When I previously posted on the Fort Mountain Mystery Petroglyphs, there was a reference in the main article to some famous Ohio petroglyphs, one of which, at Independence, Ohio, Cuyahoga County, was entirely unknown to me. I hoped that I had finally found those petroglyphs when I discovered this story, but, no, this artifact turned out to be an entirely new engraved mystery stone which, if its own testimony may be believed, was of a much later, but still anomalous date.
From the Cleveland Herald, May 12.
CURIOUS RELIC—A NUT FOR ANTIQUARIANS.
Mr. L.M. Parsons states in the Lorain Republican, that he has in his door yard a block of white limestone as near the form of a bust as could be expected from the hand of nature. It was found in 1838 by Alfred Lamb, in Brighton, Lorain Co., Ohio, covered with a thick coat of moss. In three places upon it “1533” is engraved; also the name “Louis Vaquard, La Franc, 1533”—and when found there was a draft on the stone of a three-masted ship in full Sail with a flag upon the middle mast. The stone was taken to the house of Mr. Lamb, and boys cracked nuts upon it until they entirely defaced the engraving of the ship. Mr. P. says there are numerous witnesses who give a corresponding statement about the engraving of the ship, and the other engravings are still perfect and well executed.
On removing the stone from its erect position, a flat stone 8 inches in diameter and 1 ½ inches thick, was found beneath it upon which 1533 was engraved upon the under side.
About ten feet from this stone another stone of like quality was found six inches thick and about three feet in diameter (six sided) supported by three pillars 8 inches long of pyramidal form. There was no mark of a tool upon any of the stones except the engraving above mentioned.
It is said there is no other stone of like quality in the vicinity where these curiosities were found.
American and Commercial Daily Advertiser [Baltimore MD] 19 May 1843: p 2
While I do not have the original article from the Lorain Republican, a correction swiftly followed:
We are requested to correct an error in the communication of Mr. Parsons which occurred last week. The name inscribed on the stone should be LAGARD, instead of VaQUARD, as was published.
Lorain Republican [Elyria OH] 17 May 1843: p. 3
Mr. Parsons kept the story of the stone alive in the local press for several months, with regular updates:
We publish the following letter, relative to the engraving found upon a stone column in Brighton, in this country, with much pleasure. The subject is full of interest. Yet we must be permitted with due deference, to express our opinion that the affair so far as the date is concerned, is a hoax. America was discovered in 1492, and it is a very remote probability, to say the least, that any civilized human being only 41 years afterwards, had penetrated a thousand miles into the interior. History proves that, at that time, even the bare outlines of the coast of N. American were almost unknown—much less was any part of the interior known. The conclusion to our mind, is irresistible, that it is a hoax.
We leave the subject with the lovers marvelous. It will cost but little trouble to investigate the matter, and the time will not be lost.
There are several mounds in this county which we design visiting soon.
For the Republican.
Dear Sir—Doct. Kirtland having intimated to me that if the form of the ship referred to in my letter to you of the 10th inst. could be obtained, it would be the best evidence of the time the draught was made, as the same form has not been adopted for any great length of time. I therefore called on Mr. Alfred Lamb, who first discovered the stone, and asked him to describe the form of the ship. He replied, it was more like a Chinese ship than such as they build now; it was higher up at the ends, and more circular on the bottom, and the draft did not appear to represent a deck. I obtained a like description from some half a dozen individuals who had repeatedly seen the stone before the draft of the ship was defaced. As I regard this matter as worthy of critical investigation, I send you the names of several gentlemen to whom reference may be made touching the facts referred to in this and my former letter.
Albert Morley, Painesville, Lake Co.
Rev. W.C. Henstice, Fairfield, Huron co.
Rev. C. Cotton, Amherst, Lorain Co.
Hiram Thomas, Camden, Lorain co.
Harvey Dibble, Pittsfield, do.
Dr. Wm. Lamb, Brighton, Do.
S.H. Loveland, Do. Do.
Frederic Dow, Do. Do.
