Another Story - by Charles Spencer Goldring

Introduction

  1. The object in this essay is to present views of some researchers who have examined the inscription on the so-called Runic Stone. This essay has been produced in response to a request from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and is supported by the following:

    1. "Runic Inscription" - Yarmouth Herald, July 23, 1884
    2. Extract: Sir Daniel Wilson, The Vinland of the Northmen, proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada, 1890.
    3. The Fletcher Stone, KGT Webster, in Transactions, Nova Scotia Institute of Science VIII, pp. 208-214
    4. A Short Note on the Yarmouth "Runic Stone", by Moses Nickerson, Nova Scotia Historical Society Collections Vol. XVII, 1913
    5. Remarks on Fletcher and Related Stones, by Harry Piers (Source the same as Appx E above)
    6. Early Voyages and Northern Approaches, Tryggvi J Oleson, p.111
    7. The European Discovery of America, Admiral S.E. Morison, pp. 74-75
    8. Hearsay

  2. Doctor Fletcher as Joker

    The home of Dr. Fletcher lay beside a path which led to a primitive ferry dock, known in later years as "Mrs. Fletcher's Landing". The stone in question rested near the path, and was light enough to be transported on a stone-boat (a raft-like object pulled by oxen over grass) to a position by the Fletcher home. It remained on view there for about 60 years. (See Appendices C and E)

    K.G.T. Webster of Yarmouth was reluctant to accept "the least unlikely explanation", that the inscription was cut by somebody for his own amusement, pretending that it was the work of an ancient or foreign people. It is strange that he did not assert, as did Miss Katherine Ladd of Yarmouth (a great-great granddaughter of Dr. Fletcher), on many occasions; "It was always said in the family that he did it as a joke.

    Could it have been in character for a retired gentleman with a classical education, puckish disposition, and an unrivaled opportunity, to inscribe the stone himself?

  3. Lawyer Flint and Carver Doane

    It has been said that a Norse scholar, early in the 19th Century, wrote to learned persons resident along the eastern seaboard of Canada and the US, inquiring whether such persons had knowledge of the presence of inscribed stones or other signs of a culture alien to that of known persons of the area. After this request was made, various strange "inventions" appeared in several parts of North America.

    In the course of time, Dr. Fletcher's Stone received more attention, and in about 1872 it was moved to the grounds of a local hotel.

    A Yarmouth lawyer, T.B. Flint, was very interested in the stone. He tried, unsuccessfully, to produce a paper "squeeze" or rubbing, because the original marks on the stone had become less clear due to the ravages of the weather. Flint engaged one of the Doane brothers (accomplished woodcarvers of the time) to carve the 13 characters in wood, this producing a means whereby a rubbing could be made. Thus derived, the rubbing marks are not exactly similar to those shown in, for instance, the cut printed with Sir Daniel's paper, but near enough for use by Henry Phillips.

  4. Oleson and Wilson

    After the publicity which followed the pseudo-translation by Phillips, "Harko's son addressed the men", a print of the marks was given to Professor Magnus Oleson of Oslo. Oleson called the marks "a freak of nature".

    It should be stressed that the marks on the stone at that time were not the marks as seen today. The former were cut not with a hammer and chisel, but, as Dr. Farish observed, "with a sharp pointed instrument carried onward, by successive blows of a hammer or mallet. The point of the instrument barely penetrated the layer of quartz."

    In 1890, Sir Daniel Wilson quotes the secretary of the Nova Scotia Historical Society: "The inscription is supposed by many to be the work of man." It is obvious that the present deeper cut inscription is so clear that no one with eyes to see could deny that this is indubitably "the work of man".

    Either side up, the 13 characters have been matched with letters in ancient alphabets, exactly or nearly, using a text by Diriger called "The Alphabet". Even one page of the Encyclopedia Americana will yield a match for nearly all of the letters, either side up. Careful study has made clear that whoever made the inscription did not intend the message to be translated.

  5. Lewis and Lent

    We can accept as a fact that the working over with a chisel was done in about 1887. But the question arises, who did it? A very honest former President of the Yarmouth Historical Society has related a remark by the late William Lent (1910-1974), a former Curator of the Museum, saying that the hammer and chisel cuts were made by the Historical Society's first President, the Rev. Gordon T Lewis. Lewis (1865-1945) was a former Anglican Rector in Yarmouth.

    Lewis, 22 years old in 1887, showed a very great interest in Norse "remains" in North America. In about 1936 he published a pamphlet, The Cruise of the Knorr, in which he discussed, with unwarranted certainty, the tale of the "Kensington Stone", Leif's Great House on the Tusket River in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, and the visit by Leif to what is now Yarmouth, this visit being "proven" by the Runic Stone. This propagation of Norse myths was and still is of great interest and value to the incurable romantics among us. It is probable that Lewis was the "Grand Transmogrifier" of the story that the Vikings carved an inscription on the stone.

  6. Wilson, Strandwold and Others

    Sir Daniel Wilson (1816-1892) long ago provided the verdict: "The Yarmouth inscription ... neither accords with the style, or usual formula of runic inscriptions, nor as will be seen by the accompanying facsimile, is it graven in a variation of the familiar characters of the Scandinavian futhork".

    Sir Daniel's credentials are impressive. He was a celebrated archaeologist who published The Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland in 1851, Prehistoric Man in 1865, The Huron Iroquois of Canada in 1884, and at least six other works. He was the President of the University of Toronto (1881-1892), and in recognition of his services to literature and education was awarded a knighthood in 1888.


  7. Conclusion

    In spite of clearly negative statements by the most competent authorities, the 'Runic Stone' continues to be still played up as a tourist attraction. This, in spite of the fact that a former Director of Yarmouth's Tourist Committee asked for clarification from the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and received a reply dated 2nd December 1966, which reads in part: "The Norse Polar Institute of Oslo declares that the inscriptions on the Yarmouth Stone are certainly not Norse Runes."

    Finally, to quote Tryggvi Oleson: "There is no end to these myths, and no doubt in the future both passionate cranks and sober scholars will continue to propagate them."



    Charles Goldring,
    Tusket, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia
    December 23, 1986



    For further study, the following documents can be consulted in the Library of the Yarmouth Museum,
    2 Collins Street, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada:

    1. Sir Daniel Wilson: " On the Vinland of the Norwegian", Proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada, 1890.
    2. Laffler: "Yarmouth Herald" is April 1901
    3. Magnus Olsen and others: Nova Scotia Historical Society Collections, Vol. XVII, 1915
    4. Dr. Liestol: Yarmouth "Vanguard" 1 Dec 1966

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