large, irregular entrance openings with stone and mortar to the rectangular dimensions necessary to accept them.
Rainwater seeps through the sod roof and drips from the cap stones and walls, causing some chambers to flood during heavy rains. Crude, ineffective attempts were made during colonial times to seal these leaks with mortar.
Many chambers are built on mountain tops and hillsides with difficult, steep access that would make them impractical for food storage. Chamber dimensions are also illogical, ranging from small crawl spaces to huge constructions with high ceilings and wide entrances.
- Their compass coordinates are impractical.
Chambers generally face a southerly direction, exposing them to a maximum of sunlight. If their purpose was to remain cool, they would instead face north. Also, many chambers align precisely with Solstice and Equanox celestial events, indicating a purposeful orientation.
- The sheer numbers and distribution are illogical.
About 40% of all the chambers in the U.S. are located in Putnam County, and more than half of these are concentrated in a small central area of rocky, mountainous terrain. Putnam was sparsely populated during colonial times, having some of the worst farming conditions in the northeast. A community of such little agricultural output would require only about 1/10th the number of root cellars that the chambers would account for.
- They were not all built in the same era.
No two chambers are identical, and all seem to show varying degrees of aging, as though built over a long period of time. If all were built during the relatively short period that Putnam County was farmed, they would all have weathered somewhat equally over only about 250 years.
Severely eroded collapsed chambers are found occasionally, and in fact there is a
Winter Solstice chamber in Whang Hollow that has weathered to the point of
collapse. 50 yards behind it stands a larger, more recent chamber with the identical
Solstice orientation. It seems likely that the original chamber, in active use for ages,
was replaced after its collapse by the second chamber for exactly the same
- They pre-existed colonial settlements.
Dutch soldiers found them in 1643 while attacking the Wappinger tribes in the unexplored wilderness north of New Amsterdam.1 Also, correspondence in 1654 between John Pynchon, the founder of Springfield, Massachusetts, and John Winthrop Jr, future Governor of Connecticut, discussed the chambers in their area.2
Route 301 at Farmer's Mills Road
Route 301 at Forest Court
Forest Court ends at Route 301 (Cold Spring Turnpike) in Carmel . Standing on Forest Court, facing Rt. 301, the chamber is right in front of you.
Google Area Map: Forest Court, Carmel, NY.
Heading east on Rt. 301, the road makes a sharp right turn at the intersection with Farmer's Mills Road.. Park at the foot of Farmer's Mills, and crossing 301, continue around the bend to the right. The chamber is right up against the road.
Google Area Map: 16-22 Miller Hill Road, Carmel, NY
Mount Nimham trail begins on the right side of the parking area at the end of Mount Nimham Court. A short distance up the trail, the chamber appears on your right. Don't be misled by the chamber in the parking area, a colonial farm explosives bunker.
Google Area Map: Mount Nimham Court, Carmel, NY.
Could The Chambers Have Been Ice Houses?
That the chambers are almost always built near lakes, ponds or streams, has given rise to a theory that these were built to store ice throught the year, in an era before refrigeration. It must be remembered, however, that those same lakes, ponds and streams would also be the ideal location for a woodlands-period indian village. And they would not be practical for ice houses, for most of the same reasons they are not suitable as root cellars.
Photos and text © Donald Nester 2011
The Celtic Theory
Celtic diffusion into early Amerindian populations is a theory gaining credibility and controversy as new evidence continues to unfold. The following facts would support this theory: There is compelling evidence based on the work of Barry Fell, that New England was extensively explored and settled in the last millenium B.C. by Celtic merchant seamen.5 In the 1970's Dr. Fell deciphered ancient Ogham and Phoenician script in confirmed Celtic sites of old-world Brittain, and then subsequently proved similar decipherable tablets and petroglyphs throughout the Northeast. Dr. Fell has also shown how early Celtic, Norse and Iberian language infused the northeastern Algonquian languages and dialects to a degree that dismisses the possibility of coincidence. As far west as Lake Superior in Michigan, are deep-shaft copper mines with origins as mysterious as Putnam's chambers themselves.6 Amerindians did not dig deep mines, and in local Menomonie legend they have always been there, worked by "light skinned men" over a long period during ancient times. Scientists estimate that over 500,000 tons of copper was mined from thousands of shafts, carbon-dated from 3,000 B.C. to the end of the Bronze Age in 1,200 B.C. That Celtic ships had evolved to a design capable of crossing the Atlantic is ascertained by Julius Caeser's eye-witness account in 55 B.C., of the Roman navy being dwarfed and nearly destroyed by a fleet of 220 massive Celtic and Phoenician ships of burden during the Gallic wars.7 As described in detail by Caesar, these ships were designed for cargo and the torrents of ocean travel, not warfare, and despite their enormous size and physical superiority, eventually succumbed to the agility and ingenuity of the otherwise inferior Roman fleet. Later in history, several Viking sagas refer to a place known as "Great Ireland" across the western sea. One story from the Eyrbyggja Saga8 relates how in 1029, Gudleif Gudlaugson encountered Irish-speaking natives whose leader also spoke Norse, and who was later determined to be Bjorn Asbrandson who had sailed from Greenland in 999, 30 years earlier. Two other Sagas, the Landnamabok Saga and Hauksbok Saga, recount the voyage of Ari Marson in to "White Man's Land, which some call Great Ireland", where he was recognized, welcomed, and spent a significant amount of time before returning to Greenland.9 Ari Marson lived four generations before Leif Erickson. All this considered, it is reasonable to assume that many of the European visitors remained here for generations, eventually diffusing into the native population, integrating their skills, language, customs and beliefs. This 2,500 years of cultural blending is supported by several indicators.
- Algonquian peoples of the northeast often have a generally European facial structure, whereas native americans of the southwest and central plains appear more of asian descent.
- Most Amerindian creation beliefs have their Original People entering through a sacred hole in the ground, where many Algonquian groups have them coming from across the ocean from an unknown land.
- Blonde, blue-eyed natives were encountered by Verrazano in 1524 in the vicinity of what is now Rhode Island.
- Many Norse and Gaelic words have similar pronunciations and meanings in Algonquian languages.
There can be little doubt that the Woodlands Culture of Putnam County encompassed some Celtic heritage, remembered or not, which shaped their religion, their view of the world and their place in the Universe.
The Druid Connection
If we subscribe to the theory of Celtic origin of the chambers, then we must inextricably acknowlege the influence of Druids. Druids were the ruling class of the Celts. They were the judge, jury, lawyers and executioners; priests, doctors and spiritual advisors. The Druids were a secret society, and training in the cult was one-on-one, verbally taught over many years. Nothing was writen down in the interest of secrecy, and nothing is left to us of their mysticism. But it is unlikely that such a major undertaking would be ventured without the protection, blessing and guidance of their masters.