Ridgeville, May 20th 1843
Lorain Republican [Elyria OH] 24 May 1843: p. 2
The Ancient Relick.
In connection with our friend, Mr. Parsons, we have procured two views or sketches of the engravings upon a stone column or idol, found upon the farm of Mr. Alfred Lamb, in Brighton, in this county, in 1838. We can only repeat a few of the facts connected with it, heretofore detailed. The following is a side view of the pillar or column.
It was found about three-fourths of a mile from Mr. Lamb’s house, covered with a thick coat of moss. Upon three different places are engraved the figures 1533. The horns above represented are now broken off, but their place is easily defined.
A flat stone, 8 inches in diameter and 1 1/3 inches thick, was found beneath this column, on removing it from its erect position, upon which the figures 1533 were also engraved.
Another stone was found about 10 feet distant, of like quality. It was about six inches long and about three in diameter (six sided), supported by three pillars about three inches long, of pyramidal form. No marks of tools upon it.
Upon the top part of the first mentioned pillars, above shown, was an engraving of a vessel under full sail, in form, as near as now can be ascertained, as follows.
The engraving was most unfortunately nearly obliterated by the boys cracking hickory-nuts upon it. These are about all the facts connected with these curious relics which have come to our knowledge. We give them as detailed, without further comment.
For any further information upon the subject, see Mr. Parsons communication in this day’s paper.
Lorain Republican [Elyria OH] 7 June 1843: p. 2
Frankly, judging from the images above, I don’t understand the configuration at all, other than the slab with the ship engraving, so tragically defaced. Was it a bust? Was it a column? Were the pyramidal columns three or eight inches long?
Mr. Parsons seems to have been fascinated by the stone, creating an entire mythology for the image etched on its face.
Mr. Editor—Prompted by your suggestion, I called on Mr. Elliott, with the view of procuring his descriptive talent to prepare a type of the relic, ship, and engraving, for the press, which are the subject of my former communications to you.
Prompted by that liberal spirit characteristic of native genius, he gratuitously offered his valuable services, and immediately repaired to my house and drew an accurate copy of the antiquarian mystery, which he will forward to you.
Aided by his mechanical eye, I was enabled to trace out distinctly the form of the ship on points of the stone which had not been broken down by the Vandal boys.
Mr. Elliott is decidedly of the opinion that there is only one mast represented, and that those who had discovered three from recollection, must have mistaken the representation of ropes for masts. The mistake is not perhaps to be wondered at, considering those who gave the description were not familiar with the rigging of ships, and considering the dilapidated condition of the ship, and obscurity of the draft—as the lines had been very much worn down by the effects of time.
The draft represents a ship in a storm—mast broken—mail-sail and rudder gone, &c., &c., and the anchor represented as useless.
This representation of a ship renders the relic still more interesting, as it is more significant. By giving a little licence to the imagination, we can read in these hierogliphics, the history of a ship driven in a storm upon our coast; (of which the historians of that time knew nothing.) that one man at least landed on the extreme south-western portion of N. America; (as that was the only section where idolatry obtained a footing, as relics constitute the history,)—that the tribe with which he connected himself were driven from their native land by some superior force. Or perhaps this modern Capac might have taken advantage of his intellectual superiority, and become a second Moses, and led the tribe away by the fires of his intellect and cloud of his misteries, with their idol of worship into this then wilderness of nature and mind.
I believe there can be a great deal of evidence collected in this section of country which will go to prove that his country was once inhabited by a race who emigrated either from South America or the southern portion of this, or at least had commercial relations with that country. I will refer to one circumstance which, doubtless, antiquarians will regard as worthy of record. In the township of Perry, Lake county, O., about the year 1820, in digging into an Indian burying field a club of Nicaraugua was found, in connection with the bones of a man. The club was sound, but the bones were considerably decayed, and bore the same evidence of the effect of time as those usually found in our ancient burying grounds. The women are more utilitarians that antiquarians, for on calling for the club a few days after, I found they had cut it up to color with, and they said it was as good as any they ever got at the stores.
