One of my first "real" jobs in forestry in the mid-1990's was in southern New England.  Although I had seen some stone walls here and there growing up in NY, I had never seen stone walls like those of coastal New England.  I remember one property on the Connecticut River that had stone walls at least chest-high and at least as wide (apparently, designed for horseback riding on top of the wall instead of the precious tillable land they protected).  That wall was inside a forest that even ~ 25 years ago appeared to be "old growth".  

One local expert told me that the early settlers built stone walls primarily to "give value to otherwise value-less land" - a way of staking their claim on the landscape.  I guess that makes sense in the context of early colonial farms.  Must have worked though as that area has some of the highest land prices in the country today.

I don't even like to pick up a tractor bucket's worth of stones today -  much less stack them somewhere - so I can only imagine the work that went in to the walls mentioned in this article:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/new-england-stone-walls 

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