Newport Ruin in “Antiquities”

This unique structure has attracted much attention in bygone times: it has furnished a theme for the Poet [Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Skeleton in Armor,” in The Knickerbocker January 9, 1841] and material for the Novelist [James Fenimore Cooper in The Red Rover 1852, New York: Hurd & Houghton]; it has proved a matter of interest to the Historian [Professor Carl Christian Rafn] — yet after the numerous examinations that have been instituted, the diligent investigations that have been made, but little of additional light is reflected upon the question at issue, and as heretofore it has been, so probably hereafter it will be, known only as the “Old Stone Mill.”

After fifteen or twenty years since, renewed interest was awakened in relation to the Ante-Columbian history of America, in consequence of certain inquiries made in publications issued by the Royal Society of Antiquaries at Copenhagen — an institution which numbers among its members some of the most learned men in Europe, and which stands pre-eminent for the extent and value of its historical explorations and discoveries, as well as for the judicious course it has adopted in archaeological, philosophical, and, in its broadest sense, ethnological pursuits. In the course of a correspondence, originating from queries propounded by said society, the inquiry was made by me – If the Northmen ever visited this country, and here erected structures either as look-outs or places of defence, what sort of buildings were they? [...]

[...] A description of these was furnished, which neither presented nor suggested any resemblance to the ruin at Newport. Still in fulfilment of my obligation, I transmitted an account of it, accompanied by drawings prepared at my request, by F. Catherwood, Esq., representing a view of the exterior, of the interior, a ground-plan, and a vertical section.[...]

[...] Although Mr. Catherwood’s drawings answered the general purpose for which they were designed, they are not as minutely accurate as is desirable, and the ones recently made expressly for this work are decidedly preferable. [...]

[...]The accompanying engraving, Plate XV, from drawings made by S. Eastman, Capt. U.S.A., will convey a clearer idea of the structure than any written description. [...]

The interrogatory may with reason be put – “If this structure were here when the English first located themselves at Newport, would they not have taken particular notice, and made special mention of it?” But on the other hand, it may be asked, “If it were erected subsequently, is it not reasonable to suppose that such a remarkable transaction would have been duly chronicled?” [...]

Among the first settlers of Newport was Peter Easton, who was in the practice of noting down important events and occurrences in the colony. Some years since, a fragment of his original diary accidentally came into my possession. In this, under the date of 1663 I find the following entry, viz.:

“This year we built first wind mill.” [...]

It would be easy to write pages of hypothesis relative to it [the tower], but such a course would avail naught; I deem the better one is to furnish all the reliable facts which can be attained, and leave each one to deduce from them his own inferences. [...]

Source: Dr. Thomas H. Webb, "[Newport Ruin in] Antiquities" in Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, vol. 4, Henry R. Schoolcraft (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1856), 151-155.

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