I have procured no draught of the hexagonal stone which stood on three pillars, before referred to, as that is still in the wood, from which the relic in question was taken
There is nothing in the location worthy of notice, except the situation is such as Indians usually select for their encampments. There are several mounds in the vicinity; some are said to be 30 feet high.
There are a great many marks on the relic which were not noticed at first. I cannot give you a better idea of their forms than to imagine the capital letters thrown into pic. Many of the marks are so worn that they are seen with difficulty. [I have no idea what pic. means–perhaps “small pica” or 11-point type?]
Lorain Republican [Elyria OH] 7 July 1843: p. 3
How curious to find Chinese junks, Manco Cápac, and a club of “Nicaragua” in the same fanciful narrative! How blithely the author edits out the French name and the “date” of 1533, leaving us to wonder precisely how early the local Native Americans began to use Arabic numerals and cursive writing. And why, just for good measure, is there no mention of the Vikings or de Blainville and his lead plates? Ignoring the question of Mexican or South American artifacts in the Ohio Territory, for which there is, I believe, some archaeological evidence, I was intrigued by the club so wantonly destroyed by the ladies in their quest for textile dye. The wood is also known as “Brazil Wood,” and yields a valuable reddish dye. If that is what it was, the wood is not even remotely native to the area. The ship looks like an Egyptian dhow or possibly something Phoenician copper merchants sailed on their visits to Lake Erie. What a pity it was drawn entirely from memory after the ship engraving was defaced by the nut crackers! And is there some Masonic symbolism going on with the triangles and 1533?
Who was L.M. Parsons, the chronicler of the Stone of Lorain? A probable candidate is Lott Parsons [1821-1890], who sounds like a local Renaissance man and antiquary. A Lorain County history described him thus:
A remarkable feature about Mr. Parsons, when we consider the fact that he never received even the rudiments of an education, is his general and varied knowledge, especially of the science of geology. In this particular branch of learning, he excels almost any man, not of classical and scientific education. While a youth, toiling for his daily bread, and for the maintenance of his widowed mother, at ten dollars per month, he would borrow books, and in the quiet of the night, while others slumbered, he would study.
History of Lorain County, Ohio, 1879: p. 197
He also promoted
“an extensive Geological and Paliontological painting. It was executed by Mr. Abial [Abel?] Canfield, and as a token of respect for the man and his genius as an artist, I propose to make an exhibition of the painting at the court house on the __ of November, for his sole benefit. The painting contains about 600 square feet, and is descriptive of the condition of the earth prior to the creation of man,–exhibiting expressions of volcanic force and the hidden power of earthquakes in their revolutionary process of preparing this world for the residence of intellectual beings. It also presents, as restored to apparent life, a great variety of animals, monsters of the deep sea and upheaved land, which were tenants of this earth millions of years before the creation of man, and who were exterminated by the revolutions of the earth or spring of the great geological year in the process of preparing this world for that intellectual summer which our telescopic vision can dimly discover in the distant landscape. It presents a series in the work of creation, beginning in the Zoophitic and Molluscus orders, and rising in a scale of progressive development of the intellectual powers, and terminating in the creation of man.”
Ladies were to be admitted free to see this remarkable painting, [panorama?] which presented “to your view this world when there was no man to observe nor pen to describe the tremendous scenes in the war of elements and overthrow of a reptile world.”
Lorain Republican [Elyria OH] 18 October 1843: p. 2
Obviously Parsons was a man of vision. The grand sweep of geologic epochs, the overthrow of a reptile world, the creation of Man, and the story of the shipwrecked hero—that “second Moses”—were all fuel to the fires of his imagination and intellect.
But all good Mystery Stone stories must come to an end. As is usual with such artifacts, after the initial flurry of stories, there was no further mention of the stone except in Henry Howe’s massive Historical Collections of Ohio. If the stone still exists today, where might it be found? Is there any reason to suggest that Parsons, who bore a stainless character, created a fake relic, perhaps hoping to profit from the exhibition of a local curiosity?
Any thoughts? No nuts, please. Chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com.
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.